20 August 2016

Deep State Players in 1976

Cohn, Buckley and Felt

I find these old videos to be fascinating. This is just a clip. You can watch the full video on Amazon. This particular episode is interesting because you have 'former' CIA agent and founder of modern Conservatism William Buckley interviewing Mark Felt aka 'Deep Throat' though no one knew it at the time. This show takes place in 1976.

Felt is of course a complex and fascinating figure. Upon the revelation that he was Deep Throat in 2005, many on the far Left were left bewildered.

Deep Throat was something of a folk hero, a mysterious figure who helped fuel the Watergate scandal which ultimately led to the downfall of the great criminal and enemy... Richard Nixon.

And yet Mark Felt was viewed as the J Edgar Hoover crony who helped to run the FBI's Counter Intelligence Program or COINTELPRO and had thus wantonly violated the Constitution. There were many illegal aspects to COINTELPRO. In fact the FBI was collaborating with police departments to murder people, specifically members of the Black Panthers. But post-Watergate Felt was in trouble for 'Black Bag' jobs, illegal burglaries conducted for intelligence gathering.

In fact the FBI had been doing this for decades but Hoover was gone, and post Watergate the Deep State was under attack and being (in part) dismantled.

Mark Felt was a key figure in that Deep State and was reviled by those on the Left.

And yet he was also... Deep Throat, the Watergate leaker to Woodward and Bernstein.

This has led many to question his motives. Some believe it was pure bitterness due to being passed over for the top slot at the FBI after Hoover's death in 1972.

Others (like Woodward) believe his motives were more complex. Felt was actually a Right-wing figure, very conservative, very patriotic who was genuinely angry and concerned over what Nixon and his administration were doing and specifically how they were manipulating the FBI.

There's a conundrum here, if Felt wants to appeal to the Constitutional concerns regarding Nixon's actions he has a problem. Because FBI conduct under Hoover and certainly during COINTELPRO was anything but constitutional.

And then to make the programme more interesting you have also have attorney Roy Cohn sitting there, certainly another very complicated figure. Cohn is perhaps most famous as Joseph McCarthy's assistant and protégé and was reviled by many on the Left.

Cohn worked on the espionage trial that led to the Rosenberg conviction and execution and was subsequently recommended by Hoover to Senator McCarthy. Needless to say, Cohn was and is reviled by many in the United States, and not just on the Left.

His politics were Right-wing to the extreme. Apart from the McCarthy witch-hunts (a modern version of the Inquisition), he was a member of such organisations as the John Birch Society.

He was reviled and known to be of dubious morality and character and yet he was obviously intelligent, connected and retained a certain degree of power and influence. He was 'in the loop' even during the early days of the Reagan administration. A closeted homosexual who with McCarthy had pursued and destroyed homosexuals he died of AIDS in 1986.

But in 1976, at the time of this video, Cohn's law office was not only advising Republican politicians and Right-wing figures... here, he defends COINTELPRO and all it stands for, while at the same time he was also heavily connected to mafia figures and a young Manhattan businessman and real estate developer named Donald Trump. Cohn was Trump's mentor, by some reports they spoke by telephone multiple times a day.

Take away from that what you will. Others have probed the nature of these relationships with greater detail. Connections don't always mean collaboration and yet Trump's connections to Right-wing groups and mafia figures are noteworthy. Roy Cohn seems to be one of the dots that connect the various strands.

Of course Buckley had defended McCarthyism and many still do. The Venona Documents are to many a vindication of McCarthyism though some have pointed out that though there were indeed Soviet agents in the US, Joseph McCarthy was a buffoonish demagogue and couldn't have found them even if they were right in front of his face. McCarthyism was about McCarthy, not hunting communists. In this sense there is a certain parallelism with Trump and his presidential campaign.

The Red Scare under this understanding may have had 'some' justification but it doesn't justify McCarthy or what he did.

The debate goes on.

Many also believe that Buckley in his capacity as a CIA agent helped form the National Review and that in fact the CIA/Deep State was behind much of the formation of what became the modern Republican Party. This was done in order to protect the post-WWII status quo and to promote the new paradigm of America as a Superpower.  Buckley is the key figure in the 'fusion' of Libertarian-Capitalism, Anti-Communism in the form of robust militarism, and religious traditionalism in terms of social morality. 

This in essence was the creation of the modern Republican Party. Previously these forces had not always worked together. The vision reached its zenith with the election of Ronald Reagan who embodied this vision in a way that Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford had failed to do.

It's on the record that the CIA worked with media organisations in order to promote its agenda, with many reporters and media figures being 'on the payroll'. William Buckley's name is usually one of the first to be mentioned when one discusses Operation Mockingbird.

This question alone raises some other rather interesting questions regarding the Graham family and the Washington Post's role in Watergate but that's another topic.

All three of these figures are connected to the American Deep State. One wonders how genuine this programme really was in examining the issues. Was it just meant to be propaganda? Was 'Firing Line' a 'Mockingbird' project all along?

