THE CONFLICT in the field between the ambassador and the intelligence operator is reflected on a larger scale in the frequent clashes in Washington between the State Department and the CIA. The uneasiness felt in other government agencies over the role of the CIA runs deeper than that, however.

This uneasiness is little known outside of the government, and it is almost never talked about. But the Peace Corps provides the best example.

During the 1960 campaign, John F. Kennedy had promised, if elected, to establish a Peace Corps. He kept his word, created the new agency by an executive order in March, 1961, and asked his brother-in-law, Sargent Shriver, Jr., to head it.

Shriver accepted, but he very quickly concluded that the Peace Corps, with its thousands of young volunteers dispersed over the globe, could well look like an all but irresistible "cover" to an intelligence agency always on the alert for new ways to disguise its people. At the same time, Shriver knew that the Peace Corps, because it would offer genuine help to the emerging nations of the world, would be an equally tempting target for Communist propaganda, which would seek at all costs to discredit it.

Therefore, Shriver privately proclaimed his determination to take every possible step to divorce the Peace Corps from even the faintest smell of intelligence work. He was well aware that even one "spy" incident involving a volunteer might destroy the Corps.

An anecdote that went the rounds of the executive suite of the Peace Corps at the time of its birth is revealing. It had the then Vice-President, Lyndon Johnson, advising Shriver to "beware the three C's -- Communism, Cuties, and the CIA."

In the spring of 1961 Shriver made a trip seeking to persuade neutral nations to accept Peace Corpsmen. He discovered that the leaders of those countries were blunt in asking whether he would let the Corps be used as a cover for intelligence agents. Shriver replied just as bluntly that he was doing everything he could within the government to make sure that the CIA stayed out of his agency. He also promised to assist individual countries in any security checks they might care to make.

As early as March 16, 1961, Radio Moscow was attacking the Peace Corps as a plan for "the collection of espionage information for Allen Dulles' agency." On May 11 Tass, the Soviet news agency, sent out a dispatch in English to Europe, headlined "Peace Corps Head Shriver CIA Agent."

As a first step in his campaign to prevent the Peace Corps from becoming tarred as an instrument of Cold War intelligence-gathering, Shriver went directly to President Kennedy.

"Jack Kennedy gave me his promise," Shriver later told a friend, "that there would be no CIA agents in the Peace Corps."

President Kennedy followed up this verbal assurance to Shriver by issuing orders to Allen Dulles and later to his successor, John McCone, which continued in effect after President Johnson took office. In addition, Shriver met with Dulles and later with McCone and obtained their guarantee that the CIA would stay away from the Peace Corps.

But the problem was more subtle than that. Shriver's dilemma was a peculiar one, bred of the Cold War and inconceivable in the America of even twenty years before. Could he be certain that the White House attitude would be reflected all along the line? Could he be sure, for example, that a lower-echelon CIA official might not quietly attempt, despite everything, to plant agents in the Peace Corps, in the honest belief that he was acting in some higher national interest?

Shriver must have decided he could not be sure of the answers to these delicate questions, for he did not rely on presidential assurances alone. A careful screening process was set up. It was designed, of course, to catch any Communist or security risk who might try to get into the Peace Corps. But it was also designed -- hopefully -- to spot any CIA "volunteer" before he could unpack his cloak and dagger.

It might come as a jolt to most Americans to know that one agency of the United States Government feels it must protect itself against infiltration in its ranks by another agency of the United States Government. But the Peace Corps has taken elaborate steps to prevent just that.

Shriver designated William Delano, the Peace Corps' young general counsel, to ride herd on the problem and make sure no intelligence men slipped through the net. As insurance, Shriver laid down a firm rule. No one with any intelligence background, even years ago, would be accepted.

As Peace Corps officials soon discovered, there was a hitch. Openly acknowledged "overt" employees of the CIA are allowed to say so when they seek a new job. But covert employees of the CIA are not permitted to reveal it, even years later on a government job application form. They might put down the name of a commercial cover company or perhaps some other branch of the government for which they had ostensibly worked.

And a routine Civil Service check, Peace Corps officials realized, would not reveal whether applicants had been or were still covert CIA agents. Some applicants, unaware of Shriver's policy, innocently listed such past jobs as "CIA secretary, summer of 1951." They were immediately eliminated.

Others, more sophisticated, sought to fuzz their past employment by listing "U. S. Government" to cover a period of a year or two. But the would-be volunteers, in these cases, were questioned by Civil Service investigators, who naturally demanded to know more details.

One high Peace Corps official estimated that ten to twenty ex-CIA employees who had listed "U.S. Government" on their applications have been turned down since the Peace Corps began.

Screening out persons with a background in intelligence was only part of the problem. The Peace Corps also decided that it had to guard against the possibility of the CIA approaching a volunteer after he had been accepted into the Corps.

During orientation courses for volunteers, it became standard practice for a Peace Corps instructor to get up and pose the following question:

"Suppose a man asks you to have a cup of coffee with him and he identifies himself as a CIA agent. He says he doesn't want you to spy, but that he'd like you to get together with him and just chat every couple of weeks, and perhaps tell him a couple of things you've learned. What would be your reaction?"

Most of the volunteers replied they would have no part of any free-lance spying of this sort.

"Just so that no one will have any doubts about it," the instructor would then add, "if such a solicitation is made, you are to report it to the Peace Corps country representative within ten minutes, if you can get to him that quickly, because the CIA man would be defying the President's order to Dulles and McCone. Furthermore, the CIA man will be kicked out of the country faster than you can see, if you report it."

Because of this orientation, Peace Corps officials felt it was unlikely that their volunteers would be solicited to do any intelligence work. Still, one official admitted, the real problem would be,

"covert people trying to infiltrate. I don't see any way we can spot them. It would be a fluke. The more deliberate the attempt, the harder it would be to find."

Shriver's concern over keeping his agency "clean" was reinforced in September, 1961, when Secretary of the Army Elvis J. Stahr made a speech suggesting that an Army Peace Corps be established.

"We must plan so that we can use our tools in cold war as well as hot war and employ them anywhere in the world, " said Stahr. General Barksdale Hamlett, Army Deputy Chief of Staff, gave added details of the plan, which seemed to envision use of the Army in worthy social projects in underdeveloped countries -- but linked to paramilitary activities.

