Intelligence: June 11, 2004


Since his death on June 5th, former President Ronald Reagan has received a lot of accolades for winning the Cold War. However, one of his most critical decisions in winning the Cold War was not really commented on. It was made very early in Reagans first term, when William F. Casey was nominated to serve as Director of Central Intelligence.

Casey, who had not really operated in the intelligence community since leaving the OSS after World War II, seemed to be a political choice. However, he quickly set about changing things at a CIA that had been widely demoralized by Stansfield Turners cutbacks in human intelligence and the Operations Directorate.

Caseys approach against the Soviet Union was relentless it was an approach he used against Germany in 1945, where on one occasion he bent the rules by recruiting German POWs to serve as agents for intelligence missions. Against the Soviets, he was equally willing to ignore or evade red tape that got in the way of running operations no matter who objected, be it Congress (The business of Congress is to stay out of my business) or CIAs own lawyers. One instance involved supplying the mujahadeen in Afghanistan with sniper rifles. Despite concerns from some of the Agencys lawyers, Casey ultimately sent over 100 rifles to the rebels. He reportedly said they were to be called hunting rifles and what the mujahadeen hunted with them was their business.

Caseys relentlessness was particularly seen in the covert efforts to support the resistance movements in Eastern Europe. Solidarity in Poland was a major recipient of CIA support. The CIA had a major ally in this the Vatican, primarily due to the belief that the KGB may have had something to do with the attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II. 

Caseys operations against the Soviets spanned nearly half the globe, and all had the objective of forcing the Soviets to expend more of their ever-shrinking resources to cover things ranging from Nicaragua to Afghanistan. And often times, Soviet efforts to steal technology merely netted them deliberately sabotaged equipment that set them back even more.

If it would hurt the Soviets, and wouldnt start a war, Casey would do it. As Director of Central Intelligence, he waged a brilliant campaign for the time he served as DCI, retiring due to an inoperable brain tumor in early 1987, and dying in July of that year. By then, however, he had fatally wounded the Soviet Union, and Casey had arguably become the best Director of Central Intelligence in the Agencys history. If Ronald Reagan won the Cold War in public, then Bill Casey won it in the shadows. Harold C. Hutchison ([email protected])




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