My fellow espionage obsessive Gil Roth sent me a link to the National Security Archive’s release onthe CIA “family Jewels” document dump which contained what has got to be the Greatest Euphemism ever coined.
The National Security Archives is the non government organization that attempts to get classifed documents that contain or cover-up the secret history of our time declassifed. Here’s the link Gil sent me which, when studied, revealed the amazing euphemism.
The “family jewels” were the dirty secrets about dirty tricks and illicit practices the agency had been engaged in–illegal surveillance, wiretapping, warantless break ins, mail intercepts and the like that had begun to leak out under pressure of Congressional investigations in the mid-70s. All of which caused then-president Ford in 1975 to order up a summary of the worst of the worst he could expect eventually to surface.
What I found interesting and unremarked in the coverage of the memos was a remarkable passage in memo (#2 in the National Security Archive link) is that it’s very specific about many instances of illicit surveillance and telephone tapping, naming a handful of specific individuals as targets. And then there is one final paragraph that suddenly drops all pretense to transparency. Becomes astonishingly vague and opaque. Hence the potentially explosive euphemism.
According to this paragraph “the CIA occasionally tests experimental equipment on American telephone circuits. The CIA apparently has established guidelines for these tests which provide, among other things that no records may be kept, not tape and so forth.”
And so forth. How eyes must have rolled when they came across that:
“Tests experimental equipment on American telephone circuits”.
Tests experimental eavesdropping devices on American telephone equipment? And just how widespread are these tests” and how long to they go on. Do they test whether they can listen into to every conversation a given subject has. Wording like that would give them latitude. Wording like that seems designed to cover up more than it reveals.
There is a scandal here, I suspect, one that may turn out to have foreshadowed the NSA warrantless wireptapping scandal.
It’s up to the new “open” CIA to show us their good faith by tellingl us just what lies beneath that egregious euphemism. Don’t hold your breath.