Playboy: People who are asked to provide cover for CIA, suing their companies, have an incentive, don’t they? If a company, for example, is involved in commodities, an employee in that company will have specialized knowledge, privileged information that could yield that company greater profits.
Colby: I think if they made a killing, we’d cut off the relationship. We’re conscious of exactly that kind of problem. Now, there is a certain benefit if he’s an expert on the politics of a local country; the company’s going to benefit from it. It’s inevitable to some extent. I don’t think it allows them to make a killing, but it may help them do business generally in that area. And that’s the reward they get for taking the risk of having a CIA guy use their name.*
The two Cuban thugs had been hovering silently for what seemed like an hour, staring into the dimly lit corner beyond the pool. Behind them, farther down the terrace, several dozen couples—most of them Americans—were wandering around the pool, sampling the buffet of canapes, roast pork, and seafood. Some were dancing the rumba. Clearly, the thugs were not part of the party. They were scowling like sorority housemothers, and the four people they were scowling at were obviously getting jittery.
One of the four looking angry. Tom Miner, a middle-aged bachelor from Chicago, had been sampling Cuban liquor, but neither the booze nor the music had cut the tension. His companion, a stunning blond Cuban in hear early 20s, had been giggling nervously for some time.
Others at the party are getting curious. “Who are those two?” inquire a young American of a friend from the Cuban foreign ministry, indicating the thugs.
“They are not our people,” the man from the foreign ministry said cryptically. “Could they be police? Or political types?” the American wondered aloud. The Cuban nodded, apparently not wishing to spell it out. Then, very delicately, he began to explain that he had a problem.
The Marazul Hotel, about half an hour from Havana, overlooks a jungle beach that is bordered by a palm grove. It was June 23, 1977, a Thursday, the penultimate night of a five-day American trade mission to Cuba and, for the Americans, their third or fourth party—this one hosted by the Cuban foreign-trade ministry. The guest included nearly 40 midwestern executives of major corporations, their spouses, and a handful of Premier Fidel Castro’s cabinet ministers. Many of the Americans were from the Chicago area. Dress was relaxed—for the men, embroidered Cuban shirts and slacks instead of the usually diplomatic ties and tails—and the atmosphere at the pool was as carefree as the Caribbean night breeze. But the purpose was all business.
To encourage trade with the United States, Fidel Castro was thawing the nearly 20-year cold war with his Yankee neighbors. This trip was only the second made by American businessmen since the Cuban Revolution; it was an extraordinary event that had drawn extensive news coverage, especially in Chicago. Like this one, the first trade mission, undertaken two months earlier by a group of Minnesota executives, had been led by a former aide to South Dakota senator George McGovern named Kirby Jones. Jones, who had won the confidence of the Castro government, also represented the Chicago delegation. But the organizer of the group was Thomas H. Miner, head of a well-known international trade-consulting firm based in Chicago and bearing his name.
And that was part of the foreign-ministry man’s problem that night on the terrace. Because there in the darkness at the end of the pool, sitting with Thomas Tully, the Cook County assessor, and two Cuban women they had met on the beach earlier in the day, was an angry Tom Miner. And there, glaring back, were the two thugs nobody seemed to know.
The Cuban government disapproves of the young people who congregate on the beaches near hotels housing foreign visitors. Some of them, in exchange for dinner and drinks and a shirt from the hotel shop, will stay the night in the hotel with a tourist; others only play along for a brief exposure to the good life. Since the government has abolished the old system of call girls and prostitutes, these “beach people” constitute an embarrassment to the regime, and ordinarily they are chased away when important guests are expected.
The foreign-ministry man came quickly to the point: would his young American friend say something to Miner? Could he please have the two Cuban women removed from the reception? This was not the proper place for such goings on, the Cuban lectured.
The young American agreed to try, but Miner seemed indignant. “Don’t they know who I am?” Miner asked him. “This is an important delegation. They’re violating the rights of these poor women. These women are my guests.”
