A Brief Look at the CIA in the Philippines

(This is a redacted version of the author’s lecture at the Ateneo Professional Schools, hosted and sponsored by the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines, Ateneo Amphitheatre, Rockwell Campus, Makati. Feb. 8, 2017).

The US Embassy in Manila is believed to be Ground Zero for CIA activities in Southeast Asia. (Source: Wikipedia)

The US Embassy in Manila is believed to be Ground Zero for CIA activities in Southeast Asia. (Source: Wikipedia)

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the overseas intelligence arm of the United States and perhaps its most popular because of exploits – as well as disinformation about it – that Hollywood has mythologized and glamorized.

The world of the intelligence community, referred to as the "Fourth Branch" of the U.S. government, spins in a clandestine universe. Spooks in the intelligence community are like dark matter that cannot be seen or acknowledged. The CIA, however, is just one of 16 agencies and departments, all coordinated by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), that make up the U.S. intelligence community:

  1. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the U.S. Department of Defense.

  2. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is focused on domestic intelligence and is the primary federal law enforcement agency responsible for counterterrorism and federal crime investigations within the United States.

  3. Technical Operations Support Activity (TOSA), a clandestine intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance organization that supports the special operations of the JSOC or Joint Special Operations Command.

  4. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) is the U.S. Navy’s lead intelligence center that produces maritime intelligence and analyses foreign naval capabilities, trends, operations and tactics, etc.

  5. The National Security Agency (NSA), though low profile, has the largest annual budget among U.S. intelligence agencies. It eavesdrops on the entire world, and its mission is also to protect U.S. national security information systems and to collect and disseminate foreign signals intelligence or intercepts.

  6. National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) manages the design and construction of all reconnaissance satellites that collect geospatial intelligence source data.

  7. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) warns of attacks against the United States from missiles, aircraft or spacecraft.

  8. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) develops imagery and map-based intelligence for the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security and safety of navigation.

  9. National Counterterrorism Center integrates and analyzes all intelligence on terrorism and counterterrorism and designs strategic counterterrorism plans.

  10. Federal Investigative Services Division (FISD) carries out background investigations for U.S. employees who require security clearances.

  11. Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research

  12. Department of Energy Office of Intelligence Support

  13. Department of Treasury Office of Intelligence Support

  14. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

  15. Department of Homeland Security

  16. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)


A CIA asset in the Philippines, who was in the inner circle of the Marcos administration, informed the CIA station in Manila that Ferdinand Marcos was planning to proclaim martial law on Sept. 21, 1972. 

One of the most critical moments for the CIA station in Manila was the immediate post-Marcos years when they tried to dissociate U.S. links with the Marcoses and politically influence the contours of the post-Marcos era. 

Manila As a CIA Main Station

Manila for a long time has been the main station, if not the regional headquarters, of the Central Intelligence Agency) for Southeast Asia.  This is perhaps because the Philippines has always been regarded as a stronghold of U.S. imperial power in Asia.  Americanized Filipinos are easy to recruit, perhaps unaware that they are committing treason against their own people and country. And from the beginning of the 20th century to 1992, there were the U.S. military bases in the Philippines, mighty symbols and infrastructures of American military power overseas.

CIA human intelligence assets in Manila are said to have provided vital information at crucial times. According to declassified documents under the Freedom of Information Act, on Sept. 17, 1972, a CIA asset in the Philippines, who was in the inner circle of the Marcos administration, informed the CIA station in Manila that Ferdinand Marcos was planning to proclaim martial law on Sept. 21, 1972.  The CIA station in Manila was also provided an advance copy of Proclamation 1081, which declared martial law, and a list of individuals whom Marcos planned to arrest and imprison.

So accurate was the CIA's assessment about the Sept. 21, 1972 declaration of martial rule that it reportedly boosted the prestige of the CIA station in Manila.  Upon his retirement a few years later, Henry Byroade, the American ambassador to Manila when martial law was declared, was honored at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a tribute said to be very rarely given any retiring ambassador.  Also, in 1982, the CIA was able to verify from a high-ranking Philippine immigration officer the names of the two doctors who visited the Philippines to treat Marcos for kidney failure, giving the CIA a clear picture of Marcos' health problems. (Richelson, 1999).


In general, wherever you find U.S. big business interests like Coca Cola, Ford, Citicorp, United Fruit, Nike, etc., you also find a very active CIA. 

