Eugene V. Debs meets Walt Whitman

Rostow and the National Strategy Information Center

Right Web draw on a 1961 article in the Military Review on the subject of political warfare, by Frank Barnett to characterise his perspective on developing a new methodology of counter-subversion for the U.S. Military and what this might comprise of:

“Political warfare in short, is warfare—not public relations. It is one part persuasion and two parts deception. It embraces diverse forms of coercion and violence including strikes and riots, economic sanctions, subsidies for guerrilla or proxy warfare and, when necessary, kidnapping or assassination of enemy elites.” (1)

They further draw on this to offer some background to the nature of the activities of the group Barnett was involved in setting up:

“The aim of political warfare… is to discredit, displace, and neutralize an opponent, to destroy a competing ideology, and to reduce the adherents to political impotence. It is to make one’s own values prevail by working the levers of power, as well as by using persuasion.”

In 1962, Barnett went on to found the National Strategy Information Center (NSIC). Among its founding directors, officers and advisers were:

Joseph Coors
Prescott Bush, Jr.
Frank Shakespeare
William Casey

The NSIC’s stated purpose was to “encourage a civil military partnership,” and surprisingly, given the covert and deceptive activities of its people, to keep the public informed on issues surrounding national defense.

The NSIC set out to train business, labor, professional and military groups; academic and mass media; governmental schools; and colleges and universities.

The funding, between 1973 and 1981, came from mostly from the Scaife Family Foundations with the John M. Olin Foundation offering support for an advisory committee for European democracy. In 1981-1982, the NSIC received a grant from the U.S. Information Agency to study the feasibility of an International Youth Year conference.(2)

As regards its activities The NSIC worked with the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) as a lobbyist for a strong U.S. military build-up and presence throughout the world. In setting up the Washington office, Barnett worked directly with Eugene V. Rostow of the CPD, who would later move onto the NSIC board,(3) with the NSIC Washington office run by Roy Godson.

The NSIC set up the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence (CSI) to move its agenda into colleges and universities. (4) Publications, conferences and symposia brought invited guests to become players in the activities of the think tank. The CIA, the military intelligence divisions, and the executive branches of government were well represented at all of the gatherings. Among those present at the 1979 colloquium

“… were such intelligence luminaries as Richard V. Allen of the National Security Council; William Colby, former head of the CIA; Dr. Ray S. Cline, former deputy director of the CIA; Dr. Fred C. Ikle, former director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; Mr. Morris Liebman, chairman of the American Bar Association; and from the NSIC, Dr. Roy Godson and Frank R. Barnett.”

The 1981 conference included:

“Dr. Ray Cline of the Center for Strategic and Intelligence Studies; Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; Dr. Edward Luttwak, ultra-hawk and expert on terrorism; and Dr. Richard Pipes, former chief Sovietologist at the Nationall Security Council.”

In 1983, the NSIC’s symposium included Col. Oliver North, Edward N. Luttwak and Arnaud de Borchgrave, then editor of the Washington Times, Theodore Shackley and Gen. Daniel Graham.

“In its 1984 book, Special Operations in U.S. Strategy, the NSIC showed a shift in strategy from containment militarism to one promoting low intensity conflict operations. The new strategy stresses the need for fulfilling U.S. objectives through “special operations.” According to the strategy, the “special operations” are to be coordinated with the private sector in the countries where these operations are located, and call for the use of psychological techniques and operations.”

According to an analysis by the Political Research Associates of Boston, quoted by Right Web what the NSIC was advocating was a U.S. policy of low-intensity conflict.

“In practice it is an endless, ongoing, permanent form of paramilitary action against governments and political movements that assert independence from U.S. domination.” (5)

Apart from its celebrated connections with the Nicaraguan contras, Godson was also a key figure in Anglo-American trade union relations, organizing “educational visits” for British trade unionists to visit the U.S. during the Reagan administration.(6) The trips were organized under the auspices of the Labour Desk of the U.S. Youth Council and the International Labor Program of Georgetown University.

