Roland G. Simbulan

(Lecture at the Ateneo Professional Schools, hosted and sponsored by the Museum Volunteers of the Philippines, Ateneo Amphitheatre, Rockwell Campus, Makati. Feb. 8, 2017)

SIMBULAN-LECTURE-AteneoAudience at Ateneo Amphitheater listens to Prof. Simbulan (at lectern) talk on CIA history in the Philippines

Seventeen years ago, on August 18, 2000, after a Research Fellowship in  in the United States at the Asia-Pacific Center and the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., I gave a lecture for the U.P.'s Manila Studies Program on "The CIA's Hidden History in the Philippines".  My lecture made front page in the Philippine Daily Inquirer the next day in an article that covered almost half-page of the inside page of the national daily. Thanks to the internet, that CIA article was also widely circulated in the web.

One of the greatest satisfactions in my academic life is to know that you can be respected and recognized even by your adversaries who are the topic of your research, because, five years later after I delivered that lecture,  I received an email from someone in the United States  whom I will not identify though he has long retired, who wrote that he "happened to come across my work on the CIA operations in  the Philippines" and that he, as a former member of the U.S. intelligence community for 22 years, found my article," quite factual and well-balanced and an important piece of scholarship". This lecture is an opportunity to update that paper that I wrote in year 2000.

My lecture then on the CIA in the Philippines and Asia was actually just part of a larger study that I was doing during my Research Fellowship on U.S. Foreign and Military Policy in the Asia-Pacific Region. In that study, I had made interviews with five former CIA operatives like Mr. Ralph McGehee, a field officer who had previously been assigned to the Philippines, Vietnam and Thailand. Disillutioned, Mr. McGehee later wrote a book exposing his former employer because he could not in conscience accept what the CIA had been doing especially in its operations abroad, like the Operation Phoenix, where an estimated 30,000 Vietnamese nationals were summarily liquidated for being suspected members or sympathizers of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, otherwise then known as the Viet Cong. (McGehee, 1983; Valentine, 2016)

Among the American people, there are courageous whistleblowers like Daniel Ellsberg, Ralph Mc Gehee, Sgt. Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden who sacrificed what could have been very promising careers to expose the misdeeds and atrocities of the U.S. Empire which they considered inconsistent with the ideals of Liberty, Democracy and Human Compassion.

     The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the overseas intelligence agency of the United States and perhaps its most popular because of the exploits - including 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 is one which has a clandestine universe, like a hidden army. Spooks in the intelligence community are like dark matter in a secret universe. They 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. These include:

  1. The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the U.S. Department of Defense.
  2. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which is focused on domestic intelligence and is the primary federal law enforcement agency responsible for counterterrorism investigations and federal crimes 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 and assesses 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 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 which collect geospatial intelligence source data.
  7. North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) which warns of attacks against the U.S. from missiles, aircraft or spacecraft.
  8. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA) which develops imagery and map-based intelligence for the U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security and safety of navigation.
  9. National Counterterrorism Center which integrates and analyzes all intelligence on terrorism and counterterrorism and designs strategic counterterrorism plans.
  10. Federal Investigative Services Division (FISD) which 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)

The CIA in the Philippines

For a long time, Manila has been the main station, if not the regional headquarters, of the Central Intelligence Agency) for Southeast Asia.  This is perhaps so because the Philippines has always been regarded as a stronghold of U.S. imperial power in Asia.  Since the Americanized Filipinos were under the spell of American culture, they were easy to recruit without realizing they were committing treason to 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, the mighty symbols and infrastructure 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 Marcos 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 – the proclamation that declared martial law in the country - and a list of
the individuals whom Marcos planned to arrest and imprison upon the declaration of martial rule.

I would like to mention -- without going into any conclusions -- that, so accurate was the CIA's assessment about the Sept. 21, 1972 declaration of martial rule that it 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 by the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia -- a tribute that is said to be very rarely given to 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's health problems.
(Richelson, 1999).

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 even Hollywoodize, its notoriety and crimes against the Filipino people and Philippine national sovereignty. The CIA is the covert overseas intelligence agency of the United States government and is likewise 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 a military coup 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, as a result of those actions.

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 its own territory but against foreign governments and their leaders.

CIA Paramilitaries and U.S. Special Operations Forces

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 "airforce" 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 often innocent bystanders
and "collateral damage", as the CIA itself has conceded. (Dana & Arkin: 2011)

Or the CIA's killer drones may be sent to eliminate the target.

The CIA's Killer Drones

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 those nominated persons '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.

