1968 January 5

CIA Sends President Johnson Third Report on Student Dissent


Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Richard Helms on this day sent President Lyndon Johnson its third report on the student anti-Vietnam War movement, which Johnson had ordered (August 15, 1967). The surveillance of Americans within the United States was in violation of the CIA Charter. When Helms reminded him of this, Johnson ignored the law and ordered the CIA to investigate the anti-war movement anyway. Johnson was convinced that anti-Vietnam War protests were funded and directed by foreign governments. The CIA delivered its first report,  “International Connections of U.S. Peace Groups,” on November 15, 1967, which concluded that the anti-war movement had no foreign ties. President Johnson rejected the conclusions and ordered the CIA to do a second report. The CIA delivered that report, “A Review of Developments Since 15 November,” on December 22, 1967, which reached essentially the same conclusion. Jonson rejected that one as well and ordered a third report, which was delivered on this day, with the title “Student Dissent and its Techniques in the U.S.” All three of the reports did not support Johnson’s belief that the anti-war movement had support from foreign governments. The CIA delivered a fourth report, “Restless Youth,” on September 4, 1968.

The CIA domestic spying program evolved into the CHAOS program, which The New York Times exposed on December 22, 1974. The Times story provoked a political uproar that led to President Gerald Ford creating the Rockefeller Commission to investigate the CIA, on January 4, 1975. The Senate then created the Church Committee, on January 27, 1975, while the House created the Pike Committee, on February 19, 1975, both of which also investigated abuses by the intelligence agencies.

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 (August 15, 1967); (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 Church Committee report on the CIA domestic spying programs (pp. 679–732): http://www.aarclibrary.org/publib/church/reports/book3/html/ChurchB3_0349a.htm

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

Learn more about President Johnson and civil liberties: Samuel Walker, Presidents and Civil Liberties From Wilson to Obama (2012)

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