To Shriver, it smacked of precisely the sort of military and intelligence overtones he was trying so hard to avoid. Shriver objected strenuously. A high-level meeting was held at the Pentagon, attended by Stahr, Shriver, General Hamlett and a platoon of beribboned Army brass.

The generals at the meeting insisted that the Army Peace Corps would have no relation to any intelligence work. At that, Lee St. Lawrence, a Peace Corps official, spoke up. St. Lawrence had served with the Agency for International Development in Southeast Asia and was familiar with CIA operations in that part of the world.

He asked the generals to name the officers who would be in charge of the proposed "Army Peace Corps" in Southeast Asia. When they did, St. Lawrence singled out some as CIA men. He offered to reel off the names of others, but there was no need. The project was dropped.

But Communist attacks on Shriver and the Peace Corps continued. United States intelligence obtained, from Eastern Europe, what appeared to be a guide for satellite nations on how to phrase propaganda against the Peace Corps. The document stressed the general line that the Corps was a CIA operation and that volunteers were selected by the CIA. Peace Corps officials believed that it served as a primer for subsequent propaganda emanating from various points in the Communist world.

Certainly the Russian and Communist Chinese attacks followed a familiar pattern. In March, 1962, for example, Radio Moscow broadcast in Hindi to India:

"U.S. agents are sent to Afro-Asian countries under the U.S. Peace Corps label. The plan to organize the corps was jointly prepared by the U.S. State Department, Pentagon and CIA. Director of the Corps, Shriver, is an old employee of the CIA."

Radio Peking joined in, and so did Fidel Castro. Radio Havana broadcast attacks on the Peace Corps that paralleled the Moscow barrage.

Also in Havana, the newspaper Roy warned Venezuela to "watch out" for the Peace Corps. "These Corps are land U-2s. Their mission consists in poking their noses into all places where meek rulers open the door for them."

On March 27, 1963, a Polish paper published an article attacking the Peace Corps by charging that girl volunteers were Mata Haris. It ran photographs of girls training, with the caption: "The Americans consider all means acceptable. Where other methods do not succeed, sex * may be very useful. Girl members of the Corps on the exercise field."

About the same time, Tass picked up the sex theme and charged that a wicked Peace Corps woman teacher in Somalia tried to teach pupils the "indecent movements" of the twist.

By the spring of 1963, United States analysts concluded that the Soviet Union, having had little success with this loud, public campaign against the Peace Corps, had embarked on a simultaneous behind-the-scenes campaign against the Corps. In Ghana, for example, the Soviet ambassador succeeded in persuading the government of President Kwame Nkrumah to impose some restrictions on the Peace Corps. And in May, 1963, the Ghanaian Times, regarded as the unofficial spokesman for Nkrumah, openly attacked the Corps as an alleged CIA tool.

There seemed no likelihood that the public attacks would stop, but their very intensity logically dictated that Shriver, more than ever, would want to keep the Peace Corps pristine. A spy incident involving a volunteer would give the Russians a propaganda field day and could possibly wreck the Peace Corps, and Shriver's political career as well.

The Peace Corps, it should be noted in fairness to the CIA, maintains it does not know of a single case in which it could be sure of an attempted infiltration by an intelligence agent seeking to use the Corps as cover.

But the fact that Shriver felt he had to take the astonishing precautions he did, speaks volumes. It reflects the atmosphere of mistrust that is felt, rightly or wrongly, by many overt officials of the United States Government toward their less visible colleagues. The distrust is not universal, however. Some unlikely departments of the government have become vehicles for secret operations of various shadings. The story of one of these begins in a house in Cuba.

* Actually, the Peace Corps has rather strict rules about sex. "In-service marriages of single volunteers must have the prior approval of the Peace Corps representative in charge of the project," a Peace Corps booklet warns sternly. "Approval will not be granted when the future spouse has come from the U.S. or from some other country for the purpose of marrying a volunteer ... married couples who find they are to become parents must notify their Peace Corps representative as quickly as possible."

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Outside the high garden wall of the decaying villa in Miramar, on the outskirts of Havana, guards armed with Tommy guns patrolled back and forth.

Inside, James Donovan, the remarkable, soft-spoken New York attorney, picked up the telephone and asked the Cuban operator to put him through to a number in the United States.

He took out a black wallet, of the type that was large enough for foreign bills, and reached into an apparently empty pouch. From a concealed pocket in the wallet he pulled out a typewritten sheet of onionskin paper.

On it, down the left-hand side, were key words like "negotiations." On the right side were various phrases such as "1 am meeting with" and then a list of various people, including the name "Fidel." The sheet also contained what appeared to be a list of stocks.

By ordering his "broker" to "sell Quaker City" and by using other innocuous key words, Donovan, through his code sheet, was able to convey to the CIA men on the line in the United States the real progress of his negotiations to ransom the lives of more than 1,000 prisoners.

James Donovan was on his most important mission. He was playing for high stakes -- the freedom of the 1,113 survivors of the Bay of Pigs invasion. The men were captives in the jails of Fidel Castro.

Donovan was a silver-haired, forty-six-year-old former OSS man, short but powerfully built. In February, 1962, on the bridge in Berlin, he had traded the Soviet master spy Rudolf Abel (whom he defended five years earlier in Federal Court) for the U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and Yale student Frederic L. Pryor, held on a charge of espionage by the East Germans. It was the most spectacular spy swap in the history of the Cold War.

Donovan's Cuban adventure began a few months later, early in June, 1962, when Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent to him a delegation of Cubans made up of survivors of the Bay of Pigs brigade and their families.

Up to that time, sixty prisoners had been ransomed for a pledge of cash, but efforts to free the rest had failed in June, 1961, when negotiations between Castro and a Tractors for Freedom Committee collapsed. The committee, sponsored by the Kennedy Administration, had been unable to reach agreement with Castro on the dictator's continually shifting offers to trade the prisoners for 500 tractors or bulldozers.

