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The CIA in Australia – Part 5

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                     Part 5 of a 6 part series
               Watching Brief, PRNS, November 1986

Jane Lanbrook:  Hello and welcome to the second part of Watching
Brief for this week.  I'm Jane Lanbrook and today we conclude our
five part series on the CIA's role in Australian and New Zealand
politics.  Last week, in part 4 of the series, we looked at the
CIA's attempt in 1983 to split the New Zealand Federation of Labor
through the activities of the short-lived Labor Committee for
Pacific Affairs.   This move to split the unions was seen as a last
ditch attempt to destroy Labor movement unity at a time when the
Labor Party, with is anti-nuclear policy, was heavily favoured to
win the 1984 elections.  This week we look at attempts being made
to destroy the Lange Government against the background of
heightened American interests in the South Pacific and the CIA's
previous record of interference in New Zealand politics.  Here with
the final instalment is producer Tony Douglas.

Tony Douglas:  Since the Lange Government announced its nuclear
ships ban it has been publicly pressured by the United States and
its allies to reverse the policy.  But are there indications that
the Reagan administration having failed to change the New Zealand
government's policy are planning, through the CIA, to change the
government?  One person who thinks so is former CIA agent Ralph
McGehee who visited New Zealand recently. 

Ralph McGehee:  I've certainly seen indications that it is
involving itself.  I can't state 100 percent but certainly I have
seen indications.  The first thing you do, of course, you create an
enemy and all over the United States and over New Zealand you see
the editorials all saying that `the Russians are coming to the
South Pacific'.  You have to create an enemy so you can discredit
anybody who is opposed to your policy. So with this strong thing
that `the Russians are coming' then anyone who is soft on nuclear
issues, nuclear free issues, and soft on defence can be labelled 
`pro-communist', `pro-Soviet' or `communists' themselves.   Then
you have the attempts to penetrate the media.  USIS, the United
States Information Service, has been sending back a stream of media
types, academicians, politicians and Labor types to the United
States for red carpet treatment and when they come back their
opinions towards American policy has changed for the better, if you
will, and one would suspect the hand of the CIA in some of that. 
You have the attempts to establish Labor unions in New Zealand,
right-wing think tanks, united with the issues that `the Soviets
are coming.'  Now if I were relating the scenario for the elections
next year what I would do is to attempt to split the Labor party by
all various techniques, dirty tricks, forging documents and leaking
documents.  Before I left New Zealand, four documents of the Lange
Government had been leaked to the media.  One of the documents
related to its policy towards unions, a very divisive document. 
Well, you have the same thing in the Whitlam overthrow.  Documents
were being leaked all over the place and it was instrumental in the
removal of two Cabinet ministers.  Well, the same thing seems to be
happening in New Zealand.  But as the elections approaches you can
anticipate forged documents being released, poisoned pen letters to
further divide the Labor Party, to divide the Labor Party and to
divide and conquer if you want.  There have been reports that the
National party, the opposition party, has gone to the CIA for
funding and this is very standard part of a political operation. 
If I was doing it, I would split the Labor party, fund the National
party and maybe just before the elections keep `the Russians are
coming' thesis going to keep the pot boiling.  But just before the
elections, a document would be released that would implicate
prominent members of the Labor party in relations with the Soviet
embassy.  Then, when that's documented with prominent media
coverage, you need media operations... when the elections are held
that document has had an impact on the votes.  Then after the
votes, the election is over, the National party wins, then a
commission is set up to establish the links of the Labor party
members with the Soviet embassy and over a period of two years
nothing develops, it's just a device to deceive public opinion. At
the same time I would try to destroy the peace movement. I would do
that by penetrations of the peace movement who would try to divide
and conquer, who would label effective members of the peace what we call `put on a smith jacket'.  In other words
to say that a person is working for the police or for the
intelligence services, just to discredit him and destroy his
effectiveness.  Or in a case of a parade the peace movement might
call, just at a critical moment, the penetration agent would pull
out the New Zealand flag and burn it to make sure that the media
coverage was all focused on that rather than the real intent of the
peace movement in the parade.  And all the various dirty tricks
would be used to not only destroy the peace movement, to destroy
its credibility, but also to divide the Labor party and to support
the alternative party.

