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The following is an excerpt from a declassified document released online by America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as part of a searchable database on its website Reading Room. Declassified documents were previously only available to the public at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.

In a report titled The "General Tricks" Gap, and available in General CIA record, scholar-activist Richard J. Barnet, made a case against secret security intelligence operations.

In the document, released Oct 18, 2004, Barnet argued that "…to protect the existence of secret bases in to protect the existence of secret bases in such places as Pakistan and Ethiopia the U.S. has had to make special concessions to those countries it would not otherwise have made."

He also quoted a New York Times article as saying, "More than 200 agents… pose as business abroad."

Screengrab from report.
Screengrab from report.

"Air America and other agency fronts, fake foundations, student organizations, church organisations, etc., are all part of the false bottom world that has ended up confusing the American people as much as it has confounded foreign governments."

Barnet added, "The secrecy that shrouds covert operations distorts the foreign policy-making process in a number of specific ways."

Soul searching for CIA

In the document, Barnet also raises questions about the necessity of covert CIA ops.

He writes: "The very existence of a large secret war-fighting capability undermines American democracy because under our system of government it is the people's elected representatives who are supposed to decide when and where we are to go to war."

"The maintenance of a large bureaucracy whose very purpose is deception breeds suspicion and cynicism about government in general. Systematic lying to the public, an institutionalised habit in such bureaucracies, has eroded confidence in government to an unprecedented extent."

He adds: "The inescapable fact is that effective control over an apparatus of the size and character of the US intelligence community is impossible. The choice is between "trusting" that those in charge are "honorable men", as Richard Helms urger in 1971, or dismantling the covert intelligence arm of the United States. There is an overwhelming necessity, in my view for the second choice."

The essay goes on to say that the existence of the intelligence network is largely linked to what kind of foreign policy the US wants to pursue.

"... The intelligence underworld is a necessary institution for managing a modern empire. If we cannot find security in the world without trying to run it, then the "dirty tricks" department must remain a fixture of our national life."

Specifically, the writer talks about Chile and "the recently exposed destabilitisation campaign in Chile".

"Indeed there are many reasons why the CIA now seems a more important political instrument than ever, including the improved techniques for "low profile" interventions, the growing desire to control resource-producing Third World countries, the increasing difficulties in mounting conventional military operations abroad.

"If we do not wish to use the state to legitimise criminal activity at home and abroad, then we must stop trying to set the conditions for the internal development of other nations."

The above-mentioned document is part of a database of 930,000 previously confidential files released by the CIA on January 17, 2017. The CIA had disseminated historical declassified documents to its CIA Records Search Tool (Crest) since 1999.

To view's compilation of extracts from the declassified CIA documents, click here.