CIA veteran reveals agency’s operations in Tibet

Gyalo Thondup

Gyalo Thondup

A former CIA officer, who supervised the Agency’s covert operations in the Chinese region of Tibet, says he is working on a new book on the subject. John Kenneth Klaus, who, while stationed in India in the 1960s, directed the CIA’s support of Tibetan independence paramilitaries, has given a rare interview to Canadian newspaper The Toronto Star. In it, he admits that the CIA supplied weapons to Tibetan monks, who are widely known for their non-violent philosophy. According to 85-year-old Klaus, the origins of the CIA’s covert assistance to Tibetan monks date back to at least 1957, when Gyalo Thondup, older brother of the 14th (and current) Dalai Lama, sent the CIA five Tibetan recruits, whom the Agency trained in paramilitary tactics on the island of Saipan, in the Northern Marianas. Shortly afterwards the five men were covertly returned to Tibet “to assess and organize the resistance”. In the process, they recruited another 300 Tibetans who were secretly transported to Colorado and trained by Klaus and other US intelligence and military officers. Klaus insists that “no American operatives were ever dropped into Tibet”, but admits that, beginning in 1958, the CIA began airdropping weapons, munitions and explosives to Tibetan rebels, which he estimates to 700,000 pounds “during the years under his watch”. He says that the Agency abandoned the mission in 1968, focusing instead on the US war in Vietnam. The former CIA agent also maintains that the Dalai Lama was aware of the Agency’s covert operations, but he never actively approved it, viewing it instead as a “terrible, complete moral dilemma”. Klaus has already published a book on his experiences in Tibet, called Orphans Of The Cold War: America And The Tibetan Struggle For Survival.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

One Response to CIA veteran reveals agency’s operations in Tibet

  1. John Roberts says:

    This history stems from the Eisenhower Administration’s covert policy to instigate guerrilla wars against China and the USSR wherever possible. It was laid out in National Security Directive 5412/2, which is published in whole as an annex to the new book, “Freeing Tibet: 50 Years of Struggle, Resilience, and Hope,” just published in March 2009. Knaus’s role is detailed in the book, which is available for sale now. See the website for details.

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