No Director of Central Intelligence has a better reputation than Richard McGarrah Helms, “the man who kept the secrets,” according to his biographer Thomas Powers, the implication being that despite all the known scandals, failures, and disastrous programs, there was real substance to what the Agency did, especially under his direction – what Helms valiantly fought to maintain the secrecy of. It was in recognition of Helms’s humiliation for services rendered to Presidents, Republican and Democratic alike, that Reagan awarded him the Medal of Freedom, and George W. Bush permitted him to be buried with military honors in Arlington National Cemetery on the 39th anniversary of his fateful warning to JFK on November 19, 1963 about going to Texas.
Helms’s special position was seen during Watergate when, while its first victim, he, along with “Deep Throat” (though some even thought that he was Helms too), was still credited with being its hero by protecting CIA from the scandal. The usually taciturn Helms had shouted out his refusal to assume responsibility for the break-in, ordered at Nixon’s direction to protect alleged Bay of Pigs secrets, insubordination for which he soon paid by becoming the US ambassador to Iran’s Shah who he had attended prep school with, but did not know. Called back from Teheran to testify about the Agency’s involvement in funding opposition to Salvador Allende, and plotting his overthrow in Chile, Helms lied to Congress about it, but still avoided prison for his perjury, a precedent that subsequent covert operatives, especially in Iran-Contra, followed with near impunity.
The only trouble with this assessment of Helms is that he was most visible during operations, and it seems impossible that he could not have been involved in serious ways. In fact, during Watergate, the Agency’s DD General Vernon Walters did persuade Helms finally to go along with Nixon’s demand of a cover-up, but by then it was too late to prevent at least a partial exposure of the monumental scandal. (Fred Emery, Watergate, p. 193ff.) The more likely explanation for Helms’s reputation appears to be that he was excused when more senior people were being investigated for even greater failures, escaped exposure when overcoming institutional crises took precedence over individual accountability, and was a better manager of men, methods, and memories than his more cowboy-like colleagues when some accounting had to be made of mistakes, especially of independent missions like domestic assassinations.
While no one should consider intelligence services the adult equivalent of the Boys Scouts, or subject their operatives to normal criminal law prosecution when things go askew, there should be some standards, norms about propriety, rationality, and cost effectiveness, for judging their conduct, something more complicated than just concluding that they did what they had to, as Helms has contended. Certainly, managers of a democratic country’s intelligence services should not be excused from legislative and judicial review, and, if necessary, punishment for dictating its policies, either directly or by coopting or eliminating its political leaders, especially if it involves criminal processes or elements.
Helms was born in eastern Pennsylvania’s coal fields at the beginning of WWI, attended the Swiss prep school Le Rosey with Iran’s Shah to-be, graduated from Massachusetts’ Williams College in 1935, and started working for United Press in Germany where he interviewed Adolf Hitler. Two years later, Helms returned to the Indianapolis Times as a reporter. When America went to war, Helms joined the Navy, working in the Operations Department which plotted German submarine activity in the North Atlantic. UP Berlin Bureau Chief Oechsner persuaded him to join William Donovan’s Office of Strategic Services where Helms was introduced into scientist Stanley Lovell’s world of mind-control experiments, and deadly substances to destroy the enemy, starting with the Fuehrer himself.
Working with Frank Wisner and Allen Dulles in Germany at war’s end, Helms became convinced that the Americans’ can-do attitude about the growing communist menace, not Britain’s assumed primacy in the field, was what the situation called for. Helms was convinced that explosive substances like carbamates; natural substances like drugs, bacteria, and poisons; and psychological manipulation of human behavior, especially through hypnosis, were the way forward in the intelligence world. This predisposition was demonstrated by him as Washington struggled to re-establish a central intelligence agency from OSS’s remnants, the Army’s Strategic Services Unit, over the objections of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. The result would be its Technical Services Staff whose Chemical Division head was the secretive, ingenious Dr. Sidney Gottlieb, the former City College instructor who was most eager to make up for the alleged betrayals by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Once CIA had been established by passage of the National Security Act, Helms worked with James Angleton’s Office of Special Operations while Wisner directed its more cowboy-inclined Office of Policy Coordination. Wisner’s OPC concentrated on building up resistance programs against Moscow from Home Army elements in Poland and Czechoslovakia while Britain’s SIS undertook similar operations in the Baltic, Ukraine, and Albania. All these efforts ultimately failed because of simplistic assumptions about the nature of communist control, what effective resistance really entailed, and the extent of Soviet spying, especially by MI6’s Kim Philby’s, what only reinforced Helms’s preferences for fighting the Cold War alone.
