Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ghana and Covert Operations

Ghana became an independent country fifty years ago on March 6, 1957. Democracy Now dedicated a segment of the show to Ghanaian independence. Much of the segment was an interview with Gamal Nkrumah, son of Ghana's independence leader and first president, Kwame Nkrumah.

AMY GOODMAN: Gamal Nkrumah, how do you know that the CIA was behind the coup in Ghana?

GAMAL NKRUMAH: Well, it is no secret that George Bush, the father, was behind that particular project to topple Kwame Nkrumah. And surely enough, he was rewarded after the coup by being made director of the CIA, and his political career took off after that day. And the papers and documents of the time that were embargoed are now -- anybody can have access to those papers in Washington in the Library of Congress and read. Any serious student of history who’s interested in this particular episode would find ample evidence in those documents in Washington. It's available for all today.
I was interested to know if there were, available on the internet, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act which implicated Papa Bush "41" in the CIA-assisted overthrow of Ghana's democracy, or if these documents had been "lost" or scrubbed during the rise to power of the monkey boy Bush.

I didn't find any direct evidence of it but some mostly undocumented mention of CIA involvement in sites such as wikipedia. This, however is an interesting article:

It explains Covert Operations from an academic, "value-free" point of view. I can't help but think it was written by a present or former spook, since it would be consistent with the psy ops it describes to control information in cyberspace, in this case by writing such an authoritative value-free article that it won't be easily supplanted a populist-leaning perspective and version of events.
Unlike many concepts in foreign affairs, the secret, sub rosa practice of covert operations has a formal definition officially approved by the president of the United States and embodied in a National Security Council (NSC) directive. According to NSC Directive 10/2, approved on 18 June 1948, a covert operation is an activity sponsored by the United States government against foreign states or groups that is so planned and executed that U.S. responsibility for it is not evident to an unauthorized person and that, if uncovered, the government can plausibly deny responsibility for the action. The operation could be unilateral, in support of a foreign state or group, and have a state or nonstate target—the key aspect is that the activity remain secret. Although not provided for in Directive 10/2, covert operations also can be conducted unilaterally or in conjunction with other friendly, or even adversary, intelligence services in pursuit of common objectives and goals.
It's a well-written definition including plausible deniability, and the key concept of in conjunction with friendly (UK) or even adversary (Iran-Contra etc.) intelligence service.
Beneath the formal definition, the kinds of activity involved in covert operations fall into a number of broad categories. Chief among these are political action, paramilitary activity, psychological warfare, and economic warfare. The evolution of technology suggests strongly that operational incentives in intelligence work will shortly add a new broad category of cyberaction or computer warfare to the traditional covert action menu. A large-scale covert operation usually has components that involve many or all of these categories.
OK, the four basic types. This is like attending CIA 101 at Langford. The bolds are mine, by the way. Go on.
In political action the object is to influence the internal situation in a foreign country by manipulating local political conditions. Intervention in an election is at the high end of the scale in political action, and might involve financial support for candidates, media advice, technical support for public relations, get-out-the-vote or political organizing efforts, legal expertise, advertising campaigns, assistance with poll-watching, and other means of direct action. … Mechanisms for creating and deepening opinions are of key importance in covert political action, which often therefore involves propaganda. Some of the earliest Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) covert operations were political actions to influence elections. …
The CIA poured money into conservative groups like the JiMinTou in Japan after the war, and I am sure there were dozens of similar cases worldwide where American money gave conservatives a huge electoral advantage. Media advice through polling and other techniques help Latin American rightists fine-tune their message to punch the right buttons to sound acceptable. Technical support could mean getting all the equipment you need, legal expertise brings James Baker to mind, advertising is the forte of Karl Rove. Hey, aren't all of these applied domestically, for the control of the American people? Naturally, if you practice this overseas for a few years, you will logically come to use it at home. A few paragraphs later:
