Yuri Ivanovich







INT: Right. Let's just go back on that point you were just making there as well. Can you tell more about the lessons within the CIA that were learnt by the operation in 1948 in Italy, and its success? What was the conclusion that was drawn by the CIA?

MW: Well, as I say, we deemed it a success. We learned a lot of things, how difficult it was - I mean, the idea of merely using... a CIA operative using his trade craft to transfer large sums of money to a recipient. It wasn't just that: it was the training of the recipient, and the volatile situation in the country. I mean, Togliatti was speaking every other day; De Gasperi was speaking... I mean, the whole country was taken over by this particular thing. I mean, the crowds in the Piazza del Popolo, when Mussolini spoke back in '40-'41, were huge, but they were nothing like... I mean, the fervour in Italy ... "Are we going to go Communist, or are we going to be a democratic country?" And I must say it was very, very exciting. And I was so fortunate in my career that I had written my Master's thesis on an Italian problem. I did speak French, and my Italian was fairly good, but they said, "You're going to the Italian branch," which eventually I headed for a long period, many years late. But how lucky I was to be in an area, be assigned in this bureaucracy of CIA in an area that had a truly dramatic and serious problem, and we were satisfied that we licked it and that we won. And so that was very gratifying, and all of my colleagues were of the feeling... And I think CIA has changed a great deal; there isn't that fervour anymore, because of a lot of vicious criti, of virtually... people like Philip Agee, who defected from the CIA and wanted to tell all - this hurt us badly; and the recent terrible Aldridge Ames case and others - that I think that it's going to be very hard for director Deutsch to restore morale, given all of those problems. We never thought that there would be a problem of morale. I mean, we were euphoric: "We've won this one, and we'll win others." And we didn't win them all, but... well, it was a great life, and I loved it. I'm glad that... My Senator said, "If you go into the State Department, you're a nut." My Senator was dead wrong: the State Department is a very noble group, and they're not people who merely push cookies and wear striped pants. On the contrary: they gave me the greatest co-operation, ambassadors and minister counsellors, and I was always frank and open with them. It was a good relationship. And I can't speak for it now.

INT: I just want to go back to Marshall's attitude to all this. We didn't quite talk about that earlier. What was Marshall's attitude towards the covert operation in early 1948?

MW: I think Marshall, in his discussions with his three colleagues and with the Policy Planning head, George Kennan - the conclusion was, you know, "Just talking to high-powered people and doing classic intelligence and getting reports of what's going on, isn't enough. We've got to do something, and it borders on the dramatic, and it means that legally we're going to have to resolve this problem before we do." And Marshall made it very clear. When his colleagues - that is, Forestal and Dulles and the Secretary of War, Robert Patterson - said, "Well, you know, General, you're the one that really brought us together, and you have the feelings on this - it must be in your area, the operation," he said, "Absolutely not. I'm Secretary of State. The Secretary of State, and the whole State Department, does not involve itself in clandestine activity. And the idea of having to go into the covert field in financing political parties is out. But I want you to know that I hold this very dear, and I want to be advised of how the operation is going. But I personally - no, and my officers in the State Department - no." And that was his feeling. Remarkable man.

INT: And how did he see this operation against the other work that the Marshall Plan was doing, for instance?

MW: Well, it's very hard to contrast. The Marshall Plan effort, as I knew it in Rome, was remarkable. It was tremendous, because the big industrialists that had kowtowed to [Devittorio] and the Communists and the Communist labour unions, all of a sudden it was a breath of air. I mean, well-known industrialists - many came from San Francisco, because Mr Zellerbach was a San Franciscan, and he brought people that he trusted, and Rome was full of these people, but they were brilliant. But General Marshall was so proud... his great speech at Harvard University, announcing the Marshall Plan, a plan that was altruistic, it was marvellous: we were helping rebuild Italy, Germany, what have you; but the important thing - and Marshall knew this - it was completely in America's interest, our national security interest, to do it. Fine that it helped them, but damn it, we had to do it in our own interest. And that was Marshall's feeling. But as Secretary of State, and a great scholar on the American Constitution and what have you, he was not going to have it under him in the Department of State. This covert action operation was to be, and the obvious man to do it was Admiral Hillenkoetter, who very shortly after that was replaced by the great General Bedell Smith, and then Allen Dulles and what have you, and professional intelligence operators, with few exceptions - we had some directors who were not so skilled in intelligence, but... politics often moved in... but we had some very great directors, too. And Marshall knew that if Admiral Hillenkoetter is the guy in charge of intelligence, then it better be in his office that it's run from. "But I want to know, I want to know how it's going." In other words, "We could well back out, I guess. You know, we have to see how things go on this thing."

INT: And was it the case that in Italy, Marshall Aid was only given to companies that agreed not to employ Communists?

MW: I don't think that particular factor came up under the executives of the Marshall Plan for Italy. I knew some of them. I'm a San Franciscan myself, and I knew some of them. But I think that when Clare Booth Luce, who was a very dynamic person ... incidentally, she replaced one of the greatest ambassadors in history: Ellsworth Bunker; he had just gotten into Italy and he was just doing a fabulous job, but Eisenhower had a problem: he had Clare Booth Luce and he had to place her, and her love for Italy was tremendous, and Ellsworth Bunker went off to Argentina, and... You know, personally, I was in the Embassy at that time, and it was a solar plexus blow. I had never met Mrs Luce, but I became enamoured of her dynamism. When she learned that certain firms who were benefiting from the Marshall Plan were still dealing with Communist labour unions and were involved in this particular thing of pay-offs to the Communist Party for trade deals, she threatened to just chuck 'em out. I don't know. I can't go into detail in that. But I would say, one thing that was very important in the success of this whole operation - and I speak also beyond April of 1948 - the United States in the Embassy in Rome had the most brilliant labour attaches, men that really knew labour and were in a position to know what [Devittorio], the Communist thing, was doing. 'Cause, you know, with the WFTU, the World Federation of Trade Unions, able to freely move into 44 nations and 14 colonies as the only labour union to settle labour disputes - and they always did it on the Communist side - it was important... the United States... CIA... that young CIA should not get 100%, by any means, credit for the success of the overall operation in Italy, because labour, including Walter Ruther himself, head of the CIO, who left the WFTU when he realised that he'd been taken; and George Meeny, head of the AF of L, American Federation of Labour, who refused to go to the WFT - these men were stalwart behind American policy of "Italy must remain democratic. And if labour is vitally important, then we're on that side." Mr Ruther and Mr Meeny never talked about their... Mr Meeny would... it's too bad he wasn't ever director of Central Intelligence; this guy was the greatest operator in the world. When they accosted George Meeny and said, "We understand you're giving a lot of money to these free labour unions that are created" - "I don't know what you're talking about," flatly denying everything. He was absolutely marvellous; great, great. But there was co-operation from all sides. The National Students' Association - we had to cop out of that; it got too dicey. But look at Radio Free Europe, look at Radio Liberty: the things that were done there had a tremendous impact on the salvation of democracy in Italy. But I would say that initial three to four months that we had was very, very important.