Tony Douglas:  In Mcgehee's scenario the creation of a Russian
threat is the first step in bringing undone the Lange Government
and its nuclear ships ban.  Perhaps this goes a long way to
explaining the story of the mystery nuclear submarine which
appeared inside the territorial waters of the Cook Islands between
the 17th and 21st of February this year (1986) and led to weeks of
speculations, alleged leaks and innuendo in the New Zealand media. 
The Cook Islands, to the northeast of New Zealand, are about four
hours flying time from Auckland.  While the Cook Islands were
granted self-government in 1965 they still rely on New Zealand to
defend them.  The first sighting of the submarine was made by two
Cook Islanders when they were travelling on an inter island flight. 
Three days later there was a second report of sighting by two
Tahitian fishermen.  At this stage, the New Zealand Air Force moved
in and sent two Orion aircraft in search of the submarine.   New
Zealand peace researcher Allan Wilks takes up the story.

Allan Wilks:  It seems that the plane took off at midday that day
and they actually obtained a clearance to fly directly back to New
Zealand.  But then, instead of flying back to New Zealand, they
diverted them through the other side of the island and they started
flying a path back and forth in the area where the submarine had
been seen just that morning and they discovered the submarine
within an hour or two and so they radioed back to New Zealand and
another Orion was sent up and for the next two and a half days they
kept that submarine under continual surveillance and, apparently,
they were dropping sono voi into the sea all the time and the sono
voi picked up the noises of the engines and so on made by the
submarine and from that they were able to recognise it as a nuclear
submarine, because nuclear submarines make different noises than
diesel submarines obviously, and they were also able to identify
the nationality of the submarine.

Tony Douglas:  What kind of technology did they have with this sono
voi, how do they operate and how could they discover it was a
nuclear submarine and identify which nationality it came from?

Allan Wilks:  Well, the sono voi is a cylindrical object which is
dropped from the aircraft and it contains a hydrophone, a
microphone that works in the water, and the hydrophone just picks
up the noises that is made by the engines and the propeller and
then the voi itself has a little radio transmitter and it transmits
those noises back to the aircraft where they listen to them and
tape record them and analyse them on video screens and it's very
obvious that a nuclear submarine is going to sound very different
from a diesel submarine because you sort of get the pounding of the
diesel engines if it is a diesel submarine whereas if you listen to
the noises from pumps and valves and turbines it is a nuclear
submarine.  And then, apparently, different classes of submarines
have quite distinct sound signatures, as they call it, you know,
it's like...if you've got your eyes shut and you listen to cars go
past the chances are that you can tell the difference between the
noise made by a Miner and a Jaguar and the same thing applies to
submarines so it's quite easy to identify a particular noise that
is coming from an American submarine rather than a Russian
submarine and, apparently, that is what happened in this case. 
Initially they were quite positive that they identified the
submarine as an American submarine.  Now, this has never been
admitted publicly but I got it from people in the Cook Islands. 
The Cook Islands government was told three days afterwards by the
New Zealand government that it was an American submarine that had
been detected there.

Tony Douglas:  Soon after a political game of ducks and drags began
in the New Zealand media with much speculation as to the identity
of the submarine.  On March 4, Allan Wilks after putting together
the facts went public claiming that the submarine was probable
American.  This drew a sharp response from the Chief of Defence
Staff, C.U. Jamison, who asked Wilks to produce his evidence.

