Richard Helms: CIA Assassination, Regime Change, Mass Murder and Saddam
By Richard Sanders, Coordinator, Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade and editor, of COAT's quarterly magazine "Press for Conversion!"

With the death of former CIA director Richard Helms, the corporate media is offering a rare glimpse into the CIA's use of political assassinations. Unfortunately however, the coverage is highly-sanitized.  It covers up much more than it reveals.

Contrary to what the corporate media suggests, assassination is not a clean, surgical method of removing very specific political enemies.  It is only one small element in a larger cluster of crimes used by the CIA to execute "regime change."

The reality is that the CIA's use of assassination to exterminate political leaders has historically been closely linked to many other political crimes that are, arguably, even worse.

For example, when planning, coordinating, arming, training and financing repressive military coups, as the CIA has done so many times, their henchmen are wont to carry out mass arrests, mass torture and mass murder.  It's a nasty business.  As Kissinger once said about the CIA's betrayal of Iraqi Kurds, "covert action should not be confused with missionary work."

Although 32 of the 98 recent stories on Richard Helms (found using a Google media search) mention the term "assassination," not one of these articles mentions any of the following terms that are equally relevant to CIA operations: torture, murder, arrest.

Only 4 of the 98 recent stories on Helms mention the term "coup." In one case, the article uses the term to praise Helms, saying he scored a "journalistic coup" when he interviewed Adolph Hitler in 1935. Richard Helms' contact with Nazis didn't end there (and probably didn't begin there either).  Helms went on to work closely with General Reinhard Gehlen, the 
notorious Nazi spymaster who was hired by US "intelligence" to set up an organization within the CIA.  The "Gehlen Org" recruited thousands of Nazi agents to run covert operations in Eastern Europe after the war. Gehlen is, of course, not mentioned in any of recent news reports on Helms. Neither is the fact that the OSS (the US agency that preceded the CIA) had a lot in common with the SS (besides the letters "SS.") To both, the biggest evil in the world was summed up in one word, communism.  And to both, the elimination of communists, labour activists, and other undesirable social elements that got in the way of corporatism, was their chief preoccupation.

Political assassination is a valuable weapon in the covert operative's toolbox.  But it is only one tool among many. A successful regime change not only removes the enemy's head, it replaces the body politic.

The CIA has been organizing "regime changes" for 50 years.  They have removed many governments that are unfriendly to US corporate interests and replaced them with regimes that are more likely to work closely and slavishly to carry out the economic and geopolitical desires of the US corporate elite.

But the CIA's crimes don't end when a right-wing coup has succeeded.  The CIA then has to keep its repressive despots in power in order to ensure that they can put into place and then maintain a variety of unjust economic systems and structures.  This is done with arms sales (and outright gifts of "surplus" weapons), glowing diplomatic support, "intelligence  support" (sic) and massive economic investment (i.e., pillaging.  That means extracting as much profit as possible through zealously exploiting the natural resources that drew them in there in the first place.  It also means handing out some of the spoils to a loyal, local elite).

When the corporate media describe the CIA's use of political assassination as if it exists in isolation from mass imprisonment, torture and murder, they cover up the horror, pain and suffering experienced by thousands of ordinary people in countries where CIA-backed blood baths have taken place.  They neglect to reveal that when the CIA carries out its  
high-profile assassination efforts, they also carry out murders of thousands of lesser-known political figures. 

It's standard procedure with many coups that thousands of grassroots activists and organizers get rounded up, tortured and killed.  Such waves of mass violence make today's serial sniper in Washington look like a Boy Scout.  The CIA has used such goons to eliminate its opponents and as a scare tactic to ensure that other citizens, who might otherwise have
protested the regime change, decide instead to lay very low in order to stay alive.

An apt example of a real CIA assassination campaign was the "Phoenix Program" in Vietnam.  Tens of thousands of people where specifically targeted, tracked down and assassinated, many by snipers.  Although Helms held the post of Director of the CIA during the height of this mass serial assassination program, none of the 98 recent stories on Helms (found with
the google search engine), even mention Phoenix.

Reliable estimates on the total number of people killed by the US in South  East Asia during the Vietnam war range from three to five million people. But, of course, none of the recent corporate media articles mention Helms culpability in this bloodshed.  They say it is taboo to speak ill of the dead, but what they don't say is that it is even more taboo to speak ill of the CIA, or to breath word of the fact that CIA directors are, almost by definition, international criminals of the worst sort.  What else would one call someone, like Helms, who oversaw the deliberate murder of literally millions of innocent civilians.