Donovan, after listening to the pleas of his visitors, agreed to become the general counsel to the group. It was called the Cuban Families Committee for Liberation of Prisoners of War, Inc., a charitable corporation that had been granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service.

On August 29, 1962, Donovan went to Cuba for his first talks with Castro. He stayed at the crumbling villa in Miramar and conferred with Castro at the Presidential Palace in Havana. He made it clear he would offer drugs and baby foods for the men, but no cash or tractors. Castro agreed to negotiate on this basis, provided the Cuban Families Committee came up with the $2,900,000 it had pledged in return for the sixty prisoners released the previous April.

Donovan returned to New York and visited John E. McKeen, the president of Charles Pfizer Company, who lived in the penthouse of Donovan's apartment building near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. They called in John T. Connor, head of Merck, Sharp & Dohme, another friend of Donovan. The executives of the two drug companies offered to donate medicines to help Donovan get the men out.

The CIA separately approached the drug industry trade association, to explore the chances of large- scale donations by manufacturers.

In the meantime, Donovan had entered the political arena. On September 18, shortly after his return from Cuba, Donovan won the Democratic nomination for United States Senate. His opponent was the Republican incumbent, Senator Jacob K. Javits.

On October 2, the drug-company pledges in his pocket, Donovan returned to Havana, confident he could reach agreement with Castro. The Pfizer Company quietly began moving $2,000,000 worth of drugs in refrigerator cars to Idlewild International Airport. The United States Government began making preparations to receive the influx of prisoners in Miami.

It was on this second trip that Castro agreed to trade the men for baby foods and medicines. All was going well except for a painful attack of bursitis in Donovan's right shoulder that forced him to fly to Miami briefly for treatment.

He returned to Havana to continue his talks with Castro, but back in the United States there were charges that Donovan was seeking to make political capital out of his role as Cuban negotiator. And some members of Congress said that the United States ought not to be dickering with Castro at a time when it was asking other countries to cut off trade.

The White House refused to say whether any government funds would be used to ransom the men. It insisted Donovan was acting as a private attorney but said he was keeping President Kennedy advised of his activities. Donovan returned from Cuba on October 11.

Three days later a U-2 plane flying secretly over western Cuba took a photograph of a Soviet mobile medium-range missile site.

The Cuban missile crisis was on. The world moved close to nuclear war during the latter half of October. Against this background of tension it looked as though Donovan's chances of reaching an agreement to free the men had been shattered. He suffered a personal, although not unexpected, blow when he lost the election on November 6 to Senator Javits.

By late November the situation was this:

Donovan still had Castro's general agreement to a swap. But now in the wake of the missile crisis, the drug industry was unwilling to take the risk of donating medicines to Castro unless the Kennedy Administration made it publicly clear that the deal was in the national interest. The drug firms, already hit hard by the Senate investigation of their high prices, had no desire to bring a new wave of public disapproval down upon themselves.

On November 30 a meeting was held at the Justice Department of top aides to Robert Kennedy and officials of the Internal Revenue Service, the State Department and the CIA (including Lawrence R. Houston, the general counsel of the CIA, Donovan's CIA contact in the Powers-Abel trade). Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and Assistant Attorney General Louis F. Oberdorfer represented the Justice Department. Robert Hurwitch spoke for the State Department.

The high-level meeting concluded that Castro's demand of $53,000,000 in drugs would cost only $17,000,000 at wholesale U.S. prices. It was also decided to study the tax angle involved in possible contributions of drugs by the companies. It was agreed that a memorandum would be prepared over the weekend to be ready for Robert Kennedy on Monday December 3. *1 In the meantime, a drug-industry representative was contacted informally.

On Monday morning the New York Herald Tribune published a front-page story by Warren Rogers, Jr., stating that the President felt a "moral obligation" to free the men. It was the kind of reassurance the drug companies had been looking for. Donovan's phone began to ring in Brooklyn with additional pledges of drugs from the industry.

In Washington, Robert Kennedy called on the President at the White House, and at noon the Attorney General phoned Oberdorfer to give him the green light to go ahead with the operation. The American Red Cross then agreed to accept the drugs as contributions to charity and to deliver them to Havana.

The next day Donovan slipped into Washington to confer with Robert Kennedy. On December 7 the Attorney General met with officials of the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. He told the drug manufacturers that the Bay of Pigs invasion had been launched by the United States, that the plan had been started by the Eisenhower Administration and continued by the Kennedy Administration, and that both the nation and the government had a moral obligation to get the men out.

Robert Kennedy talked about the courage of forty members of the brigade who had escaped and crossed the Caribbean in an open boat. He went on to say that the United States could not directly conduct negotiations with Cuba because it would be "misunderstood" by the world and would be a diplomatic disaster if the deal failed. He said that all departments had received a list of the drugs Castro wanted and that none were considered strategic.

Finally, the Attorney General assured the companies that the sight of the returning prisoners would still any criticism of the drug companies for contributing to Castro. He made it clear that contributions were voluntary.

He then ordered Oberdorfer to devote his full time to the project. And on December 9, Robert Kennedy gave the same talk to a group of baby-food manufacturers.

Oberdorfer's office in the Justice Department became the command post for "Project X." Additional telephones were installed. A group of private attorneys, including John E. Nolan, Jr., and E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., were brought in to help. (Both later joined the administration.)

From Oberdorfer's office, the private attorneys (and two Justice Department lawyers) now began telephone solicitation of the drug companies. The Justice Department attorneys did not identify themselves as government employees, but said they were calling as representatives of the Cuban Families Committee.

The Justice Department team obtained clearances from the Civil Aeronautics Board and the Interstate Commerce Commission to permit charitable contribution of air and surface transportation to haul the drugs to Miami. The CIA, the Air Force, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the Department of Health, Education and Welfare began making arrangements to receive and process the prisoners in Florida. The Commerce Department granted export licenses for the food and drugs.

During this time Donovan told the Justice Department that Castro was demanding a guarantee of full payment of the ransom; otherwise he would hold back the brigade officers until the last payment was made. Katzenbach flew to Montreal on December 14 but the Royal Bank of Canada balked at issuing a letter of credit without some formal guarantees by American banks. The Justice Department official flew back to New York. The Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York and the Bank of America agreed to participate; special meetings of their boards of directors were hastily convened to approve the plan.

