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Mark Riebling

Mark Riebling


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Just such a deflection of suspicion away from CIA was accomplished by Deep Throat, a source who began feeding leads to Post reporter Woodward, by the reporter's own account, on June 19 - only hours after Helms launched CIA's damage-control plan. Woodward's later description of Deep Throat as having "an aggregate of information flowing in and out of many stations" would seem a pointed signal to someone in Langley. Woodward also said that Deep Throat had an "extremely sensitive" position in the Executive Branch, which would perfectly fit someone at CIA, who (according to Woodward) did not like getting calls at the office. The use of an underground parking garage for clandestine meetings would seem to evidence a certain skill at "tradecraft." Furthermore, with the exception of Helms and his DDCI, CIA officers were not political appointees, and therefore their careers, unlike those of Dean and most other possible Throats, would not have automatically fallen with Nixon's own. Woodward himself would later all but confirm that Deep Throat was a spook. "As you know, I'm not going to discuss the identity of Deep Throat or any other of my confidential sources who are still alive. But let me just say that [the] suggestion that we were being used by the intelligence community was of concern to us at the time and afterward."

Could Deep Throat have perhaps been Colby? Much of the information Colby provided to the FBI in the days after the burglary was immediately leaked to the press, as Colby later admitted, though he blamed those leaks on the Bureau. Colby was a political liberal, and no great fan of the Nixon White House; as Helms' damage-control officer on Watergate, he would be perfectly positioned to leak; he was later rumored to use underground parking structures for secret meetings of a personal nature. 'Moreover, the final pages of Colby's 1978 book, Honorable Men, would contain a suggestive reference to Throat. Discussing how "the public must be informed of what intelligence is doing in its name," Colby cites "unofficial leaks" as one means of so informing the citizenry; sometimes material is made available to the media though "its source in the intelligence community is obscured from the people who use it." Colby then immediately raises the subject of Deep Throat, and although one might expect him to resent the role of Throat as a competitor in controlling public perceptions of Watergate, he actually characterizes Throat as a force for national good: "Deep Throat remains a secret," Colby says, "but the public has benefited from his information."

Woodward's clues suggest, however, that Throat was more likely another CIA officer present at the June 19 damage-control meeting. This was Cord Meyer. Woodward describes Throat as a chain-smoker and heavy drinker, which Meyer was and Colby was not. Throat was an intellectual who "knew too much literature too well," and Meyer was an awardwinning literary talent. Throat's appearance bespoke "too many battles," and Meyer had a glass eye from the Battle of Iwo Jima. Meyer also reportedly bore a special grudge against Nixon because of his complicity in the McCarthyist drama which had once almost cost Meyer his CIA job; he was even said to have made digs at CIA secretaries who wore Nixon campaign buttons on their blouses. Meyer was practically a charter member of the Old Boys Network of Yale graduates who had gone on to work in intelligence, and Woodward, too, was a member of this club. In fact, Meyer may well have become acquainted with Woodward during the latter's 1969-70 tenure as a Washington briefer in naval intelligence: as part of his daily rounds, Woodward sometimes addressed top people in CIA's Department of Plans, where Meyer was then the number-two man. Moreover, Throat knew all about Hunt's activities-his first tips and most of his early leads concerned Hunt-and Meyer was one of the few at CIA . who knew, even before the Watergate burglary, that Hunt was working for the White House. On March 27, 1972, for instance, when CIA's domestic contact office in Miami queried Langley about Hunt's frequent contacts with Cuban exiles, Meyer cabled back that Hunt was in Miami on White House work and that Miami Station should "cool it," i.e., not concern itself with Hunt. Meyer, it should also be noted, possessed great family wealth his father controlled a lot of real estate in Manhattan-which would explain why Throat could afford not to come forward for big bucks (the advance for his book even now, two decades later, would be colossal). But perhaps most important, Meyer had extremely intimate connections with Ben Bradlee, Woodward's boss at the Post. Indeed, they were in-laws, having both married sisters from the socially prominent Pinchot family. Meyer's interface with Bradlee could have had a close professional aspect as well, since Meyer's main duty at CIA was to penetrate and influence leftist but anticommunist organs of opinion. Among other things, Meyer's close relationship to the editor of the Post might have accounted for the special access that allowed Throat to get to Woodward's morning copy of the Post and scribble on it times for secret meetings.

