A CIA Cock and Bull Story
by Servando Gonzalez
I ordered Joseph Trento's new book, Prelude to Terror,
and, as soon as I received my copy from Amazon, began reading
it with extreme interest. Though I found a few factual inaccuracies
and many misinterpretations in his previous book, The Secret
History of the CIA, the overall impression was mostly positive.
In his previous book Trento explains how his interest in the
CIA began in 1976 when William Corson, a retired CIA senior officer,
opened for him the doors of the CIA's arcane world. Corson introduced
Trento to James Jesus Angleton, the CIA's legendary Chief of
counterintelligence, who eventually put him in contact with Robert
T. Crowley, another ex-CIA officer and a close friend of Corson.
Corson had contacted Trento in 1970, and he took him under
his wing. "Slowly, we became friends," tells Trento,
"and in some ways, I guess, he became my 'case officer'",
he jokes. What Trento does not seem to realize is that Corson
actually did recruit him. If Trento would have had any intelligence
training he would immediately have recognized the signs of the
typical CIA tradecraft,* evidenced in the recruitment approach
used by Corson. This would have set off alarm bells ringing in
the mind of any person with a just a minimum of intelligence
training. But it seems that Trento fell easily into Corson's
One of the axioms of agent recruiting is that the best agent
is the one who doesn't know (or doesn't want to know) that he
has been recruited. Corson, an experienced intelligence officer,
continued using his intelligence training after he retired from
the CIA. He recruited Trento as an unwitting agent of influence,
and, with the help of Angleton and Crowley, used him as conduit
for the dissemination of disinformation. Unfortunately, Corson,
Crowley and Angleton are the main sources for Trento's new book,
Prelude to Terror.
The main fault of both of Trento's books arise from a wrong
methodological approach: as one should not use a plumber's tools
to do a carpentry job, one should not use a journalist's (or
a historian's, for that matter) research and analysis tools to
study an intelligence organization.
Despite its shortcomings, however, Trento's first book was
a source of useful information for the skeptic researcher, because
he had managed to unearth a great deal of previously unknown
information about the CIA. Accordingly, I was expecting something
better, or at least at the same level, of his previous book.
But it took me only a few minutes to realize that this was a
totally different kind of book.
Trento begins the first paragraph of the Introduction to Prelude
to Terror with a sentence that marks the tone and aim of
the whole book: "The massive intelligence failures that
resulted in the September 11th attacks have left people wondering
how this could have happened." That sentence confirms my
theory that everybody believes in conspiracy theories, included
the ones who affirm that they not believe in conspiracy theories.
The only difference is that some people only believe the conspiracy
theories advanced by their own government. Now, if, as the first
sentence indicates, Trento really believes the cock and bull
story told by our government to explain the 9/11 events, it may
give us a clue as to why he accepted without mental reservations
the cock and bull story this group of seasoned ex-intelligence
officers told him.
Trento begins the second paragraph of the Introduction with
the following sentence: "Prelude to Terror will explain
the historical context underlying how things went so wrong and
why our government has been unwilling to do what is necessary
to reform the system that has failed so badly." Well, I
am going to give my own alternative explanation: The people who
really control our government -- and I am not talking about the
Bush administration, but the Government, that is, administrations
of both the Republican and Democratic factions of the Repucratic
Party -- have been unwilling to do anything to reform the intelligence
services, particularly the CIA, because, contrary to Trento's
assumption, the Agency has served them (not the American people)
Then, in the third paragraph of the Introduction, Trento expresses
his conviction that, "Since its creation in 1947, the CIA
has been a service dominated by a handful of individuals who
carried out their activities as they saw fit, some honestly trying
to serve the national interest, others focusing enormous energy
on personal political advantage, even personal profit."
According to Trento, a group of unscrupulous, opportunistic CIA
officers, leaded by Theodore C. Shackley, created a secret splinter
faction inside the CIA and put it to work for their personal
Well, finally Trento has said something true, but just on
one count. The fact that, since its creation (actually since
its conception, but that's a long story), the CIA has been under
the control of a handful of individuals, who created it for advancing
their own interests, is absolutely true. But you have to be too
naive to believe that a group of small potatoes, like Shackley
and his gangsta boys, were powerful enough to put the CIA to
work for them. Trento's version of the story -- which most likely
got from his tainted sources -- is close to the truth. But the
people he mentions as main culprits were just a bunch of corrupt
crooks who, once they realized what was really going on at the
CIA, benefited from it. Others, with more dignity and patriotism,
resigned from the Agency when they discovered the ruse.
