Daniel Schorr, 1917-2010

Christian Science Monitor story on Schorr’s career

Schorr was a key figure in the Congressional investigation into CIA abuses that began in 1975. It began when Gerald Ford was engaged in an off-the-record discussion with Arthur Sulzberger and other big shots at the New York Times and let it slip that the U.S. had been involved in conspiracies to assassinate heads of state. One of the reporters immediately asked “Domestically?” to which Ford replied, “Foreign!” This was supposed to be an off-the-record talk, as noted, but the story was leaked to Schorr, who was at CBS News at that time. (Schorr had been recruited by the great Edward R. Murrow in 1953.)

“Ever since the investigation of C.I.A. plots began, there has been a growing question of whether United States activities might in some way be connection with the shooting of President Kennedy.”

“Ford Seeks Curb on Data on Plots”, New York Times, 3 November 1975

Schorr’s report led directly to the Pike Report and the Church Committee, whose documents showed that the CIA had been implicated in the assassination of such figures as Patrice Lumumba and others. When Frank Church started getting too hot to handle, Ford intervened and appointed his Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, to head up an “independent” investigation. The Rockefeller Commission included such luminaries as Operation Northwoods author Lyman Lemnitzer and former Joe McCarthy supporter Ronald Reagan, and it produced a report that naturally whitewashed a great deal of this activity. (Besides the obvious, journalist Seymour Hersh had already shown during Rocky’s confirmation hearings that he had made large “donations” to people in the government’s sphere of influence, such as  Henry Kissinger.) However, the report was forced to disclose that the CIA had forced LSD trials on U.S. citizens, done aerial spraying over San Francisco, run a private bordello (I have some of the receipts, which are hilarious), and started the MK-ULTRA project to attempt mind control for the purpose of creating agents for targeted assassination.

A good example of the conflict created by this tug of war is this telephone call between Senator Inouye (who would become the first head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, a post created by the Church Committee) and Henry Kissinger:

Henry Kissinger and Senator Inouye: 12 November 1975

I: Sorry I didn’t return your call earlier. I just found out about it.

K: That is alright. I am sorry this has turned into a test of manhood. I am not trying to keep anything from you. I am not going to let you have these documents. We are not trying to maintain that our aid is based on the Sinai agreement. I trust you and your associates but the way our classified information is being handled is getting to be a dangerous thing for the country. I can cope with it but my successors will suffer.  I have the highest regard for your committee, but my worry is how will I handle the other Committees. My Committee leaks more than yours. Some day come over for a drink and I will explain what worries me. I want you to know it has nothing to do with you and I will send you these documents as official documents.

I: OK. And I accept your invitation.

K: Any documents we give to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appear in the newspapers. We have a problem on how to conduct diplomacy when this happens and how to conduct matters with the Congress.

I: That is a problem.

K: We will talk about this but not on the telephone. You won this one and I will send the documents.

I: It is not a matter of winning.

K: OK.

(Oh, incidentally, while all this was going on, the head of the CIA was William Colby. Colby had been criticized internally for being too cooperative with the various committees and confirming too much of what the CIA had been doing. Colby was let go and replaced by…drumroll…George H.W. Bush. The same George H.W. Bush who allegedly had zero experience with the CIA, despite the fact that he now has a building named after him. Bush ended all cooperation.)

“From the outset I had been, of course, aware that many in the administration did not approve of my cooperative approach to the investigations, and I had felt myself increasingly isolated from the White House team as the year progressed. I had been criticized for not categorically denying Hersh’s story at the very beginning; I had been criticized for turning material on Helms over to the Department of Justice; I had been chided for being too forthcoming to the Rockefeller Commission; I had been scolded for not stonewalling at every Congressional hearing.” (443-444)

“But I would not and could not change my basic approach. I believed in the Constitution; I believed in the Congress’ constitutional right to investigate the intelligence community; and I believed that, as head of that community, I was required by the Constitution to cooperate with the Congress.” (444)

William Colby, Honorable Men (Simon & Schuster: NY 1978)

Note the difference in attitude. DCI Richard Helms had lied to Congress about CIA involvement in the Chilean coup of Salvador Allende and was proud of it. His CIA friends paid his ridiculous $2000 fine.

Although this has been disputed, it hardly seems possible to argue that Bush did not replace Colby in order to carry out a coverup.

“Then, on November 3, Church was approached by reporters outside of his Senate hearing room and asked by Daniel Schorr about the firing of Colby and his likely replacement by Bush. Church responded with a voice that was trembling with anger. “There is no question in my mind but that concealment is the new order of the day,” he said. “Hiding evil is the trademark of a totalitarian government.” Schorr said that he had never seen Church so upset.

Church’s former speechwriter Loch Johnson is quoted as saying:

“The nomination of George Bush to succeed Colby disturbed him and he wanted to wind up the speech by opposing the nomination…Church wanted me to stress  how Bush ‘might compromise the independence of the CIA – the agency could be politicized.’”

