Yuri Ivanovich Sum,
INT: Looking at those end months, the final months of 1947, can you describe the debate within the CIA about whether or not to use covert operations in Italy?
MW: Yes. Well, of course, in the CIA in 1946-1947, when CIG was created, the mission was collecting intelligence, secret intelligence, through clandestine means, by recruiting agents abroad. That was number one priority. Also, the CIA had to conduct counter-intelligence, simply for protection alone, but it was a very important function. Beyond that, CIA... we in CIA had studied covert action operations. The oldest document I know of goes back to 1639, when the French were running a covert operation through Poland into Transylvania, and the documents are just fascinating. But really, the United States was an infant as far as that kind of operation went. Only Pearl Harbour really alerted us to classic intelligence, that we had to get on the ball. And the idea of covert action, I know fascinated, particularly in '46 and '47, when the Italy crisis grew; young CIA people said, "Well, we've got to have approval to help these parties, to save them, and we have to do it secretly because if the Communists become aware of it, it becomes a scandal in the Chamber of Deputies." And we used to discuss those things at great length. But we realised there was no charter. Admiral Hillenkoetter, the head of what became CIA, simply didn't have it. But it was the great General Marshall who was aware of ththings, and said, "We've got to somehow break through." And one of the first things he did was to call his closest advisers; one was the Secretary oWar, Robert Patterson; another was Allen Dulles, who was a lawyer in New York, completely out of the government but with a dramatic background of contacts with the Nazis and the Italian fascists, driving towards peace and penetration of those enemies; and the other one was James Forestal, a very hard-driven, remarkable man, who was an investment banker in New York, completely out of the government. And these four men, together with the voice of George Kennan, sitting in the Policy Planning staff - in other words, Kennan's boss was Marshall - and this group of men sat down and "What can we do?" Here Dulles's friends are writing letters to impor... He knew... Dulles knew all the important Italians, and he could write letters off to industrialists, bankers, politicians of high level that he knew from his work in Berne, and that was important. But we had to do something more. We had... really what the CIA needed was authority to develop a programme of covert action which could confront and meet the everlasting and indefinite expansionism of the Soviet Union, and that expansionism beyond the borders of the Iron Country, beyond the line from Stettin on the Baltic to Trieste on the Adriatic - the prime country of strategic importance to the West was Italy, and it was clear that the focus was going on Italy. In labour, in veterans, in student groups, in women's organisations - they dominated all of these particular sectors, and it certainly was alarming. The run-of-the-mill operative in the CIG-slash-CIA was hopeful that we could get into that kind of operation. I don't think anybody dreamed that when Mr William Casey became director, there would be 60 going covert action operations. The very first one was this Italian operation. It was very large, it was expensive. I think only the U-2 operation, which was one of the great, covert action operations of all time, which was very successful for its... a certain period, and then it blew... but the Italian operation was expensive, it was large, it was well handled; the secrets were kept at the critical time; and it was successful. But I'm going a little beyond the atmosphere, but the atmosphere... My colleagues in CIA, in 1946-47, when I was involved, were gung ho. We had been in the war, we didn't question authority - "Should we do it this way, should we not?" - we definitely knew that the Soviet empire was, as Reagan said, the Evil Empire, and that was it. And when we were stationed abroad, before or after the elections of '48, we kn
INT: That's absolutely fascinating. Very interesting to hear you say that. And can you just tell me the story about Larry Huston and the charter; and was there actually authority for the covert operation?
MW: Yes. George Marshall really was the man who led this group of distinguished Americans who were fighting for a way that we could influence these elections, so we could be sure that the Communists didn't win, and that was all-important. I think all four of those men, including the Secretary of State George Marhsall... that we had to do something rather different, something that American intelligence has never done, and that is that we had to help those parties directly, not only in finances but in advice, and it was most important. De Gasperi was an ou... he was like Konrad Adenauer, a man that was rebuilding a destroyed country and keeping it democratic, and he was a giant. And so I think there was an appeal, that "we can do this in Italy if there's a De Gasperi". If the Communists... if the Christian Democratic Party was divided from the extreme right, ultra-conservative, almost monarchist, or some even neo-fascist tendencies, to the extreme left, that was almost like the Socialist Party, then we'd have problems. But we had one giant, and we had Saragat, who was the social democrat. These were trusted men, if we were going to go in. Then it was the question that Hillenkoetter, as head of our only intelligence agency working abroad... "Do I have the authority to pay money to the Christian Democrats and three secular parties? Suppose..." You know, he raised the question. Lawrence Huston who unfortunately died just a few months ago, and was a giant in CIA, studied all of the documents that set up CIG and then CIA, that expanded into psychological warfare to an extent, and propaganda and so forth - Lawrence Huston said, "Admiral, the language is not precise enough. You do not have the authority." And this was very distressing, and I'm sure that the four gentlemen... the other three gentlemen that were working with Marshall, were disappointed. But actually, Larry Huston went back to the drawing board and came up with the solution that if the president of the National Security Council... the head of the National Security Council is the President of the United States, and if he specifically directs the CIA, under Hillenkoetter, to carry out operations to help democratic parties; and if the Congress that was putting... if the Congress gives the money to support such a thing, then the authority is there. And that was the green light; and I believe it was in November of 1947. We very hastily moved to support the Christian Democrats, and our contact man, of course, was Alcide De Gasperi, this giant of the Christian Democratic Party. And it's a fascinating thing what he did. He said, "I'm grateful for the fact you're doing it. It may save our lives, it may save Italy. But I want you to support not only my party, which is a clerical party - we come... we're close to the Vatican - but you must support Mr Saragat and his Social Democrats, and the Republicans of Mr Pacciardi, and the Liberal Party." And it was a wonderful thing, because the two largest parties in Italy, by far, were the Christian Democrats and the Communists; they were the big parties. The other... you know, the neo-fascists were out of the picture then; the monarchists were dead; thevote had been taken that Victor Emmanuel would not... Umberto would not be back. And then there was the leftist Socialist Party, and they were the Communists. But the two big parties... "and if one is clerical and the other secular, the Communists are going to beat you to death on it, and the Pope is going to be embarrassed, and... it's going to be a loser." And he was smart to know that. I'm not saying that Americans, ... of course, who didn't have a Catholic President until John F. Kennedy, necessarily would have gone ahead with supporting only the clerical party. I don't know. But I know that De Gasperi insisted upon it, and let's give him credit for that idea.