President: Dwight D. Eisenhower
February 18, 1953: The CIA's "Operation Ajax" (in conjunction with the British, who call it "Operation Boot") begins, with Kim "Kermit" Roosevelt, Jr. (Teddy Roosevelt's grandson) in charge--a plan to oust Iran's prime minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, because of his nationalization of the Iranian oil industry (p. 83).
March 5, 1953: Joseph Stalin dies. "We have no reliable inside intelligence on thinking inside the Kremlin. Our estimates of Soviet long-range plans and intentions are speculations drawn from inadequate evidence." (p. 73)
March 1953: The CIA and British back Fazlollah Zahedi to overthrow Mossadeq in Iran. April 1953: Zahedi goes into hiding after his supporters are suspected of kidnapping and murdering Iran's national police chief. (p. 85). May 1953: CIA propaganda portrays Mossadeq as an enemy of Islam being supported by the Soviet Union. (p. 86)
June 5, 1953: Allen Dulles tells the National Security Council that the CIA cannot give "any prior warning through intelligence channels of a Soviet sneak attack" (p. 75).
1953: The CIA guesses that the Soviets will not be able to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile at the United States until 1969 (p. 75).
June 16-17, 1953: "Nearly 370,000 East Germans took to the streets" to protest against the Soviet Union and East German Communist Party. The CIA does nothing, "the uprising was crushed." (p. 76)
July 7, 1953: Iran's Tudeh Party radio "warned Iranians that the American government, along with various 'spies and traitors,' including General Zahedi, were working 'to liquidate the Mossadeq government.'" (p. 87). In other words, the CIA and British intelligence plot was blown and made known to the Iranian public even before it began. July 11: President Eisenhower gives approval to the plot.
August 1953: Soviet Union tests its first atomic bomb. The CIA "had no clue and gave no warning." (p. 75)
1953: Joint Chiefs of Staff tells Eisenhower, regarding defense against Soviet aggression, that (as reported by Eisenhower) "we should do what was necessary even if the result was to change the American way of life. We could lick the whole world ... if we were willing to adopt the system of Adolph Hitler." (p. 75)
1953: Allen Dulles builds CIA propaganda machinery by building ties with heads of magazines and newspapers including The New York Times, Time (including Henry Luce), Newsweek, CBS News, and Axel Springer in West Germany (p. 77).
August 1953: General Norman Schwarzkopf is brought in by the CIA to try to get the Shah of Iran to support the coup against Mossadeq and appoint Zahedi as prime minister (p. 88). August 16: "Hundreds of paid agitators flooded the streets of Tehran, looting, burning, and smashing the symbols of government." (p. 89) August 19: Continued protesting occurs, and at least 100 people are killed on the streets of Tehran and 200 killed when the shah's Imperial Guard attacks Mossadeq's home. August 20: Mossadeq surrenders, spends 3 years in jail and a decade under house arrest before dying. Zahedia becomes prime minister, is paid $1 million by the CIA, and jails thousands of political prisoners. The shah sets up a secret police force, SAVAK, "trained and equipped by the CIA," imposes martial law, and exercises dictatorial control over Iran (p. 92). This is considered a great success of the CIA--at least until 1979. The CIA's internal history of the Iranian operation has been published online, authored by Donald Wilber, who was the main planner of the operation.
End of 1953: An internal poll of the CIA yields a report that describes "'a rapidly deteriorating situation': widespread frustration, confusion, and purposelessness. ... 'too many people in responsible positions apparently don't know what they're doing.' ... 'a shocking amount of money' going to waste on failed missions overseas." (p. 78) Allen Dulles suppresses the report (p. 79).
1953: The CIA provides millions of dollars to Japanese gangster Yoshio Kodama, a man who led a group that attempted to assassinate the prime minister in the 1930s, in order to smuggle tungsten from the Japanese military into U.S. hands.
December 1953: Colonel Al Haney sets up shop at an air base in Opa-Locka, Florida for "Operation Success," a plan to overthrow the government of Guatemala that has been discussed by the CIA for the previous three years. (p. 93) The plan is to put Colonel Carlos Castillo Armas of the Guatemala military in command, removing President Jacobo Arbenz. Haney draws out timelines and plans on a 40-foot roll of butcher paper pinned to the wall (p. 96).
