Office of Strategic Services

Operation Tooth

When the Greater St. Louis Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Information touted its $10,000 grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund, the public didn’t know the foundation was a CIA front.

first published at firstsecretcity.com

The announcement came at the second-annual meeting of the Greater St. Louis Citizens’ Committee for Nuclear Safety at the Heman Park Community Center in University City, Mo. on May 8, 1960. More than 500 attendees heard the good news. Their organization had received a $10,000 grant from the J.M. Kaplan Fund to pursue its laudable work.  It was cause for celebration. But they were unaware of one string attached to the generous gift, a nettlesome detail that may have dampened their enthusiasm that long ago spring evening: the Kaplan Fund was a CIA front.

Then as now there were ramped up concerns over an ongoing public health crisis. In 1960, the problem was the wind-driven dispersal of nuclear fallout. St. Louisans were  worried about the proliferation of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and the potential health effects that atmospheric testing was having on their children. To address the issue, they enlisted leaders of the scientific community to study the effects of radiation. There was no reason for them to suspect that their local organization’s goals had been subverted. That possibility wasn’t on anybody’s radar back then.

It’s a question that’s remained unasked until now; a footnote to history that’s been buried in the First Secret City for 60 years.

The citizens’ committee, a coalition of parents, educators, medical professionals and scientists, had formed in 1959 to measure Strontium-90 levels by collecting the baby teeth of elementary school children in the St. Louis area and elsewhere.  The radioactive isotope, known to be present in nuclear fallout, concentrated in human bones and teeth, particularly growing children who consumed milk. Kids were encouraged by parents, teachers and dentists to give their teeth to science instead of the tooth fairy. In return, they were rewarded with a membership card and button to the Operation Tooth Club.  The program was called The Baby Tooth Survey. The director of the survey was Dr. Louise Reiss, and its scientific advisory board included Washington University biologist Barry Commoner.

The keynote speaker at the 1960 meeting of the committee was internationally renowned  anthropologist Margaret Mead, according to accounts published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and St. Louis Globe-Democrat. The same news accounts also reported the generous contribution from the J.M. Kaplan Fund of New York, which later would be revealed in congressional hearings to be a covert conduit for funneling CIA cash.

Margaret Mead

U.S. Rep. Wright Patman, a Texas Democrat, outed the private foundation’s ties to the CIA  at a hearing of his House Small Business Sub-committee on Aug. 31, 1964. In addition to the congressional probe, the Kaplan Fund was also under investigation by  the Internal Revenue Service, which confirmed the foundation’s ties to the CIA, according to a news story in the New York TimesJacob M. Kaplan, former head of Welch’s Grape Juice company and founder of the non-profit charity, had already garnered IRS attention for using the fund as a tax dodge. Patman’s hearings determined that the Kaplan Fund had been used as a CIA front  from 1959 to 1964.

U.S. Rep. Wright Patman (Texas-D)

It is uncertain whether the money donated to the St. Louis group was part of the CIA’s clandestine operations, but the agency’s extensive use of private foundations, including the Kaplan Fund, gained further exposure in subsequent investigative reports that appeared in the late 1960s in the Texas Observer, Nation, and Ramparts magazines.

Mead’s presence at the St. Louis meeting, where the the Kaplan Fund’s generosity was announced, is intriguing because of her previous involvement in espionage dating back to World War II, when she and then-husband Gregory Bateson,  also an anthropologist, produced propaganda in the South Pacific for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA.

Harold Abramson

In the early 1950s, Bateson tripped on LSD furnished to him by Dr. Harold Abramson, who was part of the agency’s top-secret MK-Ultra project, a program that experimented on the use of hallucinogenic drugs and other means to influence and control human behavior. After scoring more of the CIA’s acid, he turned on his friend Alan Ginsberg, the beat poet. Funding for Abramson’s LSD research was funneled through two other CIA cutouts: the Geschickter Fund for Medical Research and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation.

In  late November 1953, Abramson — an allergist — acted as the unlicensed psychiatrist  of Frank Olson, shortly before the Army biological warfare scientist fell to his death from a 13th floor window of the Statler Hotel in New York City. Olson had received counseling from Abramson for anxiety and depression after being wired up on acid by the CIA.  While under the influence of the drug, Olson voiced ethical concerns about his germ warfare research to colleagues, which was considered a national security breach by the agency.  Abramson and Olson had previously worked on classified aerosol research at Camp Detrick, the Army’s chemical warfare research facility in Frederick, Maryland. Olson’s unsolved death is the subject of the 2017 Netflix series Wormwood by Errol Morris.

This false cover story, which appeared in the Post-Dispatch on June 23, 1953, hid real purpose of the Army’s aerosol testing in St. Louis.

