Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 1999

CIA: the terrible history of the terrorists within

This article is over 17 years, 11 months old
John Newsinger unveils the ugly record of the Central Intelligence Agency
Issue 1999
US funded Guatemalan rebels prepare to march on the capital. The CIA coup in 1954 removed a popular radical president
US funded Guatemalan rebels prepare to march on the capital. The CIA coup in 1954 removed a popular radical president

There is a terrorist organisation operating in Britain today with the full knowledge and support of Tony Blair and the New Labour government.

This organisation has tortured and murdered people throughout the world, overthrown democratically elected governments and helped sustain brutal dictatorships in power.

It has sponsored wars in Africa and Central America that have cost hundreds of thousands of lives. And it is still engaged in all these activities today. Despite this it has facilities in Britain and its agents mix freely with members of the British security services.

The organisation in question is the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Founded in 1947, the CIA has been involved in terrorist activity from the very beginning. Together with Britain’s MI6, it organised the overthrow of the popular Mossadeq government in Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah’s murderous dictatorship in power.

The following year, it organised the overthrow of the reformist Arbenz government in Guatemala. During this coup, a British merchant ship, the Springfjord, was bombed and sunk by CIA aircraft. The British government covered up the incident, even confiscating a film of the attack from the crew.

In 1961, the CIA attempted to overthrow Cuban leader Fidel Castro, invading Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. They failed in one of the most humiliating defeats in the organisation’s history.


Subsequently, the CIA was involved in a number of attempts to assassinate Castro and sponsored a terrorist campaign against the Cuban people.

Later, the organisation was to wage a particularly brutal war against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and sponsored death squads in El Salvador, Guatemala, Columbia and elsewhere.

Police forces throughout Latin America received counter-insurgency training, including training in “interrogation techniques” from the CIA. The CIA adviser, Dan Mitrione, who was executed by the Tupamaros guerrillas in Uruguay in 1970, had tortured street beggars to death as part of his training for police interrogators.

The Vietnam War involved a massive commitment by the CIA. It ran a large-scale death squad operation, Operation Phoenix, that resulted in the deaths of over 40,000 people.

Operatives were given quotas for the number of people they had to kill. Two officers assigned to the operation, Francis Reitemeyer and Michael Cohn, resigned in protest when ordered to deliver 50 bodies a month.

Barton Osborn, another CIA man involved in Operation Phoenix, testified to a US Congressional committee that in his time in Vietnam, he had never seen a suspect survive interrogation.


They were starved to death, electrocuted and drowned. One man was killed by having a wooden dowel slowly hammered through his ear into his brain.

Another agent, Frank Snepp, later revealed that Nguyen Van Tai, a Vietnamese prisoner, was kept for four years in solitary confinement in a freezing all-white windowless room.

He was subjected to what amounted to an experiment in sensory deprivation, kept half-starved, cold and disorientated. Just before Vietnam’s capital Saigon fell, he was put on a plane and thrown out over the sea.

The 11 September 2001 attacks have become an atrocity that the US government can use to justify any action it chooses to take anywhere in the world, with the full support of Tony Blair.

What is worth remembering is that on the same date in 1973, the CIA sponsored a military coup in Chile, overthrowing the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende.

Moreover, the CIA has, in its time, collaborated with the Iraqi Baath Party of Saddam Hussein, providing them with lists of socialists and trade unionists

to be eliminated. It also worked with what was to become the Al Qaida network, when it fought the Russians in Afghanistan.

Today, the CIA is actively engaged in operations in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. It remains the most dangerous terrorist organisation in the world.

One last point. This dreadful history is hardly secret, although rarely talked about. There are members of the New Labour government – Peter Hain, John Reid, Jack Straw and others – who certainly know the CIA’s record.

Today they turn a convenient blind eye to CIA rendition and torture.

Whereas they once saw the CIA and its methods as something to be opposed, now they regard the CIA and its methods as necessary to safeguard the “New World Order” they have bought into.


Sign up for our daily email update ‘Breakfast in Red’

Latest News

Make a donation to Socialist Worker

Help fund the resistance