While covert operatives like Desmond FitzGerald, Richard Bissell, and Tracy Barnes were trying to roll back the Iron Curtain for Wisner, Helms, along with Angleton and Colby, concentrated on containing communism in Italy. To facilitate this, Truman approved NSC documents 1/1 and 4/A in late 1947, enabling OSO to engage in psychological warfare on the Italian political scene. Using unvouchered funds, including Nazi gold, promises of Marshall Fund aid in return for favorable electoral results, the return of Trieste from Yugoslavia, a letter campaign from Italian-Americans back home about meeting the communist threat, and a most interfering American Embassy in Italian affairs, CIA enabled the Christian Democrats under Alcide de Gasperi to gain, and hold onto power.
This was a far cry from how the Agency let the British lead the overthrow of Iran’s Mohammed Mossadeq, and replace him by the Shah, as Helms later explained to William Shawcross, author of The Shah’s Last Ride. In pulling British chestnuts from the fire after they had apparently left the scene, and the grasping Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to its own devices, CIA’s Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy’s grandson, behaved as if he worked for Winston Churchill, and the American Ambassador, Loy Henderson, acted as if he were the Prime Minister’s emissary to the distracted, increasingly powerless Shah. Henderson even carried Churchill’s personal message to him which kicked off Operation Boot, what the Agency came to call Operation Ajax, once the newly-elected President Eisenhower had been briefed by SIS’s Monty Woodhouse about the need of preventing another communist coup. Still, it required spirited intervention in Rome by the American Embassy in terms of advice, and the Agency in terms of money for the Shah’s coup to succeed since the Army did not immediately rally to his cause, what had forced him to flee to the Italian capital.
While the success in Teheran rekindled CIA confidence in covert operations, leading Wisner and Bissell to organize Guzman Arbenz’s overthrow in Guatamala, thanks to dragging in Ike again at the crucial last moment, Helms increasingly doubted their value, especially since their secrecy could not be guaranteed, in Inspector General Lyman Kirkpatrick’s words, “from inception to eternity.” It was hardly surprising that Helms called upon DCI Dulles on April 3, 1953, just when the Shah was dithering over what to do about Mossadeq, to set up under Gottlieb’s direction a comprehensive program for carrying out offensive operations on a completely scientific basis, MK-ULTRA, and 10 days later, it was approved with a $300,000 budget, and without the usual financial controls. While the program took advantage of what the Clandestine Services were already doing in MK-DELTA operations with CBW substances, and the Army’s Special Operations Division was investigating at Fort Detrick in the way of germ warfare research (MK-NAOMI), its scientific, and operational thrust was to find the perfect agent, the Manchurian Candidate who would do the Agency’s dirty work on cue, and without recall, as the MK (Manchurian Kandidat) digraph indicated.
While Helms had great plans for operations – e.g., rapidly hypnotizing an unwitting Kim Philby to kill a troublesome leftist, now that Minnesota-trained Morse Allen of the BLUEBIRD and ARTICHOKE mind-control programs was finally developing the technique – they were overtaken by the paranoid Dr. Frank Olson’s suicide in late November 1953, Gottlieb having laced the unsuspecting MK-NAOMI operative’s Cointreau with LSD a week before. Once DCI Dulles made sure that Olson’s death could not be tied to CIA, he commissioned Cornell’s Dr. Harold Wolff and Charles Hinkle to determine just how advanced the communists were in these fields. When they determined that the Reds had no magic bullets for fighting the Cold War, Dulles turned the search for the Manchurian Candidate over to more careful researchers of MK-ULTRA, Oklahoma’s John Gittinger, New York psychologist Milton Kline, and Denver’s Alden Sears.
