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Archive for '- Cold War'

The CIA’s catalog of covert conundrums

In 1992, George Washington University’s “National Security Archive” submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), soliciting information from the Central Intelligence Agency. Their request was inspired by a 1973 memorandum issued from then-CIA Director James R. Schlesinger, who requested that all CIA employees, past or present, “report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on in the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this Agency.”

The reason for Schlesinger’s request? The 1972 break-in at the Watergate by veteran CIA officers who had alleged cooperation from within the Agency.

What resulted from the request was something else altogether: over 700 pages of illegal CIA activities ranging from the 1950s to the 1970s. Former CIA Director William Colby called the report the “skeletons” in the CIA’s closet.

In 2007, the CIA delivered the report, dubbed the “Family Jewels” to the National Security Archive. It detailed assassination plots, illegal surveillance of journalists, drug testing, warrantless wiretapping, break-ins, and a litany of other illegal operations (sadly there was nothing on the CIA’s “Tunnel of Love”).

The full report is available on the CIA’s CREST database at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland and on the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room. Below are just a few of the highlights of the lengthy report:

  1. Watergate burglar
  2. [ Read all ]

The Peace Corps’ not-so-peaceful roots

It was 49 years ago today that President John F. Kennedy put pen to paper and established the Peace Corps. It was authorized by Public Law 87-293, an “Act to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps.” But despite its name, peace may not have been the Peace Corps’ original purpose.

The program has its origins in a late-late night campaign speech given at the University of Michigan by then-Senator Kennedy. It was two in the morning on October 14, 1960. Despite the early morning hours, 10,000 students turned out. He challenged each of them—and the country—to serve abroad to help the free world (listen to the speech).

But peace was not on Kennedy’s mind when giving that speech.  The early morning speech doesn’t mention the word “peace” once. Instead he describes Americans serving abroad as a tool with which to defend a free society.  The Soviet Union “had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism,” Kennedy exclaimed at a stump speech in California. America did not. The Peace Corps was the answer. A corollary may have been peace, but the intent was to counter communist campaigning at a grassroots level.

By the time Kennedy signed Executive Order 10924 establishing the Peace Corps … [ Read all ]

Memories of Korea in Missouri

For the 60th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, the staff at the Truman Presidential Library in Independence, MO, wanted to try something different.

“Instead of doing a straightforward chronological presentation, we also wanted to focus on the personal experiences,” said curator Clay Bauske. The team worked for a year, collecting stories and memorabilia of people who were involved in and affected by the war.

“Memories of Korea” will run through December 31, 2010.

The exhibit combines handwritten letters and diary entries with first-person interviews, photographs, and footage from the war. These intimate accounts are presented against a backdrop of four thematic areas that cover the cultural history, political context, personal experiences, and the legacy and future of Korea.

The library received support and interest for the exhibit from the community surrounding Independence. Plans for the commemorative Korean War programs and exhibition were posted on the library’s website and in local magazines. “After we put up the schedule, people started calling us to contribute their personal memorabilia,” said Bauske.

The team worked with the Center for the Study of the Korean War, also located in Independence. Through this partnership, the library borrowed items from the center’s collection for the exhibit and tapped into the community of Korean War veterans. The Truman Library also drew on the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Among … [ Read all ]