When Eisenhower became president, two brothers ascended to the commanding heights of the US foreign policy establishment. One brother, John Foster Dulles, was appointed Secretary of State. The other, Allen Dulles, became the head of the CIA. Or as he himself sinisterly called it, "the secretary of state for unfriendly countries." In "The Devil's Chessboard", David Talbot, founder of Slate Magazine, writes a biography of Allen Dulles and his covert actions at the height of secret power in America. The first two-thirds of the book is a relatively straightforward account of Dulles's life and the highlights of his intelligence career. Talbot documents Dulles's early days as a spy in Europe who collaborated with Nazis to combat the Soviet menace - a controversial and possibly treasonous maneuver. "Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, who as a young lawyer served with Allen in the OSS, later declared that both Dulleses were guilty of treason." But Dulles knew how power worked - he used his connections and influence to reach ever higher in America's security establishment until he was able to begin to remake the world according to his vision. He (unsurprisingly) took a Machiavellian view of the world and insisted that it was better to be feared than loved - a perspective that directly clashed with JFK's and was the source of serious conflict between them. This perspective is on chilling display in a CIA handbook produced during Dulles's reign titled A Study of Assassination. His greatest "successes" were regime change in Iran and Guatemala, but he was humiliated by the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation in Cuba. And it's at this point that the book shifts from a standard biography to something a bit more... conspiracy theory.
The last third of the book is devoted to Talbot's theory that Allen Dulles was behind the Kennedy assassination. And to be sure - Kennedy and Dulles hated each other. Kennedy even fired Dulles as head of the CIA. It's also strange that Dulles ran the Warren Commission that "investigated" the Kennedy assassination. Talbot documents all sorts of suspicious coincidences and connections between the CIA Bay of Pigs operation and the Kennedy assassination, but it's hard to know what evidence is cherry-picked and what's real. This part of the book isn't nearly as strong as the first two thirds, but it is plenty of fun. Of course, the CIA doesn't think so, according to their review of Talbot's book...
A spidery network of intrigue connected the Dulles story to much of the other reading I've done. The Guatemalan escapades with the United Fruit Company were extensively documented in The Fish that Ate the Whale. Henry Luce and his Time publishing empire were staunch allies of Dulles, but don't receive particularly favorable treatment in The China Mirage about American foreign policy blunders in China. The OAS de Gaulle assassination attempt (discussed in Legionnaire and represented fictionally in Forsyth's delightful Day of the Jackal) bears more than a passing resemblance to the Kennedy assassination... and Dulles was at least adjacent to both. There's a passing reference to Meyer Lansky and the Mafia in regards to the Cuban imbroglio, and even "King Leopold's Ghost" makes an appearance when Dulles may or may not have ordered the assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba. Also, Carl Jung seems to keep popping up in these power-player biographies - Dulles's wife Clover spent a ton of time with him, as did one of Rockefeller's daughters (as documented in Chernow's excellent biography "Titan"). There are plenty of Yale connections in here too - the book is packed to the gills with Bonesmen - including a Kentuckian John Sherman Cooper who served on the Warren Commission!
My highlights below.
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. —THE INSCRIPTION CHOSEN BY ALLEN DULLES FOR THE LOBBY OF CIA HEADQUARTERS, FROM JOHN 8:31–32
They are the professionals, the entrepreneurs, the links between the businessmen, the politicians who desire the end but are afraid of the means, and the fanatics, the idealists who are prepared to die for their convictions. The important thing to know about an assassination or an attempted assassination is not who fired the shot, but who paid for the bullet.” —A COFFIN FOR DIMITRIOS, ERIC AMBLER
Given free rein by President Eisenhower to police the world against any insurgent threat to U.S. dominion, Dulles’s CIA overthrew nationalist governments in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East, and even targeted troublesome leaders in allied European countries. Dulles called himself “the secretary of state for unfriendly countries”—which had an ominous ring when one took note of what happened to unfriendly countries in the American Century.
John Foster Dulles needed Communism the way that Puritans needed sin, the infamous British double agent Kim Philby once remarked.
Allen Dulles was one of the wiliest masters of secret power ever produced by America. And his most ambitious clandestine efforts were directed not against hostile governments but against his own. While serving in multiple presidential administrations, he learned to manipulate them and sometimes subvert them. In the view of the Dulles brothers, democracy was an enterprise that had to be carefully managed by the right men, not simply left to elected officials as a public trust. From their earliest days on Wall Street — where they ran Sullivan and Cromwell, the most powerful corporate law firm in the nation — their overriding commitment was always to the circle of accomplished, privileged men whom they saw as the true seat of power in America.
As younger men, the Dulles brothers were obsessive chess players.
John Foster Dulles would rise to become the chief counsel for American power, a man destined to quietly confer with kings, prime ministers, and despots. He liked to think of himself as chess master of the free world. His younger brother would become something more powerful still — the knight-errant who enforced America’s imperial will. As director of the CIA, Allen Dulles liked to think he was the hand of the king, but if so, he was the left hand—the sinister hand. He was master of the dark deeds that empires require.
Later, when Allen Dulles served as the United States’ top spy in continental Europe during World War II, he blatantly ignored Roosevelt’s policy of unconditional surrender and pursued his own strategy of secret negotiations with Nazi leaders. The staggering sacrifice made by the Russian people in the war against Hitler meant little to Dulles. He was more interested in salvaging the Third Reich’s security apparatus and turning it against the Soviet Union — which he had always regarded as America’s true enemy. After the war, Dulles helped a number of notorious war criminals escape via the “Nazi ratlines” that ran from Germany, down through Italy, to sanctuary in Latin America, the Middle East, and even the United States.
Eisenhower gave Dulles immense license to fight the administration’s shadow war against Communism, but at the end of his presidency, Ike concluded that Dulles had robbed him of his place in history as a peacemaker and left him nothing but “a legacy of ashes.” Dulles undermined or betrayed every president he served in high office.
Dulles would turn his Georgetown home into the center of an anti-Kennedy government in exile.
Dulles declared that the Kennedy presidency suffered from a “yearning to be loved by the rest of the world.” This “weakness” was not the mark of a global power, insisted Dulles. “I should much prefer to have people respect us than to try to make them love us.”
Many of the practices that still provoke bouts of American soul-searching originated during Dulles’s formative rule at the CIA. Mind control experimentation, torture, political assassination, extraordinary rendition, massive surveillance of U.S. citizens and foreign allies — these were all widely used tools of the Dulles reign.
Allen was less troubled by guilt or self-doubt than any of his siblings. He liked to tell people — and it was almost a boast — that he was one of the few men in Washington who could send people to their deaths.
This is a history of secret power in America.
1 - The Double Agent
Dulles not only enjoyed a professional and social familiarity with many members of the Third Reich’s elite that predated the war; he shared many of these men’s postwar goals.
Dulles also positioned himself in Bern because the Swiss capital was the center of wartime financial and political intrigue. Bern was an espionage bazaar, teeming with spies, double agents, informers, and peddlers of secrets. And, as Dulles knew, Switzerland was a financial haven for the Nazi war machine.
Dulles knew many of the central players in the secretive Swiss financial milieu because he and his brother had worked with them as clients or business partners before the war. Sullivan and Cromwell, the Dulles brothers’ Wall Street law firm, was at the center of an intricate international network of banks, investment firms, and industrial conglomerates that rebuilt Germany after World War I. Foster, the law firm’s top executive, grew skilled at structuring the complex merry-go-round of transactions that funneled massive U.S. investments into German industrial giants like the IG Farben chemical conglomerate and Krupp Steel.
Foster continued to represent German cartels like IG Farben as they were integrated into the Nazis’ growing war machine, helping the industrial giants secure access to key war materials. He donated money to America First, the campaign to keep the United States out of the gathering tempest in Europe, and helped sponsor a rally honoring Charles Lindbergh, the fair-haired aviation hero who had become enchanted by Hitler’s miraculous revival of Germany.
Like his brother, Allen Dulles was slow to grasp the malevolence of Hitler’s regime. Dulles met face-to-face with Hitler in the Führer’s Berlin office in March 1933. He was ostensibly on a fact-finding mission to Europe for President Roosevelt, but Dulles was particularly interested in determining what Hitler’s rise meant for his law firm’s corporate clients in Germany and the United States. As Dulles subsequently informed Foster, he did not find Hitler particularly alarming. And he was “rather impressed” with Joseph Goebbels, remarking on the Nazi propaganda chief’s “sincerity and frankness.”
And Allen and his wife, Clover, continued to socialize with the Lindberghs, who were their neighbors on Long Island’s Gold Coast shore.
Fleming was a great admirer of Stephenson, whom he called “a magnetic personality” and “one of the great secret agents” of World War II. The novelist, who worked with Stephenson’s operation as a British naval intelligence agent in Washington, also praised the spymaster’s martinis — which he served in quart glasses — as “the most powerful in America.”
By siccing men like William O. Douglas on men like John Foster Dulles, President Roosevelt drove the plutocracy mad. J. P. Morgan Jr. was so incensed by the “class traitor” FDR that his servants had to cut out the president’s picture from the Wall Street titan’s morning newspaper for fear that it would spike his blood pressure.
One of Dulles’s most important contacts in Europe was Thomas McKittrick, an old Wall Street friend who was president of the Bank for International Settlements.
BIS laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in Nazi gold looted from the treasuries of occupied countries.
McKittrick demonstrated equal disdain for the project, and his lack of cooperation proved particularly damaging to the operation, since BIS was the main conduit for the passage of Nazi gold.
By playing an intricate corporate shell game, Foster was able to hide the U.S. assets of major German cartels like IG Farben and Merck KGaA, the chemical and pharmaceutical giant, and protect these subsidiaries from being confiscated by the federal government as alien property.
If their powerful enemy in the White House had survived the war, the Dulles brothers would likely have faced serious criminal charges for their wartime activities. Supreme Court Justice Arthur Goldberg, who as a young lawyer served with Allen in the OSS, later declared that both Dulleses were guilty of treason.
But Roosevelt’s unconditional surrender declaration, which took Churchill by surprise, was FDR’s way of reassuring Stalin that the Americans and British would not sell out the Soviet Union by cutting a separate peace deal with Nazi leaders.
The Casablanca Declaration had clearly unnerved Himmler’s circle by making it clear that there would be no escape for the Reich’s “barbaric leaders.” But Dulles took pains to put his guest’s mind at rest. The Allies’ declaration, Dulles assured him, was “merely a piece of paper to be scrapped without further ado if Germany would sue for peace.” Thus began Allen Dulles’s reign of treason as America’s top spy in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Before the war, Dulles had been an occasional guest of Lord and Lady Astor at Cliveden, the posh couple’s country home along the Thames that became notorious as a weekend retreat for the pro-Nazi aristocracy. (There is no getting around this unwelcome fact: Hitler was much more fashionable in the social settings that men like Dulles frequented—in England as well as the United States—than it was later comfortable to admit.)