Also, Dulles had great expectations that the Berlin Tunnel operation (Operation Gold) that William King Harvey was conducting would provide the key for the Soviet rollback, what the Suez Crisis, and the suppression of the Hungarian Revolution proved most unfounded, thanks to Moscow’s penetration of the covert operation by no less than three moles – the GRU’s Colonel Pyotr Popov, MI6’s George Blake, and MI5’s Peter Wright.
Helms’s hopes of replacing Wisner – OSO and OPC had long since been amalgamated, and the director of planning had gone completely off the rails after the tragedy in Budapest – were dashed by the President, though, Ike preferring the developer of the U-2 spy plane, Dulles’s deputy Bissell. Helms was left to run secret operations in Central and Eastern Europe, especially the responsibility of finding a safe landing in 1958 for Popov when he was finally threatened with being exposed by the KGB as a spy in Operation Gold.
While MK-ULTRA officials wanted to produce amnesia of his mole work through hypnosis, Helms refused permission because it could well compromise important, new tradecraft in a hopeless case. Alexandr Shelepin, Khrushchev’s new KGB chief, was allegedly setting up Department 13, the successor of Pavel Sudoplatov’s “special tasks” groups which assassinated Trotsky in 1940. Thanks to the briefing that Wright gave in 1959 to the Operations Directorate about the need of fighting fire with fire when it came to communist insurgency (Spy Catcher, p. 154ff.), Moscow’s disinformation at the time, but what Bissell later used to justify going after Castro, Lee Harvey Oswald was to be groomed as CIA’s answer to the problem, taking out Soviet leadership. Helms, despite his distrust of the British, and his bitterness over their betrayals, had been completely taken in by Wright’s distain, like Angleton, of the English establishment, and its leaky intelligence agencies.
Helms’s responsibility for Oswald’s mission was demonstrated soon after he entered the USSR. He had Priscilla Johnson McMillan interview Oswald in Moscow, and file her story from there to rekindle his chances of being taken up by the Soviets for a mission in which he could take out a Soviet leader, particularly Khrushchev, if he got the chance. When this effort was apparently failing, Helms was responsible for the effort in the summer of 1960 to contact Oswald through people in the Domestic Contacts Division in the hope, it seems, of recruiting him as an agent, or at least giving the Agency subsequently an alibi about his not being one of theirs. A year later, Mrs. Marie Hyde, an apparent American agent, hitched a ride with Rita Naman and Monica Kramer, British subjects, to Minsk, where the KGB had an espionage training school, from Moscow where they had run into the ex-Marine, and Oswald was then photographed showing the tourists the City Square, especially its towering statue of Lenin.
By the time the Oswalds returned to the States in June 1962, Helms had a whole new set of priorities since Bissell’s assassination, and invasion programs against Cuba had completely failed at the Bay of Pigs, leading to Dulles’s and his ouster from the Agency. This time, the new DDP would compel the President to do what the Agency required – what had been lacking when Ike sorted out the shooting down of Gary Powers’ U-2 plane on May Day 1960, and CIA had provided details of before JFK had even been installed as President, and during the Bay of Pigs fiasco.
Despite Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s explicit directive to Harvey to have no more dealings with the Mafia in assassinating Castro, Helms deliberately invited Wright back to Washington in October 1961 to repeat the need (Spy Catacher, p. 146ff.), and after they had sorted out their differences over Michael Goleniewski’s defection during the Lonsdale case, Harvey, now with defector Anatoli Golitsyn’s help, was busily occupied infiltrating ZR/RIFLE missions, behind the Kennedys’ back, in the Agency’s Task Force W contribution to Operation Mongoose. Helms, most importantly, developed spy Oleg Penkovsky, with the help of retiring DCI Dulles, into a credible source about the Soviets’ aggressive intentions, and threatening capabilities, especially when it came to Cuba, hoping to force JFK’s hand over the need of an invasion when the time came.
