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final list of 397 Items.
Lynch suggested that he and I first be permitted to adjourn to a private room to review each Item. When we finished the review, the full group reconvened. I said that almost all deletions appeared in some form in the Pentagon Papers. Ernest Mayerfeld, deputy general counsel, said if that was true he could not object to their inclusion in the book. The lawyers said that I should get together the next day with the Agency's freedom of information officer, Bob, to consider specific deletions.
After lunch and later at home I reviewed the Agency's deletions and matched each item with my source documents. I was overjoyed: all significant deletions were covered by supporting public data. My joy was premature.
Early the next day I met Bob, who during my last few years with the Agency had served as my boss once removed. A dedicated cold warrior, Bob was a tall, stocky, impressive man in his late fifties who had achieved supergrade status in the Agency and had served as chief of station [19 words deleted].
Bob seemed as agitated as I, and it was obvious that he felt he was solling himself by dealing with me. In less civilized circumstances we probably would have been happier fighting rather than talking. Early on Bob set the tone. “It's too bad you didn't work for the Israeli intelligence service," he said. “They know how to deal with people like you. They'd take you out and shoot you."
Bob then launched into a long monologue covering the vagaries of the secrecy laws, including details of the Carter administration's Official Disclosure Law, the Freedom of Information Act, and the various problems in their application. I impatiently endured this speech. I was most anxious to get on with the review, to produce my public documents, and to get the hell out of there.
We finally moved to the review of the specific deletions. The very first item caused trouble. Inexplicably the publications review board had deleted a reference Indicating that the CIA conducted joint operations with Thai authorities. That relationship was so well known that books had been written about it, academic studies discussed it, pictures of CIA station chiefs appeared in the Thai press, and high-level Thai officials openly bragged in the media about CIA support for their organizations. Needless to say, I had not anticipated that the CIA would consider that relationship secret. If I could not admit that such a relationship existed, there was no point to the book since most of my observations were based on my six years with the Agency in Thailand. Fortunately I recalled a document from The New York Times edition of the Pentagon Papers entitled "The Lansdale Memorandum for Taylor on Unconventional Warfare," which discussed specific CIA operations conducted jointly with Thai organizations.
When I told Bob about the Lansdale memorandum being in the Pentagon Papers, he appeared to be surprised. But he recovered quickly and said there was only one official version of the papers - the Department of Defense's 12-volume edition. After numerous phone calls a socretary brought in 11 of the 12 volumes the one missing volume, according to the index, was the one that most likely would Include the Lansdale memo. This really shook Bob. Ho suspected that someone had removed the critical volume. Later we did get that volume, but the Lansdale memo was not in it. I argued that the Supreme Court's decision in the Pentagon Papers case had placed that information in the public domain, and it certainly could no longer be considered secret. We argued back and forth and finally agreed to postpone decisions on this and other items relating to CIA joint operations with Thai
Many deletions caused little problem. In some cases, where an ex-CIA offictal's affiliation with the Agency was well known, I had used that person's true name. The Agency objected. I felt the point was unimportant and agreed to substitute titles or aliases.
At one point I really became worried. Bob said that I must produce the document from which I had taken a direct quote. If I could not produce it, he warned that I would be accused of stealing secret documents. I had not deigned to. steal any of the Agency's classified fantasy, but I was not sure that I could relocate that precise quote. Luck was with me that day, and a short scan of the research materials I had brought with me produced that quoted passage.
We referred the question of joint operations with the Thai police to the general counsel's office, which conceded that such information was probably not deletable. We continued our review based on the premise that I could discuss Joint intelligence and counterinsurgency programs with the Thais. Even so, I could not mention my participation in programs with specifically named Thai organizations although I could substitute phrases to describe them. Also I was allowed, via footnoting, to replace a deleted item with information from a source document. By juxtaposition I hoped my meaning would be clear.
The next day I objected to the deletion of my very negative assessment of the Agency's long-term operations against mainland China. I produced a book, Sub Rosa, in which a former Hong Kong station chief, Peer de Silva, set forth his own lengthy, negative evaluation of those operations. I said Peer's book had been approved by the PRB and it had permitted him to state his opinion; therefore, I should be given the same privilege. Bob agreed and my critical comments, in modified version, were reinstated. From that point on I searched through books written by former Agency officials and cleared by the CIA, to locate items similar to deletions made in my book. By this tactic I was successful in reinstating numerous deletions.
We had a problem over naming specific CIA stations and bases - other than those already acknowledged - even though those installations were well known. The Agency's objection had nothing to do with secrecy. It instead applied to administering the Freedom of Information Act. Whenever the Agency acknowledged the existence of a station or base, the public could, under the act, demand documents relating to the facility. Although it seldom releases documents in response to such appeals, the Agency must by law physically check all such documents. By not allowing anyone to admit that a station or base exists, it avoids those requests.
