White House Aide Dick Cheney Spearheaded Editing of Report to Dampen Impact
The Gerald Ford White House significantly altered the final report of the supposedly independent 1975 Rockefeller Commission investigating CIA domestic activities, over the objections of senior Commission staff, according to internal White House and Commission documents posted today by the National Security Archive at The George Washington University (www.nsarchive.org). The changes included removal of an entire 86-page section on CIA assassination plots and numerous edits to the report by then-deputy White House Chief of Staff Richard Cheney.
Today’s posting includes the entire suppressed section on assassination attempts, Cheney’s handwritten marginal notes, staff memos warning of the fallout of deleting the controversial section, and White House strategies for presenting the edited report to the public. The documents show that the leadership of the presidentially-appointed commission deliberately curtailed the investigation and ceded its independence to White House political operatives.
This evidence has been lying ignored in government vaults for decades. Much of the work of securing release of the records was done by the John F. Kennedy Assassinations Records Board in the 1990s, and the documents were located at the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park, Maryland; or at the Gerald R. Ford Library in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Additional mandatory declassification review requests filed by Archive fellow John Prados returned identical versions of documents, indicating the CIA is not willing to permit the public to see any more of the assassinations story than we show here. The documents in this set have yet to be incorporated into standard accounts of the events of this period.
Among the highlights of today’s posting:
White House officials of the Ford administration attempted to keep a presidential review panel—the Rockefeller Commission—from investigating reports of CIA planning for assassinations abroad.
Ford administration officials suppressed the Rockefeller Commission’s actual report on CIA assassination plots.
Richard Cheney, then the deputy assistant to the president, edited the report of the Rockefeller Commission from inside the Ford White House, stripping the report of its independent character.
The Rockefeller Commission remained silent on this manipulation.
Rockefeller Commission lawyers and public relations officials warned of the damage that would be done to the credibility of the entire investigation by avoiding the subject of assassinations.
President Ford passed investigative materials concerning assassinations along to the Church Committee of the United States Senate and then attempted—but failed—to suppress the Church Committee’s report as well.
The White House markup of the Rockefeller Commission report used the secrecy of the CIA budget as an example of excesses and recommended Congress consider making agency spending public to some degree.