The take-over of the American Embassy in Tehran on 4 November 1979 propelled Howard Bane and the Office on Terrorism into the limelight. Twenty-one years later, the CIA is still reeling from the event, which saw all its files fall into enemy hands, and every one of its agent networks exposed throughout the region. This seminal event, which had an impact on the American public not unlike that of 11 September, marked the beginning of the propaganda war between the Great Satan and the Islamic fundamentalists, at the time represented by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeni, and allowed Ronald Eagan to crush Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
In the wake of the Embassy take-over, President Carter ordered Howard Bane to work with General “Shy” Meyer, Colonel Charlie Beckwith, and Delta Force, to come up with a plan to rescue the 53 hostages. As Bane notes, the plan was based on a covert action to obtain current intelligence on the status of the hostages, including several top CIA officers. Bane needed this intelligence information in order to know where to direct the black and gray propaganda necessary to disguise the CIA’s actual intentions. There was also a need to train Delta Force to operate in the Iranian desert.
The required intelligence was obtained, but as is well known, the government’s first major counter-terror operation, the Desert One rescue mission, failed to get off the ground. Sand clogged the aircraft and on 25 April 1980, eight soldiers were killed. To Ronald Reagan and George Bush’s delight, the hostage situation continued unabated for another six months, and enabled them to characterize Jimmy Carter throughout the campaign as someone who did not take security seriously.
Just as merrily George W. Bush capitalized on the 11 September catastrophe, the Great Communicator shamelessly rode the Iranian hostage tragedy into the White House. As in Chile, the secret to success was persuading the middle class to support the cause of freedom. After defeating bumbling George Bush (the CIA’s preferred candidate) in the primary, Reagan repudiated Carter’s Human Rights crusade, and in the wake of the hostage crisis, declared a totally disingenuous war against terrorism. The seizure of the embassy had shaken the American public as never before, and Reagan played on that infantile fear. Indeed, terror was the organizing principle in his campaign. His avowed and central principle, written in stone, was of never negotiating with terrorists, as Jimmy Carter was attempting to do, and of restoring America to its rightful position as the most powerful and feared nation in the world.
Meanwhile, according to eyewitness Ari Ben-Menasche, Reagan’s campaign manager, William J. Casey, had arranged for vice presidential candidate and former CIA director George Bush to meet with Iranian officials in Paris on the weekend of 18-19 October 1980. In exchange for holding the hostages through the election, then releasing them, Reagan, Bush and Casey agreed to sell weapons to Iran, which had been invaded in September 1980 by CIA asset Saddam Hussein and Iraq.
The secret deal, called the October Surprise, allowed Reagan, Bush and Casey to steal the presidency. The fact that the hostages were released on the day of Reagan’s inauguration highlighted the fact that a secret deal had been made. But the American media had already been compromised by the National Security elite’s four-year old disinformation campaign, and under the Great Communicator, the major TV networks and newspapers would become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the Israeli Lobby and America’s reactionary right wing. Terrorism As Growth Industry
The final chapter in the history of the national security elite’s campaign of terror against the American people began with Reagan and his successful efforts to destroy the Soviet Union. It was advanced through the presidencies of George H. W. Bush, and the aberration called Bill Clinton, and has achieved its apotheosis under George W. Bush.
Upon assuming office, Reagan declared that he would replace Carter’s Human rights crusade with an all-out war on terrorism, and to implement this policy he appointed OSS veteran William Casey as Director of Central Intelligence. Casey immediately reconstituted the SOD under Rudy Enders, wrapped anti-terrorism in a veil of black and gray propaganda, and began mounting terror operations worldwide through a hip pocket operation managed by a secret team of counter-terror experts.
Many old Phoenix veterans staffed several key positions in the Reagan, Bush and Casey regime. SOD chief Rudy Enders had managed the CIA’s counter-terror teams in Vietnam’s III Corps in 1965-1966, and 1970-1972. On his second tour, Enders worked under the direction of III Corps Regional Officer in Charge, Donald Gregg. During the Reagan Administration, Gregg would serve as Vice-President George H. W. Bush’s national security advisor.
In Vietnam, Gregg, Enders, and Enders’ deputy Felix Rodriguez, a crazed anti-Castro Cuban associated with some of the CIA’s most ruthless terrorists, managed III Corps’ Phoenix Program. In this capacity the trio developed what they called the “Pink Team” plan for identifying, capturing, and killing specific members of the Viet Cong Infrastructure.
In 1981, after a survey in Latin America, Enders assigned Rodriguez to El Salvador specifically to implement an updated version of the Pink Plan against the political leadership of the insurgency. After receiving approval from Bush, through Greg, the strategy was applied uniformly throughout Central America and resulted in the proliferation of death squads and the formation of the world’s largest narco-terrorist group, the Contras, with the able assistance of Panama’s Manuel Noriega, one of the CIA’s most famous assets ever. Veteran field hands from the Phoenix Program were re-hired by the SOD and assigned to security forces and death squads in numerous nations around the world. Everywhere they went they carried a field manual developed by the U.S. Army Special Forces for use in the Phoenix Program.
