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Morton Halperin

Morton H. Halperin (born June 13, 1938) is an American expert on foreign policy and civil liberties. He served in the Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton administrations and in a number of roles with George Soros.


  • Early career 1
  • Pentagon Papers 2
    • Tapping revealed 2.1
  • ACLU 3
    • Intelligence Identities Protection Act 3.1
  • Clinton Administration, other 4
  • Awards, other 5
  • Open Society Institute 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early career

Halperin received his Bachelor of Arts from Columbia College and his Ph.D. in international relations from Yale University. With his first wife Ina Weinstein Young, he has three sons—David Halperin, Gary Halperin, and Mark Halperin, political analyst for MSNBC, Time magazine and He is married to Diane Orentlicher, Professor of International Law at the American University Washington College of Law. Orentlicher formerly served as a Deputy to the Office of War Crimes for the United States State Department. He is the brother of Daniel Halperin, the Stanley S. Surrey Professor of Law at Harvard.

When a member of the Harvard Center for International Affairs, he authored the book Contemporary Military Strategy in 1967, where he defended "large-scale American bombing in South Vietnam" on the grounds that although it "may have antagonized a number of people" it nonetheless "demonstrated to these people that the Vietcong could not guarantee their security"—thus "illustrat[ing] the fact that most people tend to be motivated, not by abstract appeals, but rather by their perception of the course of action that is most likely to lead to their own personal security".[1]

Halperin served in the Department of Defense under President Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1960s as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, and was dovish on the Vietnam War, calling for a halt to bombing Vietnam. When Richard Nixon became president in 1969, Henry Kissinger, his new National Security Advisor announced Halperin would join the staff of the National Security Council. The appointment of Halperin, a colleague of Kissinger's at Harvard University in the 1960s, was immediately criticized by General Earle G. Wheeler, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; FBI director J. Edgar Hoover; and Senator Barry Goldwater.

One of Halperin's famous quotes is:

The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional forces until we are losing, then we will fight with tactical weapons until we are losing, and then we will blow up the world.[2]

Kissinger soon lost faith in Halperin. A front page story in The New York Times on May 9, 1969, stated the United States had been bombing Cambodia, a neutral country. Kissinger immediately called Hoover to find out who might have leaked this information to the press. Hoover suggested Halperin and Kissinger agreed that was likely. That very day, the FBI began taping Halperin's phones at Kissinger's direction. (Kissinger says nothing of this in his memoirs and mentions Halperin in passing about four times.) Halperin left the NSC in September 1969 after only nine months, but the taping continued until February 1971. Halperin was also placed on Nixon's Enemies List.

Pentagon Papers

He was a friend of Daniel Ellsberg. When Ellsberg was investigated in connection with the Pentagon Papers, suspicion fell on Halperin, who some Nixon aides believed had kept classified documents when he left government service. John Dean claimed that Jack Caulfield had told him of a plan to fire-bomb the Brookings Institution, Halperin's employer, to destroy Halperin's files.

Tapping revealed

The tapping of Halperin's phone was not revealed until 1973, when it came out in Ellsberg's trial. He sued Nixon and won a symbolic $1 judgment in 1977 for the offense.[3]


Halperin, as Director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) office in Washington (1984 to 1992), defended the right of The Progressive magazine to publish a description of the design principle of a thermonuclear weapon (H-Bomb). Halperin also served as the Director of the Center for National Security Studies from 1975 to 1992, where he focused on issues affecting both civil liberties and national security.

Intelligence Identities Protection Act

While at the ACLU, Halperin, along with Jerry Berman, also at the ACLU, collaborated with the Director of the CIA, William Casey, under the Reagan administration, agreeing that the ACLU would withdraw its opposition to the Bill if the CIA agreed to put in language that would nominally protect reporters that were just doing their job.[4]

Clinton Administration, other

Halperin was appointed consultant to the Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (1993), the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy at the National Security Council (1994–1996), and Director of Policy Planning at the State Department (1998–2001) under President Clinton. He was nominated by the President for the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Democracy and Peacekeeping.

Awards, other

In 1985 he won a MacArthur Foundation fellowship. He was a partial writer of The Lawless State, which documents the surveillance techniques and crimes of the U.S. government during the Cold War.

Open Society Institute

He is Senior Advisor for the Open Society Institute.[5] Halperin created the OSI DC office and oversaw all policy advocacy on U.S. and international issues, including promotion of human rights and support for open societies abroad. In 2008, after controversy concerning his support of new surveillance powers and immunity under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, his status was changed to that of a consultant in order to in his words "leave myself free to speak out more freely on the substance of these issues".[1] He became a full-time employee of the Open Society Institute in May 2009.

The recipient of numerous awards, Halperin also served as the Senior Vice President and Director of Fellows at the Center for American Progress. He is Chairman of the Board of the Democracy Coalition Project. He serves on the boards of ONE and the Constitution Project (where he is also a member of the Liberty and Security Committee)[2], and is the chair of the Advisory Board of the Center for National Security Studies.


  1. ^ (141, qtd. in APNM, 56)
  2. ^ Gwynne Dyer (November 9, 1981). "Technology Alone Won't Win War". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 9-A. Retrieved June 9, 2014. 
  3. ^ United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit. - 606 F.2d 1192,
  4. ^ [3] Mark Ames, pandodaily, February 7, 2015
  5. ^

External links

  • The Democracy Advantage: How Democracies Promote Prosperity and Peace by Halperin, Siegle & Weinstein (2004) Ch.1
  • Interview with Glenn Greenwald for Salon, 13 August 2008
  • Open Society Institute
  • Statement on the nomination of Dr. Morton Halperin, Congressional Record, United States Senate, 15 July 1994
  • Morton Halperin at the Internet Movie Database
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