The Assassinated Press
Little Known Quasi-Government Agency Gets High Marks From Cheney Administration:
'U.S. Receipt and Respond,' Jokingly Called Rent-A-Riot By Insiders, Has Storied Past:
Successes In Fabricating Faux-Democratic Movements In Lebanon, Ukraine, Haiti And Kyrgyzstan Nets Small Firm Big U.S. Money
By FRANK WISNER
The Assassinated Press
Middleburg, VA---Dick Cheney recently called it "the best little asset in the whole damn government." But ask any American what the letters U.S.R.R. stand for and you'll get responses ranging from the non-existent 'U.S. Rail Road' to mistaken guesses of U.S.S.R. for the former Soviet Union. Yet, recently this super-secret agency (U.S.R.R. stands for U.S. Receipt and Respond) of the U.S. government has been getting very high grades from a small elite circle which includes Mr. Cheney and members of his administration.
The 'Wild Bill' Donovan Years
A holdover from the 'Wild Bill' Donovan, original O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), the U.S.R.R., or U.S. Rent-A-Riot as the current staff likes to jokingly refer to it, original mission was to forward cash, dope or other fungible contraband and in some cases arms to groups hired to disrupt democratic elections when the turnout was not in the best interest of U.S. elites.
In the early days it was just a two man office operated by the legendary O.S.S. operatives Wendell Cunningham and Homer Osprey. Still Cunningham and Opsrey managed to funnel millions of francs to Vichy Nazi sympathizers to foil elections for union leadership on the Marseilles docks in 1943-44, supply cash and arms to pro-Mussolini forces and the Sicilian Mafia to prevent a communist takeover in Sicily and to disrupt elections in Italy proper. Part of the investment portfolios of the Knights of Malta and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi among others, U.S.R.R. money used to effect the outcome of Italian elections continues to flow to this day, a testament to the financial channels Cunningham and Opsrey set up in 1944.
U.S.R.R. Goes 'Legit'
Soon after the war, Cunningham and Osprey returned to civilian life and the USRR office was made an OSS and eventually a CIA proprietary with its own 'civilian' management. To the public, it became a travel agency, International Travel & Freight, with an owner with an odd sense of humor and even odder set of scheduling fees named Arthur 'Artie' Camden. "We did fly some people and carry some private freight but Artie always kept his rates about twice the norm and scheduled stopovers in some of the world's most misbegotten shit holes, so that few people actually booked any flights through us," said long time IT&F travel agent, Jack Simco. "We supplemented our incomes best we could, brokering a little drugs here, guns there, phony passports, arranging flights for German Nazis to Cleveland and Milwaukee for the Agency; same deal to South America." Still, there's more than a few who are probably still not aware that they might have flown the infamous CIA Air America air line by booking a flight with IT&F. They could have had 40 lbs. of C-4 or a duffel bag full of heroin under there seat and not been aware of it. I can't count the times I saw rocket launchers stuffed in the overhead."
In those days, USRR/IT&F was performing small tasks for the State Department, its embassies, the CIA, DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency), and ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence). "We secured small amounts of contraband, did clandestine currency exchanges with friendly banks, smuggled weapons intended for assassination using our own people as couriers disguised as tourists, refugees..." Camden told the French newspaper La Monde in 1988. "Historians think of lot of this stuff was done directly by the embassies or the CIA and embassies working hand in hand. In fact, we were off the CIA books by then and worked independently on a contract by contract basis with the agency. We were also authorized to accept foreign contracts as long as it was cleared by the Agency. I will admit that sometimes the wolf was at the door. It was a tough business and I may not have been completely frank with the agency in those early days about how we made our money."
IT&F Hits It Big
But then, largely through the successful efforts to 'buy' riots in Iran in 1953, the elected nationalist prime Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mossadegh was overthrown by the CIA and they installed the Shah of Iran and trained his secret police, SAVAK.
"We had gotten hundreds of thousands of dollars into corrupt forces in Iran. General 'Stormin' Norman' Schwarzkopf's father was one of our bag men. We converted currencies in Albania and Romania, counted out payments, set up contacts, even brought in some exotic poisons for opposition candidates, and the rest was history," commented one of the former couriers, Reginald 'Pops' Buell. "Fuckin' [Allen] Dulles loved us."
