Appointment of Abrams to Public Diplomacy Commission Shows President Biden’s Close Ties to the CIA
In September 1998, Desiree A. Ferdinand gave a sworn deposition, in a case filed with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts, detailing the career of her father, Colonel Albert V. Carone, an army intelligence officer in World War II who she claimed was a CIA liaison with organized crime.
Ferdinand testified in a civil suit brought against the CIA and then-Vice President and former CIA Director George H. W. Bush (and others) by Army Private William M. Tyree, Jr., who claimed he was involved in a drug-smuggling operation from Colombia and was then framed for the murder of his wife.
In her testimony, Ferdinand recounted secrets about her father, including his involvement in arms and drug smuggling to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s through the airport in Mena, Arkansas, in an operation overseen by then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton.
Ferdinand identified another key figure in the Iran-Contra affair—Elliott Abrams—as a CIA agent, saying that her father had worked with him.
In July, President Joe Biden nominated Abrams to a bipartisan advisory commission on public diplomacy, which is devoted to spreading propaganda. During the Trump administration, Abrams served as a special envoy to Iran and Venezuela where he promoted regime-change operations directed against socialist leader Nicholas Maduro.
Journalist Jefferson Morley characterized Abrams as the equivalent of neo-conservative royalty—his wife was the daughter of Norman Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary magazine, a mouthpiece for hawkish neo-conservatives.
In 1991, Abrams pleaded guilty for withholding information about arms smuggling to the Contras, earning him two misdemeanor counts, two years’ probation and 100 hours of community service—though his crimes were later pardoned by President George H. W. Bush.
The secret Iran-Contra operation, which took place during Abrams’ time as an assistant secretary of state in the Reagan administration, involved funding anti-communist rebels in Nicaragua known as the Contras, using the proceeds from weapon sales to Iran despite the congressional ban on such funding contained in the Boland Amendment.
To bypass the Boland Amendment, Abrams took payments from the Sultan of Brunei, a petroleum potentate from South Asia, and passed them to Contra leaders who used terrorist methods in trying to sabotage Nicaragua’s socialist Sandinista government, which won legitimate elections in 1984.
To further help fund the Contras, Abrams protected a drug-trafficking operation headed by Honduran General José Bueso Rosa, a CIA asset who ran an infamous death squad (Battalion 316), which captured, tortured and executed some 200 suspected leftists.
Additionally, Abrams helped cover up U.S. support for large-scale war crimes in Guatemala, and for the December 1981 El Mozote massacre in El Salvador, where the U.S.-trained Atlácatl Battalion massacred more than 800 civilians—the largest mass killing in Latin American history.
In a July 1982 certification hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Abrams downplayed the El Mozote massacre, describing it as “an incident which is at least being significantly misused, at the very best, by the [leftist] guerrillas.”
A decade later, Abrams told The Washington Post that “the administration’s record in El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement”; he repeated the same thing during a confirmation hearing in 2019 when he was grilled by Ilhan Omar (D-MN).
Doberman Pinscher School of Diplomacy
True to form, as a member of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, Abrams supported a coup attempt directed against Venezuela’s leftist leader Hugo Chávez in 2002. Then in 2006, he helped precipitate a civil war between Hamas and Fatah when the Bush administration would not accept Hamas’s victory in elections in Gaza.
Writing in CounterPunch, former CIA analyst Melvin Goodman called Abrams a “Cold War functionary remnant from a sad era.” Branko Marcetic in Jacobin called him “one of America’s worst living human rights abusers,” while career foreign service officer Frank McNeil said that Abrams practices the “Doberman Pinscher school of diplomacy.”
Biden’s Commitment to the CIA
The latter would be consistent with Abrams’ background in the CIA, an agency with a history of subverting diplomacy and fomenting violent coups, civil wars and regime change.
Biden’s appointment of the old CIA veteran to a prestigious commission shows Biden’s commitment not only to neo-conservatism but also to securing the interests of the CIA.
This commitment was seen last year when Biden refused to declassify 5,000 critical documents on the assassination of JFK, which researchers believe incriminate the CIA.
Biden has also bolstered funding for the CIA’s propaganda arm, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and helped turn Ukraine into a CIA playground, using an energy company that placed his son on its board as a front to funnel weapons to right-wing and neo-Nazi-dominated militias that have terrorized the people of eastern Ukraine since 2014.
Biden’s support for the CIA during his presidency is not surprising given that, when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate as a “29-year-old kid” in 1972, Biden was mentored by W. Averell Harriman, the former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union who supported CIA covert operations throughout his long diplomatic career.
In 1981, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Security and Terrorism, Biden advocated locking up CIA whistleblower Philip Agee, whose 1975 book Inside the Company: CIA Diary identified some 250 officers, front companies and foreign agents working for the United States. Biden also collaborated with CIA Director William J. Casey in 1980 in promoting legislation that banned graymailing, a tactic used in leaker trials in which classified documents are requested by the defense during discovery to pressure the government into dropping its case.
In his memoir On the Run (1987), Philip Agee wrote that “Joseph Biden, like [Barry] Goldwater [conservative Senator from Arizona and 1964 presidential candidate and] a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a new law to stop my revelations by criminalizing the exposure of undercover intelligence officers.”
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was supposed to provide oversight of CIA covert operations but in reality came to function as a rubber stamp.
Among other things, it failed to (1) adequately probe into the CIA’s assassination of Frank Olson, a CIA biochemist who helped run germ warfare experiments at a secret army laboratory in Fort Detrick, Maryland; (2) acquiesced to the CIA’s lies about its subversion in Angola; and (3) covered up the CIA’s support for narco-traffickers in Latin America and Afghanistan.
In the early 1980s, after complaints by a Delaware citizen, Biden launched an investigation into Summit Aviation Corp., a Middletown, Delaware, company owned by Richard “Kip” DuPont that ferried bombs and guns to the Nicaraguan Contras in support of CIA operations, but never released the findings.
This exemplified Biden’s participation in the cover-up of the Iran-Contra scandal alongside Elliott Abrams and Biden’s function as a “Company Man”—which continues to this day.
Desiree A. Ferdinand, Deposition for case before United States District Court of Massachusetts, September 29, 1998, videotaped by Gary Farnsworth of Audio Video Documentation Services, Albuquerque, New Mexico, provided to the author by Peter Osborne. ↑
The Lawyers’ Committee for International Human Rights, Americas Watch, and Helsinki Watch collaborated on a report in the mid-1980s that charged Abrams with “undermining the purpose of the human rights bureau in the State Department.” ↑
Biden claimed around this time that the CIA “housed probably the most intelligent people that work in government; among the best and the brightest the government has to offer,” and was the key to “establishing world peace.” ↑
Biden’s career had long been supported by the DuPont family, which was like royalty in Delaware. Biden even lived for a period in an old DuPont mansion. ↑