Bob and I agreed to a modified version of my book. That weekend I made all the changes. On Monday morning I reviewed those changes with Mark Lynch and submitted the book to the deputy general counsel, Mayerfeld. In the interim Mayerfeld's office had reversed itself. He said The New York Times' Pentagon Pa pers had not been officially released, that the Supreme Court only ruled that it could not enjoin publication of those documents. Therefore, my discussion of liaison programs with Thai organizations might again encounter opposition.
That night I searched through the edition of the Pentagon Papers that Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska had entered in the official records of the Senate. I found that it included the Lansdale memorandum and therefore supposed that that constituted official disclosure. The next morning I happily relayed the news to Bob. He said members of Congress could say anything, so the Gravel edition did not count.
Official disclosure only occurs when a member of the executive branch of government performs that function. But how finely the Agency interpreted that statement I was yet to find out.
I immediately went to the Reston Regional Library to look for statements made by members of the executive branch relating to CIA operations with Thai organizations. I spent the day going through The New York Times Index, reviewing all entries under Thailand from the present back to 1954. The index mentioned one well-publicized incident, allegedly caused by the CIA, that generated riots in Thailand. Because of the furor, numerous American officials were forced to comment on CIA operations in Thailand. Some press accounts sourced their information to CIA officials in Langley and the United States Embassy. I felt those references constituted executive branch disclosure of CIA activities in Thailand. I called Bob. He asked if the articles named specific American officials - a mere reference to a CIA official in Langley did not count. I said that Ambassador William Kinter had made a statement. He asked if the statement was in quotes. He said reporters could write anything, and if the statement was not in quotes it did not constitute official disclosure. (Later after completing the review process I found a reference to a highlevel CIA official making a direct statement concerning CIA operations in Thailand. I called Bob and asked if that did not constitute that ever-elusive official disclosure. He said no. That person had probably spoken unofficially and could be prosecuted for violating his secrecy agreement.) But as I continued to accumulate public evidence of the CIA's relationship with Thai organizations, Bob began to concede that I might retain relevant items in my book.
On Tuesday, April 8, I went to the Agency to rework the items deleted from my resubmitted version. I was not surprised to see that the Directorate for Operations had reversed itself in several key areas. Where its original deletions did not hold up, it merely changed its objections to apply to previously approved information.
China desk had changed its objection to my negative evaluation of its operations. The desk now claimed that the technique itself was classified. That technique, recruiting persons from the other side, was just slightly newer and less well known than prostitution. Of course if I could not discuss the technique, my evaluation would be meaningless. That night I went back to the Reston Library and cleaned out its shelf of books written by ex-Agency officials. Those books, some undoubtedly written at the behest of the CIA, discussed that "forbidden" technique in detail. By adding footnotes to those books, I was allowed to retain my discussion of that technique.
The Thal dosk had also changed its position on material not initially marked for deletion- namely, the rural village survey program that I directed with Thai officials. The desk's original objection pertained only to my mention of working In liaison with Thais. When it became apparent it could not maintain that objection, the desk then claimed the technique itself was classified and must be deleted. This was ridiculous. Over the years I had lectured and passed out unclassified handouts describing the method. When documents reporting on those training sessions were located, the Thai desk had to drop its objection.
Forty-six days after I submitted the book, the Agency returned the manuscript with a letter saying that it had no security objections to the publication of that version. Throughout the review one central issue had been in question: reference to CIA operations with Thai organizations. What terrible secret was the CIA
so vehemently attempting to hide? On October 6, 1976, Thai security forces overthrew the civilian, democratically elected government in a violent bloodbath. A study by Dr. E. Thadeus Flood published by the Indochina Resource Center said of that bloodbath: "This activist agency [CIA] took the lead in developing a strong apparatus in Thailand.... It should be mentioned that in their training, the CIA placed special stress on the Thai Border Patrol Police (BPP). News reports from Bangkok during and after the recent coup indicate that it was the Thai BPP who levelled their heavy weapons at unarmed Thai students, boys and girls, waving white flags, and raked them with fire."2
Thomas Lobe describes what happened in more detail: “On that horrible day in October 1976, then, the CIA/OPS-trained Border Patrol Police, with some units of the OPS-trained riot squads of the Metropolitan Police, burst into Thammasat University to crush the unarmed students and their fury knew no bounds... in meting out humiliations, in mutilizations brutally inflicted, in burning a student alive, and in simple wholesale murder. Thousands of unarmed students were killed, injured, or arrested, and a few days later, most of the liberal to left journalists, scholars, and intellectuals were also rounded up and put in prison or ‘rehabilitation camps.***3
After receiving the approved version of the manuscript, I signed a contract with a publisher who wanted extensive rewrites.