Worse, Miner had begun to make uncomplimentary remarks about the Cuban revolution. At the same time, he was telling some of the other American men that Tully’s interest in his date was waning and that she was available. But the thing that alarmed the young American was that Miner seemed convinced that he could transplant the party to his hotel room, in violation of the house rules posted in the lobby. Apparently there was to be no reasoning with him—in Miner’s view, it was the Cubans who were ruining the party.
Warning both the women and Miner that they could all wind up in jail, the young American gave up and returned to the dance floor, where he was again waylaid by the Cuban foreign-ministry man. Would Miner relent? Sadly, the American said no. He noticed that the Cubans around him were becoming more agitated.
About this time, somebody fetched Kirby Jones, who listened to the tale of disaster-in-the-making and strolled to the end of the pool to intercede. There were gestures, some talk. Then, over the strains of the music Jones shouted: “Get rid of them. Now! It’s over, finished! Get them out of the hotel!”
Apparently chastened and sobered, Miner took the women in two. At the door, he enlisted the aid of another Chicagoan, and they all left the hotel. Later that night, Miner told others in the group that he had hiked half a mile to the main road and installed the women safely on a Havana-bound bus.
Miner’s indignant “Don’t they know who I am?” is not the simple question it would seem to be. The Cubans, it may be presumed, knew a bit more about Miner than most of his friends do. Of course, they knew Miner as the head of an international trade-consulting firm and as a man who checks out very nicely with the State Department. But in certain Chicago circles—and, no doubt, in certain Cuban circles—they tell other stories about Miner, discreet stories mentioned only to insiders and enhanced a bit whenever Miner leads another business delegation to Cuba or to the Middle East or to China. Escorting such missions requires extensive government contacts. Put plainly, in these circles, where one often has a branch in Karachi or a man in Kabul, the word has been out for years: Tom Miner has clout. Certainly at the State Department’s Agency for International Development, which has frequently hired him as a private contractor. Maybe at the Commerce Department and even at the White House And, yes, as some have been aware, also at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Miner’s firm provided cover for the CIA in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. The relationship with the government seems to have been mutually beneficial: in return for its services, his firm appears to have been rewarded by the Federal government with contracts that are, in theory, awarded competitively. Because Miner’s role was from from unique—the CIA has used hundred of private businesses in similar arrangements—it becomes instructive to examine how the relationship has worked in the case of Thomas H. Miner.
For years, Miner has had an inside track, granted him by the State Department, for booking speaking engagements for government and foreign dignitaries who visit Chicago. For example, in July 1976, Miner’s Mid-America Committee for International Business and Government Cooperation, a private, nonprofit club for executives of the largest industrial and financial corporations in the midwest, cosponsored a luncheon address in the Palmer House by former secretary of state Henry Kissinger. (The other sponsor was the prestigious Chicago Council on foreign Relations, which had originally invited Kissinger to Chicago but had been told by the State Department that the talk could be more easily arranged if Miner were the cosponsor.) Miner’s other big name guests have included former secretary of state Dean Rusk (who made a special off-the-record report to the Mid-America Committee at the height of the Vietnam war), former president Gerald Ford, James R. Lilley, the nation’s top CIA analyst on China (who makes only two or three appearances a year before trade and academic groups), and high-ranking representatives of foreign governments.
The Mid-America Committee, formed by Miner in 1966 with the help of influential friends in the Chicago business community, serves as a forum where government and business leaders meet. Miner says the State Department wanted him to form an organization separate from the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations and the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry. Both groups were “too large,” he said, and the Council on Foreign Relations “was having trouble paying its rent.” Over the years, the names of Mid-America Committee members have sometimes changed, but seats invariably have been held by the reigning princes of Chicago’s largest banks, a dozen or so of the largest defense industry contractors, a scattering of leaders from high-technology firms and front office representatives of the Tribune Company and Field Enterprises, publishers of the city’s largest newspapers. The committee’s activities now include bimonthly foreign affairs luncheons featuring news form overseas, and an occasional seminar on trade in this or that part of the globe. Mid-America has provided the organizational umbrella not only for the Cuba trip, but also for many of Miner’s other notable achievements in foreign trade. Despite the big names and big money involved, only occasionally are these affairs covered by the news media.
