Two of the biggest problems faced by Cold War presidents were the lack of cooperation between the State Dept, the CIA and the Military, and the lack of Intelligence oversight.
Each administration seemed to have its own way of dealing with the issues. During 1954, Eisenhower, in his quest for solutions, asked Gen. James Doolittle to make an assessment of the intelligence community and report back with
One of Doolittle's recommendations can only be described as astonishing: "It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game...If the United States is to survive, long-standing American concepts of "fair play" must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated and more effective methods than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy".
Doolittle, as a matter of interest, was on an African safari with Harold Byrd, owner of the Texas School Book Depository, at the time of the assassination.
The following year, Eisenhower followed up by instituting two National Security Council (NSC) Directives, 5412/1 and 5412/2 giving birth to the 5412 Committee (aka "the Special Group"), mandated to approve and oversee all covert actions too sensitive to be handled by the full NSC, and to ensure that the handling of such actions did not cause any blowback to the President, or to US prestige.
The Special Group consisted of the Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (who acted as Chairman and liason to the White House), the Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Director of the CIA.
The Hungarian Uprising
The uprising began on October 23, 1956 with a student demonstration which quickly turned into a full-scale revolt across the country as militias formed to battle the State Security apparatus. The Soviet puppet regime fell, but on November 4, Soviet tanks rolled in taking the country back after 6 days when expected US intervention failed to materialize.
In 1958 the CIA reported that, "This breath-taking and undreamed-of state of affairs not only caught many Hungarians off-guard, it also caught us off-guard, for which we can hardly be blamed since we had no inside information, little outside information, and could not read the Russians' minds."
"Undreamed of"? To get to the truth of the matter, we need to go back to June, 1953 and a NSC report titled, Interim United States Objectives and Actions to Exploit the Unrest in the Satellite States.
Point 2a of that report states, "In East Germany and other satellite areas, where feasible, covertly stimulate acts and attitudes of resistance short of mass rebellion aimed at putting pressure on Communist authority for specific reforms, discrediting such authority and provoking open Soviet intervention."
So whilst the mass rebellion itself may not have been intended, and therefore came as a surprise, elsewhere in the report, it is also noted that the nourishment of resistance in Satellite countries should be done "without compromising it's spontaneous nature". In any case, the ultimate objective was achieved; to wit, "provoking open Soviet intervention."
The purpose of such provocation can only be interpreted one of two ways: either it was meant to provide pretext for armed conflict with the Soviets or, it was meant to further demonize the Soviets in the minds of the West causing a yielding of more power and resources to US intelligence services - a kind of ultimate Protection Racket. The former seems unlikely - even under the policy of "Rollback", given the grave risk of nuclear war. In fact, the 1958 report goes some way to supporting the latter intention by claiming that "...If we [the CIA] were in no position to act efficiently ... the military is, was, and always will be even worse off..." Other "objectives and actions" to be carried out included intensifying defection programs aimed at satellite police leaders and military personnel (especially pilots) and Soviet military personnel; stimulation of free world governmental, religious, and trade union activities capable of psychological effect behind the Iron Curtain, including trade union denunciation of Soviet repression and demand for basic economic and labor conditions (which happened in Poland a few months prior to the Hungarian revolt, and acted as a spur for students in Budapest to reform banned unions leading to the initial march); the launching of black radio intruder operations to encourage defection; the encouragement of elimination of key puppet officials and; simulating a Soviet officer conspiracy to establish "honorable peace with the West".
The June, 1953 NSC report also contained the recommendation that NSC 143/2 be implemented. First put on the table during the Truman administration, Eisenhower embraced the idea of a Cold War army made up of Stateless persons. Thus was born the Volunteer Freedom Corps (VFC) ultimately housed within the framework of operations RED SOX & RED CAP and based in Germany and Austria under US command.
The failure of the VFC in Hungary was a major cause of Eisenhower's Cold War epiphany. He began distancing himself from the Hawks. Abandoned the policy of Rollback. Cut all VFC activity. Gravitated toward the possibility of (relatively) peaceful co-existence amid a barely noticeable psywar for hearts and minds. What Eisenhower did not know is that VFC was designed only to provoke the Soviet Union.
And the Sputnik program was just around the corner. It would push the Hawks and Eisenhower further apart, as respective positions hardened.