During his final three years in power, the shah of Iran repeatedly warned U.S. officials that he would expel CIA agents from his country if action were taken against Iranian intelligence operatives for improper activities within the United States.
These warnings were conveyed to the highest level in Washington by then-ambassador Richard M. Helms in 1976 and again by his successor, William H. Sullivan, last year.
Helms, in a December 1976 cable to then-secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, cautioned against "an inflammatory public brouhaha over possibly ill-advised intelligence activity. As you well know, we are very beholden here in the intelligence area and therefore correspondingly vulnerable."
This cable traffic and numerous other communications between Tehran and Washington are disclosed in a still-classified staff report on questionable foreign intelligence operations in the United States prepared for the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on international operations. Portions of the secret report, drafted by committee legal counsel Michael Glennon, were made public last week by columnist Jack Anderson. Glennon was unavailable for comment yesterday.
The subcommittee report examined cases of harassment and surveillance, as well as suspected assassination pilots, against U.S. residents by intelligence agents of Chile, Iran, the Philippines, the Republic of China (Taiwan), the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.
The activities were aimed at critics of some of those governments as a means of influencing American public opinion by silencing opposition voices in this country, according to the report.
Major allegations in the staff study, which is being submitted to government intelligence agencies for review, include:
Kissinger and his press spokesman, Robert Funseth, made "incorrect and misleading" public statements on the extent of the government's knowledge of Iranian intelligence activities in the United States in 1976.
The report said that as long as three years before the Kissinger and Funseth statements the FBI had advised the State Department of investigations it was conducting of harassment of Iranian students by SAVAK agents in the United States. SAVAK was the Iranian secret police.
The State Department has actively discouraged FBI investigations of likely crimes committed in the United States by friendly intelligence services. Moreover, the department has not expelled known spies using diplomatic cover, despite repeated allegations of misbehavior by those spies.
The CIA passed on to SAVAK some of the intelligence it received from the FBI on a prominent critic of the shah who resided in the United States, Nasser Afshar, who was later targeted for assassination by the Iranian intelligence agency. The CIA, according to the report, also provided information to the intelligence services of Chile and the Philippines on U.S. residents about whom those governments wanted information.
A Serbian emigre, Dragista Kashikovich, was shot to death in Chicago in June 1977 after the FBI had received information from the CIA indicating he was a potential assassination target of the Yugoslav intelligence services (UID). A 10-year-old girl who reportedly witnessed the murder was also killed. The report said that the FBI had received a "reliable report" that Yugloslav intelligence officers were involved in the murder. The case is unsolved.
The Republic of China (Taiwan) intelligence services paid and supervised four "well-known" Sino-American professors to help it keep students under surveillance as recently as August 1978.
"Traditionally," the report said, "official governmental concern has been directed at foreign-sponsored efforts to subvert the United States government through such means as covert operations and espionage.
"The foreign intelligence activities that were the subject of this study were of a new sort, however; they were aimed not at direct subversion of the U.S. government thourh classic clandestine techniques but rather at influencing American public opinion by controlling, by "countering," in the jargon of the intelligence community, those groups and individuals who might affect that body of opinion in ways perceived to be inimical to the interests of the foreign countries involved."
The CIA has a "disincentive" to collect and evaluate such intelligence because of the threat of retaliation against CIA personnel in their host countries, the study concluded. Any prosecution could also run the risk of revealing agency sources and methods.
The FBI does investigate specific complaints of criminal violations but it makes no systematic effort to ascertain the activities within the United States of "friendly" foreign intelligence services, according to the report.
Asked, for example, how the FBI would know about SAVAK agent operations within the United States, one FBI official was quoted as responding: "Watch "60 Minutes.""
Nonetheless, the State Department said it relied almost exclusively upon the CIA, FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) for information on the activities of "friendly" foreign intelligence agencies within the United States.
The theme of reprisal as a deterrent to investigation of SAVAK was a dominant one. A Jan. 3, 1977, cable from the U.S. embassy in Tehran said that if the practices of Iranian intelligence were to become an issue in the United States, the shah "would not be able to overlook the presence of 70 of your people who are carrying out activities contrary to Iranian law.""