I began rewriting the manuscript and submitting each chapter as it was completed. On February 4, 1982, Paul Schilling, a young lawyer on the general counsel's staff, called and asked me to come to the Agency the next day for a meeting to discuss the first chapter. I was annoyed because everything in the chapter had either been approved before, was quoted from the Senate's Church Committee report, or was personal. I prepared myself with documents and met with Paul in one of the little anterooms off the main reception area. Some of the objections were to information that the Agency had declassified and released to the Church Committee, which I easily documented. But the other objections concerned details of my training in espionage and paramilitary operations and details of psychological tests the Agency uses to help identify a specific personality type for possible employment. I was not prepared to rebut those arguments. Paul and I agreed that I would return home and call in the appropriate references.
The rest of the day I phoned around to all Fairfax County libraries to ger copies of books by William Colby, Ray Cline, Allen Dulles, Lyman Kirkpatrick, David Phillips, and other pro-Agency authors whose works had received formal CIA approval if not sponsorship. Almost all discussed information that the PRB now claimed was classified. I phoned the citations in to Paul Schilling. I thought that would take care of the matter. A few days later Paul called and asked if I would come in for another meeting. On February 11 we met again in one of the cubbyholes off the packed main reception area. Paul apologized for asking me in again and said that the PRB had agreed that the information I had taken from the Church Committee report was not classified. I relaxod. The PRB was merely recognizing reality.
Paul then said, "But the other material on your training and the psychological test is classified. The board said it had made a mistake earlier when it had approved that information."
To the shock of the people in the reception area I bellowed, “That's tough shit. It can't reclassify information." After calming down, I pointed out that the
Agency had cleared similar Information on training for its friendly former officers such as Colby, Phillips, Cline, Dulles, Kirkpatrick, and others.
"Yes," Paul said, "but the PRB made mistakes."
I noted that in at least one case the CIA had helped a former officer write his book, and the book contained numerous references to training.
Paul responded, "The Agency's relationship with an author is that the PRB reviews material written by the author, nothing else."
"That's not the case with (the book in question]. It was written as a covert action project by the Agency. I know it was."
Paul continued, "The Agency's relationship with an author....'
I then cited facts relating to the writing of that book.
Paul retorted, "The Agency's relationship with an author. . . ."
Schilling recommended that I consider an appeal to the deputy director of the CIA, Admiral Bobby Inman.
That weekend I called Paul at home and advised him that Executive Order 12065 on classification, Section 1-607, reads: "Classification may not be restored to a document already declassified and released to the public under this order or prior orders." Paul said, "Oh, we're operating under a new order." What Paul was referring to was a draft executive order then being proposed by the Reagan Administration. That order, only later put into effect, allows officials to reclassify information previously declassified and disclosed if it is determined in writing "that the information requires protection in the interest of national security and if the information may be reasonably recovered." The manuscript obviously could not be "reasonably recovered,” since I had sent copies to my publisher, my editor, and numerous others.
Paul quickly realized he had jumped the gun on the new executive order and shifted instead to the position that Agency officials had again and again made mistakes in declassifying information in my original manuscript and in other books.
After consultation with Mark Lynch, I prepared and submitted my 35-page appeal on February 19, 1982, noting that many of the deleted items had been approved in the first manuscript, had appeared in the approved writings of other proAgency officers, or were available in numerous other publications. On March 12, 1982, I received a letter from the general counsel's office saying, "The DDCI [deputy director of central intelligence) has reversed the board with respect to all... passages contested in the appeal," except that, "the DDCI has upheld the board's decision to delete five sentences... unless Mr. McGehee can show the Agency has previously cleared such information."
I immediately scanned four approved books and found 24 references to equivalent or identical material as contained in the five sentences. I sent these references to the general counsel. The PRB acted quickly and, rather embarrassed, acknowledged that my five sentences were not classified.
I thought, well, now I have been vindicated and my problems are over. But this was not to be. On March 23, I received another letter informing me that chapter two was 30 sensitive that it was impossible to identify specific items and the PRB had rejected the entire chapter. I had had enough and contacted George Lardner, Jr., a journalist with The Washington Post. He wrote a long article entitled "CIA Veteran Decries Effort to Reclassify Material for His Book." This public embarrassment forced the Agency to reconsider its actions. On April 29, I received a registered letter offering me the services of Bob my old antagonist to work