Family Jewels (Central Intelligence Agency)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

The Family Jewels is the informal name used to refer to a set of reports that detail activities conducted by the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Considered illegal or inappropriate, these actions were conducted over the span of decades, from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.[1] William Colby, who was the CIA director in the mid-1970s and helped in the compilation of the reports, dubbed them the "skeletons" in the CIA's closet.[1] Most of the documents were publicly released on June 25, 2007, after more than three decades of secrecy.[2] The non-governmental National Security Archive had filed a FOIA request fifteen years earlier.[3]


The reports that constitute the CIA's "Family Jewels" were commissioned in 1973 by then CIA director James R. Schlesinger, in response to press accounts of CIA involvement in the Watergate scandal — in particular, support to the burglars, E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, both CIA veterans.[1] On May 7, 1973, Schlesinger signed a directive commanding senior officers to compile a report of current or past CIA actions that may have fallen outside the agency's charter.[4] The resulting report, which was in the form of a 693-page loose-leaf book of memos, was passed on to William Colby when he succeeded Schlesinger as Director of Central Intelligence in late 1973.

Leaks and official release[edit]

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh revealed some of the contents of the "Family Jewels" in a front-page New York Times article in December 1974,[5] in which he reported that:

The Central Intelligence Agency, directly violating its charter, conducted a massive, illegal domestic intelligence operation during the Nixon Administration against the antiwar movement and other dissident groups in the United States according to well-placed Government sources.[6]

Additional details of the contents trickled out over the years, but requests by journalists and historians for access to the documents under the Freedom of Information Act were long denied. Finally, in June 2007, CIA Director Michael Hayden announced that the documents would be released to the public at an announcement made to the annual meeting of the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations.[1] A six-page summary of the reports was made available at the National Security Archive (based at George Washington University), with the following introduction:

The Central Intelligence Agency violated its charter for 25 years until revelations of illegal wiretapping, domestic surveillance, assassination plots, and human experimentation led to official investigations and reforms in the 1970s.[3]

The complete set of documents, with some redactions (including a number of pages in their entirety), was released on the CIA website on June 25, 2007.[7]


The reports describe numerous activities conducted by the CIA during the 1950s to 1970s that violated its charter. According to a briefing provided by CIA Director William Colby to the Justice Department on December 31, 1974, these included 18 issues which were of legal concern:[8]

  1. Confinement of a KGB defector, Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, that "might be regarded as a violation of the kidnapping laws."
  2. Wiretapping of two syndicated columnists, Robert Allen and Paul Scott (see also Project Mockingbird)[8]
  3. Physical surveillance of investigative journalist and muckraker Jack Anderson and his associates, including Les Whitten of the Washington Post and future Fox News Channel anchor and managing editor Brit Hume. Jack Anderson had written two articles on CIA-backed assassination attempts on Cuban leader Fidel Castro
  4. Physical surveillance of then-Washington Post reporter Michael Getler, who was later an ombudsman for the Washington Post and PBS
  5. Break-in at the home of a former CIA employee
  6. Break-in at the office of a former defector
  7. Warrantless entry into the apartment of a former CIA employee
  8. Opening of mail to and from the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1973 (including letters associated with actress Jane Fonda) (project SRPOINTER/HTLINGUAL at JFK airport)
  9. Opening of mail to and from the People's Republic of China from 1969 to 1972 (project SRPOINTER/HTLINGUAL at JFK airport - see also Project SHAMROCK by the NSA)
  10. Funding of behavior modification research on unwitting US citizens, including unscientific, non-consensual human experiments.[9] (see also Project MKULTRA concerning LSD experiments)
  11. Assassination plots against Cuban President Fidel Castro; Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba; President Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic; and René Schneider, Commander-in-chief of the Chilean Army. All of these plots were said to be unsuccessful ones.[10]
  12. Surveillance of dissident groups between 1967 and 1971 (see Project RESISTANCE, Project MERRIMAC and Operation CHAOS)
  13. Surveillance of a particular Latin American female, and of US citizens in Detroit
  14. Surveillance of former CIA officer and Agency critic, Victor Marchetti, author of the book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, published in 1974.
  15. Amassing of files on 9,900-plus US citizens related to the antiwar movement (see Project RESISTANCE, Project MERRIMAC and Operation CHAOS)
  16. Polygraph experiments with the sheriff of San Mateo County, California
  17. Fake CIA identification documents that might violate state laws
  18. Testing of electronic equipment on US telephone circuits


The documents also include Watergate-related items (p. 350-351) as well as a joint USAID-OPS operation concerning training foreign police in bomb-making, sabotage, etc. (one quotes Dan Mitrione,[11] responsible for the Office of Public Safety in Uruguay.

They also highlight equipment support to local police, which could have been considered illegal under the National Security Act of 1947 (page 6).