Recent disclosures about intelligence failures relating to September 11 have left Americans wondering what is wrong with our spy system. Congress is already probing this question. The answer, however, will not be found by any inquisition centered on the George W. Bush years. The crippling of our espionage effort in fact began 30 years ago today, when Washington police arrested the White House "Plumbers" at the Watergate Hotel.

The FBI, and Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, quickly discovered what seemed to be CIA fingerprints. Among the five men caught burglarizing Democratic headquarters in the Watergate was James Walter McCord Jr., a former employee of the CIA's Office of Security. Three Cuban exiles who participated in the break-in had also worked for the agency, and one of them was still on retainer. A search of the men's rooms at the Watergate turned up an envelope containing a personal check made out by E. Howard Hunt, another former CIA employee.

President Nixon self-servingly encouraged the notion that the burglary was a CIA operation. Meeting with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, six days after the arrests, Nixon said: "The only way to solve this, and we're set up beautifully to do it, is for us to have [Deputy CIA Director Vernon] Walters call [FBI Director] Pat Gray and say, 'Stay the hell out of this… They [CIA] should call the FBI in and say that, 'We wish, for the good of the country, [that you] don't any [look] further into this case.' Period."

These words, recorded by a secret White House taping system which Nixon himself installed, later provided irrefutable proof that he had conspired in a cover-up. When made public 1974, they became the basis of impeachment proceedings against him — the famous "smoking gun."

By then, both Woodward and the FBI had concluded that the burglars, despite their intelligence ties, were working solely for the Nixon White House. Exhaustive hearings in Congress also cleared the CIA of any role. Nevertheless, the post-Watergate inquiries would comprise what former CIA officer Cord Meyer called "a string exploding Chinese firecrackers," leading to devastation of the CIA.

The agency's refusal to cooperate in Nixon's obstruction of justice led directly to the firing of its director, Richard Helms, a veteran covert operator who knew how to keep secrets. By August 1973 the CIA was under William E. Colby, a political liberal, ACLU-member, and onetime union-organizer. Colby had absorbed certain themes floated by the campus movement of the 1960s: self-determination by the young, equal opportunity, ethnic diversity. He effected parking spaces for the handicapped, and a program of minority hiring. Junior officers admired him as the epitome of egalitarianism. Senior officers saw him as CIA's answer to California's eccentric governor, Jerry "Moonbeam" Brown.

During Colby's tenure, as the legislative branch examined the secret operations of the executive during the Nixon years, congressional staffers stumbled upon a number of domestic operations by the CIA. Colby acquiesced in their inquiries, and assembled a list of alleged CIA sins. It ran to 693 typed pages, and became known as the "Family Jewels."

Though none of the items on the "Family Jewels" list was palpably illegal, their disclosure by Colby fed into, and heightened, the post-Watergate distrust of government secrecy. In the furor which ensued, CIA's legal counsel reminded all employees of their rights under the Miranda decision.

The crown jewel on the list, the black diamond of the CIA, was its surveillance of antiwar protesters, who were suspected of collusion with hostile foreign powers. The program, known as Operation Chaos, was disclosed by Colby himself to the New York Times.

E. Howard Hunt was a genial, incompetent genius who happened into many of the major secret operations of his time. If Robert DeNiro had really wanted to tell the story of the CIA in his recent film The Good Shepherd, he would have modeled his hero not on the composite who became Matt Damon's Edward Wilson, but on the more tragic and representative figure of Howard Hunt.

Fully half the book is devoted to Watergate and its aftermath. That is appropriate, not only because Hunt helped plan the burglaries there, but because post-Watergate reforms of U.S. intelligence have restricted the means by which we may know our enemies. But Hunt's well-known role in that scandal is not the soul of this book. The beating heart of American Spy is the Cold War; or, more exactly, the moral continuity between the Cold War and World War II.

This continuity was described by FBI deputy director William Sullivan, who ran domestic spying during the Cold War: "When a soldier in the field shot down an enemy, he did not ask himself is this legal or lawful, is it ethical? It was what he was expected to do as a soldier.... We never freed ourselves from that psychology that we were indoctrinated with, right after Pearl Harbor, you see."

Every sentence in this book vibrates to that iron string. "Anything I may have done," Hunt said at his trial on Watergate-related charges, "I did for what I believed to be in the best interests of my country." In fact, Hunt believed that America itself had taught and told him to burglarize the Democratic headquarters. "I cannot escape feeling," he testified to the Senate in 1973, "that the country I have served for my entire life and which directed me to carry out the Watergate entry is punishing me for doing the very things it trained and directed me to do."