By the way, the idea that a rogue faction controlling the
CIA is the cause for the Agency's evil doings is not new. It
is the main thesis explored by David Wise and Thomas Ross in
their widely read book The Invisible Government, published in
1964. Though some authors have dealt tangentially with the subject,
it was explored again in detail by Fletcher Prouty in 1973, in
his seminal book The Secret Team, still the best on the subject.
So, Trento's book is nothing but the third remake, with different
actors, of an old spy film.
Now, you have to have a low opinion of the intelligence of
your readers to try to convince them that whatever happened on
September 11th, 2001, was the direct result of the reckless actions
of Ted Shackley and his bunch of goons. And that is precisely
what Trento tries to prove in Prelude to Terror. Unfortunately,
the house of cards he builds has very unstable foundations. Contrary
to Trento's claims, the CIA began working to advance spurious
interests that have nothing to do with our national interests
way before Shackley appeared in the picture. Let's see.
President Truman created the CIA in July, 1947, and, as early
as April, 1948, the Agency perpetrated its first act of treason
against the American and Latin American peoples, when it planned
and executed a psychological warfare operation in Bogota, Colombia,
where the 9th International Conference of Latin American States
was taking place. The operation, now known as the Bogotazo, began
with the assassination of Colombian leader Jorge Eliecer Gaitan,
which triggered violent riots that destroyed the city. Next day,
U.S. Secretary of State George Marshall, who was chairing the
Conference, blamed the Communists for the events. The scared
delegates, who, previously to the riots, have been reluctant
to follow their master's voice, quickly jumped through the ring
of fire, and unanimously approved the creation of the Organization
of American States and condemned Soviet communism. This event
marked the beginning of the Cold War in the Western Hemisphere.
Then, in 1953, the CIA mounted a covert operation that toppled
the government of Premier Mossadegh in Iran. The poor guy had
committed the sin of nationalizing an oil company owned by the
British, and the CIA flexed its muscle in defense of the interests
of its bosses. Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA officer who was in charge
of the operation, was awarded a National Security Medal and praised
by President Eisenhower.
The following year the CIA mounted another covert operation
that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz, Guatemala's democratically elected
president. The poor fellow had made the mistake of nationalizing
400,00 acres of banana plantations owned by the United Fruit
Company. The CIA officers in charge of the successful operation
were Tracy Barnes and Richard Bissell.
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but I suspect that these three
operations I have mentioned above did not serve the personal
political advantage or personal profit of Ted Shackley and his
pirates. Actually the ones who directly benefited from these
three early CIA operations were some Wall Street bankers and
owners of transnational corporations. But these are not the only
facts giving credence to my suspicion that Shackley was not the
main illegal user of the CIA. As Trento himself points out in
The Secret History of the CIA, the Company actually began
in a secret room at the Council on Foreign Relations, where Allen
Dulles "laid out a scheme to operate an Intelligence service
outside the government." (In this new book Trento claims
that it was in an office at 44 Wall Street, so at some time I
expect he should try to put his act together.)
But, even if Allen Dulles was a larger potato than Shackley,
it is difficult to believe that he had the power and the resources
to create the CIA from scratch. Of course not. Hiding in the
shadows behind him was the true all powerful and immensely rich
Demiurge, Nelson Rockefeller, the true capo di tutti capi of
the Wall Street mafia clustered in the Council on Foreign Relations.
And he designed the CIA to serve their interests, not the interests
of the American taxpayers.
The CIA is an illegitimate child, product of a love affair
between Wall Street bankers and transnational corporations. Its
crookedness is genetic, not the result of environmental influences
or a virus that infected the body of the creature.
Since its very creation, the CIA was structurally divided
into four different directorates: Intelligence, Science and Technology,
Administration, and Plans, each one headed by a Deputy Director.
As everything regarding the CIA, the name Directorate of Plans
was highly misleading. It actually had to do with the military
arm of the CIA, the one devoted to covert military operations
of sabotage, subversion, terrorism, and psychological warfare.
And, like the workers' arms in a Soviet poster, the Directorate
of Plans soon became a strong, powerful arm.
According to an anecdote, when Joseph Stalin was informed
that the Vatican, after knowing that the Red Army had encroached
Berlin with an iron fist, had declared war against Nazi Germany,
he laughed heartily and asked: "How many divisions the pope
has?" The CFR conspirators faced a similar problem as the
Vatican. Even though they had an enormous amount of money and
power, they lacked an army to carry out the military adventures
they needed to protect their growing global interests.