Allan Wilks:  That was also somewhat unprecedented for the Chief of
Defence Staff to enter into a public debate on his own accord and
he challenged me and demanded that I produced my evidence that it
was an American submarine.  And this was rather interesting because
at that stage I hadn't particularly claimed to have evidence.  I
had simply concluded, from the public information, that it appeared
to be the behaviour one would expect from an American submarine
that was trying to masquerade as a Soviet submarine.  And I heard
afterwards that the reason why the Chief of Defence Staff came out
like that and demanded that I produced my evidence was that he was
trying to track down a suspected leak within the Ministry of
Defence.  He figured that if I was saying that so confidently then
I must have got information from someone within the Ministry of
Defence to the effect that it was an American submarine.

Tony Douglas:  Well, talking of leaks.  All sort of leaks started
to appear in the New Zealand media about it being a Soviet
submarine.  Now, from about what date did these leaks start coming
out that it was a Soviet sub and do we subsequently know where
those leaks came from?

Allan Wilks:  The leaks started coming very soon after we broke the
story.  Maybe I should say a little bit more about the leak.  The
first thing we got here about was that New Zealand aircraft were
searching for a submarine.  And then the story went completely dead
and no journalist offered to pick up one or anything like that and
several days afterwards I decided it was time to start inquiring
about it and that was when we found out that a submarine had indeed
been detected and the government was refusing to say whose it was.
But it was very soon after that one or two journalists started to
be fed what was supposed to be leaks and none of the journalists
have admitted who they were getting the leaks from at all.  They
said that they were getting leaks from `trustworthy sources'. One
journalist said that he got his leak from a `Western embassy' which
was not the United States embassy.  You still haven't thought that
one out.  But the leaks, the alleged leaks got more complicated as
the public story got more complicated too and the final leak was to
the effect that it very definitely was a Russian submarine but the
Chief of Defence Staff did not want journalists to report this
because he didn't want to be seen as pressuring the government on
this issue.

Tony Douglas:  But the New Zealand government was pressured on the
issue.  In fact, Mr Lange changed his position on the submarine
three times in the space of a month.  On March 10, he declared he
knew the identity of the submarine, was prepared to reveal whose
side it was and would deliver a protest to its owner if the Cook
Islands wished to.  Four days later Lange did an about face saying
he wouldn't reveal its identity.  And on April 7, just over three
weeks later, said that he didn't know its identity but intended to
find out.  Why the change of story?  Allan Wilks again.

Allan Wilks:  The Prime Minister's office, I'm pretty sure, was
initially told that it was an American submarine.  The military
were very worried about this, that they were upsetting and
embarrassing an ally by having discovered the submarine and so they
were searching for ways of getting out of this admission. 
Subsequently, and I think the United States government obliged by
coming up with a denial that they had a submarine anywhere near
that place at that particular time, and of course the United States
was doing something quite unusual there because it's like nuclear
weapons the United States doesn't normally admit to where their
submarines are at sea at anytime.  It's the old `neither confirm or
deny' policy so that allowed them to introduce the confusion. 
Whether some particular pressure was put on the Prime Minister to
change his story there or not, but it's certainly quite remarkable
the change that took place.  At one stage, he was sort of joking
about the whole business and saying that he was considering going
against his own defence people and revealing the nationality of the
submarine and then suddenly he made that change and said he
wouldn't say anything and then the other change was when, and this
was a more gradual change, when the government started to say, you
know, `maybe there wasn't any submarine there at all.  Maybe we
just detected a fail or something or other like that.'  And that
case, that change came about because of a report from the
Australian Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO).  Now, JIO as a
matter of cause, apparently, is to see all our tape recordings and
so on of submarines that are picked by Orions and on this occasion
they analysed this reporting and they concluded, so it seems
according to the leaks that have come out, they concluded that it
was certainly not an American submarine and probably not a
submarine at all.  I would say that they have had the pressure put
on them by the United States to diffuse the story.

Tony Douglas:  I'm just having a look at the assessment of the
Joint Intelligence office in Australia that they probably sighted
a whale.  Does that hold a lot of credibility? I mean, is there a
possibility that there wasn't in fact a submarine there at all?