At one point, Himmler even recruited fashion designer Coco Chanel, bringing her to Berlin to discuss strategy.
2 - Human Smoke
Neither Allen, Foster, nor their three sisters were ever as devout as their father, the Reverend Allen Macy Dulles, who presided over a small Presbyterian flock in Watertown, New York, a sleepy retreat favored by New York millionaires near Lake Ontario.
His illustrious father-in-law, the luxuriantly bewhiskered John Watson Foster, who had served briefly as secretary of state under President Benjamin Harrison and then established himself as one of Washington’s first power attorneys, was a beneficent presence in the family’s life.
Clover Dulles called her cold and driven husband “The Shark.”
It was her mother, Eleanor would recall, who ran the family.
Morgenthau was so integral a member of Roosevelt’s inner circle that he was known as “the assistant president.” He was of German Jewish ancestry and Democratic Party royalty. His father, New York real estate mogul Henry Morgenthau Sr., had been one of President Woodrow Wilson’s major financial backers and served as Wilson’s ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. Henry Jr., who ran a Hudson Valley farm near the Roosevelt family’s Hyde Park estate, would develop a long personal and political relationship with FDR. When Franklin’s privileged life was suddenly turned upside down by the ravages of polio, Morgenthau was one of the few political advisers who remained close to him, keeping his spirits up with games of Parcheesi.
It is not widely recognized that the Nazi reign of terror was, in a fundamental way, a lucrative racket — an extensive criminal enterprise set up to loot the wealth of Jewish victims and exploit their labor. The chemical giant Farben was at the forefront of integrating concentration camp labor into its industrial production process, with other major German corporations like Volkswagen, Siemens, and Krupp following closely behind. Himmler’s SS empire moved aggressively to cut itself in on the spoils, extracting sizable payments from these companies for providing them with a steady flow of forced labor.
Instead, Dulles sent off a routine cable on the Vrba-Wetzler report to Secretary of State Cordell Hull, a man Dulles knew would not lift a finger to help the Jews, even though he was married to a Jewish woman.
3 - Ghosts of Nuremberg
But by 1945, Nuremberg had been reduced to rubble. On January 2, Royal Air Force and U.S. Army Air Force bombers swarmed over the city and destroyed the glories of its medieval center in just one hour.
The Nuremberg trial was a moral milestone, the first time that top government officials were held accountable for crimes against humanity that in earlier days would have likely been dismissed as the natural acts of war.
President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were so intent on meting out a fitting punishment that they originally favored taking the law into their own hands and summarily shooting Hitler’s top military, ministerial, and party ranks—Churchill estimated the number would be somewhere between fifty and a hundred men. The prime minister thought that once the proper identifications were made, the killing could be completed within six hours. In one of history’s deeper ironies, it was Joseph Stalin who insisted that the Nazi leaders be put on trial, lecturing his Western allies on the merits of due process. “U[ncle]. J[oe]. took an unexpectedly ultra-respectable line,” Churchill wrote Roosevelt after meeting with Stalin in Moscow in October 1944. The Soviet premier told Churchill that “there must be no executions without trial; otherwise the world would say we were afraid to try them.”
He also antagonized his powerful enemies, he explained, by going after “German industrialists whose plight arouses the class loyalties of their opposition numbers in Great Britain and the United States. We cannot forget [for example] that one of the big war factories in Germany was the Opel Company which was owned and financed by the General Motors Corporation, a company in which Secretary Stettinius had a great interest. The biggest electric company in Germany was owned and financed by the General Electric Company of New York. We have here very potent reasons why a large and important group in this country is trying to pipe down on the serious investigations of [corporate Germany’s collaboration with the Nazis].”
And Schacht, for his part, had remained a well-respected figure in New York, London, and Swiss banking circles even after selling his soul to Hitler. (Schacht later fell out with the Führer and spent the final days of the war in the VIP section of Dachau, where prisoners received relatively lenient treatment.) The banker knew where much of Nazi Germany’s assets were hidden, which continued to make him a valued man in global financial circles.
But, due to sloppiness or ill will, the Nuremberg hangings were not professionally carried out. The drop was not long enough, so some of the condemned dangled in agony at the end of their ropes for long stretches of time before they died.
4 - Sunrise
The SS general was the key to Dulles’s greatest wartime ambition: securing a separate peace with Nazi forces in Italy before the Soviet army could push into Austria and southward toward Trieste.
The Gaevernitzes had broken from the Nazis early on, and Dulles helped funnel their money to safe havens outside of Germany, as he did for many wealthy Germans, including those who remained loyal to the Nazi regime, before and during the war.
Time magazine — which, under the ownership of his close friend Henry Luce, could always be counted on to give Dulles good press — trumpeted Operation Sunrise as “one of the most stunning triumphs in the history of secret wartime diplomacy.”
His business background gave Wolff cachet in the SS, where such skills were in short supply. It was Wolff who was put in charge of Himmler’s important “circle of friends,” a select group of some three dozen German industrialists and bankers who supplied the SS with a stream of slush money. “Himmler was no businessman and I took care of banking matters for him,” Wolff later recalled. In return for their generosity, the corporate donors were given special access to pools of slave labor. They were also invited to attend high-level government meetings and special Nazi Party ceremonies.
Under the terms of Operation Sunrise, Wolff specifically agreed not to blow up the region’s many hydroelectric plants, which generated power from the water roaring down from the Alps. Most of these installations were owned by a multinational holding company called Italian Superpower Corporation. Incorporated in Delaware in 1928, Italian Superpower’s board was evenly divided between American and Italian utility executives, and by the following year the power company was swallowed by a bigger, J. P. Morgan–financed cartel. The ties between Italian Superpower and Dulles’s financial circle were reinforced when, toward the end of the war, the spymaster’s good friend — New York banker James Russell Forgan — took over as his OSS boss in London. Forgan was one of Italian Superpower’s directors.
Dulles succeeded in keeping Wolff off the Nuremberg defendants list. The general would appear at the trial only as a witness, testifying on behalf of his fellow war criminal Hermann Goering.
5 - Ratlines
Counterintelligence was the spy craft’s deepest mind game—it was not just figuring out the enemy’s next moves in advance and blocking them, but learning to think like him. Not yet thirty, Angleton was already being talked about in American and British intelligence circles as one of the masters of the field. He had been educated in British prep schools and at Yale, where he had edited the avant-garde poetry magazine Furioso and courted the likes of Ezra Pound and e.e. cummings as contributors, and he seemed to bring an artist’s intuition to his profession.
Angleton looked up to Dulles as a mentor — a powerful figure in the mold of his adored father, James Hugh Angleton, an international businessman who had paved his son’s path into the spy trade and continued to play an influential role in the young spook’s life. Dulles would remain a strong, paternal figure for Angleton junior throughout their deeply entwined intelligence careers.
In Naples, he was invited to the midnight entertainments at Duchess Rosalba’s decaying mansion, festivities so lavishly debauched that they could have inspired a young Fellini.
It was the most peculiar of ironies, and one that Dollmann and his intimates no doubt privately relished. The man who kept the Axis partners smoothly aligned, with his impressive language and social skills, was a highly educated, arts-loving homosexual who enjoyed trading in the most salacious gossip about the personalities who ruled Germany and Italy. Dollmann was, in short, precisely the type of person the Nazis sent to the gas chambers. But instead, Hitler’s interpreter was free to attend gay and lesbian orgies in Venice, a city whose shadows offered some protection from the authorities’ prying eyes. And he had the pleasure of going on shopping safaris with Eva Braun, Hitler’s companion, during her Italian holidays.
Dollmann was fond of Braun, a sweet and simple young woman who confided her sad life to him. She was known throughout the world as the German strongman’s mistress, but, as she confessed to Dollmann, there was no sexual intimacy between her and the Führer. “He is a saint,” Braun told Dollmann wistfully. “The idea of physical contact would be for him to defile his mission. Many times we sit and watch the sun come up after spending the whole night talking. He says to me that his only love is Germany and to forget it, even for a moment, would shatter the mystical forces of his mission.”
The general’s small audience listened in rapt silence, transfixed by the portrait of a Hitler who was more interested in boyish men than in national politics.
“He was a daemonic personality, a Lucifer with cold blue eyes.” One night, Heydrich demanded that Dollmann take him to Naples’s finest brothel. Two dozen half-naked women representing the full spectrum of the female form—from “slim gazelles to buxom Rubenesque beauties”—were arranged for Heydrich’s inspection in the brothel’s ornate lobby, with its gilt-edged mirrors and frescoes of rosy nymphs. Heydrich gazed at the women on display with his blank, shark eyes. Considering the SS butcher’s reputation, Dollmann did not know what to expect next. Suddenly Heydrich flung a fistful of shiny gold coins across the marble floor. “Then he jumped up, Lucifer personified, and clapped his hands. With a sweeping gesture, he invited the girls to pick up the gold. A Walpurgisnacht orgy ensued. Fat and thin, ponderous and agile, the [women] scrambled madly across the salotto floor on all fours.” Afterward, Heydrich looked pale and spent, as if he himself had joined in the frenzy. He coolly thanked Dollmann and disappeared into the night. The interpreter was glad to see Heydrich go. He was, said Dollmann, “the only man I instinctively feared.”
Angleton seemed to work more closely with the British spies than with his U.S. Army colleagues, and the British treated him like one of their own. Before transferring to Rome in 1944, Angleton had been stationed in London, where his X-2 unit was overseen by British intelligence.
Rauff would cap his bloody career in Chile, where he became a top adviser to DINA, military dictator Augusto Pinochet’s own Gestapo.
Angleton was also raised in wealth. But his father, Hugh, was not the Main Line type. He was a swashbuckling, self-made man who had swept up his future wife, Carmen, when she was a teenager in Mexico, after he joined General John “Black Jack” Pershing’s 1916 expedition to capture Pancho Villa.
Nonetheless, by 1947, many in the American military hierarchy shared the Dulles-Angleton view that fighting Communism was a bigger priority than prosecuting fascist war criminals.
Few station chiefs come close to having the literary touch of onetime spies like Graham Greene, David Cornwell (John le Carré), or Ian Fleming.
Dulles had recently published The Secret Surrender, his Operation Sunrise memoir, and Dollmann was upset to read the spymaster’s description of him as a “slippery customer.”
6 - Useful People
Allen Dulles’s wife, Clover, and his wartime mistress, Mary Bancroft, were both patients of Carl Jung.
Despite their striking personality differences—and their awkward romantic triangle—Clover and Mary developed a unique friendship that would last the rest of their lives.