Helms, though, like Harvey, the Pentagon’s Al Haig, and Vice President Nixon who was running in the California gubernatorial election, was bitterly disappointed by JFK’s settlement of the Missile Crisis. Instead of Golitsyn’s and Penkovsky’s political advice to the President about what to do with Castro being followed, DCI John McCone independently determined what Khrushchev was up to, thanks to Penkovsky’s massive intelligence about limited Soviet missile capabilities, and his U-2s determining that the Soviets were arming Castro with intermediate-range missiles which could hit the American mainland, possibly armed with nuclear weapons. While Penkovsky was going down the tubes in Moscow, the President settled the dispute by allowing Castro to stay in place, provided the missiles were removed.
This soon resulted in Helms giving Harvey a free rein to settle scores with the President. The DDP’s particular contribution was to make sure that Oswald was blamed, one way or another, for JFK’s murder, thanks to Angleton’s CI staff working with acting station chief E. Howard Hunt in Mexico City. When the “patsy” could not be programmed to do the deed by rapid induction hypnosis that Harvey arranged for Dr. George White to perform (John Marks, The Search For The ‘Manchurian Candidate’,” pp. 202-3, and the last note of the chapter, p. 244), Oswald was directed to do things, and to go places by CIA which made it look as if the alleged double agent had been reclaimed by the KGB, especially its assassination expert in the Mexican capital, Department 13’s Valeri Kostikov.
Oswald, though, thought that he was part of Operation Little Egypt, Harvey’s latest effort to assassinate the Cuban leader, working with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee’s Gilberto Lopez, CIA’s double agent in Havana, to gain access to the target.
Helms’s own contribution to the campaign was to warn JFK himself two days before the President was to go to Texas to kick off his re-election campaign of the Cuban threat, showing him, with the Agency’s Latin American expert Hershel Peake, one of the rifles recovered from the alleged Cuban arms caches around the Carribean to spread terror (Christopjer Andrew, For The President’s Eyes Only, p. 305), but JFK was not deterred by the diversion. The culmination of the process was the reactivation, just before the assassination, of AM/LASH, Rolando Cubela, by Desmond FitzGerald – Harvey’s replacement in Task Force W, and acting as if he were RFK’s personal representative – to kill the Cuban dictator with a TSS-supplied poison pen device, making the Dallas murder look like an act of revenge.
Unfortunately for the plotters, the assassination went wrong because gunman Richard Cain failed to test fire the rifle which had been purchased by an LHO alias, and, consequently, when Sam Giancana’s lieutenant was shooting at the President, he was hitting Texas Governor John Connally who shouted that they all were going to be killed, indicating that he thought he had been double-crossed, and still lived to make a fuss about it. All the plans to blame the assassination on Castro, and the communists had to be reversed at Oswald’s expense.
Helms’s major responsibility was to hush up the apparent downing of Captain Joe Hyde’s U-2 plane on a flight over Cuba – what was intended to reignite the Missile Crisis. Instead of the spy plane being recovered, and the body of the pilot retrieved, the whole, explosive incident simply disappeared, with only a few bits of the plane being found without comment. The DDP also enlisted Priscilla Johnson to see that her piece about the loonie Lee Oswald in the Soviet capital a few years before was reprinted in The Boston Globe to frame the lone assassin.
Little wonder, once the immediate Agency problems caused by the assassination going askew, especially in Mexico City, were resolved by Angleton, that Helms was its liaison with the Warren Commission. Assured that neither Commissioner Dulles nor Ford would question anything about Agency activities, Helms volunteered nothing, as he had previously done with DCI McCone, about its mind control programs, its use of Oswald and Mafiosos, and Harvey’s and FitzGerald’s independent efforts to assassinate Castro, much less what he had contributed.