In February 1975, Chicago’s relatively small foreign affairs pond rippled slightly. A book by a dissident CIA agent, Philip Agee (Inside the Company: CIA Diary), was going to press in London. Agee had fingered Thomas H. Miner & Associates, among other firms, as having furnished cover for the CIA. Agee wrote that Miner had shielded Ralph Hatry, a CIA agent involved in four surveillance operations in Montevideo, Uruguay, during the mid-1960s. But the surface smoothed again, almost immediately. Sun-Times reporter Art Petacque, who reported on the ripples, portrayed Miner’s CIA relationship as a “one-shot deal” and noted that the CIA leadership was complaining that “Agee was costing the CIA millions in reorganizational costs because of blown covers.” Petacqe’s report, only three paragraphs long, went to far as to note that Miner had lost track of the spy when Hatry “dropped him from his Christmas card list.” (Actually, the Penguin paperback edition of Agee’s book hinted at a far warmer relationship between the CIA and Miner: “His [Hatry’s] cover is that of Montevideo representative for Thomas H. Miner & Associates, a Chicago based public relations and marketing from that has provided cover for CIA officers in other countries.” [Emphasis added.])
Some on the foreign affairs circuit in Chicago read and dismissed the tidbit; others professed never to have seen it. Nevertheless, the truth about Tom Miner can be uncovered with a bit of digging, and it rates far more than three paragraphs. The truth is that miner’s firm served for many years as a cover for CIA activities in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. For much of that time, the firm collected a nominal fee of about $250 a month, and was reimbursed for the costs incurred by the spies that it was helping to keep undercover. More significantly, after agreeing to furnish cover for the CIA, Miner’s consulting firm received foreign aid contracts worth at least $3 million in fees. The contracts made up a major share of Miner’s business for years, notably in the early days when private clients were scarce. Put another way, for much of his career Tom Miner has been in the center of a triangle whose points are thee U.S. Agency for International Development, which dispenses American foreign aid; the midwest business community; and the Central Intelligence Agency. Miner’s story reveals how these three powerful forces interact with and benefit one another, often ignoring the rules governing conventional business-government relationships.
There’s evidence that the CIA used not only Miner but also a dummy business firm, local banks and lawyers, and LaSalle Street brokers to camouflage its involvement, while providing Miner with clout in landing foreign aid contracts.
In 1977, when I started research on this story, I interviewed Miner and his attorney, Donald Baker; Baker said then that it was a “reasonable inference” that Miner’s relationship with the CIA ended in 1975 after publication of the Agee book. In a later interview, Miner, now represented by attorney Don Reuben, said that Baker “did not actually have the facts”; he said the relationship began about the time of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and ended after less than two years. Later in the interview, however, he confirmed that he “may have had one” agent using his cover in the 1960s.
Miner’s firm put CIA agents on its payroll as trade consultants. In return, according to one knowledgeable source, the CIA helped Miner land AID contracts the way a light bulb attracts moths. once the relationship between Miner and the CIA was formed, this source noted, top AID officials sometimes phoned Miner’s firm and offered work in foreign countries.
Contractors who manage foreign aid contracts for the State Department and AID are known as technical-assistance contractors—financial and industrial specialists paid to do market studies, find business opportunities, and manage foreign projects for the State Department. The field requires strange talents at times, calling for people who have both detailed knowledge of their specialty (or the ability to learn fast) and skills as social secretaries, diplomats, and hustlers. Many old-timers in the technical-assistance game know one another and compete vigorously for the millions of dollars in fees available each year from the U.S. government. In the field, Tom Miner is known to almost all of the experienced hands for his firm’s success in obtaining AID work.
