Conversations with the Crow Part 5

Editor’s note: When we ran the first conversation, there was the question of reader interest and acceptability. It is pleasant to report that our server was jammed with viewers and the only other tbrnews story that has had more viewers was our Forward Base Falcon story that had a half a million viewers in less that two days. We are now going to reprint all of the Crowley conversations, including a very interesting one on John McCain, in chronological sequence. It is also pleasant to note that two publishers and three reporters have all expressed concrete interest in the Crowley conversations.

On October 8th, 2000 , Robert Trumbull Crowley, once a leader of the CIA’s Clandestine Operations Division, died in a Washington hospital of heart failure and the end effects of Alzheimer’s Disease. Before the late Assistant Director Crowley was cold, Joseph Trento, a writer of light-weight books on the CIA, descended on Crowley ‘s widow at her town house on Cathedral Hill Drive in Washington and hauled away over fifty boxes of Crowley ‘s CIA files.

Once Trento had his new find secure in his house in Front Royal , Virginia, he called a well-known Washington fix lawyer with the news of his success in securing what the CIA had always considered to be a potential major embarrassment. Three months before, July 20th of that year, retired Marine Corps colonel William R. Corson, and an associate of Crowley , died of emphysema and lung cancer at a hospital in Bethesda , Md.

After Corson’s death, Trento and a well-known Washington fix-lawyer went to Corson’s bank, got into his safe deposit box and removed a manuscript entitled ‘Zipper.’ This manuscript, which dealt with Crowley ‘s involvement in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, vanished into a CIA burn-bag and the matter was considered to be closed forever.

The small group of CIA officials gathered at Trento ‘s house to search through the Crowley papers, looking for documents that must not become public. A few were found but, to their consternation, a significant number of files Crowley was known to have had in his possession had simply vanished.

When published material concerning the CIA’s actions against Kennedy became public in 2002, it was discovered to the CIA’s horror, that the missing documents had been sent by an increasingly erratic Crowley to another person and these missing papers included devastating material on the CIA’s activities in South East Asia to include drug running, money laundering and the maintenance of the notorious ‘Regional Interrogation Centers’ in Viet Nam and, worse still, the Zipper files proving the CIA’s active organization of the assassination of President John Kennedy..

A massive, preemptive disinformation campaign was readied, using government-friendly bloggers, CIA-paid “historians” and others, in the event that anything from this file ever surfaced. The best-laid plans often go astray and in this case, one of the compliant historians, a former government librarian who fancied himself a serious writer, began to tell his friends about the CIA plan to kill Kennedy and eventually, word of this began to leak out into the outside world.

The originals had vanished and an extensive search was conducted by the FBI and CIA operatives but without success. Crowley ‘s survivors, his aged wife and son, were interviewed extensively by the FBI and instructed to minimize any discussion of highly damaging CIA files that Crowley had, illegally, removed from Langley when he retired. Crowley had been a close friend of James Jesus Angleton, the CIA’s notorious head of Counterintelligence. When Angleton was sacked by DCI William Colby in December of 1974, Crowley and Angleton conspired to secretly remove Angleton’s most sensitive secret files our of the agency. Crowley did the same thing right before his own retirement , secretly removing thousands of pages of classified information that covered his entire agency career.

Known as “The Crow” within the agency, Robert T. Crowley joined the CIA at its inception and spent his entire career in the Directorate of Plans, also know as the “Department of Dirty Tricks,”: Crowley was one of the tallest man ever to work at the CIA. Born in 1924 and raised in Chicago , Crowley grew to six and a half feet when he entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in N.Y. as a cadet in 1943 in the class of 1946. He never graduated, having enlisted in the Army, serving in the Pacific during World War II. He retired from the Army Reserve in 1986 as a lieutenant colonel. According to a book he authored with his friend and colleague, William Corson, Crowley’s career included service in military intelligence and Naval Intelligence, before joining the CIA at inception in 1947. His entire career at the agency was spent within the Directorate of Plans in covert operations. Before his retirement, Bob Crowley became assistant deputy director for operations, the second-in-command in the Clandestine Directorate of Operations.

One of Crowley ’s first major assignments within the agency was to assist in the recruitment and management of prominent World War II Nazis, especially those with advanced intelligence experience. One of the CIA’s major recruitment coups was Heinrich Mueller, once head of Hitler’s Gestapo who had fled to Switzerland after the collapse of the Third Reich and worked as an anti-Communist expert for Masson of Swiss counterintelligence. Mueller was initially hired by Colonel James Critchfield of the CIA, who was running the Gehlen Organization out of Pullach in southern Germany . Crowley eventually came to despise Critchfield but the colonel was totally unaware of this, to his later dismay.