To complete the financial arrangements, the Continental Insurance Company wrote out a $53,000,000 performance bond without charge, guaranteeing that the Red Cross would meet its obligations to deliver the drugs to Cuba.

Meanwhile, the drugs contributed to "Project X" by the manufacturers were flooding into Miami and creating a monster job of cataloging and bookkeeping at Opa-locka (ironically, the same CIA air base used as a jumping-off point for the Bay of Pigs trainees). The CIA provided a pharmacist, Stephen Aldrich, who helped log the drugs as they arrived in Florida.

On December 16 Donovan began his final mission. He stopped off in Washington to confer with officials and then went on to Miami, where he disappeared. The press could not find him, and with good reason.

Donovan stayed in a CIA house in Miami on December 16 and 17, telephoning to Havana. About 9:00 P.M., December 17, Donovan called Washington to say that he had arranged to go to Havana in the morning. He also reported that one of Castro's negotiators had a sick child who needed a certain medicine immediately.

Katzenbach called Walter Reed Hospital and got ten vials of the medicine. Shortly after midnight Oberdorfer, his assistant Frank Michelman, John Nolan and a CIA attorney flew to Miami from Washington, taking the medicine along.

They did not arrive at the CIA "safe house" until 5:00 A.M. on December 18. There, Donovan received a final pre-dawn briefing. Then he flew into Havana. Nolan stayed at the house, helping to man the CIA telephones. The rest of the team flew back to Washington.

Two days later Donovan returned briefly to Miami. Then he flew back to Havana, taking with him Dr. Leonard Scheele, the former Surgeon General of the United States. On December 21 Donovan and Castro signed a Memorandum of Agreement. But Castro was wary of Donovan's representations. Donovan suggested that Castro's aides inspect some of the drugs.

Shortly after midnight three Cuban Red Cross officials in olive drab flew secretly into Miami. They were met by Dr. Scheele and Barrett Prettyman, shown the supplies at Opa-locka and then taken to Port Everglades to inspect the drugs being loaded on the African Pilot, a ship donated by the Committee of the American Steamship Lines.

The Cubans then adjourned to a Howard Johnson's motel and said to Prettyman they wanted to remain for the day. It was now 5:00 A.M., December 22. Nolan and Prettyman were alarmed at what would happen if the press learned that Castro emissaries were holed up in a Florida motel. One of the Cuban Red Cross men smoked big cigars and, in his olive uniform, did not project the image of a man of mercy. Nolan and Prettyman finally prevailed on the Cubans to fly back to Havana, which they did at 9:00 A.M.

That same day the African Pilot sailed for Havana with the first shipload of drugs. Early on Sunday, December 23, Nolan and Prettyman joined Donovan in Havana. The African Pilot docked that afternoon. Castro met the ship.

The prisoner exchange seemed to be proceeding smoothly. At 5:00 P.M. the first plane left the San Antonio de los Banos airport for Homestead Air Force Base south of Miami. It landed in Florida an hour and five minutes later. All told, four planeloads and a total of 426 prisoners left Cuba by nightfall.

But, in Havana, it had become obvious to Donovan that the airlift would be halted by Castro unless the Cuban Families Committee came up with the $2,900,000 that had been pledged as ransom for the sixty wounded prisoners released in April before Donovan entered the picture.

At 2:00 A.M. on Monday, December 24, Nolan flew to Miami. He placed a 5:00 A.M. phone call to Robert Kennedy in Washington. Nolan made it clear that unless the money was raised by three o'clock that afternoon, the deal would collapse.

"What are you going to tell Jim Donovan?" Robert Kennedy asked.

"I'm going to tell him you're going to get the money," Nolan replied.

There was a pause. Then Robert Kennedy said: "Have a nice trip back."

Nolan flew back to Havana. The Attorney General called Richard Cardinal Cushing, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, who pledged $1,000,000. Robert Kennedy also called General Lucius Clay, who was a sponsor of the Cuban Families Committee.

Clay borrowed the remaining $1,900,000 on his own signature, then solicited contributions from American business firms to cover that amount. Texaco, Standard Oil of New Jersey and the Ford Motor Company Fund each contributed $100,000.

In Cuba, that Monday, two more planeloads of prisoners were permitted to take off. Then Castro stalled.

First he staged a military air show at San Antonio de los Banos to tie up the airport. Then, about 1:00 P.M., Castro halted all flights until he received word about the money. Late in the afternoon Castro was assured the Royal Bank of Canada had deposited it in Montreal. Donovan and Castro then met at the Canadian consul's office to accept the financial guarantees.

At 9:35 P.M. the last of the planes carrying the returning prisoners touched down at Homestead Air Force Base. Aboard was James Donovan, a quiet American -- his mission accomplished.

For each of the returning prisoners, the routine was the same. Clean clothes, a meal and then a bus trip to Dinner Key Auditorium, where their families and friends were waiting. There, they marched between double lines of fellow members of Brigade 2506 as a band played the march from The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

It was Christmas Eve, 1962.

There were some people who were not content to accept the prisoner exchange as a humanitarian act arranged by a private citizen. Months later, in June, 1963, all thirteen Republican members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee called for a Congressional inquiry into Donovan's role. They charged that many aspects of the exchange "remain baffling."

Donovan replied: "I was a private citizen acting on behalf of the Cuban Families Committee."

It was not, of course, quite as simple as that, as has been shown. Although both Donovan and the White House took this position (for reasons Robert Kennedy had explained privately to the drug industry on December 7, 1962), the fact is that no fewer than fourteen branches of the government participated in the complex deal: the CIA, the Air Force, the Departments of Health, Education and Welfare, Justice, Defense, Commerce, Agriculture, Treasury, the Internal Revenue Service, the White House, Immigration, the CAB, the ICC and the State Department.

In January, 1963, the Agriculture Department gave 5,000,000 pounds of dried milk to the Red Cross for shipment to Cuba and pledged more as needed. In all, the Agriculture Department contributed a total of 35,000,000 pounds of surplus food to the prisoner exchange -- 15,000, 000 pounds of dried milk and 20,000,000 pounds of shortening.

