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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 June 2007, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
CIA details Cold War skulduggery
Anti-Vietnam war protester in Chicago, 1968
The CIA reveals it spied on opponents of the Vietnam war
The CIA has made public the details of its illicit Cold-War-era activities, including spy plots, assassination attempts and experiments with drugs.

Documents declassified on its website include plans to use Mafia help to kill Cuba's Communist leader Fidel Castro.

They reveal the extent to which the CIA spied on US journalists and dissidents and on the Soviet Union.

They are part of a report commissioned by a former CIA chief in 1973 in response to the Watergate scandal.

Press reports from the period had implicated the CIA in a break-in which took place at Democratic Party offices at the Watergate Hotel.

Unflattering but part of CIA history
Michael Hayden
CIA director

A newspaper investigation into the burglary eventually led to the downfall of the Republican President, Richard Nixon.

The spy agency's former director, James Schlesinger, responded by ordering all "senior operating officials" to report on all activities, past and present, "which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency".

The CIA is barred by law from conducting spy activities within the US.

'Unflattering history'

CIA officers in service in 1973 largely used their memory to compile the 693-page report for Mr Schlesinger.

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The abuses and illicit activities listed within date from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The documents were initially referred to as "skeletons" by Mr Schlesinger's successor at the CIA, William Colby. They were later nicknamed the "family jewels" and have been referred to as such ever since.

Much of the information contained within them was already known.
Fidel Castro (left) and Nikita Khrushchev (right)
The CIA tried to kill Cuban leader Fidel Castro (left)

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed in the New York Times newspaper in 1974 that the CIA had been spying on anti-war dissidents and civil rights campaigners.

However, the documents declassified on Tuesday provide a more comprehensive account of events.

Last week, CIA chief Michael Hayden announced the decision to declassify the records, saying the documents were "unflattering but part of CIA history".

The documents detail assassination plots, domestic spying, wiretapping, and kidnapping.

The incidents include:

  • the confinement of a Soviet KGB defector, Yuriy Ivanovich Nosenko, in the mid-1960s
  • attempts to use a suspected Mafia mobster, Johnny Roselli, in a plot to assassinate Cuba's Fidel Castro
  • a plot to poison the Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba
  • the wiretapping and surveillance of journalists, including in 1972 columnist Jack Anderson who broke a string of scandals
  • the testing of hallucinogens such as LSD on unsuspecting citizens

Among the documents is a request in 1972 for someone "who was accomplished at picking locks" who might be retiring or resigning from the agency.

'Soviet succession'

Another set of documents, also just declassified, is known as the CAESAR-POLO-ESAU papers.

This is an 11,000-page analysis, done between 1953 and 1973, on Soviet and Chinese internal politics and Sino-Soviet relations.

Among the papers are an analysis of the Soviet leadership completed some four months after the death of Josef Stalin in 1953.

The CIA's report, stamped "Top Secret", said the Soviets carried out a hasty shake-up of top posts to head off possible "panic and disarray" following Stalin's death.

"It is strongly suggested that the leaders in this moment of crisis had moved swiftly to show their unity and to gird themselves for any battle that might be coming from inside and out," the CIA report said.

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