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Socotra House Publishing: Purveyor of Glib Words to the World

Socotra House Publishing is a small press dedicated to publishing and distributing the historical works of Vic Socotra, a non-mortal fellow who captures American and military history with aplomb.

2017 Red Tie Luncheon











Arrias on Politics: North Korea’s Weapons: Whose Money?

Editor’s Note: It is Easter Sunday, a day of joy throughout Christendom for the resurrection of the Risen Christ. Have the very best holiday possible! And remember, Arrias is a real person, not the Easter Bunny.

– Vic

North Korea’s Weapons: Whose Money?

They held a parade in Pyongyang on Saturday… It’s worth searching the internet and looking at the pictures to grasp just how much effort they placed in the parade — and how much gear was on display. In particular, three different long-range missiles were on display, one completely new, never seen before.

With just 25 million people, north Korea (per the International Institute for Strategic Studies) has an active duty military force of 1.2 million, 2,400 tanks, 21,000 pieces of artillery, more than 70 submarines, and more than 850 combat aircraft and helicopters. True, many are very old systems, far less effective than similar systems used by the US or the Republic of Korea; and the average soldier in the north Korean army is paid nearly nothing. But, with a nominal GDP of less than $25 billion (and perhaps only half that), how is north Korea paying for this weapons program?

In 1995 north Korea, following negotiations with the US, agreed to end its nuclear programs (the US-North Korean Agreed Framework), and several years later agreed to adhere to the Missile Technology Control Regime (MCTR). But, by 2000 it was clear they were violating the MCTR, and by 2003 it was clear that they were also violating the Framework.

Nevertheless, nuclear weapon development was slow, and development of long-range missiles was only a bit less difficult, with one long-range missile tested in 1998, and a longer-range version of the same missile tested (unsuccessfully) in 2006. Seven other missiles were successfully tested at that time.

Late in 2006 they detonated an atomic “device,” clearly demonstrating they’d been secretly working on the program despite the Framework signed with the Clinton administration.

In 2009 they successfully tested a long-range missile and a second atomic device. In April 2012 they launched another ICBM, but it failed 90 seconds after lift-off. They tried again and succeed in December 2012.

They have since conducted three atomic “weapon” tests (Feb. 2013, Jan. 2016, Sept. 2016) and appear to be preparing a 6th test.

In 2014 they conducted 2 test launches of medium-range Nodong missiles, and 30 short-range (battlefield) missiles.

In 2015 they conducted 3 developmental tests of a submarine launched ballistic missile, and 5 short-range (125 miles) missiles.

In 2016 they launched a long-range ballistic missile, 8 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (7 of which failed), 2 KN-11 submarine launched ballistic missiles, a medium-range Nodong ballistic missile, and 3 other medium-range ballistic missiles.

So far in 2017 they’ve tested a new ballistic missile, the Pukguksong-2, a solid-fueled, medium-range missile, utilizing a fairly advanced “cold-launch” technology, meaning the missile is ejected from its canister using compressed gas, and the new missile on April 15 – which apparently failed. They also simultaneously launched 4 ballistic missiles that flew about 625 miles and landed in Japan’s economic exclusion zone, about 180 miles off Japan.

Which leads to a simple question: Who is funding this? Developing and testing missiles, and especially developing and testing atomic weapons, is expensive. For more than a decade north Korea conducted no developmental missile launches. But since 2009 they’ve conducted more than 20 tests of medium and long-range missiles, while also increasing the effort on their nuclear weapon program.

All this taking place while maintaining a huge military force that includes roughly 5% of the total population.

Obviously, part of this funding comes from Kim’s budget preferences: missiles and warheads before people. But, even assuming Kim’s willingness to starve his people while accepting lower quality, lower reliability weapons; weapons development requires cash and technology. So, in a country that’s had a stagnant economy for more than two decades, is it a reasonable suspicion someone is providing funds, and perhaps some key technology, to help accelerate the programs?

What country would possibly be interested in developing a nuclear weapon and a missile capable of delivering the weapon?

Interestingly, on January 29th of this year, Iran launched a missile that was, according to a Pentagon spokesman, an Iranian produced or assembled version of a north Korean Musudan intermediate range missile. You remember Iran… That country was able to access some $150 billion after sanctions had been lifted following the signing of the ‘Iran nuclear deal’ in 2015. In a mystery novel those might be called clues.

A bad agreement in 1995 helped create the current crisis in north Korea. In 2015 we signed arguably a worse agreement with Iran. Are we going to face a similar crisis with Iran in 10 or 20 years?

Copyright 2017 Arrias

Life & Island Times: Strong Letter To Follow

Editor’s Note: Marlow is a real live human being. Really.


Author’s Note: This is not something I wanted to share, let alone post, during Holy Week. So, I withheld it for the coming week. True story nonetheless.
– Marlow

Strong Letter To Follow

I found a single day’s correspondence I had had with various factotums years ago. I smiled when the details surrounding them became clear.

woke around 10 and went downstairs to fetch the mail
in my old blue bathrobe.
I was hung over
hair looked like confused harbor seas
my scarred bare feet
stiffly teetered down the narrow wooden staircase
to the front door mail box
I scratched my three-day beard

As I bent over
the roofers across the street dropped
a stack of metal tiles
crashing on sidewalk

Shit fire! it was like being hit in the back
with buck shot

“dammit,” I shouted
gathering up a VISA card bill, catalogs,
property tax and gas payment notices,
letters from the probate lawyer and
the divorce attorney
plus an unsigned note that
requested I not furnish evidence next month

I limped back up the narrow stairs
Thinking maybe I’ll write them saying
to prepare
for judgement day
is about to close in on them

there’s only one way to handle these jerks.

the day’s writing would have to wait


Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

Life & Island Times: El Dorado

Editor’s Note: Marlow is his own man. Like, totally.