The "country," of course, was not the men who directed Hunt to plan the burglary, but the ideals Hunt betrayed in planning it. Just how Hunt's moral compass malfunctioned - with such dreadful consequences to him, to the Agency he served, and to the country he loved - is the story he sets out to tell us in American Spy. In March 1943, Army private Hunt is chafing at the easy life in Orlando, Fla., when he hears whispers about a mysterious unit, the Office of Strategic Services.

Through his lobbyist father, Hunt gets a meeting with OSS director William "Wild Bill" Donovan, who, at 67, still looks like a man you want next to you in a fight. Donovan taps him for a Pacific post. After tough training, Hunt makes the dangerous flight over the Himalayas into China, where he runs guns to guerrillas fighting the Japanese.

After the war, when OSS becomes CIA, Hunt quarterbacks covert operations in Latin America, Europe, and the Far East. But as political-action chief of the project to unseat Fidel Castro, Hunt never recovers, "psychologically or operationally," from the 1961 defeat of the CIA at the Bay of Pigs. Transferred into the agency's legally dodgy Domestic Operations Division, Hunt is writing spy novels under an assumed name when he meets Nixon aide Charles Colson (whom he calls the "spiritual ancestor to Karl Rove").

In 1971, Colson hires Hunt to spy on Nixon's enemies. Hunt teams with an eccentric former FBI agent, G. Gordon Liddy, and hires anti-Castro Cubans with long CIAresumes to do the dirty work. On June 17, 1972, D.C. police catch Hunt's operatives breaking into the Democratic headquarters at the Watergate.

In the ordeal that follows, Hunt loses nearly everything. His wife, Dorothy, dies in a plane crash. The White House abandons him. The press attacks him. His two eldest children disavow him. Even so, he remains a "good soldier," perjuring himself about White House links to Watergate until, realizing that Nixon is indifferent to his fate, he resolves to tell the truth....

Yet one of Hunt's main lines of thinking has merit. To him, the Cold War was not primarily a political struggle, but an intellectual one. That's why Hunt hired William F. Buckley Jr. into the CIA in 1951 to translate the memoir of a Peruvianex-Maoist. Whether the media today are books or blogs, audio or video, human nature is the same. We are what we think. To change how people act, we must change what they believe.

"We shouldn't bomb Al Jazeera television," Hunt counsels. Instead, "we need to buy it--through a third party, of course. Then slowly and subtly change the news slant to deprogram all the negative brainwashing that has occurred."

If the wisdom of that plan is debatable, the need for inventive propaganda is clear. In the war against head-chopping ideas, we should remember one lesson that E. Howard Hunt did learn well, before he died on January 23. "When we were fighting Communism, the most useful weapons didn't explode--they had pages, a volume control, or a great personality. They still do."

Tim Weiner, who reports on intelligence for the New York Times, has written an essential but flawed book about an essential but flawed agency. Legacy of Ashes, he declares, is “the first history of the CIA compiled entirely from firsthand reporting and primary documents.” That is the book’s great strength, and its great weakness.

It’s a strength, because the secondary literature on secret intelligence chokes with myth and guesswork. For every good book, such as Thomas Powers’s classic The Man Who Kept the Secrets, scores of bad ones have appeared, alleging, say, that the CIA killed JFK, concocted AIDS to kill black people, or orchestrated the World Trade Center attacks. Because Weiner doesn’t reference even the good books in the field, he doesn’t perpetuate the errors in the bad ones. If, as John Lukacs suggests, the historian’s calling is not just to establish truth, but to reduce untruth, then Tim Weiner has performed a real service.

Yet his reliance on primary sources crimps the value of the work. Weiner has read 50,000 pages of documents, most importantly the CIA’s own declassified oral and internal histories. But as the CIA itself has discovered, the more information one collects, the tougher it is to separate the “signals” from the “noise.” And like the CIA, Weiner is better at collecting the facts than interpreting them.

It’s difficult to see how Weiner derived some of his judgments. “The supreme goal of the CIA during the cold war was to steal Soviet secrets by recruiting spies,” Weiner writes, “but the CIA never possessed a single one who had deep insight into the workings of the Kremlin.” Yet as he notes elsewhere in the book, moles such as Pyotr Popov, Oleg Penkovksy, and Anatoly Golitysn all gave the CIA deep insight into the Kremlin. Weiner also asserts that Allen Dulles, CIA director in the 1950s, “refused to pay attention to anything but covert action,” that is, dirty tricks by human spies. But Dulles persuaded President Eisenhower to approve the high-tech U-2 spy plane project, as Weiner points out. In what Weiner calls “the battle between the spies and the gadgets,” Dulles fought for both sides.


