The Right-Wing Roots of Sheehan's "Secret Team" Theory

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Christic no longer uses the "Secret Team" slogan, but for the first several years of the case, the Christic Institute used the term "Secret Team" to describe the legal conspiracy they alleged in court (a copy of the Prouty book sat in Sheehan's personal bookshelf in his Christic office). There is no dispute that the "Secret Team" theory came from the political right. The "Affidavit of Daniel P. Sheehan" filed on December 12, 1986 and revised on January 31, 1987, refers frequently to the "Secret Team," and states explicitly that the term came from right-wing sources.

...I was contacted by Source #47, a right-wing para-military specialist, former U.S. Army pilot in Vietnam and military reform specialist in January of 1986.

Source #47, the Specialist, who was unaware of my investigation, informed me that he had met--at a right-wing function--a former U.S. military intelligence officer, Source #48...this source began to discuss with Source #47 the existence of a "Secret Team" of former high-ranking American CIA officials, former high-ranking U.S. military officials and Middle Eastern arms merchants--who also specialized in the performance of covert political assassinations of communists and "enemies" of this "Secret Team" which carried on its own independent, American foreign policy--regardless of the will of Congress, the will of the President, or even the will of the American Central Intelligence Agency.

Critics of the Christic thesis say the "Secret Team" was not a cabal operating against the will of the president or the CIA, but was an illegal, secret government-sponsored operation established by CIA director William Casey and coordinated by White House aide Oliver North, with assistance from a network of ultra-right groups who were determined to circumvent the will of Congress. This "Enterprise" at times worked closely with the Mossad and carried out clandestine counterinsurgency missions. Some of these counterinsurgency missions were based on the same model of pacification used by U.S. Special Forces and clandestine CIA operations in Vietnam. It is just this emphasis on counterinsurgency and clandestine operations rather than direct military battles that forms the basis of criticism in Fletcher Prouty's book Secret Team. Prouty criticized the CIA for promoting covert action techniques which he traced to the influence of the British intelligence service MI5 on the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), precursor to the CIA. Prouty said such meddling and convoluted efforts at fighting communism resulted in the needless deaths of American servicemen. There is no evidence of any obvious anti-Jewish conspiracy theories in the original Prouty book.

Some of the undocumented conspiracy theories regarding the CIA and U.S. foreign policy that were widely circulated in progressive circles before the Iran-Contragate scandal hit the headlines seem to have appeared first in the LaRouchian's Executive Intelligence Review or New Solidarity (later New Federalist), or in the pages of Liberty Lobby's Spotlight newspaper.

The Spotlight for instance carried the first exclusive story on "Rex 84" by writer James Harrer. "Rex 84" was one of a long series of readiness exercises for government military, security and police forces. "Rex 84" --Readiness Exercise, 1984--was a drill which postulated a scenario of massive civil unrest and the need to round up and detain large numbers of demonstrators and dissidents. While creating scenarios and carrying out mock exercises is common, the potential for Constitutional abuses under the contingency plans drawn up for "Rex 84" was, and is, very real. The legislative authorization and Executive agency capacity for such a round-up of dissidents remains operational.

The April 23, 1984 Spotlight article ran with a banner headline "Reagan Orders Concentration Camps." The article, true to form, took a problematic swipe at the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith along with reporting the facts of the story. The Harrer article was based primarily on two unnamed government sources, and follow-up confirmations. Mainstream reporters pursued the allegations through interviews and Freedom of Information Act requests, and ultimately the Harrer Spotlight article proved to be a substantially accurate account of the readiness exercise, although Spotlight did underplay the fact that this was a scenario and drill, not an actual order to round up dissidents.

Many people believe that Christic was the first group to reveal the "Rex 84" story. According to the 1986 Sheehan "Affidavit" revised in 1987:

During the second week of April of 1984, I was informed by Source #4 that President Ronald Reagan had, on April 6, 1984, issued National Security Decision Directive #52 authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency director Louis O. Giuffrida and his Deputy Frank Salcedo to undertake a secret nation-wide, `readiness exercise' code-named `Rex 84....'

The impression left is that a Christic source exclusively developed this information and quietly handed it over to Sheehan. In fact, the second week of April 1984, the "Rex 84" story was bannered on the front page of the Spotlight and available in coin-boxes all over Capitol Hill. Spotlight had previously reported extensively on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other government initiatives that threatened civil liberties.

Sheehan has told reporters that the "Rex 84" story did not come from Spotlight, but would not respond to questions as to whether or not Source #4 could document where the information came from. This is important because in at least one other instance, previously published research was attributed by Sheehan to Source #4. According to the 1986 Sheehan "Affidavit" revised in 1987:

In early May of 1984, I was supplied by Source #4 with a number of documents describing, in some detail, a project supervised by then Special Assistant California State Attorney General Edwin Meese code-named "Project Cable Splicer" ...part of a larger program, code-named "Project Garden Plot" --which was a nation-wide war games establish a nation-wide state of martial law if Richard Nixon's "political enemies" required him to declare a State of National Emergency.

While the descriptions of Cable Splicer and Garden Plot are accurate, the source is deceptively obscured. The original story of Cable Splicer and Garden Plot broke in the alternative press in 1975 in an article by Ron Ridenhour with Arthur Lublow published in Arizona's New Times. Garden Plot was also the cover story for the Winter 1976 issue of CounterSpy magazine. Dozens of pages of the unedited official documents from Garden Plot and Cable Splicer were reprinted in the magazine. Copies of the official documents were made available to trial teams in several cities litigating against illegal government intelligence abuse.

Several former Christic staffers, who asked to remain nameless, suggest that, at the very least, a critical reevaluation of some allegations made in the Christic case would be beneficial in light of the possibility that material from far-right, conspiracist or anti-Jewish sources was uncritically woven into the original "Secret Team" Christic thesis. They say that the Christic theories need to be reassessed with the ulterior motives and credibility of those sources in mind.

The Christic Institute was supplied with the text of the criticisms raised in this section of the report, as well as an extensive list of written questions. With the exception of the quote regarding the LaRouchians, they chose not to respond.

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