Titled “Psychological Operations In Guerilla Warfare,” the manual specifically states that “Guerilla warfare is essentially a political war,” and that “the human being should be considered the primary target.” Once the mind had been reached, the manual said, the “political animal” was defeated, without necessarily receiving bullets.
“Guerrilla warfare is born and grows in the political environment; in the constant combat to dominate that area of political mentality that is inherent to all human beings and which collectively constitutes the “environment” in which guerrilla warfare moves, and which is where precisely its victory or failure is defined.
“This conception of guerrilla warfare as political war turns Psychological Operations into the decisive factor. The target, then, is the minds of the population, all the population: our troops, the enemy troops, and the civilian population.”
The essential element in these psychological operations was “implicit terror,” as applied through Armed Propaganda Teams, as developed in Vietnam. When “implicit terror” failed to convince people to join the cause, the explicit terror of torture and summary execution were applied.
Here it is wise to note that the soldiers being trained and assigned to the Office of Homeland Security will ultimately perform the same “psywar” function, of implicitly terrorizing the American public, through their uniforms and arms, into submission. Suspected terrorists and their sympathizers can expect to receive explicit terror.
Through a junta headed by Oliver North at the NSC, and a group of secret agents in the Enterprise originally formed by Ed Wilson, and managed after 1983 (when Wilson was convicted of selling 20 tons of C-4 explosive in 1977 to Libya’s Moammar Quadaffi) by retired Air Force General Richard Secord, Casey used profits from the illegal sale of weapons to Iran, and the profits from CIA-protected drug smuggling through Panama, to fund the Contra terror campaign in Nicaragua.
To cover these illegal terror operations–and a separate, immense covert action, which involved the recruitment and training of Moslem mercenaries, including Osama bin Laden, to repel the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and thus bleed the Soviet Union into oblivion–Casey penetrated the Office of Public Diplomacy within the State Department. A totally illegal CIA domestic operation, Casey’s hijacking of the Office of Public Diplomacy enjoyed the tactic approval of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Part of the reason for this incredible oversight was the fact that CIA officer Robert Simmons was staff director of the Senate Intelligence Committee. During the Vietnam War, Simmons had advised a CIA Interrogation Center for 18 months in Phu Yen Province. Today, unbelievably, he is now a Congressman from Connecticut. Totally sympathetic to Casey’s policy, Simmons was unable to provide any information about illegal CIA covert actions, including the mining of Nicaraguan harbors, to those Committee members who might have objected. Thanks to Simmons and the Committee’s chairman, Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ), the Office of Public Diplomacy, under Otto Reich, had free reign to inundate the media with black and gray propaganda, thus protecting all of Casey’s illegal activities.
“A staff report by the House Foreign Affairs Committee (September 7, 1988) summarized various investigations of Mr. Reich’s office and concluded that “senior CIA officials with backgrounds in covert operations, as well as military intelligence and psychological operations specialists from the Department of Defense, were deeply involved in establishing and participating in a domestic political and propaganda operation run through an obscure bureau in the Department of State which reported directly to the National Security Council rather than through the normal State Department channels. Through irregular sole-source, no-bid contracts, S/LPD established and maintained a private network of individuals and organizations whose activities were coordinated with, and sometimes directed by, Col. Oliver North as well as officials of the NSC and S/LPD. These private individuals and organizations raised and spent funds for the purpose of influencing Congressional votes and U.S. domestic news media. This network raised and funneled money to off-shore bank accounts in the Cayman Islands or to the secret Lake Resources bank account in Switzerland for disbursement at the direction of Oliver North. Almost all of these activities were hidden from public view and many of the key individuals involved were never questioned or interviewed by the Iran/Contra Committees.”” 11
The Office of Public Diplomacy was so successful in manipulating the media, that it was able to convince the public that Reagan had not approved the funding of the illegal Contras from profits from illegal secret arms sales to Iran–even after he confessed to the crime, with a glistening Hollywood tear in his eye, on national TV in November 1986. Likewise all Congressional investigations into the Iran-Contra scandal were successfully subverted, and George Bush was elected president in 1988, despite his integral role in what was the most egregious violation of the Constitution in American history. What amounted to a military coup went unpunished, due to the success of the CIA’s psychological warfare capabilities, and its near absolute control of the major American media.
The current Bush Administration, incidentally, is considering nominating Otto “Third” Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs.
Prelude To Disaster
While Casey initiated covert terror actions around the world and in America, the Office of Terrorism was reorganized to serve an essentially clandestine purpose. Casey thrived on “hip-pocket” operations and compartmentalization, and as DCI he took a more active role managing specific operations than any of his predecessors.
Thus, as a replacement for Howard Bane, Casey chose William Buckley, a veteran CIA officer who’d spent much of his career undercover as an officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces. Buckley served several tours in Vietnam, managing counter-terror and counter-intelligence operations, and from 1969 until 1972, under Ted Shackley, he was the director of the CIA’s national counter-terror program in Vietnam.
