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This Really Happened

Now, somebody has to be held accountable.

Words: Laicie Heeley
Pictures: Marc Johns / Cast from Clay
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  • Covert action has supported our nation’s security goals for decades — from fighting the Cold War to killing Osama Bin Laden. But it’s also part of a long American history of justifying the means to an end, one that’s led to unethical and illegal actions across the world. You could spend hours reading about past[...]
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Covert action has supported our nation’s security goals for decades — from fighting the Cold War to killing Osama Bin Laden. But it’s also part of a long American history of justifying the means to an end, one that’s led to unethical and illegal actions across the world.

You could spend hours reading about past covert affairs without understanding how the executive branch manages missions or the classified intel around them — and, it’s not just you. Congress is tasked with overseeing those efforts, and even it has a hard time breaking through the layers of bureaucracy meant to keep our secrets safe.

But when the war drum starts beating, where does it leave lawmakers tasked with checking and balancing? Two skeletons in the CIA’s closet might help give us some answers.

Listen and subscribe now on Apple PodcastsStitcherSpotifyPocket Casts, or wherever you get your podcasts to receive a new episode every two weeks.

Guests: Lana Ponting, MKULTRA Survivor; Julie Tanny, MKULTRA Survivor; Oona Hathaway, Yale University; Sam Worthington, InterAction

Additional Reading:

Secrecy’s End, Oona Hathaway, Minnesota Law Review

Covert Action, Congressional Inaction, Stephen R. Weissman, Foreign Affairs

Brainwashed: The echoes of MKULTRA, Canadian Broadcasting Association

In Vaccines We Trust? The Effect of The CIA’s Vaccine Ruse on Immunization In Pakistan, Monica Martinez-​Bravo and Andreas Stegmann, Journal of the European Economic Association

Laicie Heeley

Editor in Chief

Laicie Heeley is the founding CEO of Inkstick Media, where she serves as Editor in Chief of the foreign policy magazine Inkstick and Executive Producer and Host of the PRX- and Inkstick-produced podcast, Things That Go Boom. Heeley’s reporting has appeared on public radio stations across America and the BBC, where she’s explored global security issues including domestic terrorism, disinformation, nuclear weapons, and climate change. Prior to launching Inkstick, Heeley was a Fellow with the Stimson Center’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program and Policy Director at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Her publications include work on sanctions, diplomacy, and nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, along with the first full accounting of US counterterrorism spending after 9/11.

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  • As civilian casualties in Gaza mount and conflicts around the world kill and displace vulnerable people, we ask, "What can feminist foreign policy do about war crimes?" The international community doesn’t have a great track record of timely intervention to stop atrocities. But one-sided military intervention can also be a recipe for disaster. In this[...]
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