In paramilitary operations the intelligence service (or military force) conducts activities similar to those of constituted military units. Again the target may be a nation or a nonstate actor, but the currency of influence will be force. An operation may involve unconventional warfare, such as commando raids, training, advice, equipment, or command of irregular forces; it may also include support of guerrilla activities, creation of secret networks to oppose an adversary even if a country falls, the active propagation of a coup d'état, collaboration with or reinforcement of local security forces (such as the creation of a security detachment to protect a foreign head of state), and other functions. A number of U.S. paramilitary initiatives during the Cold War period involved cooperation with third country intelligence or military services.
The toolbox is getting a heavier set of power tools with the paramilitary paragraph. Coup d'etat is such a successful and well-known instrument that has made America so popular in Iran, Latin America, and elsewhere. They even gave some thought to using it in Japan. Castro has been hard to get, but the Kennedys and civil rights leaders would have been sitting ducks. Irregular forces are death squads, contras, cult groups, neofascists, and terrorists. These people are also employed to run the CIA-affiliated private prisons worldwide in the basements of homes in wealthy neighborhoods! See this Washington Post article. Need I mention the support of Osama bin Laden? Failures as well as successes for the power-mad. Next, we get to the really good stuff, psy ops!
In psychological warfare the object is to mold opinion in the service of other activities, such as diplomacy, political action, paramilitary operations, or open warfare. Activities in psychological warfare run the gamut of the ways in which people absorb information. Traditionally, this has meant leaflets, newspapers, magazines, books, radio, and television, all of which have to be harnessed to convey the propaganda message appropriate to the operation. In the twenty-first century, techniques will expand to cover electronic communication by computer and the Internet as well, and intelligence services can create leaflets, finance books, journals, or television/radio programs. They may employ officers to work as journalists, recruit agents of influence, operate media outlets, plant certain stories or information in places it may come to public attention, or seek to deny and/or discredit information that is public knowledge. A distinction is made in psychological warfare regarding whether the target audience is permitted to be aware of the originator of the material they are receiving. In all such propaganda efforts, "black" operations denote those in which the audience is to be kept ignorant of the source; "white" efforts are those in which the originator openly acknowledges himself; and "gray" operations are those in which the source is partly but not fully acknowledged. In psychological warfare theory the attribution of a claim or piece of information included in a psychological warfare campaign has a bearing on the receptiveness of the audience, so that planners consider questions of black versus white carefully.
CNN would be black, Fox would be white or gray in this description. The New York Times and Washington Times, Judy Miller, Bob Woodward, Rush Limbaugh and others could fit the bill. This category comes very close to "political" action earlier in the description. Media control is key. The Chinese are more advanced in managing the internet in a more totalitarian manner. The article goes on and many paragraphs later gets into Europe.
One of the first major U.S. covert operations was intervention in Italian politics in 1947–1948 to prevent an electoral victory by the Italian communist party. This political action started a lengthy involvement in Italy, which continued through at least the 1970s; it also set the standard for CIA political action programs. A similar intervention in France was designed to weaken the French communist party, while actions on the propaganda/psychological warfare front included funding journals and newspapers (the CIA would have a controlling interest in the Rome Daily American, for example), the Congress for Cultural Freedom, the World Assembly of Youth, the "gray" broadcast station Radio Free Europe, and the "black" (at least initially) station Radio Liberty. Both the CIA and OPC began programs to furnish financial support to publications and books deemed suitable for advancing the anticommunist cause, and money was laundered through the Marshall Plan and the Ford Foundation among others. Much of this knowledge emerged in a spate of revelations in 1967, forcing President Lyndon B. Johnson to appoint a special commission under deputy attorney general Nicolas de B. Katzenbach to investigate these political actions. One lesson that would be repeatedly relearned is that covert operations are fraught with political consequence for the initiator as well as the target.