Mark Riebling

&ldquoJudging Pius by what he did not say, one could only damn him. With images of piles of skeletal corpses before his eyes with women and young children compelled, by torture, to kill each other with millions of innocents caged like criminals, butchered like cattle, and burned like trash—he should have spoken out. He had this duty, not only as pontiff, but as a person. After his first encyclical, he did reissue general distinctions between race-hatred and Christian love. Yet with the ethical coin of the Church, Pius proved frugal toward what he privately termed “Satanic forces,” he showed public moderation where no conscience could stay neutral, the Church seemed to be. During the world’s greatest moral crisis, its greatest moral leader seemed at a loss for words.

But the Vatican did not work by words alone. By 20 October, when Pius put his name to Summi Pontficatus, he was enmeshed in a war behind the war. Those who later explored the maze of his policies, without a clue to his secret actions, wondered why he seemed so hostile toward Nazism, and then fell so silent. But when his secret acts are mapped, and made to overlay his public words, a stark correlation emerges. The last day during the war when Pius publicly said the word “Jew” is also, in fact, the first day history can document his choice to help kill Adolf Hitler.&rdquo
― Mark Riebling, Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler

&ldquoThough Pius acted discreetly, he did not hide Hitler's attack plan under the proverbial bushel basket. During the second week of January 1940, a general fear gripped Western diplomats in rome as the pope's aides warned them of the German offensive, which Hitler had just rescheduled for the 14th. On the 10th, a Vatican prelate warned the Belgian ambassador at the Holy See, Adrien Nieuwenhuys, that the Germans would soon attack in the West. .

Pius had in fact already shared the warning, while shielding the source. On 9 January, Cardinal Maglione directed the papal agent in Brussels, Monsignor Clemente Micara, to warn the Belgians about a coming German attack. Six days later, Maglione sent a similar message to his agent in The Hague, Monsignor Paolo Giobbe, asking him to warn the Dutch.

That same month, Pius made a veiled feint toward public protest. He wrote new details on Polish atrocities into Radio Vatican bulletins. But when Polish clergy protested that the broadcasts worsened the persecutions, Pius recommitted to public silence and secret action.&rdquo
― Mark Riebling


Mark Riebling > Quotes

&ldquoJudging Pius by what he did not say, one could only damn him. With images of piles of skeletal corpses before his eyes with women and young children compelled, by torture, to kill each other with millions of innocents caged like criminals, butchered like cattle, and burned like trash—he should have spoken out. He had this duty, not only as pontiff, but as a person. After his first encyclical, he did reissue general distinctions between race-hatred and Christian love. Yet with the ethical coin of the Church, Pius proved frugal toward what he privately termed “Satanic forces,” he showed public moderation where no conscience could stay neutral, the Church seemed to be. During the world’s greatest moral crisis, its greatest moral leader seemed at a loss for words.

But the Vatican did not work by words alone. By 20 October, when Pius put his name to Summi Pontficatus, he was enmeshed in a war behind the war. Those who later explored the maze of his policies, without a clue to his secret actions, wondered why he seemed so hostile toward Nazism, and then fell so silent. But when his secret acts are mapped, and made to overlay his public words, a stark correlation emerges. The last day during the war when Pius publicly said the word “Jew” is also, in fact, the first day history can document his choice to help kill Adolf Hitler.&rdquo
― Mark Riebling, Church of Spies: The Pope's Secret War Against Hitler

&ldquoThough Pius acted discreetly, he did not hide Hitler's attack plan under the proverbial bushel basket. During the second week of January 1940, a general fear gripped Western diplomats in rome as the pope's aides warned them of the German offensive, which Hitler had just rescheduled for the 14th. On the 10th, a Vatican prelate warned the Belgian ambassador at the Holy See, Adrien Nieuwenhuys, that the Germans would soon attack in the West. .

Pius had in fact already shared the warning, while shielding the source. On 9 January, Cardinal Maglione directed the papal agent in Brussels, Monsignor Clemente Micara, to warn the Belgians about a coming German attack. Six days later, Maglione sent a similar message to his agent in The Hague, Monsignor Paolo Giobbe, asking him to warn the Dutch.