– The Editorial Board

El Dorado

I found one of my old state highway maps from a cross country trip in 2005. It prompted this memory:

no chance at all,
completely cut off from
eastern imperial cities,
I was a middle aged man
riding my motorcycle
through Kansas
on the way to a rendezvous
with Steve
my stomach began growling
and the bike stopped
at a little cafe
in El Dorado.
locals were there
in force.
I sat at table
in the back
so I could see the others,
I ordered and the
food arrived.
the meal was
so was the
the waitress was
unlike the other women
she was natural
gently humorous.
others at nearby tables
said funny crazy
endearing things
people laughed
good clean

I watched
the sun begin to shine on Central Street
beyond the
I wanted to stay
in that cafe
it had possession
of me
was beautiful
it would always stay beautiful

I had to go
Steve would be waiting for me in Hays
I told myself
that it was time
to mount up and ride.
I thought once more,
I’ll just sit
here and stay

but I rose and entered the El Dorado sunlight
I found my bike
and looked back at the cafe
as the bike accelerated out of town
then around a curve
into some hills

I looked straight ahead
wondering if the others
at the cafe
had noticed
the magic

I looked one last time
in the rear view mirrors
to see if El Dorado
was still there.
there was nothing in them
except for
fields of
golden corn

I listened to the
thrum of the
the sound
of the tires
on the pavement


Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

Blue Eighty-Two

(Mother of all Bombs. It is not Halloween, so it did not come in pumpkin colors this morning).

Well, they did it yesterday morning, their time, and if it just so happened that the largest non-nuclear air-dropped bomb in the world was dropped from a specially configured C-130 near a tunnel and bunker complex in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, in the extreme eastern part of the Country. It is a complete coincidence that a firefight in the same Achin district of the province took the life of US Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, of the 7th Special Forces Group. Complete coincidence.

(SSGT. Mark De Alencar, US Special Forces. RIP).

The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) is known to users as the Mother of All Bombs. It is 21,000 pounds of outreach. The one in the picture above is the test platform used in Florida in 2003. I imagine the real thing is much more subdued in its paint scheme. The Mother is a large-yield conventional developed for the United States military by Albert L. Weimorts, Jr. of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

(Albert Weimorts, desinger of the Mother, and a great American).

It is a special weapon. I have dealt with requirements to take out deeply buried targets- bunkers and the like- which require highly strengthened penetrating weapons. That is not what the Mother was intended to do, so this is not a “bunker buster.” It is an area effects weapon, and it has got some effect.

(BLU-82B Daisy Cutter weapon like the one we used in DESERT STORM to breach the Iraqi defensive berms).

The Mother is not that. It is a lineal descendent of the famous BLU-82 Daisy Cutter, a fuel-air bomb designed to detonate feet above the jungle floor and clear helicopter landing zones in Southeast Asia. There are other applications, of course, and as our jungle-fighting requirements diminished after Vietnam was lost, the weapons were retired to that big warehouse at Area 51 where they keep the Arc of the Covenant when the White House is not using it and all the other cool stuff.

Our little merry band of Joint Staff planners was neck-deep in big bombs as we approached the time for the big “left hook” swing around the mass of Saddam’s Republican Guards as we transitioned from the Air War to the Ground Offensive in Iraq in 1990. Big Blue (no offense, IBM!) turned out to have a powerful psychological effect, and the follow-on Mother is primarily intended for soft-to-medium surface targets covering extended areas. And targets in a contained environment such as a deep canyon or within a cave system where the overpressure can do some truly amazing and fun things to people you do not like.

It is a thing of wonder.

Back in my day, all we had was the limited inventory of remaining BLU-82B weapons and no one was talking about dropping the Arc of the Covenant, the only thing possibly more powerful. We had to get by with only 15,000 pounds of explosives, but you do what you can.

The night of the breaching operation we were all gathered around the televisions to see if we could get CNN Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) in real time and not have to wait for the satellite overhead time.

As it turned out, the BLU-82 did just fine, and anyone within a few miles of the detonation were rendered- how do you say in English? Hors de combat?

For our purposes, it was perfectly sufficient, and I understand they used the last of the the inventory early in the Afghanistan campaign that followed 9/11. The best characterization I can give you is that a British commander who was going across the berms with the Yanks saw what had happened when the bomb struck, and reported that the Americans had “gone nuke.”

We were delighted.

But before we get too cozy with all this, word is that the Russians have got one they claim is more than twice as big. I have to shrug, though. They would probably have to deliver it by FedEx.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Spy Wednesday

(Mac dressed to kill for his 90th birthday cruise on the Potomac).

I sent yesterday’s story on Mac Showers and his involvement with the emergence of the “technological transfer” issue with unvarnished relief as I mashed the button on the wireless keyboard. And it came with not a touch of wistful melancholy. Then I saved the file in the proper format and located the drop-in point in the larger of the two narrative files that contain an increasingly unwieldy document.

