C.I.A. Said to Have Aided Plotters Who Overthrew Nkrumah in Ghana
By SEYMOUR M. HERSHMAY 9, 1978
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May 9, 1978, Page 6 The New York Times ArchivesThe Central Intelligence Agency advised and supported group of dissident army officers who overthrew the regime of President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana in February 1966, first‐hand intelligence sources said yesterday.
The agency’s role in the coup d’état was carried out without prior approval from the high‐level interagency group in Washington that monitors C.I.A. clandestine activities, these sources said. That group, known in 1966 as the 303 Committee, had specifically rejected a previous C.I.A. request seeking authority. to plot against Mr. Nkrumah, who had angered the United States by maintaining close ties to the Soviet Union and China.
There was no immediate comment from the C.I.A.
Although the C.I.A. has aften been investigated in the 12 years since Mr. Nkrumah was overthrown, there has never been any public disclosure at an agency role in the coup until now.
At one stage before the overthrow of Mr. Nkrumah, the sources said, the C.I.A.’s station chief in Accra, Ghana’s capital, requested approval from higher headquarters for the deployment of a small squad of paramilitary experts, members of the agency’s. Special Operations Group.
Those men, the sources said, were to wear blackface and attack the Chinese Embassy during. the coup, killing everyone there and destroying the building, The men also were to steal as much material as possible from the Embassy’s code room.
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After some hesitation. the sources said, high‐level C.I.A. officials in Washington decided against this operation. Details of the agency’s purported role in the overthrow of Mr. Nkrumah became available. after Johri Stockwell, a former C.I.A. operative, briefly described it in a footnote to his newly published book, “In Search of Enemies.” The Stockwell book, a highly critical inside account of the C.I.A.’s secret involvement in the Angolan civil war in 1975 and 1976, was written and published in secrecy. Copies of the book were made available, yesterday to bookstores. Mr. Stockwell, who served three tours as a clandestine operative in Africa during his 12‐year C.I.A. career, cited the Ghanaian incident in an attempt to buttress his contention that many C.I.A. “problems” were solved in the field, and that “nothing in the C.I.A. records prove bow it happened.” In Ghana, Mr. Stockwell writes, after the C.I.A. was told by higher authorities not to try to oust Mr. Nkrumah, the station in Accra was “nevertheless encouraged by headquarters to. maintain contact with dissidents of the Ghanaian army for the purpose of maintaining intelligence on their activities.” The account continued: “It was given a generous budget and maintained intimate contact with the plotters as a coup was hatched. So close was the station’s involvement that it was able to coordinate the recovery of some classified Soviet military equipment by the United States as the coup took place. The station even proposed to headquarters that a squad be on hand at the moment of the coup to storm the Chinese Embassy, kill everyone inside, steal their secret records, and blow up the building to cover the fact.” Although that proposal was disapproved, Mr. Stockwell writes, “inside C.I.A. headquarters the Accra station was given full, if unofficial credit for the eventual coup. None of this was adequarbly reflected in the agency’s written records.” Other sources who were in Ghana at the time of the coup took issue with the view ‘given in. the Stockwell book that the C.I.A. station in Accra deserved full credit for Mr. Nkrumah’s overthrow. Mr. Nkrumah had been the subject of one, prior assassination attempt. At the time he was deposed, during a diplomatic trip to China, there were thousands of Ghanaians in jail without trial and growing opposition to his increasingly heavyhanded rule. His overthrow was met with widespread approval by the Citizens of Accra, according to press reports at the time. There were Soviet press reports that the C.I.A. had played a role in the coup. The Times’s sources said that, nonetheless, many C.I.A. operatives in Africa considered the agency’s role in the overthrow of Mr. Nkrumah to have been pivotal. At least some officials in Washington headquarters apparently agreed, the sources Said, because Howard T. Banes, the station chief in Accra at the time, was quickry promoted to a senior position in the agency. Mr. Banes was eventually transferred from Ghana to Washington, the sources said, where he became chief of operations for the African desk. At the height of the operation in Ghana, the sources said, the C.I.A. station in Accra grew to include as many as 10 officers, some of them on temporary duty, and all operating under cover. In his book, Mr. Stockwell specifically charges that the C.I.A. has used the 40 Committee, the high‐level review group set up in the Nixon Administration, “to authenticate some of its more sensitive operations, but has by no means brought all of its covert actions to the attention of the 40 Committee.” He again refers to the operation in Ghana, noting that the C.I.A. was ordered not to involve itself in the coup, but “played a major role in the overthrow” nonetheless. The Times’s sources also said that the C.I.A. group led by Mr. Banes received permission to purchase some Soviet intelligence materials that had been confiscated by Ghanaian Army troops ‘during the coup. After a payment of at least $100,000, the sources said, a special secret airplane flight was arranged and the Soviet materials—including a cigarette lighter that also functioned as a camera—were transferred to C.I.A. headquarters.
Mr. Banes and other agents in the Accra C.I.A. station also were said by The Times’s sources to have been enraged by the agency’s high‐level decision not to permit a raid on the Chinese Embassy, at the time the Peking Government’s only embassy in Africa. “They didn’t have the guts to do it,” Mr. Banes subsequently told one associate, the sources said. At a news conference arranged by his publisher yesterday at the Biltmore Hotel, Mr. Stockwell acknowledged that some classified material had been published in his book, but contended that: “I did not disclose anything of national security value.” “I disclosed a past operation,” he said, adding that none of the material in his book, in his opinion, would adversely affect current C.I.A. operations or personnet. Mr. Stockwell also revealed that he had telephoned Adm. Stansfield Turner, the director of Central Intelligence, on Sunday to tell him of the publication of his book. “He and I don’t get along very well,” Mr. Stockwell added with a smile. Officially, the C.I.A. had little to say yesterday about the Stockwell book, which was published without any prior clearance by the agency. Such clearance was called for in the secrecy agreement Mr. Stockwell signed upon joining the agency. In a statement, a C.I.A. ?? said that the agency had not previously “been aware that Mr. Stockwell had prepared a book for publication, nor has there been an opportunity to read it.”