That same month, Pius made a veiled feint toward public protest. He wrote new details on Polish atrocities into Radio Vatican bulletins. But when Polish clergy protested that the broadcasts worsened the persecutions, Pius recommitted to public silence and secret action.&rdquo
― Mark Riebling


‘Church of Spies’: The Pope Who Fought Hitler

Fascinating details of Pope Pius XII’s secret support for the attempted overthrow of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

(photo: Hitler, Everett Historical via Shutterstock.com Pope Pius XII, public domain)

WASHINGTON — Pope Pius XII’s secret support for the attempted overthrow of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler is the subject of a book that draws on wartime documents and interviews with the American intelligence agent who wrote them.

“This book is the truth — as best I could establish it in a number of years of research — about the Pope’s secret operations in World War II,” historian Mark Riebling told CNA earlier this year.

“Its main premise is that Pius opted to resist Hitler with covert action instead of overt protest. As a result, he became involved in three separate plots by German dissidents to remove Hitler.”

“I thought this idea — that the Church engaged in secret operations during the bloodiest years in history, in the most controversial part of its recent history — was not just a footnote it was something worth pursuing,” Riebling said.

Riebling tells this story in his book Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler, published by Basic Books in September 2015.

In the late 1990s, debate over whether Pius XII did enough to counter the Nazis reached a high point, with the publication of the deeply controversial book Hitler’s Pope, by British journalist John Cornwell. The book was highly critical of Pius XII, charging that he was culpably silent — if not an accomplice — in the rise of Nazism.

“If you read the fiercest critics of the Nazi-era Church, the major ones all concede that Pius XII hated Hitler and worked secretly to overthrow him,” Riebling said. “Yet they say this in their books in just a clause, a sentence or a paragraph. To me, this episode merited more curiosity.”

“If ‘Hitler’s Pope’ wanted to help rid the world of Hitler, what’s the story?”

Riebling said there were several sources of inspiration for the book. During his Catholic upbringing, he learned the long history of the Church: In its first centuries, Christianity was an underground organization. In post-Reformation England, the Jesuits were involved in clandestine work.

This history prompted him to ask how a historian would document it and find evidence.

He also drew inspiration from the story of James Jesus Angleton, a famous U.S. intelligence officer who, during World War II, ran an operation to penetrate the Vatican for the Office of Strategic Services, the Central Intelligence Agency’s predecessor.

During research on his previous book, Wedge: The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, Riebling discovered wartime documents from Angleton’s Rome section of the Office of Strategic Services.

“There were at least 10 documents implicating Pius XII and his closest advisers in not just one, but actually three plots, to remove Hitler — stretching from 1939 to 1944. These were typed up by someone using a very distinct nickname.”

The nickname “Rock” belonged to Ray Rocca. Rocca served as Angleton’s deputy in Rome and for most of his later career. His career included responsibility for the Central Intelligence Agency’s records concerning the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

“So here’s a guy who had been in the Vatican who had been charged with penetrating the Vatican and who knew a thing or two about assassination probes. I thought: ‘Here’s an interesting guy to get to know,’” Riebling said. Rocca did not violate his oath of secrecy, but his interviews with Riebling are among the book’s sources.

According to Riebling, his book does not charge that the Pope “tried to kill Hitler.” Rather, the Pope’s actions were more subtle.

“Pius becomes a key cog in conspiracies to remove a ruler who is a kind of Antichrist, because good people ask for his help, and he searches his conscience, and he agrees to become an intermediary for the plotters — their foreign agent, as it were — and, thereby, he becomes an accessory to their plots.”

The historian described these actions as “some of the most astonishing events in the history of the papacy.”

Pius XII had connections with three plots against Hitler. The first, from October 1939 to May 1940, involved German military conspirators. From late 1941 to spring of 1943, a series of plots involving the German Jesuits ended when a bomb planted on Hitler’s plane failed to explode.

The third plot again involved German Jesuits and also German military Col. Claus von Stauffenberg. Although the colonel successfully planted a bomb near the Nazi dictator, it failed to kill Hitler. The priests had to flee after the failed attempt. Those unable to escape were executed.

During his research, Riebling discovered that Pius XII secretly recorded the conversations held in his office. Transcripts of the Pope’s talks with German cardinals in March 1939 show that he was deeply concerned that German Catholics would choose Hitler instead of the Church.

“The cardinals asked Pius to appease Hitler, so that German Catholics won’t break away and form a state church, as happened in Tudor England,” Riebling said.