Mary sought enlightenment from the great Jung. She made her way down the long, tree-lined path to his home on Lake Zurich, above whose elaborate stone portal was etched in Latin: Vocatus atque non vocatus deus aderit (“Called or uncalled, God will be present”). Jung was alive to the potential of the supernatural. He believed in demons and angels. The inscription reminded Jung, who said he always felt “unsafe,” that he was “in the presence of superior possibilities.”
During World War I, she volunteered as a canteen girl in a Paris officers’ club. She sometimes wandered the streets of the war-tattered city dressed as a beggar, just to feel what it was like to be someone else, someone who had to plead for bread.
Clover and Allen’s oldest daughter, Martha (“Toddie”), also grappled with psychic demons throughout her life — bouts of manic depression that became so severe that she submitted to multiple rounds of electroshock therapy.
It was Clover’s curse to spend her life with such a man, and it was Allen’s to live with a woman who was finally able to understand him.
Clover told Mary that she had once heard the Dulles brothers referred to as sharks. “And I do think they are,” said the wife to the mistress. “I guess there’s no solution but for you and me to be killer whales!” From then on, the two women referred to Allen as “The Shark” and to themselves as the “Killer Whales.”
Mary also proved that she was more tuned in to certain nuances of the spy craft than Dulles. She realized, for instance, that intelligence could be gathered from the enemy as well as Allied camps by tapping into the underground homosexual network that ran through Europe’s diplomatic and espionage circles.
Although Dulles and Jung met face-to-face in early 1943, Mary also continued to serve as the main link between the two commanding men in her life. Both men were excited by the idea of forging a pioneering marriage between espionage and psychology.
One evening, while warming themselves by the fireplace at Herrengasse, Mary fell into conversation with Dulles about Napoleon’s love life. She told him that she had read that the great conqueror had enjoyed nine women during his life. “Nine!” exclaimed Dulles. “I beat him by one!”
The following year, after being named Austria’s ambassador to Iran, Buresch took Joan off to Tehran, another highly sensitive diplomatic posting. Joan suddenly found herself amid the imperial splendor of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s court, the emperor reinstalled on the Peacock Throne by her father, after the CIA overthrew Iran’s democratically elected government in 1953.
One day, while sitting in his study — a room stuffed with books, busts of Voltaire and Nietzsche, and primitive artifacts — Jung made an observation that stuck with Mary for many years. The opposite of love is not hate, he said. It’s power. Relationships fueled by a drive for power, where one person seeks dominance over the other, are incapable of producing love.
7 - Little Mice
At the end of 1945, Dulles was elected president of the Council on Foreign Relations
In April 1947, he was asked by the Senate Armed Services Committee to present his ideas for a strong, centralized intelligence agency. His memo would help frame the legislation that gave birth to the CIA later that year.
Allen Dulles believed that the shadow war between the West and the Soviet bloc would have few if any rules, and he was contemptuous of any attempts in Washington to put limits on the conflict. He assumed that the United States faced an utterly ruthless enemy in Moscow, and he was prepared to match or go beyond whatever measures were employed by Russia’s KGB and the Eastern bloc’s other security services. Dulles’s aggressive Cold War stance found a key ally in President Truman’s defense secretary, James V. Forrestal, a former Wall Street investment banker at Dillon, Read who moved in Dulles’s circles and who shared Dulles’s suspicions about the Soviet Union.
Angry and despondent about his ouster, he began spiraling quickly downward, ranting about how the Soviets had infiltrated Washington and how they had marked him for liquidation. Early in the morning of May 22, 1949, after Forrestal was checked into the Bethesda Naval Hospital for psychiatric evaluation, he squeezed through the small bathroom window of his sixteenth-floor hospital suite and fell to his death. The tragic collapse of the defense secretary, a man who had controlled America’s fearsome arsenal, was one of the stranger episodes of the Cold War.
In June 1949, Dulles organized the National Committee for a Free Europe in conjunction with an illustrious board that included General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille, and Time-Life publishing magnate (and close friend) Henry Luce. Ostensibly a private philanthropic group, the committee was actually a CIA front that channeled funds to anti-Communist European émigrés and financed major propaganda efforts like Radio Free Europe. At least $2 million of the money poured into the committee’s clandestine projects came from the Nazi gold that Dulles had helped track down at the end of the war.
Dulles and Wisner were essentially operating their own private spy agency. The OPC was run with little government oversight and few moral restrictions. Many of the agency’s recruits were ex-Nazis.
By turning the unsuspecting Field family into members of a far-reaching U.S. spy ring, Dulles would panic Stalin — already rattled by the 1948 defection of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito — into launching witch hunts that would fracture the Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe. As with all the bold counterintelligence gambits he undertook during his career, Dulles threw himself into the Field affair with great relish, even personally giving it a code name: Operation Splinter Factor.
Both sides saw the dreamy Field as a useful victim. Earl Browder, leader of the U.S. Communist Party, would anoint him “a stupid child in the woods.”
In Czechoslovakia, where nearly 170,000 Communist Party members were seized as suspects in the make-believe Field plot, the political crisis grew so severe that the economy nearly collapsed.
“Dulles had a certain arrogance in which he believed that he could work with the Devil — anybody’s Devil — and still be Allen Dulles,” she told her visitor. “He could work with Noel Field and betray him. He could work with the Nazis or with the Communists. He thought himself untouchable by these experiences and, of course, you cannot help be touched, be affected, no matter how noble your cause is.”
8 - Scoundrel Time
(Dulles had another motive for backing the Marshall Plan: he and Frank Wisner would later use funds skimmed from the program to finance their anti-Soviet operations in Europe.)
When Nixon was finishing law school at Duke University in 1937, he spent a frigid Christmas week in New York searching for a starting position with a prestigious Wall Street firm. He managed to get on the appointments calendar at Sullivan and Cromwell, the firm of his dreams.
The political relationship forged between the rising politician from California and Dulles’s East Coast circle would become one of the most significant partnerships of the postwar era.
While sifting through the military paperwork, Nixon came across eye-opening Nazi documents that had been shipped to an old torpedo factory on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Some of these documents revealed how the Dulles brothers had helped launder Nazi funds during the war. Loftus, citing confidential intelligence sources, alleged that Dulles and Nixon proceeded to cut a deal. “Allen Dulles,” reported Loftus, “told him to keep quiet about what he had seen and, in return, [Dulles] arranged to finance the young man’s first congressional campaign against Jerry Voorhis.”
Voorhis also posed a direct legal threat to the Dulles brothers through his efforts to shine a light on the wartime collusion between Sullivan and Cromwell clients like Standard Oil and DuPont chemical company and Nazi cartels such as IG Farben. Voorhis further unnerved the Dulles circle by demanding a congressional investigation of the controversial Bank for International Settlements, charging that bank president Thomas McKittrick, a close associate of the Dulles brothers, was a Nazi collaborator.
The Cold War furies that Nixon and the Dulles brothers helped to unleash scoured all nuance and charity from American politics.
When Roosevelt was elected in 1932, and Hiss received a telegram from Felix Frankfurter, his former Harvard law professor and an adviser to FDR, urging him to come work for the new administration “on the basis of national emergency,” Hiss knew that he had to sign up.
The political complexity of the Hiss case was further entangled by its interpersonal complications. Although a married man with children, Chambers confessed to the FBI that he had led a secret homosexual life.
“The true story of the Hiss case,” Nixon revealed to a congressional confidante on board his presidential yacht a quarter century later, was that Hiss and Chambers had been “queers.”
Harry Dexter White was a slight, bespectacled, fifty-five-year-old former government economist whose name meant little to the general public. But as the big thinker in Henry Morgenthau’s Treasury Department, White had played a major role in shaping New Deal policy. Among his many accomplishments was the creation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, two linchpins of the postwar global financial order that White was widely credited with spearheading. White joined forces with the esteemed British economist John Maynard Keynes to hammer out the plans for the world’s new financial system, but while Keynes provided substantial intellectual input, it was the politically savvy White who was key to bringing the plans to fruition. White would later be hailed as “arguably the most important U.S. government economist of the 20th century.”
Morgenthau and White led a movement at the conference to abolish the Bank for International Settlements, an institution they saw as an instrument of financial collaboration among New York, London, and Nazi Germany.
By seizing the investigative momentum, Republicans like Dick Nixon, whom Loftus called “Allen Dulles’s mouthpiece in Congress,” made sure that the Dulles circle would never have to answer for their wartime actions.
As White’s biographer, R. Bruce Craig, would conclude, he probably was guilty of “a species of espionage,” but a fairly benign one. There is no evidence that White handed over classified documents or subverted U.S. policy to correspond with the Soviet line. But he was guilty of frequent indiscretion when discussing policy issues with Soviet officials or with his left-wing friends and colleagues.
Harry Dexter White’s death signified the final collapse of Washington’s New Deal order and the unique brand of utopian internationalism that he had championed. It was men like Nixon and Dulles who now moved into the vacuum.
Despite Wisner’s feelings about Malaxa, he realized that Allen Dulles was deeply implicated in the Romanian’s “unsavory” story. Dulles had not only been Malaxa’s lawyer, he had introduced him to Nixon. The Malaxa money trail, in fact, led in many compromising directions, including Nixon’s bank account, Dulles’s law firm, CIA front organizations like the National Committee for a Free Europe, and even some of Wisner’s own secret combat groups. The Romanian industrialist, who reportedly stashed away as much as $500 million (worth over $6.5 billion today) in overseas accounts before he fled to the United States, had made himself extremely useful as a shadow financier for the underground Cold War.
9 - The Power Elite
The 1952 presidential election represented the triumph of “the power elite,” in the phrase coined by sociologist C. Wright Mills, academia’s most trenchant observer of Cold War America. Mills was a ruggedly independent, Texas-born scholar. He lived in a farmhouse forty miles outside of New York City and rode a motorcycle that he had built with his own hands to the classes he taught at Columbia University. He favored flannel shirts and work boots, and confided to friends that “way down deep and systematically I’m a goddamned anarchist.”
Instead, Mills wrote in his 1956 masterpiece The Power Elite, America was ruled by those who control the “strategic command posts” of society — the big corporations, the machinery of the state, and the military establishment.
The crucial task of unifying the power elite, according to Mills, fell to a special subset of the corporate hierarchy — top Wall Street lawyers and investment bankers. These men were the “in-between types” who shuttled smoothly between Manhattan corporate suites and Washington command posts.
But The Power Elite touched a deep chord with a rising new generation of revolutionaries and radicals that was soon to make its impact on history. Young Fidel Castro and Che Guevara pored over the book in the Sierra Maestra mountains. And, at home, Tom Hayden drew heavily on Mills’s writing for the Port Huron Statement, the manifesto of the emerging New Left.
“The real truth,” FDR wrote to Colonel Edward M. House, President Wilson’s close adviser, “as you and I know, is that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson.”