Crowley ’s real expertise within the agency was the Soviet KGB. One of his main jobs throughout his career was acting as the agency liaison with corporations like ITT, which the CIA often used as fronts for moving large amounts of cash off their books. He was deeply involved in the efforts by the U.S. to overthrow the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile , which eventually got him into legal problems with regard to investigations of the U.S. government’s grand jury where he has perjured himself in an agency cover-up

After his retirement, Crowley began to search for someone who might be able to write a competent history of his career. His first choice fell on British author John Costello (author of Ten Days to Destiny, The Pacific War and other works) but, discovering that Costello was a very aggressive homosexual, he dropped him and tentatively turned to Joseph Trento who had assisted Crowley and William Corson in writing a book on the KGB. When Crowley discovered that Trento had an ambiguous and probably cooperative relationship with the CIA, he began to distrust him and continued his search for an author.

Bob Crowley first contacted Gregory Douglas in 1993 when he found out from John Costello that Douglas was about to publish his first book on Heinrich Mueller, the former head of the Gestapo who had become a secret, long-time asset to the CIA. Crowley contacted Douglas and they began a series of long and often very informative telephone conversations that lasted for four years. . In 1996, Crowley , Crowley told Douglas that he believed him to be the person that should ultimately tell Crowley ’s story but only after Crowley ’s death. Douglas , for his part, became so entranced with some of the material that Crowley began to share with him that he secretly began to record their conversations, later transcribing them word for word, planning to incorporate some, or all, of the material in later publications.

In 1998, when Crowley was slated to go into the hospital for exploratory surgery, he had his son, Greg, ship two large foot lockers of documents to Douglas with the caveat that they were not to be opened until after Crowley ’s death. These documents, totaled an astonishing 15,000 pages of CIA classified files involving many covert operations, both foreign and domestic, during the Cold War.

After Crowley ’s death and Trento ’s raid on the Crowley files, huge gaps were subsequently discovered by horrified CIA officials and when Crowley ’s friends mentioned Gregory Douglas, it was discovered that Crowley ’s son had shipped two large boxes to Douglas . No one knew their contents but because Douglas was viewed as an uncontrollable loose cannon who had done considerable damage to the CIA’s reputation by his on-going publication of the history of Gestapo-Mueller, they bent every effort both to identify the missing files and make some effort to retrieve them before Douglas made any use of them.

All of this furor eventually came to the attention of Dr. Peter Janney, a Massachusetts clinical psychologist and son of Wistar Janney, another career senior CIA official, colleague of not only Bob Crowley but Cord Meyer, Richard Helms, Jim Angleton and others. Janney was working on a book concerning the murder of Mary Pinchot Meyer, former wife of Cord Meyer, a high-level CIA official, and later the mistress of President John F. Kennedy. Douglas had authored a book, ‘Regicide’ which dealt with Crowley ’s part in the Kennedy assassination and he obviously had access to at least some of Crowley ’s papers. Janney was very well connected inside the CIA’s higher levels and when he discovered that Douglas had indeed known, and had often spoken with, Crowley and that after Crowley’s death, the FBI had descended on Crowley’s widow and son, warning them to never speak with Douglas about anything, he contacted Douglas and finally obtained from him a number of original documents, including the originals of the transcribed conversations with Robert Crowley.

In spite of the burn bags, the top secret safes and the vigilance of the CIA to keep its own secrets, the truth has an embarrassing and often very fatal habit of emerging, albeit decades later.

While CIA drug running , money-launderings and brutal assassinations are very often strongly rumored and suspected, it has so far not been possible to actually pin them down but it is more than possible that the publication of the transcribed and detailed Crowley-Douglas conversations will do a great deal towards accomplishing this.

These many transcribed conversations are relatively short because Crowley was a man who tired easily but they make excellent reading. There is an interesting admixture of shocking revelations on the part of the retired CIA official and often rampant anti-social (and very entertaining) activities on the part of Douglas but readers of this new and on-going series are gently reminded to always look for the truth in the jest!

Date: Tuesday, April 2, 1996

Commenced: 10:17 AM (CST)

Concluded: 10:57 AM (CST)

GD: Am I interrupting anything there? It took awhile for you to pick up.

RTC: No, everything’s fine. I was going through my files seeing if I could find anything more about your friend Mueller but I came across something interesting on H&K instead.

GD: Heckler and Koch? The German arms company?

RTC: No, Hill and Knowlton. The PR people.

GD: Public relations.

RTC: Yes. One of my jobs with the company was to keep up our connections with major business and H&K was my baby. Actually, you might be interested in all of this. We were talking about Frank Wisner’s contacts with the media and Cord Mayer’s with the publishing business so I thought this might just fit right in.