1954: Frank Wisner has doubts about Haney, so sends Tracy Barnes and Richard Bissell to investigate his operation (p. 96). Henry Hecksher is sent to Guatemala City to spend up to $10,000/month on bribes of military officers, including Colonel Elfego Monzon, and CIA HQ sends Haney a list of 58 Guatemalans to be assassinated as part of the coup. The event that prompts the initiation of the coup is the discovery that a freighter named Alfhelm was transporting $4.86 million in Czech arms to Guatemala. The CIA lost the trail, and the arms--many of which were old WWII weapons with swastikas stamped on them--were successfully delivered (p. 98). May 1, 1954: Voice of Liberation radio, run by David Atlee Phillips, begins broadcasting propaganda to Guatemala. May 26, 1954: A CIA plane drops leaflets promoting rebellion over the presidential guard's headquarters. June 6, 1954: The propaganda prompts Arbenz to become the dictator he was described to be, as he suspends civil liberties and engages in mass arrests to try to find anyone plotting against him (p. 99). June 18, 1954: Armas launches his assault at Puerto Barrios, but most of his men are killed or captured (p. 100). June 19, 1954: The U.S. ambassador to Guatemala calls for the U.S. to drop bombs. June 22, 1954: A CIA plane drops a bomb that starts an oil tank fire that is put out within 20 minutes. Dulles and businessman William Pawley meet with Eisenhower, who asks if the rebellion will be successful without further assistance. Eisenhower gives approval for the CIA to provide three planes to Nicaragua, funded by Pawley with money transferred through Riggs Bank, which are used by CIA pilots to attack Guatemala City. Armas still fails to gain ground. (p. 102). June 25, 1954: The CIA bombs "the parade grounds of the largest military encampment in Guatemala City" (p. 103) which prompts officers to switch allegiance to support the coup. June 27, 1954: Arbenz cedes power to Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz, who vows to fight Armas. Diaz is called a "Commie agent" by Haney and informed by a CIA officer that he is "not convenient for American foreign policy" (p. 103). There are quickly four successive military juntas, "each one increasingly pro-American," and two months later Castillo Armas becomes president and is welcomed at the White House. Weiner writes: "Guatemala was at the beginning of forty years of military rulers, death squads, and armed repression." (p. 103)
May 1954: WWII war criminal Nobusuke Kishi makes his political debut with CIA support. Kishi befriended former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Joseph Grew by letting him out of detention in Tokyo in 1942 to play a round of golf (p. 117). Grew became the first chairman of the CIA's National Committee for a Free Europe and was a powerful ally of Kishi.
1954: Joseph McCarthy begins accumulating claims of Communist agents working for the CIA, feeding it disinformation. The claim is true, but the CIA responds not by addressing its own problems but by bugging McCarthy's office and feeding him disinformation in order to discredit him (pp. 105-106).
May 1954: Eisenhower receives a six-page letter from Jim Kellis, blowing the whistle on serious problems in the CIA--the CIA unwittingly funding Communists, being duped in various operations, and Dulles lying to Congress (pp. 107-108). July 1954: Eisenhower asks General Jimmy Doolittle and William Pawley to report on the state of the CIA in response to Kellis' letter. October 19, 1954: Doolittle reports back to Eisenhower about serious problems within the CIA, with a written report titled "Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency."
November 1954: The U2 spy plane project begins, under a bureaucracy run by Richard Bissell.
1955: Eisenhower creates the "Special Group" to oversee covert operations, consisting of representatives of the White House, the State Department, and the Department of Defense. Dulles, however, frequently did not bother reporting covert operations to the group or to the president (pp. 114-115).
February 1955: A joint U.S.-British project to dig a tunnel from West Berlin to East Berlin to tap Soviet cables is completed, with the taps put in place in March, and information flow beginning in May, hampered by a lack of sufficient Russian and even German linguists (p. 111). April 1956: The Soviets uncover the tunnel and the information flow stops as the Soviets loudly complain. It subsequently turned out that the Soviets knew about the plan in December 1953, when planning first began, having been informed by George Blake, a British intelligence officer who was a Soviet spy. Much of the intercepted information was likely deliberate misinformation, though the CIA did learn about Soviet and East German security systems (p. 112).
Spring 1955: The CIA considers assassinating President Sukarno of Indonesia because of fears of communist influence, and because he had declared himself "a noncombatant in the cold war" (p. 143). Sukarno holds a conference of 29 Asian, African, and Arab chiefs of state in Bandung, Indonesia, to propose "a global movement of nations free to chart their own paths, aligned with neither Moscow nor Washington" (p. 143). The White House authorizes "all feasible covert means" to keep Indonesia from going communist. The CIA contributes $1 million to Sukarno's opponents, the Masjumi Party, but Sukarno wins the 1955 parliamentary elections.