“Pius heeded the German episcopate’s advice. Instead of protesting openly, he would resist Hitler behind the scenes.”

Pius XII’s agents provided the Allies with useful intelligence about Hitler’s war plans on three occasions, including Hitler’s planned invasion of Russia. In all three cases, the Allies did not act on the information.

For their part, the Nazis regarded Pius XII with suspicion since his election in 1939.

“He worked hard to allay those suspicions, to minimize persecutions of German Catholics. But the Nazis never dropped their guard,” Riebling said.

At one point, Hitler planned to invade the Vatican, kidnap the Pope and bring him to Germany. Leading Nazi Heinrich Himmler “wanted to have the Holy Father publicly executed to celebrate the opening of a new soccer stadium,” Riebling said.

“Pius became aware of these plans, through his secret papal agents and, in my view, that influenced the Holy Father’s decision to become involved with the anti-Nazi resistance.”

For Riebling, the assassination plots against Hitler were an admission of weakness, “because it’s saying that we can’t solve the problem by some other means.”

“Knowing what I do about Pius XII, and having researched him for many years, I believe he wanted to be a saint. He wanted people in Germany to be saints,” he added.

“When he heard that a priest was arrested for praying for the Jews and sent off to a concentration camp, he said: ‘I wish everyone would do that.’”

“But he didn’t say it publicly,” the writer acknowledged. The Pope’s words were made in secret in a letter to a German bishop.

“So I think what really happened here is: Pius XII wanted to lead a Church of saints but had to settle for a Church of spies.”


The Moral Costs of Inaction

Pius XII remains the most controversial pope in recent history. Many historians—among them John Cornwell (“Hitler’s Pope”) and Susan Zuccotti (“Under His Very Windows”)—are still trying to reconcile the pope’s silence during Hitler’s genocide of millions with his role as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The ongoing push for his canonization has made this debate ever more heated.

In “Church of Spies,” Mark Riebling joins the fray in defense of the pope. Drawing on previous research and a wealth of U.S. intelligence sources, he argues that Pius XII could not have spoken openly against Nazi atrocities because he was actively involved in a secret war to overthrow Hitler.

At the heart of Mr. Riebling’s page-turning book is the fascinating story of Josef Müller (1898-1979), a Catholic lawyer in Munich who served as an intermediary between the German anti-Nazi opposition and several Vatican insiders, among them Robert Leiber, a priest and close adviser to the pope. Soon after the outbreak of war in 1939, Müller joined the military counterintelligence service under Adm. Wilhelm Canaris, a secret opponent of Hitler. There, Müller became involved in a plot masterminded by Canaris to overthrow the Nazi government and negotiate an end to the war with Great Britain. As part of the plan to persuade the pope to get behind Canaris’s plot, Müller made several trips to Rome, meeting with Leiber, Monsignor Ludwig Kaas and other German clergy close to the pope.

It paid off. In late 1939, the newly installed Pius XII reached out to the British ambassador and spoke in support of the plot, offering a plan to “make peace through the pope.” An answer from the British government came in March 1940: The most important precondition for future potential talks with a “post-Hitler Germany included the conditio sine qua non: ‘elimination of the National Socialist regime.’ ” The Vatican then forwarded the British conditions to the conspirators: “Leiber handed Müller a full-page summary on Vatican stationery, watermarked ‘P.M.’ for ‘Pontifex Maximus,’ and, in the upper-left corner, the sign of a fish.”

Relying on Müller’s statements made in interrogations with Allied intelligence officers, Mr. Riebling argues that once Pius XII had become involved with the German conspirators, he could not openly oppose the Nazis for fear of endangering the plotters. For instance, in a meeting with an American official in 1945, soon after the war ended, Müller said that “during the war his anti-Nazi organization in Germany had always been very insistent that the pope “should refrain from making any public statement singling out the Nazis and specifically condemning them.” Had the pope spoken out, according to Müller, Catholics would have been accused of being agents of foreign powers and would have been targeted by the Nazis. Therefore, Mr. Riebling insists, the pope should not be judged by his silence but by his willingness to help the anti-Nazi opposition in order to broker peace with the British.


