Harvey and Angleton

It just so happens I’ll be giving a presentation to the DPUK research conference in Canterbury England this weekend. I’ll be calling in this time although I did it once in person and it was fantastic!  So for a moment I’ll go a bit retro and return to the subject of the CIA during the Eisenhower and Kennedy Administration.  However, for those following Shadow Warfare, I just did an hour long interview with Len Osanic for Black Op Radio and you will find it archived at the link below:


In considering the context of the Kennedy assassination its critical to have an in depth understanding of the CIA during that period, on who worked in what part of the Agency and in particular what type of projects they worked on.  As an example, I recently saw a post describing Howard Hunt as a paramilitary officer….that is truly off the mark.  It is true he worked within the Plans Directorate and most specifically inside the P-P group, which included political action, propaganda and paramilitary.  Hunt’s specialty was political action, essentially courting and sustaining Agency surrogate groups – for short think “carrying the money”.  Comparing him to true paramilitary officers such as Rip Robertson would be a real stretch, even comparing him to paramilitary trainer, counter intelligence officer and operations specialist David Morales would be just flat wrong.

In talking of Angleton and Harvey, its important to understand that they shared some of the same jobs at different points -including counter intelligence – and both were some of the few officers fully aware of the Agencies’ technical services tools-  MKNAIOMI –  such as truth serums and various drugs and poisons. Both men were also very much connected to the Office of Security which in turn had its own connections to professional criminals such as smugglers, safe crackers and strong arm types.  Those are the kind of guys you need if you are breaking into embassies, kidnapping couriers and blackmailing the other side for code books and related cryptographic devices.

Most folks don’t know that after the Bay of Pigs, Angleton was designated to start a new CI project against Cuba – based on the huge failures of CI within Bissell’s project.  In that assignment he worked with David Morales and the AMOTS’s who Morales had trained to be the new Cuban intel service – assuming success in the landing. Afterwards they simply became an arm of JMWAVE and provided info including local surveillance activities.  Moraeles and the AMOTS were also involved in Mexico City where Angleton was making a major bid to establish a CI effort independent of the Chief of Station there.

Its also important to realize that both men were also involved in Cuban projects in a variety of ways. For example during the phase 2/Mongoose effort, Angleton actually worked with Harvey in restarting the Castro assassination project, first attempting to shop it to British intelligence and then going back to Roselli, first with poison then with rifles. In fact Angleton provided certain of his own non- US intelligence contacts inside Cuba to backstop Harvey’s Mongoose activities.

Circa 1963, Angleton and Harvey were at Headquarters together and despite what  you may have read elsewhere, the two men remained close (in the CIA “close” may mean friendly or it may simply mean mutual CYA).  After his retirement, Harvey remained personally close to a very limited number of former CIA associates, one was James Angleton, the other John Roselli.  Indeed Angleton corresponded with Harvey up to his death, and later with his widow.  His letters note the fact that the two men had things in common which never could be communicated.  It just so happened that Harvey had taken some of his CIA files with him after retirement, including one note that talks about consulting with Angleton about ZR Rifle.  Fortunately we do have many of those documents – even thought someone tried to burgle Harvey’s home twice after his death.

There is no doubt that James Angleton worked with and had William Harvey’s back….we can only wonder what it was they had in common that must never be discussed.



Big Opportunity Missed

That was the title for yesterday’s article on a major al Qaeda gathering in Yemen, you can read the article here:


In Shadow Warfare we spend a good deal of time on American counter terror task forces in the Horn of Africa including Somalia and Yemen, there is a lot of history there, especially in the years since the attacks of 2001. We also point out how truly dangerous those areas are in terms of potential attacks on the west and even the continental United States, several have failed and trickled out of the news but clearly they are still at war with the U.S. – as they officially declared twice in the mid-1990’s.

The thing is, the U.S. Congress still has not declared war on them and the current administration still operates under the 2001 military authorization legislation which was specifically crafted around hunting down those responsible for the attacks on Washington D.C. and Boston. The CNN headline seems to suggest that the U.S. should have massively attacked that gathering if we had only been aware of it – however there was little commentary about the legal limits imposed on such actions and I’m sure there would have been a hue and cry if it had happened, especially if any of those people were American citizens.

