The Case Against the Halperin Nomination — White Paper

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

2 August 1993

The Honorable Bill Clinton
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

Press reports indicate that you have decided personally to review some of Morton Halperin’s more controversial writings before deciding whether to proceed with his nomination to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Human Rights. I commend you for this prudent step and am confident that it will spare your Administration unnecessary anguish and political costs.

The reason for this confidence is that my colleagues at the Center for Security Policy and I find it inconceivable that you would willingly associate yourself with the highly controversial views Mr. Halperin has held and publicly advocated for many years. These include positions on: national security policy, the U.S. intelligence community, American commitments to our allies, the classification of information, and the conduct of counter-terrorist activities, among many others — positions that can only be described as extreme.

Mr. Halperin’s recorded policy attitudes are, in short, ones we believe you will not easily be able to defend, nor should you have to. In the hope that we might assist you in reaching a similar conclusion, we have prepared the attached compendium of a number of Mr. Halperin’s writings for your review — and that of Members of the U.S. Senate who would have to consider his nomination should it go forward.



Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.

Attachment: a/s



On 6 August 1993, the White House formally asked the Senate to confirm President Clinton’s nomination of Morton Halperin to the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Peacekeeping1 — a post that would be at the cutting edge of many of the United States’ most pressing national security problems. This action followed by nearly four months Mr. Clinton’s 31 March announcement of his intention to nominate Halperin to this newly created Pentagon job.

Interestingly, it also followed published reports that — in the wake of the fiasco over the written record of another nominee, Professor Lani Guinier — the President had decided to review personally "some of [Halperin’s] most controversial writings before forwarding his nomination to the Senate." The clear implication was that Mr. Clinton wanted to be certain that he could comfortably be identified with and defend the views of this nominee before the confirmation process began.

The Center for Security Policy had for weeks been urging the President to make just such a personal assessment.2 The Center was confident that, were he to do so, Mr. Clinton would surely decide not to associate himself or his Administration with a man of Halperin’s well documented record of extreme opposition to long-standing U.S. national security policies and the institutions charged with carrying them out.

To assist the President in reaching such a decision, the Center for Security Policy prepared the first edition of this White Paper. It was transmitted to the White House on 2 August 1993 with the cover letter on the opposite page. Copies were also simultaneously sent to Counselor to the President David Gergen, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Anthony Lake and Secretary of Defense Les Aspin.

Unless and until President Clinton decides to abandon the Halperin nomination, he has — in accordance with the Guinier precedent — effectively endorsed and is now obliged to defend his nominee’s past writings and policy recommendations. It goes without saying that, as long as the President supports this nomination, he will also be expressing his confidence in Morton Halperin’s judgment and affirming the desirability of having that judgment shape future U.S. defense and foreign policies.

Accordingly, the Senate must now play its constitutional role in evaluating the fitness of this nominee and in weighing the desirability and the implications of his appointment to high government office. In the interest of assisting the Senate — and particularly the members of its Armed Services Committee — in doing so, the Center has prepared this second, expanded edition of The Case Against the Halperin Nomination. It includes, in addition to a more extensive compilation of Halperin’s "most controversial" public statements and writings, a rebuttal to materials being circulated by the Department of Defense and others in response to some of the early criticisms of this nomination.

The Center for Security Policy once again urges President Clinton to abandon the Halperin nomination, as he did that of Professor Guinier. While it will of course be more politically embarrassing for him to do so at this point than it would have been a month ago, the costs to his Administration will only increase as the looming Senate battle over this controversial candidate is joined.

Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
The Center for Security Policy



On the Fundamental Nature of the Cold War:

  • "The Soviet Union apparently never even contemplated the overt use of military force against Western Europe….The Soviet posture toward Western Europe has been, and continues to be, a defensive and deterrent one. The positioning of Soviet ground forces in Eastern Europe and the limited logistical capability of these forces suggests an orientation primarily toward defense against a Western attack." (Defense Strategies for the Seventies, 1971, p. 60)
  • "…Every action which the Soviet Union and Cuba have taken in Africa has been consistent with the principles of international law. The Cubans have come in only when invited by a government and have remained only at their request….The American public needs to understand that Soviet conduct in Africa violates no Soviet-American agreements nor any accepted principles of international behavior. It reflects simply a different Soviet estimate of what should happen in the African continent and a genuine conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union." ("American Military Intervention: Is It Ever Justified?", The Nation, June 9, 1979, p. 668)


On U.S. International Commitments

  • "One of the great disappointments of the Carter Administration is that it has failed to give any systematic reconsideration to the security commitments of the United States. [For example, President Carter’s] decision to withdraw [U.S. ground forces from Korea] was accompanied by a commitment to keep air and naval units in and around Korea — a strong reaffirmation by the United States of its security commitment to Korea. This action prevented a careful consideration of whether the United States wished to remain committed to the security of Korea….Even if a commitment is maintained, a request for American military intervention should not be routinely honored. (The Nation, June 9, 1979, p. 670)


On The Use of U.S. Military Power Abroad

  • "All of the genuine security needs of the United States can be met by a simple rule which permits us to intervene [only] when invited to do so by a foreign government….The principle of proportion would require that American intervention be no greater than the intervention by other outside powers in the local conflict. We should not assume that once we intervene we are free to commit whatever destruction is necessary in order to secure our objectives. (The Nation, June 9, 1979, p. 670)
  • "The United States should explicitly surrender the right to intervene unilaterally in the internal affairs of other countries by overt military means or by covert operations. Such self restraint would bar interventions like those in Grenada and Panama, unless the United States first gained the explicit consent of the international community acting through the Security Council or a regional organization. The United States would, however, retain the right granted under Article 51 of the U.N. Charter to act unilaterally if necessary to meet threats to international peace and security involving aggression across borders (such as those in Kuwait and in Bosnia-Herzegovina.) ("Guaranteeing Democracy," Summer 1993 Foreign Policy, p. 120)
  • "President George Bush’s act of putting U.S. troops in a position where conflict could erupt at any moment (Operation Desert Shield), violated an unambiguous constitutional principle…." (Coauthored with Jeanne Wood, "Ending The Cold War At Home," Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-91)


On the U.S. Defense Establishment

  • Referring to the Reagan defense buildup: "Are we now buying the forces to meet the real threats to our security? Unfortunately, there is little reason to be confident that we are." (New York Times, June 7, 1981, p. 1)
  • "In the name of protecting liberty from communism, a massive undemocratic national security structure was erected during the Cold War, which continues to exist even though the Cold War is over. Now, with the Gulf War having commenced, we are seeing further unjustified limitations of constitutional rights using the powers granted to the executive branch during the Cold War." (United Press International, January 28, 1991)
  • "The military should have no role in the surveillance of American citizens." 4First Principles, October 1975, p. 16) ("Controlling the Intelligence Agencies," Center for National Security Studies newsletter

On the U.S. Intelligence Establishment

  • "Using secret intelligence agencies to defend a constitutional republic is akin to the ancient medical practice of employing leeches to take blood from feverish patients. The intent is therapeutic, but in the long run the cure is more deadly than the disease. Secret intelligence agencies are designed to act routinely in ways that violate the laws or standards of society." (Coauthored with Jerry Berman, Robert Borosage and Christine Marwick, The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, Center for National Security Studies, Washington, D.C., 1976, p. 5)
  • "You can never preclude abuses by intelligence agencies and, therefore, that is a risk that you run if you decide to have intelligence agencies. I think there is a very real tension between a clandestine intelligence agency and a free society. I think we accepted it for the first time during the Cold War period and I think in light of the end of the Cold War we need to assess a variety of things at home, including secret intelligence agencies, and make sure that we end the Cold War at home as we end it abroad." (MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, July 23, 1991)
  • "…The intelligence [service’s]…monastic training prepared officials not for saintliness, but for crime, for acts transgressing the limits of accepted law and morality….The abuses of the intelligence agencies are one of the symptoms of the amassing of power in the postwar presidency; the only way to safeguard against future crimes is to alter that balance of power….
  • "Clandestine government means that Americans give up something for nothing — they give up their right to participation in the political process and to informed consent in exchange for grave assaults on basic rights and a long record of serious policy failures abroad." (The Lawless State, pp. 222-57)

  • "Secrecy…does not serve national security….Covert operations are incompatible with constitutional government and should be abolished." ("Just Say No: The Case Against Covert Action," The Nation, March 21, 1987, p. 363)
  • "[T]he primary function of the [intelligence] agencies is to undertake disreputable activities that presidents do not wish to reveal to the public or expose to congressional debate." (The Lawless State, p. 221)
  • "CIA defenders offer us the specter of Soviet power, the KGB, and the Chinese hordes. What they fail to mention is more significant: they have never been able successfully to use espionage or covert action techniques against the USSR or China, which are the only two nations that could conceivably threaten the United States….The ‘successes’ of covert action and espionage, of which the CIA is so proud, have taken place in countries that are no threat to the security of the United States." (The Lawless State, p. 262)
  • "Spies and covert action are counterproductive as tools in international relations. The costs are too high; the returns too meager. Covert action and spies should be banned and the CIA’s Clandestine Services Branch disbanded." (The Lawless State, p. 263)
  • "…Covert intervention, whether through the CIA or any other agency, should be absolutely prohibited…." ("American Military Intervention: Is It Ever Justified?" The Nation, 9 June 1979, p. 670)
  • "We need to create a legislated structure of safeguards which clearly delineate the functions of the intelligence community while holding them to the laws of the land and the Constitution. The first step in creating such a structure should be to decide that the basic facts about each agency — its existence, its charter and its budget — must be made public….
  • "The budgets of most intelligence agencies remain secret. Such secrecy is not part of any legitimate national security purpose….The CIA should be limited to collating and evaluating intelligence information, and its only activities in the United States should be openly acknowledged actions in support of this mission. The agency’s clandestine service should be abolished." ("Controlling the Intelligence Agencies," First Principles, October 1975, p. 16)