During Helms' tenure as director of the CIA under President Johnson, he also oversaw the "secret war" against Laos.  But it was no secret to the people of Laos.  Over two million tons of bombs were dropped on this small country. hard to keep that a secret from the people on the ground. The word "Laos" is (of course) not mentioned in any of the 98 recent corporate media articles found by google in a search for Richard Helms.  Unfortunately, to much of the world, it's still a "secret war."

Another very good example of a CIA-organized "regime change" was a coup in 1963 that employed political assassination, mass imprisonment, torture and murder.  This was the military coup that first brought Saddam Hussein's beloved Ba'ath Party to power in Iraq. At the time, Richard Helms was Director for Plans at the CIA. That is the top CIA position responsible for covert actions, like organizing coups.  Helms served in that capacity until 1966, when he was made Director.

In the quotations collected below, the name of the leader who was assassinated is spelled variously as Qasim, Qassim and Kassem.  But, however you spell his name, when he took power in a popularly-backed coup in 1958, he certainly got recognized in Washington.  He carried out such anti-American and anti-corporatist policies as starting the process of
nationalizing foreign oil companies in Iraq, withdrawing Iraq from the US-initiated right-wing Baghdad Pact (which included another military-run, US-puppet state, i.e., Pakistan) and decriminalizing the Iraqi Communist Party.  Despite these actions, and more likely because of them, he was Iraq's most popular leader.  He obviously had to go!
In 1959, there was a failed assassination attempt on Qasim.  The failed assassin was none other than a young Saddam Hussein. In 1963, a CIA-organized coup did successfully assassinate Qasim, and Saddam's Ba'ath Party came to power for the first time.  Saddam returned from exile in Egypt and took up a key post in the new regime.  He was in charge of Iraq's secret service.  The CIA then provided this new pliant, Iraqi regime with a nice gift.  It supplied them with the names of thousands of communists, and other leftist activists and organizers.  Thousands of these supporters of Qasim and his policies were soon dead in a rampage of mass murder carried out by the CIA's close friends in Iraq. (Providing such "assassination lists" to newly empowered military regimes is standard practice for the CIA.  They did it again just a few years later in Indonesia when general Suharto came to power.  Those CIA lists got Suharto's regime off to an explosive start.  Estimates are that between 1 and 1.5 million Indonesians were killed within a year, thus eliminating the world's third largest communist party.)

Nowadays, Iraq is once again a target of US "regime change." Despite that, precious little is being said by the corporate media about how the CIA aided and abetted political assassination, regime change and mass murder in order to put Saddam's Ba'ath power into power for the first time in Iraq.

One thing is for sure, the US will find it much harder to remove the Ba'ath Party from power in Iraq than they did putting them into power back in 1963.  If more people knew about this diabolical history, they just might not be so inclined to trust the US in its current efforts to execute "regime change" in Iraq.

Here then are some quotations that I've gathered on this fascinating early history of CIA involvement in the vicious history of "regime change" in Iraq: 

In early 1963, Saddam had more important things to worry about than his outstanding bill at the Andiana Cafe. On February 8, a military coup in Baghdad, in which the Baath Party played a leading role, overthrew Qassim. Support for the conspirators was limited. In the first hours of fighting, they had only nine tanks under their control. The Baath Party had just 850 active members. But Qassim ignored warnings about the impending coup. What tipped the balance against him was the involvement of the United States. He had taken Iraq out of the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact. In 1961, he threatened to occupy Kuwait and nationalized part of the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), the foreign oil consortium that exploited Iraq's oil. In retrospect, it was the ClAs favorite coup. "We really had the ts crossed on what was happening," James Critchfield, then head of the CIA in the Middle East, told us. "We regarded it as a great victory." Iraqi participants later confirmed American involvement. "We came to power on a CIA train," admitted Ali Saleh Sa'adi, the Baath Party secretary general who was about to institute an unprecedented reign of terror. CIA assistance reportedly included coordination of the coup plotters from the agency's station inside the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as well as a clandestine radio station in Kuwait and solicitation of advice from around the Middle East on who on the left should be eliminated once the coup was successful. To the end, Qassim retained his popularity in the streets of Baghdad. After his execution, his sup- porters refused to believe he was dead until the coup leaders showed pictures of his bullet-riddled body on TV and in the newspapers. 

