The Rant 

I suppose it was a coincidence that both the National Geographic and Discovery channels broadcast documentaries about the CIA's experiments in mind control on successive nights. There was nothing on the shows that had not been revealed during the 1975 Church Committee congressional hearings, where the entire ghoulish laundry list of CIA abuses was unfurled before the public, but one inadvertent piece of evidence made my jaw drop. It concerned the CIA's MK ULTRA program, begun in the 1950s, which examined the effects of LSD on subjects, witting and unwitting, in an attempt to create new ways to brainwash adversaries. Among the early volunteers for the program was Stanford University student Ken Kesey. Here's the short version:

In 1953, the CIA killed one of their own and covered it up. An agency biochemist named Frank Olson, who was critical of the MK ULTRA program, was surreptitiously given a large dose of lysergic acid in his coffee by fellow agents and observed through a two-way mirror. Soon, Olson was debating the weather on Mount Olympus with Zeus and had a psychotic breakdown, which required sedation and observation by CIA doctors. Olson was secretly checked into a 10th-floor New York hotel room to be supervised by an agent, but the chemist allegedly leaped from a window while his trustee slept. The CIA declared it a suicide.

After Senator Frank Church's committee determined that Olson was a forced participant in the CIA's LSD experiments, his family filed a civil suit against the U.S. government for wrongful death. President Gerald Ford invited the Olson family to the White House and convinced them, for reasons of national security, not to pursue the case. This is where my eyes widened, since this was not a new film or one with a political purpose. The family agreed to settle with the government for $7,000. The author of the deal and the signatory for the United States was the president's chief of staff, Richard Cheney.

When someone says "Cheney knows where all the bodies are buried," they are not speaking figuratively. Cheney has been covering up for the CIA's nastiness since the 1970s. No wonder he was able to go to Langley as vice president and rifle through the files with impunity to cook the intelligence for the Iraq war buildup. They owe him, and his access goes back to the Nixon years, when he coat-tailed his pal Donald Rumsfeld into the White House. Under Ford, Cheney and Rumsfeld staged what became known as the "Halloween Massacre," usurping the powers of Nixon holdovers Henry Kissinger and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller to become Ford's chief of staff and secretary of defense, respectively. From his new position of power, Cheney urged Ford not to cooperate with the Church Committee, arguing that airing CIA atrocities could only damage the intelligence community. And when the terrible truths became public testimony, Cheney and Rumsfeld engineered the ouster of acting CIA director William Colby and had him replaced with George H.W. "Poppy" Bush. The Secret Service's codename for Cheney was "Backseat."

And what a putrid list of illegal activities it was that Cheney wished to protect. From assassination attempts, to the domestic spying and infiltration of the peace movement, to attempts to discredit Martin Luther King and destroy the Black Panthers, the CIA was so blatantly beyond the law that Congress passed legislation to rein them in. The FISA laws (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) came from the Church Committee recommendations, a law that Cheney obviously disdained, then as now. When Ford lost the presidency, with Cheney as his campaign manager, to Jimmy Carter in 1976, the Wyoming native ran for Congress in 1978, serving as the Republican leader on the House Intelligence Committee before "Poppy" Bush tapped him as his secretary of defense as payback.

In exile at Halliburton during the Clinton years, Cheney enriched himself as chairman and CEO until the opportunity presented itself for him to screen the vice presidential prospects for Poppy's clueless son's new administration. We know now how Cheney spent the next eight years: attempting to concentrate power in the executive branch. CIA director George Tenent genuflected before him, and Cheney became the de-facto head of government and chief protector of manipulated intelligence. He invaded Afghanistan and Iraq; Halliburton and KBR became bloated with war profits; and the CIA was marginalized by mercenaries from Blackwater. His understudy, Scooter Libby, pleaded guilty to outing a covert agent, and Tenent was given the Medal of Honor. Everything Cheney said would happen — from the spectre of mushroom clouds to the effectiveness of state-sanctioned torture — has been proven dead wrong, yet he still has the temerity to criticize the military strategy of Secretary Gates and the president.

I believe Cheney is hanging around just so he can scream "national security!" if any legal entity should dig too deeply into his resumé. In 1994, the family of Frank Olson requested an exhumation of his body for further examination. A new autopsy showed that Olson suffered "severe cranial injuries delivered by a blunt object" and was most likely "knocked out" before being tossed from the window. Since Cheney was intimately familiar with the case and prepared the original settlement, why do I get the nagging suspicion that he knew about Olson all along? Now that his officeholding marathon is over, there is only one additional government agency that Dick Cheney deserves to be a part of: the federal prison system.


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      The playing field at our schools must be leveled if all students are to thrive.
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