1967 August 15

CIA Begins Spying on Anti-Vietnam War Movement – Under LBJ’s Orders


Convinced that foreign governments were behind anti-Vietnam War protests, President Lyndon Johnson ordered Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Richard Helms to begin spying on the anti-war movement. The exact date of the meeting is not known, but this day marks the first official CIA memo on the program. Although Helms told LBJ that such a program would be illegal, LBJ ordered him to do it anyway.

The CIA delivered four reports on the anti-war movement, all of which concluded that the anti-war movement was home-grown. LBJ rejected the conclusions of all four of them and remained convinced that the anti-war movement was influenced or controlled by foreign governments. The reports were delivered on November 15, 1967, “International Connections of U.S. Peace Groups”; December 22, 1967, “A Review of Developments since 15 November;” January 5, 1968, “Student Dissent and its Techniques in the U.S.,” and September 4, 1968, “Restless Youth.”

The CIA domestic  spying program grew in size and was later renamed Operation Chaos. It was exposed by The New York Times on December 22, 1974, although later investigations revealed that the Times’ story covered only part of the spying program.

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (see above); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Read the Senate Church Committee report on CIA domestic spying (pp. 679–732)http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book3/html/ChurchB3_0343a.htm

Learn more about the CIA: Tim Weiner, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA (2007)

Learn about Richard Helms: Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA (1979)

Watch Helms and President Johnson at Helms’ Swearing-in as head of the CIA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU4W0904QBM

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