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Register of the Richard Ober papers
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Collection Details
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  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Acquisition Information
  • Accruals
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Title: Richard Ober papers
    Date (inclusive): 1942-2001
    Collection Number: 2019C20
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 28 manuscript boxes (11.2 linear feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, writings, notes, personnel records, memoranda, reports, legal records, and printed matter, relating to the Central Intelligence Agency and its Operation CHAOS. Consists mainly of reportage of post-Watergate debate on intelligence agency oversight and of documentation of related litigation.
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Creator: Ober, Richard, 1921-2001


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested at least two business days in advance of intended use.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Richard Ober papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Archives

    Acquisition Information

    Materials were acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 2018.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Biographical Note

    1921 Born, New York City
    1943 A.B., Harvard University
    1943-1946 U.S. Army service
    1948 M.A., Columbia University
      Joined Central Intelligence Agency
    1964 Graduate, National War College
    1967-1972 Chief, Central Intelligence Agency Counterintelligence Special Operations Group
    1972-1974 Chief, Central Intelligence Agency Counterintelligence International Terrorism Group
    1974-1976 Director for Intelligence Coordination, National Security Council
    1980 Retired from Central Intelligence Agency
    2001 Died, Fairfax Station, Virginia

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Richard Ober papers are narrowly focused on Operation CHAOS, a program conducted by the United States Central Intelligence Agency from 1967 to 1972 for the purpose of surveillance and infiltration of dissident and radical movements in the United States, including antiwar, black power and left-wing organizations. The program complemented the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation's older counterintelligence program, COINTELPRO. The Central Intelligence Agency's rationale for entering into domestic activities was to investigate the possibility of foreign influence in the target organizations. The programs became publicly known in consequence of revelations following upon and associated with the Watergate scandal. Beginning in 1974 they occasioned intense publicity and investigation by multiple Congressional and other government bodies.
    Richard Ober, a career Central Intelligence Agency official, directed Operation CHAOS throughout its five-year existence. Subsequently he was seconded to the United States National Security Council as its senior staff member for intelligence matters. The publicity he received following revelation of the existence of Operation CHAOS prompted the Agency to seek severance of his employment. He resisted this, but was retired in 1980.
    Key series in the collection are those formed around the numerous investigations of intelligence community activities: the Central Intelligence Agency Domestic Intelligence Report File (the Agency's report on itself); the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States File (the so-called Rockefeller Commission after its chairman, Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller); the Commission on the Reorganization of the Government for the Conduct of Foreign Policy File (the so-called Murphy Commission after its chairman, Ambassador Robert D. Murphy); the Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities File (the so-called Church Committee after its chairman, Senator Frank Church); the House Committees File (especially the so-called Pike Committee, after its chairman, Congressman Otis G. Pike); and the Department of Justice Report File (regarding the mail-opening component of Operation CHAOS).
    The Legal Cases File is concerned with the numerous subsequent civil lawsuits brought by individuals and organizations against government agencies and officials. Typically these cases involved both numerous plaintiffs and numerous defendants. Ober figured as a defendant in all but one--a potential legal case revolving around the unauthorized biography of Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham by Deborah Davis. Davis mistakenly named Ober as Deep Throat and Ober figured here as a potential plaintiff.
    There is also a specifically titled Operation CHAOS File. This consists of redacted internal documents from Operation CHAOS that were made public in the course of the various legal cases. They shed light on the program's general guidelines as well as on some specific operations.
    The large General Intelligence File consists primarily of press coverage of the intense debate over the proper role and oversight of the intelligence community that ensued during the latter half of the 1970s.
    There are a few additional small series not specifically connected with Operation CHAOS issues. These include Ober's Army Personnel File, Central Intelligence Agency Personnel File, and National Security Council Personnel File. In 1963-1964 Ober was a student at the National War College. His National War College File is mainly concerned with his participation in a group student visit to Africa, as is the associated Audiovisual File.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    United States. Central Intelligence Agency.
    Secret service--United States.