Bottom line, we are stuck in a Gulf of Tonkin time warp, legislation passed for a very focused purpose is still the only legal enabler for military action more than a decade after its passage – the same as in Vietnam.  Congress refuses to take up its responsibility then and is doing the same thing now.  On the other hand, the military is forced to proceed on its own mission, combating jihadi terror and insurgencies, woriking under immense legal constraints and in a true operational gray area.  Should it have stuck the gathering if it had known about it….being a bit hawkish my vote would be yes because I figure if someone declares war on you then you best respond….but my guess is that even if they did know and consider acting they might well have had to pass on it due to the immense  legal and PR reaction that would follow.  A bad way to fight a war….oh, I forgot, there’s a war only for one side…ooops.

On the other hand, if you want to see what the military is doing to prepare for such engagements, take a look at the following article on the logistics of military action in denied areas far from any sort of friendly territory:

View story at Medium.com










Well I’ve sort of been waiting for someone to read at least a bit of Shadow Warfare and send some questions my way for discussion.  I’ve found that writing on broader historical subjects  is a bit frustrating because it just doesn’t seem to generate as much excitement as writing about conspiracy topics – not that there is any lack of political “conspiracy” or even plots and villains in history.

I was doing a pre-interview to try and get on a talk radiuo show last week and even though I was talking about secret CIA and Justice Department understandings covering up drug smuggling, validating Webb’s Dark Alliance work etc, the response was more along the lines of – so give us sometime contemporary. Well I started in on the covert action project that was really behind Benghazi and the reply was that everyone else had already covered Benghazi – my response that they missed the real story sort of fell flat.  Then I moved on to  AFRICOM and gray warfare in Africa, SOCOM in Latin America and none of it was moving the entertainment/crowd response meter – so I’m guessing I won’t make it on that show.

In the interim, I’m continue to work on my next book project, a history of America and how it deals with surprise attacks. And as with Shadow Warfare, its a real learning experience, plus it establishes a broader context for the events we often discuss in regard to the JFK assassination. I’m afraid that by focusing so closely on what was happening in 62/63 many of us in JFK research failed to grasp that certain things that seemed unique, hence suspicious, were actually fairly routine in the broader historical picture.  For example, if you think JFK had special problems with his Generals, you should really dig into Truman and Eisenhower.  Both of the fired Generals and Eisenhower had major problems with the military over his ongoing attempts to cut military budgets. He faced several resignations, brought about some forced retirements and then when the former officers started writing nasty things about him, he wanted to Court Marshall them. As if that was bad enough,  you should read some of the remarks by Joint Chiefs of Staff members in regard to Johnson, how badly he would personally curse them out, how disdainful he was of them, etc.  The strange thing is that they just sat back and took it, really sort of pitiful when you go into the details.

All of which leads me – finally – to the subject of this post, preemption.  I’ve been reviewing the history of American nuclear targeting, the NET evaluation subcommittee of the NSC, the preparation of the SIOP and the entire subject of presidential policy on the idea of an American strike against the Soviet Union. Many readers may well be familiar with the subject in regard to JFK and certain meetings in 1961 and 1962. The impression given is that something novel happened and the CIA and military attempted to persuade JFK to go along with a surprise attack on the Soviets in 1963.  In some quarters, his negative reaction is given as sealing his fate and starting a track towards his murder.

The thing is, primary documents are largely lacking on the meetings and much of the commentary that has been presented is anecdotal and after the fact. Clearly JFK was repulsed by the subject the the overall prospect of any nuclear exchange. However in one of the only primary documents, it is clear that it was JFK himself who asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs if there had ever been any study of  a surprise attack on the Soviet Union, rather than a surprise attack on the U.S. by the Soviets – which was the focus of his briefing.  He was told that there had been and that under Eisenhower, since 1957, such studies had been made annually.  JFK requested briefings on them and that was about it.  As it turns out, the Joint Chiefs and in particular the Air Force – beginning immediately after the atomic tests at Bikini – had been maintaining that a nuclear attack was simply not survivable and that no defense was ever going to be enough to avoid national destruction.  The ongoing push for preemptive strikes had grown so strong under the Eisenhower administration that Ike had to issue a national policy statement that American would never strike first.  That position brought a very negative response from a number senior military personnel who sincerely thought the Soviets would indeed strike the U.S. at their earliest opportunity.

