Richard Helms was a natural-born intelligence officer. Throughout his life, he was the soul of professionalism and discretion. An Easterner with an impeccable resume, he worked as a journalist in Berlin in the 1930s, saw Jesse Owens win the 200-yard dash at the 1936 Olympics, and chatted with Hitler.
After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, he joined the Navy, served in New York, and got pitched by an OSS (Office of Strategic Services) officer who said that he was "a natural" for "black propaganda." Accepting the pitch, Helms started a long career in intelligence, mostly in the field of espionage rather than "black propaganda." Helms received only two weeks of training before he was assigned to coordinate intelligence on Germany, which mostly meant handling the stream of reporting from the OSS Station in Bern.
In early 1945, he found his way overseas to London, where he worked for (and shared an apartment with) future Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), William J. Casey. One of his most memorable tasks was to prepare young men to parachute into Germany to gather intelligence. He ended his OSS service in Berlin, where he ultimately replaced yet another future DCI, Allen W. Dulles, as Base Chief. It was, he remembered, "a chaotic time of working against former Nazis as well as keeping an eye on the emerging threat from the Soviets." Helms's assignment in Berlin was the first of a series of senior management positions that would eventually propel him to the top of the CIA in 1966.
His service as DCI was marked by controversy. It did not help that he worked for two Presidents who were suspicious of the CIA. Many in the Johnson Administration considered CIA analysis on Vietnam to be too pessimistic, and Helms walked a fine line between serving the President and defending analytic integrity. During the Nixon Administration, Helms became embroiled in countering the left-wing takeover of Chile and had to fend off White House pressure for the CIA to help quash the Watergate investigation. By the end of 1973, President Nixon had had enough of Helms and asked him to resign. He refused, but eventually accepted the President's proposal to appoint him Ambassador to Iran, his last senior Government post.
A future director's note to his son. As Americans celebrated victory in Europe in May 1945, Office of Strategic Services (OSS) officer Richard Helms wrote this touching and eloquent letter to his young son on a captured sheet of Adolf Hitler's personal stationery. Helms's words captured the meaning of the war, not only for OSS but for many others who had fought against Hitler. Helms would later become Director of Central Intelligence.
The GuardianDirector of the CIA whose lies about the overthrow of Allende's Chilean government led to his conviction
Richard Helms, who has died aged 89, is the only director of the Central Intelligence Agency to have been convicted of lying to Congress about the organisation's undercover activities. He was sentenced in 1977 to the maximum fine and a suspended two-year prison sentence.
Helms maintained to the last that he had had no choice, that his overriding responsibility was to US national security. His opponents argued that the real reason for his reticence was his personal involvement in many of the agency's darkest episodes.
Helms was questioned by Senator Stuart Symington at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Had the CIA tried to overthrow the government of Chile? No. Did you have money passed to the opponents of Allende? No.
Investigation by the agency's inspector general showed that both answers were untrue, and he was prosecuted. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that he had not only been involved in illegal domestic surveillance and the 1961 murder of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, but of covering up his predecessors' misdemeanours, including secret drug-testing experiments on unwitting victims.
However, Helms has gone to his grave with the sole knowledge of what Congress did not manage to uncover. He is survived by his second wife.
Richard McGarrah Helms, intelligence officer, born March 30 1913; died October 22 2002
On America's entry into the second world war, Helms joined the navy, and plotted German submarine activity. Then he was approached by his former bureau chief in Berlin to join the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the covert action body being formed by William Donovan.
Helms rejected the approach, but then the Navy Department was asked for a German-speaking officer with a journalistic background, and in August 1943 Helms was posted to the OSS.
The principal professional lesson he drew from the experience of organising intelligence operations against Germany was to rate information-gathering far higher than the often flashy sabotage raids to which "Wild Bill" Donovan was drawn. It also inculcated his lifelong belief in the importance of extreme secrecy in all intelligence work.
After the German surrender, he helped round up suspected Nazi war criminals. At the end of that year he spent a month's leave in Indianapolis, where he found he had very little chance of raising the money to buy the Times.
Then he became one of 600 field officers transferred to the newly formed Office of Special Operations (OSO). At the age of 33 he was put in charge of intelligence and counter-intelligence activities in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The National Security Act of July 1947 created the CIA, of which OSO became a division.
WIKIPEDIARichard McGarrah Helms
March 30, 1913 – October 23, 2002
American government official and diplomat who served as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) from 1966 to 1973. Helms began intelligence work with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. Following the 1947 creation of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), he rose in its ranks during the presidencies of Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy. Helms then was DCI under Presidents Johnson and Nixon, yielding to James R. Schlesinger in early 1973.
Helms was born and raised in Pennsylvania. After attending high school in Europe, learning French and German, he returned and graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts. He then worked as a journalist in Europe, and for the Indianapolis Times. Married when America entered World War II, he joined the Navy. Then Helms was recruited by the OSS, for whom he later served in Europe. Helms began his spy career by serving in the war-time Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Following the Allied victory, Helms was stationed in Germany serving under Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner. In late 1945, President Truman terminated the OSS. Back in Washington, Helms continued similar intelligence work as part of the Strategic Services Unit (SSU), later called the Office of Special Operations (OSO). During this period, Helms focused on espionage in central Europe at the start of the Cold War and took part in the vetting of the German Gehlen spy organization. The OSO was incorporated into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when it was founded in 1947.
As a spy, Helms highly valued information gathering (favoring the interpersonal, but including the technical, obtained by espionage or from published media) and its analysis while prizing counterintelligence. Although a participant in planning such activities, Helms remained a skeptic about covert and paramilitary operations. While working as the DCI, Helms managed the agency following the lead of his predecessor John McCone. In 1977, as a result of earlier covert operations in Chile, Helms became the only DCI convicted of misleading Congress. Helms's last post in government service was Ambassador to Iran from April 1973 to December 1976. Besides this Helms was a key witness before the Senate during its investigation of the CIA by the Church Committee in the mid-1970s, 1975 being called the "Year of Intelligence". This investigation was hampered severely by Helms having ordered the destruction of all files related to the CIA's mind control program in 1973.