Truth Comission Spotlights CIA Role in South Africa

The Anarchives (
Fri, 6 Dec 1996 17:04:35 +0000 (GMT)

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EDITOR'S NOTE: Millard Shirley, a longtime "Africa hand" for the CIA
according to co-workers, died in an automobile crash in Switzerland in
1990. But a South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is
resurrecting his life as it intersected with the white regime's campaign
to disrupt and destroy the anti-apartheid movement. PNS correspondent
Jeff Stein is a former deputy foreign news editor for UPI and author of
"A Murder in Wartime: The Untold Spy Story that Changed the Course of the
Vietnam War." Stein taught investigative reporting in South Africa on a
U.S. government grant in 1995.


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- He was a big, blustery man with twinkling eyes and a
demonic chortle, and when he showed up at a super-secret office of South
African intelligence in 1985, he had a box of dirty tricks as big as the

Millard Shirley, according to those who worked with him, was a longtime
"Africa hand" with the Central Intelligence Agency, a senior covert
action specialist who had lived and worked in southern Africa for a
quarter of a century when he came out of retirement to help the white
regime neutralize anti-apartheid activists.

A South African "Truth and Reconciliation Commission," which has been
hearing senior former Pretoria police officials tell how they carried out
political assassinations against opponents of the white regime, is
looking into Millard Shirley's activities.

"The CIA man's arsenal of tricks was varied and inventive, drawn from
highly classified Pentagon manuals on psychological warfare," according
to Mike Leach, a South African who worked with Shirley.

"One of the items was a recipe for prussic acid, a clear compound which,
if inhaled, would give a massive coronary," Leach recalled. "If a
doctor's not looking for prussic acid, he'll put (the cause of death)
down to natural causes."

Leach's description closely resembles the manuals the Pentagon used to
teach assassination techniques to Latin American military officers at the
School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia, which caused an uproar
when they were revealed in September.

"The manuals had (U.S.) Department of Defense stamped on their covers,"
said Leach, who worked for a secret unit called Stratcom (Strategic
Communications), organized to disrupt and destroy anti-apartheid groups.
Shirley was hired to train the unit's operatives.

"One of the things Shirley did during the negotiations with unions was to
doctor the water on the table with chemicals to induce stomach cramps, to
bring about a point where the union officials would want to hurry up the
negotiations and just settle because they were physically uncomfortable."

Another trick was to launder anti-apartheid tee shirts in a fiberglass
solution and hand them out to demonstrators, who would soon be convulsed
in uncontrollable itching.

Shirley was "the top CIA operative in South Africa for many years,"
according to Gerard Ludi, a retired senior South African intelligence
agent and close friend.

It was Shirley who tipped off the South African police to the whereabouts
of Nelson Mandela in 1962, allowing them to throw up a roadblock and
capture him, according to Ludi.

"Shirley had a high-ranking 'deep throat', a Durban-based Indian, within
South African Communist party ranks," Ludi told the Johannesburg Sunday
Times in 1990. "This man was obviously close to Mr. Mandela shortly
before his arrest, and gave Shirley detailed information about Mr.
Mandela while he was on the run.

"I can only guess that Shirley was instructed by his government to supply
the information to the South Africans because it was in America's
interest to have Mr. Mandela out of the way."

The Times story had followed an initial report of CIA complicity in
Mandela's arrest by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, published a week
earlier. The Journal-Constitution story did not identify Shirley, who
died in an automobile accident in 1990, as the CIA officer who supplied
the tip. Nor did it mention his involvement in domestic South African
dirty tricks.

After Shirley initially retired from the CIA in 1973, he and Ludi were
business partners in a private security firm, Ludi said. Then, in 1985,
came the call from Stratcom.

"The South African intelligence services didn't have decent training
materials," Ludi said. "They asked Millard to update and do a proper
training manual. Then he might've gone there as a freelance thing. He did
it for a year -- off and on for a year."

Asked whether his friend was still working for the CIA at that point,
Ludi answered, "Who knows? Shirley tried to retire many times, but the
CIA kept calling him back to duty. We gave him about 20 retirement

A CIA spokeswoman said it was against agency policy to comment on its
employees. A former CIA African Division chief, Claire George, said he
couldn't recall Shirley's name.

The CIA also offered training in bugging and wiretaps, according to an
official involved in an internal audit of past intelligence operations by
the South African telecommunications agency, or Telcom.

"They were sent to America to be trained in certain areas of monitoring,"
he recalled. "It went beyond monitoring of lines to the placing of
devices in rooms, some of which Telcom is still uncovering."

The CIA also sent South Africans to a facility in Taiwan for advanced
psychological warfare training, according to Mike Leach.

The auditing official called the alleged wiretap training "very
sinister." He suspects the CIA used the program to develop its own spies
in Telcom, to protect its assets in the country at this time.

"The American government wanted to know which way the cookie would
crumble," he said.

(11011996) **** END **** (c) COPYRIGHT PNS