Interview with Mark Riebling (2002) Edit

  • I think that in the emergency situations like we have with potentially weapons of mass destruction, the agent in the field needs as much flexibility as he can and the decision of probable cause as to what’s going to occur needs to be made not in headquarters and not by the attorney general and not by a special court in Washington, but by the agent in the field who needs to respond immediately.
  • Congress imposed a warrant requirement in 1978 which JFK didn’t use when he went after the Klan. He put the Klan out of business, but he didn’t do it with -- by going through the courts. He did it by burglarizing Klan offices. I think we need to use hardcore tactics against a hardcore threat.
  • If [an FBI agent] abuses his power, we should punish him, and there are laws on the books for that. But just because a power can be abused doesn’t mean you take away the power. Congress can declare war unjustly. What do we do if they do so? Do we take away their power to declare war? No. We somehow reprimand Congress. We vote them out of office. If a senior official or a field agent leaks some personal information on someone, they should go to jail, and they will.

"Uncuff the FBI: Congress Must Undo the Church Committee's Damage" (2002) Edit

  • One would think that agents charged with protecting us from "dirty nukes" would enjoy the same discretionary search authority as patrolman who make traffic stops. In fact, they have less. If a patrolman pulls you over for weaving between lanes, and smells bourbon on your breath, he does not need a warrant to give you a breath test. But if an FBI agent learns that you are a member of a known terrorist group, and that you behaved suspiciously at a flight school, he must jump through bureaucratic hoops of fire to search your laptop computer.
  • Civil libertarians do not deny that FISA hampers our ability to counter terrorists. Citing the abuses alleged by the Church Committee, however, they argue that chronic insecurity is the price we must pay to preserve our liberties. But the United States was not a fascist dictatorship before Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter rode to the rescue. Our current surveillance rules are nether constitutionally required, nor traditionally American. They were observed neither by Senator Kennedy's elder brothers, nor by any presidents or attorneys general before the Carter presidency. For the first two centuries of our country's history, threats to our national security were countered without warrant. And the Supreme Court, from Olmstead v. U.S. (1928) to U.S. v. U.S. District Court (1972), has allowed warrantless surveillance in national security, as opposed to criminal, investigations.
  • The executive branch has sometimes abused its mandate -- most famously, with the surveillance of Dr. King -- but not as much as the Church Committee would have us believe. The FBI's political spying was not the creation of right-wing reactionaries, and it was not systematically targeted at the innocent grassroots left. It was begun by our most liberal of presidents, FDR, who ordered the surveillance of fascist sympathizers in 1936. The most controversial domestic Counterintelligence Programs (Cointelpro) were actually born in the Kennedy administration, as an attempt to disrupt the Ku Klux Klan. The FBI also disrupted "Black Nationalist Hate Groups," including the Black Panthers. This was not political repression it was a largely successful effort to deal with violent militant groups.

"Rumsfeld’s New Spy Unit" (2002) Edit

  • Every time there's a major intelligence failure there's talk about a makeover. But, every time there's talk about a makeover, it's transmuted into warnings about a takeover.
  • Every time the Secretary of Defense tries to get a hand on his many intelligence programs, we hear warnings about the dire consequences to liberty. When you look behind those warnings, what you really see is the CIA trying to preserve its perks.
  • If you want more effective intelligence, you have to have this kind of fusion. Considering that everyone and his brother has talked about the need for closer interagency intelligence cooperation, I'm surprised that, once we're actually seeing it, some of these same people claim to be scared by it. You can't have it both ways.
  • Everyone acknowledges that people come to the evidence with different preconceptions. But we can't go into these problems assuming that the civilian bias, which tends toward arms control, and the view that everyone is rational, is necessarily more appropriate than the military bias. That needs to be argued, not just assumed.
  • The military mind tends to be conservative, realistic and historical. The civilian mind tends to be liberal, idealistic and Utopian. Journalists, obviously, are civilians, and they tend to distrust, and to suspect, the military’s motives.

"Jesus, Jews and the Shoah: A Moral Reckoning by Daniel Jonah Goldhagen" (2003) Edit

  • A Moral Reckoning is, among its other faults, a 352-page exercise in intellectual bad manners. Reading it is like listening for three days to Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe.
  • Many good writers, from Montaigne to Mencken, have been impolitic, colicky, or sassy.
  • It would be futile to deny that the Nazis built a vast mass of evil on a vast mass of prejudice. It would be equally futile to deny that strong prejudices against the Jews existed among Christians during the centuries before the Shoah. Since, moreover, the childhood of the European nations was passed under the tutelage of the clergy, we should not be surprised that these prejudices were, in part, ecclesiastically inculcated.
  • Goldhagen does not say it, but one has the sense that he would affix, to every Christian Bible, the warning label: "This text contains hate speech."
  • The Holocaust was the product not of Christendom, but of Christendom's collapse. The destruction of Christendom effected (1) the rejection of Catholic natural law and (2) the rise of the absolute nation-state, previously impossible because popes could depose and counterbalance kings. Hitler, to be sure, contributed a neo-paganism and anti-Semitism all his own. But in mobilizing opinion and wielding power, he was helped more by these two innovations than by any Catholic doctrines.

