US state-sponsored terrorism
The CIA's neo-Nazis
By MARTIN A. LEE
(25 May 2000) -- IN MARCH of this year, on the 62nd anniversary of Nazi Germany's annexation of Austria, several hundred neo-Nazis paraded through a Turkish neighborhood in Berlin, shouting anti-foreigner, anti-European and anti-Semitic slogans. They also sang the banned ultra-nationalist verses of the German national anthem at a rally organized by the National Democratic Party (NPD), the most radical of several German far-right political parties. The NPD called for the demonstration to show its support for Joerg Haider, the charismatic fuehrer of the Austrian Freedom party, a party that had recently entered that country's national governing coalition.
Compared to Haider's suit-and-tie fascism, the German NPD represents a much rougher brand of extremism. Several NPD leaders have served -- or are currently doing -- jail time for denying the Holocaust. The NPD's closest US ally is Dr. William Pierce, author of the notorious hate novel, The Turner Diaries, which the FBI has called "the blueprint for the Oklahoma City bombing." In 1998, Pierce traveled to Germany to attend the NPD's national convention. While NPD candidates have won a few local council seats in Brandenburg and Saxony, the party's involvement in electoral politics primarily functions as a legal cover for grass-roots neo-Nazi cadre-building -- with an emphasis on direct action, street confrontations and physical attacks against immigrants and anti-fascists. NPD campaign rallies typically resemble skinhead rock concerts crammed with rowdy youth.
The CIA's former friend
ON MAY DAY, the NPD tried to take its game onto the turf of the Left by staging "pro-worker" demonstrations in several German cities, including Berlin, where the star speaker was veteran neo-Nazi agitator Friedhelm Busse. Formerly one of the youngest members of the Hitler Youth, Busse, 71, roused the crowd with anti-foreigner and anti-American vitriol that elicited loud cheers from shaven-head teenagers and 20-somethings who waved illegal imperial German black-and-white flags. Violence erupted after Busse ended his pep talk with a line from an old Nazi song: "We're marching for Hitler day and night because of the need for freedom and bread."
Busse's status as an elder statesman among hard-core neo-Nazis in Germany is all the more troubling given that his checkered past includes a controversial stint with the US Central Intelligence Agency. Back in the early 1950s, Busse joined the Bund Deutscher Jugend (BDJ), an elite, CIA-trained paramilitary organization composed largely of ex-Hitler Youth, Wehrmacht and SS personnel in West Germany. Busse and his fellow Bundists were primed to go underground and engage in acts of sabotage and resistance in the event of a Soviet invasion. But instead of focusing on foreign enemies, Busse's "stay behind" unit proceeded to draw up a death list that included future Chancellor Willi Brandt and other leading Social Democrats (West Germany's main opposition party), who were marked for liquidation in case of an ill-defined national security emergency.
The Bund's cover was blown in October 1952, when the West German press got wind that US intelligence was backing a neo-Nazi death squad. Embarrassed State Department officials, who tried to cover up the full extent of American involvement with the youth group, admitted privately that the scandal had resulted in "a serious loss of US prestige."
An abhorrent legacy
WEST GERMAN "stay behind" forces quickly regrouped with a helping hand of the CIA, which recruited thousands of ex-Nazis and fascists to serve as Cold War espionage assets. "It was a visceral business of using any bastard as long as he was anti-Communist," explained Harry Rostizke, ex-head of the CIA's Soviet desk. "The eagerness to enlist collaborators meant that you didn't look at their credentials too closely."
The key player on the German side of this unholy espionage alliance was Gen. Reinhard Gehlen, who served as Adolf Hitler's top anti-Soviet spy. During World War II, Gehlen was in charge of German military-intelligence operations on the eastern front.
As the war drew to a close, Gehlen sensed that the United States and USSR would soon be at loggerheads. He surrendered to the Americans and touted himself as someone who could make a decisive contribution to the impending struggle against the Communists. Gehlen offered to share the vast information archive he had accumulated on the USSR.
US spymasters took the bait.
With a mandate to continue spying on the East just as he had been doing before, Gehlen re-established his espionage network at the behest of American intelligence. Incorporated into the fledgling CIA in the late 1940s, the Gehlen "Org," as it was called, became the CIA's main eyes and ears in Central Europe.
Despite his promise not to recruit unrepentant Nazis, Gehlen rolled out the welcome mat for thousands of Gestapo, Wehrmacht and SS veterans. Some of the worst war criminals imaginable -- including cold-blooded bureaucrats who oversaw the administrative apparatus of the Holocaust -- found employment in the Org. Headquartered near Munich, the Org subsequently morphed into the Bundesnachtrichtendienst, West Germany's main foreign intelligence service. Gehlen was appointed the first director of the BND in 1955.
While dispensing data to his avid American patrons, Gehlen helped thousands of fascist fugitives escape to safe havens abroad -- often with a wink and a nod from US intelligence.
Friedhelm Busse went on to direct several ultra-right-wing groups in Germany, while another Gehlen protégé, Gerhard Frey, also emerged as a mover-and-shaker in the post-Cold War neo-Nazi scene. A wealthy publisher, Frey currently bankrolls and runs the Deutsche Volksunion (DVU), which was described by US army intelligence as "a neo-Nazi party." During the past two years, the DVU scored double-digit vote totals in state elections in eastern Germany, where the whiplash transition from Communism to capitalism has resulted in high unemployment and widespread social discontent. Embittered by the disappointing reality of German unification, a lost generation of East German youth comprise a Nazi Party in waiting.
Even before Frey formed the DVU in 1971 with the professed objective to "save Germany from Communism," he received behind-the-scenes support from Gehlen, Bonn's powerful spy chief. But when the Cold War ended, the DVU chief abruptly shifted gears and demanded that Germany leave NATO. Frey's newspapers started to run inflammatory articles that denounced the United States and praised Russia as a more suitable partner for reunified Germany. Frey also joined the chorus of neo-fascist leaders who backed Saddam Hussein and condemned the US-led war against Iraq in 1991.
A deal with the devil
IN AMERICAN spy parlance, it is called "blowback" -- the unintended consequences of covert activity kept secret from the US public. The covert recruitment of a Nazi spy network to wage a shadow war against the Soviet Union was the CIA's "original sin," and it ultimately backfired against the United States. An unforeseen consequence of the CIA's ghoulish tryst with the Org is evident today in a resurgent neo-fascist movement in Europe that can trace its ideological lineage back to Hitler's Reich through Gehlen operatives who served US intelligence. Moreover, by subsidizing a top Nazi spymaster and enlisting badly compromised war criminals, the CIA laid itself open to manipulation by a foreign intelligence service that was riddled with Soviet agents.
"One of the biggest mistakes the United States ever made in intelligence was taking on Gehlen," a CIA official later admitted. With that fateful sub rosa embrace, the stage was set for Washington's tolerance of human-rights abuses and other dubious acts in the name of anti-Communism.
Publisher/Date: Intellectual Capital (US), No 377, 25 May 2000
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