But the administration was fearful that it would come under political attack for helping Castro. The milk and. shortening deal was played down.

Furthermore, the Agriculture Department announced on January 8, 1963, that "the Red Cross had indicated that the Cuban Families Committee expects to raise funds to reimburse the department." In other words, the government was saying that it would be paid back in cash for the surplus food.

What happened was somewhat different.

The dried milk cost the government $2,505,000 when it was bought from producers as part of the farm price support program. The shortening cost the government $3,150,000. Consequently, the government gave away commodities for which it had paid $5,655,000.

However, in calculating the value of the milk and shortening given to the Red Cross, the government figured its contribution as worth just under $2,000,000 -- the lower price the milk and repackaged shortening might have brought had it been sold by the government on the world market. Normally, the government uses the higher price that it paid to producers when it figures the value of a contribution of surplus food to charity. In this instance, it obviously sought to minimize the size of the donation because of the domestic political implications of giving anything away to Castro.

Nor was the government paid back any amount in cash for its donation of milk and shortening. Instead, in a bit of complex bookkeeping that leaves the onlooker breathless, the government accepted as "reimbursement" 4,000,000 pounds of an insecticide called Sevin. The Union Carbide Company had contributed $2,000,000 worth of the bug-killer to the Red Cross for the prisoner exchange. The Commerce Department ruled that the insecticides would be of strategic economic value to Castro by helping his sugar-cane crops.

"So the following took place: The Red Cross accepted the insecticides, then immediately turned them over to the Agency for International Development, which dispatched them to India, Pakistan and Algeria. The government accepted this as repayment for the milk and shortening. This was not quite the same as the "funds" which the Agriculture announcement had indicated would be raised "to reimburse the department."

A conservative estimate of what it cost the government to extricate itself after the Bay of Pigs would be $29,793, 000. This consists of a $20,000,000 tax loss *2 to the government as a result of the drug companies' charitable deductions; $5,655,000 in skim milk and shortening; $4,000,000 in secret CIA payments to families of the Bay of Pigs prisoners over a twenty-month period, and $138,000 in costs to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare when the prisoners returned. (Each man got a $100 check; the other costs were clothing, housing and food.)

Because of the political risks at home of dealing with Castro, the government felt it necessary to mask its participation in the prisoner exchange both by acting through Donovan and by a certain amount of fiscal hocus-pocus. It decided that the realities of the situation were such that even an act of humanity had to be approached with the utmost political caution.

Nevertheless, Donovan succeeded and the prisoners' lives were saved. As an unexpected part of the deal, Donovan persuaded Castro not to let the Red Cross ships sail away empty. Castro began releasing thousands of refugees previously unable to leave Cuba, including over 5,000 members of the families of the prisoners.

Then in March and April of 1963 Donovan won the release of more than thirty Americans held in Cuban jails, including three CIA men. On July 3, when the last of the medical supplies reached Cuba, the American Red Cross announced that a total of 9,703 persons (including the Bay of Pigs prisoners and the Americans) had been brought out of Cuba under the agreements negotiated by Donovan.

The staggering figure of nearly 10,000 persons rescued by one man is not widely known, because the total figure received less public attention than did the dramatic return of the invasion prisoners.

In all of these missions, Donovan had the assistance of, and worked hand in hand with, the United States Government. But he was not formally a part of it. In each case, as a private citizen, he was breaking new ground in a form of intelligence diplomacy that is a unique outgrowth of the Cold War.

In the case of the Powers-Abel swap, the negotiations that culminated on the Berlin bridge began with a series of letters to Donovan signed "Hellen Abel" The writer of the letters claimed to be the wife of the Soviet spy imprisoned in the United States. The letters came from Leipzig, East Germany.

Donovan turned each of them over to Lawrence Houston, the CIA general counsel. The agency prepared an answer to each letter from "Mrs. Abel," and shipped them back to Donovan in New York, who sent them off to Leipzig. But when Donovan eventually went to East Berlin to negotiate the final details directly with the Russians and East Germans, he was technically on his own, a private American citizen with no diplomatic immunity or protection.

Donovan's missions, then, have defied any neat categorization. President Kennedy, in a letter to Donovan after the East Berlin mission, characterized them as "unique." Because of their very nature, there was public confusion over whether he acted as a private citizen or as a secret agent of the United States Government. The truth is that he was somewhere in-between.

The government was unwilling to tell the full story of its role in the Cuban prisoner exchange, as it has been related here, because to have done so during Donovan's negotiations might have handicapped his ability to deal with Castro. And, afterward, it might have engendered too many delicate political questions. In a very real sense, the seeds of one covert operation, the Bay of Pigs, had given rise to another -- the return of the invasion brigade.

Those who sought a clear, simple explanation of whether an operation was private or governmental were bound to be disappointed in the case of James Donovan.

His rescue of the Bay of Pigs prisoners was not precisely a "black, " i.e., secret operation. Nor was it entirely "white." It might be most accurately described as a mixture of both -- truly a gray operation.

The memorandum noted that some drug companies might gain a tax "windfall" by making charitable contributions to the prisoner exchange deal. An accompanying letter by Oberdorfer to Robert Kennedy pointed out that the drug companies would nevertheless insist on approval of the deal by someone at least as high as a Cabinet officer as well as "maximum protection from legislative and public criticism in two particular directions: (a) charges of pro-Communism and (b) criticism for inferences drawn from any price mark-up exposed in the transaction."

*2 The estimate of tax loss was made by Mitchell Rogovin, counsel to the Internal Revenue Service, on December 28, 1962.

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In the summer and fall of 1962, as Donovan was negotiating with Castro to rescue the victims of one of the Invisible Government's operations in Cuba, another operation was being conducted in the airspace over the island. In utmost secrecy, the U-2 spy plane was photographing every foot of Cuban territory in search of Soviet missiles.

The U-2 had been flying over Cuba from the earliest days of the Castro regime. In 1959 a U-2 was sent over the Zapata swamps near the Bay of Pigs to check an erroneous report that missiles were being set up in the area. By 1962 two U-2s a month were being flown over the island.