Source: Andrew and Patrick Cockburn, excerpt from Out of the Ashes, TheResurrection of Saddam Hussein, 2000.  Cited by Tim Buckley


The Ba'athist coup, resulted in the return to Iraq of young fellow-Ba'athist Saddam Hussein, who had fled to Egypt after his earlier abortive attempt to assassinate Qasim. Saddam was immediately assigned to head the Al-Jihaz al-Khas, the clandestine Ba'athist Intelligence organisation. As such, he was soon involved in the killing of some 5,000 communists. Saddam's rise to power had, ironically, begun on the back of a CIA-engineered coup!

Source: Alfred Mendes, Excerpt from "Blood for Oil,"  Spectr@zine.


1963: Qasim's government is overthrown in a coup bringing the Arab nationalist Ba'ath party to power. They favour the joining together of Iraq, Egypt and Syria in one Arab nation. In the same year, the Ba'ath also come to power in Syria, although the Syrian and Iraqi parties subsequently split.

The Ba'ath strengthen links with the U.S.  During the coup, demonstrators are mown down by tanks, initiating a period of ruthless persecution. Up to 10,000 people are imprisoned, many are tortured. The CIA supply intelligence to the Ba'athists on communists and radicals to be rounded up. In addition to the 149 officially executed, about 5,000 are killed in the
terror, many buried alive in mass graves. The new government continues the war on the Kurds, bombarding them with tanks, artillery and from the air, and bulldozing villages.

Source: From Practical History, London, May 2000.


Iraqis have always suspected that the 1963 military coup that set Saddam Husain on the road to absolute power had been masterminded by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). New evidence just published reveals that the agency not only engineered the putsch but also supplied the list of people to be eliminated once power was secured - a monstrous stratagem that led to the decimation of Iraq's professional class.

The overthrow of president Abdul Karim Kassim on February 8, 1963 was not, of course, the first intervention in the region by the agency, but it was the bloodiest - far bloodier than the coup it orchestrated in 1953 to restore the shah of Iran to power. Just how gory, and how deep the CIA's involvement in it, is demonstrated in a new book by Said Aburish, a writer
on Arab political affairs. 

The book, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (1997), sets out the details not only of how the CIA closely controlled the planning stages but also how it played a central role in the subsequent purge of suspected leftists after the coup.

The author reckons that 5,000 were killed, giving the names of 600 of them - including many doctors, lawyers, teachers and professors who formed Iraq's educated elite. The massacre was carried out on the basis of death lists provided by the CIA.

The lists were compiled in CIA stations throughout the Middle East with the assistance of Iraqi exiles like Saddam, who was based in Egypt. An Egyptian intelligence officer, who obtained a good deal of his information from Saddam, helped the Cairo CIA station draw up its list. According to Aburish, however, the American agent who produced the longest list was William McHale, who operated under the cover of a news correspondent for the Beirut bureau of Time magazine.

The butchery began as soon as the lists reached Baghdad. No-one was spared. Even pregnant women and elderly men were killed. Some were tortured in front of their children. According to the author, Saddam who 'had rushed back to Iraq from exile in Cairo to join the victors, was personally involved in the torture of leftists in the separate detention centres for fellaheen [peasants] and the Muthaqafeen or educated classes.'

King Hussain of Jordan, who maintained close links with the CIA, says the death lists were relayed by radio to Baghdad from Kuwait, the foreign base for the Iraqi coup. According to him, a secret radio broadcast was made from Kuwait on the day of the coup, February 8, 'that relayed to those carrying out the coup the names and addresses of communists there, so they could be seized and executed.'

The CIA's royal collaborator also gives an insight into how closely the Ba'athist party and American intelligence operators worked together during the planning stages. 'Many meetings were held between the Ba'ath party and American intelligence - the most critical ones in Kuwait,' he says.

At the time the Ba'ath party was a small nationalist movement with only 850 members. But the CIA decided to use it because of its close relations with  the army. One of its members tried to assassinate Kassim as early as 1959. Saddam, then 22, was wounded in the leg, later fleeing the country.

According to Aburish, the Ba'ath party leaders - in return for CIA support - agreed to 'undertake a cleansing programme to get rid of the communists and their leftist allies.' Hani Fkaiki, a Ba'ath party leader, says that the party's contact man who orchestrated the coup was William Lakeland, the US assistant military attache in Baghdad.

