Philip Agee: Civil Society and the Dissidents
Source ListMeister
Date 03/07/27/02:26

GRANMA INTERNATIONAL - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Civil Society and the Dissidents
By Philip Agee

GOING back to the Reagan administration of the early 1980's, the decision
was taken that more than terrorist operations was needed to impose regime
change in Cuba. Terrorism hadn't worked, nor had the Bay of Pigs invasion,
nor had Cuba's diplomatic isolation, which gradually ended, nor had the
economic embargo. Now Cuba would be included in a new world wide program to
finance and develop non-governmental and voluntary organizations, what was
to become known as civil society, within the context of U.S. global
neo-liberal policies. The CIA and the Agency for International Development
(AID) would have key roles in this program as well as a new organization
christened in 1983 The National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Actually the new program was not really new. Since its founding in 1947,
the CIA had been deeply involved in secretly funding and manipulating
foreign non-governmental voluntary organizations. These vast operations
circled the globe and were targeted at political parties, trade unions and
businessmen's associations, youth and student organizations, women's
groups, civic organizations, religious communities, professional,
intellectual and cultural societies, and the public information media. The
network functioned at local, national, regional and global levels. Media
operations, for example, were underway continuously in practically every
country, wherein the CIA would pay journalists to publish its materials as
if they were the journalists' own. In the Directorate of Operations at the
CIA's headquarters, these operations were coordinated with the regional
operations divisions by the International Organizations Division (IOD),
since many of the operations were regional or continental in nature,
encompassing many countries, with some even worldwide in scope.

Over the years the CIA exerted phenomenal influence behind the scenes in
country after country, using these powerful elements of civil society to
penetrate, divide, weaken and destroy corresponding enemy organizations on
the left, and indeed to impose regime change by toppling unwanted
governments. Such was the case, among many others, in Guyana where in 1964,
culminating 10 years of efforts, the Cheddi Jagan government was overthrown
through strikes, terrorism, violence and arson perpetrated by CIA
international trade union agents. About the same time, while I was assigned
in Ecuador, our agents in civil society, through mass demonstrations and
civil unrest, provoked two military coups in three years against elected,
civilian governments. And in Brazil in the early 1960's, the same CIA trade
union operations were brought together with other operations in civil
society in opposition to the government, and these mass actions over time
provoked the 1964 military coup against President Joao Goulart, ushering in
20 years of unspeakably brutal political repression.

But on February 26th, 1967, the sky crashed on IOD and its global civil
society networks. At the time I was on a visit to Headquarters in Langley,
Virginia near Washington, between assignments in Ecuador and Uruguay. That
day the Washington Post published an extensive report revealing a grand
stable of foundations, some bogus, some real, that the CIA was using to
fund its global non-governmental networks. These financial arrangements
were known as "funding conduits." Along with the foundations scores of
recipient organizations were identified, including well-known intellectual
journals, trade unions, and political think tanks. Soon journalists around
the world completed the picture with reports on the names and operations of
organizations in their countries affiliated with the network. They were the
CIA's darkest days since the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

President Johnson ordered an investigation and said such CIA operations
would end, but in fact they never did. The proof is in the CIA's successful
operations in Chile to provoke the 1973 Pinochet coup against the elected
government of Salvador Allende. Here they combined the forces of opposition
political parties, trade unions, businessmen's groups, civic organizations,
housewife's associations and the information media to create chaos and
disorder, knowing that sooner or later the Chilean military, faithful to
traditional fascist military doctrine in Latin America, would use such
unrest to justify usurping governmental power to restore order and to stamp
out the left. The operations were almost a carbon copy of the Brazilian
destabilization and coup program ten years earlier. We all remember the
horror that followed for years afterwards in Chile.

Fast forward to now. Anyone who has watched the civil society opposition to
the Hugo Chavez government in Venezuela develop can be certain that U.S.
government agencies, the CIA included, along with the Agency for
International Development (AID) and the National Endowment for Democracy
(NED), are coordinating the destabilization and were behind the failed coup
in April 2002 as well as the failed "civic strike" of last
December-January. The International Republican Institute (IRI) of the
Republican Party even opened an office in Caracas. See below for more on
NED, AID and IRI in civil society operations.