My own take of the meeting with JFK is that he himself brought up the subject of preemption and wanted details on estimated Soviet losses because the U.S. was entering into a short window of immense strategic advantage and it represented a huge opportunity for him to leverage it into new test ban and other disarmament or nuclear weapon limitations with the Soviets.  JFK simply thought outside the box about such matters and looked for new opportunities, such as his back-channel negotiations with Castro.  So, to make a long story short, there may well have been something “unique” in JFK himself raising the question of surprise attack against the Soviets, to begin gathering data for negotiations.  But in the broader context, military planning for preemptive strikes and presidential rejection of them was nothing at all new at the time the topic was discussed – Eisenhower had had his fill of it as far back as 1954.




One of the more neglected subjects in contemporary media coverage is the mission and role of the U.S. Southern Command / SOCOM.  During the past decade the Central Command, with responsibly for SW Asia including Iraq and Afghanistan received the bulk of attention, more recently, with terrorism from Somalia and Yemen to Mali, the African Command / AFRICOM has received its own share. Generally speaking the Southern Command has been left simply deal with to its own mission – perhaps without too much thought from Congress about how challenging that mission is – and its built in risks.

Southern Command’s major missions are involve both drug interdiction and counter-terrorism work. The drug mission focuses on the huge increase in drug  traffic to the American south and east coasts – some indicators of the traffic are up over 400% from 2012 to 2013.  Counter Terrorism focuses on the groups and individuals who try to take advantage of the drug routes.  The two go hand in hand because as we discuss in Shadow warfare, drug smuggling routes and the drug smuggling networks always represents just exactly the illegal channel that is of prime interest to any unsanctioned activity from insurgencies to terrorism.  Follow the drugs and you often follow the guns, follow the drugs and you follow the weapons. Worse yet, even from the earliest years in the Golden Triangle, the bad guys are often better armed than the natives and either take over skimming the business or sometimes running it.

Given its mission, SOCOM must heavily participate with DEA and other American agencies and projects targeting both drugs and terrorism.

That also means, like it or not, that its going to end up dealing with two types of local nations, first are the friendly to the US and deeply involved in their own drug suppression as well as anti-insurgency efforts – since insurgents of any stripe are often forced or choose to get into the drug business given that they are hard pressed for money from any source. Those nations draw serious military assistance and cooperative efforts – and you find American personnel being lost in action, often deep in the jungles or mountainous regions and particular in electronic and signals intelligence work.

Then there are those nations hostile to the US, most definitely not cooperating in anti-drug activities and essentially representing denied access regions. As things work in the world, for many reasons they become natural transit routes for drug shipments.  Most recently Venezuela has come to represent a significant transit point to “break bulk” and forward drugs into the Caribbean. One of the most active routes at present is from Columbia, though Venezuela and on to Puerto Rico. From there it goes to Miami, Houston and up the East Coast…as it always has.  Its just a matter of how it gets out of Columbia and the major production centers.

All of this means that SOCOM is going to be involved with that traffic in many ways, from electronic and signals work, to radar, and as usual, searching for informants on both sides of the border.  And of course its also going to be tracking those Russian long range aircraft now flying into Venezuela and Nicaragua (and if you think they are not crammed full of their own ELINT gear you underestimate the Russians).

The point I’m dancing around is that given its mission, SOCOM has to deal one way or the other with both friendly and unfriendly nations – which means that America is still very active in Central and South America, you just may not be reading about it.   If you are interested and would like some further background,  you should check out this link to the most recent Congressional briefing by the SOCOM commander:




Shadow Warfare in Kindle

This is just a quick note for those who had asked…Shadow Warfare is now in bookstores and shipping though Amazon.  Its available in hardcover and now in Kindle on Amazon at the following link:


– Larry





Denial vs. Deniablity

As mentioned in an earlier post, I felt I should return to this subject given events in the Crimea. While Shadow Warfare deals with the long and convoluted history of “deniablity” in American covert action, we also briefly contrast it with the totally different approach followed by the Soviet Union – which has now become an MO for the Russian Federation.

