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that the U.S. would ever use overt military force in Cuba.
Undeterred, Lemnitzer and the Chiefs persisted, virtually to the point
of demanding that they be given authority to invade and take over Cuba.
About a month after submitting Operation Northwoods, they met in the
"tank," as the JCS conference room was called, and agreed on the
wording of a tough memorandum to McNamara. "The Joint Chiefs of
Staff believe that the Cuban problem must be solved in the near future,"
they wrote. "Further, they see no prospect of early success in
overthrowing the present communist regime either as a result of internal
uprising or external political, economic or psychological pressures.
Accordingly they believe that military intervention by the United States
will be required to overthrow the present communist regime."
Lemnitzer was virtually rabid in his hatred of communism in general
and Castro in particular. "The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the
United States can undertake military intervention in Cuba without risk
of general war," he continued. "They also believe that the intervention
can be accomplished rapidly enough to minimize communist
opportunities for solicitation of UN action." However, what Lemnitzer was
suggesting was not freeing the Cuban people, who were largely in
support of Castro, but imprisoning them in a U.S. military”controlled
police state. "Forces would assure rapid essential military control of


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Cuba," he wrote. "Continued police action would be required."
Concluding, Lemnitzer did not mince words: "[T]he Joint Chiefs of
Staff recommend that a national policy of early military intervention in
Cuba be adopted by the United States. They also recommend that such
intervention be undertaken as soon as possible and preferably before the
release of National Guard and Reserve forces presently on active duty."
By then McNamara had virtually no confidence in his military chief
and was rejecting nearly every proposal the general sent to him. The
rejections became so routine, said one of Lemnitzer's former staff officers,
that the staffer told the general that the situation was putting the
military in an "embarrassing rut." But Lemnitzer replied, "I am the senior
military officer”it's my job to state what I believe and it's his
[McNamara's] job to approve or disapprove." "McNamara's arrogance was
astonishing," said Lemnitzer's aide, who knew nothing of Operation
North woods. "He gave General Lemnitzer very short shrift and treated
him like a schoolboy. The general almost stood at attention when he
came into the room. Everything was 'Yes, sir' and 'No, sir.' "
Within months, Lemnitzer was denied a second term as JCS chairman
and transferred to Europe as chief of NATO. Years later President Gerald
Ford appointed Lemnitzer, a darling of the Republican right, to the
President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Lemnitzer's Cuba chief,
Brigadier General Craig, was also transferred. Promoted to major general,
he spent three years as chief of the Army Security Agency, NSA's military
arm.
Because of the secrecy and illegality of Operation Northwoods, all
details remained hidden for forty years. Lemnitzer may have thought that
all copies of the relevant documents had been destroyed; he was not one
to leave compromising material lying around. Following the Bay of Pigs
debacle, for example, he ordered Brigadier General David W. Gray,
Craig's predecessor as chief of the Cuba project within the JCS, to
destroy all his notes concerning Joint Chiefs actions and discussions
during that period. Gray's meticulous notes were the only detailed official
records of what happened within the JCS during that time. According to
Gray, Lemnitzer feared a congressional investigation and therefore
wanted any incriminating evidence destroyed.
With the evidence destroyed, Lemnitzer felt free to lie to Congress.
When asked, during secret hearings before a Senate committee, if he
knew of any Pentagon plans for a direct invasion of Cuba he said he did
not. Yet detailed JCS invasion plans had been drawn up even before
Kennedy was inaugurated. And additional plans had been developed
since. The consummate planner and man of details also became evasive,
suddenly encountering great difficulty in recalling key aspects of the
operation, as if he had been out of the country during the period. It was