Then, perhaps prompted by the successful operations the OSS
had conducted on their behalf (the most known is allowing Nazi
war criminals to escape), the wise old boys at the CFR realized
that a way to have their own personal army was to make it invisible,
creating is surreptitiously, and keeping it occult under the
cover of a legitimate U.S. Government organization. So, they
managed to force the creation of the CIA down the throats of
naïve (or controlled) American politicians. And, because
of the need for compartmentation and need-to-know, common to
all intelligence services, the CIA proved to be the most convenient
type of organization for that nefarious purpose.
Allen Dulles himself recognized the fact when, perhaps in
one of the very few candid moments of his life, he wrote: "An
intelligence service is the ideal vehicle for a conspiracy."
He knew for sure. His masters were using the CIA to conspire
against the American people. Contrary to what the Editor of The
Secret History of the CIA wrote on the book's jacket, the
CIA was founded on the worst of intentions.
The folks at the CFR never gave a rat ass for the product
of the allegedly most important CIA Directorate: Intelligence.
This explains why, since its very creation, the CIA has accumulated
failure after failure in the area of intelligence. But the CFR
conspirators were very careful in getting sure that the Director
of the CIA, as well as the Deputy Director of plans (the Directorate
of Plans eventually changed its name to Directorate of Clandestine
Services, and now is called Directorate of Operations) and his
close collaborators were all trusted CFR members -- thus guaranteeing
an absolute control over the areas that really mattered to them.
Actually, the other directorates were nothing more than a
necessary cover to hide the true activities of the CIA on behalf
of its CFR creators and masters. But, because the people working
on the other directorates were mostly legitimate employees, working
under the false impression that they were protecting the U.S.
interests, they became a nuisance and a source of conflict for
the CFR agents working undercover at the CIA's Directorate of
Operations to protect the bankers' interests.
Moreover, true intelligence was not only unnecessary for them,
but also dangerous. In the first place, the CFR agents infiltrated
inside the U.S. government, who were planning actions against
the U.S., didn't need any intelligence, because they knew themselves
everything about the treasonous activities they were doing. Secondly,
because the dissemination of true intelligence may arouse suspicions
about who the real culprits were. This explains the true cause
for most of CIA's constant intelligence "failures",
and the reasons why nothing has been done to fix it.
Something I suspected in his previous book, but is confirmed
in Prelude to Terror, is Trento's supine ignorance of the craft
of intelligence and espionage. In a field whose main axiom is
that things are never what they seem, he keeps repeating over
and over old myths based on faulty data.
For example, on page xi, he states that, "the Cuban Missile
Crisis . . . that brought the United States to the brink of nuclear
war with Russia." Actually, despite efforts by McNamara
and other CFR agents to prove the contrary, there were never
nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962, and the strategic missiles
most likely were dummies. This was the reason why Kennedy's advisers
(all of the CFR agents) managed to get him to specifically prohibit
the Navy to physically inspect the objects the Soviets were taking
out of Cuba on the decks of their ships.
Sherman Kent, the Director of CIA's Board of Intelligence
Estimates was right. But, as expected, his September, 1962, Intelligence
Estimate, stating that the possibilities that the Soviets might
deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba was extremely low, was ignored,
because it was detrimental to the conspirator's plans. The fear
mongers at the CFR needed the crisis to fuel the Cold War.
On page 27, Trento affirms that, "the Bay of Pigs invasion
ended in total disaster." Wrong again. Actually it was a
total success. Its three main goals were, first, destroying the
anti-Castro opposition, second, consolidating Castro in power,
and, third, strengthening his bona fides with the Soviets. All
of these goals were accomplished.
Another of Trento's unsubstantiated assertions is that, "Castro's
revolution ended Havana's role as free-wheeling drug port and
gateway to the United States", p. 27. Apparently he ignores,
or doesn't want to know, the extensive activities of Castro and
his friends in exporting South American drugs to the U.S. through
Cuba. The fact has been extensively documented.
Finally, Trento parrots one of the most sacred myths of the
Berkelian pseudo-left: "Allende, still in the Alameda Presidential
Palace as it burned, shot himself in the head," p. 49. Actually,
the surgeons that performed the autopsy found four 9mm bullets
in Allende's body: two in the abdomen, one in the chest, and
another, which destroyed one of his eyes, in the head. A real
feat. Even more if we consider that the Soviet AK-47, the rifle
with which Allende allegedly committed suicide, does not use
A few months ago, however, a Cuban ex-intelligence officer,
now in exile in France, brought the cat out of the bag, confirming
what until that moment had been only a rumor: Following Castro's
orders, Allende's chief or personal security, Cuban General Patricio
de la Guardia, shot with his UZI sub-machine gun Chile's democratically
elected President Salvador Allende and killed him. To me, the
revelation was not a surprise. Assassinating democratically elected
presidents has been one of Castro's main hobbies.