There never was any doubt during the Cold War that both the U.S. and the Soviets engaged in military support for their surrogates. At its most basic level that meant shipping weapons to them.  The Soviets solved the problem in a very pragmatic fashion, liscencing production of their hardware to various “eastern bloc” nations – who simply sold the materials to “approved” nations or groups. Shipping was by eastern bloc or independent commercial vessels.  So yes there were Soviet developed weapons in massive quantities all around the world but hey, its just business – our friends need the money.  On the other hand, the U.S. came up with extremely complex protocols for using extensive series of cut outs, and affiliated commercial companies to do the same thing.  Much more involved, much, much more expensive and with far greater exposure to pure graft. So when weapons appeared with American surrogates they were not US military weapons, they were “sanitized” deniable weapons.  Which of course led to some rather humorous situations – when weapons in Interarmco Company crates – known to be servicing the CIA – were found in Indonesia, Interarmco said they were not to blame, the CIA had stenciled their name on the Agencies own supplies to “frame” Interarmco for supplying the rebel Army officers.

Perhaps the most convoluted example of the whole concept occurred under the Reagan administration, in deniable warfare in Afghanistan.  The U.S. was actively spending its own tax dollars buying weapons from the Communist Chinese to be shipped to Afghan insurgents to kill Communist Russians. Just let your mind dwell on that for a bit.

Of course when you need to  use your own people in covert actions, things got even more complex.  The US came up with a process for “detailing” service people  to the CIA – again, complex and relatively expensive.  The Soviets just had their people take off their uniforms (Russia is doing it even more cheaply, same uniforms, just strip the insigne) and go…   If they were discovered, it was simply a matter of denial.  We absolutely knew that Russian and Chinese  pilots were flying MIG’s in Korea – they simply denied it.  Later, great efforts would be made to capture Russians or even North Vietnamese in Laos.  But when North Vietnamese were captured; it was simply denied.  As it turns out, denial is just a lot simpler than deniablity.  And for practical purpose, neither ever really fooled anybody.

Was a plan for landing a brigade of fighters at the Bay of Pigs deniable – with tank landing craft, a flotilla of ships, paratroop drops and air support.  Not really, in reality it never could have been other than in some convoluted world of “deniablity”.  Is the fact that thousands of Russian special forces troops with extensive ground and ground support, suddenly showed  up in the Crimea, deniable.  Not really, but the Russians are well practiced and proficient in stone faced denial so they just bull ahead – if their calculus of force says it will work, they just do it.

As Shadow Warfare illustrates, deniablity is an interesting concept but we see it as basically flawed.  Its seems to be awfully tempting though…  On the other hand the Russians seem to be stuck in their “old school” practices as well.  So far they have avoided simply rushing full tank columns across the Ukrainian border, relying on massive military “exercises” for intimidation – perhaps that will remain an “improvement” in their “best practices”, but given their history, if Putin decides the tanks are needed, I’m betting they’ll show up (perhaps with Crimean markings though?).

For a little context on the whole thing, you might want to read the following essay – which seems to me to illustrate how skilled Mr. Putin is at crafting his own history.  But then you do really need to be good at that if you just stick with plain denial:



Special Air Operations

Although its tempting to keep hammering on how “old school” the Russian Federation is behaving….and how Putin seems more and more dangerous to his neighbors if not the world, I’ll leave that alone for a bit.  A post on how pragmatic – and effective – Soviet (and now Russian) shadow warfare has been and is again seems very much in order. The Russians have always played the “Great Game” exceedingly well, knowing how to select surrogates on a very calculating basis.

However one of the things I’m going to attempt with this blog is to keep readers of Shadow Warfare informed about contemporary events in the world of special, low profile (not exactly deniable but awfully gray) world. While SW tends to focus on contemporary events in the war on terror and on the JSOC task forces in Asia and Africa, America is still very much involved in Latin America.  Southcom is still a very much involved command and we just hear less about them given that their missions are pretty much purely military assistance and drug related.

This is not to say I’m an expert on the subject at all but I’ve done enough research to find some good sources.  In this instances I’m just going to provide some links to information about the premier American Special Air Operations Squadron.  A bunch of obviously gutsy guys, somehow I get the feel that they – and their aircraft – would have been just as much at home in Laos circa 1967 as they are now in equally challenging venues around the world.  If you are interested in the subject and want to learn more, read on:





There’s little doubt the Russian special ops guys who just took off their  unit insignia and hitched a short ride across the Ukrainian border had it easy compared to the missions these folks get.