It is important to expose U.S. imperialism's clandestine apparatus in the Philippines.  If the activities of this sinister agency are not meticulously documented, there is a tendency to
mythologize, or Hollywoodize, its notoriety and crimes against the Filipino people and Philippine national sovereignty. The covert overseas intelligence agency is also an "action-oriented" vehicle of American foreign and military policy.

The 1975 Committee Report of the U.S. Senate led by Senator Frank Church, which investigated the CIA's covert activities abroad, revealed how countless foreign governments were overthrown by the CIA; how the CIA instigated military coups d'etat and assassinated foreign political leaders like Chilean President Salvador Allende, who merely tried to safeguard the interests of their own country; and how "special ops" and paramilitary campaigns contributed to the death, directly or indirectly, of millions of people.

The 1974-75 U.S. Senate Church Committee investigations also uncovered CIA intervention in the domestic politics of target countries -- from the overthrow of governments, attempted assassinations, to subsidies and financial support for the media, political parties, trade unions, universities and business associations -- all designed " to clandestinely influence foreign governments, events, organizations or persons in support of U.S. foreign policy." (Robinson, 1996; Richelson, 1999). The CIA has gone beyond its original mission of gathering intelligence and was conducting Mafia-type operations not only in its own territory, but also against foreign governments and their leaders.

CIA Paramilitaries, Special Operations Forces, Killer Drones

In collaboration with the U.S. Special Operations Forces, the CIA's paramilitary operatives and units under its "Special Activities Division" have been tasked to assassinate high value “terrorist” targets. Their mission is to develop local "assets" (spies, spotters), gather more intel info from their covert "air force" of unmanned drones. When local "assets" (spotters) report target personalities, the Special Operations Forces on the ground will do the job with "surgical clandestine operations." The CIA's paramilitary death squads, specializing in anti-terrorism actions, are authorized by the National Security Division that conducts preemptive and retaliatory strikes, killing not only their targets, but also often innocent bystanders
and "collateral damage," as the CIA itself has conceded. (Dana & Arkin: 2011). The CIA's killer drones also may be sent to eliminate the target.


The CIA is just one of 16 agencies and departments, all coordinated by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), that make up the U.S. intelligence community.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned Drones named "Predators" and "Reapers" are now managed by the CIA from Virginia to engage in targeted killings or assassinations of persons nominated for “lethal action.”  Kill lists of individuals are kept all over the world, monitored and targeted for borderless strikes. They collaborate very closely in training and operations under the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command or SOCOM, which runs the show.

After the end of the Cold War, the United States became the lone superpower and established an estimated 800 to 1,000 military bases with hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops around the world. The U.S. divided the world into 10 Global U.S. Commands and placed all U.S. bases under them. It became the self-appointed "Policeman of the World" and has wantonly violated international law, the sovereignty of independent nations and the U.N. Charter, branding its enemies as "terrorists" organizations or "terrorist states."

Covert Work in the Philippines

Doing covert actions that undermine Philippine national sovereignty and genuine democracy in order to prop up the tiny pro-U.S. oligarchical minority is what the CIA is all about in the Philippines.  It is no longer just about the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence, which is its official mandate under the U.S. National Security Act of 1947 that created it.

The CIA in the Philippines has engaged in countless covert operations and dirty tricks.  The U.S. diplomatic mission, especially the political section, is a favorite cover for many CIA operatives.  CIA front companies also provide an additional but convenient layer of cover for operatives assigned overseas.  In general, wherever you find U.S. big business interests like Coca Cola, Ford, Citicorp, United Fruit, Nike, etc., you also find a very active CIA.  But the covers often used are diversified.

Desmond Fitzgerald, for instance, a former CIA chief of station in Manila, was said to have posed as a legitimate businessman of an American multinational company.  Joseph Smith, a top CIA operative assigned to the Philippines in the early 1960s, posed as a "civilian employee" of the Clark Air Force Base's 13th Air Force Southeast Asia Regional Survey Unit.  On the other hand, CIA operative Gabriel Kaplan's initial cover was really more "civilian," with the CIA-created Asia Foundation (formerly the Committee for a Free Asia), then later as a resident director of another CIA creation, COMPADRE, both of which we shall be dealing with more extensively later.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or unmanned Drones named “Predators” and “Reapers” are now managed by the CIA from Virginia to engage in targeted killings or assassinations of persons nominated for “lethal action.” 

CIA operative David Sternberg pretended to be foreign correspondent for an American newspaper based in Boston, the Christian Science Monitor, when he assisted Gabriel Kaplan in managing the presidential campaign of Ramon Magsaysay in the 1950s.

