Terrorism / CIA

Syrokomsky, Vitaly, ed. International Terrorism and the CIA: Documents, Eyewitness Reports, Facts. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1983. 264 pages.

This is a broad-ranging collection of essays by Soviet journalists Vitaly Syrokomsky, Boris Svetov, Oleg Tarin, Igor Timofeyev, Boris Asoyan, and Lolliy Zamoysky. It's their answer to efforts that were underway at the time in conservative U.S. circles, which tried to portray terrorism as Soviet-sponsored. By using mostly U.S. publications, the authors make the case that the CIA has its own sordid history of sponsoring terrorism.

Most of the U.S. sources are books already in NameBase, but the Soviets usually manage to come up with the odd CIA name that wasn't mentioned in the U.S. literature, as well as other information that contributes to the overall historical perspective. In this volume, the descriptions of 20 assassination attempts against Castro (not the mere handful described in U.S. sources), and the 32-page history of CIA involvement against African liberation movements, are good examples. Sometimes Soviet journalism seems overdrawn and hysterical compared to those sober reports from U.S. think tanks, but this might simply mean that Soviet propaganda techniques needed refinement. With the collapse of Soviet empire, books like this won't be appearing anymore. In any case, the final judgment should rest on the weight of the evidence and the number of incidents that can be cited by either side.


Thomas, Gordon. Journey Into Madness: The True Story of Secret CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse. New York: Bantam Books, 1990. 386 pages.

In January 1973, a mind-control and assassination-poison chemist by the name of Dr. Sidney Gottlieb resigned from the CIA, but before he did he went to director Richard Helms and suggested that his files on CIA drug-testing in the 1950s and early 1960s be destroyed. Helms thought this was a good idea and also destroyed some of his own files. But Gottlieb missed some 150 boxes buried in the CIA archives, which has provided material for writers, dramatists, and assassination researchers ever since.

British writer Gordon Thomas weaves MK-ULTRA (the CIA's name for its drug research program) in and out of this somewhat disjointed account. Canadian psychiatrist Donald Ewen Cameron (who destroyed patients with electroshock and drugs and justified it by accepting CIA money), is featured along with such diverse characters as Allen Dulles and his wife Clover, William Casey, and Beirut station chief William Buckley (kidnapped in 1984 and subjected to medical torture by Dr. Aziz al-Abub).

Thomas weaves all this together the way a good screenwriter would. While he doesn't appear to have shirked on his investigative efforts, we would be more enthusiastic over this book if he had provided more footnotes and taken fewer dramatic liberties.


Willan, Philip. Puppetmasters: The Political Use of Terrorism in Italy. London: Constable and Company, 1991. 375 pages.

Italian politics since Mussolini consists of intrigues piled on top of intrigues, mixed together with Freemasonry, the Vatican, the Italian secret services plotting coups with right-wing generals, the Mafia, arms caches planted by NATO's Operation Gladio, and bribery and corruption so massive that occasionally it threatens the collapse of their banking system. And this is only what you read in the papers.

In this book Philip Willan peels back another layer of the onion and looks at the "strategy of tension." This technique -- used by Licio Gelli's secret P2 lodge in collaboration with right-wing spooks and generals -- sponsored ostensible left-wing terrorism in an effort to undercut the electoral position of the Italian Communist Party, or perhaps to pave the way for a coup. Willan looks closely at the Red Brigades, best known for the kidnap and murder of Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Here and elsewhere the author finds significant U.S. connections, because Italy was a linchpin in NATO's cold war strategy and a Communist electoral victory would have been unacceptable to the CIA and State Department. In 1948, for example, the CIA bought the Italian election in their first big covert action, and in 1970-1972, according to the Pike Committee, the U.S. was still pumping in money ($10 million) to influence Italian politics.


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