76
a sorry spectacle. Senator Gore called for Lemnitzer to be fired. "We need
a shakeup of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he said. "We direly need a new
chairman, as well as new members." No one had any idea of Operation
Northwoods.
Because so many documents were destroyed, it is difficult to
determine how many senior officials were aware of Operation
Northwoods. As has been described, the document was signed and fully
approved by Lemnitzer and the rest of the Joint Chiefs and addressed to
the Secretary of Defense for his signature. Whether it went beyond
McNamara to the president and the attorney general is not known.
Even after Lemnitzer lost his job, the Joint Chiefs kept planning
"pretext" operations at least into 1963. Among their proposals was a plan
to deliberately create a war between Cuba and any of a number of its
Latin American neighbors. This would give the United States military an
excuse to come in on the side of Cuba's adversary and get rid of Castro.
"A contrived 'Cuban' attack on an OAS [Organization of American States]
member could be set up," said one proposal, "and the attacked state
could be urged to 'take measures of self-defense and request assistance
from the U.S. and OAS; the U.S. could almost certainly obtain the
necessary two-thirds support among OAS members for collective action
against Cuba."
Among the nations they suggested that the United States secretly
attack were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Both were members of the
British Commonwealth; thus, by secretly attacking them and then falsely
blaming Cuba, the United States could lure England into the war against
Castro. The report noted, "Any of the contrived situations described
above are inherently, extremely risky in our democratic system in which
security can be maintained, after the fact, with very great difficulty. If the
decision should be made to set up a contrived situation it should be one
in which participation by U.S. personnel is limited only to the most
highly trusted covert personnel. This suggests the infeasibility of the use
of military units for any aspect of the contrived situation."
The report even suggested secretly paying someone in the Castro
government to attack the United States: "The only area remaining for
consideration then would be to bribe one of Castro's subordinate
commanders to initiate an attack on [the U.S. naval base at]
Guantanamo." The act suggested”bribing a foreign nation to launch a
violent attack on an American military installation”was treason.
In May 1963, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze sent a plan
to the White House proposing "a possible scenario whereby an attack on
a United States reconnaissance aircraft could be exploited toward the
end of effecting the removal of the Castro regime." In the event Cuba
attacked a U-2, the plan proposed sending in additional American pilots,



77
this time on dangerous, unnecessary low-level reconnaissance missions
with the expectation that they would also be shot down, thus provoking a
war. "[T]he U.S. could undertake various measures designed to stimulate
the Cubans to provoke a new incident," said the plan. Nitze, however, did
not volunteer to be one of the pilots.
One idea involved sending fighters across the island on "harassing
reconnaissance" and "show-off" missions "flaunting our freedom of
action, hoping to stir the Cuban military to action." "Thus," said the plan,
"depending above all on whether the Cubans were or could be made to be
trigger-happy, the development of the initial downing of a reconnaissance
plane could lead at best to the elimination of Castro, perhaps to the
removal of Soviet troops and the installation of ground inspection in
Cuba, or at the least to our demonstration of firmness on
reconnaissance." About a month later, a low-level flight was made across
Cuba, but unfortunately for the Pentagon, instead of bullets it produced
only a protest.
Lemnitzer was a dangerous”perhaps even unbalanced”right-wing
extremist in an extraordinarily sensitive position during a critical period.
But Operation Northwoods also had the support of every single member
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even senior Pentagon official Paul Nitze
argued in favor of provoking a phony war with Cuba. The fact that the
most senior members of all the services and the Pentagon could be so out
of touch with reality and the meaning of democracy would be hidden for
four decades.
In retrospect, the documents offer new insight into the thinking of the
military's star-studded leadership. Although they never succeeded in
launching America into a phony war with Cuba, they may have done so
with Vietnam. More than 50,000 Americans and more than 2 million
Vietnamese were eventually killed in that war.
It has long been suspected that the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident”the
spark that led to America's long war in Vietnam”was largely staged or
provoked by U.S. officials in order to build up congressional and public
support for American involvement. Over the years, serious questions
have been raised about the alleged attack by North Vietnamese patrol
boats on two American destroyers in the Gulf. But defenders of the
Pentagon have always denied such charges, arguing that senior officials
would never engage in such deceit.
Now, however, in light of the Operation Northwoods documents, it is
clear that deceiving the public and trumping up wars for Americans to
fight and die in was standard, approved policy at the highest levels of the
Pentagon. In fact, the Gulf of Tonkin seems right out of the Operation
Northwoods playbook: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo
Bay and blame Cuba . . . casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause



78
a helpful wave of indignation." One need only replace "Guantanamo Bay"
with "Tonkin Gulf," and "Cuba" with "North Vietnam." The Gulf of Tonkin
incident may or may not have been stage-managed, but the senior
Pentagon leadership at the time was clearly capable of such deceit.