The agency's assets and technical infrastructure in Manila were drastically affected by the Philippine Senate's dismantling of the U.S. bases in 1992. Before this, the CIA operated jointly with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency’s (DIA) major listening posts in most of Indochina and southern China. The joint CIA/DIA structure, called the Strategic Warning Staff, is headquartered in the U.S. Department of Defense (Pentagon), operating a number of similar posts as the one in Manila.  The Manila station has included very sizable logistical capabilities for a wide range of clandestine operations against Asian governments.

Loss of US Bases a Big Blow

The loss of the U.S. bases in the Philippines was a tremendous blow to the CIA's Asian infrastructure.  From the mid-1950s, the U.S. bases in the Philippines served as operational headquarters for "Operation Brotherhood," which operated in Indochina under the direct supervision of the CIA's Col. Edward Lansdale and Lucien Conen and involved several Filipinos who were recruited and trained by the CIA. Lansdale was the classic CIA operative in Southeast Asia who was romanticized in Graham Greene's novel, The Quiet American. Lansdale was even appointed by former President Ramon Magsaysay as his "military adviser" and was, in fact, his speechwriter as well. He determined Magsaysay's foreign and military policy.  So successful was the CIA in pulling the strings through Lansdale that in 1954, a high-level U.S. committee reported that "American policy in Southeast Asia was most effectively represented in the Philippines, where any expanded program of Western influence may best be launched."
 

Col. Edward Lansdale, the CIA operative for Southeast Asia, shaped Philippine military and foreign policy during President Ramon Magsaysay's term. Not only was he the presidential "military adviser," he was the speechwriter as well.

Col. Edward Lansdale, the CIA operative for Southeast Asia, shaped Philippine military and foreign policy during President Ramon Magsaysay's term. Not only was he the presidential "military adviser," he was the speechwriter as well.

Examples of such programs were the Freedom Company of the Philippines, the Eastern Construction Co., and "Operation Brotherhood," which provided "a mechanism to permit the deployment of Filipino personnel in other Asian countries, for unconventional operations covertly supported by the Philippines." (Shalom, 1986). The CIA also actively used Philippine territory, particularly Clark Air Base, for the training and launching of operatives and logistics in the late 1950s, when the U.S. covertly supported dissident Indonesian colonels in the failed armed overthrow of Indonesian President Sukarno. A CIA-owned company, the Civil Air Transport, was actively used from Philippine territory to give direct assistance to Indonesian military rebel groups attempting to overthrow him. The CIA then established supply, training and logistical bases on several islands in the Philippines, including an air strip in the Tawi-Tawi island of Sanga-Sanga. 

CIA Companies

Manila was also the center of operations for the Trans-Asiatic Airlines Inc., a CIA outfit operating along the Burma-China border against the People's Republic of China.  Using the Trans-Asiatic Airlines Inc. as a front company, the CIA recruited for this operation in the early 1950s several Filipino aviators who were World War II veterans, including operatives of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Military Intelligence Service (MIS) who were still in
active service.

In his memoirs, former Philippine ambassador to Burma Narciso G. Ramos narrates that one of these Filipino "undercover" MIS agents posed as the labor attache at the Philippine Embassy in Rangoon even before this post was even formally established.  The Filipino CIA undercover agent was also reporting to the American ambassador to Burma by whom he was also getting paid! (Reyes, 1995).

Along with CIA proprietary companies Civil Air Transport, Sea Supply Co. and Western Enterprises Co., the agency used Trans-Asiatic Airlines Inc. in an attempt to invade the People's Republic of China in the early 1950s, using the mercenary Chinese warlord Li Mi as leader of the invasion force.  After a few skirmishes with the People's Liberation Army (PLA), Gen. Li Mi later on "retired" and pocketed the U.S. financial and military assistance for an invasion against China and concentrated on the lucrative opium trade along the Burmese-Thai border. (Valentine, 2016) The CIA by the way, has a long history of collaboration with anti-communist warlords and drug lords in Asia, which operate transnational organized crime syndicates. (Valentine, 2013) American social historian Alfred McCoy has done excellent studies documenting this CIA-narcotics connection. McCoy writes that the CIA worked with drug lords because, "Their mission was to stop communism and, in pursuit of that mission, they would ally with anyone and do anything to fight communism." (McCoy, 2003)

Counterinsurgency

U.S. military advisers of the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) and the CIA station in Manila designed and led the bloody suppression of the peasant-based Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan (HMB), which vehemently opposed the post-war Parity Rights amendment and the onerous military agreements with the United States. The CIA's success in crushing the Huk rebellion in the 1950s made this operation the model for future counterinsurgency operations in Vietnam and Latin America.  Colonel Lansdale and his Filipino side-kick, Col. Napoleon Valeriano, later used their counter-guerrilla experience in the Philippines for training covert operatives in Vietnam and in the U.S.-administered School of the Americas, which trained counter-guerrilla assassins for Latin America. Thus, the Philippines became the CIA's prototype in successful covert operations and psychological warfare.