Allan Wilks:  Apparently it does happen that if you are using what
they call an active sonar in which you create an underwater noise
and then you listen for the echoes of that noise coming of objects
that are in the ocean, that the echo of a whale can sound quite
similar to the echo of a submarine.  But in this case, it was not
active sonar that they were using.  The fact that they identified
the engine noise and all that sort of thing indicates that they
were using passive sonar, the kind of sonar in which you're simply
listening and there is no way you can mistake the song of a love
sick whale for the sound of a diesel engine or a nuclear power

Tony Douglas:  Of course there were other elements to this story. 
The Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Sir Tom Davis, a former
employee of the United States Army and strong supporter of the
Americans blacked out news coverage of the submarine in the Cook
Islands from February 25 for 51 days and refused to comment even
though the Cook Islands territorial waters had been violated.  The
leader of the opposition National party in New Zealand, Jim Bolger,
refused even to be briefed on the issue.  And the National party
disarmament spokesperson, Dough Graham, checked with Cook Islands
MP Vincent Ingraman about the identity of the submarine and when
told it was American made no further comment.  While the submarine
episode appears to be an obvious set up what about the rest of
McGehee's scenario?  Do members of the New Zealand government see
it coming through as well?  Here is government member and party wit
Fran Wall.

Fran Wall:  Oh, yes, I think there is a lot of truth in what he
sees.  The American diplomatic presence in New Zealand has been
considerably strengthened in terms of quality if you want.  Since
this has happened they now have a professional ambassador there
whereas prior to that it was a political appointment and the man
they have there is a very good propagandist and in fact has a
background which indicates that they are taking it seriously. 
There is a stream of American visitors through New Zealand,
academics and politicians, who work both publicly and privately to
try to change what we are doing.  There is also a stream of New
Zealanders invited over to the United States at the U.S. government
expense who are briefed and given the American point of view on
what we are doing.

Tony Douglas:  Much of the concern centres on the appointment of
career diplomat Paul Cleveland as United States ambassador to New
Zealand in January 1986.  We tried to interview the ambassador for
this program but were told he was unavailable to talk to the
Australian media.  Perhaps that's not surprising seen he was a
protege of Marshall Green who was American ambassador to Australia
during the Whitlam years and whose role in Australia in 1975,
Greece in 1967, Indonesia in 1965 and South Vietnam in 1963 have
been commented on in an earlier part of these series.  Cleveland
himself worked under Green in Indonesia in 1965 just before the CIA
inspired coup by the military.  According to Cleveland, Green was,
and I quote, `one of America's greatest professional diplomats and
I learnt an infinite amount from him', unquote.  Cleveland was also
Green's Special Assistant at the East Asian Desk in Washington from
1970 to 1973.  Since then, Cleveland has held several senior
postings in South Korea so he has much experience in representing
United States interests in politically sensitive areas.  But how do
government members feel about his appointment.  Fran Wall again.

Fran Wall:  New Zealand is aware of that connection and perhaps is
slightly different here in that you don't need a coup to overthrow
a government, you need an election loss, after all the Americans
did say they would change our nuclear policy, our anti-nuclear
policy, and having failed to change that I suppose it's logical to
think that they would have an interest in a change of government
here indeed.  Firstly, Mr Cleveland is a very active propagandist
and seems to be very caught up in his craft so I would imagine that
the decision to send him here was a deliberate one.

Tony Douglas:  Is that propaganda aimed at the New Zealand public
in general or is it aimed at certain powerful groupings inside the
bureaucracy or the New Zealand military or the New Zealand
conservative opposition?