One of the coup leaders, colonel Saleh Mahdi Ammash, former Iraqi assistant military attaché in Washington, was in fact arrested for being in touch with Lakeland in Baghdad. His arrest caused the conspirators to move earlier than they had planned.

Aburish's book shows that the Ba'ath leaders did not deny plotting with the CIA ro overthrow Kassim. When Syrian Ba'ath party officials demanded to know why they were in cahoots with the US agency, the Iraqis tried to justify it in terms of ideology comparing their collusion to 'Lenin arriving in a German train to carry out his revolution.' Ali Saleh, the minister of interior of the regime which had replaced Kassim, said: 'We came to power on a CIA train.'

It should not come as a surprise that the Americans were so eager to overthrow Kassim or so willing to cause such a blood bath to achieve their objective. At the height of the cold war, they were causing similar mayhem in Latin America and Indo-China overthrowing any leaders that dared show the slighest degree of independence.

Kassim was a prime target for US aggression and arrogance. After taking power in 1958, he took Iraq out of the Baghdad Pact, the US-backed anti-Soviet alliance in the Middle East, and in 1961 he dared nationalise part of the concession of the British-controlled Iraq Petroleum company and resurrected a long-standing Iraqi claim to Kuwait ( the regime which succeeded him immediately dropped the claim to Kuwait). 

But the cold war does not by itself explain Uncle Sam's propensity to violence. When president George Bush bombed Iraq to smithereens, killing thousands of civilians, the cold war was over. Clinton cannot cite the cold war for insisting that the brutal regime of sanctions imposed on the country should stay.

In fact the brutal, blood-stained nature of Uncle Sam goes back all the way to the so-called 'Founding Fathers,' who made no attempt to conceal it. As long ago as 1818, John Quincy Adams hailed the 'salutary efficacy' of terror in dealing with 'mingled hordes of lawless Indians and negroes.' He was defending Andrew Jackson's frenzied operations in Florida which
virtually wiped out the indigenous population and left the Spanish province under US control. Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues were not above professing to be impressed by the wisdom of his words.

Source: Muslimedia: August 16-31, 1997


The CIA has been meddling in Iraq with disastrous consequences for over four decades. After propping up the corrupt Nuri Said, the USA went after Abdul-Karim Kassem, whose popularly-supported coup eliminated the old British agent Nuri in 1958. Among those whom the CIA recruited to do its  dirty work were the Iraqi Baath Party, including a brash power-hungry adventurer named Saddam Hussein. Saddam actually engaged in an attempt on Kassem's life, one of many engineered by CIA "assets." The Baath did finally succeed in overthrowing and killing Kassem in 1963. The CIA gave the emergent Baath a long list of Communists and others to liquidate, which they undertook to accomplish with their usual thoroughness, Husayn Al-Kurdi , "The CIA In Kurdistan", December 1996



Kassem had helped found the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in an attempt to curtail Western control of Arab oil. He had been planning to nationalize the Iraq Petroleum Company in which the USA had an interest. Iraq had also disapproved when Kuwait had been given independence by the UK with a pro-west emir (king) and oil concessions to Western companies.  A few days before the coup, the French newspaper La Monde had reported that Kassem had been warned by the USA government to change his 
country's economic policies or face sanctions. British government papers later declassified would indicate that the coup was backed by the USA and UK.  The new government promises not to nationalize American oil interests and renounces its claim to Kuwait. The USA recognizes and praises the new government.

Source: Kryss Katsiavriades and Talaat Qureshi, "The Acts of the Democracies: 1960 to 1964"


A history of twists and turns, with the CIA often as a blunt axe, have made it very difficult for the United States to be seen as a reliable, or even honest, presence in the Middle East. The resentment is not confined to Arabs. Nine years ago, Massoud Barzani, who has rarely ever traveled away from Kurdistan, agreed to visit Washington with a deputation of the opposition Iraqi National Congress (INC). Massoud, used to the traditional baggy trousers and cummerbund, looked uncomfortable in an Armani suit at receptions, but the INC was keen to create the right impression with senators and opinion-formers. Nonetheless, Massoud refused an invitation to visit Henry Kissinger.

