Last Updated: 9/12/06

A Closer Look at Previous CIA Secrets

A STRIKING example of the need to keep government from hiding matters that have lost their security sensitivity was on view last week when the CIA, bowing to a 1998 federal law mandating such disclosures, released 27,000 pages of previously classified material documenting how, after World War II, US intelligence agencies shielded Adolf Eichmann and other Nazi war criminals.

The declassified documents contain secrets that were hidden from view not because they might endanger national security, but because they cast shame on governments past.

In retrospect, it seems hard to fathom how -- even under Cold War conditions -- US intelligence chiefs could fail to grasp the operational as well as the moral reasons against protecting perpetrators of the most heinous crimes against humanity. But protect them they did.

In 1958, when West German intelligence notified the CIA that Eichmann was living in Argentina ``under the alias Ricardo CLEMENS" -- the actual pseudonym was Ricardo Clement -- CIA officials declined to inform Israel. They did so knowing that an Israeli search for Eichmann in Argentina had been suspended because the Israelis did not know the name he was using there.

The reason for this betrayal came to light in 1960, after Israeli agents captured Eichmann and took him to Israel to be put on trial. To pay Eichmann's legal fees, his family sold his memoirs to Life magazine. The West German government feared the memoirs would mention Eichmann's early mentor, Dr. Hans Globke.

One of the senior Nazis who landed on his feet after the war, Globke had become director of the Federal Chancellery under Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, was very close to Adenauer, and served as the chancellor's principal go-between with US intelligence. One of the old CIA documents made public last week at the National Archives is a memo from then-CIA director Allen Dulles noting that the agency had read the Eichmann memoirs and found a mention of Globke ``which Life omitting at our request." This bit of CIA censoring was done at the request of the Adenauer government. In hiding Globke's past, the agency was protecting an author of the Third Reich's infamous Nuremberg Laws.

The CIA's discretion was meant to prevent embarrassment for an ally, whose postwar intelligence director, the notorious Reinhard Gehlen, had been Hitler's intelligence boss on the eastern front. A sad truth that haunts the shameful disclosures in these old documents is that many of the erstwhile Nazis sheltered and employed by the CIA or West German intelligence were vulnerable to Soviet blackmail and became double agents. The CIA's ethically indefensible recycling of Nazi war criminals also turned out to be incompetent spycraft. When will they ever learn?

Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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