I have a great deal of sympathy for you, Gentle Reader. I have released these essays as I found the source notes, and have shamelessly recycled some older accounts. I think I have got them all, finally.

It is daunting- and large enough that the manuscript must, perforce, be separated into The amazing saga of the Pacific War takes up a good chunk of the book- but the second and third parts were equally fascinating to hash out at the Willow bar.

Sure, we talked in his apartment at The Madison if something came up that had him engaged, like a particularly satisfying obit he noticed in the Washington Post. But mostly the Willow was a good excuse for him to get dressed up and get out of the sameness of his lodgings. That meant that Willow and the lush pallate of bartenders, chefs and servers all melded together with the Usual Suspects on the consumer side of the bar into one extended narrative flow.

I doubt if I will ever see anything quite like it- between the quality of the food and beverages, Mac’s beatific presence and that of the rest of the crew at the Amen Corner, it put a sort of decade-long exclamation point at the end of the American Century.

So sitting down with the piles of old cocktail napkins, assorted notebooks, and a look through the hundreds of pictures is just about done. The key points are completed with the manuscript. That is an accomplishment in which I take some satisfaction. I told Mac I was going to do it, and actually got a slim volume published about his war year while he was alive to see it. There are some hanging chads, though, I know. Now the second pass must begin. There is the cover art to be dealt with, the table of contents and ISBN to be affixed, the basic formatting of the manuscript into three or four parts, the piddly stuff that requires thought but no mental heavy lifting and very little in the way of emotion, actually living the moments it was being created in the cheerful dimness of the bar.

I feel good about getting to this point, though I am also painfully aware that the project will never really be done. If I can’t find a decent editor, there will be my trademark typos, things I mis-heard, or just got wrong. Mac was never guilty of any of those.

And of course there are loose ends. They include the Jack Graf affair, the un-mentioned matter of Mac’s participation in the FISA Court establishment and the project that spawned the documentary about that other event in the Pacific. That one came with a warning from the then-Director of Naval Intelligence not to talk about it, so I won’t, though Mac had some great stories about the

And with that, the story is pretty much complete. I am hoping that the unstated history of how a life can be lived in full can come through- and why it is important to talk to those who have been privileged to have waded vicariously through the most significant events of Mac’s 93 years on the planet and his ring-side seat at the circus.


With this project now down to the mechanical phase, I may have to go back to thinking one of these mornings. I am a little uneasy about that. Everyone seems to have lost their sense of humor, and frankly it was a relief to zorch off into other times that were just as complex and alarming as ours is now. But there is a certain comfort in that, since we know how those events turned out, and have incorporated them into what we call ‘history.’

I am no particular fan of Francis Fukuyama’s musing about the end of it- history, that is- and having to actually generate original material again in the morning brings up an entirely new kettle of fish.

With so much of the world roiled in religious strife, it should not come as a huge surprise that I have tuned out the Christian Holy Week. If I was following the traditions, which I was, in a manner of speaking, since I was glued to coverage of the Masters golf tournament over the weekend- I would have noted the previous three days that were awash in drama.

First of course was the commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The cleansing of the Temple and continued Temple controversies would have occupied my thoughts, had I thought them, and now we have arrived at the anniversary of Wednesday, April 12, A.D. 33, and it comes with a memory from the second oldest trade practiced by humans: espionage.

So forgive me for continuing to plow the furrow I have been laboring on since before the holidays. Evil was afoot in Jerusalem this day long ago. I was startled to think of it as a fresh memory. I walked to The Garden there in Jerusalem twenty-seven years ago. The memories should have been sepia-toned, right? But instead they were fresh as could be. Then I realized I had mentally walked there again when I transcribed my notes a couple years ago for “Cruise Book,” the account of the USS Forrestal Med Cruise that accompanied the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and the resurrection of a whole new world.

The Church has long called this day “Spy Wednesday,” marking the days distinctly as the conspiracy against Jesus raced forward. It was not just the Romans, but it now included a traitor from within. It is this day when the key pieces come together in the plot for the murder of the Messiah.

Jesus woke this Wednesday just outside Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany, where he has been crashing at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. He intends to teach again on Temple Mount, and attracts a crowd. But now the local community leaders, silenced by Jesus the day before, will leave him be. Today they will avoid public confrontation and instead connive in private. Caiaphas, the high priest, gathers to his private residence the chief priests and Pharisees, and a deal is struck that will compensate a member of the inner circle for the betrayal.

Well, as much as those who have spent a life in the shadow world dislike admitting it, that is part of the nature of the business. Many people observe this day as “Holy Wednesday,” or “Good Wednesday.” I am going to remember it for what it was.

Oh, I almost forgot about the plump little man in Pyongyang. They are going to have a massive military parade this weekend to showcase their latest murderous missile and commemorate the 105th birthday of the founder of the ruling brand, Kim Il Song. I may get out the lapel badge the Northerners presented to us when we were leaving the capital. The parade may be a low-key way to showcase their capabilities without actually conducting an ICBM launch along with another nuclear test. After all, the Chinese have moved 150,000 troops to the border along the Yalu River just in case something happens untoward.

In the forty years I have been watching the Korea Problem, I have never before felt that something might change in the endless Armistice on the Peninsula. Maybe it will.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Life & Island Times: Drive-in Nightmare

Editor’s Note: Standard disclaimer. Marlow is an actual human being and a welcome guest on the Socotra House LLC site. I miss our place- Maverick’s, on Woodward Ave. in suburban Detroit. If I had his car I would probably already be dead.