Despite all the compromises of Kurdish politics, Massoud had never forgiven the former secretary of state for engineering the 1975 Algiers agreement between Iraq and Iran, when the two sides suddenly settled long-standing differences and felt free to deal with their "internal problems," including the Kurds. Algiers came just two years after Massoud went to Washington to  meet Richard Helms, the CIA director, and Al Haig, the White House chief of staff  a meeting that led to both CIA and Israeli advisers moving into northern Iraq to help the Kurds. Algiers left the Kurds high and dry, ending a generation of Kurdish revolt led by Massoud's father, Mulla Mustafa, whose broken heart sent him into exile and an early death. Even if those in Washington forgot quickly, Massoud did not.

The relationship between the CIA and Saddam Hussein is a long one. In 1963, the Americans plotted with the Ba'ath against Abdel Karim Kassem, a man who, in the words of the writer Said Aburish, "retains more of the affection of the Iraqi people than any leader this century." The CIA supplied lists for the Ba'ath to kill leftists and communists, and
Washington flew arms to Kirkuk to use against the Kurds.

In Aburish's biography of the Iraqi leader, the author quotes many anti-Saddam Iraqis  including Ahmad Chalabi, leader of the INC  on CIA cooperation with the second Ba'ath coup in 1968. Later, in the 1980s, the United States and Britain helped arm Saddam in his confrontation with Iran  only to turn against him over the 1990 Kuwait crisis. When in 1991 the Iraqi people rose against Saddam, the United States was fearful that change would put its majority Shi'ites  and thus Iran  in power, and US forces stood by as the Republican Guard crushed the rebellion. The CIA then worked on sponsoring a coup in Baghdad, a strategy that crumbled in 1996 when Iraqi intelligence infiltrated a conspiracy led by the ex-Ba'athist Iyad Alawi. Having rounded up hundreds of officers, the mukhabarat sent a message to the CIA team in Amman: "We have arrested all your people. You might as well pack up and go home."

The CIA's half-hearted support for the INC also ended in 1996, when Saddam exploited Kurdish in-fighting to crush an INC presence in the Kurdish-controlled zone in the north. As Iraqi tanks moved in, the CIA fled and left the INC people to their fate. Washington washed its hands of the affair, and Chalabi noted that CIA officials "are not known for their

Source: Gareth Smyth, "In the Middle East, the CIA has hurt its friends and helped its own enemies."


In 1963, Saddam Hussein worked with the CIA to carry out the coup by the  Baath party, which eventually brought him to power in Iraq. The book, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite by Said K. Aburish, which was reviewed recently in Counterpunch ("The CIA: Lest We Forget", CounterPunch. Sept.16-30 1997, p.2), describes how the CIA, Saddam and other members of the Baath party collaborated to bring about the coup, murdering perhaps 5,000 people in the process. The United States went on to help Saddam win the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. According to Noam Chomsky, "There were no passionate calls for a military strike after Saddam's gassing of Kurds at Halabja in March, 1988; on the contrary, the US and U.K. extended their strong support for the mass murderer, then, also 'our kind of guy'" ("Iraq and the UN Sanctions", The Economist, Nov.19 1994,

Source: Ruth Wilson, "American Policy in Iraq"


America aided Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party into power in Iraq. Describing them as "...the political force of the future..." the CIA met with Ba'ath activists in the early 1960's. In the coup of 1963, thousands of Iraqi opposition political figures were murdered in three days, many them on a list which, according to journalist John Pilger, was supplied by the CIA. James Critchfield was the head of the CIA's Middle East Desk at the time. He later described the coup to authors Andrew and Patrick Cockburn for their book 'Out of the Ashes.' "It was a great victory. [....] It was an operation where all the 't's were really crossed."  Another CIA agent testified to Congress: "He [Saddam] was a son of a bitch, but he was
OUR son of a bitch." ['PAYING THE PRICE' - documentary by John Pilger, CARLTON TV, UK, 1999]

Source: "Fear And Loathing Of The US Government"


1963: U.S. supports coup by Iraqi Ba'ath party (soon to be headed by Saddam Hussein) and reportedly gives them names of communists to murder, which they do with vigor.
Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn, Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein, New York: Harperperennial. 1999, p. 74; Edith and E. F. Penrose, Iraq: International Relations and National Development, Boulder: Westview, 1978, p. 288; Hanna Batatu, The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq, Princeton: Princeton UP, 1978, pp. 985-86