In 1978 Buckley was assigned to Damascus, Syria, and in mid-1979 he trained President of Egypt Anwar Sadat’s bodyguards. Buckley was assigned to Islamabad, Pakistan in 1979, and in November 1979 he became involved in planning for the Iran Embassy hostage rescue operation. In February 1981 he was assigned to train the SOD’s own counter-terror team at Fort Bragg, and to reorganize CIA’s counter-terrorism office.
Buckley was profoundly influenced during his first tour in Vietnam, when he saw a Buddhist monk immolate himself. Buckley was convinced, like rat-eater Liddy, that Americans must become as fanatically self-sacrificing as their suicidal enemies if they were to persevere. Apparently Casey shared this philosophy, and when they met in March 1981, he and Buckley formed an affinity. Buckley became Casey’s close advisor, and they traveled together to Saudi Arabia in April to pave the way for the construction of secret military bases, now occupied by U.S. counter-terror forces arrayed against Al Qaeda, and to obtain private funding for Casey’s Contra terror campaign.12
The first step in this secret war of terror was the October 1981 assassination of Sadat by the bodyguards Buckley had trained. The assassination nullified the Camp David Accords President Carter had worked so hard to achieve. Israel was now free to target PLO bases in Lebanon, and in May 1982, Israeli General Ariel Sharon invaded Lebanon, and, through his paid assets in the Christian Phalange militia, organized one of the greatest terror acts of all time–the massacre of hundreds of Palestinian men in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.
Currently serving as the elected Prime Minister of Israel, the world’s greatest human rights abuser and second largest sponsor of state-terrorism, Sharon may be indicted as war criminal for this despicable act, in the same Belgian court that may try Nixon’s ferocious National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, for war crimes committed during the Chilean coup.
In August 1982 Buckley returned to CIA headquarters to revamp and coordinate Reagan’s anti-terrorism policy, through what was called the Domestic Terrorism Group. According to author Mark Perry, “For six months Buckley and the government officials hammered out a policy.” The result was that the CIA maintained responsibility for foreign counter-terror operations, while the FBI acquired the domestic “internal security” terrorism account.
Under the direction of Attorney General Edwin Meese, the FBI went about its internal security task with ideological fervor, harassing, discrediting, and stifling each and every Peace group that sought to educate the public about the CIA’s human rights abuses. Citizens opposed to CIA death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador fared the worst, because the Reagan Administration, with the earnest assistance of its right wing supplicants in the media, was eminently able to equate peace with an unpatriotic support for terrorism.
It was all a Big Lie, of course, but the national security elite is willing to deceive the public for the greater good of its internal security. In the case of Reagan’s “freedom fighters,” as he called the terrorist Contras in Nicaragua, it was done under the rubric of counter-terrorism, to protect the CIA’s illegal activities from coming to light.
The Office of Homeland Security will undoubtedly serve a similar disinformation function for the Bush Administration, although all pretenses that the CIA is not involved in domestic counter-terrorism have been dropped. The CIA has been “unleashed.”
In so far as spying on U.S. citizens with suspected links to foreign terrorists was an on-going, albeit top secret priority since Chaos, it was impossible for the CIA not be involved in domestic counter-terror in 1981. But in that na?ve era the myth needed to be maintained, and for that reason Buckley suggested to Casey that the Domestic Terrorism Group be renamed the International Anti-terrorism Group. “Buckley’s plan,” Perry said, “called for a coordinated effort to combat security breaches under the leadership of the NSC director, who’d be in charge of monitoring the agencies that were responsible for domestic law enforcement.”
Citing Pentagon officials, Perry says that the Domestic Terrorism Group became a part of the Army’s Intelligence Support Activity, and that Buckley’s plan for an independent CIA office disintegrated as a result. Casey re-assigned Buckley as the CIA’s chief of station in Beirut following the March 1983 bombing of the American Embassy. Buckley arrived in June or July, but failed to prevent the attack on the U.S. Marine Corps barracks, on 23 October 1983, that killed 241 Marines.
On 16 March 1984, Buckley was kidnapped by Hezbollah guerrillas, and after being tortured for months, died in captivity in Tehran in June 1985, shortly after a March 1985 car bomb, reportedly planted by the CIA or the Phalange militia, and intended for terrorist suspect Hussein Fadallah, killed 80 Lebanese civilians. Hezbollah reportedly passed a copy of Buckley’s 400-page videotaped confession to Casey in May 1986.
Perry speculates that Buckley was part of secret, hip pocket operation into Iran, to recruit members of Iran’s junior officer corps. Be that as it may, the Reagan, Bush, Casey reliance on covert actions had only worsened the problem of terrorism, creating one disaster after another, and severely escalating the cycle of violence. With Congress conducting a number of official inquiries into CIA abuses, the time had come to take terror operations out of escapading Bill Casey’s hip pocket, and create a new office within the CIA to manage the situation.
Douglas Valentine writes frequently for CounterPunch. He is the author of The Phoenix Program, the only comprehensive account of the CIA’s torture and assassination operation in Vietnam, as well as TDY a chilling novel about the CIA and the drug trade.