The Safari Club

The Safari Club sounds like a seedy stripper bar on the wrong side of the tracks that sells cheap beer and has a condom machine in the mens room advertising–For Her Pleasure.

In reality the Safari Club is an instructional story of how the American deep state evaded accountability in the wake of the intelligence scandals of the 1970’s.

At The Intercept, Jon Schwarz reviews the new book by David Talbot on Allen Dulles entitled; the Devil’s Chessboard, and reminds me of the Safari Club–a secret, multi-national intelligence cut-out that was created to carry out anti-communist covert operations in the wake of Watergate and Church Committee revelations on the numerous crimes carried out by the CIA.

In his informative article, Schwarz recounts the story of the Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al Faisal, speaking before Georgetown University students. “In 1976, after the Watergate matters took place here, your intelligence community was literally tied up by Congress. It could not do anything. It could not send spies, it could not write reports, and it could not pay money. In order to compensate for that, a group of countries got together in the hope of fighting communism and established what was called the Safari Club. The Safari Club included France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Iran … so, the Kingdom, with these countries, helped in some way, I believe, to keep the world safe when the United States was not able to do that. That, I think, is a secret that many of you don’t know.”

This account by Faisal, while somewhat informative also greatly misleads about the nefarious and highly undemocratic nature of the Safari Club, as well as the part about the US not being involved. In fact, as Schwarz recounts, “… the evidence suggests the Safari Club was largely the initiative of powerful Americans…Henry Kissinger, then secretary of state, talked a number of rich Arab oil countries into bankrolling operations against growing communist influence on their doorstep in Africa. Alexandre de Marenches, a right-wing aristocrat who headed France’s version of the CIA, eagerly formalized the project and assumed operational leadership. The United States, (however) directed the whole operation,” and “giant U.S. and European corporations with vital interests in Africa” leant a hand. As John K. Cooley, the Christian Science Monitor’s longtime Mideast correspondent, put it, the setup strongly appealed to the U.S. executive branch: “Get others to do what you want done, while avoiding the onus or blame if the operation fails.”

Gee, where have I heard this idea of employing proxies to do the US’s dirty work before?

Anyway, it’s a great story and you should read the whole thing. Here’s Schwarz with more on the relevance of the Safari Club.

Because what the Safari Club demonstrates is that Dulles’ entire spooky world is beyond the reach of American democracy. Even the most energetic post-World War II attempt to rein it in was in the end as effective as trying to lasso mist. And today we’ve largely returned to the balance of power Dulles set up in the 1950s. As Jay Rockefeller said in 2007 when he was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, “Don’t you understand the way intelligence works? Do you think that because I’m chairman of the Intelligence Committee that I just say ‘I want it, give it to me’? They control it. All of it. All of it. All the time.”

The safari goes on forever.


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