Cold War Spying: 1948
March 5, 1948: General Lucius D. Clay, chief of American occupation forces in Berlin, sends a cable to Washington saying he has a gut feeling that a Soviet attack on Berlin could come at any minute. The Pentagon leaks the cable.
March 6, 1948: President Truman goes before Congress warning that the Soviet Union and its agents are threatening disaster. He demands and wins immediate approval of the Marshall Plan. Read more about the Marshall Plan in our post titled St. Patrick’s Day 1948.
The plan offers billions of dollars to the free world to repair the damage done by war and to create an American economic and political barricade against the Soviets. The US will help rebuild 19 capitals — 16 in Europe and 3 in Asia — using an American blueprint. George Kennan and James Forrestal are among the plan’s principal authors. Allen Dulles serves as a consultant.
A secret codicil gives the CIA the capability to conduct political warfare. It lets the agency skim uncounted millions of dollars from the Marshall Plan. But how?
After Congress approves the Marshall Plan, it appropriates about $13.7 billion over 5 years. In addition, any nation receiving aid from the plan has to set aside an equivalent sum in its own currency. Five percent of those funds — $685 million — are made available to the CIA through the plan’s overseas offices. This guarantees that wherever the plan flourishes in Europe and in Asia there will be a fertile environment for American spy craft.
Secret funds are the heart of secret operations. The CIA now has an unfailing source of untraceable cash. The scheme remains secret until after the cold war ends.
March 31 – April 1, 1948: The Russians give the first orders forbidding the entrance of military trains into — and the exporting of freight out of — Berlin without their approval.
May 4, 1948: George Kennan sends a top secret paper to about 20 people in the State Department, the White House, and the Pentagon. He proclaims “the inauguration of organized political warfare” and calls for the creation of a new clandestine service to conduct covert operations worldwide. He states clearly that the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, and the CIA’s covert operations are all interlocking parts of a grand strategy against Stalin.
The money that the CIA siphons from the Marshall Plan will finance a network of false fronts to recruit foreign agents. These foreigners, under CIA control, are to create underground political groups in the free nations of Europe. The underground is to spur “all-out liberation movements” behind the Iron Curtain.
May 19, 1948: Congressmen Richard M. Nixon’s and Karl Mundt’s bill to “protect the United States against un-American and subversive activities” — the Mundt-Nixon Bill — passes in the House by a vote of 319 to 58. The bill, also known as the Internal Security Act, makes it a crime to attempt to establish a totalitarian dictatorship by any means. In effect, this makes the existence of th Communist Party a violation of the law.
June 1948: Washington Witch Hunt by Bert Andrews, decrying the recent abuses of civil liberties by Red hunters, is published by Random House.
June 18, 1948: Kennan’s plans are approved in a secret order from the National Security Council. NSC Directive 10/2 calls for covert operations to attack the Soviets around the world. The strike force Kennan conceives to carry out the secret war is called the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). It’s a cover placed within the CIA. Its chief, though, is to report to the secretaries of defense and state because the director of central intelligence is so weak.
State and Defense differ in their objectives. State wants to carry out “rumor-spreading, bribery, the organization of non-communist fronts.” Forrestal and the Pentagon want “guerilla movements . . . underground armies . . . sabotage and assassination.”
June 23, 1948: At Frank Wisner’s urging, the Western powers institute a new German currency. In immediate response, the Soviets blockade Berlin. The United States mounts an airlift to beat the blockade.
June 28, 1948: Yugoslavia’s Communist Party, under Marshal Tito, is expelled from the Cominform, becoming the first Soviet satellite nation to break free of Moscow’s rule.
June 28, 1948: The total blockade of West Berlin begins. Over the next 11 months, the United States and Britain will airlift food, medicine, and fuel to help maintain the city and the well-being of its occupants.
July 20, 1948: After a 13 month investigation, a New York grand jury returns indictments against 12 members of the National Board of the Communist Party, who are charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States.
July 28, 1948: Elizabeth Bentley, known as the Red Spy Queen, testifies before a Senate subcommittee and, 3 days later, to HUAC. She concedes that she was a courier to a Washington-based Soviet spy ring during the war. She also implicates Whittaker Chambers, the man she replaced.
August 25, 1948: In what has become known as Confrontation Day, Whittaker Chambers testifies before HUAC regarding his earlier acquaintance with Alger Hiss. Hiss looks on.
September 1, 1948: Frank Wisner takes charge of American covert action. His mission is to roll the Soviets back to Russia’s old boundaries and free Europe from Communist control. Covert operations become the agency’s dominant force, remaining so for 20 years.
December 15, 1948: Former State Department official Alger Hiss is indicted on 2 counts of perjury for denying his role in passing classified documents to the Russians. His first trial ends on July 8, 1949 with a hung jury.
Late 1948-Early 1949: Planning begins for Radio Free Europe
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