C. Wright Mills was among the first to take note of how “national security” could be invoked by the power elite to more deeply disguise its operations. The Dulles brothers would prove masters at exploiting the anxious state of permanent vigilance that accompanied the Cold War. “For the first time in American history, men in authority are talking about an ‘emergency’ without foreseeable end,” Mills wrote. “Such men as these are crackpot realists: in the name of realism they have constructed a paranoid reality all their own.”
Foster later brought out the wicked wit in Churchill, who proclaimed him “Dull, Duller, Dulles.”
the Eisenhower-Nixon campaign by channeling funds to the Republican ticket through CIA front groups and by leaking embarrassing intelligence reports to the media about the Truman administration’s handling of the Korean War — flagrant violations of the CIA charter that forbids agency involvement in domestic politics.
“Smith lacked confidence in Dulles’s self-restraint.” The general felt that Dulles was too enamored of the dark arts of the spy trade. Smith would tell friends that running the CIA sometimes made it necessary to leave his moral values outside the door. But, he quickly added, clinging to his soldierly code of conduct, “You’d damned well better remember exactly where you left them.”
The Dewey-Dulles group was Ike’s brain trust and bank. When these men spoke, the general listened.
Eisenhower saw the CIA (along with the Pentagon’s nuclear firepower) as the most cost-effective way to enforce American interests overseas.
The carnival of shame and humiliation that McCarthy brought to Washington held the capital in its grip from February 1950 — when he delivered the infamous speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, that kicked off his inquisition (“I have in my hand a list of names . . .”) — to December 1954, when the Senate finally voted to censure him, triggering his rapid political and physical collapse.
McCarthy was a monster of the Republican leadership’s own creation. By the time he claimed the national spotlight in 1950, the GOP had long been using the dark incantations of “treason” and “un-Americanism” for political advantage against the Democrats.
But the truth is that Foster did exert his influence on his brother’s behalf, and Eisenhower never felt close to the younger Dulles, regarding him as a necessary evil in his shadow war with world Communism.
By and large, though, the Dulles fraternal partnership was a machine of humming efficiency.
“It came to mean very quickly that when a situation would not yield to normal diplomatic pressure, Allen’s boys were expected to step in and take care of the matter.”
A number of these purge victims, such as John Carter Vincent and John Paton Davies Jr., were veterans of the China desk, where their only crime was infuriating the right-wing Taiwan lobby by honestly evaluating why Communist revolutionary Mao Tse-tung had been able to defeat corrupt warlord Chiang Kai-shek.
Foster even forced out one of the brightest, most respected intellectual stars in the foreign service firmament, Soviet expert George F. Kennan, simply because he took exception to the secretary of state’s “liberation” strategy aimed at Eastern Europe — a policy so dangerously unviable that even Eisenhower and the Dulles brothers themselves would soon make clear that they had no intention of following through on this campaign promise to “roll back” the Iron Curtain.
Ironically, it was McCarthy’s aggressive chief counsel, Roy Cohn, who took the lead in questioning suspected homosexuals. Cohn, whose heavy-lidded eyes and leathery, perpetually tanned skin gave him a serpentine look, was not only gay but had installed his twenty-six-year-old playmate, a rich golden boy with no particular credentials named David Schine, on his staff.
McCarthy’s prime suspect was a bespectacled, Ivy League–educated CIA analyst named William Bundy, whose profile made him the perfect embodiment of the Dulles agency man. A member of Yale’s secretive Skull and Bones society — breeding ground for future spooks — Bundy joined Army intelligence during the war, working at Bletchley Park in England as part of the Ultra operation that cracked Nazi codes. Dulles was close to Bundy’s father, Harvey, a top diplomat who had helped oversee the Marshall Plan, as well as his younger brother, McGeorge, another product of Skull and Bones and Army intelligence who had worked with Dulles at the Council on Foreign Relations and on the Dewey presidential campaign.
Dulles knew that, despite J. Edgar Hoover’s growing doubts about McCarthy, the FBI still fed him a stream of damaging information about his Washington enemies. Hoover, a sworn rival ever since Dulles outmaneuvered him to create the CIA in 1947, had amassed a thick file on Dulles and his busy adulterous life.
Jim Angleton liked to say that any intelligence service that didn’t keep a close eye on its own government wasn’t worth its salt. “Penetration begins at home,” he quipped.
Dulles compiled even more scandalous files on Joe McCarthy’s sex life. The senator who relentlessly hunted down homosexuals in government was widely rumored to haunt the “bird circuit” near Grand Central Station as well as gay hideaways in Milwaukee.
This gave Dulles leverage in his battle with McCarthy that none of the senator’s other political opponents enjoyed. There was an explosive sexual subtext to the CIA’s power struggle with McCarthy, one that was largely hidden from the public but would eventually erupt in the Senate hearings that brought him down.
After enduring years of relentless harassment from Red hunters, many Washington liberals cheered Dulles as a savior. His CIA became known as a haven for the intelligentsia and for others looked on with suspicion by McCarthyites.
By the time the Army’s distinguished Boston attorney, Joseph Nye Welch, uttered his devastating and instantly memorable line — “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” — the American people knew the answer.
10 - The Dulles Imperium
Licio Gelli — leader of Propaganda Due, the conspiratorial Masonic order whose intrigues undermined Italian democracy for many years — kept three adjoining rooms at the hotel.
After Mossadegh’s bold move, the British spy agency MI6 began working strenuously to undermine his government. When the prime minister responded to the British plotting by shutting down the British embassy in Tehran and ejecting the ambassador, London turned to Washington for assistance.
Eisenhower’s innate midwestern sense of decency initially made him recoil from backing Britain’s colonial siege of Iran. He rebuffed the Dulles brothers’ advice, suggesting that it might be a better idea to stabilize Mossadegh’s government with a $100 million loan than to topple it. If Eisenhower had followed through on his original instincts, the bedeviled history of U.S.-Iran relations would undoubtedly have taken a far different course.
In June 1953, Allen presented the CIA plan to overthrow Mossadegh’s government to his brother at a special meeting of national security policy makers held in Foster’s office. The coup plan had been drawn up by Kermit “Kim” Roosevelt Jr., Allen’s handpicked man to run the operation on the ground in Iran. The well-bred grandson of Theodore Roosevelt did not seem like the sort of cutthroat character to carry out such a disreputable task. Roosevelt was well regarded even by ideological enemies like Kim Philby. “Oddly enough, I dubbed [Roosevelt] ‘the quiet American’ five years before Graham Greene wrote his book,” Philby once noted. “He was a courteous, soft-spoken Easterner with impeccable social connections, well-educated rather than intellectual, pleasant and unassuming as host and guest. An equally nice wife. In fact, the last person you would expect to be up to the neck in dirty tricks.”
While Dulles was dallying with Luce’s wife, the magazine mogul was enjoying himself with Dulles’s wartime mistress, Mary Bancroft. But the strongest link between Dulles and the Luces was their shared conviction that they were driving forces behind what Henry had christened “the American Century.”
Dulles would look back on the coup in Iran as one of the two greatest triumphs of his CIA career, along with the regime change he engineered in Guatemala the following year.
Under a new agreement with the major oil companies orchestrated by the shah a few months after the coup, Iran’s oil industry was denationalized. Once again, the country’s natural treasure was handed over to foreign corporations, with 40 percent of the spoils now going to American oil producers, including Gulf, Texaco, Mobil, Standard Oil of New Jersey, and Standard Oil of California. Kim Roosevelt was among those who cashed in on the coup, leaving the CIA in 1958 to join the management of Gulf Oil, where he took charge of the company’s relations with foreign governments, including the Iran regime.
During Eisenhower’s periods of incapacitation, it was Foster Dulles and Vice President Nixon, the Dulles brothers’ acolyte, who moved into the presidential power vacuum.
Or, in the mordant observation of Randolph Bourne as the United States plunged into the epic madness of World War I, “War is the health of the state.” Foster, who always acted in the interests of the American establishment, understood this. It was this permanent war fever that empowered the country’s political and military hierarchies and enriched the increasingly militarized corporate sector. It was the very lifeblood of this ruling group’s existence—even if, in the atomic age, it threatened the existence of humanity.
Dulles’s CIA operated with virtually no congressional oversight. In the Senate, Dulles relied on Wall Street friends like Prescott Bush of Connecticut—the father and grandfather of two future presidents—to protect the CIA’s interests. According to CIA veteran Robert Crowley, who rose to become second-in-command of the CIA’s action arm, Bush “was the day-to-day contact man for the CIA. It was very bipartisan and friendly. Dulles felt that he had the Senate just where he wanted them.”
A young Argentinian doctor named Che Guevara — who had come to Guatemala to help the bold Arbenz experiment in progressive democracy — was among those who implored the besieged president to arm the people, when Arbenz’s army officers began to melt around him under pressure from the CIA.
In June 1952, Arbenz pushed a sweeping land reform bill through his nation’s legislature aimed at redistributing the heavily rural country’s farm acreage, 70 percent of which was in the hands of 2 percent of the landowners. Among the properties expropriated under the new law and handed over to poor farmers were some of the vast estates of United Fruit.
One would have to go far back in time, to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries — when the Dutch East India Company ruled a far-flung empire, with the power to make war, negotiate treaties, hang convicts, and mint its own money — to find another corporation that wielded such clout. United Fruit was especially well connected to the Eisenhower administration. As the agribusiness giant began lobbying the White House to overthrow Arbenz, Walter Bedell “Beetle” Smith, the president’s trusted friend and undersecretary of state, was seeking an executive position with the company. After the coup, he was named to United Fruit’s board of directors. Henry Cabot Lodge, who argued the United Fruit case against Arbenz as Eisenhower’s UN ambassador, belonged to one of the blue-blooded Boston families whose fortunes were long entwined with the banana company. John Moors Cabot, who was in charge of Latin American affairs at the State Department, was the brother of United Fruit’s former chief executive. Even the president’s personal secretary, Ann Whitman, was connected to United Fruit: her husband was the company’s public relations director. But United Fruit had no more powerful friends in the administration than the Dulles brothers. The Dulleses had served as United Fruit’s lawyers from their earliest days at Sullivan and Cromwell.
Upon returning from his corporate spy mission, Foster made a confidential report to his uncle, Robert Lansing, who was not only a former counsel for United Fruit but President Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of state.
By the time that the bloodletting had run its course, four decades later, over 250,000 people had been killed in a nation whose total population was less than four million when the reign of terror began.
Another document — a chillingly detailed, nineteen-page CIA killing manual titled “A Study of Assassination” — offered the most efficient ways to butcher Guatemala’s leadership. “The simplest tools are often the most efficient means of assassination,” the manual helpfully suggested. “A hammer, axe, wrench, screw driver, fire poker, kitchen knife, lamp stand, or anything hard, heavy and handy will suffice.”