After his stint in the Philippines using propaganda, psywar and deception against the Huk movement, Lansdale was then assigned in Vietnam to wage military, political and psychological warfare. It was Lansdale's view that the tactics that he used to solve the problems in the Philippines were applicable to Vietnam.  He was wrong. In 1975, after two decades of protracted warfare, the Vietnamese people defeated the strongest superpower on earth.

The CIA's actions and activities in its Manila station have never been limited to information gathering. Information gathering is but a part of an offensive strategy to attack, neutralize and undermine any organization, institution, personality or activity they consider a danger to the stability and power of the United States. The late nationalist Senator Claro M. Recto in the 1950s was believed to have been a victim of the CIA's dirty tricks department because of his staunch crusade against the U.S. military bases in the Philippines and advocacy for an independent economic and foreign policy for the Philippines. It is now a well-documented fact that General Ralph B. Lovett, then the CIA station chief in Manila and the U.S. ambassador Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, had discussed a plan to assassinate Recto using a vial of poison.  A few years later, Recto was to die mysteriously of heart attack (though he had no known heart ailment) in Rome after an appointment with two Caucasians in business suits. Was Recto a victim of the CIA's covert operations, or what they call "executive action" against those perceived as dangerous enemies of the United States? Before this, the CIA had made every effort to assure the defeat of Recto in the 1957 presidential election wherein the CIA manufactured and distributed defective condoms with a label that said, "Courtesy of Claro M. Recto -- the People's Friend." 

Senator Claro M. Recto, a staunch nationalist, was believed to have been a victim of the CIA's dirty tricks department. "It is now a well-documented fact that General Ralph B. Lovett, then the CIA station chief in Manila and the U.S. ambassador Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, had discussed a plan to assassinate Recto using a vial of poison.  A few years later, Recto was to die mysteriously of heart attack (though he had no known heart ailment) in Rome after an appointment with two Caucasians in business suits."

Senator Claro M. Recto, a staunch nationalist, was believed to have been a victim of the CIA's dirty tricks department. "It is now a well-documented fact that General Ralph B. Lovett, then the CIA station chief in Manila and the U.S. ambassador Admiral Raymond A. Spruance, had discussed a plan to assassinate Recto using a vial of poison.  A few years later, Recto was to die mysteriously of heart attack (though he had no known heart ailment) in Rome after an appointment with two Caucasians in business suits."

CIA Rural Fronts

It was also during the time of Recto and the Huk rebellion that the CIA covertly sponsored the Security Training Center as a "counter-subversion, counter-guerrilla and psychological warfare school" on the outskirts of Manila. CIA funds concentrated on the sensitive area of "rural development" and "funds were channeled to the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) community centers, the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and a rural development project called Committee for Philippine Action in Development, Reconstruction and Education (COMPADRE) through CIA fronts and conduits like the Catherwood Foundation and the Committee for a Free Asia (CFA), later renamed the Asia
Foundation." (Shalom, 1986).

In the late 1980s, the CIA assigned Vietnam veteran U.S. General John Singlaub to organize anti-communist vigilante groups all over the country for mass terror, particularly as part of the Philippine government's "total war policy" against people's movements.  General Singlaub posed as an American "treasure hunter" and even secured all the necessary official permits for treasure hunting in the Philippines.  Another operative in the "total war" operations in the Philippines was Vietnam counterinsurgency specialist Col. James Rowe, Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) adviser, whose cover was blown when he was ambushed in 1989 by urban guerrillas of the New People's Army on Timog Avenue, Quezon City. Rowe was clandestinely involved in the organization of anti-communist death squads like Alsa Masa and Nakasaka, vigilante groups patterned after "Operation Phoenix" in Vietnam, which had the objective of eliminating legal and semi-legal mass activists and their political sympathizers or anyone who was suspected of being part of the "political infrastructure" of the insurgent movement.

