Center for Strategic and International Studies, extract from The "Terrorism" Industry

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This page reproduces an extract from The "Terrorism" Industry: The Experts and Institutions That Shape Our View of Terror by Edward S. Herman and Gerry O'Sullivan, New York: Pantheon, 1989. It is reproduced by permission of Edward S. Herman.

CSIS is the most important of the terrorism industry institutes. It is as affluent as Heritage, it places more emphasis on terrorism, and it has more - and more prestigious - experts in the field. Its head, David Abshire, succeeded in the late 1970s and early 1980s in bringing in Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, and Zbigniew Brzezinski as counselors-in-residence. Abshire himself was made ambassador to NATO in the Reagan years, and was brought home to the United States to handle the media in the administration's effort to contain the Iran-contra scandal. Anne Armstrong, head of the CSIS board, has been chair of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Ray Cline, former deputy director of the CIA, became a high official of the organization. A prestigious corporate board in the 1980s also helped CSIS increase its annual budget to more than $14 million by 1986.

CSIS's wide appeal to the corporate community is evident in its funding base. In 1986, the organization received contributions from 126 domestic corporations, including 68 Fortune 500 companies, as well as 27 foreign corporations. It also obtained grants from 92 foundations, most of them corporate-based and 25 identifiable by corporate names (e.g., Alcoa Foundation, Exxon Foundation). Among the domestic corporate givers are 8 oil companies and 26 companies heavily involved in supplying weapons to the Pentagon (including virtually all the major weapons suppliers). [1] The corporate establishment and the military-industrial complex in particular clearly find CSIS a very worthy investment.

CSIS serves this corporate constituency directly, as well as indirectly through general analyses and policy stUdies. Thus in 1981, Avco Corporation, a diversified company with a number of multimillion-dollar contracts with Saudi Arabia, and a CSIS patron, helped fund a $125,000 study on the political stability of the Saudi regime. David Long, then director of the State Department's Office of Analysis for the Near East and South Asia in the Bureau of Intelligence, coauthored the CSIS report with John Shaw of Booz, Allen and Hamilton International, a management consulting firm. But the coauthored study was in reality little more than a sanitized version of a State Department report written by Long in December 1980. The earlier internal and still classified study had made some strongly negative statements about the corruption and political and military mismanagement of the ruling family and the destabilizing threat of the abused Shia minority. These were carefully removed from the CSIS version, which portrayed Saudi Arabia as a paragon of stability. Steven Emerson provides an extensive comparison of the two texts, showing the careful excisions of negatives and other changes that make the final document a piece of disinformation.[2] Although 90 percent of the sanitized text was taken from the original Long report, CSIS released the refurbished document in February 1982 as part of its "Washington Papers" on international affairs, describing it as a "major new work." The rewritten and "informally" declassified document was then used to lobby Congress in support of the sale of AWACS missiles to the Saudis, and the Avco Corporation, according to a company spokesperson, used it for "enhanced marketing efforts in Saudi Arabia." [3]

Although the Heritage Foundation makes CSIS look centrist by comparison, this is illusory. CSIS has a strong right-wing bias, and its investigations, conferences, panels, and reports have frequently been well geared to government and right-wing propaganda needs. In the early 1970s, CSIS played an important role in the destabilization of the Allende regime in Chile. Its director of Latin American studies, James Theberge, claimed to have uncovered a clandestine Korean communist guerrilla training camp at which Chilean leftists learned how to intimidate the "democratic opposition [which they allegedly did] during the electoral campaign of March 1973." These fabrications were planted in Chilean newspapers and military journals, all attributed to an institute in Washington, D.C. Fred Landis pointed out that "it served the CIA well to have such non-news circulated by a friendly 'expert' and laundered through a reputable news organization like UPI." [4]

Another CIA propaganda theme, that the Soviet Union planned to establish a submarine base in Chile and otherwise threatened the Caribbean, was also disseminated through CSIS, in Theberge's books 'Soviet Sea Power in the Caribbean' and 'Russia in the Caribbean', and in 'The Stability of the Caribbean', edited by Robert Moss. Landis points out: "Although these books were not published until late 1973, El Mercurio published excerpts on February 28, 1973 - early enough to have an impact on the elections, but too late to disprove the CIA fabrications." [5]

CSIS organized a conference on the Red threat to Italy, which was held just before the Italian elections of 1976. The panel included William Colby and Ray Cline, both from the CIA; John Connally, a member of the Foreign Intelligence Oversight Board; Clare Booth Luce, former ambassador to Italy; and Claire Sterling. The composition of this group points up CSIS's close ties to government, its "action" mission, and its lack of connection to anything resembling objective scholarship. To this group, the Italian scene presented a "national security" threat to the United States and called for forceful intervention.' [6]