“Murder is not morally justified,” the manual briefly acknowledged. “Persons who are morally squeamish should not attempt it.”
11 - Strange Love
Gehlen’s exalted reputation as an intelligence wizard, which won him the Führer’s admiration and his major general’s rank, derived from his organization’s widespread use of torture.
With the generous support of the American government, the Gehlen Organization — as it came to be known — thrived in Pullach, becoming West Germany’s principal intelligence agency.
In fact, the Dulles policy of massive nuclear retaliation bore a disturbing resemblance to the Nazis’ exterminationist philosophy — a link that would be darkly satirized in Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, with its Führer-saluting doomsday scientist. No other cultural artifact of the period captures so perfectly the absurd morbidity of the Cold War, and its Wagnerian lust for oblivion. We live “in an age in which war is a paramount activity of man,” Gehlen announced in his memoir, “with the total annihilation of the enemy as its primary aim.” There could be no more succinct a statement of the fascist ethos.
These authoritarian plans were part of a sweeping covert strategy developed in the earliest days of the Cold War by U.S. intelligence officials, including Dulles, to counter a possible Soviet invasion of Western Europe by creating a “stay-behind network” of armed resisters to fight the Red Army. Code-named Operation Gladio, these secret CIA-funded networks attracted fascist and criminal elements, some of which later played subversive roles in West Germany, France, and Italy, disrupting democratic rule in those countries by staging terrorist acts and plotting coups and assassinations.
12 - Brain Warfare
What Dulles did not tell his audience in Hot Springs was that several days earlier, he had authorized a CIA mind control program code-named MKULTRA that would dwarf any similar efforts behind the Iron Curtain.
At Camp King, CIA scientists and their German colleagues subjected victims to dangerous combinations of drugs — including Benzedrine, Pentothal-Natrium, LSD, and mescaline — under a research protocol that stipulated, “Disposal of the body is not a problem.” More than sixteen hundred of the Nazi scientists recruited for U.S. research projects like this would be comfortably resettled with their families in America under a CIA program known as Operation Paperclip.
The CIA chemist preyed on “people who could not fight back,” as one agency official put it, such as seven patients in a federal drug hospital in Kentucky who were dosed with acid for seventy-seven straight days by a Gottlieb-funded doctor who ran the hospital’s addiction treatment program.
In 1975, the case resurfaced during the Rockefeller Commission investigation of CIA abuses ordered by President Gerald Ford. Olson’s widow and grown children were invited to the White House by President Ford, who apologized to them on behalf of the government. The Olson case would become enshrined in history as one of the more outrageous examples of CIA hubris and mad science. But as the years went by, the Olson family became convinced that Frank Olson’s death was more than simply a tragic suicide; it was murder.
When Wolff was asked by a colleague why he had never bothered to be board-certified in neurology, he looked puzzled for a moment, and then replied, “But who would test me?”
In 1955, Wolff agreed to become president of the Society for the Investigation of Human Ecology, the primary CIA front for channeling research funds to a wide array of mind control researchers in medicine, psychology, and sociology.
Allen Jr. wasn’t the only family member Clover worried about. Her oldest daughter, Toddie, started to suffer from manic depression in early adulthood, a condition she thought Toddie inherited from her, and began undergoing shock treatments.
13 - Dangerous Ideas
Trujillo further ensured his control of the presidential palace by assiduously courting the powerful giant to the north, pledging his nation’s allegiance to the United States during World War II and the Cold War, and showering money on Washington politicians and lobbying firms. Trujillo’s courtship of Washington paid off. By 1955, John Foster Dulles’s State Department was celebrating the strongman as “one of the hemisphere’s foremost spokesmen against the Communist movement.”
The dictator, like the rest of the Dominican male populace, reveled in the tales of Rubi’s romantic exploits. The dapper playboy had passionate affairs with blond movie goddesses like Kim Novak and courted some of the world’s richest women, including American heiresses Doris Duke and Barbara Hutton, both of whom he married.
Maheu later claimed that the Mission: Impossible TV series was based on his firm’s exploits — a secret team whose actions would be “disavowed” by the government should any of their agents be “caught or killed.”
Maheu would become the top-paid security contractor in the country, taking on confidential missions for Vice President Nixon and eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes, who later hired him to run his Las Vegas empire.
On December 4, the young American’s Ford was found on a cliff near a slaughterhouse, where the offal that was dumped into the sea attracted swarms of sharks. Known as the “swimming pool,” the lagoon was a favorite disposal site for Trujillo’s enemies.
Joseph Stalin, too, understood the power of words, calling writers “the engineers of the human soul.”
The main front organization used by the CIA to spread its largesse and influence was the Congress for Cultural Freedom, “a kind of cultural NATO,” in one critic’s words, founded in 1950 to counter the propaganda efforts of the Soviet bloc.
Many leading artists and intellectuals fell into the ranks of the CIA’s generously funded culture war, including Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Mary McCarthy, Robert Lowell, Dwight Macdonald, Daniel Bell, Isaiah Berlin, George Plimpton, Peter Matthiessen, and Mark Rothko.
Like many of the CIA-sponsored literary projects, Encounter reflected the aesthetics of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s unofficial cultural commissar. As a Yale undergraduate, Angleton had founded the avant-garde literary magazine Furioso and befriended Ezra Pound and e.e. cummings. The spy wizard was a devotee of the modernist school of poetry — particularly its high priest, T. S. Eliot — and the pages of Encounter were dominated by an Eliotic sensibility, though Eliot himself shunned the London-based publication as so “obviously published under American auspices.”
As Dulles was well aware, Angleton had even tucked away explosive secrets about the CIA director himself. That is why Dulles had rewarded him with the most sensitive job in the agency,
Angleton’s selection as the top hunter of Soviet moles struck many in the agency as peculiar. During and after the war, Angleton had been badly fooled by his close chum in British intelligence, the legendary double agent Kim Philby.
His compulsive mole hunting ruined the careers of dozens of CIA agents, doing more to damage agency security than to fortify it. “I couldn’t find that we ever caught a spy under Jim,” said William Colby, the CIA director who finally terminated Angleton’s long tenure in 1975.
“My father once said, ‘I’m not a genius, but in intelligence I am a genius,’” recalled Siri Hari Angleton, who changed her name from Lucy as a young woman, after following her mother and older sister into the Sikh religion.
Later, in the post-Watergate ’70s, when the Church Committee opened its probe of CIA lawbreaking, Angleton was called to account for himself. As he completed his testimony, the Gray Ghost rose from his chair, and, thinking he was now off the record, muttered, “It is inconceivable that a secret intelligence arm of the government has to comply with all the overt orders of the government.”
Dulles entrusted Angleton with the agency’s most vital and sensitive missions. He was the principal CIA liaison with the key foreign intelligence services, including those in frontline Cold War nations like France, West Germany, Turkey, Taiwan, and Yugoslavia, as well as with Mossad, the Israeli spy agency.
At the same time he was working with the federal bureau in charge of fighting organized crime, Angleton was also pursuing a CIA partnership with the Mafia.
One day, shortly after Fidel Castro took power in Havana, Angleton had a brainstorm. He summoned two Jewish CIA officers, including Sam Halpern, who had recently been assigned to the agency’s covert Cuba team. Angleton asked them to fly to Miami and meet with Meyer Lanksy, organized crime’s chief financial officer, who had been forced to flee Havana ahead of Castro’s revolutionaries, leaving behind the Mafia’s highly lucrative casino empire. Lansky was part of the Jewish mob but had close business ties to the Italian Mafia. Angleton told Halpern and the other Jewish CIA agent to see if they could convince Lansky to arrange for the assassination of Castro. Angleton’s emissaries met with Lansky, but the crime mogul drove too hard a bargain for his services and the deal fell through.
C. Wright Mills, whose own impassioned defense of the Cuban revolution, Listen, Yankee, had sold four hundred thousand copies within months.
Shortly after the Cuban leader arrived home in Havana, as he addressed a teeming crowd from the balcony of the Presidential Palace, a bomb went off in the park behind the palace, followed by a second explosion within the hour. Later in the day, a third bomb — more powerful than the other two — rocked Havana. The CIA-sponsored terror campaign aimed at killing Castro and destroying his government was quickly escalating.
14 - The Torch Is Passed
“Democracy works only if the so-called intelligent people make it work,” Allen told the press on the eve of his campaign. “You can’t sit back and let democracy run itself.”
Though it was largely hidden from the public, the duel between Kennedy and Dulles would define Washington’s “deep politics” in the early 1960s.
He said that Ho Chi Minh — who had once worked as a baker at JFK’s favorite Boston hotel, the Parker House, and who was inspired by the blazing ideals of the American Revolution — was seen as a national hero.
Eisenhower began referring to Kennedy as “that little bastard.” Meanwhile, Secretary Dulles icily told the press that if the senator from Massachusetts wanted to crusade against imperialism, maybe he should target the Soviet variety.
“I could understand if he played golf all the time with old Army friends,” Kennedy once told Arthur Schlesinger, “but no man is less loyal to his old friends than Eisenhower. He is a terribly cold man. All his golfing pals are rich men he has met since 1945.”
At one National Security Council meeting, Vice President Nixon observed, “Some of the peoples of Africa have been out of trees for only about 50 years,” to which Budget Director Maurice Stans (who would later serve as President Nixon’s commerce secretary) replied that he “had the impression that many Africans still belonged in trees.”
On other occasions, Eisenhower expressed resentment when he had to invite “those niggers” — by which he meant African dignitaries — to diplomatic receptions.
It was Jackie Kennedy who tipped off Dulles to the pleasures of James Bond, giving him a copy of From Russia with Love, which became one of his favorite spy novels. After he got hooked on Ian Fleming, the CIA director would send copies of new Bond novels to the senator and his wife as soon as he got his hands on them.
Kennedy already knew the man he wanted to replace Dulles — tall, brainy Richard M. Bissell Jr., the Groton- and Yale-educated chief of clandestine operations
Among them was McGeorge Bundy, the owlish Harvard dean whom Kennedy appointed national security adviser. The long ties between Dulles and the Boston Brahmin Bundy family had been fortified when the CIA director rescued Mac Bundy’s brother, CIA officer Bill Bundy, from Joe McCarthy’s pyre.
When Bundy became dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 1953 — at age thirty-four, the youngest in the school’s history — he used his post to identify future prospects for the CIA among the student body’s best and brightest.
The United States, he declared, was rubbing its hands over the Congo’s uranium deposits — the same deposits that supplied the uranium for the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Speaking to dinner guests at a political event in October 1960, Lumumba said that he could have made millions of dollars if he had been willing to “mortgage the national sovereignty.”
