Saturday, August 14, 2004

New CIA chief was former Latin American field operative

Somehow I missed this story, only to find it rather by chance at a site that's new to me, Latin America Post, an online and print periodical that apparently caters to the U.S. Hispanic community as well as Latin Americans. Even former CIA analysts-turned-critics like Ray McGovern fail to mention this history when they critique the Porter Goss appointment. Or you may have noticed the humorous story that, in an interview with Michael Moore--not a very smart move for a guy who's about to run the U.S. intelligence apparatus--Porter said he "couldn't get a job today with the CIA. I am not qualified."

So take a look at the Latin American Post story, which makes this intriguing comment: "Details of Goss' career remain shrouded by four decades of secrecy. It is among the least-explored decades of any current U.S. politician's past. Neither he nor the CIA have given any but the sketchiest description."

Indeed, as the following notes, given his postings in the 1960s in Mexico, the D.R. and Haiti, there may be good reason to keep his decade-long career a secret:

Goss apparently joined the CIA just out of Yale, wherehe earned a degree in ancient Greek in 1960. He worked in Miami, which was becoming a magnet for Cuban emigres.

Some were recruited by the CIA andtrained for what turned out to be one of the agency's greatest disasters: the 1961 invasion of Cuba that was crushed by Fidel Castro at the Bay of Pigs.

A year later, the world narrowly averted nuclear warduring the Cuban missile crisis involving the UnitedStates and Soviet Union.

During a 2002 interview with The Washington Post, Goss joked that he performed photo interpretation and"small-boat handling," which led to "some very interesting moments in the Florida Straits." He acknowledged he had recruited and run foreign agents.

The Bay of Pigs plan had been inspired partly by asuccessful CIA-backed overthrow of Guatemala's populist government in 1954. That helped set off Guatemala's 34-year civil war, which was growing as Goss worked in the region.

It also sent a then-obscure Argentine wanderer, Ernesto Guevara hurrying to Mexico City. There "Che"met and joined up with Castro's guerrillas as they returned to Cuba in 1956 to start the revolution.

Goss arrived in Mexico City only a very few, if eventful years later.

Haiti - just off of Cuba's eastern tip - was governed by the famously brutal dictator Francois "Papa Doc"Duvalier.

The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, was torn with political turmoil, a struggle between backers of the populist President Juan Bosch and his conservative foes.

Jittery about the example of nearby Cuba, the United States invaded the island with thousands of troops in1965.

Mexico was both Cuba's closest friend in the Americas and one of the CIA's great playgrounds.

It was the only country in the region to snub Washington's calls to cut ties with Castro's government. But it also allowed CIA operatives towatch flights to and from Cuba, as well as the Soviet and Cuban embassies in the Mexican capital. Cuba at the time had no other embassies in Latin America.

That monitoring allowed U.S. officials to photograph Lee Harvey Oswald entering the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City not long before he assassinated John F.Kennedy.

Cuba, meanwhile, was openly trying to spread revolutions around the hemisphere - with the notable exception of Mexico. U.S. espionage helped track down Guevara's rebel band in Bolivia in 1968. He was captured and killed.

Mexico, meanwhile, was growing turbulent itself.

The government preached a populist, sometimesquasi-socialist politics, but largely cooperated withthe United States and crushed leftist dissent.

A few scattered radicals took up arms and became guerrillas in the cities and mountains in the 1960s. They grew greatly in number after the government's security forces massacred student demonstrators in1968 just before that year's Olympics, causing many Mexicans to give up hope of reforms.

It is not clear if Goss was involved in following that event. He apparently left the region in the late 1960s for London.

During a 1970 trip to Washington from his home inLondon, Goss collapsed in his hotel room, suffering from a mysterious blood infection that affected his heart and kidneys. Goss survived but his career as a field operative was over. He retired from the CIA in 1971.

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