The CIA lost its huge telecommunications installation at Clark Air Base -- the Regional Relay Station when the Philippine Senate rejected on Sept. 16, 1991, the proposed treaty for the U.S. bases' renewal.  Before 1970, according to a former CIA operative, the sprawling Subic Naval Base was the site of a China operations group of the CIA and, "the agency even constructed 100 expensive modern homes, a large two-story office building and a big warehouse at Subic Bay." (Smith, 1976)

There is, however, a vital covert installation that the CIA was able to retain and maintain after the U.S. bases' closure: the "Regional Service Center" (RSC). Located along Roxas Boulevard in Manila at the Seafront Compound about a mile south from the U.S. Embassy, the RSC poses as a facility of the United States Information Service (USIS), formerly called the U.S. International Communications Agency. This ultra-modern printing facility functions as a secret CIA propaganda plant. It has the ability to produce large quantities of high-quality color offset magazines, posters, leaflets and the like in at least 14 Asian languages.

Sabotage and Honey Traps

During the Vietnam War, the RSC was ceaselessly involved in economic sabotage against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) or North Vietnam. The RSC was involved in counterfeiting North Vietnamese currency which were airdropped all over the DRV to sabotage the economy and weaken the country's resistance.  The CIA's Technical Services Division maintained close liaison with the RSC. The post-Vietnam War and post--bases era has only increased the importance of Manila as a major listening post and regional headquarters of the agency. More recently, an American whistleblower, former CIA and National Security Agency technical specialist Edward Snowden identified the Philippines as still a major spy hub and listening post with "with staffed surveillance facilities and locations" at the U.S. Embassy. Snowden said that these facilities are used to monitor communications networks and even phone calls/text messages under the Joint CIA-NSA group called "Special Collection Service."

A former CIA junior case officer Janine Brookner, who was stationed in Manila in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, described the capital city of the Philippines as "a wild place" for CIA operatives who spent a lot of time in bars, sex shows and brothels.  This was because, according to her, the standard CIA procedure for recruiting targets was "to get him drunk, get him laid, and then get him on the Agency's dole." Brookner was an attractive and determined blonde who claimed to have developed assets in both the government and the Communist Party during her assignment to the Philippines.  Brookner was also a very productive recruiter who, as a handler of important assets and as a CIA case officer, claims to be able to make her targets confess everything. "You take care of them," Brookner recalls, "and they tell you their fears and nightmares...I'm good at people depending on me." In fact, she was often propositioned by her targets, especially high-ranking Philippine government officials. (Starobin, 1997)
 

A former CIA junior case officer Janine Brookner, who was stationed in Manila in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, claimed to have recruited assets in both the government and the Communist Party.

A former CIA junior case officer Janine Brookner, who was stationed in Manila in the late ‘60s and ‘70s, claimed to have recruited assets in both the government and the Communist Party.

The case of Janine Brookner is a classic but real story of a "honeytrap."  One of the worst jokes about spying is that, along with prostitution, it is among the oldest professions in the world.  But an even worse is that there is little to distinguish between the two. Honeytraps use sex -- or the promise of sex -- to elicit information, to exert control over a target, or to frame-up and blackmail.  In this business, sexuality does form a vital part of day to day intelligence gathering.

Cultural Fronts

The CIA in the Philippines has long preferred to use sophisticated or subtle means of clandestine propaganda, such as the manipulation of trade unions and cultural organizations, over heavy-handed activities such as paramilitary operations, political assassinations and coups as it had done extensively in Africa, Latin America and Vietnam.  During my interview with Ralph Mc Gehee, a former CIA agent, and other former CIA operatives assigned to the Manila station, I was told that the CIA had many unheralded successes in the Philippines, such as the manipulation of the trade union movement through the Asia-American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI) and funds which were channeled through the USAID, Asia Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

In a recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, American sociologist James Petras describes how progressive non-government organizations can be neutralized, if not coopted, through U.S. government and big business-backed funding agencies or CIA fronts and conduits masquerading as foundations.  The purpose, according to Petras, is "to mystify and deflect discontent away from direct attacks on the corporate/banking power structure and profits toward local micro-projects....that avoids class analysis of imperialism and capitalist exploitation."  Neoliberalism today, according to Petras, encourages NGOs to "emphasize projects, not movements; they ' mobilize' people to produce at the margins, not to struggle to control the means of production and wealth; they focus on the technical financial aspects of projects not on structural conditions that shape the everyday lives of the people." While using the language of the Left such as "people empowerment,"  "gender equality," "sustainable development" etc., these NGOs funded by USAID, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Asia Foundation, etc. have become linked to a framework of collaboration with donors and even with government agencies with whom they have partnerships that subordinate activity to non-confrontational politics, rather than militant mass mobilization. (Petras, 1999)


One of the most critical moments for the CIA station in Manila was the immediate post-Marcos years when they tried to dissociate U.S. links with the Marcoses and politically influence the contours of the post-Marcos era. 