– Vic

Drive-in Nightmare


I grew up in a place called Clintonville, a small streetcar suburb that was swallowed whole by the city of Columbus Ohio during the baby boom explosion. Growth became crazy as every family had to have a car to get around when the city’s rail trolley system closed in 1948.

Culture disrupting byproducts of this automobile age were the drive-in theaters, restaurants, and sales kiosks that catered to a new customer base that lived this auto life. At their height in the 1960s, there were tens of thousands of drive-in restaurants and theaters in suburban, rural, and even in urban areas. Drive-in theaters started closing in the mid 1960’s, but drive-in restaurants were hitting their stride with licensed boomer drivers motoring their jalopies to their generation’s social networking sites.

Every weekend night starting a bit before sundown these places was jammed with hungry teens ready to down a “Super Jumbo” burger, fries and coke. The hipsters smoked cigarettes, but most were there to check out the opposite sex fauna. Tight pants, bouffant hairdos, oh my. Many of us cruised the place in our hot rods, looking for someone to pull out or challenge us and our ride.

Even now, I can hear songs that played from the AM radios in our cars at our local drive-in diner:

“Superstock Dodge is windin’ out in low/But my fuel-injected Stingray’s really startin’ to go. To get the traction I’m ridin’ the clutch/My pressure plate’s burnin’, this machine’s too much.”

“She’s got a competition clutch with a four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten til the lake pipes roar.”

“And she’ll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes her T-bird away.”

“Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out — GTOoooo.”

After I graduated high school, the local fuzz stopped letting anyone cruise through Jerry’s lot or hang out and talk. This plus the draft, war, college and the onset of the J-O-B phase of our lives was beginning of the end of drive-in restaurants. It was a slo-mo drive-in nightmare.

By the time we boomers started to hit the half century mark during the 1990s, only one or two of these dine-in-your-car eateries per city remained. I was lucky – my place, Jerry’s at the corner of High Street and Morse Road- lasted until 1986, when it was sold to a series of owners who by deed restrictions had to keep the place open as a restaurant and maintain its fabulous moving neon sign out front. It is still there under a different name.

I have fond memories of Jerry’s with its downstairs bathrooms, the inlaid sparkly floor, the chocolate iced brownies for desert, and the owner’s office where a huge shiny blue swordfish hung on the wall.

The continued existence of these surviving drive-ins was assured when we boomer geezers started forming classic car clubs and holding regular gatherings at them. Not much at these events goes on anymore regarding checking out the chicks and certainly there’s no more pull outs for clandestine racing on the back roads. Nope. It’s just old farts sitting in folding lawn chairs next to classic rides, sipping a bagged beer and swapping lies about the old days.

We are seeing perhaps the final death knell of the boomer car culture with more millennials shying away from acquiring driver’s licenses and cars until they reach their mid to late twenties. I guess Uber, carbon footprints, greenhouse gases and alternative energy are having an effect. I can hear the song lyrics now . . .

She’ll have fun, fun, fun, til her daddy takes her Prius away.”

Click it on, charge it up, whine it out, little Focus Ceeeeee”

Maybe sometime in the distant future, American car culture will return to its roots, when the whiskey runners in the South ran from the cops. Perhaps this time the cars themselves will be bootlegged — fat, fast and gas-powered — racing through the night on off-the-map roads while the cops hunt them down using multi –sensor stealth drones. Reborn to run, anyone?

Hopefully, we octogenarian rebels will give our grandchildren our hot rods, so they can road race run from the feds.

– – –

long ago almost every week
I got into a road race
with some joker
on back roads and
I usually won

death did not matter
much then
to me

without knowing why
I was sticking my head
into the lion’s mouth
and walking through waters with
hungry piranhas

I was not alone
in banging on
death’s funny bone

night terror now
is not death
but partial transitory death
at a table in a restaurant with
someone serving food from a dirty
kitchen, with
barely hidden jealousy and
lots of unresolved

better to fear death on the streets of
hell with blabbering financial folks
picking pockets, as they scan for
their next

long ago I beat
in their late model
cars and bikes,
racing red, I
hated those
bright red SOBs

now it’s me
with the red flag
waving at the young bulls
the Hellcat, their nightmare

wonder if most of
them live with their mothers


Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat


(Willow’s co-owner Tracy O’Grady with one of her famous beef-on-Kemmelweck sandwiches).

Willow was jumping. It was the last Friday of the month, the evening Tracy O’Grady added the famous Beef on Weck sandwich from her native Buffalo, N.Y., to the menu. Mac and I normally did not meet on the most hectic of weeknights, but he had a function on our usual Thursday over at the Virginia Hospital Center where he was a mentor and teacher for the Men’s Prostate group and the Alzheimer’s Support group. Admiral Showers is still a bundle of energy at 92 years of age.

“Are you going to have one of the sandwiches?” I asked Mac. “We should get our orders in early if you want one before they sell out.”

“No, I have seen them before and it is just too much food for me.”

“I manage to stretch mine out for almost the whole weekend,” I said. Or eat one here for dinner and get another for take out. Those sea-salt and fennel-crusted Kemmelweck rolls that Kate Jansen bakes, couple with the locally-raised, hormone-free and pasture-bed beef, slow-cooked as steamer roasts and thinly sliced are simply heavenly.”