Coincidentally, 1953 is also when the Army began its secret aerosol testing in St. Louis. Parsons Corporation ran that covert military operation out of an office in the 5500 block of Pershing Ave. in St. Louis. The tests involved the spraying of poor, inner-city neighborhoods without residents knowledge.  Workers who participated in the study were also kept in the dark. When the testing became known about decades later, the Army said it used zinc cadmium sulfate, which it claimed wasn’t harmful to human health. In the 1990s, former Parsons employees said they believed their cancers were caused by being exposed to the chemicals used in the tests. The EPA announced last year that Parsons Corporation was awarded the main contract for the clean-up of radioactive contamination at the West Lake Landfill site in St. Louis County. The contamination is from uranium processing conducted by Mallinckrodt Chemical Works in St. Louis for the Manhattan Project.

The Baby Tooth survey, which began six years after the aerosol testing,  found a correlation between atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons and Stontium-90 levels  in children’s teeth in the St. Louis area. But its scientific findings were in some ways eclipsed by the survey’s public relations successes.  Publicity garnered by the Baby Tooth Survey is credited with spurring the passage of the 1963 Nuclear Test Band Treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.

Frank Olson never made it home for Thanksgiving.

An earlier covert collaboration by the Atomic Energy Commission, Air Force and Rand Corporation to  measure Strontium-90 in humans received harsh criticism, after it was revealed that researchers obtained scientific data by snatching bodies. Beginning in 1953, Project Sunshine collected bone sample from cadavers, including those of stillborn babies.

Gathering scientific data by collecting the baby teeth of living children was deemed more acceptable and received unquestioning public cooperation.

Before You Get Your Checkbook Out …

Hollywood actors Meryl Streep and Patrick Stewart are using Facebook to ask the public to contribute to a good cause this holiday season. There’s one hitch: the non-profit corporation  they have endorsed is a front for a government-financed agency once headed by William Casey, President Reagan’s CIA director. Moreover, their favorite yuletide charity nowadays lists  Trump’s White House as its home address.  

In her Facebook appeal on behalf of the International Rescue Committee,  actress Meryl Streep extols the virtues of the refugee relief organization, imploring millions of her starstruck fans to donate to the non-profit corporation.

“I am a proud supporter of this splendid, hard-working, efficient, beautiful organization, and I hope you will join me,” Streep says in her Facebook video. What the actress doesn’t include in her sales pitch is that the IRC is already the beneficiary of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer dollars. Streep’s plea for money also fails to mention that the IRC’s largest contribution — more than $80 million —  came from 1300 Pennsylvania Ave in Washington, D.C., according to the charity’s latest available Internal Revenue Service tax return.

The White House address is attached to the generous gift given to the IRC by the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, an arm of the United States Agency for International Development, an executive

Meryl Streep’s Facebook post  lauds the IRC, a front once headed by CIA spook William Casey.

branch agency that administers U.S. foreign aid.

Support offered by Streep and fellow movie star Patrick Steward in their Facebook pitches on behalf of the IRC both praise the organization’s efforts to relieve the suffering of millions of displaced families that are the victims of wars, many of which are bankrolled by American military assistance around the world through allocations made in the annual Pentagon budget.

There is no doubt a need for aid exists in the war ravaged regions of the world, but the Hollywood icons’ Facebook appeal presents the organization’s mission as purely altruistic, and omits mentioning the IRC’s ties to the federal government, thereby misrepresenting the IRC’s objectives and shrouding its checkered history.

In addition to the $80 million from the OFDA,  USAID contributed  more than $60 million directly, according to the IRC’s tax filings in 2018.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services kicked in approximately another $38 million. Together with other U.S. government agency donations and contributions from the European Union and the governments of Germany and Sweden, the IRC ledger shows contributions of more than $700 million in 2018. Moreover, the tax return indicates that, in the preceding five-year period, the organization raked in more than $3 billion.

 

IRC’s 2018 IRS record shows an $80 million donation from 1300 Pennsylvania Ave.

If Streep and Stewart’s support for a program with ties to the Trump administration seems weird, it’s really only the tip of the iceberg. Trump and his minions did not invent this well-endowed, quasi-public, foreign policy tool.  Instead, the origins of the IRC and its role in carrying out the U.S. government’s global agenda began in the 1930s before Trump and the current crop of Republican know-nothings were even born. Initially, the IRC adhered to its objectives of providing aid to refugees fleeing Hitler’s Germany. But by the advent of the Cold War, the purpose of the organization morphed into a concerted covert operation aimed at promoting U.S. hegemony in post-war Europe.

As mentioned by the celebrities in their social-media spam, Albert Einstein was a supporter of the early incarnation of the IRC, but the two Hollywood actors’ Facebook ads omit a more telling detail related to the organization’s origins:  The American wing of the IRC was founded by Jay Lovestone, an American communist, who later became a CIA double agent in Europe. Lovestone’s work for the agency focused on subverting leftist labor movements through his leadership of the American Institute for Free Labor Development. Similar to the International Rescue Committee, AIFLD received its funding through USAID, which was formed by Kennedy administration in 1961. Lovestone later headed to the AFL-CIO’s International Affairs Department through which he continued to do the bidding of the CIA.