“I think we have a pretty good organization. We have some pretty good consultants. We have a lot of government contracts and we have a lot of nongovernment contracts,” Miner says. Three of Miner’s competitors were interviewed privately; all said that at times they had wondered why he had been so successful. Two said that they had studied Miner’s firm during the late 1960s and found that better qualified firms were not nearly so successful. When it was suggested that Mine may have had help from the CIA, all three doubted that this was the reason. They pointed instead to Miner’s formation of the Mid-America Committee, which they said gave him prestige.
Although Miner denies it vigorously, investigation shows that he did receive preferential treatment in winning foreign aid contracts. A source familiar with both the inner workings of AID and the CIA’s involvement with Miner said that he was present during many of Miner’s negotiations with AID. He said AID saw to it that Miner got contracts through several simple but effective techniques. The source believed that these techniques violated applicable regulations, though strictly legal opinions may differ on that question:
• Bid information for contracts is published daily by the Commerce Department. But one way of steering a contract to a particular contractor was to publish the contract-letting only a day or two in advance, or in an unlikely position, reducing the chances that would-be competitors would see the announcement—or, if they saw it, that they would be able to react in time. For contracts in Somalia, Ethiopia, and other places in Africa, Miner’s firm was phoned before publication of the bidding as was directed to put together a field team.
• Contract specifications, spelling out the details of the services to be performed and the qualification needed, can be narrowly drawn, setting impossible barriers for competitors. The source said that AID contract officers allowed Theodore N. Yelich, Miner’s right-hand man, to be present for some of the spec-setting sessions and that they drew the requirements to the Miner firm’s tastes.
• In some cases, AID officers have the authority to accept or reject the qualifications of bidders, making it difficult for a low bidder to win a contract. The source noted that, while some contractors have a tough go, Miner’s jobs sailed easily through the government bureaucracy. He said that some AID officers were aware of Miner’s CIA ties and deferred to them.
Thomas Hawley Miner was born on June 19, 1927, the first of three children, in downstate Shelby County, where his family still owns a 350-acre farm that is leased to tenant farmers. Miner and his brother and sister grew up in Chicago’s Beverly community, a hilly, middle-class, far-southwest-side neighborhood. Toward the end of World War II, Miner enlisted in a Navy officer training program, soon switched to the Army, and at the end of the war found himself at West Point. After a year there, he was back in Illinois, attending Knox College in Galesburg.
One of Miner’s college buddies recently recalled him as a combination “stuffed shirt with P.T. Barnum,” a man who could be both charming and crass, a description that later Miner acquaintances agreed with. One of Miner’s first investment schemes goes back to his days at Knox, when he airlifted corsages from Hawaii for a college dance, stored them in his fraternity’s attic, and kept the pledge brothers busy snipping wilted petals until the dance took place. Miner’s penchant for unusual, even grandiose investment schemes later led him to sink thousands of dollars—his own and others’—into a Colombian emerald mine and to seek hidden gold bullion in Mexican mountains.
Miner graduated from the University of Illinois law school in 1953 and went to work at the Continental Illinois National Bank as a trust officer. By 1955, he had left the bank and was working at a plant near Mexico City for Harper-Wyman Company, a maker of gas appliance components. Three years later, he had returned to Chicago and was working as assistant to the owner of the H.D. Hudson manufacturing Company, a now defunct manufacturer of agricultural spraying equipment. A biography provided to the press in 1962, when the jaycees named him one of Chicago’s ten outstanding young men, claimed that he had set up Hudson’s international operations in Europe and elsewhere.
