Spymaster: My Life in the CIA

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9781574889154: Spymaster: My Life in the CIA


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"A veritable handbook for spies." --From the foreword by B. Hugh Tovar, former head of CIA Covert Action and Counterintelligence Staffs

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The death of CIA operative Theodore G. "Ted" Shackley in December 2002 triggered an avalanche of obituaries from all over the world, most of them condemnatory. Pundits used such expressions as "torturing prisoners," "heroin trafficking," "training terrorists," "genocide," "attempts to assassinate Castro," and "Mob connections." More specifically, they charged him with having played a major role in the Chilean military coup of 1973 and having left the agency under suspicion of involvement with Edwin Wilson, who was convicted in 1983 of selling explosives to Libya. In Spymaster, Ted Shackley has told the story of his entire remarkable career for the first time. With the assistance of fellow former CIA agent Richard A. Finney, he discusses the consequential posts he held in Berlin, Miami, Laos, Vietnam, Chile, and Washington, where he was intimately involved in some of the key intelligence operations of the Cold War. During his long career, Shackley ran part of the inter-agency program to overthrow Castro, was chief of station in Vientiane during the CIA's "secret war" against North Vietnam and the Pathet Lao, and was chief of station in Saigon. After his retirement, he remained a controversial figure. In the early eighties, he was falsely charged with complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal. Ted Shackley's comments on CIA operations in Europe, Cuba, Chile, and Southeast Asia and on the life of a high-stakes spymaster will be the subject of intense scrutiny by all concerned with the fields of intelligence, foreign policy, and postwar U.S. history. Introduction By Richard A. Finney When the CIA was new, its clandestine elements were housed in a chain of four wooden, two-story structures near the Lincoln Memorial. Known as Temporaries I through L, they had been thrown up during World War I and were still in reasonably good shape, although hard to cool in the summer. Visitors were admitted through a door in Temporary L, and were directed by an armed guard to a reception area. It was there early one morning in September 1951 that I noticed an Army officer, conspicuous for being in full uniform in a strictly civilian environment. "Young, blond, and bewildered" was my first impression. There was more to him than that, as I was to learn eventually, because in time he would become my boss, and ultimately my friend. But "bewildered" might have been an understatement. Just twenty-four hours earlier, Second Lieutenant Theodore Shackley had been on a field in West Virginia, putting a platoon of young military policemen through their morning calisthenics. Now here he was complying with a top-secret order transferring him to some anonymous government body. Everybody was staring at him, and he didn't know where he was. At some level, though, he may have guessed. While serving in 1947 with the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps, Ted had been given rudimentary training in covert operations. Later, when a CIA recruiting officer had dropped in at the University of Maryland, Ted had filled out papers expressing interest, but had heard nothing more. Then, with the Cold War heating up, the CIA had levied a requirement on the military for personnel with fluency in one or more of the languages spoken in the Soviet Satellite countries; an IBM punch card had dropped; and Ted had found himself seconded to the CIA. It was his fluency in Polish, of course, that had brought him here; Ted's immigrant grandparents were to thank for that. The awards he had received in college for scholarship in History and Political Science most likely had gone unnoticed. Ted was assigned, naturally enough, to the Polish unit of the Office of Special Operations, and was sent immediately to Basic Training. Hardly anybody in those early days, except for veterans of the OSS, had any useful field experience to share, and this applied especially to his instructors. Dissatisfied with the relevance of the training he was receiving, Ted began a life-long program of self-education in intelligence, reading all the open-source literature he could find in English, German and Polish, and seizing every opportunity to "consult the cranial files," as he put it, of anybody with a background in the clandestine arts. In West Germany he came under the tutelage of Bill Harvey, the legendary Chief of Base Berlin. Harvey was a former Special Agent of the FBI credited with good work against Nazi agents during World War II, and renowned for his practice of carrying a concealed weapon, a practice that later was to cause consternation in the Secret Service when he was found to have been armed during a meeting with President Kennedy. Harvey's reading in the German philosophers had exposed him to a theory that potential leaders have to be forced into a cone from which only the best will emerge. Having put Ted through a "testing cone" of demanding assignments, he now began promoting him through a