Secret Reagan Documents Shed Light on US Manipulation of Foreign Governments

by Robert Parry, The Anti Media:

“Secret” documents from the Reagan administration show how the U.S. embedded “political action,” i.e., the manipulation of foreign governments, in ostensibly well-meaning organizations, reports Robert Parry.

(CN) — “Secret” documents, recently declassified by the Reagan presidential library, reveal senior White House officials reengaging a former CIA “proprietary,” The Asia Foundation, in “political action,” an intelligence term of art for influencing the actions of foreign governments.

The documents from 1982 came at a turning-point moment when the Reagan administration was revamping how the U.S. government endeavored to manipulate the internal affairs of governments around the world in the wake of scandals in the 1960s and 1970s involving the Central Intelligence Agency’s global covert operations.

Instead of continuing to rely heavily on the CIA, President Reagan and his national security team began offloading many of those “political action” responsibilities to “non-governmental organizations” (NGOs) that operated in a more overt fashion and received funding from other U.S. government agencies.

But secrecy was still required for the involvement of these NGOs in the U.S. government’s strategies to bend the political will of targeted countries. If the “political action” of these NGOs were known, many countries would object to their presence; thus, the “secret” classification of the 1982 White House memos that I recently obtained via a “mandatory declassification review” from the archivists at the Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.

In intelligence circles, “political action” refers to a wide range of activities to influence the policies and behaviors of foreign nations, from slanting their media coverage, to organizing and training opposition activists, even to setting the stage for “regime change.”

The newly declassified memos from the latter half of 1982 marked an ad hoc period of transition between the CIA scandals, which peaked in the 1970s, and the creation of more permanent institutions to carry out these semi-secretive functions, particularly the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which was created in 1983.

Much of this effort was overseen by a senior CIA official, Walter Raymond Jr., who was moved to Reagan’s National Security Council’s staff where he managed a number of interagency task forces focused on “public diplomacy,” “psychological operations,” and “political action.”

Raymond, who had held top jobs in the CIA’s covert operations shop specializing in propaganda and disinformation, worked from the shadows inside Reagan’s White House, too. Raymond was rarely photographed although his portfolio of responsibilities was expansive. He brought into his orbit emerging “stars,” including Lt. Col. Oliver North (a central figure in the Iran-Contra scandal), State Department propagandist (and now a leading neocon) Robert Kagan, and NED President Carl Gershman (who still heads NED with its $100 million budget).

Despite his camera avoidance, Raymond appears to have grasped his true importance. In his NSC files, I found a doodle of an organizational chart that had Raymond at the top holding what looks like the crossed handles used by puppeteers to control the puppets below them. The drawing fit the reality of Raymond as the behind-the-curtains operative who controlled various high-powered inter-agency task forces.

Earlier declassified documents revealed that Raymond also was the conduit between CIA Director William J. Casey and these so-called “pro-democracy” programs that used sophisticated propaganda strategies to influence not only the thinking of foreign populations but the American people, too.

This history is relevant again now amid the hysteria over alleged Russian “meddling” in last year’s U.S. presidential elections. If those allegations are true – and the U.S. government has still not presented any real proof  – the Russian motive would have been, in part, payback for Washington’s long history of playing games with the internal politics of Russia and other countries all across the planet.

A Fight for Money

The newly released memos describe bureaucratic discussions about funding levels for The Asia Foundation (TAF), with the only sensitive topic, to justify the “secret” stamp, being the reference to the U.S. government’s intent to exploit TAF’s programs for “political action” operations inside Asian countries.

Indeed, the opportunity for “political action” under TAF’s cover appeared to be the reason why Reagan’s budget cutters relented and agreed to restore funding to the foundation.

William Schneider Jr. of the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a Sept. 2, 1982 memo that the Budget Review Board (BRB) had axed TAF funding earlier in the year.

“When the BRB last considered this issue on March 29, 1982, it decided not to include funding in the budget for a U.S. Government grant to TAF. The Board’s decision was based on the judgement that given the limited resources available for international affairs programs, funding for the Foundation could not be justified. During that March 29 meeting, the State Department was given the opportunity to fund TAF within its existing budget, but would not agree to do so.”

However, as Schneider noted in the memo to Deputy National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane, “I now understand that a proposal to continue U.S. funding for the Asia Foundation is included in the ‘political action’ initiatives being developed by the State Department and several other agencies.

“We will, of course, work with you to reconsider the relative priority of support for the Foundation as part of these initiatives keeping in mind, however, the need for identifying budget offsets.”

A prime mover behind this change of heart appeared to be Walter Raymond, who surely knew TAF’s earlier status as a CIA “proprietary.” In 1966, Ramparts magazine exposed that relationship and led the Johnson administration to terminate the CIA’s money.

According to an April 12, 1967 memo from the State Department’s historical archives, CIA Director Richard Helms, responding to a White House recommendation, “ordered that covert funding of The Asia Foundation (TAF) shall be terminated at the earliest practicable opportunity.”

In coordination with the CIA’s “disassociation,” TAF’s board released what the memo described as “a carefully limited statement of admission of past CIA support. In so doing the Trustees sought to delimit the effects of an anticipated exposure of Agency support by the American press and, if their statement or some future expose does not seriously impair TAF’s acceptability in Asia, to continue operating in Asia with overt private and official support.”

The CIA memo envisioned future funding from “overt U.S. Government grants” and requested guidance from the White House’s covert action oversight panel, the 303 Committee, for designation of someone “to whom TAF management should look for future guidance and direction with respect to United States Government interests.”

Read More @ TheAntiMedia.com