That August photographs were taken of SA-2 anti-aircraft missiles being unloaded at Cuban docks. The over-flight program was stepped up and seven U-2s were sent over the island in the five weeks between August 29 and October 7. Each mission returned with new pictures of short-range SA-2 defensive missiles.

But President Kennedy, citing the information provided him by the intelligence community, insisted there was no evidence that the Russians were moving in long-range offensive missiles that could threaten the United States. Kennedy gave his assurances despite the fact that John McCone had a suspicion -- never passed along to the White House -- that the Soviets were deploying ballistic missiles in Cuba.

In testimony before the Senate Preparedness Subcommittee on March 12, 1963, McCone said he had reported this view within the CIA on August 10.

"I couldn't understand," he explained, "why these surface-to-air missile sites were there, so useless for protecting the island against invasion. They must be there, in my opinion, to shield the island against observation from aerial reconnaissance."

McCone conceded, however, that his view, was based on "intuition" without "hard intelligence." And although as Director of Central Intelligence he could have ordered that his view be made the official view and reported to Kennedy, he did not do so.

McCone left Washington on August 23 to marry Theiline McGee Pigott, the widow of a rich Seattle industrialist and an old family friend. During his honeymoon cruise to Europe and his three-week stay on Cap Ferrat on the French Riviera, he received daily briefing telegrams. They deepened his apprehension, and on September 7, 10, 13 and 20 he responded with telegrams expressing his mounting concern. But, again, he did not direct that the "honeymoon telegrams" be passed along to the President. They were treated as "in-house" messages and were not circulated outside the CIA.

During McCone's absence, the Board of National Estimates was asked to assess the possibility that the Soviets would station offensive missiles in Cuba. And on September 19 a National Intelligence Estimate was produced. It conceded that the Russians might be tempted to introduce the missiles for psychological reasons, particularly to impress the Latin Americans. It also alluded to the possibility that the Soviets might wish to strengthen their position in Cuba as a prelude to a move against Berlin.

Nevertheless, the Estimate stated that it was highly unlikely that offensive missiles would be sent in, because the Soviets would be deterred by their awareness of the violent reaction which such a move would provoke on the part of the United States. The chief Kremlinologists in the State Department, Charles E. (Chip) Bohlen and Llewellyn E. (Tommy) Thompson, Jr., both former ambassadors to Moscow, concurred with the Estimate.*1

However, on September 20, the day after the Estimate was handed down, a reliable eyewitness report of an offensive missile reached Ray Cline, the CIA's deputy director for intelligence. A CIA sub-agent had spotted a missile part on a highway on September 12, but had experienced delay in getting his information out of Cuba. Missile experts in Washington, who had rejected hundreds of prior reports by Cuban refugees, concluded that the sub-agent's description checked out against the known features of Russian offensive missiles. In retrospect the CIA decided the/missile part had arrived in a shipment of Soviet cargo on September 8.

McCone returned from his honeymoon on September 26, and on October 4 an urgent meeting of the United States Intelligence Board was called. The members took a look at the "mosaic" -- a photographic panorama of the entire island of Cuba pieced together from the latest U-2 pictures. There were still no photographic indications of offensive missiles. But McCone noted that there had been no pictures of the western sector of the island since September 5. He ordered that overflights be further stepped up and concentrated on that section of Cuba.

Until that time all U-2 flights had been made by civilian CIA pilots. Now, however, the risks would be greatly increased by the expanded schedule of missions and by the presence of the anti-aircraft missiles. The CIA had concluded that an SA-2 had downed Francis Gary Powers over the Soviet Union in 1960, and that another had accounted for a Nationalist Chinese U-2 over Communist China on October 9, 1962. Rather than risk another U-2 incident involving the CIA, McCone agreed to McNamara's recommendation that the overflight operation be transferred to the Strategic Air Command.

During this interval, on October 10, Senator Kenneth B. Keating, the New York Republican, announced that he had confirmed reports of intermediate-range missile sites under construction in Cuba.

Four days later, early on the morning of October 14, SAC flew its first U-2 mission over Cuba and returned with photographs of mobile medium-range ballistic missiles (MMRBM) at San Cristobal, 100 miles to the southwest of Havana.

The pictures were analyzed by the photo-interpreters in Washington all the next day, and late in the afternoon the findings were reported to General Carter, McCone's deputy (McCone had left Washington earlier in the afternoon for Los Angeles to take the body of his stepson, Paul J. Pigott, who had been killed in a sports-car crash, to Seattle).

General Carroll, the director of the DIA, was next to be informed. Then Carroll took two civilian photo-interpreters to dinner at the home of General Maxwell Taylor. Joining them were Carter, and Roswell Gilpatric and U. Alexis Johnson, both members of the Special Group. When the officials had been convinced that Soviet missiles were in place in Cuba, McGeorge Bundy was notified at his home. He arranged for the photo-interpreters to report to him at the White House the following morning.

Shortly before nine o'clock on the morning of October 16 Bundy took the pictures to President Kennedy, who was in his bedroom in pajamas and robe, reading the newspapers. Kennedy quickly indicated those officials who were to be called to the White House.

At 11:45 the group, which was later to be named the Executive Committee (Excomm) of the National Security Council, gathered in the Cabinet Room for the first of a running series of meetings during the following two weeks. Present were Kennedy, his brother Robert, Lyndon Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, Gilpatric, Bundy, Taylor, Carter, Theodore C. Sorensen, the presidential adviser, Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon, Under Secretary of State George Ball and Edwin M. Martin, Assistant secretary of State for Latin American Affairs. Adlai Stevenson joined the group that afternoon. McCone was brought in immediately upon his return from the West Coast. And two Truman Cabinet members were called in later in the week: Dean Acheson, former Secretary of State, and Robert Lovett, former Secretary of Defense.

Kennedy entered the first Excomm meeting with the feeling that two choices were open: knock out the missiles with an air strike or make representations to Khrushchev.

During the next four days the Excomm weighed the alternatives, moving gradually toward a consensus that the safest course was to take the middle way: to set up a blockade and insist that the Soviets withdraw, or direct military force would be applied.