By then the USRR cover IT&F was recognized as one of the best conduits for cash, smallish amounts of contraband, a few weapons, even supplying exotic pets to the people at the agency. "People swear Allen Dulles kept the last dodo at his residence in Virginia horse country. A damned dodo compliments of IT&F," laughed 'Pops' Buell.
And the successes continued; money to Gen. Armas to pay 200 Guatemalan ex-cons to act like a pro-American force bearing down on the elected government of Jacopo Arbenz. Hiring two pilots in single engine planes to drop several bombs in and around the capital. Paying street kids to set off cherry bombs around government buildings to further give the impression of an invasion supported by gringo air power. "I'm not saying we chased democracy out of Guatemala single handedly, but I like to think the little flourishes we supplied were crucial to ending democratic elections there for decades and helped wipe out thousands of people who may not have voted our way because it would have been against their own interests," Camden told Le Monde.
The rest of the fifties brought numerous attempts by the USRR to soften governments that the U.S. found impaired their program of world suzerainty as laid out in such documents as NSC-68 and reformulated most recently by Dick Cheney's oil interest section Project For the New American Century. IT&F mostly couriered in funds to groups of thugs and criminals especially in South-east Asia to get people into the streets to protest any government elected or otherwise that did not serve U.S. interests. A number of IT&F employees are credited with spreading the rumor that the Viet Minh intended to slaughter all of the Vietnamese Catholics living in the North. That precipitated an exodus of millions of Catholics from the North causing widespread starvation and dislocation. "The Dulles brothers and their Kennedy successors known as the Wise Men, McCone, Kennan, etc. were desperate to stop the election of Big Daddy Ho (Chi Minh)," said Camden. "But the polls showed Ho winning 90% of the vote, North and South, and this was after we fixed the ballots, killed the mayors and doctors, and spread millions of bucks around and threatened to in-fuckin-vade. So the muckety-mucks, the Wise Guys, I call 'em had us doin' all sorts of shit. Pre-Phoenix Phoenix shit too. Some of guys used to maybe tape a pound of C-4 to the bottom of a bus seat and blame the carnage on the Cong, but the shit they wanted us to do just turned your stomach. Cuttin' eyeballs out shit. A couple of guys finally just said let Kennan get his ass down here and "contain" these fuckers any ways he sees fit, just as long as he's willing to do the wetwork himself."
The Company Company You Keep; High Times With Ed Lansdale
Camden and Buell, however, say there was one bright spot during their early attempts to disrupt elections in SouthEast Asia---they met legendary operative Colonel Edward 'Gory Ed' Lansdale. Like everyone else Lansdale's reputation was on the skids after early efforts to dampen Ho Chi Minh's popularity failed.
Then after Cuba fell to Fidel Castro and the Bays of Pigs demonstrated that an invasion had no popular support in Cuba or the U.S., Lansdale was given the job of spearheading Operation Mongoose an attempt to overthrow the Castro government by sabotage and assassination. The USRR was assigned the task of buying a popular resistance. This proved difficult because U.S. policies such as those that embodied Operation Mongoose were at cross purposes with creating a popular resistance and more in tune with introducing an authoritarian government which had been the pattern America used before. Other forces within the U.S. government would have to create a crisis before a 'popular movement' could be purchased and put in place. But what looked like a crisis to the U.S. State Department, looked like outside interference and oppression to the Cubans. It didn't help that most of the greedy and unsavory Cubans moved to Florida. "Miami was like a Federal prison with all the locks jimmied," Camden remembered.
"Teaming up with Lansdale got us out of the office," is the way USRR/ITF employee Rick Marks put it. "We'd be counting out $40,000 in cash for some bought off Guatemalan union organizer and Ed would pop in and bellow, "fuck this boys. Let's go fishin'." And we get in boat with about twenty cages full of cats and Ed'd hand us strips of old parachute cloth and say," soak these rags in that jellied gasoline then tie 4 or 5 on the tails of each cat." We would comply and by the time we reached Cuban landfall it would be dark. We'd beach where the sugar cane fields came nearly right up to the shore and unload the cages full of cats in a long line up and down the narrow beach. Then we'd post ourselves about 50 yards apart, light the cats' gasoline and rags tails, open the front of the cages and fire a couple of rounds behind the already panicked cats. The cats would race into the cane igniting the fields and turning the shoreline a bright orange. We'd skee-daddle back to the boat, break out the cigars and rum and head back to Florida."