It must be emphasized that the U.S. places a high premium on the ideological legitimation of its continuing economic, political and military domination of the Philippines and, as such, depends heavily on U.S.-financed and U.S.-sponsored institutions, especially on the ideological front. Thus, grants are generously distributed by such agencies like USAID, NED, Asia Foundation and the big business-sponsored Ford Foundation. The objective is to constantly lure and lull the masses into the elite-dominated electoral process, thus legitimizing the neoliberal economic system and its political apparatus, producing a fragile social peace and a "peaceful" mechanism for competition among the Filipino elite and oligarchy.  In his book on French colonialism in Algeria titled, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon wrote:

"Colonialism is not satisfied merely with holding a people in its grip, and emptying the native's brain of all form and content.  By a kind of perverted logic, it turns to the past of the people, and distorts, disfigures and destroys it."

Post-Marcos Activities

One of the most critical moments for the CIA station in Manila was the immediate post-Marcos years when they tried to dissociate U.S. links with the Marcoses and politically influence the contours of the post-Marcos era.  Financial, technical and political support for the pro-U.S. "agents of influence" assured the dominance of pro-U.S. local elites and institutions as a counterweight to the progressive anti-imperialist, anti-Marcos forces that threatened to define and restructure the architecture of the post-Marcos neocolonial regime.

USAID was directed to grant the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) a generous financing so it could formulate a position paper on an economic program anchored on "the partnership between labor and capital." USAID even temporarily set up an agrarian reform office, working closely at TUCP offices. Political analysts of the CIA and USAID wanted to design an agrarian reform program that would not disrupt the agro-export sector and one which could be synchronized with the counterinsurgency program and defuse peasant unrest. U.S. military advisers of JUSMAG and the CIA also wanted a deeper role in the design and command of counterinsurgency. These funds were supplemented by the so-called "democracy promotion" initiatives of the NED, which poured in heavy funding for TUCP, NAMFREL, the Women's Movement for the Nurturing of Democracy (KABATID) and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and Industry (PCCI).  The NED gave a total of US$9 million from 1984-1990 to these institutions and organizations.

Following the ouster of Marcos, the U.S. set about to transform the "new" Armed Forces of the Philippines into an effective counterinsurgency force that would integrate military, political, economic and social initiatives, including broad "civic action" campaigns, psychological operations, military aid and training.  It was a massive comeback for the low-intensity conflict years of the Magsaysay-Lansdale era! Between 1987-1990, Washington reportedly authorized stepped-up clandestine CIA operations against the Philippine Left, including a US$10 million allocation to the AFP for enhanced intelligence-gathering operations. There was also an increase in the number of CIA personnel, from 115 to 127, mostly attached as "diplomats" to the U.S. Embassy in Manila.(Oltman and Bernstein, 1992)

In general, U.S. military and economic aid are used quite effectively and they remain key elements of U.S. policy in the Philippines. Political aid and political matters are handled by the CIA station.  This means, according to the CIA's Intelligence Memorandum on the 1965 Philippine presidential elections for instance, assuring that the victorious national candidates who are acceptable to the U.S. should be "Western-oriented and pledge to continue close and equitable relations with the U.S. and the West on matters of mutual interest." (Bonner, 1987) The CIA station also conducts widespread covert operations, among them stage-managed national elections to assure preferred U.S. outcome; pay-offs to government officials under
the guise of grants; financing for favored business and civic groups and pro-U.S. propaganda campaigns among the population; the supply of intelligence information on activists and dissidents to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and so on. (Robinson, 1996)

Among the most prominent CIA fronts in Manila is the Asia Foundation.  According to a former U.S. State Department bureaucrat William Blum in a book, "the Asia Foundation is the principal CIA front," and funding conduit in Asia. The Asia Foundation funds and supports known anti-communist groups or influential personalities, i.e. academics, journalists, local officials, etc. and institutions. (Blum, 1999). According to the former executive assistant to the CIA's Deputy Director for Operations Victor Marchetti in his book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, the Asia Foundation aimed "to disseminate throughout Asia a negative vision of mainland China, North Vietnam, and North Korea." (Marchetti and Marks, 1980 edition). New York Times investigative journalist Raymond Bonner has also identified the Asia Foundation as "a CIA creation" and a "front" in one of his books, Waltzing with A Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (Bonner, 1987). My interviews with former CIA operatives in the Philippines in 1996 and 2000 confirm the active use of this foundation for "The Agency."