Paramilitary operations got under way in collaboration with the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). The Americans made a start in 1950–1952 by joining in an attempt to overthrow the communist government of Albania. The OPC, by this time, had lost its institutional independence and become part of the Directorate of Plans (DDP) within the CIA (in another 1952 reorganization the OPC and the directorate's other major unit, the espionage-centered Office of Special Operations, would be entirely merged) so that the actor on the American side of these operations was officially CIA. The CIA and SIS were allied in paramilitary operations into Russia (now Ukraine and Belarus), Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Much of the burden in those operations was carried by the SIS, but in Poland, where there would be another combined paramilitary-political action, the CIA carried the burden. Every one of these operations was known to the adversary and had been penetrated by means of the Russians placing spies of their own within the CIA–SIS apparatus. All the operations failed by 1953. (However, it should be noted that anticommunist Russians continued efforts to make some kind of inroad into the USSR until at least the late 1950s.) The CIA moved on to greener pastures. The lesson here would be that covert operations against the communist enemy—the mandated target when the CIA created its covert operations program—were too difficult to carry out.

In general, operations proved most successful where the CIA had freedom of movement and good access, which in this period meant western Europe. A particular concern was the creation of stay-behind networks that would function just like the World War II resistance had in the event the Russians overran western Europe in a future war. Such nets were successfully created in virtually every western European country from Italy to Norway, including neutrals such as Sweden and even nations under military occupation like Austria. In some countries the secret networks were tied in to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) defense planning. In all of them the conservative political bent of adherents to the groups gave the CIA certain political contacts. Secrecy lasted for several decades, until a rash of detailed revelations during the early 1980s led to controversy, with parliamentary inquiries in more than one European country and attendant embarrassment for the United States. The lesson here contradicts an aphorism often heard from intelligence officers, that successes remain secret while only failures become known to the public. More accurately, every covert operation above a certain size will ultimately become known.
Here they basically admit the embarrassing public knowledge that NATO worked at funding and arming neo-fascist paramilitaries, cult groups, right-wing terrorists, and other secret societies in Europe to serve as "stay-behind armies" in case the Warsaw Pact ever overran the area. Gladio is the main word that is oddly never mentioned.
It would be during the early 1950s that the CIA's Directorate of Plans achieved its classic covert victories. One came in Iran in 1953 in conjunction with SIS, where the Americans and British induced an unusual coup in which a constitutional monarch overthrew the government of his own country. Here the shah of Iran, relying upon popular support of the CIA, had mobilized and ousted a left-wing populist cabinet to create a virtual military dictatorship. In another victory in 1954, the CIA overthrew the elected Labor Party (socialist to communist ideologically) government of Guatemala, through a combination of psychological warfare, paramilitary action by a small force, and diplomatic pressure. Again the successor government was a military dictatorship.

The shah of Iran managed to hold on to power through the late 1970s by a combination of economic modernization and political repression, but the suppression of moderate political forces in his country forced opposition to align with a fundamentalist religious movement that ultimately toppled the shah in a 1979 revolution. At that time the U.S. embassy would be taken over, and American diplomats (and the officers of the CIA station) held hostage for 444 days, with the United States painted as the "Great Satan" to the Iranian public. In the years since the Iranian revolution, the United States was unable to restore a balanced relationship with Iran. Worse, the Iranians supported terrorist groups in the Middle East through the 1980s, which significantly harmed American interests and took lives, hostages, and made other depredations in a succession of incidents.

In Guatemala the military government installed by the covert operation replaced a democratic tradition and handed power to other military regimes or authoritarian oligarchies that maintained authority by high security. Beginning in 1968 the military inaugurated a war against the peasantry that endured into the late 1990s, leaving more than half the population of the country displaced internally and with a death toll in excess of 60,000.

A lesson here is that covert operations successes do not always lead to achievements to be proud of, possibly due to the moral, political, and empirical compromises necessary in pursuit of the short-term action. In addition, long-term effects can be more detrimental to U.S. interests than the improvements gained by the original success.
The overthrow of democracy in Iran and Guatemala are pointed to as classic successes? That, and the "lessons learned" at the end of each paragraph, which are always what the perpetrators themselves learned, makes this really appear to be text generated as some kind of required reading for US spooks. How can the overthrow of Iranian democracy resulting first in an oppressor, torture-based regime, and then in a theocratic terrorist-supporting government be the most classic example of the success of American covert intervention?

The article has sections dedicated to the evolution of covert activities under various presidents, congresses, and changes. For Johnson:
The Johnson administration ended the covert operation against Cuba and phased out CIA action in the Congo. However, it encouraged a coup in Ghana and brought major intelligence resources to bear in Bolivia against Che Guevara, a hero of the Cuban revolution. In Chile the Johnson administration carried out a political action during the 1964 elections to prevent any victory by Chilean socialists. In Asia, the Johnson-era CIA terminated the Tibetan paramilitary operation, attempted a political action in Indonesia (1965–1966), and carried out full-scale secret wars in Laos and South Vietnam. Johnson also continued CIA funding for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty's "gray" psychological warfare campaign.
That is the only mention of Ghana in that document. An interesting article nonetheless.
Another article sourced from with a less spook-y writing style was the one I found here:
During the Cold War, the primary target of the CIA was, of course, the Soviet Union. Despite the closed nature of Soviet society and the size and intensity of the KGB's counterintelligence operation, the CIA had a number of notable successes. The most significant was Colonel Oleg Penkovskiy, a Soviet military intelligence (GRU) officer. In 1961 and 1962, Penkovskiy passed great quantities of material to the CIA and the British Secret Intelligence Service, including information on Soviet strategic capabilities and nuclear targeting policy. In addition, he provided a copy of the official Soviet medium-range ballistic missile manual, which was of crucial importance at the time of the Cuban missile crisis.

In subsequent years, the CIA penetrated the Soviet Foreign Ministry, Defense Ministry and General Staff, GRU, KGB, at least one military research facility, and probably several other Soviet organizations. Individuals providing data to the CIA included some stationed in the Soviet Union, some in Soviet consulates and embassies, and some assigned to the United Nations or other international organizations. CIA HUMINT operations successfully penetrated a number of other foreign governments during the last half of the twentieth century, including India, Israel, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Ghana.
No mention of Papa Bush being in on the (covert) action.

American tax dollars at work, making the world safe for theocracy. It's hard work.

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