"Lansdale talked Art Camden into making the Agency an offer for USRR/IT&F," another long time USRR/IT&F employee, Jackson Firth told us. "Camden was close to retirement and it was customary that a retiring agent be allowed to keep outright or purchase for a nominal amount a proprietary business that he had operated for the CIA on some cases for many years. In many instances the agent had turned it into a profitable enterprise. "Besides, though proprietaries wholly owned by a retired agent occasionally did pro bono work for the Federalize, he most of the time got paid what he contracted for as a reward for his service. And there was no question Camden had done good work," added Firth.
"It was sort of a what the hell for the agency," Rick marks told us. "The cold war was running out of steam. The USAID and NED, sometimes the AFL/CIO or NAM would mule the money to people who were hired to start riots, get crowds of demonstrators into the streets, plant bombs, create disturbances and cause general mayhem whenever an elected government that wouldn't bow to the will of Washington came into power. The USRR worked to put rioters into the streets in Brazil, Uruguay, and Indonesia in 1964 and 1965. But when it came to Chile and the murders of Salvador Allende, Gen. Schneider, Orlando Letelier and thousands of Chileans they had to share the glory with NAM and its members, AFL/CIO, USAID and NED."
Missing A Big Payday
"Chile was a big contract," Camden told La Monde. "But we were largely frozen out. USAID did most of the bribes. I became disgusted and asked a good friend of mine, Jaspar Quincey, recently retired from operations, if he wanted to buy USRR/IT&F from me. He said sure. How much and would I accept payment in yen, euros and hashish. That was it."
Quincey immediately started turning the company around buying mobs for the U.S. in Poland, East Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe and Haiti. White House Chief of Staff James Baker in particular loved Quincey's work. Baker invited Quincey and his wife to dinner at the White House and Baker arranged a number of riot purchases through special friends at the now defunct BCCI.
Recently, business is "up and down" Quincey complains. "Things look good in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan , and if the money is right I think we can topple Lebanon for the French." But failures to topple democratically elected officials in Venezuela, Uruguay, Bolivia and Brazil have left a bitter taste in his mouth. We get criticized but too many of those fuckers are starving. Used to be you could give 'em a twenty and a few would show up and shout pro-America shit for 10 minutes. But now they're wise. We just raise the price of rice or even water and get it all back. Fuck that they say."
Raw Power Likes What It Sees
But seven years ago the fortunes of 'the little company that could' changed when they were purchased by Dick Cheney's Halliburton. "Actually it was package deal like a multiple player deal in baseball. We were the player to be named later," said Quincey. But with Halliburton's clout behind them USRR/IT&F received several no competition contracts and the little company with the big check book has proven its mettle in such places as Ukraine, Haiti and Kyrgyzstan where elected governments have been overturned on the say so and behind the threats of U.S. officials and the disturbances they have arranged.
Ironically, officials at USRR/IT&F/Halliburton attribute failures to topple democratically elected governments in places like Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil and Zimbabwe to a dilution of their contracts favoring a cooperative approach with the USAID and NED working out various U.S. embassies, right wing U.S. trade unions and the national Association of manufacturers and even evangelical church groups which are often given large sums of money so that the faithful can by guns and explosives to disrupt non-evangelical development projects designed to help the poor. One evangelical group based in Miami called 'God Wants It Done His Way' has even been accused of killing its own candidates to try to make it look like the opposition in Haiti, Guatemala and Venezuela.
"All this requires immense coordination and cooperation that just isn't there," complained Chaz Abrams of Halliburton/IT&F. 'We're pleased that Dick appreciates our work, but we stand by the statement that we could do even better if all of these people that have an interest in thwarting democratic elections would just butt out and let us do our work."