Defending the Empire and the Pro-U.S. Oligarchy

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

Doing covert action that undermines Philippine national sovereignty and genuine democracy in order to prop up the tiny pro-U.S. oligarchical minority that has cornered most of the wealth in their poor country is what the CIA is all about and the real reason for its existence in the country.  It is no longer just the collection and analysis of foreign intelligence which is officially its mandate under the U.S. National Security Act of 1947 that created the CIA.

The CIA in the Philippines has engaged in countless covert operations for intervention and dirty tricks particularly in Philippine domestic politics.  On top of all this is the U.S. diplomatic mission, especially the political section, which 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 fronted 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, the COMPADRE, both of which we shall be dealing with more extensively later.

On the other hand, CIA operative David Sternberg fronted as a 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 because, before this, the CIA operated jointly with the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) major listening posts into 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) and operated and number of similar posts as the one in Manila.  The Manila station includes very sizable
logistical capabilities for a wide range of clandestine operations against Asian governments.

The loss of the U.S. bases in the Philippines was a tremendous blow to the CIA's Asian infrastructure, if not a major setback.  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 it 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, who 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."

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, where the U.S. covertly supported dissident Indonesian colonels in the failed armed overthrow of Indonesian President Sukarno.  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.  A CIA-owned proprietary company, the Civil Air Transport, was actively used by the CIA from Philippine territory to give direct assistance to Indonesian military rebel groups attempting to overthrow the Indonesian nationalist President Bung Sukarno in the late 1950s.

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 was even formally established.  The Filipino CIA undercover agent was also reporting to the American ambassador to Burma from whom he was also getting paid! (Reyes, 1995).

Side by side 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 side by side 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)

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 was vehemently opposed to the post-war Parity Rights amendment and the onerous military agreements with the United States. The CIA's success in crushing the peasant-based 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 had become 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.

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." Could it be that Recto was a victim of the CIA's covert operations, or what they call "executive action" against those perceived as dangerous enemies of the United States?

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 active 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 off when he was ambushed in 1989 by urban guerrillas of the New People's Army in 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 fronts 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.

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, which actively operates within the Seafront Compound along Roxas Boulevard. The post-Vietnam War and later on, the 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 its 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 junior case officer of the CIA, 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 but 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)

The case of Janine Brookner is a classic but real story of a "honeytrap".  One of the worst jokes about spying which some have gotten used to is that, along with prostitution, it is the oldest profession in the world.  But an even worse joke 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 forms a vital part of day to day intelligence gathering.

Cultural Fronts

The CIA has long utilized in the Philippines sophisticated or subtle means for clandestine propaganda, such as the manipulation of trade unions and cultural organizations, rather than heavy-handed activities such as paramilitary operations, political assassinations and coups as they 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 through 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, 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)

It must be emphasized that the U.S. places high premium on the ideological legitimation of its continuing economic, political and military domination over 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 poured in 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."

One of the most critical moments of 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 threaten 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) with 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 of 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 had the objective "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".

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 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 among many colleagues and programs at the University of the Philippines (U.P.)

You name it, they have their fingers stuck into it!  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 has ever been 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 messages  through 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 the 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).


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 has been actively used to engage 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 that we can ask ourselves is, shall we allow this continued intervention in Philippine political and economic life?




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Ralph McGehee, former CIA operative assigned to the Philippines,
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Roland G. Simbulan is Full Professor 12 in Development Studies and Public Management at the University of the Philippines.  He served as U.P.'s Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development and was elected Faculty Regent to represent the U.P.'s 3,600 faculty members in the Board of Regents of the U.P. System (2006-2007). For six years, he also served as Chair of the Department of Social Sciences at the College of Arts and Sciences, U.P. Manila.

Simbulan is the author of eight books on Philippine-U.S. security relations, U.S. foreign and military policy in Asia, and Philippine foreign policy which includes: THE BASES OF OUR INSECURITY: THE HISTORY OF THE U.S. MILITARY BASES IN THE PHILIPPINES; A GUIDE TO NUCLEAR PHILIPPINES; FORGING A NATIONALIST FOREIGN POLICY, among others. One of his books on foreign policy was translated and published in Japan in 2012 with the title, Firipin Minshu Vuiesu Beigun Churyu.

He was former Senior Consultant for Foreign Relations and National Defense at the Philippine Senate (1987-1995). He was Chairman of the Board of Directors of Ibon Foundation from 1988-2000.  He is currently the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG), a think tank on governance, electoral reform, peace process, foreign policy, and international studies.

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