Thursday, July 21, 2011

From State Legislatve Aide to Defector to KGB: Not the Usual Career Path

Edward Lee Howard. Safe House: The Compelling Memoirs of the Only CIA Spy to Seek Asylum in Russia. Bethesda, Md.: Enigma Book: National Press Books, 1995.

The author, Edward Lee Howard, was a CIA agent who contends a Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB) agent led the CIA to believe he was spying for the KBG. The FBL assigned 60 agents to investigate Howard. Howard contents the KGB created misdirection to bring focus on him so that another CIA agent Aldrich Ames could provide the KGB information undetected. Ames did this for eight years before he was caught.

Howard defected to the Soviet Union. He claims he did this because he did not believe he could receive a fair trial in the U.S. The author continued living in Russia under KGB protection.

The CIA attempted to stop this autobiography from being published. The ACLU negotiated approval of publication with the Justice Department.

Howard was about to work in the American embassy in Moscow when he failed a polygraph test in 1983 and was fired from the CIA. The CIA contends Howard gave names of CIA agents to the Soviet Union who then killed some CIA agents. The Soviet Union gave Howard political asylum.

Howard worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development when he received a cryptic request for a job interview from a place with no return address. It turned out to be from the CIA. He was questioned, given medical, psychological, polygraph, attitudinal, and language tests. Howard believes the CIA sought honest people who thought “the ends justify the means”.

The first year of CIA employment involved career training and rotations to different offices. Howard learned that while he was instructed that military actions in foreign countries require Congressional approval, the CIA had more leeway with approval from the President. He also realized most CIA employees were analysts, technicians, secretaries, and file clerks. Howard was a covert employee. He was taught Russian and assigned to Moscow.

Howard took a CIA lie detector test. He states he was then asked to resign yet was never told why he should do so. He notes lie detectors are not accurate. After leaving, the CIA made several requests for Howard to take a physical exam, which he refused. In his anger, he called the CIA Chief of Station in Moscow and left a message declining the physical exam. He called on an unsecured line which he knew was monitored by the KGB. This let the KGB know, since only CIA agents were required to take physical exams, that Howard had been a CIA agent and now what his cover had been, a State Department employee.

Howard found a job with the New Mexico state legislature. He worked as an Economic Analyst for the Legislative Finance Committee. He began drinking heavily with legislators and fellow employees. He got into a fight while intoxicated and discharged his gun into a vehicle. He pled guilty to aggravated assault and received probation.

KGB Colonel Vitali Sergeevich Yurchenko requested political asylum in Rome. Yurchenko told the CIA he knew of two Americans working for the KGB. One was Ronald Pelton of the National Security Agency. Yurchenko stated he never met the other man but that he know it was a former CIA employees whose Moscow assignment had been withdrawn. The CIA concluded it was Howard. Howard believes Yurchenko did this to draw CIA attention away from the real mole, Aldrich Ames.

Howard could tell from his training on how KGB agents are followed that light aircraft were following his movements. He did not understand why that was happening. He concentrated on his busy legislative work while noting the surveillance planes were obvious as they got as close as 1,000 feet above him.

The FBI finally confronted Howard with allegations that he was a KGB informer. He also realized the FBI knew he took a trip to Europe in violation of his probation. He could have gotten seven years imprisonment for that alone.

Howard decided to flee. He constructed a dummy and placed it in a car following him that wouldn’t realize he had fled on foot. He tape recorded a voice message to leave on another’s phone so those listening to his wiretaps would believe he was still there making phone calls. He fled to Helsinki and went to the Soviet Embassy. The Soviets offered to bring Howard to Moscow. Three consular officers drove him through the Finnish-Soviet border with Howard hidden in the trunk. The officers showed their diplomatic credentials while a third remained in the car. One stayed in the car to explain why search dogs would find a human scent.

The CIA denounced Howard as a traitor who had been fired from the CIA for drug use as well as womanizing and being a homosexual.

Howard found the KGB officials he met as very friendly and not like the negative stereotypes he was taught by the CIA. He was treated well. He was debriefed and told the KGB what he knew about the CIA.

Howard states he was treated well, not because he had information but for the public relations value the Soviet had because he had defected. The Soviets also realized that several defectors had later committed suicide and wanted Howard to feel comfortable.

Howard insists he did not name any CIA agent that was not already known to them. The KGB was particularly interested in CIA recruitment methods. The CIA would sometimes engage in “false flag” recruitments where they would pretend to be agents from another country in order to recruit someone who did not like the USA or did not want to work for the CIA.

Howard noted both the CIA and KGB have press offices that distort and spin news.