The Family Jewels also document the infiltration and surveillance of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), the predecessor to the DEA, on requests of the BNDD's director in order to root out corruption from among its ranks.

The CIA also surveilled black nationalism in the Caribbean and in the US, producing two memorandums in 1969 and 1970 (p. 188). It focused primarily on Stokely Carmichael's visits to the Caribbean Islands, and concluded that there was no "evidence of important links between militant blacks in the US and the Caribbean." A copy of these reports "was inadvertently sent to the FBI."

After FBI director John Edgar Hoover's public statement that "the Black Panthers are supported by terrorist organizations," the CIA responded in December 1970 that they "found no indication of any relationship between the fedayeen and the Black Panthers." (p. 283)

Apart from surveilling student activism in the US (in particular the Students for a Democratic Society, SDS), the CIA also had surveys in 19 countries, from Argentina to Yugoslavia (p. 191).

The CIA requested to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) "the establishment of a two-acre plot of opium poppies at a USDA research site in Washington, to be used for tests of photo-recognition of opium poppies" (p. 246). The agency was then investigating into multi-spectral sensors (p. 254 and 257).

Some pages are also dedicated to the Pentagon Papers (p. 288 sq.), leaked in 1971 by Daniel Ellsberg who became the subject of focused attention.

Reactions to release of documents[edit]

Then-President of Cuba, Fidel Castro, who was the target of multiple CIA assassination attempts reported in these documents, responded to their release on July 1, 2007, saying that the United States was still a "killing machine" and that the revealing of the documents was an attempt at diversion.[12][13] David Corn noted that one key 'jewel' had been redacted and remained classified.[14] Writing for The New York Times, Amy Zegart wrote: "Given all the illegal activities actually listed in this document, the hidden sections are all the more disturbing."[15]

Mafia involvement in assassination attempts on Fidel Castro[edit]

According to the Family Jewels documents released, members of the American mafia were involved in CIA attempts to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro.[16] The documents showed that the CIA recruited Robert Maheu, an ex-FBI agent and aide to Howard Hughes in Las Vegas, to approach Johnny Roselli under the pretense of representing international corporations that wanted Castro dead due to lost gambling interests.[16] Roselli introduced Maheu to mobster leaders Sam Giancana and Santo Trafficante, Jr..[16] Supplied with six poison pills from the CIA, Gianacana and Trafficante tried unsuccessfully to have people place the poison in Castro's food.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d DeYoung, Karen; Walter Pincus (2007-06-22). "CIA to Air Decades of Its Dirty Laundry". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-06-22. 
  2. ^ "C.I.A. Releases Files on Misdeeds From the Past". New York Times. 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2007-06-26. [dead link]
  3. ^ a b The CIA's Family Jewels, National Security Archive
  4. ^
  5. ^ Image of the article: Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years. By Seymour Hersh, NY Times, 22 Dec. 1974. (Reproduced by permission of copy right holder; further reproduction prohibited.)
  6. ^ Hersh, Seymour (1974-12-22). "Huge C.I.A. operation reported in U.S. against antiwar forces, other dissidents in Nixon years". New York Times. p. 1. 
  7. ^ "Family Jewels". FOIA Electronic Reading Room. Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2007-06-26. . This CIA resource offers quick access, one page at a time, but pages are GIF images without selectable or searchable text. The following file from the National Security Archive offers selectable and searchable text, but it is a 24 MB download. "CIA's "Family Jewels" - full report" (PDF). National Security Archive. Retrieved 2007-06-26. 
  8. ^ a b James A. Wilderotter (1975-01-03). "Memorandum: CIA Matters" (PDF). National Security Archive. Retrieved 2007-06-22. 
  9. ^ 4 documents relating to Dr. Sidney Gottlieb: CIA Science and Technology Directorate Chief Carl Duckett "thinks the Director would be ill-advised to say he is acquainted with this program" (Sidney Gottlieb's drug experiments)
  10. ^ Memo of conversation, January 3, 1975, between President Gerald Ford, William Colby, etc., made available by the National Security Archive
  11. ^ 10) CIA counter-intelligence official James J. Angleton and issue of training foreign police in bomb-making, sabotage, etc. (pp. 599-603), National Security Archive
  12. ^ Fidel Castro, La máquina de matar, Juventud Rebelde, July 1, 2007.(Spanish)
  13. ^ Castro: US is still a 'killing machine', Associated Press, published by The Miami Herald, July 1, 2007 (English)
  14. ^ Where's the CIA's Missing Jewel? David Corn, "Capital Games"
  15. ^ Zegart, Amy (June 26, 2007). "Keeping Track of All the Redactions". The New York Times (New York). Retrieved October 22, 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c d Snow, Anita (June 27, 2007). "CIA Plot to Kill Castro Detailed". The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.). AP. Retrieved November 22, 2014. 

External links[edit]