Shadow Warfare interviews

For those interested, the following links will take you to recent interviews (one only yesterday) on Shadow Warfare.  I hope they provide a good feel to the scope of the book, which is indeed broad and has a number of contemporary implications. The military implications tended to come up with Jeff, while the legal, legislative and civics issues were brought up by Matthew.



In regard to the last couple of my posts, as a bit of a prediction, I think we will see Putin move over time to essentially reclaim any and all Russian speaking/Russian cultural enclaves on Russia’s borders. That will give him back some since of “buffering”, it will feed his military industrial complex and his sense of history and to some extent it may restore stability in some of the states that are very much ethnically and culturally at internal odds as they now exist. If its going to stop there, NATO and the western powers best stand up to defend the borders of the populations that don’t prefer to become Russian federation domains.  And, if nothing else, both the diplomats and the businessmen should be bright enough to take the lesson that agreements and pacts with Putin’s Russia are purely “situational”.

One of our own  government’s risks however, is to interpret Russian’s behavior in terms of our own culture and our own military options – we did that back in the earliest days of the Cold War (its called “Mirroring”) and that led to some drastically wrong intelligence estimates on our part – the “bomber gap” being one of them.  But I’m sure somebody took notes…no worries…


Military Industrial Complex

Its always a mistake to ignore the consequence of political power based largely in the care and feeding of the MIC.  President Eisenhower saw the dangers but Ike didn’t fully appreciate how seductive it would be to your average Congressperson nor how it would morph into the MIIC, my term for the Military Industrial Intelligence Complex.  We discuss that evolution in Shadow Warfare –  presenting a whole new set of risks that went along with the reward of creating such an entity.  That was dangerous enough in the 60’s and 70’s, but it became even more so in the first decade of the 21st Century when budget games and outsourcing led to the emergence of the MIICC – Military Industrial and Intelligence Contracting Complex.

No we don’t actually use that term in the book…too many I’s and too many C’s, my editors were somewhat forgiving but only to a point.  I do think we do the contracting element  justice though, and the downside of the contracting in both the intelligence and military contracting was immense.  I’m afraid it shows how truly compromised Congress has become that there have been no extensive and ongoing Congressional hearings on the level of fraud, government funds wastage and security compromise during the last decade –  that’s the sort of thing that would have fueled intense party politics in earlier decades. Notice how the background check scandal faded after only a week or two; that has the implication and reach of some of the worst security breaches of the Cold War and Congress didn’t even touch it. My suspicion is that its lack illustrates that lobbyists have been truly effective at donating to both sides of the aisle.

However, my real point here is that the existence, and influence of a MIC is not at all limited to the United States. During the past few years it has become a major factor in Russian politics and particularly important as an element of Putin’s power base. I find the articles pondering whether U.S. intelligence was taken by surprise by Russian aggressiveness in the  Ukraine and Crimea a bit humerous.  First off, the Russians started moving in that direction in 2000, when they resumed Bear Bomber ferret flights around Alaska. There truly was no sane strategic reason for that at all and Russian reconnaissance and ferreting continued and escalated though the entire decade.

Beginning in 2012-1013 the Russians stepped it up considerably.  A bit of internet searching will show you several instances in which they ran full scale bombing exercises targeting their Scandinavian neighbors, right up to their borders. Why in any sane universe would Russia be wasting money on doing that.  The answer is that Putin has had money from Russia’s oil and gas production and one of the major places he’s been spending it is on the Russian Military Industrial Complex.  Take a look at the equipment being used by the Special Forces he poured into the Crimea – its all new and all first class.  Take a look at the number of new strategic and tactical missiles Russia is developing and the new mobile rocket units they have deployed – is Russia really going to roll west to France, not likely but it sure provides a boost to their military industrial complex. For that matter check out the article below – on their development of a new Mach 4 interceptor.  Question is, what would it be intercepting, its totally out of synch with all of contemporary war fighting strategy – but it’s a direct fit with other news that they are developing totally redundant fighters from different aerospace companies – thereby sustaining their MIC base (which we are not by the way, but Putin doesn’t have to fight many budget battles).