November 1955: Nobusuke Kishi sets up the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan with the help of CIA funding; LDP candidates and officials are recruited and approved by (and bribed by) the CIA (p. 119).
1956: Sukarno visits Moscow and Beijing as well as D.C.
February 1956: Nikita Krushchev gives a speech denouncing Stalin. March 1956: The CIA hears rumors of the speech and attempts to obtain a copy. April 1956: Israeli spies deliver a copy of the speech to James Angleton. (p. 123)
Early 1956: CIA analysts conclude that no Eastern European nations are likely to rebel against the Soviets during the 1950s. June 28, 1956: Polish workers riot against wage reductions and destroy the equipment jamming Radio Free Europe. 53 Poles are killed and hundreds imprisoned (p. 125).
July 1956: Gamal Abdel Nasser, head of Egypt, nationalizes the Suez Canal Company, a British-French joint venture, to the surprise of the CIA. The CIA had supported Nasser with millions of dollars, but as the U.S. did not fulfill promises of military aid, Nasser traded cotton to the Soviet Union for weapons. The British proposed Nasser's assassination, but the U.S. opposed it. The British, French, and Israel plotted Nasser's overthrow and kept the U.S. in the dark; Dulles assured Eisenhower that rumors of such a plot were untrue, relying upon James Angleton who had contacts with Israeli intelligence (which were feeding him disinformation) (pp. 127-128). October 28, 1956: Israel invades the Sinai Peninsula as a pretext for the British and French to demand a cease-fire and move in to protect the Suez canal. The Soviet Union demands British and French withdrawal. The U.S., caught completely by surprise, applies pressure to force the British and French to leave. Israel was also forced to withdraw, though it destroyed infrastructure on the way. A UN Emergency Force occupied the peninsula until 1967. (More information on the 1956 war may be found here.)
October 1956: A CIA-British intelligence plot for a coup in Syria is put on hold due to the Suez fiasco, which pushes Syria closer to the Soviets (p. 138).
October 1956: A popular revolution begins in Hungary. The CIA had a single agent in Budapest, a low-level State Department clerk. The uprising was crushed within two weeks. A CIA history of the uprising says "At no time did we have anything that could or should have been mistaken for an intelligence operation." (p. 129) During the brief revolution, former Hungarian prime minister Imre Nagy, who had been expelled from the Communist Party, went on state radio "to denounce the 'terrible mistakes and crimes of these past ten years.'" He stated that the Russians would leave and a new democratic government would be set up. Nagy formed a coalition government, abolished one-party rule, broke with Moscow, declared Hungary neutral, and appealed to the U.S. and UN for assistance. The CIA attacked Nagy on radio broadcasts as a traitor, liar, and murderer, and claimed that he had invited Russian troops into Budapest--all because he had once been a communist. November 4, 1956: The Soviets sent 200,000 troops and 2,500 tanks and armored vehicles into Hungary to crush the rebellion, killing tens of thousands and sending thousands to Siberian prison camps (pp. 130-131).
February 1957: Nobusuke Kishi becomes prime minister of Japan. The CIA-influenced Liberal Democratic Party runs the Japanese government to this day (pp. 119ff); Japanese refer to the CIA-supported political system as kozo oshoku or "structural corruption" (p. 121). (Current Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe is Kishi's grandson.)
April 1957: Plans for a Syrian coup are revisited; the plan is for the CIA and British SIS to "manufacture 'national conspiracies and various strong-arm activities' in Iraq, Lebanon, and Jordan, and blame them on Syria" (p. 138). The Syrians uncover the plot with a sting operation and arrest CIA operative Rocky Stone, publicly identify him as an American spy, and expel him from the country. In return, the U.S. expelled the Syrian ambassador from D.C. Stone's Syrian co-conspirators are sentenced to death, and "a purge of every military officer who had ever been associated with the American embassy followed" (p. 139). These events permanently poisoned U.S.-Syrian relations.