“Sounds like you should go into Willow’s marketing department, chuckled Mac. “I feel the energy of the crowd, but the docs have me off beer again. So I think I will be a man of moderation this evening.”

“I can avoid anything but temptation,” I said, taking a sip of Happy Hour Chardonnay. So, last time we got together we were talking about counterintelligence and your last few years at the IC Staff. What else were you involved in?”

“One of our more prominent areas of activity in the early ’80s was technology transfer. We were just beginning to realize that we were under constant attack by the Russians and the Chinese for our intellectual property.”

“It has only gotten worse. Every time the Chinese roll out a new weapons system it looks suspiciously like one of ours.”

“Yes. It’s very aggressive and very controversial today but we were just trying to get our arms around what to do about the massive theft of our information.”

“Yeah. Imagine if someone could hack into the databases in the security offices. Bad actors could steal our personal information and then take our identities.”

“Quite a chilling thought, isn’t it? I am sure the people at OPM are all over it. But back when we first realized what was happening, it evolved into such a large concern that the DCI created a Technology Transfer Committee under the United States Intelligence Board- the USIB- in the IC. They also created an analytical office in CIA to analyze the technologies and the various kinds of acquisition by the opposition. We worked hand in glove with that office because what they were identifying related to our responsibility to recommend action to block as part of our countering efforts.”

“How did that work?” I asked. “You would identify weak problem areas and get the agencies to do their part?

“We did an annual assessment and published it in intelligence channels, but to a fairly broad audience. The real function of the office was following the original inventory of counterintelligence resource and capabilities in the U.S. government. That led us into an annual assessment of the threat amassed against us that our existing resources should be able to counter. By doing this assessment annually, we afforded the agencies and the program and budget review people and the planners and whatever the basis for saying: “We’ve got to put more emphasis here,” he said, gesturing in the direction of the amazing sandwich that Jon-Without was studying on the bar in front of him. “More over there, perhaps less here,” so that we could do a more effective job in defending ourselves. I don’t like to use the word “security,” but that probably is the best word that we’re talking about overall.”

“We like to change our buzzwords around in the IC,” I said, hoping that my sandwich would be out soon. “It makes it sound like we know what we are doing.”

“I understand the desire. I have been watching it happen for just about seventy years. We’re talking about our own national security and how we protect it. But in the early ‘80s, we were clearly breaking it down into all of its identifiable parts and looking at each one individually and looking at the programs that the U.S. Government had to protect against those various means of intelligence collection by the opposition so we could identify our efforts against them. So we put out these annual assessments, and those assessments went to Congress, and they went to the White House, and they went to all the agencies in government, and they actually made recommendations as to where new emphasis should be given, and what new programs that should be developed. One of the last ones I participated in in 1982, for example, made strong recommendations that the FBI should be given substantial resource increases to augment their agent effort against the Soviets.”

“Those Russians. Mitt Romney got in such trouble for suggesting that they were still an existential threat to America.”

“The FBI, at that time as I recall, had a ratio between their agents on the Soviet desk against the hostile Soviet agents as something like one in twelve or one in fifteen. We thought they ought to get it down to like one in four or one in three”

“That is a much better ratio. We were in New Delhi one time, meeting with the Indian Services after the Pakis tested their atomic bomb. The CIA Chief of Station told us the Indians had a team of fifteen or twenty people assigned to follow him or his Case Officers around all the time. Very hard to be an effective clandestine operator with a dozen sets of eyes looking over your shoulder all the time.”

“I should imagine. It was not so very different here, though the odds were in favor of the opposition. Over time, Congress agreed with our assessment and granted the FBI a substantial increase in their agent capabilities to better match the hostile threat that was being mounted by the Soviets. We then come into the “Year of the Spy.” I think those efforts were successful.”

“Yeah, but at what cost! The Walker ring would have guaranteed that a lot of us would have been killed if the balloon went up.”

“In an ideal world, my recommendation was that FBI to KGB or GRU ratio ought to be one-on-one. Any Soviet in this country ought to be under surveillance most all the time so that if he went out to the Maryland countryside to clear a dead-drop, some FBI agent was following him and would see where he was going. If you ever had an ideal situation like that, I would think the Walkers and others would have been found out a lot sooner than they were. But the FBI was not capable of doing that because they simply didn’t have the resources to do it.”

“Follow the money,” I said. “It really is all about resources,” I said.

“We certainly improved their budget authority. We may not have made it perfect, but we improved the resources. I’m not claiming it, but I’d like to think the espionage cases that have been revealed in recent years are perhaps the result of having given the FBI a better capability. Those were the kinds of things we did. We worked closely with NSA, for example, to work against known hostile intercept activities against our communications. Again, it’s more than security. You’ve got to work against installations and facilities and people.”

“I hear that. I was tagged one weekend with escorting- baby-sitting, really- a delegation of the Russian State Duma after the end of the Cold War. We thought it was a great idea to take them down to the Navy base at Dam Neck near Virginia Beach. It was a zoo, since at least two of the Russians were from the Embassy and obviously members of the security services. I saw one of them wander away from the Bachelor Officers Quarters where we were staying and started towards the compound where SEAL Team 6 was located. When we got back to DC I couldn’t find anyone in the FBI who cared.”

(ADM B.R. Inman as Deputy Director of Central Intelligence).