  • "The Campaign for Political Rights is a coalition of over 80 civil liberties [and other] groups … committed to an end to covert operations abroad." (Flyer produced by the Campaign for Political Rights which was founded and organized by Morton Halperin in 1977 under the original name of the Campaign to Stop Government Spying)
  • "It may be true that other nations have, and will continue to engage in covert action. But this is far from proper justification for its use by the U.S. Indeed, few nations in the world have used covert action as aggressively and comprehensively as the U.S. And in no other country does the use of covert action conflict so violently with the guiding principles of a nation’s constitution and the desires of its people.
  • "Covert action violates international law." ("The CIA and Covert Action," a June 1982 report produced by the Campaign for Political Rights)

  • "The ACLU believes, and I believe that the United States should not conduct covert operations….The record now before this committee and the nation demonstrate that covert operations are fundamentally incompatible with a democratic society." (Testimony provided by Halperin before the House Select Committee on Intelligence regarding Prior Notice of Covert Actions to the Congress, April 1 and 8, 1987 and June 10, 1987, pp. 90 and 96 of the hearing record)
  • "Perhaps the most entrenched legacy of the Cold War is a carefully structured system of government information controls — a system steeped in secrecy: Secret agencies, secret budgets, secret documents, and secret decisions affecting issues of life and death, war and peace….There are intelligence agencies whose very existence is secret, whose charters and budgets are secret, and whose activities include secret paramilitary operations abroad.
  • "And millions of government documents on critical policy matters are needlessly classified, preventing essential information on foreign policy from reaching the public domain, even though disclosure would cause no appreciable harm to the national security. Such a system runs counter to the constitutional design for an open and accountable government." ("Ending the Cold War at Home," Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-1991, p. 129)

  • "The FBI should be limited to the investigation of crime; it should be prohibited from conducting ‘intelligence’ investigations on groups or individuals not suspected of crimes." ("Controlling the Intelligence Agencies," First Principles, October 1975)
  • "The National Security Agency should monitor international communications in a way that avoids recording of the communications of Americans." ("Controlling the Intelligence Agencies," First Principles, October 1975, p. 16)
  • "It should be made a crime for any official of an intelligence organization to knowingly violate and/or to order or request an action which would violate the congressional limitations or public regulations concerning the activities of the agencies. Failing to report such violations should also have criminal sanctions….
  • "The policing of the crimes of the intelligence [agencies] should be in the hands of a single official….He or she should have access to all intelligence community files and should be empowered to release any information necessary to prosecute a criminal offense….Civil remedies patterned after those now available for illegal wiretaps should back up these criminal penalties by allowing anyone whose rights have been violated by the intelligence organizations to sue. Such penalties should be set out in a statute and there should be no need to prove actual damage." ("Controlling the Intelligence Agencies," First Principles, October 1975, p. 15)

  • Halperin favorably reviewed Philip Agee’s book Inside the Company: CIA Diary saying that in it "we learn in devastating detail what is done in the name of the United States." The review made no mention of the fact that the book contained some thirty pages of names of U.S. covert operatives overseas or that the author acknowledges in his preface the help he received from the Cuban Communist Party.
  • Halperin concluded the review by pronouncing: "The only way to stop all of this is to dissolve the CIA covert career service and to bar the CIA from at least developing and allied nations." (First Principles, September 1975, p. 13)

  • [The following excerpts are taken from a pamphlet published by the Center for National Security Studies in 1976 and entitled "CIA Covert Action: Threat to the Constitution." Morton Halperin is listed as a "participant" in the Center’s activities; at the time he was also the Chief Editorial Writer for the CNSS’ publication, First Principles. Subsequently, Halperin became the organization’s deputy director and then served from 1984 to 1992 as its director.]
  • "In the wake of Vietnam and Watergate, the question must be faced: Should the U.S. government continue to engage in clandestine operations? We at the Center for National Security Studies believe that the answer is ‘No’; that the CIA’s covert action programs should be ended immediately. The risks and costs of maintaining a clandestine underworld are too great, and covert action cannot be justified on either pragmatic or moral grounds."

    "Defenders of the CIA argue that the Agency’s covert actions protect the ‘national security.’ Yet historically, covert action has had little, if anything, to do with the reasonable defense of the country….Morton Halperin…has stated that he knows of no program of covert action which was necessary to the national security."

    "…[Covert operations] make us an object of suspicion and hatred throughout the world. Indeed, by practicing subversion and terror, we only encourage others to adopt the same tactics."

    "A bureaucracy trained in the nefarious tactics of espionage and of covert action is a constant threat in an open society."

    "A bureaucracy skilled in deceit is suspect in any government, but it is particularly destructive to a republic."

    "In the final analysis, covert actions by the CIA undermine our democracy because they are an inherently criminal enterprise."

    "…even if covert action is not ‘misused,’ it still corrodes our constitutional order."

    "As Morton Halperin…states, ‘If there were a successful operation that we did not know about, that proved the case for covert action, the temptation to make that public would have long ago overcome any inhibitions against leaking information. So this notion that there is something that none of us know about that is so important and so great that it justifies all the fiascoes and failures, and crimes, I take with a grain of salt.’"

  • "Covert operations involve breaking the laws of other nations, and those who conduct them come to believe that they can also break U.S. law and get away with it….Covert operations breed a disrespect for the truth." ("Just Say No: The Case Against Covert Action" The Nation, March 21, 1987)
  • "Restoring Congress’s constitutional role demands that Congress activate its full share of authority over paramilitary operations by taking the ‘covert’ out of covert action."
  • "The only way to stop this pattern [of abuse] is to impose an absolute requirement of public approval to bar paramilitary operations that are covert." ("Lawful Wars," Foreign Policy, Fall 1988)

  • From an interview with Ben Wattenberg which appeared as part of the 1978 Public Broadcasting Service series "In Search of the Real America":
  • Wattenberg: "Don’t we need a strong and vigorous intelligence service with tools at its command that every other major intelligence service in this world has?"

    Halperin: "Well, I think that’s the issue. I think we certainly need to know about the Soviet Union."

    Wattenberg: "What about other nations?"

    Halperin: "Other nations — I think it’s much more questionable as to whether we need that information and whether the price for it is worth paying." ("Two Cheers for the CIA," broadcast 15 June 1978)

On Behalf of Extreme Interpretations of the First Amendment

  • "Under the First Amendment, Americans have every right to seek to ‘impede or impair’ the functions of any federal agency, whether it is the FTC or the CIA, by publishing information acquired from unclassified sources." ("The CIA’s Distemper: How Can We Unleash the Agency When It Hasn’t Yet Been Leashed?", The New Republic, February 9, 1980, p. 23)
  • "Lawful dissent and opposition to a government should not call down upon an individual any surveillance at all and certainly not surveillance as intrusive as a wiretap." ("National Security and Civil Liberties," Foreign Policy, Winter 1975-76, p. 151)
  • In opposition to draft legislation setting heavy criminal penalties for Americans who deliberately identify undercover U.S. intelligence agents: "[Such legislation] will chill public debate on important intelligence issues and is unconstitutional….What we have is a bill which is merely symbolic in its protection of agents but which does violence to the principles of the First Amendment." (UPI, April 8, 1981)
  • In criticizing scientists who "refused to help the lawyers representing The Progressive and its editors" in fighting government efforts to halt the magazine’s publication of detailed information about the design and manufacturing of nuclear weapons: "They failed to understand that the question of whether publishing the ‘secret of the H-bomb’ would help or hinder non-proliferation efforts was beside the point. The real question was whether the government had the right to decide what information should be published. If the government could stop publication of [this] article, it could, in theory, prevent publication of any other material that it thought would stimulate proliferation." ("Secrecy and National Security," The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 1985, p. 116)
  • In response to government attempts to close down the Washington offices of the PLO: "It is clearly a violation of the rights of free speech and association to bar American citizens from acting as agents seeking to advance the political ideology of any organization, even if that organization is based abroad. Notwithstanding criminal acts in which the PLO may have been involved, a ban on advocacy of all components of the PLO’s efforts will not withstand constitutional scrutiny." (The Nation, October 10, 1987)
  • In arguing that the random use of polygraph tests to find spies was unconstitutional: "Congress should strip these measures from the bill and start attacking the genuine problems, such as over-classification of information." (Associated Press, July 8, 1985)
  • "Having had administrative responsibility for the production of the [Pentagon] Papers, I knew they contained nothing which would cause serious injury to national security. I watched with amazement as the Justice Department, without knowing what was in the study, sought to persuade court after court that they should be suppressed."5 ("Where I’m At," First Principles, September 1975, p. 16)
  • "The constitutional rights of Americans have also been major casualties in the ‘war on drugs’….Gross invasions of privacy such as urine testing, excessive property forfeitures and seizures without due process of law, the circulation of extensive government files on suspected drug offenders, and border patrols and checkpoints that inhibit free travel, all are among the draconian actions deemed necessary to wage the war on drugs." ("Ending The Cold War At Home", Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-91 (with Jeanne Wood)
  • "International terrorism is rapidly supplanting the communist threat as the primary justification for wholesale deprivations of civil liberties and distortions of the democratic process." ("Ending The Cold War At Home", Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-91, with Jeanne Wood)
  • "The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO), for example, was as serious a threat to individual freedom in the United States as one can imagine." ("We Need New Intelligence Charters," The Center [for National Security Studies] Magazine, May/June 1985)
  • On U.S. Aid to Foreign Pro-Democratic Movements