Yurchenko double defected and returned to the KGB. Yurchenko claimed to have been kidnapped by the CIA and claimed he told the CIA nothing. The KGB feared Howard might double defect and began guarding him at all times, even when he went to the bathroom. Howard does not believe Yurchenko’s allegations the CIA drugged and kidnapped him. Howard does not believe that is the CIA’s style of operating. He also believes Yurchenko did not reveal the names of real KGB agents or else he would have named Aldrich Ames.

The CIA reported Howard gave the KGB the name of a CIA informant, Adolf Tolkachev, a scientist, who was then arrested and executed by the Soviets. Howard denied this, writing that CIA agents did not know each others’ identities. CIA agents and their locations are listed by codes with the codes sealed in CIA offices in Moscow so even the Washington office could not divulge this information. Aldrich Ames would use personal computer, which were relatively new then, to obtain names of CIA agents.

Howard claimed the CIA used his name over and over to blame him for every operation the KGB discovered. Howard believed this was CIA spin.

Howard staged a protest against the KGB over his desire to reunite with his family that he left behind in America. He went on top of his roof and refused to come down. Even his neighbor, Boris Yeltsin, came by to watch him on the roof. Yeltsin, then a Politburo member, inquired what was happening, which sparked a KGB response. The KGB agreed to let Howard visit his family in America. They gave him a fake passport and had him fly Malev, an airline whose computers were not accessible to the CIA. When he arrived in America, he realized it would be too risky for him and his family to make contact as the CIA was still observing his family. He returned to the Soviet Union. He decided to defect so his family could then formally visit him in the Soviet Union.

Howard agreed to let the Soviets formally announce that he was the first CIA officer to defect to the KGB. He became a Soviet citizen. In return, he received a home and a job comparable to what he had in America. He continued working on econometrics. He discovered the CIA believed economic data was very important while the KGB focused more on military and political research. A few years later, the KGB changed their minds and made economic data their first priority.

Howard stated the KGB treated him far better than the CIA treated defectors. The CIA would be helpful to defectors until the CIA had all the information they needed. They then dropped them with only a phone number in case they had a problem.

Howard claims the David Wise book about him took some of his statements out of context and that false allegations were mae. His is glad the book also presented his side.

Howard lived in Hungary until the U.S. government wanted that $160 million in assistance to Hungary was in jeopardy if Howard remained there. He moved to Czechoslovakia and worked with the Czech Foreign Investment Council. While there, their Communist government fell to Vaclav Havel.

“U.S. News and World Report” reported Howard committed suicide. Howard assures readers he did not.

Howard moved to Sweden. Yet Sweden feared he was a Russian spy trying to steal information about technology. He was convinced to leave Sweden. He returned to Moscow.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Back When There Were Republicans Who Understood Issues

National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse. Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1972.

Raymond Shafer, Chairman of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (and former Pennsylvania Governor) hoped this study would “demythologize” marijuana. The report urges for more “uniformity and rationality” in Federal and state marijuana laws.

The report notes that marijuana only became considered a major problem during the 1960s. It is noted marijuana has “certain pharmacologic properties”. While marijuana is illegal, the public reacted more negatively (circa 1972) against marijuana that it did to other illegal acts such as adultery and gambling.

Marijuana was used primarily by low income people before the 1960s. Society overall was not very concerned about this use. As marijuana spread into use by middle income and high income young people, more people more aware of marijuana and some acted with alarm. There were also cultured clashes growing in the late 1960s between younger and older people over social issues and topics including marijuana use. Opponents of marijuana saw marijuana use as “the rejection of cherished values”.

The factors that led to the Federal government making marijuana illegal in 1937 were based “more on fantasy than on proven fact”, this report concludes.

The debates on alcohol temperance and prohibition were widely debated in the 19th and 20th centuries. The anti-narcotic laws that passed every state by 1906 were not widely discussed as narcotic use was mostly done by foreign residents, such as Chinese immigrant opium users, and lower income people. Marijuana was used mostly by Mexican and West Indian immigrants. Marijuana was “incorrectly classified” as a narcotic. By 1931, every Western state except two and a few Eastern states had made marijuana illegal. The National Conference of Commissions on Uniform State Laws developed model state legislation banning marijuana in 1932 that became law in every state by 1937. The Commission notes that “not once during this entire period was any comprehensive scientific study undertaken in this country of marihuana or its effects.”

The report states the debate over marijuana has legal, medical, social, moral, and philosophical aspects. Each aspect should be understood to grasp the overall issues. It is noted that much is known about marijuana and its effects, the issue is not one that is lacking information. It is known that alcohol and heavy cigarette usage have harmful effects and they are legal and easily obtained. There are philosophical issues about the role of government in protecting people from themselves and in restricting private conduct. Some argue a government has a responsibility in protecting social order and in preventing people from harming themselves. Some see alcohol and legal marijuana as efforts by higher social orders to keep lower income people, particularly African Americans, happily intoxicated and satisfied with remaining low income workers.