Frank Shakespeare was a United States Information Agency director and a director of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. During the Reagan administration he served as ambassador to Portugal from 1985 to 1987, and after that as ambassador to the Vatican.
William Casey was CIA director in the Reagan administration, served as chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1971 to 1973, and as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs from February 1973 to March 1974.

Roy Godson served as a consultant to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board—a group of private citizens that oversees intelligence operations—in the Reagan administration.

Eugene V. Rostow was one of the architects of the containment militarism policy of the Reagan administration. He served as President Reagan’s head of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

Richard Pipes served as a National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan and was a major figure in the Committee on the Present Danger.

Hon. Antonin Scalia, justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, is listed as a member of the Consortium for the Study of Intelligence.
Margo D. B. Carlisle was an aide to Sen. James McClure (RID).
Margo Carlisle attended the 1980 WACL conference and is was involved in the “repackaging” of Roberto D’Aubuisson, the founder and former head of the ARENA party in El Salvador.

Admiral Thomas Moorer was head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a member of Team B, a group assembled in the mid1970s by then-CIA director George Bush to study the Soviet danger. The Team B laid the foundation for the revitalization of the Committee on the Present Danger.

Private Connections
Frank Barnett was a prominent member of the Committee on the Present Danger, an anti-Soviet group advocating a strong U.S. military and a policy of containment militarism. Before founding NSIC, Barnett was the director of research for the ultra-right Smith-Richardson Foundation and a program director of the Institute for American Strategy.
William Casey served as president and chairman of the exec committee of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a private voluntary organization that helps refugees from totalitarian oppression. The IRC worked with the CIA in Vietnam and cooperates with the U.S. government on programs in El Salvador.
Prescott Bush, Jr., a former director of the NSIC, is brother to President George Bush. He is a member of the Knights of Malta, a conservative lay Catholic group and has been involved with Americares, a right-wing private organization that receives grants from the U.S. Agency for International Development in Central America.
Henry Fowler, former NSIC director, was co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger until 1988. Fowler was Secretary of the Treasury under President Harry Truman.
Admiral Thomas Moorer, former NSIC director, served on the national advisory board of Accuracy in Media, a right-wing media group that promotes conservative causes and monitors the teaching of college professors. Moorer has been on the board of the American Security Council, an ultra-hawk organization that works on Congress to effect an anti-Soviet foreign policy. ASC runs the powerful lobby, the Coalition for Peace Through Strength, which has more than 190 Congressional members. (9,33) He also served on the board of Western Goals, a group that focused on national security and gathered information on suspected communist sympathizers.
Frank Shakespeare, former director of NSIC, is chairman of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that played an important role in policy development in the Reagan administration. He is also a member of the Knights of Malta and the American Catholic Committee (ACC).
It is with Joseph Coors’ funding that researchers follow the complex web of connections of not just support to the contras, but to the setting up of a right-wing political agenda in the U.S. Coors and Paul Weyrich founded the conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation and Coors provided financial backing for Accuracy in Media, a media support group for the right wing, the Catholic Center, a religious group that sent conservative “truth squads” to organize workshops in cities with liberal bishops, and the Free Congress Foundation, a group dedicated to electing conservatives to Congress., Lt. Gen. John Singlaub’s U.S. Council for World Freedom (USCWF), the U.S. chapter of the World Anti-Communist League.

Roy Godson as Director of the International Labor program at Georgetown University was deeply involved in the Iran-Contra Affair.