"Freedom's Men: The Cold War Team of Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan" (2005) Edit

  • There was, sometimes, a de facto alliance between this president and pope. But relations were not so close that they could be taken for granted by the president's men. In fact, the documents reveal a continuous scurrying to shore up Vatican support for U.S. policies.
  • Perhaps most surprisingly, the papers show that that, as late as 1984, the pope did not believe the Communist Polish government could be changed.
  • When the Soviets faced these two leaders of shared purpose and conviction, they faced their worst-case scenario: a moral-political meta-power.

"The New Paradigm: Merging Law Enforcement and Intelligence Strategies" (2006) Edit

Published by Center for Policing Terrorism Full essay online


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An absorbing read highlighting little known details of the Vatican’s own intelligence service during World War 2.

Mark Riebling has put together a compelling argument that attempts to prove that Pope Pius XII’s relative silence on Nazi atrocities was a ploy to support the German resistance and specifically the catholic resistance within the Abwehr and the German High Command.

The author focusses in on Josef Müller was sent to Rome in 1939 by the German Resistance, to seek assistance from the Pope in a plot to overthrow Hitler. According to Riebling the Pope was asked by the anti-Nazi resistance to refrain from singling out the Nazis to prevent pressure on German Catholics who were in the vanguard of the resistance.

Müller’s story is one that could have been culled from the annals of spy fiction, however as we know truth is often stranger than fiction.

A fascinating read and highly recommended to anyone interested in the German resistance and the Vatican during World War 2.

I received this book for free from ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.


Church of Spies review: Mark Riebling paints vivid picture of wartime Pope

Church of Spies claims Hitler wanted the Pope kidnapped or killed.

The author of Church of Spies, Mark Riebling, paints a vivid picture of two critical events in the year 1939.

In March of that year, Eugenio Pacelli was enthroned as Pope Pius XII. It was a time of deep crisis with Hitler having seized Czechoslovakia the year before. With the shadow of the swastika looming over Europe the cardinals chose a political pope, a man with a deep piety but with a long career in the papal diplomatic service and with a profound knowledge of political realities.

Church of Spies: The Pope's secret war against Hitler, by Mark Riebling.

On August 22, 1939, Hitler called his generals to his private Bavarian mountain retreat and told them that he had decided to invade Poland within a week.

What Hitler then went on to say shocked even the generals. He said that special units would be formed to liquidate thousands of Catholic priests, the systematic extermination of the Polish clergy. No mercy would be shown to them.

At the back of the room was the chief of German military intelligence (Abwehr), Admiral Canaris, taking notes. At that time Hitler and his High Command trusted Canaris but in fact Canaris was even then a double agent. Canaris, with a distinguished war record, hated Hitler and in the years that followed used his trusted position to feed information to Hitler's enemies, especially the Vatican.

Meanwhile, the newly chosen Pope was wrestling with the existential problem which faced the Church yet again, how to be a spiritual institution in a brutally political world. As German atrocities in Poland unfolded he issued an encyclical Darkness over the Earth. The blunt words of this document, condemning Nazi Germany, startled and impressed the world.

But it was not to last. The Pope would not use the word "Jew" in public again until 1945.

His silence in the face of Nazi atrocities has trashed his reputation ever since and branded him "Hitler's Pope" As this splendid book puts it: During the world's greatest moral crisis the Pope seemed at a loss for words.

Yet there is another side to the story. We learn why Hitler wanted the Pope kidnapped or killed. Far from being "Hitler's lackey", Pius XII was a very active anti-Nazi with a ring of spies at his direction. Whether this book will help to restore the reputation of the wartime Pope each reader must decide. Church of Spies is a fascinating contribution to this debate.

Robert Willson is an Anglican priest and a regular Canberra Times reviewer.


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Comments:

  1. Oxa

    Neshtyak!)) 5+

  2. Faulkis

    Bomb

  3. Somhairle

    Everything, everything.

  4. Gozil

    Happy New Year to you and all readers!

  5. Guillaume

    Don't understand everyone.

  6. Jordon

    What good question



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