Sociological studies estimate 24 million American had used marijuana (as of circa 1972). Some argue this high acceptance of use means people want it to be legal. Yet, others observe many of these people used it for short time periods and interest in it disappeared, and thus it is not widely supported.

There are legal debates as to whether moral behavior should be handled by the police and courts, families, schools, and/or religious institutions. Some question the effectiveness of laws banning marijuana and whether the costs of administering these laws are greater than their benefits.

Marijuana use (circa 1970s) did not vary much by race.

45% of adults and 41% of young people who used marijuana surveyed stated they did not use another drug. 61% of adults who stopped using marijuana stated they did so because it no longer interested them. The frequency of marijuana use is so disparate there is no such thing as a typical user. Young people who use marijuana were more likely to have a parent who used medicine, alcohol, or cigarettes. Peer group pressure is a leading reason why young people use marijuana.

All chemicals, including food, marijuana, and drugs, affect living tissues in a human body. It is debated the degree to which benefits and harms result from each chemical, which also can vary according to how much chemical is taken over how much time. People also have varying tolerances to different chemicals.

Marijuana use was not found to cause physical bodily damage. No fatal use of it was found. High dose users could have psychotic reactions which usually coincide with outside stress. Many users felt altered consciousness and found its use as pleasant. There were no major physical, mental, or biochemical problems found with long term marijuana use. Some organ injury or behavioral changes could occur with long term heavy use.

There were social impacts on the issue of marijuana use. May in the media and law enforcement had portrayed marijuana use as lowering inhibitions that led to increased crime and violence. Later studies failed to find these links. While marijuana users may commit more crimes, it is believed it was because criminals were more likely to use marijuana.

A survey found 48% of Americans questioned believed marijuana use could be lethal, despite no record of a single overdose death of using marijuana.

Marijuana use does not lead to physical dependence and the body has few withdrawal symptoms where it use of marijuana stops. Some heavy long term users may be psychologically dependent on its use.

Some feared young marijuana user wanted to withdraw from society, not work, and became radicals. 43% of adults surveyed believe marijuana was being promoted by foreign enemies. The Commission found young marijuana users wanted to become part of society and wanted to work.

About one quarter of Americans surveyed then favored removing criminal penalties for using marijuana.

Congress in 1951 made the minimum penalty for possessing marijuana two years imprisonment for a first offense, five years imprisonment for a second offense, and ten years imprisonment for a third and subsequent offenses, along with a $20,000 fine. Selling marijuana had a minimum penalty of five years imprisonment for a first offense with ten years imprisonment for a second or subsequent offense. Selling marijuana to a minor had a minimum penalty of ten years imprisonment. Except for first time possession offenders, parole and probation were not allowed in marijuana cases.

Marijuana enforcement increased in the late 1960s. In 1965, there were 18,815 arrested for violating state marijuana laws and 523 arrested for violating Federal marijuana laws. This compared to 188,682 arrested for violating state marijuana laws and 2,082 arrested for violating Federal marijuana laws in 1970.

Many began believing the penalties for marijuana laws were too harsh. Judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement handled marijuana cases more leniently. 24 states reduced the penalties for marijuana violations. The Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws created model legislation making all drugs, not just marijuana, as misdemeanors.

In 1972, 42 states and the D.C, had made possession of at least small amounts of marijuana as misdemeanors with 4 other states allowing the courts to sentence marijuana users as misdemeanor offenders.

A survey of prosecutors found 31% would not prosecute marijuana used in private groups, 29% would offer informal probation instead of prosecuting, and some would consider several factors before prosecuting a marijuana case, such as prior record, amount of marijuana found, the family situation of the accused, etc.

A survey of Judges found 13% would incarcerate an adult for possession marijuana and 4% would incarcerate a minor.

A survey found 51% of adults and 48% of young people thought marijuana should be handled through the medical system, 37% of adults and 20% of young people thought it should be handled by the courts, 11% of both adults and young people thought it was not a problem, and 5% of adults and 20% of young people had no opinion.

The Commission recommended discouraging the use of marijuana, concentrating efforts on heavy users; removing criminal penalties for private possession and casual distributing for no or nominal remuneration of marijuana; retaining Federal law on public marijuana possession, cultivating, distributing, or selling in public and setting the fines at $100; making disorderly conduct from marijuana intoxication punishable by 60 days or less imprisonment and/or a$100 fine; operating a vehicle under the influence would be punishable by one year or less imprisonment and/or a fine of $1,000 or less and suspension of drivers license for 180 days or less; a having a person influence the influence of marijuana be civilly liable for any resulting harm or damage.

The Commission recommended increased evaluation of medical uses of marijuana in cases of glaucoma, caner, migraines, and alcoholism.