In order to understand how these civil society operations are run, let's
take a look at the bureaucratic side. When I entered the CIA's training
course, the first two words I learned were discipline and control. The U.S.
government was not a charitable institution, they said, and all money must
be spent for its exact, designated purpose. The CIA operations officer that
I would become is responsible for ensuring this discipline through tight
control of the money and of the agents down the line who spend it. Orders
to the agents on their duties and obligations are to be clear and
unambiguous, and the officer must prevent personal embezzlement of money by
an agent, beyond the agent's agreed salary, by requiring receipts for all
expenses and for all payments to others. Exceptions to this rule needed
special approvals.

In the CIA, activities to penetrate and manipulate civil society are known
as Covert Action operations, and they are governed by detailed regulations
for their use. They require a request for money in a document known as a
Project Outline, if the activity is new, or a Request for Project Renewal,
if an on-going activity is to be continued. The document originates either
in a field station or in Headquarters, and it describes a current
situation; the activities to be undertaken to improve or change the
situation vis-a-vis U.S. interests; a time-line for achieving intermediary
and final goals; risks and the flap potential (damages if revealed); and a
detailed budget with information on all participating organizations and
individuals and the amounts of money to go to each. The document also
contains a summary of the status of all agent personnel to be involved with
references to their operational security clearance procedures and the
history of their service to the Agency. All people involved are included,
from the ostensible funding agencies like officers of a foundation, down to
every intermediate and end recipient of the money.

In additional to these budget specifics, a certain amount of money without
designated recipients is included under the rubric D&TO, standing for
Developmental and Targets of Opportunity. Money from this fund is used to
finance new activities that come up during the project approval period, but
of course detailed information and security clearances on all individuals
who would receive such funding is always required. A statement is also
required on the intelligence information by-product to be collected through
the proposed operation. Thus financial support for a political party is
expected to produce intelligence information on the internal politics of
the host country.

Project Outlines and Renewals go through an approval process by various
offices such as the International Organizations Division, and depending on
their sensitivity and cost, they may require approval outside the CIA at
the Departments of State, Defense, or Labor, or by the National Security
Council or the President himself. When finally approved the CIA's Finance
Division allocates the money and the operation begins, or continues if
being renewed. The period of approvals and renewals is usually one year.

Both the Agency for International Development and the National Endowment
for Democracy without doubt have documentation requirements and approval
processes similar to the CIA's for project funding in the civil societies
of other countries. All the people involved must receive prior approval
through an investigative process, and each person has clearly defined
tasks. An inter-agency commission determines which of the three agencies,
the CIA, AID or NED, or a combination of them, are to carry out specific
tasks in the civil societies of specific countries and how much money each
should give. All three have obviously been working to develop an opposition
civil society in Cuba.

One should note that the high-sounding National Endowment for Democracy has
its origins in the CIA's covert action operations and was first conceived
in the wake of the disastrous revelations noted above that began on
February 26th, 1967. Two months later in April that year, Dante Fascell,
member of the House of Representatives from Miami and a close friend of the
CIA and Miami Cubans, together with other Representatives, introduced
legislation that would create an "open" foundation to carry on what had
been secret CIA funding of the foreign civil society programs of U.S.
organizations (e.g., the National Students Association) or of foreign
organizations directly (e.g., the Congress for Cultural Freedom based in

The Fascell idea failed to prosper, however, because of the breakdown of
the bipartisan approach to foreign policy that had prevailed since the
administration of Harry Truman after World War II. Differences since the
late 1960's within and between the two parties over the war in Southeast
Asia, then in the 70's over Watergate and the loss of the Vietnam war, and
finally over revelations of assassination plots and other operations of the
CIA by Senate and House investigating committees, prevented agreement and
resulted in several years of isolationism. Only the successes of
revolutionary movements in Ethiopia, Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Grenada,
Nicaragua and elsewhere brought "cold warrior" Democrats and
"internationalist" Republicans together to establish in 1979 the American
Political Foundation (APF). The foundation's task was to study the
feasibility of establishing through legislation a government-financed
foundation to subsidize foreign operations in civil society through U.S.
non-governmental organizations.