Source: Stephen R. Shalom Middle East Time Line (revised, 12 Dec. 2001)


It is astonishing how many tough-minded men in American government have been convinced by the regular spiel that the CIA has a deep-rooted antipathy to proposals for political murder. A witness to still another episode of the sort was Armin Meyer, a career diplomat with a long history in the Near East going back to the Office of War Information, a kind of offshoot of the OSS, during World War II. In July 1958, when the government of Iraq was overthrown in a coup notable for its violence, Meyer was deputy director of the State Department's Office of Near Eastern Affairs. The following year he was promoted to director and as such was called in whenever the CIA contemplated covert operations in Iraq. The new ruler of the country was an army general named Abdul Karim Kassem, who had murdered his predecessors as well as a number of foreigners who happened to be in Baghdad at the time of his coup. On top of that, he immediately restored diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union, later lifted a ban on the Iraqi Communist party while suppressing pro-Western parties, and in many other ways invited the hostility of Eisenhower and John Foster Dulles. On one occasion during Armin Meyer's tenure as director of the Office of Near Eastern Affairs, he attended a meeting in Allen Dulles's office at the CIA to discuss how the United States might remove Kassem.  Meyer had attended many such meetings; they were a routine of government; but this one stuck in his mind.

During the meeting one of those present suggested that Kassem was the problem, and maybe the best way to get rid of him was to get rid of him. Wait a minute, Dulles said. An awful silence followed. Dulles was a man of great personal authority, and his words on this occasion had a cold and deliberate emphasis which Meyer never forgot. Dulles wanted one thing to be understood: it is not in the American character to assassinate opponents; murder was not to be discussed in his office, now or ever again; he did not ever want to hear another such suggestion by a servant of the United States government; that is not the way Americans do things.

Dulles was so clear on this point, and spoke with such evident passion and conviction, that Meyer simply could not understand how Dulles ever could have been party to an assassination plot no matter who gave the orders. Meyer knew what was in the Church Committee's reports, but he simply did not believe it, there must be some error, it was beyond Meyer's capacity to conceive that he could have been mistaken on this point, Dulles had left no room for doubt: he would not be a party to assassination.

The regular spiel
The message to McNamara, and to us, ought to be loud and clear: assassination was too sensitive a matter to be discussed in official meetings or to be recorded in official memos and minutes. What those high officials who received the regular spiel failed to comprehend was the degree of secrecy which surrounded any matter as explosive as assassination. Armin Meyer, for example, was convinced by Dulles's version of the regular spiel that he would never be a party to assassination. He knew what was in the Church Committee's Assassination Report  roughly knew, that is; he had not actually read itbut he couldn't square what he'd heard with what he thought he knew. If he had read the report, the whole report, and most particularly the long footnote on page 181, he would have known  that Dulles's solemn disapproval was in truth nothing more than the regular spiel. In February 1960, while the government was trying to decide what to do about General Kassem, the chief of the DDP's Near East Division proposed that Kassem be "incapacitated" with a poisoned handkerchief prepared by the DDP's Technical Services Division. In April the proposal was supported by the DDP's Chief of Operations, Richard Helms, who endorsed Kassem's incapacitation as "highly desirable." Meyer would further have known that Bisseil did not act in such matters without Dulles's approval, and that Bissell was convinced  he could hardly have made this point any clearer to the Church Committee  that Dulles would not have proceeded without an order from the only man with the authority to okay an attempt on a foreign leader's life. In this instance the handkerchief was duly dispatched to Kassem, but whether or not it ever reached him, it certainly did not kill  him. His own countrymen did that on February 8, 1963, by executing him before a firing squad on live television in Baghdad.
What Livingston Merchant, Armin Meyer, Robert McNamara, and others failed to understand was that official meetings in the office of the Director of the CIA, or of the Secretary of State, or of the Special Group, were hardly  the place to discuss something that was really secret. From the CIA's point of view the Secretary of State's office was about as secure as  the floor of Congress with a full press gallery. It you were going to plan an assassination in the Secretary of State's office, or record the discussion in the minutes, you might as well send a press release to the New York Times. Eisenhower and Kennedy went after two enemies in particular in the years between 1959 and 1963  Lumumba in the Congo and Castro in Cuba  but when they gave the job to the CIA they expected secrecy, and that is what they got.

Source: Thomas Powers, The Man Who Kept The Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA, 1979, pp. 160-164.