Once the cover up was well in place, Helms concentrated on breaking down defector Yuri Nosenko as if he were the KGB’s chief assassin, using only Soviets tactics against him in a cell at Camp Peary for years to prove Golitsyn’s claims that he was a plant to cover up their involvement with Oswald, and the assassination. The DCI was understandably in no hurry to resolve the issue.
It was a clever ruse which covered up the Agency’s mind-control expertise in breaking down suspect defectors, the havoc Golitsyn was causing within its own ranks and beyond, and its total involvement in the Dallas assassination. When CIA was confronted with another questionable defector, Oleg Gordievsky, locking horns with Golitsyn in 1985-86, it settled for Richards J. Heuer, Jr., writing an article about Nosenko’s bona fides, based upon cost-effectiveness, for the in-house journal, Studies in Intelligence, rather than sending the former KGB colonel off for an indefinite stay in a Camp Peary cell.
Golitsyn repaid Wright for contending that the Soviets had taken one step backwards during the Missile Crisis, thanks to Penkovsky disinformation, so that they could take two steps forward when JFK was assassinated, claiming that the Agency had been penetrated by a Soviet mole, and it had – Wright aka ‘K’. Of course, Golitsyn was not so coarse as to make the direct connection. He said the mole’s name began with the letter ‘K’, and that he knew about the American-British electronic-surveillance project, code-named Easy Chair.
Peter Karlow aka Klibansky was the chairman of the project, and Helms pursued Karlow with such vengeance that he was forced out of the Agency, widening the wedge with the Bureau in the process. In the meantime, Wright, Easy Chair’s vice chairman, and the leading Soviet scientific spy ‘K’, took over running the project. After the JFK assassination, in appreciation for services rendered, Helms provided MI5’s Movements Analysis program a 20-man team, and unlimited computer time to track down smaller fish in Britain. By the time the pursuit of Golitsyn’s serials, and lesser leads was finished, intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic were hardly talking to one another, and future historians had fists full of data to work with.
In this growing intelligence morass, McCone, soon after the Warren Commission reported, resigned, and Helms became, in effect, DCI since LBJ’s appointee, Admiral William Raborn, had neither experience nor interest in the position. Helms’s chief operations were getting rid of the Dominican Republic’s Orlando Bosch in a bloodless coup, and Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno in a bloody one, what CIA had failed to do a decade before by various less lethal means, including a TSS provided pornographic film by a lookalike to undermine public support. Actually, Helms spent most of his time preventing CIA’s expanded Vietnam War – what it had caused by the overthrow of Diem, the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem and Ngo Dinh Nhu, and the Tonkin Gulf incidents, especially through agent Lucien Conein’s efforts, and Jim Garrison’s investigation of the JFK murder, particularly during alleged leading conspirator Clay Shaw’s trial – from getting out of hand.
MH-CHAOS was organized by Helms to prevent effective opposition to the war by collecting and disseminating information about its critics in order to intimidate them, starting with the left-wing magazine Ramparts. When the Tet offensive in Vietnam threatened just this, as RFK’s February 8th speech tellingly documented, the DCI turned Harvey loose again, resulting in the assassinations of MLK, and RFK, assuring Nixon’s election. For more on this, see my article, “Mind-Control Experiments and The Deadliest Secrets of the Cold War: Manchurian Candidate,” Eye Spy, Issue Eight, pp.50-55.
Helms had allowed Harvey to make a comeback after gunman Richard Cain’s screwup of the Dallas assassination, and while he, now aka William Wood and Bill Boxley, had infiltrated the Garrison investigation for the DCI, Harvey used his former connections with the Mafia and Gottlieb’s mind-control people to see that the killings in Memphis and Los Angeles were carried out without any mishap this time. The DCI provided cover for Harvey during the operations by writing to influential Senator and critic of the Warren Report, Georgia’s Richard Russell, that he had no connection with the Agency.
