Spymaster: My Life in the CIA

Front Cover
Potomac Books, 2005 - Biography & Autobiography - 309 pages
0 Reviews
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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.

References to this book

About the author (2005)

Ted Shackley's final CIA position was as associate deputy director for operations. He died in December 2002, weeks after completing this book.

A twenty-six-year veteran of the CIA's Clandestine Service, Richard A. Finney was a case officer and a training officer. He died in 2004.

Bibliographic information