Then look at the list of the number of Russian border territories where it has covertly or conventionally deployed military force.  Why would anyone be surprised about the Ukraine. The MIC needs to be fed; Putin is paranoid and politically dependent.  Case closed….  As to what to do about it, that’s at a higher pay grade than mine but I submit that a) the Soviet Union fell largely on economics and b) anybody who thinks economic warfare doesn’t work in a global economy needs to do some homework.

Oh, and on a final note, Shadow Warfare is now available at Amazon, at Borders and at a number of book sellers nationally.  So I will be returning to it and hopefully readers will email me some things to discuss here.   Larry





Russian and cultural contexts


I’m continually surprised – well not really, I’m being sarcastic – by the way many of our Congressmen, including those in my own state, seem to want to jump headfirst into foreign conflicts. I’m not really going to rant further about that at this point but the current Russian confrontation in the Ukraine and Crimea provides a good object lesson in the value of understanding the culture,  history and mind set of the individuals driving the issues from the other side.  America actually has considerable experience with the Russians, perhaps the most challenging and educational dating back to the immediate post WWII period. Beyond that the Europeans, especially the French and British, have far more – and we really need to heed their advice.

Fortunately, at the moment, it seems that some folks in Washington (other than Congress) are reviewing their notes on how to deal with the Russians and in particular Mr. Putin and its certainly time for it.  In my last post I recommended a book by one of our long time diplomats, someone with far more experience in strategic dealings and with the very different cultural approach the Russians have held for centuries in regard to international relations.  Acheson himself, a very thoughtful and insightful man, cites others more experienced and in particular British diplomats.

The assessment that he shares is that the Russians conduct international relations based on a calculation of forces. Once they have determined on a course of action, the only way of dealing with them is to demonstrate that what they want to do is simply not possible. Neither eloquence nor rezoned agreement is effective, only a very mechanical and factual calculus of force.

— Paraphrase of Sir William Hayter’s description of Russian negotiations, the full quote is provided in Dean Acheson, “Present At The Creation : My Years in the State Department”, New York, W.W. Norton and Company 1969, 275

In other words, the Russians decide what they want to do and do it, the only way that  you counter that is by demonstrating that they simply cannot do it.  Its politics based on force, extremely pragmatic and has nothing to do with ideology per se.   Putin behaves just as the Czarists did, and just as the Commissars who followed them.

But although the State Department may have kept its notes, it seems that other government departments never do, including the Department of Defense.  I was amazed during much of the conflict in SW Asia, particularly in Iraq, to find very little sign that the troops had been briefed on the culture or the religion of the region. Many of our problems seem to have been based in the fact that they treated the local population in the same fashion – and assessed their leaders – that you would treat an American. That can lead leads to really bad misunderstandings. One example of that was the evaluation that the Northern Alliance was totally untrained, perhaps un-trainable and could not be counted on as fighters – a very, very bad assessment. Earlier senior military leadership had made the same mistake in regard to Afghanistan following 9/11; fortunately the CIA folks on the ground had a true understanding of the culture. That’s a story we review in Shadow Warfare.

But the cultural issue surfaces over and over again.  In another minor, but dangerous example, when we first sent advisers covertly into Laos to work with the Hmong, everything went fine. Then after  a point they were ordered to wear their rank badges and use their actual rank terminology – most were non-coms.  The Hmong were terribly offended because, based on their tribal leaders, they assumed advisers would be leaders and at least officers of some type – as their own leaders were. It almost brought the whole thing to a screeching halt, fortunately the expertise of the non-com special operations guys won the respect of the Hmong regardless.  But it was a mistake that never should have been made.

I’d like to say that I’ve seen some improvement over the decades but it almost seems the opposite.  During WWII there was considerable training effort spent at least giving the troops some basic understanding of their allies, even if it was badly stereotype.  At least the point was made that they are not all like us, don’t think like us etc, so don’t put your foot in  your mouth.  Its hard for me to determine how much of that happens these days, I’m hoping it does.  I’m especially  hoping it does becasue as we describe in the book, we are establishing extensive military support relationships between our national guard units and a number of nations in Africa.  The cultural disconnects in some areas are certainly huge, hopefully the national guard command is doing a good job of preparing its troops for culture shock.

– Larry