Obituary: Ray Cline
Tuesday 19 March 1996
In 1956 Cline decided, correctly, that the text of Nikita Khrushchev's famous "secret speech" to the Soviet Communist Party's Twentieth Congress, which the agency had received from an Israeli source, was authentic and persuaded Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), to publish it in the face of opposition from several of the agency's senior barons.
These men, among them James Jesus Angleton, head of Counter-Espionage, and Frank Wisner Snr, the Director for Plans, wanted to keep the secret speech secret, and leak out Khrushchev's revelations about Stalin's crimes a little at a time to encourage the anti-Soviet resistance in eastern Europe. Cline persuaded Allen Dulles that it would be wiser to make the speech public.
Cline's reward was to be chosen, along with James Billington, then a CIA official, now a distinguished historian and Librarian of Congress, to accompany him on an indiscreetly publicised world tour. One high point came when a Hong Kong tailor, summoned to make suits for a supposedly anonymous American, bowed deeply and said, "Thank you, Mr Dulles, for your custom!"
In 1965, when Dulles's successor, the industrialist John McCone, retired as the head of the CIA, Cline who was Deputy Director for Intelligence (DDI), was one of several serious candidates to take over as DCI.
Perhaps partly for this reason, partly because he felt that the head of the Agency ought to be an intelligence professional, but mostly because he thought he was an unintelligent and incompetent amateur, Cline tangled repeatedly with the man who got the top job, Admiral "Red" Raborn.
Cline, his colleague Richard Helms recorded, "thought Raborn was a horse's ass and he didn't hesitate to say so". On one occasion the admiral suddenly discovered that the Chinese were not getting on well with the Russians. Cline, who had known this for years and whose department had produced more detailed analysis on this than on any other single subject, could not contain his irritation. When Raborn asked Cline to send over any studies he had on Sino-Soviet relations, Cline asked acidly, "In a wheelbarrow?"
After several bruising confrontations with Raborn, Cline asked for a foreign posting and became the CIA's bureau chief in Frankfurt. But he had the last word. He went to Clark Clifford, the powerful Washington law-yer and former Truman Admin-istration official who was the head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and to McGeorge Bundy, his National Security Adviser, and insisted that Raborn must go. President Johnson agreed and replaced Raborn after only one year in office.
Although essentially an analyst, with great expertise on the Soviet Union, and committed to the importance of intelligence as opposed to covert action, Cline could take a robust line about the usefulness of action when he saw the need. In 1964 when the "Simba" rebels in Zaire were holding 1,000 prisoners, including Americans and Belgian nuns, Cline argued forcefully that the CIA should go in "like gangbusters".
In rapid succession he sugges-ted "sending in a team through the jungle, bombing the city, a helicopter raid and a parachute drop". It was his opposite number Richard Helms, the Director for Plans and as such the covert action chief, who successfully counselled patience.
Cline played an important role in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. As well as briefing the President on his directorate's assessment of the risk from Soviet missiles which had been secretly installed in the island, Cline studied reports from American secret agents inside Cuba and personally debriefed Cuban refugees. Later, in his book Secrets, Spies and Scholars (1977), he defended covert operations, arguing that it was no different from secret assistance to countries friendly to the United States. In particular, he argued that the CIA's attempts to co-operate with the Mafia to assassinate Fidel Castro were justifiable.
"It was not illogical," he wrote, for the CIA to invite the Mafia to kill Castro, since American organised crime syndicates' "former Havana gambling empire gave them some contacts to work with, and since a gangland killing would be unlikely to be attributed to the US government".
From 1969 to 1973 he headed the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Now bearded, he was a familiar figure in Washington men's clubs. After his retirement he worked on his book, one of the most thoughtful accounts of secret intelligence work.
Ray Steiner Cline, political scientist, writer: born Anderson, Illinois 4 June 1918; Director, US Naval Auxillary Communications Centre, Taipei 1958-62; Deputy Director of Intelligence, CIA 1962-66; Special Adviser to the American Embassy, Bonn 1966-69; Director, State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research 1969-73; Director, World Power Studies, Georgetown University 1973-86; married 1941 Marjorie Wilson (two daughters); died Arlington, Virginia 15 March 1996.
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