We always wanted to emulate Colonel Hoover’s good PR. You know, the Hollywood and radio dramas about the wonderful G-Men. I think we established a far more effective system but then, of course I am prejudiced. Before we were finished, we had our fingers in every pot imaginable from the major media to book companies, television networks and so on.

GD: I knew Brownlow in Munich who ran Radio Liberty.

RTC: Station chief there. Yes, but that was for foreign consumption. My specialty was domestic. I guess you can call it propaganda if you like but we needed it to push our programs forward, ruin our enemies and help our friends. I think these were noble goals, Gregory, don’t you?

GD: Well, at least from your point of view.

RTC: We had to cover up failures as well. I think you can say that the Company pretty well controls the media in this country now. Take the AP for example. Every little jerkwater paper out in East Jesus, Texas , cannot have a reporter in Washington or Moscow so they rely almost entirely on the AP for anything outside their town. I mean if a cow waders out onto the highway and wrecks a truck or the local grange burns down, sure the have the local reporters but for what’s going on in Washington or elsewhere, it’s the AP. Look, you get on a plane in New York bound for, say, Chicago. You read the paper and then stuff it into the seat pocket and get off. In Chicago , you pick up the Tribune and read it. Same national and international news. Fly to ‘Frisco and the same thing. The AP is a wonderful asset, believe me. Let’s say you want to put a story about that a certain foreign potentate is about to get kicked out. Or better, you want him kicked out. So, we plant a story with the New York Times, the Washington Post or other big papers and then get AP to send our special message all over the damned country. Let’s say we start in the night before. By the six o’clock news the next day, all of America knows just what we want it to know and we do this so anyone reading an article can only come to the conclusions we want.

GD: This is not a surprise, Robert. I’ve been in the newspaper game for forty years now and I know most of the games.

RTC: Well, you can see why I developed H&K as a purely captive asset, can’t you.

GD: Of course.

RTC: And we used them to plant our own agents all over the world. It is a wonderful cover. We have some of the major columnists, of course, and many editors and more than a few publishers but putting our own agents in, say, France or Ottawa, is a great advantage, believe me. And H&K had the best, the very best, connections. Bobby Gray was Ike’s press secretary and was a good friend of Nixon and Reagan and had their ear.

We infiltrated our people into every level of the business, political and professional worlds and you never knew when one of your people might bring home the bacon. I can say with some pride that, let’s say, we wanted to get some legislation passed, it was a piece of cake. Sometimes we made bad calls like the time we pushed Fidel Castro into office only to have the bastard turn on us. I remember the howling the Alcoa people did when he nationalized their plants in Cuba . Or the United Fruit people demanding we get rid of Guzman in Guatemala because he was expropriating their banana plantations. The man we put in after we kicked Guzman out turned on us and we had to shoot him but in theory, it was a slick deal. Sam Cummings got Nazi weapons from the Poles and we shipped them over there on a freight line we owned and for a little while, Levi and Zentner were happy. It was a question of helping our friends. I’ll tell you about Sullivan and Cromwell, some time.

GD: Not Gilbert and Sullivan?

RTC: No the New York law firm. Dulles was with them. They helped everyone out. Very pro-Hitler once but then the Company was full of ex-Nazis, in fact our Gehlen Org was almost exclusively Nazi. Frenchy Grombach drew up a list of top Nazis wanted for war crimes after the war and Critchfield used it at his main recruiting guide. Of course if the Jews ever found this out, we would have to do some major damage control. Israel is friendly with us just as long as we keep the money and the guns coming. But then we have to kiss up to the Arabs as well because of the oil so the main thing here is to maintain a careful balance. But not only H&K but a number of other firms have been of inestimable help to us. They plans stories we want planted, they open offices in foreign countries of interest and let our men come in as employees and so on. The PR people can move mountains. Paster, who not only worked for H&K but also the Clintons, worked with Bill’s people to neutralize the Lewinski scandal which was really not political but religious in nature. The right wing Christians, who are as crazy as hit house owls, wanted Clinton ’s scalp so they could put one of their own pro-Jesus nuts in the White House. Ken Starr is as strange as they come and I am ashamed to admit he’s a lawyer from my home town. Stands in his yard and screams for Jesus to listen to him. The neighbors made such as fuss about these nocturnal shouting sessions, they called the police.

GD: Tell me, Robert, did Jesus ever answer?

RTC: I don’t think so but Ken was warned that if he kept his yowling up at night, or even in the daytime, it was off to St. Elizabeth’s funny farm in an ambulance.