William Casey and Leo Cherne were among the fellow travelers who followed in Lovestone’s foot steps, they would each share a role in steering the IRC during the Cold War.

Wall Street lawyer, OSS operative, CIA director and Iran-Contra ringleader William J. Casey.

Of the pair, Casey, a Wall Street insider, is more well known because he eventually became CIA director in 1981 under President Ronald Reagan. Casey got his start as a spook during the World War II as a member of the Office of Strategic Services, which was the predecessor of the CIA. In 1962, Casey founded the National Strategy Information Center, another Cold War CIA front.  Then in 1970,  he took over the helm of the IRC before embarking on his career in public service as an Under Secretary of State and Chairman of the Security and Exchange Commission in the Nixon administration.  A decade later, Casey managed Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaign, during which time he allegedly  masterminded of the 1980 theft of President Jimmy Carter’s briefing papers, giving the aging Hollywood actor the edge in that’s fall’s televised debate. Casey was also instrumental in pulling off another dirty trick during the campaign: He set up back channel negotiations with Iranian emissaries to withhold the release of the Americans hostages being held in Iran until after the November election, thus insuring Reagan’s victory. The rogue operation was dubbed the October Surprise.

During his tenure as Reagan’s CIA director, Casey planned and carried out the Iran-Contra Affair, using illicit arms sales to Iran to finance Reagan’s secret war against the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. Under Casey’s leadership, the CIA engaged in cocaine trafficking with Colombian cartels and  bankrolled Central American military death squads in cooperation with the Argentine government’s fascist military dictatorship. Many of the leaders of the death squads were trained at the School of the Americas, which was funded by Office of Public Safety, an arm of USAID.  All of these off-the-book activities were part of the Reagan bund’s fanatical right-wing crusade against the perceived communist threat in Central America.  Known as The Enterprise, the secret operation was operated out of the White House by Col. Oliver North, the recently deposed president of the National Rifle Association. Casey’s espionage career began in World War II with Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA and brainchild of fellow Wall Street lawyer William “Wild Bill” Donovan, Casey’s mentor.

Cold War Lovers: Ronald Reagan and Leo Cherne.

Cherne’s career path is no less intriguing. Besides his longtime role as leader of the IRC, he also headed the murky Research Institute of America and Freedom House, a publishing company that specialized in anti-communist propaganda. Similar to IRC, Freedom House claims to be an independent non-government organization, but it receives a large part of its funding through the National Endowment for Democracy, a U.S. government agency created by the Reagan administration to meddle in the internal affairs and elections of sovereign countries. Cherne was a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1973 to 1991.

 

Former British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, the IRC’s current CEO, receives more than $900,000 in annual compensation. Prior to heading the IRC, Milibank was a senior global advisor at Oxford Analytica, an English think tank founded by American expatriate David Young, a protege of Henry Kissinger. Young fled the U.S. following revelations of his involvement in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon administration in the early 1970s. As an assistant National Security Council advisor in Nixon’s White House, Young ran the so-called Plumber’s Unit, which hired former CIA agent E. Howard Hunt and a crew of anti-Castro Cubans to burglarize the Democratic National Party headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. in June 1972.

The IRC’s current board of directors includes: former Clinton administration Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, a powerful Washington, D.C. lobbyist with current or past ties to think tanks such as the Aspen Institute and the Center for American Progress; former Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, the banker who engineered the Wall Street bail out for President Barrack Obama;  retired Gen. Colin Powell, President George W. Bush’s first Secretary of State, who lied to the United Nations about Iraq’s possession of alleged weapons of mass destruction; and Condoleezza Rice, who served as Bush’s national security advisor as succeeded Powell in heading the State Department.

Perhaps Streep and Stewart are naive about the IRC’s dark origins and its current murky agenda.  But government propaganda efforts during the Obama administration show that Hollywood has been wooed by the federal government and may already be actively engaged in supporting U.S. foreign policy. In June 2015, for instance, the Obama State Department convened a summit meeting  at Sunnylands, the Southern California estate of the late media mogul Walter Annenberg. Those on hand for the meeting included representatives of the film and social media industries, including HBO and Snapchat. The discussions focused on measures between government and private industry to forge a united front to bolster the U.S. government’s image at home and abroad through a collaborative effort aimed at attacking anti-American sentiments online. The stated targets at that time were non-state actors, specifically ISIS, the Middle Eastern terrorist organization. But since then the CIA has publicly demonized Russia for its efforts to influence the political opinions of the American electorate.

In January 2017, the CIA declassified a 2012  internal agency report. The majority of the information in the report is unrelated to the continuing furor over whether Donald Trump  benefited from the alleged Russian intrusion in the 2016 presidential election. Instead, the CIA intelligence assessment details how RT America, the Russian news service, is allegedly being used by the Kremlin as a propaganda tool to cast the U.S.  government in a bad light. This begs whether the CIA mounted a counter-espionage campaign,  including online fund raising for the IRC, to offset the perceived damage being inflicted by the negative image of the Russian news service  broadcasts not only in America but to a global audience via the Internet.