Within APF four task forces were set up to conduct the study, one for the
Democrats, one for the Republicans, one for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,
and one for the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial
Organizations (AFL-CIO). Together their work became known as the Democracy
Program. They consulted a vast array of domestic and foreign organizations,
and what they found most interesting were the government-financed
foundations of the main West German political parties: the Friedrich Ebert
Stiftung of the Social Democrats and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of the
Christian Democrats. When these foundations were first set up in the
1950's, their task was to build a new German democratic order, a civil
society based on the Western parliamentary model while lending their weight
to repression of communist and other left political movements.

From early on the CIA channeled money through these foundations for
non-government organizations and groups in Germany. Then in the 1960's the
foundations began supporting fraternal political parties and other
organizations abroad, and they channeled CIA money for these purposes as
well. By the 1980's the two foundations had programs going in some 60
countries and were spending about $150 million per year. And what was most
interesting, they operated in near-total secrecy.

One operation of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung shows how effective they
could be. In 1974, when the 50-year-old fascist regime was overthrown in
Portugal, a NATO member, communists and left-wing military officers took
charge of the government. At that time the Portuguese social democrats,
known as the Socialist Party, could hardly have numbered enough for a poker
game, and they all lived in Paris and had no following in Portugal. Thanks
to at least $10 million from the Ebert Stiftung plus funds from the CIA,
the social democrats came back to Portugal, built a party overnight, saw it
mushroom, and within a few years the Socialist Party became the governing
party of Portugal. The left was relegated to the sidelines in disarray.

Ronald Reagan was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the Democracy
Program, describing his plans in a speech before the British Parliament in
June 1982. This new program, he said, would build an "infrastructure of
democracy" around the world following the European example of "open"
support, furthering "the march of freedom and democracy..." Of course the
German programs were anything but "open," nor would the American programs
be "open" once they began. In fact even before Congress established the
NED, Reagan set up what was called Project Democracy in the U.S.
Information Agency under direction of the State Department. A secret
Executive Order at the time, soon leaked to the press, provided for secret
CIA participation in the program. An early grant was $170,000 for training
media officials in El Salvador and other right-wing authoritarian regimes
on how to deal with the U.S. press--the Salvadoran program to be carried
out through the Washington public relations firm that had represented the
Somoza dictatorship.

In November 1983 Dante Fascell's dream finally came true. Congress created
the National Endowment for Democracy and gave it an initial $18.8 million
for building civil society abroad during the fiscal year ending September
30, 1984. Fascell became a member of NED's first Board of Directors.
Whereas the CIA had previously funneled money through a complex network of
"conduits," the NED would now become a "mega-conduit" for getting U.S.
government money to the same array of non-governmental organizations that
the CIA had been funding secretly.

The Cuban American National Foundation was, predictably, one of the first
beneficiaries of NED funding. From 1983 to 1988 CANF received $390,000 for
anti-Castro activities. During the same period the separate political
action committee (PAC) run by CANF directors to fund political campaigns,
gave a nearly identical amount for the campaigns of Dante Fascell and other
friendly politicians, a clear trade-off based on funds received from NED.

Legally the NED is a private, non-profit foundation, an NGO, and it
receives a yearly appropriation from Congress. The money is channeled
through four "core foundations" established along the lines of the four
original task forces of the Democracy Program. These are the National
Democratic Institute for International Affairs (Democratic Party); the
International Republican Institute (Republican Party); the American Center
for International Labor Solidarity (AFL-CIO); and the Center for
International Private Enterprise (U.S. Chamber of Commerce). The NED also
gives money directly to "groups abroad who are working for human rights,
independent media, the rule of law, and a wide range of civil society
initiatives." [Quote from NED web site May 2003.]

The NED's non-governmental status provides the fiction that recipients of
NED money are getting "private" rather than U.S. government money. This is
important because so many countries, including both the U.S. and Cuba, have
laws relating to their citizens being paid to carry out activities for
foreign governments. The U.S. requires an individual or organization
"subject to foreign control," i.e., who receives money and instructions
from a foreign government, to register with the Attorney General and to
file detailed activities reports, including finances, every six months. The
five Cuban intelligence officers were convicted for failing to register
under this law.

Cuba has its own laws criminalizing actions intended to jeopardize its
sovereignty or territorial integrity as well as any actions supporting the
goals of the U.S. Helms-Burton Act of 1996, i.e., by collecting information
to support the embargo or to subvert the government, or for disseminating
U.S. government information to undermine the Cuban government.

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