“Perhaps you should have tired the NCIS people. They have excellent television shows.” Mac laughed. “Well, after the departure of Stan Turner and Mr. Casey’s assumption of DCI responsibility and when Bobby Inman came in as the Deputy DCI, there was a conscious effort made, mainly by Admiral Inman, to return the community counterintelligence function to the IC Staff as opposed to making it a function of the DCI’s immediate front office, as it had been under Turner. This was done with the exception that we did not move out of the Langley headquarters. We remained at the Langley headquarters, but we became re-identified as an element of the IC Staff. I then coordinated my activities with the Director of the IC Staff, and I would attend the IC Staff weekly section chief meetings, and we were more active in the IC Staff. That happened under the staff directorship of civilian John Kohler, who was there for a while, followed by Vice Admiral Al Burkhalter who was later the chief of the IC Staff in his own right.”

“I think I met the admiral one time after he retired. He was an impressive guy.”

“He was still on the job up to and beyond my departure and second retirement. We continued to issue our annual assessments. We got increased recognition and notoriety for what we were doing. I don’t think we ever resolved the basic problem of suspicion that the operating counterintelligence agencies had for our community umbrella. They thought we were looking over their shoulders and trying to see their secrets. Even though we gave them major assistance in the acquisition of resources to fill in their weak spots and help them accomplish their mission more effectively, I don’t think we ever gained their full confidence. Of course, Judge Webster as DCI could be expected to have appreciation for the counterintelligence problem as a result of having been previously the Director of the FBI.”

“So, you retired in June of 1983?”

Mac nodded, lost in thought. “Yes I did,” he said. That was when Billie started to have problems. But I did not retire. I became a caregiver for the next ten years.”

“That is quite a change in roles. It must have been a real stressful decade.”

“Hardest job of all of my careers,” said Mac. “And the struggle, unlike the Pacific War, big as it was, in the end one that could not be won.”

I knew most of this story, since we had talked for years about what was happening to my parents in their little Village By The Bay in northern lower Michigan. Mac had provided some wisdom along the way, as my family dealt with the slow decline and eventual passing of my father and mother. His wisdom and support contributed mightily with coping- as it did for all those people he helped along the way.

I was delighted to see a parade of sandwiches coming out of the kitchen and headed in the direction of The Amen Corner that was destined to be the center of our world for the next several minutes, complete with the deep-fried olives, sides of sautéed onions and Tracy’s home-made horseradish sauce. Mac could see that constructive conversation was DOE until our corner of the bar was sated, and he settled up the tab with Boomer the bartender, said farewell to the other Regulars on his way to the door, and slowly headed out into the evening.


Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra


(Vic and Mac Showers at the Willow Bar, 2010).

Willow was quiet that Thursday Afternoon. The weather outside was raw and damp, so the patio was deserted. Without the constant coming and going to serve the tables out front, Jasper was hanging out behind the bar with Big Jim working the taps and pouting out wine. Mac was wearing a new red sweater of which he was quite proud, and all the Willow ladies- Jamie, The Lovely Bea, Heather-2 and Liz-with-an-S told him he looked quite dashing.

The usual line-up of the regulars were at the Amen Corner- Old Jim anchored the apex, John-with-an-H was on his second or third glass of Happy Hour red, and Short Haired Mike was bemoaning a road trip he had to take to Fort Bragg, where he had been stationed as a Ranger back in his active duty days. Jar-Head Ray was enjoying a cocktail after a trying day at the QWEST Building across Fairfax drive, next to Mac’s residential tower. He was telling the story of Long-haired Mike, who was recovering after some godawful failure of his immune system that kept him away from human contact.

It seemed like a good time to catch up on the things he was willing to discuss about his time at CIA after the Navy. I picked up my pen and grabbed a stack of white cocktail napkins. “So I take it you were no fan of Stansfield Turner when the Admiral was named the Director of Central Intelligence.”

(American Statesman Henry L. Stimson).

Mac snorted. “It was the Carter years, and there was very much a sense that we had gone back to an approach taken by Henry L. Stimson.”

“Was he the Secretary of War who observed that “Gentlemen don’t read other gentelmen’s mail?”

“The very one. Turner came to Langley and devoted most of his first year to the reorganization of the agency and didn’t devote too much time to the activities of his IC Staff, except in the budget area. Turner got Mr. Carter to issue him a very clear and specific mandate to manage and be responsible for the total national intelligence program and budget.

It had existed before, but Turner got it direct from the First Customer clearly and authoritatively. He was adamant that the Directors of NSA, DIA, and the other national intelligence authorities would report to him.”

“And the alternative was to get hammered in the budget process?”

“Precisely,” said Mac, looking a little wistfully at the Lost Rhino craft-brew IPA Big Jim was drawing for Jake, the former Director of DIA who was chatting with Jon-without down the bar. It only took a moment, and Mac decided the heck with his oncologist and ordered one.

“Turner might not have known very much about intelligence, but he did know how to make people respond when the money was being doled out. I felt, and I still feel, that Admiral Turner never really did come to understand the intelligence community or the process by which it operated or even the systems we used to collect information. I used to say, jokingly, “I’ve forgotten more about intelligence than Stan Turner ever learned in four years as DCI,”

“It has been my experience that you have not forgotten anything,” I said, taking a sip of a delicious crisp Pino Grigio.

