WASHINGTON – Little-known documents now being made public detail illegal and scandalous activities by the CIA more than 30 years ago: wiretappings of journalists, kidnappings, warrantless searches and more.
The documents provide a glimpse of nearly 700 pages of materials that the agency plans to declassify next week. A six-page summary memo that was declassified in 2000 and released by The National Security Archive at George Washington University on Thursday outlines 18 activities by the CIA that "presented legal questions" and were discussed with President Ford in 1975.
— The "two-year physical confinement" in the mid-1960s of a Soviet defector.
— Assassination plots of foreign leaders, including Fidel Castro.
— CIA wiretapping in 1963 of two columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott, following a newspaper column in which national security information was disclosed. The wiretapping revealed calls from 12 senators and six representatives but did not indicate the source of the leak.
— The "personal surveillances" in 1972 of muckraking columnist Jack Anderson and staff members, including Les Whitten and Brit Hume, now FOX News' Washington, D.C. managing editor and anchor of "Special Report with Brit Hume." The surveillance involved watching the targets but no wiretapping. The memo said it followed a series of "tilt toward Pakistan" stories by Anderson.
— The personal surveillance of Washington Post reporter Mike Getler over three months beginning in late 1971. No specific stories are mentioned in the memo.
— CIA screening programs, beginning in the early 1950s and lasting until 1973, in which mail coming into the United States was reviewed and "in some cases opened" from the Soviet Union and China.
Much of the decades-old activities have been known for years. But Tom Blanton, head of the National Security Archive, said the 1975 summary memo prepared by Justice Department lawyers had never been publicly released. It sheds light on meetings in the top echelon of government that were little known by the public, he said.
CIA Director Michael Hayden on Thursday called the documents being released next week unflattering, but he added that "it is CIA's history."
"The documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency," Hayden told a conference of historians.
Blanton pointed to more recent concerns, such as post-Sept. 11 programs that included government wiretapping without warrants. "The resonance with today's controversies is just uncanny," he said.
The long-secret documents being released next week were compiled at the direction of then-CIA Director James Schlesinger in 1973. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, he directed senior CIA officials to report immediately on any current or past agency matters that might fall outside the authority of the agency.
A separate memo, also dated 1975 and made public by the National Security Archive, discusses the briefing given to Ford detailing abuses by the spy agency. Then-CIA director William Colby tells the president that the CIA "has done some things it shouldn't have."
Among the activities discussed was the mail program in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Of the airmail received from the Soviet Union, he said, "we have four (letters) to Jane Fonda."