Poring Over The Family Jewels

David Martin is National Security Correspondent for CBS News.
For me, reading the Family Jewels is like listening to Golden Oldies.

I spent my early years as a wire service reporter in the 1970s covering all the investigations into the Family Jewels. There's nothing in the documents that surprises me, but even on a first scanning of some 700 pages I see some nuggets I'd either forgotten or never knew. For most Americans, including myself, the Congressional hearings into assassination plots, drug testing and mail opening provided the first exposure to the world which one CIA officer famously called a "wilderness of mirrors." If you missed it the first time either because you were too young or too busy, you can catch the rerun in these documents.

All of the activities described in the documents occurred during the Cold War, a very different time when Communism not terrorism was the main enemy. Different people will have different reactions. Some will be horrified that the CIA was trying to assassinate Fidel Castro, and others will see nothing wrong with trying to get rid of a man who allowed the Soviet Union to station nuclear missiles in Cuba. Some will read the documents and conclude that the CIA was a "rogue elephant;" others will read the same material and decide it was doing exactly what the White House wanted it to.

Scholars will be mining these documents for years, and that's their real significance -- for good or ill history always catches up with you.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.