CHAPTER FIVE EYES


KPYNTKA' ABPYHTO RIL VFLTA AIUUTK MY HFAA BF UHOTKA CFKR
ANLRXO YANMC KN ANMDA YROKFLDA FW KPR QCG DYMIAQBC ON
QMIG NYCSB OFGIG'B QFKOROGYB DSQJB WJEHCFBJN YFWRJPC
YFCHEZUF JP VRNF HV CUYJOFC HP OHCHBH SLNO FENLDX LHH
DLLMOA ZJCSO FL DZA LTON A.E. TLFONX


Two hundred miles north of Washington, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard,
shipfitters riveted steel seams together and welded joints in place. Blue
sparks flew about and industrial pounding filled the air. Men in hard
hats cut, straightened, and shaped large metal plates, and electricians
strung miles of wire like endless strands of black knitting yarn. In a long,
boxy dry dock, welder's torches were bringing back to life the rusting
skeleton and gray skin of a ship long discarded.
Like an early baby boomer, the SS Samuel R. Aitken was launched in
Portland, Maine, on July 31, 1945. Named for an Irishman who came to
the United States at the turn of the century and later became an
executive with Moore-McCormack Lines, the Aitken was one of the mass-
produced cargo vessels known as Liberty ships. Because it arrived too
late for the war, it instead spent a few years hauling freight from port to
port under the colors of Moore-McCormack. But after only three years in
service, the Aitken was given early retirement and sent to a nautical
boneyard in Wilmington, Delaware.
Now, under a heavy cloak of secrecy, the Samuel R. Aitken was being
called back into service, but this time as a spy.


About the same time that John F. Kennedy was elected president,
NSA director John Samford's tour ended with considerably more
attention than it began. Just before his scheduled retirement in
November 1960, the agency suffered the worst scandal in its history
when two of its analysts, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell,
defected to Moscow. As a result of the defection, NSA's organizational
structure was quickly changed. ADVA and GENS were combined into A
Group, the largest organization, focusing on all analysis of the Soviet
Union and its satellite countries. ACOM became B Group, responsible for


79
China, Korea, Vietnam, and the rest of Communist Asia, as well as Cuba.
And ALLO was transformed into G Group, which tackled the
communications of the rest of the world. The remainder of NSA was
similarly organized. Despite other spy scandals, this system would
remain unchanged until well into the 1990s.
Vice Admiral Laurence Hugh (Jack) Frost, a 1926 Annapolis graduate
who once served as chief of staff at NSA, replaced Samford. When he
arrived, NSA's headquarters at Fort Meade had grown to 8,000 people
and was eating up a larger and larger slice of the intelligence pie. By then
the overall U.S. intelligence budget reached $2 billion; the Department of
Defense accounted for $1.4 billion, most of which went to NSA. Thin and
silver-haired, the admiral, soon after taking office, proclaimed that NSA
was a ship and ordered a 75-foot, 3,100-pound flagpole installed with his
personal flag so people would know that he was aboard.
It was an appropriate gesture. At the time, NSA was secretly building
its own eavesdropping navy to supplement its Sigint air force. As the air
battles of the 1950s claimed more and more lives, ferret ships began
joining ferret planes. Ships could also cover the southern hemisphere”
South America and sub-Saharan Africa”where NSA had almost no
listening posts. Both areas were of growing concern as the United States
and Russia sought to expand their influence throughout the developing
world.
The concept was not new. For years the Soviets had used a fleet of
about forty antenna-sprouting trawlers. They would bob just outside the
three-mile territorial limit and eavesdrop on defense installations along
the east and west coasts of the U.S. "The Soviets had a vast intelligence
program which included the use of Soviet trawlers," said former KGB
major general Oleg Kalugin, "and specially equipped scientific ships, so
called, which operated under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of
the USSR. They would go to various places”the Atlantic, the Pacific and
wherever they could. And they would use the intelligence equipment ... to
intercept electronic communications and then ... break them."
President Eisenhower authorized NSA's first signals intelligence ship
on November 12, 1959. The Samuel R. Aitken would become the USS
Oxford. Although previously only cruisers had been named for cities, it
was decided to make an exception for eavesdropping vessels. "Oxford"
was chosen because it was found to be the commonest city name in the
United States. The vessel was also given the euphemistic designation
"Auxiliary General Technical Research" (AGTR) ship.
The conversion work began in October 1960, just before the
presidential elections. At 441 feet long, with a beam of 57 feet and a
displacement of 11,498 tons, the Oxford was large enough to house a
sizable listening post. On September 11, 1961, Lieutenant Commander



80
Howard R. Lund reported his ship ready for duty, ostensibly for the
Navy's Atlantic Service Force, and proceeded from New York to the
vessel's home port of Norfolk, Virginia.
The Oxford would be unlike any other ship ever sent to sea. To quickly
get intercepts from the ship to NSA, a unique sixteen-foot dish-shaped
antenna was installed on its fantail. On December 15, the Oxford became
the first ship at sea ever to receive a message bounced off the moon.
"Signaling another first in communications by the Navy," said the
message from the Chief of Naval Operations, "this message being sent to
you from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Field Station, Stump Neck,

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