Dulles, Doug Dillon (then serving as a State Department undersecretary), and William Burden, the U.S. ambassador to Belgium, led the charge within the Eisenhower administration to first demonize and then dispose of Lumumba. All three men had financial interests in the Congo. The Dillon family’s investment bank handled the Congo’s bond issues. Dulles’s old law firm represented the American Metal Company (later AMAX), a mining giant with holdings in the Congo, and Dulles was friendly with the company’s chairman, Harold Hochschild, and his brother and successor, Walter, who served in the OSS during the war. Ambassador Burden was a company director, and Frank Taylor Ostrander Jr., a former U.S. intelligence official, served the Hochschild brothers as a political adviser.
The younger Hochschild cofounded Mother Jones magazine and later authored King Leopold’s Ghost, a powerful indictment of the Belgian reign of terror in the Congo.
At an NSC meeting in August 1960, Eisenhower gave Dulles direct approval to “eliminate” Lumumba.
The man at the center of this intrigue was Lawrence R. Devlin, the CIA station chief in the Congo, a Harvard man who had been handpicked for the spy service by his dean, Mac Bundy. Larry Devlin’s aggressive campaign against Lumumba had won him the admiration of the agency’s top command, including Dulles himself.
In its explosive 1975 report on CIA assassination plots against foreign leaders, the Church Committee absolved the agency of responsibility for Lumumba’s murder. “It does not appear from the evidence that the United States was in any way involved in the killing,” concluded the Senate panel.
But as former congressional aide and scholar Stephen Weissman has observed, “The CIA was not the innocent bystander, and its Congo operatives not the paragons of morally sensitive professionalism they claimed to be. In particular, Devlin was a key participant in the Congo government’s decision to approve Lumumba’s fatal rendition.”
Devlin suffered no agency reprimands for his actions in the Congo, and, in fact, his intelligence career continued to thrive after Lumumba’s demise. Before retiring from the CIA in 1974, to pursue a new career in the Congo’s lucrative diamond industry, Devlin rose to become chief of the CIA’s Africa Division.
Propped up by the United States, Mobutu began a thirty-two-year dictatorship that looted the country of its wealth and left the nation in ruins. In his rampant thievery, Mobutu modeled himself on King Leopold. So smug was the dictator in his ironfisted rule that he declared Lumumba a national hero, a sick joke that only he could afford to enjoy.
15 - Contempt
Some of the sharpest criticisms of the Bay of Pigs operation, in fact, came from within the CIA itself. Dick Drain was among those who later aimed fire at Dulles, when he spoke with Jack Pfeiffer, the CIA historian who prepared the voluminous report on the Bay of Pigs. Drain was a gung ho officer who fit the agency profile, right down to membership in Yale’s secretive Skull and Bones society (Class of ’43).
Kirkpatrick, who prepared his devastating report with the help of three investigators, flatly rejected the main CIA alibi for the failed mission — that Kennedy was to blame by blocking the agency’s last-minute requests for air strikes. The invasion was “doomed” from the start by the CIA’s poor planning, the inspector general concluded.
Perhaps the most devastating revelation about the CIA operation emerged years later, in 2005, when the agency was compelled to release the minutes of a meeting held by its Cuba task force on November 15, 1960, one week after Kennedy’s election. The group, which was deliberating on how to brief the president-elect on the pending invasion, came to an eye-opening conclusion. In the face of strong security measures that Castro had implemented, the CIA task force admitted, their invasion plan was “now seen to be unachievable, except as a joint [CIA/Department of Defense] action.” In other words, the CIA realized that its Bay of Pigs expedition was doomed to fail unless its exile brigade was reinforced by the power of the U.S. military. But the CIA never shared this sobering assessment with the president.
But, as usual, there was method to Dulles’s seeming carelessness. It is now clear that the CIA’s Bay of Pigs expedition was not simply doomed to fail, it was meant to fail. And its failure was designed to trigger the real action — an all-out, U.S. military invasion of the island. Dulles plunged ahead with his hopeless, paramilitary mission — an expedition that he had staffed with “C-minus” officers and expendable Cuban “puppets” — because he was serenely confident that, in the heat of battle, Kennedy would be forced to send the Marines crashing ashore. Dulles was banking on the young, untested commander in chief to cave in to pressure from the Washington war machine, just as other presidents had bent to the spymaster’s will.
Kennedy’s vice president, Lyndon Johnson, was disturbed by JFK’s growing estrangement from the military and the CIA. “Of course, Johnson was a great admirer of the military,” recalled Jack Bell, a White House reporter for the Associated Press. “He didn’t believe that Kennedy was paying enough attention to the military leaders.”
But The New York Times’s Scotty Reston was more aligned with the sentiments of the Kennedy White House. Echoing the charges circulating in the French press, Reston reported that the CIA was indeed “involved in an embarrassing liaison with the anti-Gaullist officers.”
After de Gaulle was elected president in 1958, he sought to purge the French government of its CIA-connected elements. Dulles had made heavy inroads into France’s political, cultural, and intelligence circles in the postwar years.
JFK took pains to assure Paris that he strongly supported de Gaulle’s presidency, phoning Hervé Alphand, the French ambassador in Washington, to directly communicate these assurances. But, according to Alphand, Kennedy’s disavowal of official U.S. involvement in the coup came with a disturbing addendum — the American president could not vouch for his own intelligence agency. Kennedy told Alphand that “the CIA is such a vast and poorly controlled machine that the most unlikely maneuvers might be true.” This admission of presidential impotence, which Alphand reported to Paris, was a startling moment in U.S. foreign relations, though it remains largely unknown today.
The most dramatic attempt on his life was staged the next month by the OAS — an ambush made famous in the Frederick Forsyth novel and movie The Day of the Jackal.
On November 28, 1961, Dulles was given his formal send-off at the CIA, in a ceremony held at the agency’s brand-new headquarters, a vast, modernist complex carved out of the woods in Langley, Virginia. It was a day of clashing emotions for Dulles. The gleaming new puzzle palace, which Dulles had commissioned, was seen by many as a monument to his long reign — but he would never occupy the director’s suite.
It was the Kennedy brothers, not the Dulles brothers, who now ran Washington.
In truth, the Kennedy purge had left the ranks of Dulles loyalists at the CIA largely untouched. Top Dulles men like Angleton and Helms remained on the job.
16 - Rome on the Potomac
But just four days after the Kennedy-engineered steel pact was signed, U.S. Steel chairman Roger Blough scheduled a meeting at the White House and stunned the president by informing him that he was going to announce a 3.5 percent price increase, effective at midnight — a move that would trigger price jumps at other steel companies and send inflationary ripples throughout the economy. Kennedy was furious at Blough’s double cross, which he correctly saw as a direct challenge to his ability to manage the economy.
Determined to protect his presidency, over the next three days JFK unleashed the full powers of the federal government in an all-out effort to crush the steel industry rebellion. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy announced a grand jury probe of steel price-fixing, which he followed by issuing subpoenas for the personal and corporate records of steel executives and by sending FBI agents to raid their offices. “We were going to go for broke: their expense accounts and where they’d been and what they were doing,” JFK’s brother and political enforcer later recalled. “I picked up all their records and I told the FBI to interview them all — march into their offices the next day. We weren’t going to go slowly. . . . All of [the steel executives] were hit with meetings the next morning by agents.”
Senator Barry Goldwater, the voice of the rising Republican right, escalated the rhetoric, calling Kennedy’s bare-knuckled tactics against the steel barons “a display of naked political power never seen before in this nation. . . . We have passed within the shadow of police-state methods.”
In October 1963, just weeks before his assassination, JFK’s Justice Department filed price-fixing charges against U.S. Steel and other steel companies, based on Bobby’s earlier grand jury probe of the industry. To the end of his life, Kennedy made it clear that there would be no “ass-kissing” for those corporate powers that tried to undermine his presidency.
Amassing wealth and luxuries had never been important to Dulles, but he did expect to be served and pampered, and the CIA continued to oblige him.
In October 1963, Dulles went public with his most direct criticism of the Kennedy administration in a militant address that he titled “The Art of Persuasion: America’s Role in the Ideological Struggle.” In it, Dulles ridiculed the administration’s “yearning to be ‘loved’ by the rest of the world. . . . No country that wishes to be really popular should aspire to or accept the role of leadership.” The United States was “too rich and too powerful” to be loved, Dulles declared — and that’s the way it must remain. “I should much prefer to have people respect us than to try to make them love us,” he continued. “They should realize that we propose to remain strong economically and militarily, that we have firm principles and a steady foreign policy and will not compromise with communism or appease it.” Here it was, at last, Dulles’s critique of the Kennedy presidency, in stark relief. JFK was an appeaser, a weak leader who wanted to be loved by our friends and enemies, when the man in the White House should be feared and respected.
On that summer evening in 1963, the Russian émigré priest spoke with the calm assurance of a man who knew something the other dinner guests did not. The Old Man will take care of it. That was enough to calm the heated discussion around the table. The Old Man will take care of the Kennedy problem.
On November 2, local Secret Service officials foiled a well-organized assassination plot against President Kennedy. After landing at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport that day, Kennedy was scheduled to ride in a motorcade to Soldier Field for the annual Army-Navy football game. But the motorcade was canceled after the Secret Service exposed a plot to ambush the president from a tall warehouse building as his limousine slowed for a hairpin turn. The plot, which involved a sniper team composed of a disgruntled ex-marine who worked in the building and at least two Cuban marksmen, bore a disturbing resemblance to the series of events that would claim Kennedy’s life twenty days later in Dallas.
It remains one of the many enduring mysteries of the Kennedy case. Why did Dulles meet with Paulino Sierra Martinez in April 1963? What brought together the former CIA director and an obscure, Mafia-connected, anti-Castro conspirator with a penchant for violent action? As Dulles was keenly aware, organizing a paramilitary operation against the Cuban government was, by the spring of 1963, a violation of Kennedy administration policy and of federal law. By meeting with a character like Sierra, Dulles made it abundantly clear how little regard he had for the president’s authority — and perhaps for his life.
17 - The Parting Glass
Shortly after JFK flew home from Italy, Dino John Pionzio, the CIA’s leading operator in Italy at the time, huddled with Sereno Freato, the administrative secretary of Aldo Moro — a rising star in the Christian Democratic Party who would soon become Italy’s prime minister. Pionzio, a Skull and Bones member at Yale (Class of 1950) and zealous Cold Warrior, was adamantly opposed to the opening to the left. The CIA man wanted to know what Moro had discussed with Kennedy a few days earlier during an afternoon stroll that JFK and the Italian politician had taken through the Quirinale garden. To his great dismay, Pionzio was told that Moro and Kennedy had agreed the apertura should go forward.