September 25, 1957: Eisenhower, convinced by the CIA that Sukarno was going communist, orders the CIA to overthrow his government (p. 147). September 28, 1957: The Indian newsweekly Blitz (controlled by Soviet intelligence) reports "AMERICAN PLOT TO OVERTHROW SUKARNO" (p. 147). January 8, 1958: The CIA provides weapons to Indonesian army rebels on Sumatra, without any attempt at secrecy. February 10, 1958: A CIA-financed radio station broadcasts demands for "a new government and the outlawing of communism within five days" (p. 148). February 21, 1958: The Indonesian air force bombs the CIA radio stations. The Indonesian army, led by anticommunists trained in the U.S. who referred to themselves as "the sons of Eisenhower," were at war with the CIA (p. 148). April 19, 1958: CIA pilots began bombing and strafing Indonesia's outer islands, killing hundreds of civilians, as well as sinking a British and Panamanian freighter (p. 151). The Indonesians claimed, correctly, that these planes were piloted by Americans, but the president and secretary of state of the United States denied it. May 18, 1958: CIA pilot Al Pope was shot down by the Indonesians. May 19, 1958: The U.S. decides that Sukarno is doing a good job of suppressing communism (p. 153). Sukarno frequently mentioned the U.S.'s failed attempts to overthrow his government in public speeches, and the actual communists in Indonesia gained in power and influence.
July 14, 1958: The CIA had been active in Iraq, offering money and weapons for support of anticommunism. On this date a military coup occurred, overthrowing Nuri Said. The General Abdel Karim Qasim regime found proof that the CIA had been paying off the previous government, and an American working for the CIA as a writer for American Friends of the Middle East (a CIA front group) was arrested and disappeared. CIA officials left the country and Qasim began ties with the Soviets. The Ba'ath Party attempted to assassinate Qasim, which led to CIA support. (The Ba'ath Party later gained control with the help of the CIA, which then led to Saddam Hussein coming to power.) (pp. 140-141)
January 1, 1959: Richard Bissell becomes chief of the clandestine service.
April-May 1959: Fidel Castro visits the U.S. and meets with the CIA, which was supportive.
December 11, 1959: Richard Bissell sends a memo to Allen Dulles asking that "thorough consideration be given to the elimination of Fidel Castro." Dulles replaced "elimination" with "removal from Cuba."
1960: The CIA projected that the Soviet Union would have 500 ICBMs aimed at the U.S. by 1961. In fact, it had four. (p. 158)
March 17, 1960: Dulles and Bissell present plans for an overthrow of Castro to Eisenhower and Nixon, which did not involve an invasion (p. 157).
April 9, 1960: The first U-2 flight over the Soviet Union occurs; the Soviets detect it and go on high alert (p. 159).
May 1, 1960: A U-2 is shot down by the Soviets over central Russia, and the CIA pilot, Francis Gary Powers, is captured. The CIA cover story was that it was a weather plane lost in Turkey, which the White House and State Department insisted was the case for a week before coming clean (pp. 159-160).
Summer 1960: Richard Bissell arranges with Guatemala's President Manual Ydigoras Fuentes to set up a training camp for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba (pp. 160-161).
August 1960: Richard Bissell hires the Mafia to kill Fidel Castro, in hopes the Cuban invasion will be unnecessary. A second assassination plot is developed in-house by the CIA. August 16, 1960: Dulles and Bissell obtain approval from Eisenhower to spend $10.75 million on paramilitary training for five hundred Cubans in Guatemala, the invasion force. Eisenhower approves on the condition that "So long as the Joint Chiefs, Defense, State and CIA think we have a good chance of being successful" (p. 161).
Summer 1960: The Congo declares independence from Belgium; Patrice Lumumba is elected prime minister. Lumumba's request for U.S. assistance is ignored, so he seeks help from the Soviet Union. The CIA sends Larry Devlin to head the CIA post in the Congo, and CIA chemist Sidney Gottlieb delivers him vials of poison to inject into Lumumba's food, drink, or toothpaste. Devlin asks who the order came from, Gottlieb told him "the President." Devlin refused to follow through (pp. 162-163). October-November 1960: The CIA selected Joseph Mobutu to be the new leader of the Congo, and supplied him with $250,000 and weapons. Mobutu successfully captured Lumumba, who was then killed by a Belgian officer. It took five years for Mobutu to gain full control of the Congo, where "he ruled for three decades as one of the world's most brutal and corrupt dictators, stealing billions of dollars in revenues from the nation's enormous deposits of diamonds, minerals, and strategic minerals, slaughtering multitudes to preserve his power" (p. 163).
January 5, 1961: The President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence Activities issues a report which states that "We are unable to conclude that, on balance, all of the covert action programs undertaken by CIA up to this time have been worth the risk of the great expenditure of manpower, money, and other resources involved." It urged "complete separation" of the director of central intelligence from the CIA. Dulles claimed that everything was fine and that he had "corrected deficiencies", and Eisenhower gave up in defeat, stating that he was leaving a "legacy of ashes" for his successor (p. 167).