In coming to this decision the Excomm was strongly influenced by Robert Kennedy. Recalling Pearl Harbor, he opposed an air strike against the small island of Cuba. He argued that the nation might never recover from the moral outrage of the world and the shock to its own conscience.

At first, the discussion centered on the immediate problem of getting the missiles dismantled or removed. There were detailed technical analyses of what kind of surveillance and inspection would be necessary to make sure the missiles were rendered inoperable.

Stevenson was troubled that the discussion would bog down in details and that the larger problem of eliminating the Soviets from Cuba would be obscured. He reminded the Excomm that a long period of negotiation would probably follow the removal of the missiles. And he recommended that some thought be given to possible United States proposals during that period.

Stevenson suggested that once the missiles were out, the United States might propose this deal: a pull-out of all Soviet troops from Cuba in return for a promise by the United States that it would not invade the island and would withdraw its missiles from Turkey. Stevenson was aware that the administration had decided the previous year to remove the missiles from Turkey (they were Jupiter IRBMs, obsolescent, clumsy liquid-fuel rockets. The plan was to replace them with missile-bearing Polaris submarines stationed in the Mediterranean. Turkey announced on January 23, 1963, that it had agreed to removal of the Jupiters).

As the Excomm deliberated, the President went through with two scheduled campaign trips, lest their cancellation betray the secret maneuvering. On October 17 he kept speaking engagements in Stratford and New Haven, Connecticut, and on October 19 he campaigned in Cleveland, Springfield, Illinois, and Chicago. He was supposed to go on to St. Louis and Seattle that weekend, but on Saturday morning, October 20, Pierre Salinger announced that the President would return to Washington immediately because he had a cold and was running a slight temperature.

At the White House that afternoon the secret meetings continued. Kennedy approved the Excomm's recommendation that a blockade be imposed around Cuba. The decision was ratified the next day by the National Security Council. (Up to that point the Excomm had been operating without formal, statutory authority. To make its actions official, it was necessary to include the Office of Emergency Planning, one of the five statutory members of the NSC. The Office had been excluded from the previous deliberations.)

The President also arranged to go on television Monday night, October 22, to inform the nation that offensive missiles had been discovered in Cuba and that a blockade would be imposed.

All weekend long, starting the previous Thursday and continuing until the afternoon of the President's speech, the Defense Department had repeated: "The Pentagon has no information indicating the presence of offensive weapons in Cuba." *2

In his TV address the President emphasized that the blockade was only an "initial" step and indicated strongly that direct military force would be employed if necessary to get the missiles out.

"It shall be the policy of this nation," Kennedy added, "to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

For the next four days the world balanced on the brink of war, watching fearfully to see if the Soviets would continue work on the missiles, attempt to run the blockade, or otherwise defy the President's ultimatum.

Finally, late in the night of October 26, a message was received from Khrushchev. It suggested he was ready to withdraw his missiles under United Nations supervision in return for a lifting of the blockade and a pledge by the United States not to invade Cuba.

The Excomm convened the next morning in a hopeful atmosphere. But the optimism was quickly shattered by a second Khrushchev message, which was made public in Moscow. It offered to swap the Soviet missiles in Cuba for the U.S. missiles in Turkey.

The members of the Excomm knew that President Kennedy would not accept such a deal. As Kennedy was later to explain privately, he felt it imperative to reject the missile swap in order to preserve the Western alliance. The Turks had opposed the removal of the Jupiters during 1962. They looked upon the missiles as symbols of U.S. determination to defend them against Russian attack.

To accept Khrushchev's deal, Kennedy reasoned, would be to confirm all the things Europe had said and suspected about the United States: that when the vital interests of the United States were at stake, Europe's interests would be sacrificed.

It was a strange and ironic situation, Kennedy conceded, since he had decided the previous year to remove the obsolescent missiles from Turkey: a future historian might question the wisdom of risking a nuclear war over missiles that the nation did not need or want.

Kennedy issued a public statement, in effect rejecting the missile swap. Then he sent off a private message to Khrushchev, ignoring the Turkey proposal and agreeing to the terms of Khrushchev's first message.

Meantime, the Excomm's apprehension deepened as reports came in, first, that an SA-2 had opened fire in Cuba for the first time, downing a SAC U-2, and second, that a U-2 had wandered over Siberia while on an "air sampling" mission near the Arctic Circle.*3

The first U-2 incident that day suggested to the Excomm that Khrushchev might have reversed himself overnight and decided to defy Kennedy's demands. The Excomm also realized the second incident might have suggested to Khrushchev that Kennedy was planning some type of direct military action against Russia.

The President and the Excomm waited uneasily through the night. Then, shortly after ten o'clock on Sunday morning" October 28, Moscow released the text of another message from Khrushchev to Kennedy. The Soviet leader said he had ordered a stop to work on the Cuban bases and had directed that the missiles be crated and returned to the Soviet Union. United Nations representatives would "verify the dismantling."

Kennedy hailed Khrushchev's decision and responded with an expression of "regret" for the Siberian U-2 incident, which the Russian had complained about in his letter.

The missile crisis was over. Kennedy had won perhaps the greatest triumph of the Cold War. And in the November Congressional elections the triumph was reflected in a major Democratic victory .

The crisis had cost the Republicans as many as twenty House seats, said Representative Bob Wilson of California, the chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee. He insisted that the administration had known in late September that Russian missiles were in Cuba but had delayed announcing the fact in order to go into the election in a time of crisis, when the nation traditionally rallies round the President.

Wilson said administration officials had held a secret briefing for him and other members of the CIA subcommittee in the House six weeks before the election and had disclosed that offensive missiles were then in Cuba (Wilson apparently was referring to the eyewitness report of a missile part which reached the CIA on September 20).

The administration denied Wilson's accusation, but its credibility was called into question when Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, made a series of statements which suggested that the administration might have been manipulating the facts in its official announcements.

"The generation of news by actions taken by the government," Sylvester declared on October 30 in commenting upon the Cuban crisis, "becomes one weapon in a strained situation. The results, in my opinion, justify the methods we use ... News generated by actions of the government as to content and timing are part of the arsenal of weaponry that a President has in application of military force and related forces to the solution of political problems, or to the application of international political pressure."