    • Regarding President Reagan’s veto of a bill tying U.S. military aid to El Salvador to improved human rights, "[This action] makes clear that the administration has reconciled itself to unqualified support for those engaged in the systematic practice of political murder." (Washington Post, 1 December 1983, p. 1)
    • Halperin called U.S. aid to the pro-democracy Contra rebels "ineffective and immoral." (Associated Press, 2 October 1983)

    On Nuclear Strategy and Arms Control

    • As reported by the New York Times on November 23, 1983 (p. 7): "Mr. Halperin said the most important contribution American officials could make to stability would be ‘to renounce the notion that nuclear weapons can be used for any other purpose than to deter nuclear attack.’ He also argued that the United States should abandon plans to attack Soviet missile silos in responding to a nuclear attack. For one thing, he said, the missiles would probably have already been fired. Also, he said, a high degree of accuracy would be required."
    • As reported by the Chicago Tribune on December 11, 1987: "Halperin explained the NATO deterrent strategy known as coupling, whereby a Soviet conventional attack in Europe would be met with Allied tactical, and if the Soviets persisted, strategic nuclear weapons, in this way: ‘First, we fight conventionally until we’re losing. Then we fight with tactical nuclear weapons until we’re losing; then we blow up the world.’"
    • Referring to the Nuclear Freeze proposal: "Sounds like good arms control to me." (Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1983, p. 3)
    • "…I suggest…that the United States be prohibited from being the first to use nuclear weapons. In my judgment, there are no circumstances that would justify the United States using nuclear weapons unless those weapons were used first by an opposing power." ("American Military Intervention: Is It Ever Justified?" The Nation, 9 June 1979, p. 670)

    On Classification of Sensitive Information

    • "While the most flagrant abuses of the rights of Americans associated with the Cold War are thankfully gone from the scene, we have been left behind with a legacy of secrecy that continues to undermine democratic principles." (Boston Globe, 26 July 1992, p. 57)
    • Halperin called the government’s prosecution of Samuel Loring Morison, who was convicted of disclosing classified satellite photos of a Soviet aircraft carrier under construction "an extraordinary threat to the First Amendment." (Washington Post, October 8, 1985, p. A9)
    • "Generally, secrecy has been used more to disguise government policy from American citizens than to protect information from the prying eyes of the KGB….U.S. government officials admit that experts in the Soviet Union know more about American policies abroad than American citizens do." (The Lawless State, p. 258)

    On Security Clearances

    • "Standard Form 86 (questionnaire for applicants to sensitive or critical government positions) asks intrusive and irrelevant questions regarding Communist party membership, prior arrests (whether or not they resulted in a conviction), drug and alcohol abuse, and private medical information, including mental health history." (Co-authored with Jeanne Wood "Ending The Cold War At Home," Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-91)




    "He does not oppose all intelligence operations — He supports clandestine collections by human and technical means, counter-intelligence activities, and ‘covert’ operations in support of the public policies of the United States. He opposes covert activities which contravene those policies." (p. Al)

    "Halperin has, in testimony on behalf of the ACLU and in his writings, expressed opposition to covert operations designed to influence the activities of foreign governments. He has not opposed clandestine intelligence collection by human or technical means or counter-intelligence operations. With regard to covert operations, Halperin in his writings and testimony has made clear that his objection is to operations which are not consistent with the public policy of the United States. Thus, he would support the operations carried on — covertly — in aid of the Afghan rebels because they were conducted pursuant to a congressional resolution and would support activities designed to aid the opposition in Iraq because they are consistent with the public policies of the government." (p. B4)

    "In his writings and testimony, Halperin has explained that he would not rule out activities conducted in secret provided that they are in support of a publicly announced and approved policy of the United States. Thus, for example, in an article now in press [apparently part of a volume entitled The U.S. Constitution and the Power to Go to War, Historical and Current Perspectives, edited with Gary M. Stern (Westport: Greenwood Press, anticipated publication date November 1993)]…Halpeiin wrote that his proposed requirement for ‘congressional approval in the substantive objectives’ of a proposed covert operation, ‘would not prevent the President from conducting paramilitary operations whose operational details need to be kept secret.’

    "…Halperin went on to write that the recent operations in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua were conducted consistent with his proposal…Other covert operations such as aid to the Iraqi opposition would be justifled because they are consistent with the public policies of the United States." (pp. B7-8)

    "Halperin has continued to oppose covert operations, but he has explained that he would not rule out activities conducted in secret provided that they are in support of a publicly announced and approved policy of the United States. (p. B3) (Emphasis added throughout.)


    There are several types of activity discussed in the above excerpts. One is counter-intelligence. Halperin has consistently advocated severe limitations on this type of activity on civil liberties grounds. The record on this score is not in dispute.

    An illustrative example of Halperin’s extreme opposition to government operations aimed at defeating terrorists, foreign intelligence services and other potential threats can be found in his April 1976 testimony before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Civil Liberties:

    "The right of the government to wiretap American citizens — if it exists at all — should be limited to situations in which there is probably cause to believe that a crime has been committed. Any other standard is simply open to abuse and provides no effective check on agency discretion." (Washington Post, 13 April 1976)

      Steadfast Opposition To ‘Special Activities’:


    There is also clandestine collection of intelligence information by human or technical means and covert action sometimes called "special activities." This refers to activities to influence foreign governments or other foreign entities without showing the hand of the United States.

    Regarding such "special activities," Halperin testified before the Church Committee on 5 December 1975:

    "Mr. Chairman, my view is really very simple. I believe that the United States should no longer maintain the career service for the purpose of conducting covert operations or covert intelligence collection by human beings. I also believe that the United States should outlaw as a matter of national policy the conduct of covert operations, and I think this prohibition should be in law [in addition to] the assassination statute that the committee has already proposed.

    "Now, I do not put forward these proposals because I believe that there never would be a situation in which the United States might want to conduct a covert operation or indeed, that there might not be a situation where that would seem important to people. I do so because I believe that the evil of having capability for covert actions, the harm that has come to our society and to the world from the existence of that capability, and the [? in] the President for using that capability far outweighs the possible potential benefits in a few situations of using covert means. And I believe that in such situations the United States will have to use other means to promote its interest." ("Intelligence Activities, Senate Resolution 21," Hearings Before the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities of the United States Senate, Volume 7, 5 December 1975, p. 60)

    In his prepared statement before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 15, 1978, Halperin reiterated his belief that all covert action should be abolished. ("National Intelligence Reorganization and Reform Act of 1978," Hearings before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, 15 June 1978, p. 324)

    A joint statement of ACLU and the Center for National Security Studies was placed into the record of the hearing. It urged Congress to "prohibit covert action abroad" and to "prohibit espionage in peacetime." (Ibid., pp. 579-581)

      Introducing Halperin’s ‘Brierpatch’ Stratagem:


    In 1980 hearings before the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman John Ashbrook challenged Halperin on his 1978 testimony. Halperin first tried to deny that he opposed clandestine intelligence collection, until Ashbrook pointed to the record. Ashbrook said:

    "Well, Mr. Halperin, let’s go to your statement that was I guess a joint statement by the ACLU and the CNSS to the Senate Intelligence Committee. It’s on page 580 and 581."

    MR. HALPERIN: "You have the advantage on us. I don’t have a copy in front of me but that’s all right."

    MR. BERMAN [of the ACLU]: "Are we talldng about 1978?"

    MR. ASHBROOK: "[Here] is prohibitions on clandestine intelligence collection abroad in peacetime, covert actions and you want to say –"

    MR. HALPERIN: "Clandestine activity, not collection."

    MR. ASHBROOK: "And then you go on to say, in fact, you argue against any — you would prohibit any espionage by the United States in peacetime. You just flat out say that on pages 580 and 581. And that’s why I think it’s kind of a game to say you want all these restrictions when the bottom line is you don’t want any intelligence, I mean, at least we can be honest with each other. You don’t want intelligence operations by this country in peacetime. I don’t think you say you don’t want them in wartime but you say: ‘We oppose section 111(a), authorization of clandestine collection abroad absent any congressional declaration of war.’ And then within the United States you say there shouldn’t be any in peacetime.

