Puttin' On The Ritz

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Some
years ago, Maria Mattheissen, wife of the novelist and nature writer,
Peter Matthiessen, said to me, u201CEverything is a hoax.u201D At the time,
I didn't understand what she was referring to. Then I began to
find out. Shortly before his death, the novelist, John Sherry
told me how Peter Mattheisssen was u201Chaunted by the CIA.u201D Matthiessen
told Sherry that he had not u201Cfoundedu201D The Paris Review from
scratch, as legend has it, but that he had established it at the
behest of the CIA it while working for the Agency, so it could serve
as his cover in Paris.

In
the official history of The Paris Review, it states: u201CMatthieseen
invited George Plimpton, then a student at Cambridge, to take on
a position as editor. Plimpton has headed the magazine ever since.
Plimpton's unusual instinct for The Paris Review was evident
as early as 1954, when, in the midst of the annual running of the
bulls at Pamplona, he asked Prince Sadruddin Aga Kahn to serve as
first publisher of The Paris Review. Prince Aga Kahn little
choice but to accept. He remained as publisher until 1975.u201D

Had
little choice? According to Sherry, Matthiessen assured him that
the Prince never put up a penny. His foundation was the conduit
of CIA funds at all times. Maybe they made him an offer he could
not refuse. But, of course, this was the Cold War, and we were
fighting what President Reagan would call u201Cthe evil empire.u201D Nevertheless,
a lot of people got on the CIA gravy train, enjoying themselves
in Paris while fighting the cultural Cold War. Imagine debonair
Americans in Paris, having drinks at the bar of The Ritz, at our
expense, while pretending to be literary lions, and you've got the
picture. Writers got gigs, editors got girlfriends, and everyone
got a piece of the action. What did they accomplish? They found
out that all the leading French writers and intellectuals at that
time were Communists, something everyone knew in the first place.
But as word of American intelligence operations in France spread,
these operations engendered a deep suspicion of America that led
to major disruptions of American foreign policy objectives in Europe.
We treated a great country as a colony and the consequences are
still being felt. Then, with the fiasco of the Vietnam War that
our vast government complex supported, American intelligence fell
linto disrepute.

But
memory is short. Now, the venue has shifted and we are engaged in
a life and death struggle against terrorism. And, as can be expected,
there is a new gravy train. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
tells us that the war must be waged on all fronts, including law
enforcement. Vast sums are now pouring into operations that have
a familiar look to them reminiscent of the scams of the Cold War.
At the top of the list is something called the International Law
Enforcement Academy in Bangkok.

A
vast. Pentagon-like complex hidden from view by landscaping that
includes giant trees, and with a web site that makes it sound innocuous,
the ILEA lists a handful of courses that it offers, including u201CCyber
Crime.u201D The prerequisite for this course is a knowledge of English.
A guy teaches this particular course from the Customs Academy in
Brunswick, Georgia with the unlikely title of Director of Trade
Operations. Which trade operations does he direct? He is also
the Acting Director of Mission Support. What? In actuality, his
career in Florida involved opening people's baggage and rummaging
through their belongings in search of contraband until he moved
up the bureaucratic ladder, with a somewhat less that lateral move
to the Customs Academy. Trained to give the Cyber Crime course
in a one-week crash course in Washington, this GS-14 was put up
at the Ritz, the most expensive hotel in Washington! This, at a
time, when various federal agencies are crying that the budget situation
is strangling their effectiveness. Then, he will be flown to
Bangkok to give the course. At our expense.

The
question is why is he needed there when hundreds of so-called law
enforcement people work there already? The answer is pretty obvious.
These courses listed on the ILEA web site are a camouflage. ILEA,
which purports to be affiliated with u201CUS State Department, the U.S.
Customs Services, Bureau of Diplomatic Security of ILEA,u201D smells
very much like something else. To anyone with a background and
knowledge of intelligence, it appears to be nothing less than a
School of the Americas East and a CIA front. The School of the
Americas supported state-ponsored terrorism and death squads to
perpetuate oppressive regimes in Latin America and had the direct
effect of generating much of the ill-will towards the United States
that we are now grappling with, with the restoration of the Chavez
presidency in Venezuela after a failed bloody coop in which the
United States was undoubtedly involved, and a civil war in Colombia
that threatens the stability of all of Latin America. Not to mention
the millions who died in Guatemala following the CIA's covert intervention
there.