“That’s a pretty heavy statement,” he said reflectively. “There was a lot going on as we got closer to the election. I don’t recall specifically, but I think it was in 1978 or 1979 that a CIA counterintelligence expert was detailed to the staff from the FBI by the name of Al Watters. As part of the fall-out from the Rockefeller Commission in 1975, DCI Turner directed him look at counterintelligence capabilities of the intelligence community and make an inventory — a total inventory — of counterintelligence resources, capabilities, personnel, whatever, throughout the intelligence community.”

“Military Departments, too?” Mac nodded and took a sip of his Virgin Mary. My favorite Democrat, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, used to say that Russian intercepts and wiretaps constituted “the most massive illegal invasion of Fourth Amendment rights in American history.”

“Until now. But he was right. Watters looked at everything- FBI, CIA, Army, Navy, Air Force, whatever. It was a long and a difficult task. It was complicated because it was a scenario where a lot of the agencies maybe didn’t want to tell him too much detail. But to the best of their ability over time, they put together this inventory of counterintelligence capabilities. I got a little drawn into their effort because of some of the work I was doing had a tangential bearing on what they were doing, and I was interested in what they were doing and kind of looked over their shoulders.”

“I am sure they appreciated the interest,” I said with a laugh. “Bureaucrats! I am thinking an order of the miniature fish-and chips would make a nice snack. Nobody does tempura batter better than Tracy O’Grady’s kitchen.”

“A fellow named Rusty Williams was a special assistant to Stan Turner, was also interested in what Watter’s team were doing. When they finished that task, they needed somebody on the IC Staff to champion their cause, and I kind of fell into that position. In fact, they asked me to help them convince people of the importance and significance of their product. We did so, and Rusty Williams was our conduit to the DCI. The position evolved over time, and Turner created a Special Assistant for Community Counterintelligence.”

“We had to do that again. They call it the National Counter-Intelligence Executive. We helped with their budget formation when the office was created after 9/11. We sure had some spies in between, these two attempts to deal with Russian spies or bad-apple Americans. The Walkers, Kampiles, Hansen and that jerk Aldrich Ames.”

“It wasn’t just the Russians, but you can see in that list. We had hundreds of agents from all over right here in Washington. What didn’t work in my time was the function described by the title.

I think the first title for the new position was ‘Community Counterintelligence Coordination.’ Now, I was not an experienced counterintelligence hand….”

Normally I don’t interrupt the Admiral when he is on a roll, but I had to ask. “Didn’t you tell me you started out in the Navy as a CI agent?”

“True. And a Public Affairs Officer. I completed the six-week counterintelligence course at the 13th Naval District in Seattle in 1941. Like ADM Bobby Ray Inman, I had more or less meticulously avoided counterintelligence work during my Navy career. Thought it would be career limiting. Now, suddenly I was becoming involved in it at the national level by virtue of having helped Al Watters work up the resource inventory study. The DCI wanted to give emphasis to this problem, so he took George Kalaris, who had headed the CIA counterintelligence staff after Colby fired Jimmy Angleton.”

(CIA’s counterintelligence legend, James Jesus Angleton).

“They said Angleton was paranoid and saw spies everywhere. I think he was probably right about that.”

“George was appointed to head the new CI staff. So, he had CIA counterintelligence experience, and Stan Turner brought him up to the seventh floor as his Special Assistant for Community Counterintelligence Coordination. I mention the word “coordination” because we had to drop that word. I found out that among the CI community, the word “coordination” is a very significant term of art.”

I raised my eyebrows. “It did not get better in my career.”

“Yes. What it meant to the CI folks was that ‘We will ‘cooperate’ on operations. We will exchange information on sources and methods and people, and things, and places. It was a frightening word to CI people.’’

“I bet. I had to play traffic cop between CIA and Ft. Meade. It was the whole authority thing and both Agencies were zealous about protecting their turf. NSA claimed collection jurisdiction for everything moving in the electromagnetic spectrum. They called it ‘data in motion,’ and it was theirs. The CIA was supposed to have the charter to go after ‘data at rest,’ which meant physically stealing it. It sounds like I didn’t do any better than you did”

(Russian surveillance image of George Kalaris)

“Either they coordinate or they don’t coordinate. So, when George Kalaris was given the title of a coordinator, suddenly the FBI, and the Army and Navy and Air Force all thought they were going to have to share with him all of their detailed sources-and-methods data, which was not intended. Immediately, we almost had open rebellion on our hands. So we dropped the word “coordination.” We simply became Special Assistant to the DCI for Community Counterintelligence, which was a neater phrase anyway. With George installed in that position, we then moved myself and Al Watters from the downtown F Street building back out to CIA headquarters at Langley.

That happened sometime around 1979 — I can’t put a date on it — late ’78 or early ’79. And thereafter, I stayed at the Langley headquarters until I retired in June 1983. I continued my responsibility for the compartmented project that I had started under Colby — took it along with me, since it really wasn’t foreign to the counterintelligence role that we were performing because I continued to work in close coordination with NSA, the State Department, and the Attorney General’s office in performing that role, as I had previously, and it was consistent with our counterintelligence responsibilities.”

“Did you have a specific title in that job?”