    "Now I guess I have to look at everything you favor and try the old brierpatch philosophy. If you create a brierpatch, the result of it is you’re not going to have any collection, you’re not going to have any real intelligence activity. But you oppose all electronic surveillance, all covert action. You oppose all physical searches, all mail openings, all disruption, all anti-leak legislation, all efforts of the Government to protect legitimate intelligence secrets. And then you say let’s get a bill that accomplishes intelligence objectives." (H.R. 658, "The National Intelligence Act of 1980," Hearings before the Subcommittee on Legislation of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence House of Representatives, 27 March 1980, p. 147)

    In testimony before the House Intelligence Committee on 8 April 1987, Halperin continued his opposition to covert action. In his testimony he said, "I want to say first that the ACLU believes, and I believe, that the United States should not conduct covert operations. I believe Mr. Hyde knows, and we have discussed it in the past, that this is our view. I would hope that at an appropriate time the Committee would hold hearings on that more fundamental question, and we would welcome an opportunity to discuss that.

    "But as I have done on a number of occasions when I have appeared before this committee…I want to accept the terms in which the committee is conducting this discussion, and try to be helpful to the committee in discussing how to improve the oversight process and covert operations on the assumption that the question of whether they should be conducted is not now on the table." ("H.R. 1013, H.R. 1371, and Other Proposals Which Address the Issue of Affording Prior Notice of Covert Actions to the Congress," Hearings before the Subcommittee on Legislation of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, 8 April 1987, P. 90)

    In his prepared statement at the same hearing, Halperin said, "The record now before this committee and the nation demonstrate that covert operations are fundamentally incompatible with a democratic society. The ACLU has held that position for a number of years, and I have had the privilege of presenting it to this committee on more than one occasion. The basic argument is that covert operations are used by our Presidents to avoid the public and congressional debate mandated by the Constitution, a debate which is particularly crucial when questions of war and peace are at stake." (Ibid., p. 96)

      A Genuine ‘Change of Mind’ or Just Tactical Shifts?


    During the hearing, Congressman Henry Hyde confronted Halperin with his 1975 views. Congressman Hyde said:

    "Now, I know Mr. Halperin opposed covert action. As a matter of fact, Mr. Halperin goes even further than that, just quoting from your testimony, December 5, 1975 before the Church Committee, I believe, you said, ‘I believe that the United States should no longer maintain a career service for the purpose of conducting covert operations and covert intelligence collection by human means. I believe also that the United States should eschew as a matter of national policy the conduct of covert operations.’

    "So you do not believe, do you, Mr. Halperin, we even should have a capability of collecting intelligence covertly? That was your position then.

    "MR. HALPERIN: That was my position then. That is not my position now.

    "MR. HYDE. You have changed your mind since then?"

    "MR. HALPERIN. Yes, sir. I think we are all open to changing our minds." (Ibid., pp. 117-8)

    Halperin did not, however, explain what caused him to change his mind about clandestine collection by human sources. Perhaps the reason was, as Halperin complained in the CNSS publication First Principles of October 1980, "The widespread acceptance of the view that the 1980s pose a great danger to the nation’s survival makes it a less than auspicious time to seek to put restrictions on the activities of the CIA." Halperin continued, nonetheless, to argue against covert action.

      A Confirmation Conversion?


    Halperin’s defense now claims that he supports covert actions such as those that were conducted recently in Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua. However, in 1982 when the Nicaragua operation was being conducted, Halperin publicly opposed it. On 27 May 1982, he spoke at a public forum on covert operations against Nicaragua organized by the Campaign for Political Rights which he headed. He also signed a "Statement in Opposition to Covert Intervention in Nicaragua" circulated by the same group.7 This statement said in part, "…We call upon the President to abandon the U.S. plan for covert destabilization of Nicaragua and upon the Congress to repudiate this plan and provide for full and public debate of U.S. policy in Central America."

    As the covert action in Nicaragua was consistent with U.S. policy to prevent the Sandinista dictatorship from continuing to supply arms to terrorists and insurgents in nearby countries, Halperin under his new criteria should have supported it. His current claim that he would have supported it is utterly disingenuous.


    "[Halperin] did not aid and abet Philip Agee in his campaign to expose the identities of CIA agents overseas. He supported criminal penalties for such activities and negotiated an agreement with the CIA which led to the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act." (p. Al)

    "Halperin did nothing to aid and abet Philip Agee and others in their efforts to reveal the identities of covert agents. He expressed opposition to ‘naming names’ and support for legislation to make such actions criminal. He did testify at a hearing related to the effort of the British government to deport Agee from England. This testimony was limited to urging the citizen panel to look beyond the government’s assertion of harm to national security if Agee was (sic) allowed to remain in England, in order to determine what the actual reasons were. Halperin indicated that the U.K. government would have the right to deport Agee if his actions were in fact harming British security. He did not discuss or defend Agee’s current or past actions.

    "When the government sought to criminalize the revealing of the names of covert agents, Halperin, on behalf of the ACLU, did not oppose the section of the bill relating to former government officials [Hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee, 8 May 1981, p. 74]. Halperin for the ACLU, along with a range of news organizations, did oppose the section of the bill which applied to people who had never been in the government.

    "In his testimony Halperin stated, ‘We do not condone the practice of naming names and we fully understand Congress’ desire to do what it can to provide meaningful protection to those intelligence agents serving abroad, often in situation of danger.’ [Hearings, Senate Judiciary Committee, 8 May 1981, p. 73.]" (p. B2)


      On "Aiding and Abetting Philip Agee":


    Halperin claims that his trip to England in defense of Agee was not to support Agee’s activities but only to urge the court to "look beyond the government’s assertion of harm to national security if Agee were allowed to remain in England…." It is difficult to comprehend this statement. If the purpose behind Halperin’s appeal were not to defend Agee, what was it?

    The lack of judgment Halperin evinced in mounting such a defense of Philip Agee is made clear by the U.S. Supreme Court findings in a suit Agee brought to block the State Department from revoking his American passport. The court determined that:

    "Not only has Agee jeopardized the security of the United States, but he has endangered the interests of countries other than the United States — thereby creating serious problems for American foreign relations and foreign policy. Restricting Agee’s foreign travel, although perhaps not certain to prevent all of Agee’s harmful activities, is the only avenue open to the Government to limit these activities…. (Supreme Court of the United States in Haig, Secretary of State, v. Agee, 29 June 1981 — majority opinion delivered by Chief Justice Burger, joined by Justices Stewart, White, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist and Stevens.)

    The Court also found that:

    "Agee’s disclosures, among other things, have the declared purpose of obstructing intelligence operations and the recruiting of intelligence personnel. They are clearly not protected by the Constitution. The mere fact that Agee is also engaged in criticism of the Government does not render his conduct beyond the reach of the law.

    "[Agee] recruits collaborators and trains them in clandestine techniques designed to expose the ‘cover’ of CIA employees and sources. Agee and his collaborators have repeatedly and publicly identified individuals and organizations located in foreign countries as undercover CIA agents, employees, or sources." (Ibid.)

    Halperin also provided aid and comfort to Agee by muddying the water following then-CIA Director William Colby’s assertion that Agee’s CounterSpy Magazine bore responsibility for the murder of the Agency’s Athens station chief, Richard Welch. Halperin did so by advancing the argument that the Central Intelligence Agency had expressed concern about Welch’s safety and residence even before CounterSpy published his name and address. He also advanced the line that the Agency was responsible for engaging in "news management" and "disinformation" in the aftermath of Welch’s murder.

    "The point…is not whether the assassins learned of Welch’s identity because of the CounterSpy article or his choice of residence — it is well known that in most capitals, particularly in Western countries, anyone who really wants to learn the CIA chief’s name can do so. The point is rather that the CIA engaged in news management immediately after his death to make a political point." (Washington Post, 23 January 1977, p. C-3)

      Where Halperin Really Stood on Legislative Efforts to Protect Covert Agents’ Identities:


    In January 1980, Halperin testified before the House Intelligence Committee and argued that the Identities Protection Bill should penalize only former government officials who learned the names of agents in their official capacity. He argued against penalizing those who had not been in the government but engaged in a pattern of activity to identify American agents. ("Proposals to Criminalize the Unauthorized Disclosure of the Identities of Undercover United States Intelligence Officers and Agents," Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Legislation of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, 30 January 1980, p. 66).

    When asked by Congressman Bill Young specifically about Agee, Halperin responded:

    "Mr. Chairman, we are here representing the American Civil Liberties Union, and I have to say that the American Civil Liberties Union I think represents Mr. Agee, or has represented him in the past, and therefore I think it is not appropriate for us to make comments about whether any of us individually would approve or disapprove of any of the things that he might have done."

    Even Halperin’s averred interest in "drafting a constitutional statue which would punish Mr. Agee’s conduct in revealing the names of agents," (Ibid.) rings hollow. After all, Agee had already named anyone he knew. The problem, as the Supreme Court pointed out, was that Agee had trained others to identify the agents and carry on his work. Halperin was recommending amendments that would effectively have prevented the bill from covering Agee’s trainees.