“He was a contact person and middle-man in fundraising for Lt. Col. Oliver North’s network to supply the contras. He connected Terry Slease, attorney for Richard Scaife (wealthy right-wing philanthropist and NSIC donor), with North, and was present at meetings between National Security AdviserBud McFarland, North and Slease. […] Godson was a representative of the International Youth Conference which was one of the organizations used to channel funds to the Nicaraguan contras. He also was indirectly connected, through Slease, with the Institute for North-South Issues, a group funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, that served as a channel for contra funds. Godson also served as a contact between the private contra network and Edward Feulner, president of Heritage Foundation. Heritage served as a pass-through for INSI of a $100,000 donation to the Nicaraguan opposition. […] Godson serves on the board of the League for Industrial Democracy, a neoconservative organization working with labor groups in the U.S.[…] He is also on the board of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority, a quasi-governmental group that works primarily within the ranks of Congress to implement an anticommunist, pro-military agenda.”

Ray Cline served on the board of NSIC’s Consortium for the Study of Intelligence. Cline is a former deputy director of the CIA, and has been involved with Major General John Singlaub’s U.S. Council for World Freedom, the U.S. branch of the World Anti-Communist League.
Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham is on the board of the U.S. Council for World Freedom. He is founder and chairman of the pro-SDI lobby group, High Frontier, and was on the 1982-1983 board of the Council for National Policy. Graham has also been involved with CAUSA, the political arm of the Unification Church (UC) and the American Freedom Coalition, another Christian political offshoot of the UC. (8,20,32)
Richard Pipes was a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Majority and a founding member of the Committee on the Present Danger.

Rostow and Operation CHAOS

In a reflection tracing the history of the development of the CIA’s domestic surveillance (principally Operation CHAOS) in the U.S., Verne Lyon, a former CIA undercover operative returns to 1959 when Eisenhower used the CIA to “sound out” the exiles who were fleeing Cuba after the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution. This activity led to an expansion of the CIA’s proprietary companies, fronts, and covers for its domestic operations:

“As campus anti-war protest activity spread across the nation, the CIA reacted by implementing two new domestic operations. The first, Project RESISTANCE, was designed to provide security to CIA recruiters on college campuses. Under this program, the CIA sought active cooperation from college administrators, campus security, and local police to help identify anti-war activists, political dissidents, and “radicals.” Eventually information was provided to all government recruiters on college campuses and directly to the super-secret DOD on thousands of students and dozens of groups. The CIA’s Office of Security also created Project MERRIMAC, to provide warnings about demonstrations being carried out against CIA facilities or personnel in the Washington area.” (7)

This led to the creation in 1964 a new super-secret branch called the Domestic Operations Division and the CIA also expanded the role of its “quasi-legal” Domestic Contact Service (DCS), an operation designed to brief and debrief selected American citizens who had travelled abroad in sensitive areas of intelligence interest; this was also complemented by the CIA’s old boy network. By1967, the (illegal) collection of domestic intelligence had become so widespread a Special Operations Group (SOG) was set up to mostly provide data on the U.S. peace movement. It is here we again encounter Rostow, Lyon states:

“SOG was being directed by Richard Ober, a CIA person with an established record of domestic intelligence operations in academia. When Ramparts magazine disclosed the relationship between the National Student Association and the CIA in early 1967, Ober was assigned to investigate the magazine’s staff members, their friends, and possible connections with foreign intelligence agencies. In July 1968, Helms decided to consolidate all CIA domestic intelligence operations under one program and title. The new operation was called CHAOS and Ober was in charge. Its activities greatly expanded from then on at the urging not only of President Johnson, but also his main advisers Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow. Both men were convinced that Hoover was right and foreign intelligence agencies were involved in anti-war protests in the U.S. Johnson was not convinced and wanted the CIA’s intelligence in order to compare it with that provided by the FBI.”

Lyon, drawing on a Center for National Security Studies report, estimates that with Operation CHAOS, the CIA had compiled personality files on over 13,000 individuals including more than 7,000 U.S. citizens as well as files on over 1,000 domestic groups.

