The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard M. Helms, former CIA director, is dead.
October 23, 2002 9:04 AM   Subscribe

The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard M. Helms, former CIA director, is dead. "We're not in the Boy Scouts," Richard Helms was fond of saying when he ran the Central Intelligence Agency. He was involved in many suspicious covert operations -- in 1970's Chile for example -- and JFK consipracy nuts even linked him to the president's assasination. George Tenet now calls Helms "a great patriot". He was fired by President Nixon when he refused to block an FBI probe into the Watergate scandal. Want to know more about the man? Check out Thomas Powers excellent story in "The Atlantic" Oh, and his niece was the semi-official Taliban ambassador to the USA
posted by matteo (14 comments total)
"Uncle Dick thinks I'm crazy": Laili Helms, niece of the former CIA director and ambassador for the Taliban."

As do the rest of us.

Great FPP, good detailed links.
posted by geekyguy at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2002

His Warren Commission affidavit is here (.pdf file)
The AP obituary is here (< “let’s face it,” he said, “the american people want an effective, strong intelligence operation. they just don’t want to hear too much about it.”>)
After Nixon fored him Helms went on to become U.S. ambassador to Iran from March 1973 to January 1977.
In 1977 he was charged with perjury for denying the CIA had tried to overthrow the government in Chile in testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing for the ambassador post in 1973.
Helms pleaded guilty and was given a suspended jail sentence. He worked as a private consultant since 1977.

posted by matteo at 9:09 AM on October 23, 2002

"We're not in the Boy Scouts," Richard Helms was fond of saying when he ran the Central Intelligence Agency.

I guess I can forget about earning my Overthrow of Third-World Governments merit badge...
posted by dr_dank at 9:13 AM on October 23, 2002

posted by andrew cooke at 9:25 AM on October 23, 2002

Here is a story from the beginning of the year concerning Laili Helms. An excerpt:
Helms put up a large American flag outside her townhouse, and issued a statement that she had tried to steer the Taliban on a moderate course.

"Obviously, I failed," she said.
posted by quam at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2002

From the NYTimes obituary (free registration required):

"Mr. Helms said outside the courtroom that he wore his ((perjury)) conviction 'like a badge of honor,' and added: "I don't feel disgraced at all. I think if I had done anything else I would have been disgraced."
Later that day he went to a reunion of former C.I.A. colleagues, who gave him a standing, cheering ovation, then passed the hat and raised the $2,000 for his fine.
Mr. Helms was allowed to receive his government pension"
posted by matteo at 9:34 AM on October 23, 2002

Bad NYT link, my mistake
This one's good
posted by matteo at 9:36 AM on October 23, 2002

You've got to wonder if more of the Cold War Warriors (like Helms) were still in the running of the CIA/NSA etc. just how much more effective we'd have been in monitoring the rise of the various terrorist groups who have risen to prominence since the end of the Cold War.

These were men who preferred "on the ground" intelligence, using infiltration and actual spying, rather than the removed method of getting most of our intelligence from a sattelite 10000 km in orbit.
posted by PenDevil at 9:45 AM on October 23, 2002

But PenDevil, are you suggesting that the U.S. participate in assasinations, the use of non-uniformed paramilitary forces in violation of the Geneva convention, the overthrow of democratically elected governments and other such naughty-naughties? We're the United States, we don't do such things, it would be so uncouth!
posted by gsteff at 10:03 AM on October 23, 2002

gsteff: Thanks for putting words in my mouth. I specifically mentioned "monitoring" and the usage of the old school type of espionage (espionage as in information gathering). Using operatives to infiltrate terrorist groups to get raw info, not just taking pictures from space, which don't provide much info besides movements and structures.

Next time exercise those comprehension skills a bit more.
posted by PenDevil at 10:22 AM on October 23, 2002

I understood your post and wasn't intending to snark at you. Rather, I was trying to mock how many Americans (and their congessional proxies) want to have our cake and eat it too, by expecting superior, unchallengable intelligence services, yet refusing to sanction the crossing of any moral lines. In other words, I also would prefer the Cold War warriors to Mueller and Director of Central Ineptitude Tenet. I agree with you.
posted by gsteff at 10:40 AM on October 23, 2002

it's pretty hard to recruit a suicidal Muslim terrorist if you're the CIA
What are you gonna use to convince them? Tons of money and vodka and a chance to defect worked for the Soviets but Al Qaeda is pretty difficult for the Langley boys to infiltrate
Unless you are of course John Walker Lindh.
posted by matteo at 10:54 AM on October 23, 2002

Sorry gsteff, but it's hard to hear sarcastic voice inflections with text.

And in response your last post I agree. If you want strong intelligence then be prepared to take quick action when incriminating information comes in. It's why Mossad is still so highly regarded (and feared?).
posted by PenDevil at 10:55 AM on October 23, 2002

matteo: Well supposedly, according to this article, Tenet claims the CIA had a large network in Afghanistan, filing 900 reports in the first half of 2001 alone. Whether there was any substance to these reports or if they all said "Nothing much happened today" remains unknown.

But far more information has come out of other far smaller intelligence operations that's for sure. So they were doing something wrong.
posted by PenDevil at 11:41 AM on October 23, 2002

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