It was the Indiana “cop” who saw through Philby, not Angleton, who remained forever beguiled by his British friend. Angleton and Harvey were the odd couple of CIA counterintelligence — “the poet and the cop,” as one observer called them. They would alternately clash and connive together throughout their careers. Harvey’s star rose at the agency after he exposed Philby, and he was dispatched to the Cold War front lines in Germany, where he ran the CIA’s Berlin station during the 1950s.
“I loved Rosselli,” CG Harvey said during an interview at her Indianapolis retirement home in 1999, the year before she died. “My husband always used to say that if I had to ride shotgun, that’s the guy I would take with me. Much better than any of the law enforcement people. Rosselli was the kind of guy that if he gave you his desires and friendship, well he was going to stick by you. And he definitely was Mafia, and he definitely was a crook, and he definitely had pulled off all kinds of stunts with the Mafia. But he was a patriot, he believed in the United States. And he knew my husband was a patriot, and that’s what drew him to Bill.”
“As he was walking me out to my car, Wyatt suddenly said, ‘You know, I always wondered what Bill Harvey was doing in Dallas in November 1963,’” Calvi recently recalled. “Excuse me?” said the stunned French journalist, who realized that Harvey’s presence in Dallas that month was extremely noteworthy. Wyatt explained that he had bumped into Harvey on a plane to Dallas sometime before the assassination, and when he asked his boss why he was going there, Harvey answered vaguely, saying something like, “I’m here to see what’s happening.”
18 - The Big Event
The Soviet spy “has been fully indoctrinated” in the Communist principle “that the ends alone count and any means which achieve them are justified,” wrote Dulles. Meanwhile, he observed — taking another swing at the Kennedy philosophy of peaceful coexistence — U.S. leaders shy from Soviet-style ruthlessness, “because of our desire to be ‘loved.’”
According to Dulles, the KGB (the Soviet spy agency) had built an “executive action” section to murder enemies of the state. But this is precisely what Dulles himself had done within the CIA. Dulles also denounced another flagrant example of Soviet “cold-blooded pragmatism”: the “massive recruitment” of Nazi war criminals “for intelligence work.” Coming from the man who salvaged Reinhard Gehlen and untold numbers of other Hitler henchmen — and, in fact, helped build the West German intelligence system out of the poisoned remains of the Third Reich — the utter gall of this statement surely provoked howls of derision inside the Kremlin.
Dulles also drew on his extensive academic contacts for help, including W. Glenn Campbell at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, who provided ready access to his extensive files on the Communist threat.
Dulles was also invited to appear in Texas, where, between October 25 and 29, he met with old friends in Houston and Dallas and spoke before the Dallas Council on World Affairs. Dulles often used speaking engagements and vacations as covers for serious business, and his detour through Texas bears the markings of such a stratagem. His stopover in Texas stood out as an anomaly in a book tour otherwise dominated by appearances on the two coasts. The spymaster’s date book during his Texas trip typically left out as much as it revealed, with big gaps in his schedule throughout his stay there. But Dulles was wired into the Texas oil industry — for which his law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell, had provided legal counsel for many years — as well as into the local political hierarchy, including Dallas mayor Earle Cabell, the younger brother of his former CIA deputy, Charles, a fellow victim of JFK’s post–Bay of Pigs housecleaning. With Kennedy’s trip to Texas just weeks away, the president was a hot topic in these local circles.
The Texas oil crowd was also furious at Kennedy for moving to close their tax loopholes, particularly the oil depletion allowance, which threatened to cost the oilmen millions — perhaps billions — of dollars a year.
On November 13, 1963, when Kennedy convened his first important strategy meeting for the ’64 race at the White House, neither Johnson nor any of his staff were invited.
“Come clean, Lyndon,” she smiled wickedly. What did it feel like for the swaggering Texan to be in the rear position? The big man leaned close and whispered, “Clare, I looked it up. One out of every four presidents has died in office. I’m a gamblin’ man, darlin’, and this is the only one chance I got.” It was another example of LBJ’s coarse humor. But it also revealed something darker in the man. He undoubtedly was keenly aware of the presidential mortality rate.
On November 14, the day after the White House strategy session on the 1964 campaign, the president privately confirmed that Johnson would not be on the ticket, while conversing with his secretary, Evelyn Lincoln.
Nixon’s prediction, which was prominently displayed in The Dallas Morning News on November 22, was another blow to LBJ’s ego. But he had even bigger concerns. Later that morning, a Life investigative team was scheduled to convene in the magazine’s New York offices, to begin work on a deeper probe of Johnson’s involvement in the Bobby Baker corruption scandal. William Lambert, the investigative unit’s leader, was certain they were sitting on an explosive story that could bring down the vice president. “This guy looks like a bandit to me,” he told his boss, Life managing editor George Hunt. LBJ, he told Hunt, had used public office to amass a fortune, shaking down political favor-seekers for cash and consumer goods, even putting the squeeze on an insurance executive for an expensive Magnavox stereo console that Lady Bird coveted. As Bobby Baker later commented, Johnson was “always on the lookout for the odd nickel or dime.”
At the very beginning of Kennedy’s presidency, Johnson made a strange power grab, trying to get JFK to grant him extraordinary supervisory powers over the country’s entire national security apparatus, including the Defense Department, CIA, State Department, and the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Kennedy did not even bother responding to Johnson’s maneuver, simply ignoring the executive order and accompanying letter that LBJ sent over to the Oval Office for his signature.
And, in the summer of 1963, Johnson hosted Dulles at his ranch in the Texas Hill Country, sixty miles west of Austin. Dulles’s visit to the LBJ Ranch did not appear in his calendar, but it was briefly noted in a syndicated news photo, which appeared in the Chicago Tribune on August 15, that showed the vice president astride a horse, while a beaming Lady Bird and Dulles looked on. Considering how estranged both men were from Kennedy — and how notoriously conniving they were — the picture could only have produced a sense of puzzlement in the White House.
19 - The Fingerprints of Intelligence
There was a magical element to Oswald’s journey. Despite the fact that he was a broke ex-serviceman who had only $203 in his bank account when he left America, Oswald enjoyed the best accommodations. In Helsinki, he stayed in two of the city’s finest hotels, the Torni and the Klaus Kurki. After checking out, he still had enough money to buy a ticket on the overnight train to Moscow.
When Oswald went on expeditions with his factory hunting club in Minsk, he never could hit anything. A co-worker took pity on him once and shot a rabbit for him.
Oswald’s reentry into the United States was absurdly easy, considering his treasonous track record. He had tried to renounce his citizenship; he had declared his intention to betray his country by handing over some of its most zealously guarded military secrets; he had lived as if he were a Soviet citizen for well over two years. And to top it off, he was bringing back with him a Russian wife, Marina, who had been raised by an uncle who was a KGB officer.
While in Texas, Oswald and his family came under the watchful care of people who in turn were being closely watched. He met quietly with a prominent CIA officer in Dallas. He staged public scenes in New Orleans and Mexico City that called attention to himself as a hotheaded militant, as he had done at the embassy in Moscow. There were invisible wires attached to Oswald — and some of the more intriguing ones led to Allen Dulles.
But there were less sentimental reasons why the baron befriended the wayward young American. De Mohrenschildt was minding the Oswalds for the CIA.
Finally, George de Mohrenschildt settled on the oil business, figuring that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. He eventually wound up in Texas, where he got a petroleum geology degree from the University of Texas, after cheating his way through the final exams. In typical de Mohrenschildt style, he charmed his way out of trouble when he got caught, explaining with an aristocratic wink that everyone in life cheats.
None of de Mohrenschildt’s oil ventures paid off particularly well, and he would soon drift away to try one more roll of the dice with the help of another rich relative or friend. His true skill was cultivating the wealthy and well connected. One of his first jobs in the oil business was working for Pantepec Oil — the petroleum company founded by the father of William F. Buckley Jr., the CIA-connected conservative publisher and pundit.
So it was not surprising when de Mohrenschildt showed up at the Oswalds’ front door that summer afternoon in the company of a man named Colonel Lawrence Orlov, a CIA informant who was a friend and frequent handball partner of J. Walton Moore, the agency’s man in Dallas.
In the end, no Warren Commission witness betrayed Oswald more deeply than George de Mohrenschildt. His testimony before the commission — the lengthiest of the hearings — did more to convict Oswald in the eyes of the press and the public than anyone else. He tied Oswald to the alleged murder weapon, telling the commission about the day when an agitated Marina showed him and his wife the rifle that Lee had stashed in a closet. And most important, de Mohrenschildt gave the Warren Commission the motive for killing Kennedy that the panel had sorely lacked. Oswald, the baron speculated with devastating effect, “was insanely jealous of an extraordinarily successful man, who was young, attractive, had a beautiful wife, had all the money in the world, and was a world figure.
Along with the Titovets chronicle, I Am a Patsy! stands out as the most convincing portrait we have of the true Oswald. De Mohrenschildt’s manuscript, which his wife gave to the House Select Committee on Assassinations after his death, remains unpublished but is available online.
In September 1976, he mailed a distraught, handwritten letter to his old family friend, George Bush, who was then serving as CIA director in the Gerald Ford administration. De Mohrenschildt knew Bush from his prep school days at Phillips Academy, when Bush was the roommate of Dimitri von Mohrenschildt’s stepson.
On the morning of March 29, 1977, committee investigator Gaeton Fonzi rolled up outside the dark-shingled beach house, and when told that de Mohrenschildt was not at home, the congressional staffer left his card with the baron’s daughter, Alexandra. Early that evening, after returning to his Miami motel room, Fonzi got a call from Bill O’Reilly, who was working in those days as a Dallas TV reporter. O’Reilly had some stunning news. George de Mohrenschildt had been found dead at home, his head blown apart by the blast from a 20-gauge shotgun. Fonzi’s card was found in the dead man’s pocket.
Government documents suggest that Ruth’s sister, Sylvia, later went to work for the CIA, and Sylvia’s husband, John Hoke, was employed by AID. In short, the young Dallas housewife who took the Oswald family into her care was not simply a Quaker do-gooder but a woman with a politically complex family history. She grew up in that strongly anti-Communist wing of the American left that overlapped with the espionage world. Ruth Paine was not an operative herself, but there was a constellation of dark stars hovering all around her, even if she chose not to pay attention. But it was the family background of Ruth’s husband, Michael, that most directly overlapped with Allen Dulles’s world. Mary Bancroft, Dulles’s mistress, was one of the oldest friends of Michael Paine’s mother—also named Ruth.
Ruth Forbes Paine hailed from a Boston blue-blood family that had made its fortune from the China tea and opium trade, and counted Ralph Waldo Emerson among its progenitors.
But Ruth Paine was more than that. She was also the woman who — the month before JFK’s arrival in Dallas — informed Lee about the job opening in the Texas School Book Depository, the warehouse building that loomed over the final stretch of President Kennedy’s motorcade route.