One day after the CSIS conference, an article coauthored by Sterling and Ledeen, entitled "Italy's Russian Sugar Daddies,' appeared in the 'New Republic', claiming that the Soviets were secretly funding the Italian Communist party through a network of import-export businesses. This essay, reprinted in the CIA-funded 'Rome Daily American' and in 'II Borghese', the official organ of the neofascist Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), was distributed to reporters from the United States at the request of the U.S. embassy.[7] It served to divert attention from the fact that the United States itself was secretly funding centrist and right-wing parties in a massive interventionary operation.[8]

More recently, and illustrative of the continued unscholarly, propagandistic, and far-right bent of CSIS, in 1984 a CS1S panel was organized on the alleged KGB-Bulgarian plot to kill the pope. Long-time CIA official Paul Henze as well as Arnaud de Borchgrave, Robert Kupperman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Max Kampelman, Ray Cline, and Marvin Kalb were members. The panel took the then still unadjudicated case as proven, assailed the U.S. government for not proclaiming its truth, and peddled some extremely foolish rightwing claims of Soviet influence over the Western media.[9] This was a propaganda exercise of no intellectual content, designed to exploit the belief in Soviet guilt that had been encouraged by the U.S. government, terrorism experts Sterling, Henze, and others, and the mass media. The fact that CSIS would appoint Arnaud de Borchgrave - far-right journalist, editor of the Moon-owned paper and magazine Washington Times and Insight on the News, and collaborator with Birchite John Rees - an "adjunct scholar" tells us all we need to know about CSIS's concept of "scholarship."

CSIS has been an activist propaganda agency in two senses. Its propaganda, as we have seen, has been closely geared to establishment and right-wing political demands. But its staff has also included a number of front-line operatives in political work and policy making. Abshire has been an ambassador and media liaison worker for the government. Ledeen was an active participant in Italian politics in the early Reagan years and played a role as go-between in the Iran-contra affair. Ray Cline has had strong ties to WACL and far-right governments that have been active participants in the terrorism of the past decade. Cline was also deeply involved in Bush's political drive in 1980, in which "active duty agents of the Central Intelligence Agency worked for the Bush political campaign" (according to an affidavit of intelligence veteran Angelo Codevilla), in violation of the Hatch Act. [...] [10]

The revolving door between CSIS and the U.S. intelligence agencies has been busy, and Fred Landis's designation of the organization as an "ivory tower for old spooks" is apt. Ledeen, Walter Laqueur, and Edward Luttwak, another CSIS stalwart, have had very close relationships with Israel and MOSSAD, as well as U.S. government officials. CSIS is a truly "multinational" member of the terrorism industry.

The semipermanent terrorism experts of CSIS have been Ledeen, Laqueur, Kupperman, and Cline, but Yonah Alexander, Claire Sterling, Paul Henze, Arnaud de Borchgrave, and Robert Moss have been occasional participants in CSIS's activities bearing on terrorism. We noted earlier that the spectrum of terrorism opinion may be divided into three categories: (1) establishment moderate; (2) establishment far-right; and (3) critical and dissident. In this spectrum, of the four semipermanent and five transitory experts at CSIS, none fit category (3), only two (Laqueur and possibly Kupperman) fit category (1), and the seven others fall into category (2) right-wing extremist. The CSIS is not a "moderate" organization by this measure, or others noted above.


  1. These data are taken from the CSIS Annual Report for 1986.
  2. Steven Emerson, The American House of Saud (New York: Franklin Watts, 1985), pp. 230-37.
  3. Ibid., p. 228.
  4. Fred Landis, 'Georgetown's Ivory Tower for Old Spooks' Inquiry, Sept. 30, 1979, p. 8.
  5. Fred Landis, "The Best-Selling Lies of 1980;' Inquiry, Dec. 29, 1980, p. 22.
  6. Landis, "Georgetown's Ivory Tower," p. 7.
  7. Ibid., p. 8.
  8. CIA: The Pike Report (London: Spokesmen Books, 1977), esp. pp. 192-94; Herman and Brodhead, Bulgarian Connection, p. 73.
  9. See "The Georgetown Disinformation Center;' in Herman and Brodhead, Bulgarian Connection, pp. 245-47.
  10. Conason, "Company Man;' p. 113. Conason, who quotes from the Codevilla affidavit, notes the lack of press interest in this serious law violation.