GD: Don’t talk to me about the Jesus Freaks! My God, I’ve known my share and the best place for them is a desert island populated by hungry tigers.

RTC: I think there are things even a hungry tiger wouldn’t eat.

GD: But back to the press again. Did you control or did you influence?

RTC: Both. I can give you an example. Ben Bradlee was the managing editor of the Washington Post and was our man all the way. It’s a long, involved story and if you have the time, I’ll give you the background. I know we’ve talked about this before but it’s absolutely typical of what I was telling you. Do you have the time?
GD: Yes, as the old whore said, if you have the money.

RTC: Ben’s best friend when he was a child was Dick Helms. After Ben left Harvard during the war, he joined ONI and worked in their communications center. He dealt with a flood of secret codes messages from all over the world. He had married Jean Staltonstall, the Governor’s daughter and the old man was also a spook. Not generally known, however. War was over and Ben was sent to join the ACLU as a spy. Pretty soon Ben got an inside connection with Gene Meyer, who’s family ran the Post and he got a job there covering the police beat. Eugene ’s son in law, married Katherine and poor Gene was a blossoming nut and he eventually swallowed his gun and the wife took over the paper. Graham got Ben a job with the Foggy Bottom people…

GD: What?

RTC: State Department. Anyway, Ben was off to France where he worked in the embassy in Paris where he did propaganda work and started working very closely with us. Then he went to work for Newsweek. Ben is an ambitious type and he ditched the Staltonstall woman and married Tony Pinchot. Her sister, Mary, was married to Cord Meyer, our beloved Cyclops….

GD: And a friend and co-worker with party comrade Cranston …

RTC: The same one. And joined together in the Mockingbird program we have been talking about….

GD: The Mighty Wurlitzer of Wisner?

RTC: Same idea.

GD: Graham and Wisner killed themselves and Wisner spent a lot of time in a nut house, didn’t he?

RTC: Raving mad. They had to drag him screaming out of headquarters, trussed up in a strait jacket and foaming at the mouth. Not one of my fonder moments. As I recall it, Bradlee knew Jim Angleton in France . I’ll tell you about Jim one of these days. Ben was kicked out of France because the CIA was secretly supporting the FLN…supplying them inside information about French counter-terrorist groups and give them plastique and other nice things…just as they did later with the Quebec Libré people in Canada . The French png’ed him…

GD: What?

RTC: Persona non grata. Not wanted in the country. Then he did his Newsweek work and got to know Kennedy and wrote some puff pieces for him and got on the inside track there. In the early ‘60s’ Helms told Bradlee that one of his relatives wanted to sell Newsweek and Bradlee brokered the deal with the Post people. We had a firm in with the Post and now with Newsweek, a powerful opinion molder and a high-circulation national magazine. Then there was the tow path murder. Cord’s ex-wife was one of Kennedy’s women and everyone felt she had too much influence with him, not to mention her hippifying him with LSD and marijuana. We can discuss the Kennedy business some other time but Mary was threatening to talk and you know about the rest. Good old Ben and his friend Jim went to Mary’s little converted garage studio which Ben just happened to own, and finally found her diary. They took it away and just as well they did. She had it all down in there, every bit of the drugs use, all kinds of bad things JFK told her as pillow talk and her inside knowledge of the hit. Not good.

GD: If you want to talk about the Kennedy business, Robert, I am perfectly willing to listen.

RTC: But I am not perfectly willing to talk at this point. We can get to it little by little, Gregory. Ben got to be vice president of the Post company and retired with honor and plenty of money.

GD: The diary?

RTC: Jim burned the original but made a copy. Makes interesting reading. It gives you different view of Camelot, believe me. What the American public doesn’t know, cannot hurt them, can it?

GD: No it can’t but if….do you still have your copy?

RTC: Now, now, Gregory. I don’t want a black bag job here. I’m too old to start shooting at mysterious burglars, or even being shot by them.

GD: This has been very interesting today, Robert.

RTC: An old man has little left sometimes but his memories.

GD: Do an autobiography, why not?

RTC” I don’t feel like committing suicide, Gregory, and I signed the paper keeping me from writing about any of this.

GD: But I haven’t.

RTC: No, you haven’t. Let’s call it a day for now, Gregory. I’m a little tired now. The Swiss have been working their microwave transmissions overtime.

GD: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof,’ Robert. I’ll be out of town for a few days so I’ll get back in touch next week.

RTC: Have a nice trip and thanks for the call.

(Concluded at 10:57 AM CST )

Also see:

Conversations with the Crow Part I

Conversations with the Crow Part II

Conversations with the Crow – Part 3

Conversations with the Crow: Part 4