Byrd’s name was woven through the turbulent politics of the Kennedy era. He was a crony of Lyndon Johnson and a cousin of Senator Harry Byrd of Virginia, a white supremacist and a leader of the rising conservative movement. He also belonged to the Suite 8F Group, an association of right-wing Texas tycoons that took its name from the Lamar Hotel room in Houston where they held their meetings. The group included George Brown and Herman Brown of Brown & Root — a construction giant built on government contracts — and other military industrialists and oil moguls who had financed the rise of LBJ.
In early September, Oswald popped up again in Dallas, where he and his family would move back later that month. This Oswald sighting is an extremely suggestive one, since he was spotted in the company of none other than David Atlee Phillips — one of the more glaring indications that the ex-marine was the focus of an intelligence operation.
But, as President Kennedy prepared to visit Dallas, something curious occurred within this surveillance labyrinth. On October 9, Oswald was suddenly removed from the FBI “FLASHLIST” — the bureau’s index of suspicious individuals to be kept under close watch. FBI officials took this surprising step despite Oswald’s suspicious behavior in Mexico City. The day after the FBI took Oswald off its watch list, the CIA also downgraded him as a security risk.
After receiving the news from Dallas, around 1:30 that afternoon, Dulles took a car back to Washington with John Warner, a CIA attorney. But, according to Dulles’s date book, he did not spend the evening at home in Washington. He headed back to the northern Virginia countryside, where he would spend the entire weekend at a top secret CIA facility known officially as Camp Peary, but within the agency as “the Farm.” At the time of the Kennedy assassination, Dulles had no formal role in government.
This is the CIA command post where the “retired” Dulles situated himself from Friday, November 22, through Sunday, November 24 — a highly eventful weekend during which Oswald was arrested and questioned by Dallas police, Kennedy’s body was flown back to Washington and subjected to an autopsy riddled with irregularities, and Oswald was gunned down in the basement of the Dallas police station by a shady nightclub owner.
20 - For the Good of the Country
But the proximity of the meeting to the Kennedy assassination raises compelling questions, particularly since Dillon, as Treasury chief, was in charge of President Kennedy’s Secret Service protection. And the banking industry was locked in a long-running battle with the president over his economic policies.
If CFR was the power elite’s brain, the CIA was its black-gloved fist.
In retirement, Dulles was still asked to take prestigious positions with the Princeton Board of Trustees, the Council on Foreign Relations, and various defense advisory and blue-ribbon committees.
Nobody occupied a more central position in the Dulles brothers’ power circle than the Rockefeller brothers. Nelson and David were the most public of the five grandsons of John D. Rockefeller — the founder of the Standard Oil behemoth, an unprecedented empire of wealth that would grow to include global banks, mining companies, sprawling ranches, and even supermarkets.
Less well known, both brothers were militant advocates of U.S. imperial interests, particularly in Latin America, where the Rockefeller family had extensive holdings. And they both had backgrounds in U.S. intelligence.
Over the years, the two sets of brothers became close partners in the country’s game of thrones, helping advance one another’s ambitions. The Dulleses ushered David Rockefeller into the Council on Foreign Relations, where he soon became a major force, and Foster would become chairman of the family-controlled Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefellers contributed campaign funds to Dulles-favored Republican candidates, including Foster himself when he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate from New York in 1950. In January 1953, while Allen nervously waited to see whether newly inaugurated president Eisenhower would appoint him CIA director, David took him to lunch in Manhattan and assured him that if things didn’t work out in Washington, he could return to New York and take over the Ford Foundation, which — like the Rockefeller Foundation — Dulles had already used to secretly finance CIA activities. After Allen did win control of the spy agency, he again turned to the Rockefellers to help finance CIA projects like MKULTRA mind control research. The Rockefeller brothers served as private bankers for Dulles’s intelligence empire. David, who oversaw the donations committee of the Chase Manhattan Bank Foundation, was a particularly important source of off-the-books cash for the CIA.
Kennedy’s tax reform policies, which sought to place a heavier burden on the superrich, were a primary source of friction. When the president — who was concerned about the flight of capital in the emerging era of the global market — tried to crack down on overseas tax shelters, international bankers like David Rockefeller cried foul. Wall Street financiers saw the Kennedy move as an assault on their ability to transfer wealth to any corner of the globe as they saw fit.
Jack and David had been contemporaries at Harvard, but as David was quick to point out, “we moved in very different circles.”
When Castro gave a bearded face to these fears, expropriating the Standard Oil refinery and other Rockefeller properties in Cuba, Nelson was outraged. He grew increasingly frustrated with Kennedy as he sidestepped opportunities to invade Cuba, becoming convinced that the president had cut a deal with the Russians to leave Castro alone.
The Kennedy administration’s dynamic image was a public relations myth, Rockefeller insisted. In truth, he charged, JFK’s unassertive leadership had encouraged our enemies and demoralized our allies, and had made the world more dangerous.
Angleton seemed obsessed with Kennedy’s sex life. He reportedly bugged JFK’s White House trysts with Mary Meyer, the ex-wife of his deputy, Cord Meyer — an artistic blond beauty with whom Angleton himself was enamored.
The surgeons who labored futilely over the mortally wounded president at Parkland Hospital also saw clear evidence that Kennedy had been struck by gunfire from the front as well as the rear. But the doctors came under severe pressure to remain silent and it would take nearly three decades before two of them mustered the courage to speak out.
On December 22, 1963, while the country was still reeling from the gunfire in Dallas, Truman published a highly provocative op-ed article in The Washington Post, charging that the CIA had grown alarmingly out of control since he established it.
After the Bay of Pigs, Truman had confided in writer Merle Miller that he regretted ever establishing the CIA. “I think it was a mistake,” he said. “And if I’d known what was going to happen, I never would have done it. . . . [Eisenhower] never paid any attention to it, and it got out of hand. . . . It’s become a government all of its own and all secret. . . . That’s a very dangerous thing in a democratic society.”
How did Allen Dulles — a man fired by President Kennedy under bitter circumstances — come to oversee the investigation into his murder? This crucial historical question has been the subject of misguided speculation for many years. The story apparently began with Lyndon Johnson, a man not known for his devotion to the truth. It has been repeated over time by various historians, including Johnson biographer Robert Caro, who one would think would be more skeptical, considering the exhaustive detail with which he documented LBJ’s habitual deceit in his multivolume work.
But Dulles was the only member of the panel without a day job. He was free to devote himself to commission work, and he promptly began assembling his own informal staff, drawing on the services of his former CIA colleagues and his wide network of political and media contacts. The other two principal players in the inquest were Dulles’s longtime friend and fellow Cold War heavyweight, McCloy, and future president Gerald Ford, who was then an ambitious Republican congressman from Michigan with close ties to the FBI.
The Warren Commission was, in fact, so thoroughly infiltrated and guided by the security services that there was no possibility of the panel pursuing an independent course. Dulles was at the center of this subversion. During the commission’s ten-month-long investigation, he acted as a double agent, huddling regularly with his former CIA associates to discuss the panel’s internal operations.
The story had broken in the press the previous month, when Marguerite Oswald declared that her son was a secret agent for the CIA who was “set up to take the blame” for the Kennedy assassination.
But when Helms was sworn in, he simply lied. There was no evidence of agency contact with Oswald, he testified. Had the agency provided the commission with all the information it had on Oswald, Rankin asked him. “We have — all,” Helms replied, though he knew the files that he had handed over were thoroughly purged.
There were no agents riding on the flanks of his limousine. And when sniper fire erupted, only one agent — Clint Hill — performed his duty by sprinting toward the president’s vehicle and leaping onto the rear. It was an outrageous display of professional incompetence, one that made Robert Kennedy immediately suspect that the presidential guard was involved in the plot against his brother.
But the bulk of the Warren Report was filler. Only about 10 percent of the report dealt with the facts of the case. On Dulles’s insistence, most of it was taken up with a biography of Oswald that, despite its exhaustive detail, managed to avoid any mention of his contacts with U.S. intelligence.
21 - “I Can’t Look and Won’t Look”
Thompson’s book would even land the Haverford philosophy professor-turned-private-eye an editorial consultancy with Luce’s Life magazine, which had earlier played a key role in the assassination cover-up by buying the Zapruder film and locking it away in the company vault.
By 1967, polls showed that two-thirds of the American public did not accept the Warren Report’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin.
The Garrison investigation set off alarm bells in CIA headquarters. It soon became clear, however, that the authority of a crusading district attorney was no match for the U.S. intelligence establishment. Days after Garrison sent off the Dulles subpoena to the nation’s capital, he received a letter from the United States attorney in Washington, D.C., who tersely informed the DA that he “declined” to serve the subpoena on Dulles. Meanwhile, the CIA — which, by then, was led by Helms — mounted an aggressive counterattack on the district attorney. Subpoenas like the one sent to Dulles were simply ignored, government records were destroyed, Garrison’s office was infiltrated by spies, and agency assets in the media worked to turn the DA into a crackpot in the public eye. Even the private investigator Garrison hired to sweep his office for electronic bugs turned out to be a CIA operative. After Dulles was subpoenaed by Garrison, the security specialist — Gordon Novel — phoned the spymaster to slip him inside information about the DA’s strategy.
“LBJ differs from JFK in a number of ways—most notably, perhaps, in his absence of intellectual curiosity,” Schlesinger observed.
Even CIA director McCone thought “there were two people involved in the shooting,” Kennedy confided to Schlesinger.
McHugh had found LBJ huddled in the bathroom of his private quarters on Air Force One before the plane took off from Dallas. The panic-stricken Johnson was “convinced that there was a conspiracy and that he would be the next to go.”
22 - End Game
And so, for the most part, Bobby Kennedy maintained a pained silence on the subject of his brother’s assassination. In private, he dismissed the Warren Report as a public relations exercise. But he knew that if he attacked the report in public, it would set off a political uproar that he was in no position to exploit.
But numerous eyewitnesses — including one of the men who subdued Sirhan — insisted that the alleged assassin could not have fired the shot that killed Kennedy. Sirhan was several feet in front of Kennedy when he began firing with his revolver. But the fatal shot — which struck RFK at point-blank range behind the right ear, penetrating his brain — was fired from behind. Furthermore, evidence indicated that thirteen shots were fired in the pantry that night — five more than the number of bullets that Sirhan’s gun could hold. Dr. Thomas Noguchi, the Los Angeles coroner who conducted the autopsy on Kennedy, thought that all of the evidence pointed to a second gunman.
While Maheu was being paid over $500,000 a year by Hughes as his Las Vegas overseer, he still treated the CIA like his top client.
He invoked the names of the high eminences who had run the CIA in his day—Dulles, Helms, Wisner. These men were “the grand masters,” he said. “If you were in a room with them, you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell.” Angleton took another slow sip from his steaming cup. “I guess I will see them there soon.”