    In June of 1980, moreover, Halperin complained in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, about the language in the identities protection bill that was then being considered by the Senate. He said:

    "Most of the problems that we have identified could be eliminated by retuming to language similar to that contained in S. 2525 which would have provided criminal penalties only for the release of names in a situation where the release was done deliberately for the purpose of placing the life of the individual in jeopardy and where the release of the name did, in fact, have that result. Any bill which goes beyond that would go too far in chilling important public debate and therefore should be rejected.

    "We also must note, Mr. Chairman, that no bill which is conceivably constitutional can, in fact, prevent the publication by the Covert Action Infonmtion Bulletin, or by other publications in the United States or abroad of the names of CIA officers who are assigned to positions in American embassies." ("Intelligence Identities Protection Legislation," Hearings Before the Select Committee on Intelligence of the United States Senate, 25 June 1980, p. 94)

    Halperin said he would accept — but did not support — even this narrowly drawn language. In the same hearing, he said in discussing his preferred approach:

    "As an alternative, that such a disclosure is made either with the intent or with reckless disregard of the fact that it placed a human life in jeopardy. In other words, I think the Government can constitutionally punish it, although I would not advocate it, either if the disclosure is based on classified information or if the disclosure places a life in jeopardy, assuming all the other points, of the intent and the pattern of activities and so on; either one of those alternative with the other material would, I think, produce a statute which, although I would not advocate it, I think would be constitutional." (Ibid., p. 114)

    Nearly a year later, Halperin again testified against draft legislation that would in the words of the Washington Post, "impose heavy criminal penalties on Americans who deliberately identify U.S. undercover intelligence agents":

    "There is no practical or constitutional way to accomplish the objectives of this legislation. Thus, what we have is a bill which is merely symbolic in its protection of agents but which does violence to the principles of the First Amendment." (Washington Post, 9 April 1981)

      No Credit Where It Is Not Due:


    Halperin’s defenders claim that he "negotiated an agreement with the CIA which led to the passage of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act." In fact, Halperin was approximately as responsible for the enactment of this legislation as Erich Honecker was for the reunification of Germany.

    As The Nation magazine — a publication squarely in Halperin’s camp — ruefully reported:

    "During the debate in Congress, an effort was made by the American Civil Liberties Union [under the leadership of Morton Halperin] and others to limit the bill’s scope, so that to prosecute an offender, the government would have to demonstrate ‘intent to impair or impede the foreign intelligence activities of the United States.’ Such proposed language was overridden by an amendment offered by the late Republican congressman John M. Ashbrook of Ohio….Ashbrook’s language substituted ‘reason to believe’ for ‘intent to impair,’ thus widening the bill’s reach….Ashbrook’s amendment prevailed…." (The Nation, 11 May 1982, p. 18)

    Indeed, Rep. John Ashbrook’s amendment was of pivotal importance: It made possible the enforcement of the law. After all, the "intent" provision promoted by Halperin could never be proved. For example, Agee and his associates claimed that they were helping the United States by their actions. Ashbrook explained the purpose of his amendment to his colleagues:

    "Mr. Chairman, a few minutes ago my friend and colleague, the gentleman from Califomia (Mr. Rousselot) said, ‘Give me a very brief description of why you are offering your amendments and the difference with the Committee version.’ My response to him was the difference is that my amendment would knock out…the American Civil Liberties Union compromise in the language of this bill. It is just that simple." (Congressional Record, 23 September 1981, p. H6511)

    Ashbrook’s amendment passed handily, by a vote of 226 to 181, and the House approved the amended bill overwhelmingly, 354 to 56.

    The result of the House vote was salutary, as reported by the United Press International on 5 November 1981: "Covert Action Information Bulletin said today it will no longer publish the identities and posts of CIA agents working abroad until proposed legislation forbidding such practice is resolved in the courts."

    Mort Halperin remained adamant in his opposition to the Intelligence Identities Protection Act, announcing upon the bill’s signature into law by President Reagan, that the ACLU would provide legal assistance to "those whose ability to speak or write is threatened by this legislation or effort[s] to enforce it by the Justice Department." (Washington Post, 24 June 1982, p. A3)



    As Congressman Ashbrook pointed out in the hearing of 27 March 1980 cited above, during the darkest days of the Cold War, Halperin opposed all human intelligence collection and covert action. Only when that position became politically untenable did he resort to proposals that amounted to a network of "brierpatches" whose clear effect — if not their intent — would be to impede the ability of the U.S. intelligence agencies to carry out critical missions. Sometimes Halperin’s suggestions succeeded; fortunately, they often failed. Still, to suggest that Halperin was attempting to facilitate the work of our intelligence agencies is absurd on its face.


    "[Halperin] does not oppose all government classification. He supports balancing the need for security against the public right to know." (p. Al)

    "…Halperin made [statements] in the early 1980s in response to a Reagan Administration effort to require all former senior officials to submit for prior review all of their writings on national security matters. This proposal was objected to by many former officials as well as by groups concerned about nuclear war. It was ultimately withdrawn when it became clear that bipartisan majorities in both Houses of Congress would move to block its implementation. As the quote itself indicates, Halperin was warning against greater secrecy and draconian measures such as prior restraint on the writings of former officials. He has consistently supported the need for classifying information, including information about the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

    "Moreover, Halperin has consistently stated that neither current or former government officials have the right to decide on their own to release classified information. Thus, in his testimony objecting to the Reagan order, Halperin stated:

    "The obligation not to reveal classified information even when one leaves the government exists now and would not be affected by the implementation of these new rules. Perhaps it would be wise to systematically remind senior officials of this obligation when they leave the government and urge them to voluntarily submit material if they have any doubt as to whether it is classified." (Testimony, Hearings, House Post Office and Civil Service Committee, Subcommittee on Civil Service, 29 February 1984, p. 140.) (p. B7)

    "Halperin has never ‘held forth about the need to end all government security classification.’ In fact, in his writings and testimony over the past 20 years, Halperin has consistently argued for a reduction in government secrecy while supporting the administrative sanctions and criminal penalties for government officials who disclose classified information learned as a result of official duties.

    "Halperin first wrote about the issue of government security in a book published in 1977 (with Daniel Hoffman Top Secret: National Security and the Right to Know, Washington: New Republic Books, 1977). In that book, he laid out a proposal for classification which he has consistently supported. The proposal suggests dividing information into "three broad categories: (1) automatically released, (2) presumptively classified and (3) requiring the exercise of discretion, with explicit consideration of the information’s value for enlightened public debate. (Top Secret, p. 57)

    "The first category includes ‘information necessary to congressional exercise of its constitutional powers to declare war, to raise armies, to regulate the armed forces, to ratify treaties, and to approve official appointments.’" (Top Secret, p. 57)

    "The second category ‘entitled to a heavy presumption against public disclosure,’ includes: weapons systems, plans for military operations, diplomatic negotiations and intelligence methods. (Top Secret, p. 58)

    "For all other information there must be a balancing of the costs to national security of disclosure against the value of the information for public debate. (Top Secret, p. 58)

    "Halperin presented this basic approach to the Congress on a number of occasions, most recently on March 18, 1992 when he testified on behalf of the ACLU before the House Committee on Government Operations (Testimony, Hearings, House Committee on Government, Subcommittee on National Security and Legislation, 18 March 1992). In that testimony, he argued that information that was not automatically released or presumptively withheld could be classified if its release would reasonably be expected to cause serious identifiable harm to the national security and the harm outweighs the public interest in disclosure. As the testimony noted, this proposal closely paralleled the Carter Executive Order on Classification.

    "Halperin has also supported administrative sanctions for those who leak classified information. He has also testified that criminal laws penalizing disclosure of information which are ‘narrowly drawn’ and ‘which apply to Executive Branch officials are appropriate.’ (Testimony, Hearings, House Intelligence Committee, 8 April 1987, p. 110)" [Emphasis added.] (pp. C1-2)


    In fact, the totality of Morton Halperin’s writings and public statements reflects a consistent attitude of hostility toward — if not outright contempt for — secrecy in government. His acceptance of the need for some classification, reflected in statements like the foregoing, is at best a sometime thing.

