Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Pond

The Pond was a very-little-known Army intelligence unit operating under non-official cover in World War II and after, before it was absorbed into the fledgling CIA.

Recently the archives of the Pond, which were discovered in a barn in 2001, have finally been made public by the National Archives.

I wrote about the Pond and the fascinating story of its archives in my old blog, which sadly is now gone, after the CIA journal "Studies in Intelligence" published an article about it - until now practically the only information ever revealed publicly about the Pond's existence.

Now the documents are finally available - I had doubted they would ever be public. There is a lot of explosive history in these documents, particularly related to the pitched battle between the Pond and the CIA in the late 40's and early 50's. The Pond (supposedly) identified many Soviet agents in the US and Western Europe and fought to have those people investigated, while the CIA sought to dismiss, cover up, and protect those same people, many of whom were much later identified as real Soviet spies. For this reason alone, because the CIA had control over release of the Pond's documents, I expected they would disappear forever.

Of course we don't know what the CIA removed from the records before forwarding them to the National Archive. Presumably they removed everything embarrassing to the CIA, which could have been a lot.

Many people today are making the argument (obliquely) that the Pond is exactly the model we should be using for foreign intelligence, relying extensively on non-official cover vs. the embassy-based cover favored by the CIA.

The record - which may or may not be further bolstered by the Pond documents - however, is that the intelligence bureaucracy hates "non official cover" or "outsourced intelligence collection" and will normally do whatever it takes to eliminate it, as was done with the Pond.

The documents are, so far, only available by going to the National Archives and looking at them but I am hoping someone will put them on the web. Also there should be some good books coming out based on this newly-released information. I can hardly wait...

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