The CIA “Family Jewels” Documents

CIA1b.jpgThe CIA has recently released about 700 pages of previously-classified documents, some of which reveal abuses in the name of national security. The CIA calls these documents the “family jewels.” The documents were created in connection with a report of CIA abuses for its former director, James Schlesinger. According to a BBC article:

CIA officers in service in 1973 largely used their memory to compile the 693-page report for Mr Schlesinger.

The abuses and illicit activities listed within date from the 1950s to the 1970s.

The documents were initially referred to as “skeletons” by Mr Schlesinger’s successor at the CIA, William Colby. They were later nicknamed the “family jewels” and have been referred to as such ever since.

It is quite sad that the CIA refers to records of its abuses as “jewels.”

Further, the BBC article states:

The documents detail assassination plots, domestic spying, wiretapping, and kidnapping.

The incidents include:

* the confinement of a Soviet KGB defector, Yuriy Ivanovich Nosenko, in the mid-1960s

* attempts to use a suspected Mafia mobster, Johnny Roselli, in a plot to assassinate Cuba’s Fidel Castro

* the wiretapping and surveillance of journalists, including in 1972 columnist Jack Anderson who broke a string of scandals

Among the documents is a request in 1972 for someone “who was accomplished at picking locks” who might be retiring or resigning from the agency.

The documents are available at GW’s National Security Archive, which collects and publishes documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The New York Times has analysis and commentary:

The C.I.A. monitoring of journalists in 1963, 1971 and 1972, including wiretapping their phones and setting up observation posts across the street from their offices to track their comings and goings and their visitors, was a practice that the White House itself employed during the Nixon administration.

It’s interesting to see in the description of Project Mockingbird, which describes C.I.A. wiretapping of two Washington reporters (unnamed) from March 12, 1963 to June 15, 1963, that the intercepting of calls, executed under the authority of John McCone, the Director of Central Intelligence, was done in coordination with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Gen. Joseph Carroll.

So the Kennedy Administration was involved in the surveillance of journalists. One can only imagine what we’ll be writing about many years from now, when FBI and CIA documents during the Bush Administration are declassified. . . .

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2 Responses

  1. Brannon Denning says:


    I’m surprised that you’re surprised that the Kennedy Administration was spying on journalists. The Kennedy Administration’s record on civil liberties wasn’t great. It tolerated–encouraged, even–Hoover’s antics, like his attempts to intimidate Martin Luther King, Jr., in part because they knew Hoover had plenty of leverage on them. As far as what future documents might reveal, I wouldn’t be surprised to find less of what went on in the days before investigative journalism.

  2. Brannon — I’m not surprised at all. To my knowledge, between FDR and the 1970s, every presidential administration authorized illicit wiretapping. We have great information about presidential administrations pre-1974 because of the Church Committee Report, but we don’t have great data yet since a project such as the Church Committee Report hasn’t been undertaken again.

    My point, which I was trying to make somewhat suggestively (but perhaps not spelled out clearly enough) was that the Kennedy Administration, an administration not very aggressively interested in surveillance, engaged in illicit surveillance and wiretapping. So one can only imagine what an administration that is aggressively interested in surveillance is doing.