series of increasingly responsible managerial positions. And it was Harvey who was eventually to put Ted into his first senior posting and to introduce him to the paramilitary operations that were to absorb the remainder of his career. Ted would always regard Harvey as a friend and a mentor. It is a curious fact, and a significant one too, I think, that for every time the words "agent" or "spy" occur in the chapters that follow, the word "friend" or its variants occurs five times. Ted treasured his own friendships. In West Palm Beach, Florida, he had formed a close bond with a fellow member of the high school football team, and the two had agreed to attend the same university so that they might continue to play together. Ted was offered a scholarship to Princeton, whereas the best his friend could aspire to was the University of Maryland, so it was to Maryland that they both went. There are some who believe that it was the lack of an Ivy League degree that disqualified Ted from the Agency's top job of Director of Central Intelligence, in other words that his attachment to a friendship cost him his profession's best prize. However that may be, I think that his dedication to his profession also cost him many a friendship. He has written tellingly of a relationship that managed to remain intact despite Ted's rise to a position of authority over his friend. "[Joe Lazarsky's] solution to the problem of how to relate to a person junior to him in years but senior in rank" Ted wrote, "was to call me by the Polish word for 'old one.' " My own friendship with Ted Shackley was slow to mature. After working under him in Miami, Berlin and Saigon, and even in the more relaxed atmosphere of the company that he founded in retirement, I was in awe of him, and it took many acts of kindness on his part before it sank in on me that he wanted to be friends. Along with his friends, he had his ill-wishers. While I never heard any one refer to him as "the blond ghost," I can easily believe that there were those that did use that epithet and worse, for in his drive to carry out the policy directives laid on him by Washington he sometimes left hard feelings in his wake. Hard feelings piled up in the Latin America Division shortly after Ted reported there in 1972 and learned that a renegade case officer, Philip Agee, had gone to Havana and was cooperating with Cuban intelligence. Every operation that Agee might conceivably have known about, and every case officer with whom he had ever been associated, was deemed to have been compromised. Ted ordered the wound to be "cauterized." This meant that productive operations had to be discontinued, favorite agents terminated, and case officers uprooted from their comfortable billets in Latin America and reassigned to often less congenial places. The resentments that this caused have probably never died. It was customary in those days to divide clandestine activities into three categories - Foreign Intelligence or FI, Counter Intelligence or CI, and Covert Action or CA. Although Ted was clearly at home in CI and CA, I think his heart was in FI, it being the field in which he won his spurs along the East German and Czechoslovak borders. The mission assigned him in 1962 vis-a-vis Cuba was to unseat Fidel Castro, a CA task; but the first thing he did upon reaching Miami was to strengthen the station's intelligence-collection capability. His reaction to the building of the Berlin Wall was that our inability to anticipate it was an intelligence failure; upon taking over as Chief of Base in 1965, he took steps to reestablish contact with agents lost behind the Iron Curtain and to recruit new ones. Ted reacted similarly to the Viet Cong's so-called Tet Offensive of 1968: with so many CIA case officers on the ground in Vietnam, why did it come as a shock? To guard against further unwelcome surprises, he ordered that the Station disseminate more intelligence reports. The theory, of course, was sound. An officer with the primary duty of serving as adviser to a South Vietnamese District Chief, once attuned to the importance of positive intelligence, might be less likely to overlook a priceless nugget of information. But the theory disregarded fundamental differences between Berlin in 1965 and Saigon in 1970. Most CIA personnel in Vietnam at that time were ungrounded in the country's history or politics, were unable to speak the local language, and were draftees serving a curtailed 18-month tour and marking off the days on a FIGMO* chart. Ted's attempt to increase the flow of positive intelligence out of Vietnam earned him little more than derision and another crop of ill-wishers. Ted liked to say that an ideal espionage operation should resemble a surgical laser beam, for the beam leaves no traces to show that the target has been penetrated. So perhaps it is appropriate that, while his public recognition consists of three separate awards of the Distinguished Intelligence Medal for his skillful management of three separate spectacular paramilitary operations, his achievement of quietly extracting from Cuba the intelligence information leading to the discovery of the Soviet intermediate-range ballistic missiles is still largely unnoticed. *Fuck it, I've got my orders.

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