Webster G. Tarpley & Anton Chaitkin, George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography (ProgressivePress: 2004), 292.

The Times noted Bush’s background in the article describing the so-called “Halloween Massacre.”

“Mr. Bush is an Eastern elitist who has prospered in a Republican Party that has largely turned its back on such persons.  The son of Prescott Bush,a Republican Senator from Connecticut, he was educated at the Andover School and at Yale before heading for Texas to make his fortune in the oil business.

“He was twice defeated in attempts to win a seat in the United States Senate, but that did not prevent his appointment as chief American representative at the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee and United States representative in China.”

“Ford Discharges Schlesinger and Colby and Asks Kissinger to Give Up His Security Post,” New York Times, 3 November 1975

In February of 1976, a month after Bush was appointed, the House voted to suppress the report. Schorr obtained an advance copy and leaked it to the Village Voice, which published it. Schorr was suspended from CBS. (Paley had already tried to censor Schorr’s reporting on Watergate, which had landed the latter on the White House Enemies List.) He was also investigated by a House ethics committee, who eventually cleared him in a split vote.

Needless to say, Schorr left CBS.

One footnote: William Colby was found dead in May of 1996, after deciding to go on a canoeing trip, by himself, without a life jacket. It was apparently a sudden decision, as he also left the lights on in his weekend home, his dinner uneaten on the table, his radio on, and the front door unlocked.

Nominated as Director of Central Intelligence by President Richard M. Nixon in May 1973, Mr. Colby led the nation’s espionage services through two of their most turbulent years. On his watch, the Central Intelligence Agency came under fire as never before, accused by Congress and the press of a range of misbehavior that included spying on Americans and plotting to assassinate foreign leaders.

In many cases Mr. Colby chose, in effect, to plead guilty with an explanation. Much of what is now known of the C.I.A.’s history became public because he disclosed it. For his candor and cooperation with Congress, he was dismissed by President Gerald R. Ford in November 1975. A future President, George Bush, succeeded him in January 1976.

“Body of William Colby Is Found on Riverbank,” Tim Weiner, New York Times, 7 May 1996

Capitalism and the Public Good

There was a recent story that illustrates one of the many problems of the hard-right free-market capitalism strategies espoused not only by Thomas Friedman but seemingly the conventional wisdom of everyday Americans. Even in an era where the Gulf Oil spill, a direct result of these policies, is having genocidal effects on sea life, people still cling to the notion that the American capitalist society is best.

I don’t necessarily want to argue (at this moment) that it isn’t. In fact, let’s say all the things defenders of capitalism say about it are true. It stimulates innovation; it creates prosperity; it evens the playing field so that any person can succeed on their own terms and become rich if only they work hard enough. These things are not true, of course, (or rather they are true in a very limited sense) but let’s assume they are for a moment. Even given this, a totally unregulated capitalism (which is what free-marketeers and, incidentally, libertarians such as Ron Paul promote) has destructive effects on our society.

The story I want to discuss concerns the increasing lack of antivenom to certain types of poisonous snakes. What has happened is that the general lack of snakebites, and poisonous snakebites in particular, has made it unprofitable to produce antivenom:

Unfortunately, after Oct. 31 of this year, there may be no commercially available antivenom (antivenin) left. That’s the expiration date on existing vials of Micrurus fulvius, the only antivenom approved by the Food and Drug Administration for coral snake bites. Produced by Wyeth, now owned by Pfizer, the antivenom was approved for sale in 1967, in a time of less stringent regulation.

Wyeth kept up production of coral snake antivenom for almost 40 years. But given the rarity of coral snake bites, it was hardly a profit center, and the company shut down the factory that made the antivenom in 2003. Wyeth worked with the FDA to produce a five-year supply of the medicine to provide a stopgap while other options were pursued. After that period, the FDA extended the expiration date on existing stock from 2008 to 2009, and then again from 2009 to 2010. But as of press time, no new manufacturer has stepped forward.

In theory, goods and services are produced to meet the demands of society, creating a situation which benefits both the producer and the consumer. The consumer benefits from the goods and services and the producer generates a profit for him or herself. Simple enough. However, the key word in all of this is profit.

Capitalism is to human organization as Nietzsche’s ubermensch is to humanity itself.  In other words, the pursuit of profit divorced from other concerns trumps social values, and indeed it creates social values. For any business model to work, it must operate based on the desires of others. Those desires tend to be generated by the businesses themselves. Do we need cheese puffs? Do we need Disney television programs? Do we need nuclear weapons? No, but we can have as much of those things as we want, because those things are associated with profit.

It is not inherently profitable to promote human community. Businesses do not benefit from people giving their labor to others for their benefit, or sharing vehicles, or giving clothes away when they no longer fit, or any of a million other human behaviors that do not involve production.

The end result is a situation where people may die of a snake bite because it isn’t cost-efficient to make antivenom.