In 1961, Miner launched himself as a business consultant. He survived the first year partly because of a $500-a-month retainer paid by his old bosses at Hudson, even though he apparently did no substantial work for them. In the meantime, he set out to make a name for himself. He was hired a public relations expert in Washington to introduce him to government dignitaries. He submitted to occasional newspaper interviews, which usually portrayed him as a knowledgeable, globe-hopping trade emissary (though slightly on the exotic side) and one of the most eligible bachelors in the turboprop set. He hung out with the young adults group at the fashionable Fourth Presbyterian Church on N. Michigan Avenue, dated such social figures as Heather Morgan. He served as president of the International Trade Club, and was active in the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, the Chicago Association of Commerce and Industry, and the Mid-America Arab Chamber of Commerce. In recent years, he has held the honorary post of Chicago consul of Senegal. He has been the registered agent for the government of British Honduras (now Belize) and the midwest representative of the National Council for U.S.-China Trade, a group that promotes trade with the People’s Republic of China.
In 1961, as Tom Miner was launching himself as a business consultant, a new president was urging Americans to dedicate themselves to preserving democracy and capitalism around the world. The Kennedy administration formulated a plan for an economic partnership between Third World nations and American businesses interested in foreign expansion. Kennedy called for the partnership the Agency for International Development, and, in a message to eager businessmen meeting in San Juan in early 1961, he urged them:
“Keep in close touch with the new AID agency which I have proposed in my recent message to the Congress so that you can coordinate your efforts … . I want to assure you of the administration’s keen interest in cooperating with you … . A concerted government [and] private enterprise approach to this problem can achieve valuable and lasting results.”
Kennedy defined the problem as one of “economic development in the less developed counties.” But the businessmen who hear the message, along with a speech from CIA Director Allen Dulles, believed that the Communists were winning in the developing nations, and they set up the Action Committee for International Development (ACID) to try to turn the tide. The group had close ties with the CIA, and Miner, though not present in San Juan, joined later.
In late 1962, Miner’s firm accepted a direct pitch from a CIA agent who was operating out of the Commerce Department field office on the 14th floor of the old Federal Building. The pitch was simple: Miner & Associates wanted to work on AID projects, and CIA agent Harold Halvorson said that there was only one way to do it—by playing ball with the CIA. Miner was later to claim that he agreed to do so for patriotic reasons. Within months, he had opened offices in Montevideo, Uruguay, and Lima, Peru; he had also picked up AID contracts worth $200,000.
Miner & Associates began to furnish cover for Ralph Hatry, a German-born American assigned to Uruguay by the CIA. Hatry, now retired and living in a suburb of Washington, chatted pleasantly in an interview with me in 1977 about some of his activities while undercover as a Miner employee. Hatry said that he led a double life—as a trade consultant in an office set up and rented by the CIA in Montevideo, and as a spy, about which he could say nothing. Other sources said that Hatry and his wife, Audrey, reported to the CIA on four secret missions: a surveillance of the Cuban embassy in Montevideo; a liaison with an exiled Paraguayan leader; several infiltrations of the Paraguayan Communist party; and an intercept of letters between Uruguay and the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, and other Communist nations.
The CIA went to some trouble to set Hatry up. First, it furnished his office expensively in an effort to make it resemble a legitimate business. The agency intended to recoup those expenses through whatever profits Hatry could make for Miner & Associates. Hatry tried hard to line up deals involving several businesses—a candy-making firm and a furniture factory among them—but, according to Miner, “He never brought in one cent.” Presumably, the agency charged the office furnishings to the taxpayers.
Second, the agency devised an elaborate scheme to launder Hatry’s expenses through a dummy firm set up in Columbus, Ohio. The “firm,” called Marlin & Faye, used the address 41 South High Street, which is across the street from the Ohio state capitol. Hatry’s bills were received by Miner’s firm and forwarded to the dummy outfit, which appeared on Miner’s books as one of his clients. From Marlin & Faye, Miner’s bills were collected and paid by checks, which bore the signature Elmo T. Bumert, the company president.
In reality, the bills went to the CIA. Marlin & Faye was merely a mail drop. No records could be found to show that an Elmo T. Bumert ever existed. A Columbus, Ohio, law firm served as the link between Marlin & Faye and the CIA.
