Context is always important to all types of research and one of the things I run across frequently in JFK literature seems to be misunderstanding of what the CIA has done and can do in terms of operating inside the United States. Sometimes I’m surprised to see broad statements about the Agency not operating legally inside the United States – even when it had phone numbers in major cities. For JFK research, the context of what actually goes on in domestic activities is important as a benchmark for what might have been happening with around Lee Oswald.
In SWHT I give several examples of CIA domestic activities – ranging from the orchestration of the purchase of the first covert infiltration vessel going into Cuba by private citizens (the CIA did pay for modifications and operation of the vessel) to the mechanics of creating domestic mailing and residence backstops for agents serving overseas. Other examples range from installing a tape recorder for William Pawley in his office (and repairing it when it broke) to the interview of individuals coming back from Cuba (Gerry Hemming was even given a temporary low level classification during a period of some months for debriefing purposes). I go over a host of additional domestic activities in my covert warfare book including little things like briefing major American corporate business people before the operation in Guatemala, using corporate owned boats to move arms there for the coup and also using the same company to produce commercial covers for personnel doing logistics operations on the project. Fro the moment though, I thought I’d share a few examples form a long time CIA Clandestine Services officer. Henry A. Compton writes about his final years of service in The Art of Intelligence.
It appears that the most recent designation (well as far as we know) for the function is “National Resources”, fairly recently created by the joining of “National Collections” (passive collection of intel from individuals having access to foreign sources – officers debrief American contacts who are involved in activities which match the master intelligence target lists) and Foreign Resources (officers in FR recruited foreigners inside the U.S. who are going to be returning home, to nations of intelligence interest).
Compton points out that the combination was a good one since Americans being debriefed about foreign intel might well have knowledge of foreign citizens who could be useful, either as recruits or simply in identifying useful sources for passive routine business or academic contact by American citizens).
In writing of domestic intelligence collection, the point is made that numbers of Americans (referred to as private sector partners) from business people to academics, are quite willing volunteers and working with them is very much routine. Its a bit like open source collection, its simply from people doing their day jobs, traveling for companies, for eduction, etc and sharing information. Its very little different now than in 1963, with a bit of a change in priorities and targets of course. Among the types of individuals described were a Chief Executive Officer of a major corporation, a University President, and several business people and scientists from key areas such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. He describes the willingness to cooperate in producing possible intelligence in regard to everything from Al Qaeda covert money movements, to recruiting of Americans and technology purchases. Which indeed is nothing new, I’ve read CIA documents from 1962 and 1963 where Corporate presidents and senior executives used their overseas resources to actively collect intelligence, spending company funds to do so.
So, if you thought, as I once did many years ago, that the CIA only operated overseas or that it was very mysterious to find Clay Shaw (in a World Trade Center) as a CIA asset – not at all. In fact I’ve seen CIA documents relating to assets at other World Trade Centers including LA and San Francisco. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.