With the announcement that the CIA is declassifying their Family Jewels, it is time to answer a few questions.

What are the CIA’s Family Jewels and how did they come into existence? What does it mean for today?

On February 2, 1973, William R. Schlesinger became the Director of Central Intelligence, replacing Richard Helms. His first words to the staff were reportedly, “I’m here to make sure you don’t screw Richard Nixon”. Nixon was just beginning his second-term in office, but the Watergate investigation was heating up.

Schlesinger was assisted in his new job by a longtime covert operator named William Colby. Together they performed a massive purge of the Agency, including the clandestine branch. That is a whole story unto itself. For the purposes of this narrative, the important thing is that Schlesinger wanted to make sure that he knew everything there was to know about the CIA’s role in Watergate. And William Colby and Deputy DCI Vernon Walters briefed him, assuring him they had provided all the information. But then something happened.

On April 15, 1973, John Dean told the federal prosecutors about the burglary of Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office in Los Angeles engineered by E. Howard Hunt, with the CIA’s assistance, and the following day Hunt confirmed the story when he testified before the Grand Jury.

Colby and Vernon Walters, the deputy DCI, had both assured Schlesinger that he knew everything there was to know about the CIA’s involvement in Watergate. Now Schlesinger discovered that Hunt had committed a burglary with material aid from the CIA. Schlesinger told Colby he was going to turn the CIA upside down and “fire everyone if necessary,” but he intended to learn everything the CIA had done that might blindside him in the future. No more surprises!

Colby had a plan ready to deal with this problem. He suggested that Schlesinger issue a directive to every CIA employee instructing him to come forward with anything the CIA might have done that exceeded the limits of the Agency’s charter. Schlesinger thought this a good idea. Colby wrote the order, Schlesinger signed it, and copies were distributed within the CIA on May 9, 1973, the same day on which Nixon moved Schlesinger to the Department of Defense, and appointed Colby as the new director of central intelligence.

[In the interest of accuracy, Schlesinger didn’t actually leave for the Pentagon until July 2nd, 1973 (it is the shortest stint as DCI in history).]

CIA officers came forward and detailed crime after crime. Assassinations, kidnapping, experimentation on unwitting citizens, infiltration of leftist groups, warrantless wiretapping and bugs, mail opening, burglary, and more. Their information was compiled into a 693-page report. This report was obviously highly sensitive.

William Colby them did something highly suspect. As the new declassifications show

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