Authoritative Source

But the most credible and authoritative source that I have come across identifying the Asia Foundation as a CIA front and conduit is Marchetti's book where the CIA-Asia Foundation link is defined in no uncertain terms:

"Another organization heavily subsidized by the CIA was the Asia Foundation. Established by the agency (CIA) in 1956, with a carefully chosen board of directors, the foundation was designed to promote academic and private interest in the East.  It sponsored scholarly research, supported conferences and symposia, and ran academic exchange programs, a CIA subsidy that reached US$88 million dollars a year. While most of the foundation's activities were legitimate, the CIA also used it...to recruit foreign agents and new officers. Although the foundation often served as a cover for clandestine operations, its main purpose was to promote the spread of ideas which were anti-communist and pro-American---sometimes subtly and stridently....  Designed -- and justified at budget time -- as an overseas propaganda operation, the Asia Foundation also was regularly guilty of propagandizing the American people with Agency views on Asia.  The Agency's connection with the Asia Foundation came to light just after the 1967 exposure of CIA subsidies to the (American) National Student Association.  The foundation clearly was one of the organizations which the CIA was banned from financing and, under the recommendations of the Katzenbach committee, the decision was made to end CIA funding.  A complete cut-off after 1967, however, would have forced the foundation to shut down, so the agency made it the beneficiary of a large 'severance payment' in order to give it a couple of years to develop alternative sources of funding.  Assuming the CIA has not resumed covert funding, the Asia Foundation has apparently made itself self-sufficient now...during the 1960s, the CIA developed proprietary companies for use in propaganda operations. These proprietaries are more compact proprietaries and more covert than the now-exposed fronts like Asia Foundation and Radio Free Europe." (Marchetti and Marks, pp. 157-158)

The CIA- linked Asia Foundation has long been active in the Philippines. It has generously funded academic seminars, researches, study tours and conferences in most of the leading Philippine universities, most especially for faculty and programs at the University of the Philippines (U.P.)

Many nongovernment organizations, journalists, local governments and civic organizations have had their projects funded by Asia Foundation.  This is what makes it strategic and well-placed, thus naturally, a matter of great concern and alarm to friends and colleagues in both the academe and the NGO sector who may be very upset by this information on the origins and CIA links of the Asia Foundation.  But I did not invent this issue about the CIA-created Asia Foundation. I merely documented the previous testimonies from mostly open sources.  It is part of the CIA's history in this country which I have documented from the accounts of former CIA agents and operatives.  Many recipients of Asia Foundation grants as well as the Filipino staff of the Asia Foundation in Manila may not even be aware of this notorious history. But now we know a little better.

It is important to note that in 1961, the chief of the CIA's Covert Action staff wrote that books were "the most important weapon of strategic propaganda." Tens of thousands of books have been produced, subsidized or sponsored by the CIA and its conduits such as the Asia Foundation in support of U.S. foreign and military policy.

Projects 'Echelon,' 'Mystic,' 'Prism'

Together with the National Security Agency, the CIA also maintains "Project Echelon," the most sophisticated and most technologically advanced eavesdropping system that ever devised. Through a relay system of satellites and spook stations in Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States, the U.S. intelligence system is able to intercept all telephone, fax, e-mail, internet and cellphone transmissions worldwide.  Its nerve center is located at Fort Meade in Maryland where the NSA maintains its headquarters. This has grave implications for both our public and private security.

The National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States has developed a global surveillance system, Echelon, which is a powerful electronic net operated by super-computers that intercept, monitor and process all phone, fax, e-mail and modem signals.  The European Parliament in a 1998 report titled, "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control" has listed serious concerns and has recommended an intensive investigation of U.S.-NSA operations. The NSA Echelon system provides awesome potential for abuse against civilian targets and governments worldwide, even against allies of the United States. In even more recent revelations, Ed Snowden, former CIA/NSA technician turned whistleblower, bared U.S. spying on the messagesthrough NSA's cutting edge surveillance program “Mystic,” which collects metadata and content from mobile networks in the Philippines, Caribbean, Mexico, Kenya among others where the U.S. gathers personal data on mobile calls and text messages. Snowden mentioned that the U.S. Embassy in Manila is among the 90 countries where "surveillance facilities" have been set up by U.S. intelligence units at its Embassy.  A clandestine mass electronic surveillance data mining program called “Prism” has also been put in place to collect stored internet communications, reaching as far as Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Pnom Penh, Bangkok, Yangon, Taiwan Hong Kong, Shanghai and other cities of China, according to CIA/NSA whistleblower Snowden.