Fran Wall:  It is aimed at both actually and the public is...there
has been a very high rate of influx of American visitors who have
come around the country and done lecture tours and talked to
various groups and given media interviews.  These have included
politicians and academics.  They are obviously aimed at changing
public opinion on softening our nuclear issues and, in fact, I
recall and I can't remember whether it was the ambassador or
another embassy official, somebody actually did state at one stage
that that was their intention, that they wanted to inform or
educate the New Zealand public on our policy.  However, they also
have been aiming at specific opinion leaders picking memo through
a very active program of exchange in the opposite direction and
they take journalists over to the United States, they take
politicians over, trade union leaders and run them through a
briefing process over there.

Tony Douglas:  Which organisations in New Zealand have rather been
hosting these visits or have been producing this kind of pro-
American propaganda?

Fran Wall:  Well, the visits are arranged through the embassy.  I
mean, they have a politician over, he is here as an American
visitor with that sort of status.  There have been others though,
for example, there is a newly apparent rise in the fundamentalist
right in New Zealand and they have very actively hooked them to the
American Law majority type of movement and they have brought
visitors over to New Zealand and their criticisms of the government
have not simply been on the so-called moral issues or lifestyle
issues but also, of course, on our foreign policy as well.

Tony Douglas:  Nobody should be surprised that the New Zealand
Labor party is aware of these machinations.  After all, the United
States involved itself in the last New Zealand elections. 
Australian journalist Denis Freney looks at the record.

Denis Freney:  Yes, well, I mean there was open intervention there
by the Americans.  I mean, the ambassador, they had a whole range
of official visitors, people like Vernon Walters who is now
Reagan's ambassador to the United Nations.  But he was a former
Deputy Director of the CIA and in fact was Acting CIA Director when
the coup took place in Chile.  And he came out and they had
admirals coming out and so on.  All making statements trying to
sort of say, you know, `this is the end of our relationship.  You
can't vote for Labor.'  In the lead-up during the election campaign
there was open political pressure, there were leaked stories in the
media, there was enormous amount of pressure to at least come in
politically behind the National regime.  On the other hand, there
is also suggestions, and they have not actually been proven but
suggestions, that the National party has been funded by the CIA or
if not by the CIA then by U.S. government institutions.

Tony Douglas:  The accusations of CIA funding for the National
party go back a long way.  Fran Wall looks back to the watershed
year of 1975.

Fran Wall:  There was a very intense but effective television
advertising campaign run in 1975 at the time of the defeat of the
New Zealand Labor government which was purported to have been
funded by an American-based agency with connections to the
intelligence world.  And, of course, the time the New Zealand
government was thrown out was also the same time the Australian
Labor government was overturned and I know that there has been a
lot of unrest in Australia about the reasons for that.

Tony Douglas:  But back to the present day, how do you deal with
the destabilisation campaign that is happening now?

Fran Wall:  I think you deal with it by having a public that is
aware of what's going on and it seems to me that there is quite a
high level of public consciousness of the desire of other states to
change our policy.  Perhaps the mistakes the Americans are making
is in assuming that our policy is in fact something that has been
sort of rushed through and placed on the New Zealand public by the
Labor government.  That in fact is not the case, it's totally the
opposite.  It is a very widely supported policy and has been for a
long time and I believe it is one of the reasons why the government
changed in the last elections and why Labor was voted in.

Jane Lanbrook:  That was the fifth of our series on the CIA and its
role in Australia and New Zealand politics.  Appearing on the
program was former CIA agent Ralph McGehee, New Zealand government
member Fran Wall, New Zealand peace movement researcher Allan Wilks
and Australian journalist Denis Freney.  These programs were
produced by Tony Douglas.  Well, that's all on Watching Brief this
week.  if you'd like more information or cassette copies of the
program or if you've got information that may be of interest
contacts us on Public Radio News Services, P.O.Box 103, Fitzroy,
Victoria 3065.  Or call us on Melbourne 417 7304.   Watching Brief
is produced by Ian Wood and Tony Douglas for the Public
Broadcasting Network of Australia.  I'm Jane Lanbrook and I hope
you tune in again next week for Watching Brief, Public Radio's
National Environment Program.

Written by nuganhand

September 1, 2008 at 3:09 pm

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