(One further note on Hatry: his wife Audrey, later turned up as a clerk for Senator Frank Church’s celebrated subcommittee, which investigated CIA activities in 1975 and 1976.)
At the same time that he took Hatry under his wing, government records show, Miner’s business began to expand greatly. In the fiscal year 1963-64, Miner collected $145,000 in fees for administering AID grants to study the meat industry in Ethiopia and Afghanistan. The Afghan contracts ultimately bought in nearly a million dollars for Miner’s firm, making it one of his largest accounts. Miner’s firm went on to study the meat industry of the Sudan in 1965, and received other grants totaling at last $3 million in AID contracts through 1972. He is also known to have worked for AID in Cambodia, Vietnam, and half a dozen African nations. Asked if he harbored spies in Southeast Asia, Miner conceded, “There may have been one,” and pointed out that “there was a war going on over there.”
One incident from that period indicates that Miner could break well-known AID rules and still compete for foreign aid contracts. In 1968, AID contract officers were forced to rein Miner in when he apparently attempted to profit twice from his government work. The incident involved a study of pulp manufacturing in Somalia, sponsored by AID and a Somalian bank. The study was supposed to have been distributed freely to anyone interested in developing Somalian business. But records show that Miner contacted several pulp companies and offered to sell them the results on an “exclusive” basis. AID officers, noting that the work was available to the public, required Miner to rescind the offer.
According to former Chicago banker, Walter Stewart, the State Department of the mid-1960s was eager to enlist private business in AID projects in Africa because the government had flopped in trying to line up business development projects on its own. Stewart recalls that Chicago was one of four cities targeted for a State Department push, and the Mid-America International Development Association MIDA) was formed here to fill the gap.
MIDA’s beginnings are a bit cloudy, but it appears to have been incorporated first in Delaware and later in Liberia and Illinois. The corporation’s charter states it was founded to promote and arrange financing for projects in East and West Africa. Three LaSalle Street brokerage houses and the First National Bank held stock in MIDA and created its board of directors. Under the terms of its contract with AID, the government was to contribute operating capital and hire a technical assistance contractor. The government, of course, hired Miner & Associates.
Active in MIDA’s formation, besides Miner, was A. Robert Abboud from the First National Bank. Abboud, then a junior vice-president in the bank’s international department, is now chairman and chief executive officer. Shortly after MIDA’s formation he took assignments in Frankfurt and Beirut; his name appears as a member of MIDA’s board after his overseas duties ended in 1969.
Miner recalls that First National did some recruiting of MIDA personnel, and he has mentioned Abboud’s name in this context. Asked if he, personally, ever recruited for MIDA, Abboud denied it vehemently.
William J. McDonough, a former Foreign Service officer and currently head of the bank’s worldwide banking department and overseer of the bank’s special relationship with the People’s Republic of China, also was active in MIDA.
MIDA helped establish a number of businesses in West Africa, including a plywood factory and a Greyhound bus service in Nigeria. Attempts to start a lumber mill and a pharmaceutical firm failed. The brokerage houses, dismayed by the huge amounts of red tape and low profits, pulled out of MIDA after a couple of years, and after some time lost track of its existence. MIDA offices in Africa were eventually taken over by the First National Bank; MIDA filed annual corporation reports with the State of Illinois until 1976, and was stilled carried on the bank’s organizational charts as of May 1978.
The MIDA arrangement was used for a CIA cover from very early in its history. It is unclear to what extent MIDA officials other than Miner knew of the CIA’s involvement in the corporation’s work in Africa. Several years after the company was organized, First National took over Miner’s contract responsibilities; one source indicates that Miner was fired after a MIDA board member discovered that MIDA was covering CIA activities. According to the source, Abboud threw a tantrum when the board member reported his findings—finding fault not with Miner but with the board member who brought the bad news. Abboud says that never happened, but he refuses to disclose the MIDA records that might clarify the matter, and other bank officials say they have no knowledge of the details. Miner even denied that he had been fired, saying that from the beginning his firm intended to train the bank’s people and then go on to something else.