It can be recalled that under the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the coverage for special privileges and criminal immunity includes not only U.S. armed forces personnel, but also "civilian personnel who are employed by the U.S. armed forces and who are accompanying the U.S. armed forces."  These U.S. "civilians" include not just the private defense contractors, but also technicians of the secretive U.S. National Security Agency like Ed Snowden which, during the existence of the U.S. bases here, operated the spy communications facilities at Clark, Subic, and Camp John Hay, among others. (Simbulan, 1985).  All private citizens' and government communications are intercepted and monitored by the Echelon System and other similar NSA programs.

According to Nicky Hager's book, Secret Power which deals with the international electronic spy network, the U.S. has not only been using its NSA Echelon System to collect political, military and economic intelligence against its enemies, but it also targets its own allies.  According to Hager:

"... there is extensive interception of the ASEAN countries, including the Philippines...ASEAN meetings receive special attention with both public and private communications of these countries being intercepted to reveal the topics discussed, positions being taken and policy being considered." (Hager, 1986)

Through the VFA and the EDCA, the U.S. plans to fully restore its Echelon System in the Philippines, which was greatly interrupted by the pullout of U.S. military facilities and bases in 1992. The CIA heavily relies on the Echelon Project for its technologically advanced Signal Intelligence or SIGINT, and Electronic Intelligence or ELINT, which are managed by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

Conclusion

Every CIA station in a country is virtually an infrastructure for political, military, cultural and even economic intervention. In the Philippines, the CIA has not only functioned as a listening post, but also has been actively engaged in covert operations, sabotage and political intervention to undermine Philippine sovereignty and self-determined national policies.  Former CIA operatives in the Philippines confirm the use of official "diplomatic covers," especially in the political section of the U.S. Embassy where they are given secure communications, protected files and diplomatic immunity. They have also used "non-official covers", disguised as businessmen in U.S. firms.  Covers under the guise of U.S. naval or air force personnel are now minimal after the U.S. bases and military facilities in the Philippines were dismantled.  But as we now see, the CIA has long been operating with virtual impunity and has always gotten away with its deep involvement in Philippine domestic affairs.

For Filipinos, the fundamental question we can ask ourselves is, shall we allow this continued intervention in Philippine political and economic life?

For the full transcript of this lecture: http://cenpeg.org/events/2017/apr2017/THE_CIA_IN_THE_PHILIPPINES_A_BRIEF_HISTORY.html


BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Books

Bamford, James. (2005). A PRETEXT FOR WAR: 9/11, IRAQ, AND THE ABUSE
OF AMERICA'S INTELLIGENCE AGENCIES. New York: Anchor Books.

Blum, William. (1995). KILLING HOPE: U.S. MILITARY AND CIA
INTERVENTIONS SINCE WORLD WAR 2. Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press.

Hager, Nicky. (1996) SECRET POWER. New Zealand: Craig Porton Publishing.

Lansdale, Edward. (1972) IN THE MIDST OF WARS. New York: Harper and Row.

McCoy, Alfred (2003). THE POLITICS OF HEROIN: CIA COMPLICITY
IN THE GLOBAL DRUG TRADE, AFGHANISTAN, SOUTHEAST ASIA,
CENTRAL AMERICA AND COLOMBIA. Chicago: Chicago Review Press.

McGehee, Ralph (1983). DEADLY DECEITS: MY 25 YEARS IN THE CIA.
New York: Sheridan Square Publications.

Miller, F. Christian (2006). BLOOD MONEY: A STORY OF WASTED BILLIONS,
LOST LIVES AND CORPORATE GREED IN IRAQ. New York: Little Brown.

Priest, Dana & Arkin, William (2011) TOP SECRET AMERICA: THE RISE OF
THE NEW AMERICAN SECURITY STATE.  New York: Little, Brown & Co.

Ray, Ellen & Schaap, William, eds.(2003) COVERT ACTION: THE ROOTS OF
TERRORISM. Melbourne: Ocean Press