CIA linked to 1962 arrest of Nelson Mandela
As the world prepares for former South African president Nelson Mandela's funeral, questions are being asked about the CIA's role in his 27-year detention.
The Democracy Now! show hosted by Amy Goodman recently interviewed journalist Andrew Cockburn, who first revealed evidence of a CIA connection to the arrest of Mandela in 1962.
It came in a 1986 article published in the New York Times.
Cockburn told Goodman he learned that Mandela was arrested while posing as a chauffeur, "thanks to a tip from the CIA".
Moreover, Cockburn claimed that Mandela was actually on his way to meet an undercover CIA operative posing as a U.S. diplomat when he was taken away by South African police.
"I thought it was particularly interesting to report when I did in 1986, because at that point it was just when the sanctions were being...voted through Congress over President Reagan's veto," Cockburn said.
He noticed that the legislation declared there should be no official contact with South Africa "except when intelligence required that".
"So it was ongoing, this unholy relationship, which had led to Mandela being arrested and locked up for all those years, [and] continued through the '60s, through the '70s, through the '80s."
Cockburn characterized this as "absolutely outrageous".
In 1990, the Cox News Service cited a former U.S. official claiming that a senior CIA man named Paul Eckel had described the agency's role in the arrest of Mandela as "one of our greatest coups".
Anthony Sampson's 1999 authorized biography of Mandela also raised the question: who tipped off the police?
Sampson noted that four days after Mandela's arrest, the Johannesburg Sunday Times ran an article of a "fantastic story of intrigue and double-crossing", in which Communists were suspected of betraying the ANC leader.
Sampson also mentioned that the New York Times had carried a report that "a retired agent had boasted that the CIA had provided South African intelligence with the full details of Mandela's movements".
"This is credible: the Americans needed Pretoria's military co-operation and South African uranium, and could offer efficient intelligence in return," Sampson noted. "But the claim cannot be substantiated."
The author suggested that Afrikaner employees in the Bechuanaland police could have tracked Mandela after seeing a conspicuous car pick up Cecil Williams, an English theatre director.
Williams, who was gay, risked his life having Mandela pose as his chauffeur. His story was chronicled in a 1998 film, The Man Who Drove With Mandela.
Mandela himself never seemed interested in finding out how he was arrested, according to Sampson's biography.
Mandela's arrest came at the height of the Cold War on August 5, 1962.
Five days later, then–CIA director John McCone warned U.S. president John F. Kennedy that the Soviet Union planned to place missiles on the island of Cuba, leading up to the October Cuban Missile Crisis.
Between 1949 and 1965, the U.S. government has been suspected of responsibility for changing governments in Syria, Greece, Cuba (1952), Iran, British Guyana, Guatemala, South Vietnam, Haiti, Laos, South Korea, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Brazil, Bolivia, and Zaire.
Earlier this year, Foreign Policy listed seven "confirmed" CIA-sponsored coups: Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), Dominican Republic (1961), and South Vietnam (1963).