Little wonder that Nixon kept Helms on as DCI, and he did not let Nixon down, seeing to the overthrow of Allende, the running of a more efficient MH-CHAOS, and the endorsement of the Tom Huston Plan when more aggressive measures seemed to be called for, as the President requested. The only request that the DCI declined was the Agency’s file on the Bay of Pigs, what had obviously grown, like those of Director Hoover’s, to include its subsequent horrors, particularly Harvey’s, and Nixon’s involvement in the whole process. It was only Hoover’s opposition which killed Huston’s suggested law enforcement changes, helping cause the creation of the Plumbers which Helms gave every assistance to when asked: E. Howard Hunt’s famous disguise when he visited whistleblower Dita Beard, psychological profiles of troublemaker Daniel Ellsberg, and Dr. Edward Gunn’s help for neutralizing Jack Anderson all came from the Agency.
As a result, some investigators have claimed that FBI Director Hoover may have been poisoned by The Plumbers because of his opposition to the Huston Plan, and others that it was because of his sexual blackmailing, now even including Nixon – e.g., Peter Dale Scott in Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 227ff. The almost totally ignored scandal is their Harvey-led assassination attempt of former Governor George Wallace. The President had hardly persuaded Wallace to run for the Presidency to insure his re-election than he concluded that it might prevent it.
As a result, once Hoover was out of the way, the group moved to Milwaukee, the home of Arthur Bremer where he was programmed to stalk the Democrat politician until he could shoot him. In doing the programming, Harvey apparently used the capability that Louis ‘Jolly’ West, a student of Amedeo Marrazzi at Minnesota, and John Gittinger at Oklahoma, was developing at UCLA and his Neuropsychiatric Institute in controlling cults through all kinds of mind-control techniques.
The best evidence that Bremer was programmed by the Plumbers to do his dirty work was provided by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward in All The President’s Men when they discussed the actions, and travels of Ms. Kathleen Chenow, the Plumbers’ secretary whose office was room 16 in the Executive Office Building, during their trial in November. Chenow not only indicated that there were several Plumbers whose identity she did even know (p. 216), but also she was linked by telephone, whose bills John Ehrlichman of the Oval Office paid, to E. Howard Hunt’s listed operations until March 15, 1972 when the phone, which had not be used for quite awhile, was removed. Most important, she moved her office two weeks later to Milwaukee when the programming of Bremer was becoming operational.
It was just during this time span, as Dan T. Carter has shown in The Politics of Rage, that Bremer started stalking both Wallace and Nixon, planning to kill which one of them he confronted first on the campaign trail – a scheme which would obviously intensify his psychic driving against the Governor as there was no way he was going to get close to the President. (p. 491ff.) Bremer finally shot Wallace three times as he was campainging in a Laurel, Maryland shopping center on May 15, paralyzing him sufficiently to end any political challenges.
While investigators have concentrated on Hunt’s actions after the attempted assassination to connect Bremer to left-wing causes (e. g., Bernstein and Woodward, pp. 325-6), they should have concentrated on Chenow’s, as they became a main source of loyalist John Dean finally breaking with the President, and threatening to tell enough to bring him down. Dean, who had been trying to prevent the FBI investigation from discovering the Plumbers, panicked when he discovered that it had traced her to the secret number, and was trying to interview her while vacationing in England. (Emery, p. 201) Dean managed to get acting Director L. Patrick Gray to stop the effort in the name of national security, and then Fred Fielding managed to bring her back to Washington where Dean coached her so that she told FBI nothing of value.
Once this crisis passed with the successful conviction of only the five burglars, Dean made the opening salvo of Nixon’s undoing by stating to him on March 21 that the cancer surrounding his Presidency was being compounded by the blackmail his supporters were being subjected to – what Nixon suggested repeatedly could be solved by payoffs. From then on, Nixon’s tenure of the Oval Office was increasingly limited. Little wonder when it was over, veteran Washington Post reporter Carroll Kilpatrick, who had been most dubious of the Watergate stories by Woodward and Bernstein because of criticism by his White House colleagues, finally admitted about the Chenow story: “There has to be a lot more meaning in that story than meets the eye.” (Bernstein & Woodward, p. 220, n.)
