One of these days (or possibly never) I may get around to actually writing up a study of the evolution of deniable operations that during the four decades following WWII. Its a fascinating story, largely governed by the unwillingness of the US to openly declare war even while fighting it with massive military commitments and to consistently seek deeper and deeper levels of deniability (and freedom from Congressional oversight – or as successive President’s viewed it, “interference”).
Right now I’m busy being bi-polar, as you can see with the post I just made on “Patsy 101” on The Awful Grace of God blog.
In the interim, I’m going to occasionally share bits and pieces from my note taking. For this post, the subject is David Phillips, his jobs after 1963 and the almost certainty of his role as “Maurice Bishop”. The evolution of his actions positions is also a good example of how the CIA itself accelerated its use of surrogates – if you thought their level of control of Cuban operations in 1963 was questionable, what went on later in Chile was totally beyond even minimal oversight by the NSC or its covert operations authorization group.
During 67-69, Phillips served a tour in Washington, as Chief of the Cuban Operations Group, with worldwide oversight, he was promoted to GS16 at the end of that tour. At that point in time he himself notes that the Agency was devoting more and more resources to training and technology support for the many Latin American countries ramping up new counter insurgency programs (which involved mostly military establishments fighting off not just communists but anybody challenging the economic/political establishments). Unfortunately the level of terrorism including kidnapping and murder of American diplomats and personnel was also escalating during the same period, offering justification for the escalating counter terrorism support.
Although there is some confusion over dates, by the late 1960’s, Antonio Veciana (formerly of Alpha 66) had obtained a job with the Agency for International Development, working first in Bolivia but eventually traveling to other countries as well. Veciana himself was rather amazed since he was supposedly confined by court order to Miami because of Alpha 66 attacks on Cuba.
In 1970 Phillips moved to Chief of Station in Brazil, a very major country post – and at the peak of escalating terrorism in that country, including acts against Americans in Brazil.
That tour was cut short in September when he was called to DC and assigned to lead the Chile task force, specifically under orders of Nixon, Kissenger and Haig. What is most important about the assignment is that it was one of the first instances of a massive, official CIA effort not being approved by the sitting committee on covert operations and that the instructions were a totally blank check. The team was to do “whatever was necessary” to keep Allende out of office, ten million dollars was authorized and the order was to give it out as quickly and effectively as possible – accounting for it was not a major concern. Six weeks after the p project started, the leading Chilean general was assassinated.
By 1972 Phillips had been reassigned to Caracas, Venezuela and promoted to GS-17. In 1972, Veciana reportedly traveled to both Venezuela and Chile, organizing an attack against Fidel Castro in the latter country. Veciana related that his mentor, “Bishop” had made arrangements with the Chilean military for security stripping to assist the attack. Gaeton Fonzi describes another plot, involving Rolondo Otero and others who were involved in a plot assassinate Castro in Caracas during this same period.
Luis Posada was in Caracas at the same time, first with his own detective agency but later as chief of security and counter intelligence with Venezuelan military intelligence. Apparently at his own initiative he set up a separate plot against Castro outside the control of Bishop (Phillips) and Veciana – Fonzi speculates that this may have diminished Philips’s confidence in using Veciana for independent action.
Phillips own time in Caracas was cut short when in 1973 he was transferred to Washington to assume the role of Chief of Western Hemisphere. By the time he relocated, ties between Maurice Bishop and Veciana had been severed.
All in all a convoluted and messy story, but one which suggests that networks first developed at JM/WAVE had evolved to the point where covert operations could occur completely outside of the sort of oversight which had been standard procedure under previous administrations – once you had President’s bypassing the NSC, its covert operations group and giving directives to do “whatever is necessary”, a new playing field had been established. The stage was set for Iran/Contra.