What
is actually being taught at the ILEA? Take a look at the governments
of the Central Asian republics we are supporting and you will find
the worst human rights records in the world. It is known that they
use the most brutal techniques, including torture, to perpetuate
themselves. If the United States doesn't want to practice these
techniques itself, it can send people to these countries to get
information from them. The u201Cjihadu201D against all of them is a major
focal point of American foreign policy, much as our support of the
oppressive regimes in Latin America has been. We are prepared to
keep control of the oil and natural gas reserves in those countries
at any price, as well as the ability to build the pipeline that
will eventually produce huge profits for American investors.

The
brutal techniques that used to be taught by the Technical Assistance
division of US AID have now, it would appear, found a new sponsor.
Are these the real courses being offered by the ILEA behind the
faade of the anodyne courses that serve as a front for the ILEA?
This is the inoculation principal at its most obvious. Tell a little
bit of the truth to conceal a bigger lie. You can actually e mail
questions to the ILEA, so seemingly benign. But if you think ILEA
is not a CIA front, you believe in the tooth fairy.

Since
when, you might ask, is the State Department a law enforcement agency?
And as for a useless course like u201CCyber Crime,u201D who could possibly
take it? If English is required, most of the police from the countries
we support to control their resources don't speak English. The
Indians and Pakistanis do, but they know much more than the guy
teaching it. And typical CIA. What a farce and waste of our money.
If the CIA devoted its energies and resources to gathering intelligence,
its main function, instead of this sort of boondoggle, it might
have known something about what was going on in Hamburg prior to
911.

We
need to take a hard look at this operation now before it gets totally
out of hand and earns us more ill will in a part of the world where
we need to build up support for American, not hatred against us.
We should also take a hard look at the Customs Academy in Brunswick,
Georgia, a little known operation that is part of the larger FLETC
or Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, where clowns with their
per diems from the FBI and other federal agencies go to lounge and
rent condos on the beach on St. Simons Island with our money and
spend our taxes. The Director of the Academy is a top-level federal
administrator, putting him the very top range of salary, well in
the six-figure bracket. What does he do? He supervises the guys
who train the Customs officials who are part of one of the most
incompetent federal agencies. You have to wonder if this is not
only incompetence but also something else. When these guys retire,
they get incredibly lucrative u201Cconsultantshipsu201D around the world
from Bulgaria to Costa Rica, dong things like u201Cairport security.u201D
about which they know nothing. No wonder terrorists fly around
undetected.

Is
it all a u201Choax?u201D Not to all those who lost their lives on 911 or
to the wonderful men and women in our armed forces in Afghanistan.
But as the war on terrorism expands to include every facet of human
life, we must ask ourselves if we are making the best use of our
resources. u201CPuttin' on the Ritzu201D is not exactly the right way to
go in a time of crisis. The New York Times recently ran
an article called u201CIs This Any Way to Run a Nation?u201D listing the
incredibly abuses of various federal agencies. u201CEvery week brings
new examples of federal agencies not just performing poorly, but
performing stupidly,u201D The Times quotes Paul C. Light, director
of the Brookings Institution's governmental studies program. The
Times asksu201D That's just a short list of the woes plaguing
federal agencies these days. But it's enough to make any civic
minded American ask: does anything work well in Washington these
days?u201D Good question. What grade would anyone give the CIA and
the Customs Services these days? F would be appropriate. When
the INS mailed out visas extensions last month for two of the September
11 hijackers and with the Federal Aviation Administration still
sending newsletters to at least one of the other dead terrorists,
we must ask, u201CIs this any way to win the war against terrorism?u201D
Or do we say, once again, with the immortal Pogo, u201CWe have met the
enemy and it is us?u201D

April
16, 2002

Richard
Cummings [send
him mail
] served with the office of General Counsel of
USAID Near East South Asia region, as the lawyer for the AID program
in Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, and is a member of
the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, having served on
the Board of the AFIO-New England chapter. He is the author of
The
Pied Piper-Allard K. Lowenstein and the Liberal Dream
(second
ed., InPrint. Com 2000) and Proposition 14-A Secessionist
Remedy.

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