This runaway illegal concentration on domestic subversion had a corresponding outward dimension and the Kennedy administration’s counterinsurgency doctrine was also heavily influenced by Rostow, as its principal adviser. Rostow’s theory of stages of economic growth postulated an evolutionary process through which states would achieve economic “growth” and political maturity.(8) Rostow’s theory, still taught in Universities, was that economic development proceeded in stages, set apart by periods of political instability when governments are susceptible to communist subversion and takeover. In Rostow’s view U.S. backed counterinsurgency was required to “protect the developmental process in strategically important client-states, especially during periods of their maximum vulnerability to communist takeover, which were supposed to coincide with the transition from one stage to another.”(9)

The CIA’s CHAOS, despite its domestic focus, was viewed as a foreign intelligence operation requested by the President. Johnson, as with his two predecessors, was very concerned about the protest over Vietnam being linked to other dissident groups who were viewed as under Soviet influence. While CHAOS was concerned with foreign influences on internal political activities, its basic ‘justification was an overseas threat, but one that would allow the CIA to infiltrate the activities of demonstrators protesting in Washington, D.C. in 1967 and 1968, employ private citizens to join activist organizations and report on their plans, organization and financial backing.(10)

In 1967, President Johnson, motivated by suspicions that a conspiracy of some sort lie behin the unrest in Newark, New Jersey and Detroit, Michigan, requested a detailed study be done on the “Restless Youth.” He was influenced, by his own feelings and by J. Edgar Hoover, Dean Rusk and Walt Rostow, that North Vietnam, Cuba and the Soviet Union were not only supporting, but somehow directing, these types of movements. (11) This ran parallel to the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) which also emerged during this time with the objective of the destruction, exposure and neutralization of subversive groups’ activities: principally the Communist Party, U.S.A., Socialist Workers Party, White Hate, Black Extremists, and the New Left. It should be noted that even though a good deal of effort was put forth toward domestic targets, both the CIA and FBI continued to target foreign communist organizations and the individuals connected with them.(12)

Rostow, and his brother Eugene, is also credited with membership of The Georgetown crowd and ‘Operation Mockingbird’, supposedly designed to control the media as part of anti-communist efforts:

“The Georgetown crowd included the following: Frank Wisner, Richard Bissell, Desmond FitzGerald, Joseph Alsop, Tracy Barnes, Philip Graham, Katharine Graham, Clark Clifford, Walt Rostow, Eugene Rostow, William Bundy, Charles Thayer, Chips Bohlen and Paul Nitze. This group had access to and support of, James Forrestal, Dean Acheson, George Kennan and Adlai Stevenson.”


1. Barnett, Frank R. (1961) A Proposal for Political Warfare, Military Review, March.
2. Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, Appendix B, Vol. 12, 1987.
3. Sanders, Jerry (1983) Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment Militarism, Boston, MA: South End Press.
4. Godson, Roy editor, (1982) Intelligence Requirements for the 1980’s: Clandestine Collection, NSIC.
5. “The Coors Extended Family,” Political Research Associates, 1989.
6. “Anglo-American Union Exchanges Linked to Irangate Scandal,” Tribune, Sep 30, 1988.
7. Lyon, Verne (1990) Domestic Surveillance: The History of Operation CHAOS, Covert Action Information Bulletin, Summer.
8. Rostow, Walt W. (1981) Stages of Economic Growth, New York: Cambridge University Press. Rostow’s theories were first set out in articles in the late 1950s. See The Stages of Economic Growth, The Economic History Review 12 (August 1959), and The Take-Off into Self-Sustained Growth, The Economic Journal 66 (March 1956).
9. Maechling, Charles Jr. (1984) Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: The Role of Strategic Theory, Parameters Vol. 14, No. 3, Autumn.
10. Donaleski, Major Kevin G. (1989) President Johnson’s Effect On U.S. Intelligence,
11. Breckinridge, Scott D. (1986) The CIA and the U.S. Intelligence System, Boulder: Westview Press, pp. 193-202.
12. Fain, Tyrus G. (1977) The Intelligence Community, New York: R.R. Bowher, p. 20.

*Back to the The Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies


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