Spookville Redux: Spookdom At Your Door
Sometime ago I published a short story entitled A Good Day In Spookville in The Creative Cafe. It was very well received, which surprised me and for which I am grateful. I’m not much of a fiction writer.
Although fiction, it originated in my personal experiences as a very low level CIA errand boy in Southeast Asia in 1972. Let me stress, very low level.
Still, I saw what I saw. I also signed a 30 year secrecy agreement. Until about 33 years after I signed it, I never spoke to anyone about the war or The Company. Not my wife, not my friends, not even my shrinks. Such is the fear power of Spookdom. These are not creatures you ever want to cross.
So here’s the question: What is the state of Spookdom today, 45 years later? The answer is frightening, at least to me.
The CIA grew out of the WWII Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Like the OSS, it was a bunch of irregulars and amateurs, largely an Ivy League old boys’ network playing at being spies. It was modeled after Britain’s MI6, which, unfortunately, was riddled with and run by Soviet spies, Kim Philby, et al.
It had some initial success, such as the Guatemala coup of 1954 and the Iranian coup of 1953. Both overthrew democratically elected governments and had unintended consequences further on, like the radicalization of Castro, the Cuban Missie Crisis and the Iranian Revolution and hostage crisis of 1979.
But these dubious early successes are nothing compared to The Company’s later blunders. There are too many to list (and some are probably still classified) but here are just a few.
The CIA failed to predict or support the 1956 Hungarian uprising. It also meddled in the aborted British/French Suez invasion which led directly to the rise of Arab nationalism. Later, although focused on Russia (which led to blind spots around the globe; it was caught off guard by the Arab Spring), it even failed to predict the collapse of the Soviet Empire.
The CIA’s ineptitude was legendary. This was exemplified by an old joke. What proves the CIA didn’t kill the Kennedy’s? The Kennedy’s are dead.
Vietnam was the first American war where the CIA was heavily engaged. There, it provided intelligence that was nearly always wrong, made predictions that never came true, and ran, through MACVSOG (my unit) a disastrous and illegal assassination program called Operation Phoenix. It also authored the ten year long secret war in Laos, at that time, probably the worst kept secret in the world. To supplement its income it smuggled heroin, precious stones and anything else it could make a buck on.
The importance of Vietnam for the CIA and the rise of Spookdom was that in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia it began to hire mercenary paramilitaries to supplement itself and carry out actions independently of the US Military. And that leads us to today.
Today the CIA/NSA is a tiny part of the every more ubiquitous spook world. It has become more of a surveillance system and database than a spy agency. It (supposedly) can’t operate inside the US.
But others were watching and learned from the Vietnam use of paramilitaries.
After Vietnam and especially since 9/11, we have witnessed the rise of the alphabet agencies. These (ICE, DEA, ATF, TSA, Homeland Security, FEMA, USDA, EPA and NOOA, to name not all) have arisen to perform a variety of functions which seem necessary and innocuous. They are allowed to operate in the US.
Taking their cue from the CIA, during the Bush and Obama period, they have recruited and armed their own paramilitary forces, within the US. Yes, even the Department of Agriculture is building its own army. Local police forces have been provided with military weapons and training.
The FBI has been increasingly isolated.
These forces can legally operate on US soil against US citizens. They have access to CIA/NSA surveillance and toys, like drones. Spookdom has grown immensely as these paramilitaries have expanded. They haven’t been publicly deployed, yet, but they are in place and ready.
Add to this that civilians have gotten into the game. Contracting companies, large corporations, banking houses, even NGOs have their own spooks and raise or contract their own paramilitaries. They can operate anywhere, often with government assistance. And not just our own government.
The ragged ass, old boy, disorganized, external CIA of my Spookville has given way to a global system of spooks, surveillance systems, and paramilitaries that reach right up to your own doorstep. Here’s hoping you never meet them. When you do, it will be A Bad Day In Spookville.