Cloak and Dagger
February 6, 1980 — The Daily Iowan

The Mossadegh Project | September 30, 2015      


The University of Iowa newspaper published this editorial about the Central Intelligence Agency at the peak of the Iranian revolution. The debate over the role of the CIA, the NSA and other spy agencies, along with the ethics of foreign intervention, is still ongoing in America all these decades later.

Wednesday, February 6, 1980

Cloaking the CIA

Capitalizing on growing uneasiness over the crises in Iran and Afghanistan the Carter administration, members of Congress and candidates for president are fomenting public demand for a new intelligence policy known loosely as “untying the hands of the CIA.” In his State of the Union message President Carter said: “We need to remove unwarranted restraints on our ability to collect intelligence and to tighten our controls on sensitive intelligence information.” [The full quote began: “While guaranteeing that abuses will not recur, we need to...”] Sen. Walter Huddleston, D-Ky., announced plans to introduce legislation which will provide better protection of agents’ identities and cut back the agency’s required reports to Congress and the public. Although Huddleston promises to include planks designed to curb CIA abuses, critics of the proposal fear that Congress may be in the mood to adopt a new CIA charter which will make it impossible for journalists and government officials to conduct legitimate, critical investigations of the agency’s operations.

Without drawing lines that clearly connect greater control over the CIA to the current international crises, Washington hopes to persuade the public to forget the agency’s past abuses in the interest of “national security.” Although the relationship between the “tied hands” of the CIA and the current problems in the Persian Gulf is not clearly documented, the connections between past CIA covert activities and present foreign relations problems cannot be disputed. The most dramatic example is Iran. In 1953, CIA intervention in Iran overthrew the legitimate Mossadegh government. [Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh] The CIA returned Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi to the Peacock Throne. For this reason and others the present revolutionary government in Iran holds the United States directly responsible for the succeeding 25 years of repressive government in that country. [Disingenuously]

The coup was hardly an isolated example of CIA intervention in the internal affairs of foreign countries. The agency was involved in the 1954 overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala, [Jacobo Arbenz] the 1967 overthrow of Papandreou in Greece, [Georgios Papandreou] the 1970 overthrow of Sihanouk in Cambodia, [Norodom Sinahouk] and the fall of Chile’s popularly elected Salvadore Allende. [Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973] The list goes on.

During the past decade many of the covert, illegal operations of the CIA have been uncovered by journalists, scholars and Congressional investigators. Although Americans are vaguely familiar with the worst of the excesses, the CIA’s past activities do not receive as much attention here as they receive in the countries where covert operations took place.

The major fallacy in the argument for more secrecy in CIA operations is that it assumes that if Congress and the American people don’t know what the CIA is doing, no one knows. That is rarely the case. The CIA’s Chilean operations in the early ‘70s were widely discussed in Latin America, long before the agency was forced to admit to Congress that it had poured $8 million dollars into the effort to bring down the Allende government.

The policy loosely called “untying the hands of the CIA” purports to free the agency for secret gathering of sensitive intelligence information overseas; however, our experience with the CIA suggests that when it is allowed complete freedom to hide its activities from Congress and the public it creates more national security problems than it resolves.

Staff Writer

ORIGINAL SIN: The 1953 Coup in Iran Clarified | by Arash Norouzi
ORIGINAL SIN: The 1953 Coup in Iran Clarified | by Arash Norouzi

Related links:

Human wrongs — Letter to The Daily Iowan, November 30, 1978

Letters about the Shah and Ayatollah Khomeini — Spartan Daily, November 20, 1979

Poet Allen Ginsberg on the CIA Coup in Iran, U.S. Intervention

MOSSADEGH t-shirts — “If I sit silently, I have sinned”

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