      Halperin’s Public Record on Secrecy:


    Halperin’s defense certainly flies in the face of his relentless assault on the legitimacy, constitutionality and morality of governmental secrecy. This assault by Halperin — and those organizations like the Center for National Security Studies, the Campaign to Stop Government Spying/the Campaign for Political Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union with which he has held leadership positions for years — has had, as a practical matter, the effect of undermining public support for the classification of any information — even that Halperin ostensibly accepts should be kept secret. The following statements appear more accurately to reflect Halperin’s public record on secrecy in the U.S. government than do those selections from that record being cited in his defense:

    • "Secrecy…does not serve national security…." ("Just Say No: The Case Against Covert Action," The Nation, March 21, 1987, p. 363)
    • "Secret operations are anathema to democracy." (Top Secret)
    • "Perhaps the most entrenched legacy of the Cold War is a carefully structured system of government information controls — a system steeped in secrecy: Secret agencies, secret budgets, secret documents, and secret decisions affecting issues of life and death, war and peace….There are intelligence agencies whose very existence is secret, whose charters and budgets are secret, and whose activities include secret paramilitary operations abroad.
    • "And millions of government documents on critical policy matters are needlessly classified, preventing essential information on foreign policy from reaching the public domain, even though disclosure would cause no appreciable harm to the national security. Such a system runs counter to the constitutional design for an open and accountable government." ("Ending the Cold War at Home," Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-1991, p. 129)

    • "Clandestine government means that Americans give up something for nothing — they give up their right to participation in the political process and to informed consent in exchange for grave assaults on basic rights and a long record of serious policy failures abroad." (The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, 1976)
    • "While the most flagrant abuses of the rights of Americans associated with the Cold War are thankfully gone from the scene, we have been left behind with a legacy of secrecy that continues to undermine democratic principles." (Boston Globe, 26 July 1992, p. 57)

      Halperin’s ‘Brierpatch’ Stratagem Toward Secrecy:


    As with his long-running campaigns against covert operations, clandestine intelligence collection and the protection of agents’ identities, Halperin’s general opposition to secrecy in government periodically had to be tempered by political realities. On such occasions, he would employ the "brierpatch" approach criticized above by Rep. John Ashbrook by seeking to impede — or at least seriously to encumber — the activities he opposed where they could not be banned outright.

    For example, in the March/April 1992 edition of the Center for National Security Studies’ newsletter First Principles, Halperin and Leslie Harris urged in an article entitled "Classification System Under Fire as Cold War Ends":

    "[Congress should] provide penalties for willful classification and over-classification of documents that do not meet standards of statute in order to conceal incompetence, wrongdoing, error, avoid embarrassment, circumvent laws or otherwise prevent release of information that does not bear on the national defense or conduct of foreign affairs or does not meet the standards of classification."

    Obviously, the effect of such penalties would be to oblige officials to err on the side of disclosure of sensitive information, encouraging them to place personal considerations — like the risk of prosecution for "over-classification of documents" over concerns about the risks to the national security of under-classification.

      Irresponsible Views on What Should Be Classified:


    Even in those instances where Halperin has, for tactical (or other) reasons, acknowledged the necessity for classification, he has exhibited the same poor judgment that characterizes many of his recommendations in other national security areas. For example, in testimony before the House Government Operations Committee in 1974 he recommended that the following types of sensitive information be declassified:

    "Commitments to employ American forces; American combat advisors; American civilians or foreign mercenaries in combat or as combat advisors; financing of combat operations; U.S. troops abroad; nuclear weapons abroad; military assistance programs; research on a new weapon system; current and estimated costs of weapon systems; diplomatic negotiations; existence, budgets and authorized functions of intelligence organizations; and executive branch financing or ownership of private organizations." (Testimony, Hearings on "Security Classification Reform," House Committee on Government Operations, 11, 25 July and 1 August 1974, p. 276)

    Halperin subsequently backed-and-filled on what should be considered "legitimate secrets," for example writing in a January 1975 article in Playboy Magazine that these include "details of military plans, of technical means of intelligence gathering, of weapons design…." In this article, however, he reaffirmed his position on the need to publicize sensitive information concerning the deployment of U.S. forces, among other things: "Never again should the Executive be able to urge war, provide military aid, make commitments or deploy troops without making its actions public." ("Removing Kissinger’s Cover," Playboy, January 1975, p. 45)

    What is more, with regard even to what Halperin apparently now accepts as legitimately classified information — namely "technical means of intelligence gathering," his recommendations are problematic. For example, in the March/April 1992 edition of First Principles, Halperin recommended that Congress "provide that intelligence sources and methods should be treated no differently from other national security information." Such a proposal suggests a degree of unconcern about the fragility of intelligence collection operations that is consistent with Halperin’s longstanding opposition to the use of clandestine sources but inconsistent with prudent policy; if adopted, it could jeopardize such sources and methods with serious consequences for U.S. intelligence.

      Looking to the Future:


    It is particularly striking that Halperin, who claims to have "new ideas for the post-Cold War period," is so entrenched in his thinking about the U.S. government’s intelligence collection and classification activities that he refuses to acknowledge the need for such activities to adapt to the emerging challenges of this period. Notably, in the same First Principles article, he warns ominously:

    "National security agencies would prefer to expand their domains to cover such matters as international crime, international economic problems, overpopulation, AIDS, global hunger and the environment. Congress must understand, therefore, that unless it enacts a classification statute that explicitly excludes such information from the national security secrecy system, there is a substantial danger that the intelligence agencies, the President and ultimately the courts will treat these issues by the same unaccountable standards as they now treat national security matters.

    "Whatever is to remain of the secrecy system after the Cold War, it must not be permitted to expand into new areas outside of its narrow domain." (First Principles, March/April 1992, p. 6)


    "Halperin actually left the government in September 1969, long before the unauthorized publication of the Pentagon Papers. He had responsibility for the production of the Pentagon Papers while serving as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense. He played no role in the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers. There is nothing in any record to suggest that he did." (p. C1)

    In a letter being circulated on Halperin’s behalf — and, evidently, with his authorization — by Jeremy Stone, Alton Frye and Arnold Kanter, an even more categorical defense is offered on this score: "There is nothing in any record to suggest Halperin contributed in any way to the disclosure of the [Pentagon] Papers." 8 (Emphasis added.)


    While Halperin did resign from his position on the National Security Council staff in September 1969, he remained associated with the government as a consultant to the NSC until May 1970. In this capacity, he wrote two studies concerning Vietnam. (Washington Post, 12 May 1970.)

    Interestingly, Halperin found it expedient on 6 May 1970 to emphasize the fact that his tie to the Nixon Administration had continued beyond his departure from its full-time personnel rolls (and, therefore, "into the early 1970s"): On that date, several days after the U.S. incursion into Cambodia, he formally and with considerable fanfare severed his consulting relafionship with the NSC in protest of President Nixon’s continuing efforts to "escalate the war." (Ibid.)

      What The Record Says About Halperin’s Actual Role in the Pentagon Papers Affair:


    Assertions that "[Halperin] played no role in the disclosure of" the thousands of pages of highly classified documents that came to be known as the Pentagon Papers appear highly misleading. Consider the following documented aspects of Halperin’s involvement in this illegal release of sensitive national security information:

    Item: Halperin Was Directly Involved in Giving Daniel Ellsberg Access to the McNamara Study on U.S. Involvement in Vietnam

    While a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Halperin not only "had responsibility for the production of the Pentagon Papers"; along with his deputy at the Pentagon, Leslie Gelb, Halperin had organizational responsibility for deciding who was brought in to participate in the preparation of this study and who would have access to its products. Gelb, with Halperin’s knowledge and assent, in late 1967 asked Daniel Ellsberg — once a colleague of Halperin’s at Harvard — to work on part of the study.9

    According to Ellsberg, Gelb and Halperin’s boss, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Warnke, gave Ellsberg a commitment "that [he] would be able to read this thing [the full compilation] ultimately. No other researcher got that commitment on the study….I was authorized by the Assistant Secretary of Defense to have personal access to the entire study."Look Magazine as cited by Ungar, The Papers and the Papers, p. 56.) If true, Halperin presumably would have been privy to — if not directly involved in — such a decision by his superior and his subordinate. (Interview in

    Item: Halperin Had Reason to Believe That Ellsberg Was a Bad Security Risk

    Interestingly, Halperin’s organization granted that access to this highly classified ("top-secret/sensitive") study even though, as Gelb subsequently testified, he had denied Ellsberg’s request for access on two occasions in the spring of 1969. (Sworn testimony by Leslie Gelb in the course of criminal proceedings against Ellsberg in connection with his release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, as reported in the Washington Post, 21 April 1973.) According to Gelb, Ellsberg had told him six months before Ellsberg had photocopied the documents that "[Ellsberg] thought they were of great importance and should be in the public domain."

    Halperin was clearly aware of what Gelb knew about Ellsberg’s attitude. After all, Halperin told FBI agent Earl C. Revels in an October 1971 interview that he had thought that Ellsberg might be "indiscreet" in handling the documents (Washington Post, 25 April 1973). Such indiscretion was particularly likely given Ellsberg’s known — and ever more vehement — opposition to the Vietnam War. Indeed, on 8 October 1969, Ellsberg signed an open letter with five other RAND employees denouncing the war and calling for "the United States to decide now to end its participation in the Vietnam War, completing the total withdrawal of [U.S.] forces within one year at the most." (Originally publicized in a New York Times article on 9 October 1969 and subsequently published in full in the Washington Post three days later.) At best, granting an individual with such views access to extremely sensitive classified documents was an official act of gross negligence; at worst, it was tantamount to inviting their unauthorized disclosure.

