Yuri Ivanovich







INT: Tell me how did you... how does the passing of black bags take place? I don't really understand what actually went on.

MW: It's pretty simple. I mean, you use clandestine trade craft which you have to train the recipient in. You know, cars have licences, and you park in certain places. And passing messages is easy, but passing black bags is not as easy. But we... I will credit to the CIA: CIG/CIA, in the period through 1947, were well trained in trade craft, and that we were able to do this. But whad to have the recipient well trained as well, and this did take quite an effort, and we did this in the early days. It probably became more sophisticated later, after the OPC element took charge. OPC, you know, took orders from the State Department, not from CIA initially. Then, OPC and OSO, my old p, were merged together, as they are now.

INT: But back in '48, then, did somebody just meet somebody in a quiet road and hand over a suitcase of dollars? How did that...?

MW: Exactly.

INT: Tell me more about that.

MW: (Laughs) Well, I think I can't go much beyond, other than that it was very important that the recipient was very, very cautious in the handling of the thing. But I think many things were devised. In other words, "Where does your wife go in the afternoon? Does she have a separate car that has a different licence?" Maybe that helps, maybe it doesn't; but you would devise arrangements and meetings, and you had to have telephone contact. You're dealing with very busy people who are in the Chamber of Deputies or in the Senate, and they're running around and everything, and they cannot change their schedule. So telephone calls have to be made, and that's a dangerous and tricky thing. And so there really had to be a plan, and that's the way that this was done. I... Maybe we were lucky that it didn't blow - I don't know - but it went satisfactorily. And as I say, at the time that Mr Colby came out later, and he was in charge of all covert operations and this continuing operation that we on the other side of the house had started... I'm sure it was... I know that it was more sophisticated, because I had, duty in Italy back in the Sixties and... it continued a long time, and it may still continue - I do not know. I'm... (Laughs) I'm retired and I'm out of the picture.

INT: But again, going back to 1948, I understand there's still some debate in Italy about this. So can you categorically state that you gave money to Christian Democrats?

MW: Oh, yes - I think it's all out now. The so-called "scandal sheets" have emphasised it. They'd never been able to produce photographs of an American officer of the CIA, under embassy cover, passing a bag to a well-known Christian Democrat or Social Democrat. It was one of those things. I mean, the Soviets were coming out of the Villa Abomelek, their tremendous compound in the city of Rome, and they were passing black bags to the Communists. That was going on in both directions. And... but every once in a while, ... in a yellow sheet, Espresso or Panorama or one of those magazines, they'll come up with a story of some renegade CIA operator like Philip Agee, who was a true traitor to the United States, in my personal opinion, and is still alive and is still pounding for stopping all covert operations and... abolishing the CIA, particularly its covert action operations.

INT: Did you support the civic committees at the time?

MW: Yes, we did.

INT: Can I just ask you to remember that my question is going to be taken out?

MW: Oh, I see.

INT: So we just need to know again what it is you're referring to. So perhaps I could just ask that again. Did you support the civic committees at the time?

MW: Yes, we did have liaison with the civic committees and we did support them. There are many examples actually of support to Catholic leaders that had problems and wanted help, particularly in the north of Italy, in the big industrial centres of Milan and Turin. And I must say that the men that I knew who were bishops or archbishops - it went to the top. The Archbishop of Milan I knew personally, and he needed something which was very important in the big election coming up, and when he later became the Pope. I mean, I don't think he ever talked about it. He's long gone now, but a most remarkable man. You know, the Church did not directly involve itself, but they realised that if they didn't win the critical elections, that they really wanted to contact the Americans for support, and they got it. Civic committees - yes, we helped.

INT: You were saying that the Soviets were putting in maybe up to eight million dollars a month in [that] crucial period. Do you have a sense of how much the Americans were putting in?

MW: (Sighs) Best estimates... I can say we didn't reach that figure quite, but it was a big operation, it was expensive. As I say, we only had four or five months up until the election itself, April 18, 1948, and we got rolling only at the end of '47. So I'd added up that we did not... because of the Soviets, ...with the Italian Communists did have other resources that they could use. We had the advantage of many noble Italian-Americans that were helping. But the Soviets, through labour, through the veterans' organisations, through youth and students - this goes on maybe a bit after, but... when the great youth conferences happened, whether it was Helsinki or Warsaw or Prague, the Soviets and the Soviet bloc sent hundreds of carefully instructed students. The Americans that got there, or the British or the French, they paid their own way. I mean, it was a laugher, those peace con... but we were able to brief them. So the United States got involved in directly supporting the NSA, the National Students' Association. That became a scandal, because certain academicians felt that's tampering; and they had a point. But, boy, I've interviewed so many of those young people that... Americans that went to those peace conferences, and they said, "My God, if the CIA hadn't briefed us on who... the bad actors were there, and were going to approach us and convince us we would have been feckless at that thing. But because you helped us, we..." I think that we really cut into one of the big areas that the Communists had control in.

INT: Coming back to April '48 again, can you remember where you were when you heard the election results, and what was your own feeling when the news came through of the Christian Democrat victory?

MW: Well, I was here in Washington at this time, with Italian Affairs, and it was... you know, it was the thing that we all worked on; we'd worked night and day on this particular thing. And for me personally, it was very exciting. And we didn't know at that time that we had carried out the first political action, covert political action programme in the history of American intelligence, that would be followed by many, many, many more, and that this would be copied in a way - and it was, not long after that, in Chile, where, for different reasons that are beyond the pale, it didn't work out well, but I guess we had some luck on our side, and I think it was a highly successful operation. But your question is the amount of money that was paid. The Soviets, through their deals and through their direct black bag-passing, exceeded the amounts that we spent from, say, November '47 until April 18 1948.