In a prequel of sorts to the emerging war between President-elect Trump and the CIA, the War on the Rocks blog, reviews the latest revelations from the declassified history of the CIA’s disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. Why is something that happened 55 years ago relevant to power politics in today’s Washington? Because the the power struggle that followed the CIA’s first public defeat would shape and hone the interventionist mission of the secret agency. Now the CIA faces the wrath of a commander in chief who mistrusts its prerogatives and sympathizes with its adversaries in Moscow and, according to the CIA, was aided by them.
In Literary Agents, Patrick Iber of the New Republic delves into the role of the CIA in the culture Cold War. He doesn’t specifically mention the role of Cord Meyer and James Angleton but they were probably the two CIA officials most responsible for CIA cultural funding between 1954 and 1967,
Iber captures what was most problematic about the CIA’s role, something I will touch on in my forthcoming Angleton biography.
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment,” wrote former president Harry Truman in the Washington Post on December 22, 1963. It was exactly one month after the assassination of President Kennedy.
“It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas,” Truman wrote.
The former president never explicitly linked JFK’s death to the clandestine service, but the timing and venue of his piece was suggestive.
A diverse group of JFK authors and investigators have called on the Obama and Trump administrations to order the CIA and other federal agencies to declassify all secret JFK files in their entirely by October 2017.
The JFK records will pose an early test of the open government policies of Donald Trump. The president-elect has espoused the baseless and debunked conspiracy theory that the father of Senator Ted Cruz was somehow involved in JFK’s assassination.
“Harvey approved the dispatch of six three-man teams to Cuba, on either October 21, or 22, 1962, as the missile crisis heated up. The missions were launched at the specific request of the Pentagon, as part of the standing interagency Command Relationship Agreement. The military was reckoning with an invasion of Cuba by air and sea; it’s forces needed support on the ground to help the landings. Harvey did what was right operationally….the climax came at a top-drawer meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House on October 26….Harvey chose to tell the Kennedy brothers what he thought of them and their handling of the situation. “If you hadn’t fucked up the Bay of Pigs, we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess!”
Robert DeNiro’s 2006 movie, “The Good Shepherd,” is one of the best films about the early days of the CIA, with Matt Damon playing a character loosely based on James Angleton. Joe Pesci has a brilliant cameo as mobster Meyer Lansky.
While it may be uncomfortable for members of the Intelligence Community to read some of these chapters, Talbot has done detailed research in his effort to stitch together a story. It may appear to most readers as prosecutorial or adversarial in tone, but this perspective needs to be read and understood, even if it is only part of the story of the CIA in the 1950s.