    Item: Ellsberg And Halperin Were in Close Contact During Period When Portions of the Pentagon Papers Were Being Illegally Copied, Stored

    Halperin’s involvement with the Pentagon Papers affair does not end there, however. For a number of months during 1969 and 1970 — as Halperin was himself becoming an outspoken critic of the war — Ellsberg actually lived in Halperin’s home. It was apparently about this time that Ellsberg made what New York Times journalist Harrison Salisbury (no friend of either the Pentagon or the Vietnam War) described as "a selection of his documents [i.e., the Pentagon Papers he had illegally expropriated] principally of the years 1962-64, available late in 1969 to the anti-war Institute for Policy Studies [an organization with which Halperin had numerous associations] for use by Ralph Stavins, Richard J. Barnet and Marcus G. Raskin in a study of Vietnam war decision making…" (Without Fear or Favor, p. 74.) At the same time, Ellsberg was assiduously, but ultimately unsuccessfully, trying to recruit a Member of Congress who would be willing to exploit his legislative immunity to release these classified documents.

    Item: Halperin Was Aware That Ellsberg Was Making Unauthorized Revelations About the Pentagon Papers Prior to Their Publication by the New York Times

    In September 1970, Halperin participated in a major IPS conference on "U.S. Strategy in Asia" together with Daniel Ellsberg, Les Gelb and a number of other former or serving government officials. Not surprisingly — given the sponsoring organization and the participants — this conference amounted to a diatribe against the Vietnam War. Inevitably, the participation of those working at the Institute for Policy Studies was informed by their unauthorized access, thanks to Daniel Ellsberg, to the Pentagon Papers. This fact may have been evident to others, like Ellsberg — or Halperin, familiar with those documents.

    Such a distinct possibility follows from a passage in Salisbury’s book, Without Fear or Favor:

    "There had been a disagreement between Ellsberg and his friends at the Institute for Policy Studies because of what Ellsberg thought was their carelessness in allowing access to the papers that he had given them. Ellsberg was concerned lest the FBI get on the track and he finally compelled [IPS co-founder and long-time leader Marc] Raskin to return the documents." (p. 75)

    Evidently, IPS elected to follow Ellsberg’s lead, however, and made its own copies of the Pentagon Papers it had illegally harbored for him. In any event, according to FBI records, when Ellsberg subsequently decided in March 1971 to turn the Papers directly over to the New York Times, he stayed at Washington’s Hotel Dupont Plaza, near IPS headquarters. The Bureau suspected that Ellsberg may have done so in order to "obtain the remainder of the study from IPS for [New York Times correspondent Neil] Sheehan to xerox in the early part of April 1971." (FBI Bureau file WFO #100-447935, 5 November 1971, p.4) Given his close associations with many of the IPS principals, his intimate ties to Ellsberg and his great sympathy for the Institute’s efforts — and those of other, like-minded organizations aimed at ending the Vietnam War — it is far from clear and appears unlikely that Halperin was entirely ignorant of these activities.

    It is, moreover, unquestionably true that Halperin was aware that Ellsberg was disclosing classified information about the Pentagon Papers before they were published by the New York Times. According to Salisbury (who clearly had talked to Halperin at length):

    "Halperin was delighted with inquiries [being made in early 1971 by Tom Oliphant, a reporter with the Boston Globe, after a series of conversations between Oliphant and Daniel Ellsberg] and helped him with the story but Gelb was horrified and wanted no part of it. Oliphant got the impression that the Papers must be a kind of magical potion, something out of a story by the Brothers Grimm. If you read them, you were instantly turned violently against the war. Out of that came his story. It was published on page one of the Boston Globe March 7, 1971, under the headline ‘Only Three Have Read Secret Indochina Report: All Urge Swift Pullout.’" (Emphasis added.) (Without Fear or Favor, p. 98)

    The three individuals named in the Globe story were Morton Halperin, Leslie Gelb and Daniel Ellsberg. It is inconceivable that Halperin did not know who had given Oliphant the scoop on the existence of what "Ellsberg referred to [as] the Pentagon Papers." (Ibid.) And yet, there is no evidence that Halperin took steps to prevent further disclosure of these documents; if anything, his behavior bespeaks a desire to see such disclosures proceed. Whatever his intentions, the practical effect of Halperin’s behavior was the same: It helped Daniel Ellsberg pursue his efforts to publish the highly classified Pentagon Papers.

    Item: Halperin Defended Daniel Ellsberg

    Finally, Halperin played a central role in mounting Ellsberg’s legal defense when Ellsberg was subsequently prosecuted for criminal conspiracy, violation of the espionage act and the theft of government classified documents. As Halperin himself recounts:

    "The Nixon Administration’s attempt to prevent the publication of the Pentagon papers and then to put Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo in jail was the first episode that threw me actively into this arena. Having had administrative responsibility for the production of the Papers, I knew they contained nothing which would cause serious injury to national security. I watched with amazement as the Justice Department, without knowing what was in the study, sought to persuade court after court that they should be suppressed.

    "When the Supreme Court refused to enjoin publication and the case moved into a criminal phase, I found myself more and more actively involved as a consultant10 to Ellsberg’s defense lawyers. I ended up spending some five months in Los Angeles at the trial getting my first exposure to a court of law and at the same time coming to understand how dangerous it would be to permit the government to monopolize all of the ‘national security’ expertise in a case involving a clash of interests." (Emphasis added.) ("Where I’m At," First Principles, September 1975, p. 15)

    In this context, at least, Halperin seems to be justifying his activities on behalf of a confessed leaker of classified information by asserting, on the basis of his own judgment, that the leaked documents "contained nothing which would cause serious injury to national security." This view speaks volumes about Halperin’s past attitude toward classified information (see the discussion of Issue #3 above): If a self-appointed individual determines classified information would not, if divulged, "cause injury to national security," it should not be deemed legitimately classified. Needless to say, if adopted as policy, such an attitude would make it impossible to maintain the security of any information held by the U.S. government or to prosecute anyone who chose to violate U.S. security laws.



    The Center for Security Policy believes that — given the many serious questions raised by the foregoing review of the real record of Mort Halperin’s involvement with the Pentagon Papers affair, questions that certainly raise fundamental doubts about Halperin’s flat assertion of having "no role in the disclosure of the Pentagon Papers" — the Senate Arined Services Conunittee must examine this area of Morton Halperin’s record with special care.

    Not the least reason for such a review is that Halperin is today in a Pentagon position of trust with daily access to highly classified information, some of which may involve issues or policies with which he is not in agreement. The Committee, the Senate and the American people are entitled to know the full truth about this nominee’s previous conduct — both with respect to the Pentagon Papers and with regard to any other instances in which Halperin was investigated for improper disclosure of sensitive national security information — if only to permit an informed evaluation of his ability to safeguard information to which he is now, or will in the future be, gaining access.

    In light of Halperin’s declared commitment to the "automatic release" of "information necessary to congressional exercise of its constitutional powers…to approve official appointments" (see Issue #3 above in which Halperin lays out his defense of his record on government classification policy and in particular the reference to his recommendations published in Top Secret: National Security and the Right to Know, p. 57), the Center for Security Policy cannot imagine that any objection to the immediate public release of all such information would now be heard from the nominee.



    The Halperin Biography Being Made Available by the Defense Department

    "Morton Halperin is currently a Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Baker Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University. He was previously Washington Office Director for the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the Center for National Security Studies. He has taught and conducted research on nuclear strategy and arms control issues at a number of universities, including Columbia, Harvard, M.I.T., and Yale. From 1966-1969, he served in government as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs and as a Senior Staff member of the National Security Council staff. Halperin, the author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books, holds a B.A. from Columbia College and a Ph.D. from Yale University."

    An Annotated Biography Compiled From Unofficial, Publicly Available Information

    November 1992-Present: Within days of the 1992 presidential election, Halperin began working essentially full-time in the Pentagon as a "consultant." On 31 March 1993, the White House announced the President’s intention to nominate Halperin to the newly created position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Human Rights. His activities prior to his nomination raise questions as to whether he conformed with limitations on the roles consultants are permitted to play.

    What is more, following the announcement of President Clinton’s intention to nominate him to this senior post, Halperin appears to have exceeded congressional and departmental restrictions on the involvement of nominees in policy-making prior to their confirmation. Mr. Clinton did not formally nominate Halperin until 29 July.

    1 November 1992-Present: Halperin is, as noted in the "official" biography above, formally still a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Baker Professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Although he left his position as Director of the Center for National Security Studies last November, he has remained as the Chairman of the CNSS Advisory Committee.

    1988: Halperin, together with Richard Barnet and a number of other individuals long associated with the radical left Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), was identified in press reports as a member of presidential candidate Jesse Jackson’s "brain trust."

    August 1985-1992: Halperin served as Director of the Washington Office of the American Civil Liberties Union with responsibility for the national legislative program of the ACLU.

    1984-31 October 1992: Halperin served as the Director of the Center for National Security Studies (CNSS). This organization was the lineal descendent of the Project for National Security launched in 1972 by the Institute for Policy Studies under the direction of its top personnel including Robert Borosage and Marc Raskin. In 1974, the Project was spun off to become a nominally independent entity funded by the Fund for Peace (a major source of financial support for IPS) and the ACLU Foundation. When Halperin moved to the ACLU, CNSS moved with him. CNSS’ declared mandate is concern for the "alarming growth of state power in the name of ‘state security.’" It works "to inform Americans about the dangers of the CIA’s covert action programs."

