Defense Secretary Les Aspin, in his effort to reshape the Pentagon's policymaking machinery, has picked the curious figure of Morton Halperin to be one of his top assistants. Halperin, however, is no `New Democrat,' but a far-left civil libertarian who made his mark during the Cold War attempting to undermine America's key national security agencies, including the CIA, the FBI and the Pentagon.
Until recently the director of the ACLU's Washington office, Halperin has championed the activities of Philip Agee, the pro-Communist CIA renegade, testified on behalf of `Pentagon Papers' leaker Daniel Ellsberg and generally waged an unholy war against America's intelligence community.
`If confirmed by the Senate for the job of assistant secretary dealing with democracy and human rights,' reported the Washington Post, `Halperin would handle questions such as how and when the Administration should employ force specifically to promote democracy or humanitarian aims.'
But judging from the folks he's been running around with, Halperin could very well be pushing policies to `employ force' against what he considers to be `right-wing' governments, even though friendly to the United States, or on behalf of left-wing groups such as Nelson Mandela's African National Congress.
Moreover, many in the national security field are outraged that Halperin--who was backed the most brazen and damaging intelligence leaks and leakers--will now have access to our most super-sensitive Pentagon secrets.
Halperin's embrace of Agee, who teamed up with the Communists to `expose' the CIA and its agents, is a case in point. As Francis J. McNamara noted in our Dec. 29, 1984, issue, Halperin favorably reviewed Agee's virulently anti-CIA book, Inside the Company: A CIA Diary, without even revealing that Agee thanked the Cuban Communist party for the assistance it had given him in preparing his book.
Nor did he reveal that the book--as part of Agee's effort to `out' CIA agents everywhere and thus render them both ineffective and vulnerable to foreign pressures--contained the names and identities of over 700 people in all parts of the world who Agee insisted were CIA officers, agents and cooperators.
Halperin has called for dissolving the CIA covert career service, tagged the CIA as `the subverter of everybody else's freedom' and declared it `an open question' whether the CIA and other U.S. intelligence services would turn to assassinating American citizens.
In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee in 1978, Halperin assailed the CIA for its handling of the news about the December 1975 murder of Athens station chief Richard Welch, committed shortly after the magazine CounterSpy had identified Welch as a CIA intelligence officer.
Halperin claimed the CIA had waged a `disinformation' campaign against both Agee and CounterSpy, then Agee's principal weapon to expose covert U.S. intelligence personnel in foreign lands. He not only denied CounterSpy played any role in Welch's assassination, but said `it is difficult to condemn people' who expose our agents.
Agee, McNamara wrote, `was in hot water after the assassination of * * * Welch. He was afraid to return to the U.S. and he was being expelled from one European country after another because of his continuing contacts with Communist-bloc intelligence agents.'
Nevertheless, McNamara went on, `Halperin traveled to London early in 1977 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent Agee's deportation from England. While there, he said he hoped to arrange a U.S. speaking tour for Agee if he returned to this country.
`Agee's second book, Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe, reprinted an anti-CIA pro-CounterSpy article,
`Halperin, as CNSS director, has filed numerous FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests in efforts to pry secrets out of the files of the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI, National Security Council and other U.S. intelligence-security agencies. He has followed many of them up with lawsuits, and has encouraged others to do the same. He has followed the same course in the field of constitutional torts, suing for huge sums for alleged constitutional violations on the part of intelligence agencies and officials in the course of carrying out their information-gathering duties and has sought bans on their intelligence operations.
`Representing the CNSS and ACLU, Halperin has testified against virtually every bill introduced in the last decade to improve or strengthen American intelligence and for every bill that would have the opposite effect. It is doubtful that anyone in the nation--including the highest intelligence officials--have testified before Congress as frequently as he has on such national security issues. * * *
`Halperin would strip the intelligence agencies of the weapon which the courts, Congress and the executive have found to be essential to the achievement of their mission--secrecy. He would make public their budgets, ties with academics and other sources, control of proprietaries, etc. He would go so far as to compel disclosure not only of diplomatic negotiations, but all research on new weapons systems (such as the supersecret Manhattan Project which developed the A-bomb during World War II, saving untold numbers of American lives) and would even oppose CIA covert action taken to prevent Libyan director Muammar Qaddafi from sneaking nuclear weapons into New York harbor. All covert action by the CIA and other agencies would be brought to a halt.
`The FBI, if Halperin had his way, would not be allowed to investigate anything but crime. All domestic intelligence collection would cease--by law. All wiretapping, too, would be brought to a halt, even that used to catch spies and learn the intentions, plans and plots of nations hostile to this country.'
Halperin left his ACLU position and the Center for National Security Studies at the end of October 1992 to accept a post as senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a professorship at George Washington University. He remained as chairman of the CNSS Advisory Committee, though he will, presumably, leave that post now that he's been tapped by the Clinton Administration.
The question is, however, should such a person--who did so much in conjunction with the far left to cripple our national security--now be entitled to help implement it?