Sylvester went even further in a speech on December 6:

"It's inherent in [the] government's right, if necessary, to lie to save itself when it's going up into a nuclear war. This seems to me basic."

In order to keep a closer watch over government information, Sylvester directed that a representative of his office monitor each interview between a reporter and a Pentagon official. Alternately, the official could report the substance of the interview to Sylvester at the end of the day. The State Department instituted a similar practice, but withdrew it a few weeks later under pressure.

Critics accused the administration of "managing the news," using information as a "weapon," even lying to protect itself.

Kennedy's October triumph was further compromised when Castro refused to allow on-site inspection of the missile sites by the United Nations. The Republicans seized upon this to suggest that the Russian military buildup was continuing and that all of the offensive weapons had not been removed.

Leading the Republican attack was Senator Keating, who had gained something of a reputation as an intelligence expert by virtue of his announcement on October 10, twelve days before Kennedy's TV address, that there were offensive missiles in Cuba.

Keating issued a series of post-crisis statements, culminating in a speech on January 31, 1963, in which he said:

"There is continuing, absolutely confirmed and undeniable evidence that the Soviets are maintaining the medium-range sites they had previously constructed in Cuba ... they may have missiles left on the island and need only to wheel them out of caves ... Without on-site inspection, it is hard to see how we will ever know for sure the true missile situation in Cuba."

Keating's statement drew banner headlines across the country. And the administration had difficulty gaining public acceptance of its denials. Its failure to quiet the storm over Cuba was undermining efforts to turn the October triumph into a Cold War breakthrough.

Finally, Kennedy decided he would have to overwhelm his critics with photographic proof. The original idea was to invite the small group of reporters covering Keating to view the special briefing which had been put together for several Congressional committees. At the last minute, however, the President decided that if classified material was to be released, he might as well go the whole way. He ordered McNamara to go on nationwide television that evening -- February 6 -- and display the aerial reconnaissance photos brought back from Cuba.

The decision was reached so quickly that there was no time to check with McCone. The CIA boss would have opposed the idea on grounds that the TV show would reveal the high degree of perfection which had been achieved with the U-2 cameras (much better than those which fell into Khrushchev's hands when Powers' plane was captured in 1960).

At the time of the decision, McCone was on Capitol Hill testifying: "We are convinced beyond reasonable doubt ... that all offensive missiles and bombers known to be in Cuba were withdrawn."

A few hours later McNamara went on TV. For close to two hours the American people were exposed to some of the "blackest" secrets of the Invisible Government. Most of the briefing was conducted by General Carroll's thirty-four-year-old assistant, John Hughes. He displayed dozens of blowups of reconnaissance photos showing the Cuban missile sites first under construction and then in the process of dismantling, and finally he showed the missile equipment being put aboard ships and carried away from the island.

It was a breathtaking demonstration of the high degree of sophistication which had been achieved in electronic intelligence. But the presentation prompted two questions which were to prove embarrassing to the administration. First, no pictures were shown for the period between September 5 and October 14, raising the question of whether the intelligence community had neglected to conduct aerial reconnaissance during this period or whether the administration was suppressing pertinent photos. And second, the briefing added up to a tacit admission that there had been no photographic count of the number of missiles shipped to Cuba and, therefore, there could be no certainty that the number spotted going out represented the total arsenal.

McNamara sidestepped these problems in answering questions after the briefing. But the next day Kennedy admitted frankly to his news conference:

"We cannot prove that there is not a missile in a cave or that the Soviet Union isn't going to ship next week."

He noted, however, that the Soviets were aware that if any missiles were discovered, it would "produce the greatest crisis which the world has faced in its history."

The President deplored the "rumors and speculations" which, he said, compelled the administration to go on TV and disclose "a good deal of information which we are rather reluctant to give about our intelligence-gathering facilities."

As to the so-called "photo gap" between September 5 and October 4, McNamara finally explained at a news conference in February that the U-2 missions during that period "didn't relate" to the areas where the Russian missiles were found. In plain English, McNamara was saying that the CIA failed to photograph the western half of Cuba during the six weeks preceding the flight which discovered the offensive missiles.

At his news conference on March 6 Kennedy argued that it really didn't matter very much because the Soviets set up their missiles so quickly, there would have been nothing to see until a few days before October 14.

"I suppose," the President remarked, "we could have always perhaps picked up these missile bases a few days earlier, but not very many days earlier ... ten days before might not have picked up anything. The week before might have picked up something ... So I feel that the intelligence services did a very good job ... I am satisfied with Mr. McCone, the intelligence community, the Defense Department and the job they did in these days, particularly taken in totality."

But many important members of the administration were not so satisfied with the Invisible Government. They suspected that someone in the Pentagon or high in the CIA had been funneling incriminating evidence to the Republicans, possibly raw intelligence which had not yet been analyzed or brought to the President's attention. On March 25, when McCone came for one of his periodic meetings with the President, a third person, McGeorge Bundy, was included for the first time. Clearly, Bundy was there to monitor the conversation.

The Invisible Government had taken great pride in its performance during the missile crisis, only to find its achievement compromised by suspicions that it was playing politics with intelligence.

There was no denying, however, that the intelligence community had succeeded in raising the art of aerial photography to unimagined heights. The missile crisis had revealed unmistakably that automation was revolutionizing the spy business as rapidly as it was transforming American industry.

After the October crisis McCone was urged to make Sherman Kent of the Board of Estimates, the scapegoat for the bad guess. But McCone refused to fire him, despite repeated reminders from the White House that the Estimate was wrong.

*2 In a speech on March 11, 1963, Salinger insisted that during the Cuban crisis "We did not lie to the American people." He went on to explain that the Pentagon spokesman who issued the denials "was not lying. He was communicating the information as he knew it." By implication, Salinger excused his own statements about Kennedy's "cold."

*3 The Russians had charged that another U-2 flew over Sakhalin Island north of Japan on August 30, 1962. The United States replied that "severe winds" might have forced the plane "unintentionally" to violate Soviet airspace. After the Powers incident, Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy promised there would be no more U-2 overflights of the Soviet Union. But their pledge did not rule out flights over Cuba, other Communist countries or along the borders of the Soviet Union.


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