CIA re­leases brief­ings in­volv­ing Nixon, Ford

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By David S. Cloud

WASH­ING­TON — The CIA pulled the veil back Wed­nes­day on long-clas­si­fied for­eign in­tel­li­gence brief­ings it gave Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon in the 1970s dur­ing the height of his power and his fall from grace.

The re­lease of 2,500 Pres­i­dent’s Daily Briefs — about 28,000 pages in all — shed light on such his­toric events as Nixon’s open­ing to China, the in­va­sion of Cam­bo­dia, the U.S.-backed over­throw of an elected leader in Chile, the 1973 Arab-Is­raeli war, and ul­ti­mately the first res­ig­na­tion of a sit­ting U.S. pres­i­dent.

The re­lease also cov­ers brief­ings given to Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford, who took over when Nixon re­signed on Aug. 9, 1974, un­til he left of­fice in Jan­uary 1977. That pe­riod in­cluded the fall of Saigon and the end of Amer­ica’s war in Viet­nam.

CIA Di­rec­tor John Bren­nan and Di­rec­tor of Na­tional In­tel­li­gence James Clap­per re­leased the briefs and other doc­u­ments at a sym­po­sium at the Richard Nixon Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Nixon re­lied on his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, Henry Kissinger, to for­ward the writ­ten sum­mary and other ma­te­rial ev­ery morn­ing, leav­ing CIA of­fi­cials dis­cour­aged at their lack of ac­cess, ac­cord­ing to a de­clas­si­fied 1996 agency his­tory of the CIA-Nixon re­la­tion­ship, also re­leased Wed­nes­day

Other than in for­mal or cer­e­mo­nial meet­ings, Nixon never met pri­vately with the three CIA di­rec­tors who served un­der him. He had only a sin­gle tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with Wil­liam Colby, who headed the spy ser­vice dur­ing the res­ig­na­tion scan­dal.

“When you did brief him on some­thing, he looked like Richard Nixon, cen­ter, meets with Henry Kissinger, left, and Ger­ald Ford about 10 months be­fore his res­ig­na­tion. his mind was on other things — he may have been think­ing about Water­gate, I guess,” Colby later told a CIA in­ter­viewer, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments.

The CIA briefs ran about 10 pages a day and of­ten con­tained mostly news items and mun­dane po­lit­i­cal anal­y­sis from hot spots around the globe, a use­ful ser­vice in the era be­fore 24-hour ca­ble news and the in­ter­net.

They con­tain sev­eral ref­er­ences to satel­lite sur­veil­lance and other high-tech in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing tools. But sen­si­tive pas­sages about covert op­er­a­tions and se­crets stolen by un­der­cover op­er­a­tives are blacked out in the re­leased doc­u­ments.

The pa­pers still con­tain fas­ci­nat­ing tid­bits.

Although Nixon pub­licly called his 1972 visit to China “the week that changed the world,” his four-page in­tel­li­gence brief on the day of his ar­rival in Bei­jing con­tained only two para­graphs on the trip.

The ma­te­rial re­veals how lit­tle the CIA’s China watch­ers knew about the Com­mu­nist lead­ers of the world’s most populous coun­try, then just emerg­ing from more than two decades of iso­la­tion.

The fol­low­ing day, the CIA sum­mary of­fered two para­graphs of anal­y­sis on re­ac­tion in the Soviet Union, which saw the prospect of closer re­la­tions be­tween China and the U.S. as a threat.

“The Sovi­ets are us­ing their news me­dia to cast Pres­i­dent Nixon’s visit to China in an un­fa­vor­able light,” the brief­ing read, not­ing that the Com­mu­nist Party news­pa­per “char­ac­ter­ized the trip as be­ing pred­i­cated on com­mon ha­tred for the Soviet Union.”

De­vel­op­ments in In­dochina — where the U.S. was try­ing to ex­tri­cate it­self from the war in Viet­nam and prop up fail­ing gov­ern­ments in neigh­bor­ing Cam­bo­dia and Laos — re­ceived in­tense at­ten­tion in Nixon’s daily in­tel­li­gence sum­maries. A brief item on Feb. 4, 1974, re­veals that even minute de­tails about Cam­bo­dia’s com­mu­nist rebels, known as the Kh­mer Rouge, gleaned from U.S. in­tel­li­gence eaves­drop­ping op­er­a­tions, were be­ing for­warded to the White House.

“An in­ter­cept of Fe­bru­ary 1 in­di­cates that a meet­ing of the stand­ing com­mit­tee of the Kh­mer Com­mu­nist Party is be­ing called for Fe­bru­ary 5 or 6 at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion,” the sum­mary re­ported.

HAR­VEY W. GE­ORGES/AP 1973

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