    1977-1984: Halperin served as CNSS’ Deputy Director under Robert Borosage

    "Late 70s-Early 80s": Halperin asserts that his only connection with the Institute for Policy Studies was teaching he did during this period at the IPS "university."

    1977: Halperin was one of the founders and the director of the Campaign to Stop Government Spying, an umbrella group for anti-intelligence agitation which changed its name the following year to the more benign sounding Campaign for Political Rights. The Campaign’s member groups included such dubious organizations as the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation (reportedly a Communist Party front), the National Lawyers Guild, the National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee and Philip Agee’s CounterSpy Magazine.

    Also in 1977, while serving as the deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, Halperin went to London to help in the defense of Philip Agee. At the time, Agee was in the process of being deported from Great Britain as a security risk for collaborating with Cuban and Soviet intelligence.

    1975: Chief Editorial Writer of First Principles, a monthly publication of the Center for National Security Studies

    1973: Begins work with the Center for National Security Studies.

    1972: Political consultant to presidential candidate George McGovern

    1970-1973: Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy Division of the Brookings Institution and aide to Sen. Edmund Muskie and consultant to the Senate Government Operations Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Relations

    1970: Served on the Executive Council of the Committee for Public Justice created by the ACLU in 1970, an organization aimed at curbing the intelligence operations of the FBI and Justice Department

    September 1969-May 1970: Consultant to the National Security Council, Southeast Asia specialist.

    January-September 1969: Member of senior staff of the National Security Council during the Nixon Administration with responsibility for program analysis and planning. During this period, the information concerning secret U.S. bombings of targets in Cambodia was leaked to the New York Times. Then-NSC Advisor Henry Kissinger suspected Halperin and colleague Anthony Lake of the leak and authorized FBI wiretaps on their office and home phones.

    1967-1968: Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans and Arms Control under Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs Paul Warnke

    1967: Special Assistant to Asst. Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Warnke

    1961-1967: Assistant Professor, Harvard University and Associate with the Harvard Center for International Affairs

    1961: Ph.D. in International Affairs, Yale University

    1959: M.A., Yale University

    1958: B.A., Columbia College




    A Proposal for a Ban on the Use of Nuclear Weapons, Special Studies Group, Study Memorandum Number 4, Washington, 1961.

    Strategy and Arms Control, with Thomas C. Schelling, The Twentieth Century Fund, New York, 1961.

    Limited War: An Essay on the Development of the Theory, Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1962.

    China and the Bomb, Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, Washington, 1965.

    Communist China and Arms Control, with Dwight H. Perkins, East Asian Research Center — Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1965.

    Is China Turning In? Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, Cambridge, 1965.

    China and Nuclear Proliferation, Center for Policy Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, 1966.

    Contemporary Military Strategy, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1967.

    Defense Strategies for the Seventies, University Press of America, Washington, 1971.

    The Lawless State: The Crimes of the U.S. Intelligence Agencies, with Jerry J. Berman, Robert L. Borosage and Christine M. Marwick, Center for National Security Studies, Washington, 1976.

    Freedom Versus National Security, with Daniel N. Hoffman, Chelsea House Publishers, New York, 1977.

    Top Secret: National Security and the Right to Know, with Daniel N. Hoffman, New Republic Books, Washington, 1977.

    Nuclear Fallacy: Dispelling the Myth of Nuclear Strategy, Ballinger Publishing Company, Cambridge, 1987.

    Self-Determination in the New World Order, with David J. Scheffer and Patricia L. Small, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, 1992.


    "Nuclear Weapons and Limited War," Journal of Conflict Resolution, June 1961.

    "On Resuming Tests: Lessons the Moratorium Should Have Taught Us," The New Republic, April 30, 1962.

    "The President and the Military," Foreign Affairs, January 1972.

    "Led Astray by the CIA," The New Republic, June 28, 1975.

    "The Most Secret Agents," The New Republic, July 26, 1975.

    "CIA: Denying What’s Not in Writing," The New Republic, October 4, 1975.

    "The Cult of Incompetence," The New Republic, November 8, 1975.

    "National Security and Civil Liberties," Foreign Policy, Winter 1975-1976.

    "Secrecy and the Right to Know," with Daniel N. Hoffman, Law and Contemporary Problems, Summer 1976.

    "Oversight is Irrelevant if CIA Director Can Waive the Rules," The Center [for National Security Studies] Magazine, March/April 1979.

    "American Military Intervention: Is It Ever Justified?", The Nation, June 9, 1979.

    "The CIA’s Distemper," The New Republic, February 9, 1980.

    "NATO and the TNF Controversy: Threats to the Alliance," Orbis, Spring 1982.

    "The Freeze is Arms Control," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, March 1983.

    "The Key West Key," with David Halperin, Foreign Policy, Winter 1983-1984.

    "We Need New Intelligence Charters," The Center [for National Security Studies] Magazine, May/June 1985.

    "Secrecy and National Security," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, August 1985.

    "The Case Against Covert Action," The Nation, March 2, 1987.

    "The Nuclear Fallacy," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 1988.

    "Lawful Wars," with Gary M. Stein, Foreign Policy, Fall 1988.

    "Ending the Cold War at Home," with Jeanne M. Woods, Foreign Policy, Winter 1990-1991.

    "Guaranteeing Democracy," Foreign Policy Summer 1993.

    (1) There is some confusion as to the exact title of the position for which Halperin has been nominated. It has at various points been officially labelled as "Democracy and Human Rights," "Democratic Security" and "Democracy and Peacekeeping." We understand that, as of this writing, the title of choice is "Democracy and Peacekeeping."

    (2) See, for example, the Center’s Decision Brief entitled New Democrat Watch: Bad Personnel is Bad Policy; If You Liked Lani Guinier, You’ll Love Mort Halperin (No. 93-D 45, 4 June 1993).

    (3) (Emphasis added throughout.)

    (4) N.B. Halperin’s prospective responsibilities would include oversight of drug policy in the Pentagon including the U.S. military’s activities in the area of drug surveillance and interdiction operations.

    (5) N.B. The so-called Pentagon Papers – a 2.5 million word compilation of classified documents concerning the U.S. role in Vietnam — were officially categorized as "Top Secret/Sensitive." Halperin, together with his deputy, Leslie Gelb, gave Daniel Ellsberg access to these papers which Ellsberg subsequently provided to the New York Times. Halperin reportedly served as chief of staff for a team of 35 defense attorneys and testified on behalf of Ellsberg in the subsequent trial. One can only speculate upon the myriad sensitive documents to which Halperin currently has access in the Defense Department and from other agencies that he might similarly view as excessively classified and whether he might choose to grant access to such information to others who may, in turn, elect to make such documents public.

    (6) There are a number of criticisms of Mort Halperin’s record to which he and his partisans have responded in writing. They can be generically addressed, however, in the four categories discussed in this section. The quotes listed under "The Halperin Defense" are drawn from materials being circulated on Capitol Hill by the Department of Defense (and elsewhere by Halperin’s partisans). Presumably, Halperin played a part in their preparation. The page references in parentheses identify where in the DoD materials these quotes appear. (The designations "A," "B" and "C" have been added by the Center to aid in locating identified pages in three different sections of this material.)

    (7) The signers of the statement against U.S. policy in Nicaragua included a number of groups on the legitimate left. It also included, however, a large number of fringe groups, including: the Center for Constitutional Rights (a front for the American Communist Party); the Christic Institute; the Church of Scientology; the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador; Counterspy magazine; the International Longshoremen and Warehouseman’s Union (a communist-controlled union); the Middle East Research and Information Project; the Mobilization for Survival; the Nation Institute; the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression (a front for the American Communist party); the National Lawyers Guild; the North American Congress of Latin America; the Palestine Human Rights Campaign; Stop the Pentagon/Serve the People; United Electrical Workers (communist-controlled); U.S. Peace Council (a front for the American Communist Party) and Women for Racial and Economic Equality (a front for the American Communist Party).

    (8) For the full text of this letter, see the Center for Security Policy’s Decision Brief entitied, Civics 101: Halperin Nomination Won’t Be Saved by Amateurish Write-in Campaign (No. 93-D 74, 1 September 1993). Copies may be obtained by contacting the Center.

    (9) Numerous books have documented Ellsberg’s involvement in the drafting of the Pentagon Papers and in their ultimate, unauthorized release. For example, see Harrison Salisbury’s Without Fear or Favor: An Uncompromising Look at the New York Times (Ballantine Books, New York, 1980) and Sanford J. Ungar’s The Papers and The Papers: An Account of the Legal and Political Battle Over the Pentagon Papers (Columbia University Press, New York, 1972 and 1989).

    (10) In fact, according to some accounts, a more accurate description of Halperin’s role in the Ellsberg defense would be that of Chief of Staff, rather than a mere technical "consultant."

    NOTE: The Center’s publications are intended to invigorate and enrich the debate on foreign policy and defense issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of all members of the Center’s Board of Advisors.

    Center for Security Policy

    Please Share: