Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spies R Us

The CIA last week spilled 30 years worth of closely guarded secrets. “The Family Jewels,” it calls them. The documents are a shocking litany of Agency misdeeds, ranging from mind-control experiments to unauthorized wiretapping of American citizens. I say shocking, but little in the report will surprise anyone who's paid any attention to “left-wing rags” over the years. Or even the New York Times, which in 1974 published Seymour Hersh’s expose of the CIA’s illegal domestic spying.

One new detail jumped out at me, though: long hair. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, the CIA mounted Operations CHAOS and MERRIMAC, part of a widespread effort to spy on and infiltrate campus protest movements. According to one of the newly released internal memos, the agents assigned to infiltration duty constantly griped about having to grow their hair long. The CIA also recruited "Americans with exisitng extremist credentials," who presumably already had long hair.

The CIA boasted that their operations were a great success. No foreign involvement was ever identified, but the peace movement was penetrated at the highest levels -- the levels where policy was decided. There have long been rumors that some of these CIA operatives acted as agent provocateurs, urging violent action in order to discredit the movement.

Now these rumors are confirmed. Eventually the names of the undercover agents are likely to come out. We’ll learn who the guilty parties were -- just as East Germans discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall exactly who among them had been informants. This story will be familiar if you saw the academy-award winning movie, The Lives of Others. It brilliantly portrays the Orwellian impact of the security-obsessed state on individual freedom.

I wonder how long it will be before we see a version of this story set in America, with the CIA playing the role of the Stasi?

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