Declassified letters show CIA's indignation over ex-employee Peace Corps ban

Declassified letters show CIA’s indignation over ex-employee Peace Corps ban

DCI William Casey argued that Peace Corps policy cast a taint over Agency activity and that he “had difficulty understanding” why the CIA had been “singled out”

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Edited by Beryl Lipton

In a series of letters and memos from late 1983 unearthed in the Central Intelligence Agency’s archives by Emma Best, CIA Director William J. Casey expressed dismay over the Peace Corps’ lifetime ban on former Agency employees, claiming that it could set a precedent that would lead to the unfair stigmatization of those “tainted” by the CIA’s activities.

Casey claimed he had difficulty understanding why the Agency in particular was being “singled out” for exclusion …

though we could probably think of a reason or two.

While the ban was a “long-standing Peace Corps policy” to preserve the agency’s reputation as independent (or at least not directly involved in the worst excesses of US foreign policy), a few months prior to the letter Casey had proposed to Peace Corps Director Loret Ruppe if they would consider replacing the lifetime ban with a 10-year restriction.

Ruppe had declined, earning her Casey’s indignation.

Undaunted, Ruppe stuck to her guns in a response letter to Casey, noting that the policy had, on at least one occasion, saved the life of a Peace Corps volunteer …

and that if even the Agency’s interest in eliminating the ban became public, it might put the Peace Corps’s reputation at risk.

Casey and Ruppe were able to reach one compromise, however. Acquiescing that the specific language targeting former CIA employees could be interpreted as a slight against the Agency, Ruppe agreed to remove that line from the Peace Corps’s public policy.

Perhaps unbeknownst to Ruppe, that was itself a coup for Casey. Internal notes show the Agency’s elation that there were able to keep the matter from involving legislation and saw it as a potential in-road for involvement with other organizations.

Read the full exchange embedded below.

Image via Peace Corps Flickr