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Eric Lichtblau exposes how the CIA protected ex-Nazis

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The CIA seems completely lacking in a moral compass, willing to “whatever it takes” including torture, murder, and protecting war criminals. And yet their plans have repeatedly blown up in their face, and they are constantly being taken by surprise. The acronym seems to be for “Criminals In Action.” Elias Isquith of Salon interviews Eric Lichtblau about his recent book on how the CIA brought more than a thousand Nazis, including war criminals, to the US under the CIA’s protection. The interview begin:

Roughly three-quarters of a century ago, the United States of America threw itself into the giant, history-defining and utterly nightmarish orgy of death, destruction and cruelty that nowadays goes by the name of World War II. And while the U.S. did not enter the abyss because of the Nazis — and in fact only declared war after Hitler did it first —  there is little doubt that, ever since VE-Day, the U.S. has been more than happy to take credit as the vanquisher of a regime that most of the developed world still sees as the ultimate embodiment of political evil. (Even if much of that credit is undeserved.)

All of which is to say that when it comes to protecting America’s “brand” as the moral leader of the globe, the protector of liberty and the guardian of human rights, not being in league with the people chiefly responsible for the death of roughly 2.5 percent of the world’s population ranks high on the list. Yet according to reports that first surfaced years ago, but which are now being much more fully substantiated, cooperating with — and even protecting — former Nazis is exactly what the United States once did.

Recently, Salon called the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau, author of The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler’s Men, a disturbing new examination of this shameful moment in American history, in order to hear more of how, and why, the U.S. went so very wrong. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

We’ve had some understanding for a bit now that the CIA used former Nazis to wage the Cold War, but I don’t think we had a sense until now of the sheer scope of the practice. Can you tell me a bit about when people started learning of the relationship, as well as what new information you’ve found since?

There were stories that started coming out in the late ’70s and ’80s, which was really when the country as a whole started waking up to the idea that there were Nazis who had lived in the United States for decades, at that point. There was a push by the Justice Department to go after many of these guys, and among the Nazis living in the U.S. whose cases started to become known were a small number who had worked for the CIA and the FBI. There were some individual cases that came up in the late ’70s in congressional hearings, there were some books in the early 1980s on that topic, so we had a general sense that the CIA and the FBI, their hands were not exactly clean when it came to Nazi collaborators.

I certainly didn’t realize it and I know it hadn’t come up probably before, in terms of the level of that involvement, the sheer numbers and how deeply the intelligence agencies were involved in knowing, first of all, the complicity of the Nazis and secondly, in trying to cover up the complicity. In terms of sheer numbers, what we reported in the story in the New York Times that I did off the book was that there were at least 1,000 Nazis that the U.S. intelligence agencies — the CIA, the FBI, military intelligence, other agencies — used as spies and informants in the decades after the war. Not just in the early years, but through the ’50s and ’60s and, in some cases, the ’70s. The FBI had at least 16 informants in 1980 who were under investigation for their suspected Nazi ties, so we saw in sheer numbers that the scope of the involvement ran very deep.

A lot of the documents I looked at, which had been classified until a few years ago, showed that there was both knowledge of the war crimes that many of these guys were involved in and indifference towards it. CIA officials, in one memo, said that a CIA spy who had been a Nazi SS officer was probably involved in minor war crimes, but he would make a good spy anyway. There was other talk about disregarding moral lapses by these guys during their Nazi years. Another guy, there was discussion of the fact that he was knowingly under the control of the Gestapo and involved in mass murders with the Nazis in Lithuania. This was all acknowledged by the agencies who had hired them and, in many cases, covered up their pasts.

For the sake of argument, let’s sideline the (gigantic) ethical questions involved here. By its own standards, did the policy even work?

When it comes to these Nazi spies, I think the record is that they were mostly an abysmal failure. You can make the case with a separate group of Nazi scientists that, as you say, putting the morality aside — which I don’t generally think we should do —that the scientists, the rocket engineers, the doctors and others brought us technological benefits that perhaps got us to the moon faster, that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. With the Nazi spies, you can’t even make that same argument. These were guys who, in many of the files that I examined, not only had the atrocious baggage of being Nazis but were really bad spies. One guy was described as an incorrigible fabricator, another guy lost a suitcase filled with spy photos on a train in Austria, a bunch of them were found to have stolen money, and a few of them were even Soviet double agents. These were not people who were bringing first-rate intelligence on the Soviets to the United States.

It seems patently obvious now, and . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 November 2014 at 3:43 pm

Posted in Government

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