The CIA released internal reports Tuesday detailing assassination plots against foreign leaders such as Cuba's Fidel Castro and the secret testing of mind-and-behavior altering drugs like LSD on unwitting U.S. citizens.
The documents also provide information on wiretapping of U.S. journalists, spying on civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protesters, opening mail between the United States and the Soviet Union and China and break-ins at the homes of ex-CIA employees and others.
Inside the Central Intelligence Agency, the documents were referred to as the "skeletons." But another name quickly caught on and stuck: "family jewels."
The 693 pages, mostly drawn from the memories of active CIA officers in 1973, were turned over at that time to three different investigative panels - President Gerald Ford's Rockefeller Commission, the Senate's Church committee and the House's Pike committee.
The panels spent years investigating and amplifying on these documents. And their public reports in the mid-1970s filled tens of thousands of pages. The scandal sullied the reputation of the intelligence community and led to new rules for the CIA, FBI and other spy agencies and new permanent committees in Congress to oversee them.
Among the more famous misdeeds were these:
-Castro plot: In August, 1960, the CIA recruited ex-FBI agent Robert Maheu to approach mobster Johnny Roselli and pass himself off as the representative of international corporations who wanted Castro killed. Roselli introduced Maheu to "Sam Gold" and "Joe", who were actually 10-most wanted mobsters Momo Giancana, Al Capone's successor in Chicago, and Santos Trafficant. The CIA gave them six poison pills, and they tried unsuccessfully for several months to have several people put them in the Cuban leader's food. This particular plot was dropped after the failed CIA-sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, but other plots continued against Castro. Details of this plot first appeared in Jack Anderson's newspaper column in 1971.
Last week, CIA Director Michael Hayden told a conference of historians that "the documents provide a glimpse of a very different time and a very different agency."
CIA spokesman George Little said Hayden has been declassifying historic documents as a way of demonstrating CIA's accountability. "The collection was reviewed exhaustively by the Rockefeller Commission and congressional committees in the 1970s. Moreover, many of the documents have been released to the public on prior occasions," Little added.
These documents also were one of the products of the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Then-CIA Director James Schlesinger was angered to read in the newspapers that the CIA had provided support to ex-CIA agents E. Howard Hunt and James McCord, who were convicted in the Watergate break-in. Hunt had worked for a secret "plumbers unit" in Nixon's White House. The unit originally was tasked to investigate and end leaks of classified information but ultimately engaged in a wide range of misconduct.
In May 1973, Schlesinger ordered "all senior operating officials of this agency to report to me immediately on any activities now going on, or that have gone on the past, which might be construed to be outside the legislative charter of this agency." The law establishing the CIA barred it from conducting spying inside the United States.
The result was 693 pages of memos that arrived after Schlesinger had moved to the Pentagon and been replaced as CIA chief by William Colby. Colby ultimately reported the contents to the Justice Department.
"These are the top CIA officers all going into the confessional and saying, `Forgive me father, for I have sinned,' " said Thomas Blanton, director of the private National Security Archive, which had requested release of the documents under the Freedom of Information Act.