September 18 marked the US Central Intelligence Agency’s 70th birthday. To mark the occasion, here are four of the worst things the agency has done – at least, the worst the public knows about.
September 18 marked the 70th anniversary of then-President Harry S. Truman signing the National Security Act of 1947 into law, and with it the founding of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In theory, the CIA has a relatively modest purview — to gather, process, and analyze national security information from around the world. However, over the course of its seven-decade-long existence, the agency’s brief has frequently extended to violence, assassination, subversion, infiltration and coup d’etat, among assorted criminal skulduggery.
The CIA’s toxic legacy was not lost on Truman, who wrote a letter to the Washington Post in December 1963, calling for the Agency’s remit to be scaled back significantly.
“For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas,” Truman said.
To mark the CIA’s 70th birthday, here are four of the worst things the agency has done — at least, the worst the public knows about.
Ever since “Operation Ajax” — a 1953 joint effort mounted with British intelligence to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh — the CIA has repeatedly sought to oust governments unfavorable to US political and/or economic interests, in the process frequently installing oppressive and violent tyrants in power.
The full list of targeted countries is too extensive to document in detail, and there are moreover many instances of “revolutions” in which, while unproven, CIA involvement is suspected — such as the 2014 Maidan coup in Ukraine.
However, perhaps the most notorious CIA coup occurred in Chile, in September 1973. After the election of left-wing reformist Salvador Allende as president in 1970, the agency began plotting his removal at the behest of then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.The agency reached out to Chilean General Augusto Pinochet, who without much persuasion agreed to lead the effort on the ground, and lead the country thereafter. On September 11, 1973, the coup was launched, and Allende was killed.
Over the course of Pinochet’s 26-year reign, the military dictator killed between 30,000-50,000 civilians and plunged the country into a severe economic crisis.
US federal courts have consistently blocked criminal and civil lawsuits launched against Kissinger and the CIA.