It was to make sure that this didn’t happen, while Watergate was increasingly being investigated, that Helms and Harvey swung into action. While the DCI was stopping every research program that could be connected to MK-ULTRA and its successors – and destroying all records he could get his hands about its testing and operations – Harvey saw to the assassination, one way or another, of key operatives, starting with Cain, Jack Ruby’s henchman Dave Yaras who coordinated threats on JFK with the actual shooting, and Giancana before he himself died. Subsequent notable killings were that of key organizer of the Dallas assassination Johnny Roselli who was garotted and stabbed to death in 1976, had his body sawed up, and stuffed into an oil drum, and then dumped into Miami’s Dumfoundling Bay, and of JFK assassin Chuckie Nicoletti whose body was burned in his car the following year after he had been shot three times in the back of the head.
In taking leave of office for Teheran, Helms had the Agency hand over to the Justice Department for action the photos that it had developed of the Plumbers casing Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s offices, induced the White House to return the embarrassing memo General Cushman, Helms’s deputy, had prepared to justify such domestic action, cancelled Project OFTEN with the Army Chemical Corps to test the effects of various incapacitating drugs like Dr. Gunn had suggested upon humans and animals, and insulated from congressional discovery what he could, particularly Richard Ober’s International Terrorism Group, of the covert government apparatus. Helms also came back to Washington to force President Ford to redirect charges of Agency assassinations of domestic targets to those against foreign ones, claiming that it had been ordered to do so by now deceased Presidents.
Helm’s last contribution to American democracy was helping revive CIA capability to conduct domestic assassinations after this loss of Mafia support, and Agency wherewithall. As the Carter administration tried to limit CIA to the collection of intelligence by technological means, and put its operation on a legal basis, Langley, especially the shrunken Operations Directorate, was increasingly desperate to stop the rot, but lacked the means to do so. Helms resigned his post ultimately in Teheran to fill the need. Back in the States, he informed former DCI George Bush at many secret meetings, and Operations leader Ted Shackley, who had been in Laos and Vietnam while his former boss Harvey at Berlin and Miami had been doing all the dirty work, during regular visits to Langley where all the mind-control capability, and potential candidates were now to be found in Reagan’s California, especially around ‘Jolly’ West’s establishments, and what was going on at Stanford’s Research Institute.
The result was – once Bush decided to run for the Presidency, and disgrunted members of the Operations Directorate were joining his campaign staff in droves – the recruitment of Ted Kaczynski to carry out mindless acts which would so terrorize Carter that he could not be re-elected; of John Hinckley, Jr., to do the real thing if he pulled off an “October Surpirse” with the American hostages now being held in Teheran, and of Mark David Chapman to kill Beatle John Lennon after Reagan’s election to limit the chances of the dirty operations leaking out. Unfortunately, Hinckley was so distraught over Lennon’s assassination that he almost succeeded in killing ‘The Gipper’ despite all the efforts that now Vice President Bush, and the Secret Service had taken to prevent it. An unexpected ricochet from Hickley’s pistol almost caused another assassinated President.
Little wonder that when the crisis passed, and Helms could be given the Medal of Freedom for all his contributions to right-wing causes, Thomas Powers provided an introduction to the paperback edition of John Marks’s The Search for the’Manchurian Candidate’: The CIA and Mind Control, reassuring readers that all the suspicions by conspiracy theorists about alleged operations had proven unfounded as America’s real enemies – Castro, Ho Chi Minh, Sukarno, Lumumba, Qaddafi, DeGaulle, Nasser, Chou En En Lai, and Khomeini – had died by other means, or were still alive. Helms’s official biographer, of course, was ignoring what happened to the Agency’s real enemies – JFK, MLF, RFK, Governor Wallace, Lennon, and many lesser lights. Even Carter was only spared at Reagan’s expense.
For anyone to receive a medal of freedom from any country, especially the world’s foremost democracy, with this record says it all about the state of self-government by the world’s strongest power in the emerging post-Cold War world.