“Well, I was — no, I didn’t have a specific title. George carried the title and we were simply his staff. However, I will jump ahead to comment that, when Ronald Reagan was elected, Stan Turner was replaced as DCI by William Casey in January 1981. George retired, and I became Acting Special Assistant for Community Counterintelligence, and I kept that title as “acting” for the next two years until I retired in 1983. We performed the same functions as we had previously, but the main difference was that under Mr. Casey, there was no front-office spokesman like Rusty Williams or George Kalaris had been for Stan Turner.”

“I was on active duty for all this but never had a clue as to what was going on back here in DC. I knew some of the Navy people that Turner had brought to CIA. They said everyone hated them.”

“There was some tension, particularly from the DO crowd, who thought Turner was way too reliant on satellites, not spies. But I want to emphasize one important thing Stan Turner did, and this was one of his decisions with which I agreed and which I think was and still is beneficial to the intelligence community. Stan Turner wanted to extend counterintelligence concerns beyond pure espionage and HUMINT and spying activities.
I’ll give Stan Turner credit for inventing the phrase, because I first heard it from him, of “multi-disciplinary counterintelligence.”

“So, is that where our justification for conducting ‘All Source” analysis comes from? We were proud to be generalists and not limited to one stovepipe of information.”

“We applied that phrase and that concept to our office almost from the beginning. What this involved was recognition of the fact that the Soviets, East Europeans, Chinese Communists, who were trying to learn as much as they could about the United States and its classified activities. That includes government programs and all defense activities. They would use any means available to carry out their spying and their espionage, including communications intercept, burglary, recruitment of agents, whatever. But it wasn’t only HUMINT, it also involved all sorts of technical means.”

“I certainly did not expect to wind up with more respect for Admiral Turner from this conversation, Sir. Totally unexpected- I had always heard he was a stiff-necked naval officer who knew better than everyone else at The Agemcy.”

“It was on his watch that we invented the phrase of “counter.” From the sense that you had counterintelligence, we broke that down to counter-HUMINT, counter? PHOTINT, counter-SIGINT, and counter any kind of an INT – technical or human, that the opposition would apply against us. We had 18 or 20 different INTs- separate sources and methods- that we could identify the opposition was using against us, and we had to be aware of it before we could defeat it.”

“Same threats today, only they can do this all digitally.”

Mac smiled and reached for his wallet to signify that it was approaching his dinner hour in the fancy dining room at The Madison. “We can talk about security next time. There were still a few more interesting things to be done before I retired.”

I gestured at Big Jim for the check, and marveled that Admiral Turner might actually have had some good ideas. I had never heard it that way, but maybe it was just the larger legacy of the Carter years. I walked Mac out to his champagne Jaguar where he had rock-star parking right in front of the patio. The wind was blowing something fierce. The weather here just can’t make up its mind.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Life & Island Times: Added Thoughts About Net People

Editor’s Note: Standard disclaimer. Marlow is a real and distinguished human being.

Added Thoughts About Net People

When writers grow old, their thoughts sometimes dwell upon legacy. A desire for same almost always is destined to failure. Most scribblers never realize that they are penning stories atop bakery cakes with icing on a hot day instead of carving them in marble.

– Marlow

What follows in my next few posts are word pictures of the mundane from my past. Much like my Hollywood Famous post several days ago, their wellsprings are recovered memories sparked by things like old photos, a press clipping or a scrap of the past in a journal, a keepsake or other items long stashed in shoe boxes, preserved and flattened between book pages and other hiding places.

There is not much in them in terms of striking metaphor, mostly just bits of youthful foolishness, forks in the road, as well as obscure details long forgotten but recently remembered with clarity.
I have been having trouble writing about these things since they were so long ago and my understanding of them is only so-so. I can’t recall exactly how I came to the end of them as experiences. What I can say is that I am trying to recapture whatever ism that laid underneath my feelings at that time, and not just pen some formless recapitulation of events.

Some of these memories might take a year or two or three to emerge into words suitable for sharing. For instance, my piece on Net People took countless attempts, and it still wasn’t a finished piece when I booted it out of the draft folder. I must confess to troubles conceptualizing what digital bubbles really are. The thought came to me today that perhaps the ultimate consequence of these self-directed apartnesses is ironically the concentration camp. The concentration camp is the final expression of human separateness and man’s organized abandonment of those things he finds unpleasant or disturbing. Yet this topic still needs work . . .

Another thought regarding the Net People piece appeared to me the day after I sent it out . . . it seems that an irrational terror is spreading wide across the land from the far right to the far left. It seems that this equally felt fear on both sides of unpleasant and evil outsiders has taken to itself a fiat of moral goodness. In these instances in the past, oftentimes somebody had to die when panic emerged. Panic buttons when pressed by the clean hands of moral duty set loose murderous trains.

Then I saw the much ballyhooed, recent Pepsi commercial and the ensuing net-fueled indignation. I did not feel sorry for the sugar water seller or its ad agency. Millennial hipness is a tough battlefield to play on, let alone seek street cred on.


Pepsi probably should have had a male African American offer the soda to imitate and pay homage to a 50-year-old photo icon from my youth. They should have also clad an older cop in full riot gear instead of the short-sleeved hunky one they went with for verisimilitude.


Seriously, most of us Americans can’t surrender our belief that politics should somehow make sense. We think that the state has lost its mind and is unfairly punishing “innocent” people. We find this intolerable. Both the left and right see this at the same time of the same government of each other’s treasured things. Any evidence to the contrary must be internally denied. That requires work. So the easy way out is to wall ourselves off from the contrary in favor of our beloved evidence streams.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat