Event Date: 29 April – 1 May 2011
East Midlands Conference Centre
University of Nottingham
Nottingham NG7 2RJ
Landscapes of Secrecy: The CIA in History, Fiction and Memory
Professor Kathryn Olmsted (UC Davis) – The CIA and Conspiracy Theories
Conspiracists accuse the CIA of participating in every imaginable conspiracy, from assassination plots and mind control to alien medical experiments and reptilian shape-shifting. The most prevalent conspiracy theories are variations on Senator Frank Church’s famous 1975 description of the CIA as a “rogue elephant on a rampage,” bent on destruction and completely beyond the control of democratically elected leaders. However, it is not entirely fair to accuse the CIA of masterminding these conspiracies. A careful study of the most notorious examples of CIA conspiracies since the 1960s reveals that the CIA has more often been the president’s lapdog than a rogue elephant. The conspiracies most dangerous to American democracy have been plotted not in CIA headquarters but in the oval office.
Kathryn Olmsted is a professor of history at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of three books on citizen challenges to government secrecy: Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (North Carolina, 1996); Red Spy Queen: A Biography of Elizabeth Bentley (North Carolina, 2002); and Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (Oxford, 2009). She specializes in the political and cultural history of twentieth-century America.
Contact information: History Department, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616 USA.