The inaccuracies I have mentioned above are just a few of
the ones where Trento mentions events I have studied in some
detail. I would not be surprised if specialists in other areas
find their own series of inaccuracies.
Had James Jesus Angleton read Prelude to Terror, the Master
of convoluted thinking would have been ashamed of the poor performance
of the agent he so carefully recruited and nurtured. Gullible
people should refrain from writing about intelligence and espionage.
This field is not for true believers, nor for people who believe
that there are good guys and bad guys. Only intelligence officers
who act under the notion that everybody is a bad guy, particularly
their own bosses, retire peacefully.
But Trento keeps hammering on the reader how some people are
bad, bad, while others are very good. For example, almost in
every chapter I have read, he mentions the CIA trained anti-Castro
Cubans, which, according to Trento, were mostly assassins. Granted,
this is perhaps close to the truth. But he says nothing about
the greatest Cuban assassin of all times, Fidel Castro, and the
activities of his private hit man, Col. Antonio (Tony) de la
Guardia (Patricio's twin brother). According to his own words
before Castro ordered him to be shot on the wall, de la Guardia,
following Castro's direct orders, committed more assassinations
all around the world, including here in the U.S., than all of
the CIA-trained anti-Castro Cubans together.
Now, an intelligence officer with a real convoluted mind,
like Trento's mentor, James Jesus Angleton, immediately would
have detected some inconsistency here. How come, with so many
CIA-trained anti-Castro assassins roaming all around the world,
they were never able to assassinate Castro? Well, some of the
Cuba-American "assassins" resentfully complain that,
when they really tried, the CIA stopped them short. As I mentioned
above, in the field of intelligence and espionage, things are
never what they seem.
My conclusion: Prelude to Terror is an exercise in
deception planted in the mind of an unwitting Joseph Trento by
three highly qualified CIA officers, that is, professional liars.
And I am not using the word liar as an insult, but as a compliment.
Lying is one of the main requisites of the intelligence and espionage
profession, and Trento's three sources, particularly Angleton,
were top in their professions (the CIA, like all intelligence
services, has a whole department dedicated to falsify documents).
By the way, in the Acknowledgments, Trento mentions that Angleton
has been "the subject of such folklore that sometimes the
real man I remember gets lost." Actually, the Angleton Trenton
remembers has nothing to do with the real Angleton, but with
the personality the old dissembling chameleon assumed to recruit
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I just began
reading Prelude to Terror.and, frankly, I am not sure if I will
continue reading it. But I do read the Publisher's claim, printed
on one the jacket flaps, claiming that, "Most shocking of
all is how this group's manipulations of the CIA bureaucracy
allowed Osama bin Laden's fundraising to thrive, as al Qaeda
flourished under Saudi and CIA protection. The blowback from
their reckless actions has been nothing less than 9/11 and the
prospect of unending threats of attack our nation now faces."
This is so preposterous that becomes risible, and acted as
a real put-down on me. Whoever wrote that asinine piece of copy,
apparently ignores that there is a growing segment of the American
population who does not believe anything -- and I mean anything;
nada -- of the farfetched conspiracy theory developed by our
Government to explain the 9/11 events. There is even a group
of relatives of the victims of the World Trade Center that is
pushing for the creation of a truly impartial commission (not
a CFR-controlled one) to investigate the events.
On the other hand, perhaps that assertion is the best clue
to understand the true motive for the timely publication of this
Trento's book is a good example of what in the CIA lingo is
called a "limited hangout," which basically consists
in revealing something bad as a smoke screen to hide something
worse -- a well known example is the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal
--. My advice: Read Prelude to Terror at your own risk,
and keep a big pinch of salt at hand.
Now, a question that is perhaps is the minds of some of the
readers of this review: Why these three ex-CIA officers invested
so much time and effort recruiting Trento to use him as an unwitting
disinformation vehicle to tell the world their CIA cock and bull
Some time ago Angleton himself provided the answer: "The
past telescopes into the present." Giving credibility to
past lies adds credibility to the current ones.
* Tradecraft. In the espionage and intelligence lingo, the
methodology or modus operandi characteristic of a particular
Copyright © 2007 by Servando Gonzalez. All rights reserved.