CIA Director Leon Panetta, President Obama’s nominee to serve as secretary of defense, has come under newfound scrutiny for his ties to a pro-Marxist think tank accused of anti-CIA activity.
The Institute for Policy Studies, or IPS, has long faced criticism for positions some say attempt to undermine U.S. national security and for its cozy relationship with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
A review of the voting record for Panetta, a member of Congress from 1977 to 1993, during the period in question shows an apparent affinity for IPS’s agenda.
The IPS is currently funded by philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Institute.
Panetta was reportedly on IPS’s official 20th Anniversary Committee, celebrated April 5, 1983, at a time when the group was closely aligned with the Soviet Union.
In his authoritative book “Covert Cadre: Inside the Institute for Policy Studies,” S. Steven Powell writes: “April 5, 1983, IPS threw a large twentieth-anniversary celebration to raise funds.
“On the fundraising committee for the event were 14 then-current members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including “Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.), chairman of Budget Process Task Force of the House Committee on Budget (chairman of Subcommittee on Police and Personnel, Ninety-ninth Congress).”
Researcher Trevor Loudon, a specialist on communism, obtained and posted IPS literature documenting members of the 20th Anniversary Committee, which also included Sens. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Gary Hart, D-Colo., with an endorsement by Sen. Mark Hatfield, R-Ore.
Besides Panetta, congressmen on the IPS committee included Les Aspin, D-Wis., George E Brown Jr., D-Calif., Philip Burton, D-Calif., George Crockett, D-Mich., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa and Richard Ottinger, D-N.Y.
Along with serving on the IPS committee, Panetta supported the IPS’s “Coalition for a New Foreign and Military Policy Line” in 1983.
Powell wrote that in the 1980s Panetta commissioned the IPS to produce an “alternative” budget that dramatically cut defense spending.
“The congressional supporters for the Institute for Policy Studies included many of those who biennially commission I.P.S. to produce an ‘Alternative’ Budget that dramatically cuts defense spending while increasing the spending for social welfare to levels only dreamed of by Karl Marx,” wrote Powell in the November 1983 issue of the American Opinion.
“In this pact of I.P.S. intimates [are] such luminaries as … Leon Panetta (D.-California), Chairman of the Budget Process Task Force,” wrote Powell.
Panetta’s ties to the IPS have some worried.
“Members of the mainstream news media seem to have no interest in Leon Panetta’s past open involvement with the Institute for Policy Studies, an anti-CIA think tank closely linked to the former Soviet Union’s KGB spy agency. But they should,” writes blogger and former Air Force public affairs officer Bob McCarty.
Writing in the New American earlier this month, Christian Gomez notes, “Careful observation of former Rep. Panetta’s record in the U.S. House of Representatives reveals a history of votes perceivable as in contrast with U.S. national security objectives, which if confirmed as Sec. of Defense may compromise U.S. national defense.”
Indeed, as Gomez outlined, Panetta voted against the reaffirmation of the Mutual Defense Treaty with Taiwan and in support of continuing foreign aid to the Sandinista government of communist Nicaragua.
The lawmaker supported extending most-favored nation status to the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact states during the height of the Cold War, and voted to cede control of the Panama Canal to the pro-Soviet Panamanian government.
Panetta also vocally supported various communist regimes throughout Latin America as well as Soviet-backed paramilitary groups in the region.
He endorsed the IPS-supported bill H.R. 2760, known as the Boland-Zablocki bill, to terminate U.S. efforts to resist communism in Nicaragua.
Panetta slammed what he called President Ronald Reagan’s “illegal and extraordinary vicious wars against the poor of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala.”
Panetta supported the Soviet satellite government of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua and was a vocal opponent of Chile’s anti-communist government.
On July 19, 1983, on the floor of the House, Panetta condemned what he called the “U.S.-sponsored covert action against Nicaragua,” stating that it was “among the most dangerous aspects of the [Reagan] administration’s policy in Central America.”
In 1984, Gomez notes, Panetta inserted into the Congressional Record a statement of praise for anti-war activist Lucy Haessler, a founding member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, or WILPF, which was named by the State Department as a “Soviet front.”
Panetta later stated he was not aware of the WILPF’s communist background and was merely praising Haessler’s antiwar actions.
The IPS, meanwhile, has long maintained controversial views and its pro-Marxist line on foreign policy. It was founded in 1963 by two former governmental workers, Marcus Raskin and Richard Barnet.
In his 1988 book “Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today,” Harvey Klehr, professor of politics and history at Emory University, said that IPS “serves as an intellectual nerve center for the radical movement, ranging from nuclear and anti-intervention issues to support for Marxist insurgencies.”
The FBI labeled the group a “think factory” that helps to “train extremists who incite violence in U.S. cities, and whose educational research serves as a cover for intrigue, and political agitation.”
The IPS has been accused of serving as a propaganda arm of the USSR and even a place where agents from the Soviet embassy in Washington came to convene and strategize.
In his book “The KGB and Soviet Disinformation: An Insider’s View,” Ladislav Bittman, a former KGB agent, called the IPS a Soviet misinformation operation at which Soviet insiders worked.
Brian Crozier, director of the London-based Institute for the Study of Conflict, described IPS as the “perfect intellectual front for Soviet activities which would be resisted if they were to originate openly from the KGB.”
The IPS has been implicated in anti-CIA activity. The Center for Security Studies was a 1974 IPS spin-off and strove to compromise the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to Discover the Networks.
The mastheads of two anti-FBI and anti-CIA publications, Counterspy and the Covert Action Information Bulletin, were heavy with IPS members.
Further, the group’s former director, Robert Borosage, penned a book shortly out of college attacking the CIA and ran the so-called CIA watchdog, Center for National Security Studies.
The group has been particularly concerned with researching U.S. defense industries and arms sales policies.
In March 1982, IPS’s Arms Race and Nuclear Weapons Project was directed by Bill Arkin, who had been compiling a book of U.S. nuclear weapons data with “everything from where the bombs are stored to where weapons delivery systems are cooked up,” according to KeyWiki.