What is certain is that by 1967, MIDA had become an umbrella covering the activities of CIA agent Donald J. Musch. Musch, who once was an FBI agent in Chicago, had been operating undercover in Africa as a representative of an east coast publisher of legal texts, but that cover was wearing thin and he needed a new arrangement. Miner’s consulting firm, which had just landed the subcontractor’s role with MIDA, filled the bill. While working as a Miner employee in Kenya, Musch was assigned to perform routine surveillance on Soviet personnel and African Communists. After approximately one year, the CIA transferred him to the Philippines, where again he worked undercover as a Miner representative.
His Manila expense accounts, laundered through the mail drop firm Marlin & Faye, reveal among other things that Musch threw a Christmas party for 82 guests in 1968, with catered food and live music. The bash cost taxpayers a modest 2,123 pesos—about $500—including the cost of cigars and cigarettes. Musch proved a more successful businessman than Miner’s CIA employee Hatry: he developed some projects in Vietnam, as well as a deal with the Asian Development Bank. Musch was recently working in the State Department’s office of the Inspector General for Foreign Aid, where his job was to police the integrity of foreign aid contracts, and where his boss was also a former CIA agent. He refuses to discuss the CIA, his experiences with foreign aid, or his role with Miner.
A former high-ranking official of AID said that in the early 1970s, there were 370 CIA people operating under AID cover, and that the agents were removed a few years ago as the U.S. withdrew from Southeast Asia. A former CIA officer put the estimate of CIA-AID agents at 300, and noted that there was a CIA procedure for approving relationships similar to Miner’s. The AID involvement would “have to have been written into the [CIA guidelines for the] project, and it would have to have been approved by probably several deputy [CIA] directors.
While the corporate covers are not unusual, information about the activities of agents operating under those covers is hard to establish. General Aircraft, a New Bedford, Massachusetts, company, claims it was an unknowing participant in some CIA activities, and has filed a complaint against the agency charging that the CIA illegally abused a contractual relationship for sales of aircraft and organized CIA operations under its name—including assassinations and the smuggling of illegal drugs. As a result, the company claims, its reputation was destroyed with governments in Africa and in other places where it had established markets for its planes and equipment. The CIA has rejected the complaint and the matter is now proceeding in the courts.
Miner says he remained ignorant of the activities carried out by the agents on his payroll. When it was suggested that they could have been overthrowing governments or assassinating political leaders, he responded, So be it,” and said he would do it again if asked. He claims he entered into the relationship with the CIA for purely patriotic reasons, and denies that he benefited in any way from his CIA ties, going so far as to say it was a losing proposition. He insists the relationship is over.
Abboud is not as cool as Miner in discussing the issue. “The idea that MIDA was affiliated in any way with the CIA is an absolute lie,” he shouted in an interview last May. “The idea tat there were discussions about the CIA [within the MIDA board] is an absolute lie.” Abboud refused to produce the MIDA records to clear up the matter, although a bank public relations staff member had offered them earlier.
The international law firm of Baker & McKenzie has advised Miner and his company and helped form both the Mid-America Committee and MIDA. In an interview, Donald Baker pointed out that relationships between CIA and private businesses are common. (Baker & McKenzie, according to the Washington Post and other sources, as also accused of improprieties in the General Aircraft complaint against the CIA. Although the complaint does not mention Baker & McKenzie by name, it charges that a law firm used by General was “either employed by or in direct communication with the CIA” during negotiations in which the firm was supposed to be representing General Aircraft, and “at such times owed primary allegiance to the CIA.”) During the interview, held in Baker’s office with Miner present, the lawyer candidly noted that many large and small companies in Chicago have provided help or cover to the CIA.
“Ask any corporation,” Baker said. When he was asked about the General Aircraft allegations, hr rose from his seat, curtly ended the interview, and walked from the room.
* From the Playboy Interview, with former CIA director William E. Colby, July 1978