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

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