Obviously, there are other social effects as well. People now take it for granted that of course businesses have a right to monitor, for example, one’s messages on the internet even on private time. It could affect their business, which is what’s really important, not the rights of the individual. That is explicitly a capitalist meme. It is the thought process of the employee. And it infects all similar discussions like this, because people have gotten so used to thinking this way that it becomes a reflex.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way, as Superman (the ubermensch) likes to say.

Viola Liuzzo & Gary Rowe

These two names may be unfamiliar, but they are connected to an incident which occurred in 1965. It’s a grim story and very reminiscent in some ways of the 9/11 story, in particular with respect to the Able Danger revelations.

Viola Liuzzo was a civil rights activist in Alabama who was shot and killed while driving another activist, Leroy Morton, home from a protest. The shots were fired from a passing car with four men in it.

Gary Rowe was one of these four men, and he would testify later that although all four of them had guns, he had only pretended to shoot. He did admit to participating in the planning and, of course, put himself at the scene. He did nothing to stop the incident, and we only have his word that he did not actually fire the gun he held in his hand – although even if true, this hardly seems exculpatory.

Gary Rowe was working for the FBI. He had been working for them since 1960, allegedly as an informant undercover in the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1975, wearing a bizarre cotton hood that resembled a Klan headpiece without the point, he told a Senate committee that the F.B.I. had known of and condoned his participation in violence against black people and had ordered him to sow dissent within the Klan by having sexual relations members’ wives.

He admitted to taking part in a baseball bat assault on Freedom Riders in Birmingham in 1961 and told the Alabama police that he had fatally shot a black man, never named, in a riot in 1963 and that Federal authorities knew about these incidents. As late as 1983, Mrs. Liuzzo’s children brought an unsuccessful $2 million suit against the F.B.I., charging that through its negligence in recruiting, training and controlling Mr. Rowe, it bore responsibility for the killing.

(NYT, “Gary T. Rowe Jr., 64, Who Informed on Klan In Civil Rights Killing, Is Dead,” By Michael T. Kaufman, 4 October 1998)

So Gary Rowe says that the government knew about the fact that he had murdered a black man in 1963, and he nevertheless continued working for them and receiving paychecks from them. He then participated in the murder of an activist who happened to be white, which is why this particular case received national attention. Once this happened, somebody must have told LBJ that Rowe was important:

The US President, Lyndon B Johnson, had intervened in the case from the very beginning.

The day after Mrs Liuzzo’s murder he announced on television that four members of the KKK had been arrested, including Gary Rowe – later revealed as an undercover FBI agent and who testified against the other three.

1965: White Jury Convicts Ku Klux Klansmen (BBC)

He must have done a terrific job of informing. The FBI probably gained a whole lot of intelligence from this guy, which they used to destroy the KKK forever, right? After all, if they are paying a guy to beat and kill people, one would hope that it’s for a damned good reason.

Unfortunately, the answer is no. The FBI has a long history, under J. Edgar Hoover and through COINTELPRO, of being a racist organization willing to try and induce Dr. Martin Luther King into committing suicide (at minimum), and murder Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, among other Black Panther leaders.

Across from the U.S. Justice Department to this day, there is a statue of Albert Pike – the only Confederate soldier to have a statue in Washington, DC. Pike was many things, but one of them was the Chief Justice of the Ku Klux Klan. Gives us some idea about what kind of justice the DOJ is talking about.


It might do well to remember that all categorization – all understandings – are inevitably simplifications, attempts at deciphering what cannot be deciphered in a holistic way. Life is short; we cannot read everything; and so we select specific works, read them, to find our taste; and then, from there, we pick and choose what will define us. Once we reach a certain quantity of books, and/or a certain age, we determine what our taste is, and thereby eliminate whole categories of books from the competition of our interest. A new book by a known novelist appears, and we treat it as if it were the new Harry Potter. We know all about it. But it is perhaps interesting to realize that later Harry Potter books differed in substantial ways from their predecessors – even as direct sequels, as opposed to simply further examples from the same author. (In other words, there is an extension of continuity implied by a new Harry Potter book that does not automatically exist in looking at, say, Lolita, and Ada, or Ardor, from Vladimir Nabokov, although in fact the similarities between the latter books may be more apparent than in the former.)

And, of course, human beings do not cooperate with the categories to which we assign them – not even ourselves.  The specimens in our personal petri dishes are too squirmy, too independent, for that. And still we do it. For this issue of mortality comes again, and we must be something. We must be liberal, or conservative, communist, atheist, fundamentalist; we must prefer Sontag to Paglia, or Cortazar to Amado, or bananas to spinach. So we deselect (and preselect) our interests and rely on the summaries of experts for the rest; summaries by people who are, by definition, alienated from us by their dedication to their own preoccupations – preoccupations that do not interest us enough to delve so deeply ourselves.

Of course, it isn’t just books. It’s everything. We always find ourselves immensely complex and others readily diagnosed; without this principle, not only psychotherapy but advice would cease to exist. This is the paradox of categorization, however necessary the process might be.

And for all that, we are ultimately reducible to a single category: that of stardust contemplating itself.