It's probably not micromanaged to that level. Buckley also would host other guests outside his circle and thus give them a voice. In many cases I think his goal was to subvert them but it didn't always work that way. There were the famous exchanges with Gore Vidal and Noam Chomsky but interestingly Buckley also would allow figures like Al Lowenstein on the show to discuss whether or not Robert Kennedy was actually murdered by Sirhan Sirhan. For conspiracists, such a Buckley endorsed episode seems counterintuitive.

One wonders if the CIA doesn't do all it can to generate fog.

Of course Lowenstein was later murdered in a somewhat bizarre fashion. That too is another story.

This clip of Ted Kennedy at his funeral with Buckley in the background is also an interesting little nugget from the past.

Speaking of Robert Kennedy, his ghost sort of hangs over the room when one looks at this interview between Buckley, Felt and Cohn.

Robert Kennedy was also a complicated figure and many have forgotten that the Kennedys were very close with Joseph McCarthy and in fact RFK almost had Roy Cohn's job. For many that's hard to fathom.

But people also forget that during the 1960 campaign JFK ran to the Right of Nixon and attacked the Eisenhower administration for being soft on Communism and allowing the 'missile gap' to develop, which in fact was not true. The U2 flights had already confirmed that.

Both John and Robert Kennedy seemed to have undergone transformations during the time in Washington. John's was after the Cuban Missile Crisis and Robert's was in the wake of that event and the assassination of his brother. While to many Robert is a liberal icon, his past and his views are somewhat cloudy and conflicted. A great 'what if' is to consider where the brothers would have gone had they lived.

Robert Kennedy initially gave the go-ahead for some of the programmes that became COINTELPRO and approved the wiretapping of Martin Luther King. The motives for this are a source of controversy. Did Robert Kennedy allow the wiretapping because the administration was irritated by King's social agitation? It was hurting the administration on the foreign policy and narrative fronts. The Soviets could and did exploit US racism in the Third World. Or, did Hoover essentially blackmail Robert Kennedy because John was carrying on an affair with a woman accused of being a Stasi agent? This ties in with the Bobby Baker scandal and Hoover's blackmailing of senators in order to suppress the connection which would expose JFK. It's complicated but fascinating.

The same sort of complicated questions come up with regard to JFK's rather mysterious and dubious autopsy. On the one hand there was a great deal of manipulation by authorities and doctors, on the other hand it would seem RFK did intervene in order to hide the various and scandalous health issues regarding his brother that they had so long attempted to keep hidden from the public. The webs and motives are complicated.

But Felt wouldn't have been in trouble over COINTELPRO if Kennedy had not allowed Hoover to get the ball rolling as it were. Much of the controversy dates back to Hoover's paranoia and racial agitation regarding the Civil Rights movement. Hoover, Cohn and McCarthy all went after homosexuals in government during their tenure and while Cohn definitely was one himself, not a few believe the same about Hoover (with Clyde Tolson) and possibly even McCarthy himself, despite the fact that he eventually married.

Felt would go on to be convicted of his illegal activities associated with COINTELPRO. Ironically Nixon testified on his behalf and contributed to his defense. If only he had known what Felt had done to him. Roy Cohn would also vigorously speak out in defense of Felt and under the urging of Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan ultimately pardoned him.

I recommend Bob Woodward's book 'The Secret Man' if you're interested in Felt's story and Woodward's relationship with him.

Robert Kennedy and Roy Cohn loathed one another, almost coming to blows at one point. Although Kennedy would clandestinely attend McCarthy's funeral in 1957, he remained out of sight of Cohn, VP Nixon and J Edgar Hoover. In a famous incident at a NYC restaurant, RFK moved tables so as not to be near Cohn. The Justice Department under RFK pursued Cohn who was involved in numerous shady real estate, stock and banking deals.

When one considers the relationships of the Deep State between the CIA, portions of the FBI, the mafia, Wall Street and international banking etc... one looks to Roy Cohn and wonders just what exactly was his role?

It seems evident that figures like Cohn lead complicated lives with many relationships and overlapping obligations. Legality gets pretty blurry and personal projects and quests for enrichment sometimes gets them into trouble. They fear the FBI and the IRS... sometimes they can evade them, sometimes they can't. Everyone betrays everyone and there are many who flip sides and agendas and can quickly change with news events and shifts of the political winds.

It's a game, a dance and yet those who master it can in the end wield more power than elected officials. Cohn stated as much.

Who is a player and who is a puppetmaster? I would say the figures of Felt, Cohn and Buckley are all players, not masters. They had people they answered to. They worked as agents for more powerful interests and yet wielded considerable power within their own orbits.  Felt went down in flames. Cohn's power imploded in the mid-1980s shortly before his death. Buckley survived and died in 2008 a bit disillusioned. He was part of the Establishment wing of the Republican Party, affiliated with men like GHW Bush and James Baker. He was not keen on the methods of the Neoconservative wing and the direction they took the party.

These men represent a generation that is now gone. They lived in fascinating times and yet the world and the way in which power functions within it, has changed. Apart from Cohn I don't know if they would have made it in today's world.

Felt were he alive would probably be the most bitter. The post-Watergate grief he suffered would be more or less unthinkable today. An ally and admirer of J Edgar Hoover, the world of the Patriot Act and NSA spying would have been something he approved of and it is an environment in which he would have flourished.

For more reading on Cohn and his fascinating life:


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