Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Nicholas A. Veliotes
VELIOTES: Now having said that, I have never been, in my relationships, when I became senior enough to have anything to do, aware of any CIA rogue operations in my area of responsibility. That may be a sign of the times; it may be a sign of the personalities of the people I was involved with. All admirable, the station chiefs—Peter Jessup, Chuck Cogan, Peter Karimeles, David Blee. These are top-flight people, and I respect and honor them all. But that didn't mean I agreed with everything thing that came up. And, like every bureaucracy, they had to feel they were innovating. Quite often, guys like me had to say, “You're crazy,” or “I will oppose it,” or “If we go to the White House, I'll fight you on it.” But, as I said, in my own personal relationships, in the countries where I was either ambassador or DCM or charg�, or when I was assistant secretary, I wasn't aware of any rogue operations, like the Ollie North nonsense.
Q: Well, not on the CIA side, but on the political side, with Cultural Affairs, did you have any political problems of having people who were maybe too far to the left in academic thought? Because the academic world, in any country, is almost invariably to the left of any administration. And when you were sending people out, scholars, lecturers, et cetera, was this a problem?
VELIOTES: It wasn't a problem in the Kennedy administration. We had a board of foreign scholarships, made up of professors. Jim Billington was one of them.
Q: He's now the librarian of Congress.
VELIOTES: There are two kinds of people that you send out: those who really represent the views of the prevailing administration, more or less (a couple of people I know are going out on a USIA partially sponsored tour, and they fall into that category); and then there are area specialists, or subject specialists, who are not part of the administration or the thought.
We did not have that problem. I cannot speak about the Eisenhower administration. I suspect the first three years of the Eisenhower administration had a hell of a lot of trouble.
Q: Well, of course, this was the height of the McCarthy thing, when they were burning books in our USIA libraries. The whole thing was a shambles.
VELIOTES: To my knowledge, we never had this problem.
Q: So you never felt this was a pressure at the time.