At the time there were 13 SAVAK officers reportedly operating in the United States.
On Sept. 11, 1974, the FBI installed a telephone tap at the Iranian Consulate in San Francisco, with State Department concurrence, after learning that SAVAK informers operating within the United States reported their information to a telephone number at that location.
It was learned through the tap that SAVAK officers assigned to the consulate were directing agents in the western United States targeted against Iranian students.
In January 1975 William G. Hyland, then director of the State Department's Bureau of Information and Research, disapproved the tap, which was immediately terminated.
The FBI later told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the tap was turned off for "foreign policy reasons," although an earlier version of the statement said it was terminated for "political reasons," according to the staff report.
The episode in which Kissinger and Funseth were accused of issuing misleading public statements grew out of an appearance on the shah on Oct. 24, 1976, on the CBS "60 Minutes" program.
Asked about SAVAK operations in the United States, the shah said the purpose of those activities was "checking up on anybody who becomes affiliated with circles, organizations hostile to my country, which is the role of any intelligence organization."
At a news conference three days later in Hartford, Kissinger said, "It is not correct that the United States is aware of the fact that Iranian intelligence personnel are checking on individuals living in the United States or keeping them under surveillance. We are making inquiries about this matter, and if it is correct we are going to ask that it be stopped."
Two weeks later State Department spokesman Funseth said, "We found no evidence confirming allegations of any illegal or improper activity. And the Iranian embassy has assured us that none of their officials are committing any such activities.... On our part, we informed the Iranian embassy that we do not accept the exercise of police functions by foreign officials in the United States for whatever reason."
Three years earlier, notwithstanding Kissinger's denial, the FBI had requested State Department clearance to investigate an Iranian intelligence operation designed to infiltrate antishah student groups. Within 10 days the FBI request was withdrawn. No explanation was cited.
On two subsequent occasions before the Kissinger and Funseth statements the FBI sought authority to place telephone taps on the Iranian consulate in San Francisco to monitor reports of harassment. One request was granted, and the tap was later terminated at the behest of the State Department.
"Thus, at the time of Dr. Kissinger's Oct. 24, 1976, statement, at least three documents had been transmitted to the State Department by the FBI providing information diametrically contrary to his statement," the report said. "State Department spokesman Robert Funseth's Nov. 10, 1976, statement was both incorrect and misleading."
A "working paper" later produced by the State Department, used to brief Kissinger, raised several options for dealing with the SAVAK issue.
One of the options was to ask the attorney general to order a thorough FBI investigation of SAVAK. There was a caution, however, that the Iranians "would be irritated by the fact of the investigation alone, which could lead to counteractions against us in Iran.... If evidence were found of past impropriety, we would be left with an endless source of friction with Iran."
The option that was finally selected recommended simply that a department official explain to Iranian Ambassador Ardeshir Zahedi that Iranian intelligence in the United States should respect U.S. laws, while pointing out that the United States had no evidence they would act improperly, the Senate report said.
"This option was the one selected," it further reported.
The Carter administration was also informed in detail of SAVAK activities after national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski asked the Justice Department for a full report on Iranian operations that might run afoul of the law.
A July 6, 1978, secret memorandum from then deputy attorney general Benjamin R. Civiletti warned Brzezinski that SAVAK was carrying out "significant police, security and non-diplomatic political activity" in the United States. The report does not indicate that Brzezinski or other officials took any action to tighten control over SAVAK actions.
In fact, on Aug. 18, 1978, Ambassador Sullivan, who was in Washington, went to the Justice Department to warn personally of the foreign policy implications of the possible indictment of SAVAK agents and Iranian embassy personnel by a Chicago grand jury investigating SAVAK's role in organizing pro-shah demonstrations in Washington in November 1977.
There is no evidence that Sullivan's warning was transmitted to the grand jury. But State Department officials recall independently of the Senate report that Sullivan emphasized to the Justice Department the "unique" nature of U.S. intelligence "assets" in Iran. CAPTION: Pictures 1 and 2, HENRY A. KISSINGER and THE SHAH OF IRAN...some sparks of difference after an appearance on television's "60 Minutes."