Correcting the Record

It was a hell of a weekend. Rain all day yesterday, not a bad thing, we need it, but it seemed to be in keeping for the big March for Science that has us all excited. I think it was Earth Day as well, and I would have worn my starched white Lab Coat, but I am not really a scientist any more than that amusing Bill Nye fellow is. I think he has a Bachelor’s in Engineering degree before he went into children’s television programming. But that is the state of our discourse these days- if I identify as a scientist in the morning, I should be able to use the same bathrooms they do, right?

Oh, heck, this is too easy. I will let the delicious irony drip elsewhere. Think of the Children.

But before those eager fingers reach out to the keyboard to respond and tell me that I am in the pay of Big Oil or a shill for the tobacco lobby, let me point out that we at the Daily Socotra are not afraid to acknowledge our errors, which is a bit more than the scientific community is wont to do in these late waning days of the Republic.

Yesterday, I grabbed some words about a wonderful Russia-Uzbekistan fusion restaurant called Rus Uz that came out this way:


Considering that we had to work our way through eleven shots of infused vodka to get to the point where we actually ordered the tasty hors d’oeuvres, I am not surprised that ‘mistakes were made,’ and it is clear I need to leave my current position (like House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz) to ‘spend more time with my family.’

The key to my confusion was the anglicized term for the Pirozhki on the menu. To me, that sounded like the common Slavic root of the Polish term for their little meat or potato dumpling Pirogis, and hence my addled attribution. Alert readers from Newfoundland to Baja California pointed out that the image included in the graphic-novel narrative of an extremely interesting cultural experience was actually a Chebureki, an Uzbeki deep-fried turnover with a filling of seasoned ground beef and onions. It is made with a single round piece of dough folded over the filling in a half-moon shape, and served with sour cream.

The management of Socotra House deeply regrets disseminating what is clearly fake news. But whatever the damn things were, they were delicious! Why they call their ‘pirogis’ by the name ‘chebureki’ is totally beyond us. But that said, the vodka was totally unambiguous.

(A much more accurate depiction of the pirozhki filo-dough wrappers, stuffed with either spicy ground beef or mashed potatoes with mushrooms. You can understand our error, but we stand with our mistakes!).

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Rus Uz

It is raining in Arlington this morning and generally too crappy to go outside and do anything more than drink coffee and look at the puddles. That was not the case last night, in which the Willow Refugees struck out in a bold new direction- a clear step toward “getting in touch with our inner ‘Stans.” In this case it was Uzbekistan on Fairfax Drive…via the old Russian empire…





Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

2017 Red Tie Luncheon











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


(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

F Street

(The new construction building behind the row of Don’s Johns, far left, is located at 1724 F Street in Washington, DC. It replaced the former home of the Intelligence Community Staff. To the right, the bulk of the Old Executive Office Building looms in Beau Arts glory and demonstrates how useful it is to be just steps from the White House).

It was another timeless afternoon at Willow. It was our usual weekly evening to chat with Mac about some of the milestones in his long career in the middle of the Intelligence Community. It was not about day-drinking. Liz-S was tending the bar along with Sammy the Morrocan. Jasper was arcing around, taking care of the crowd on the patio. Mac was nattily attired in a jacket with an aloha shirt beneith and plain dress slacks. We normally sit inside to avoid the chatter.

“So, we are into your time on the Intelligence Community Staff, an institution established to reign in an allegedly rogue community of spies/”

Mac smiled. “You have to go through the process to understand it. I well remember the series of interviews Jim Schlesinger had with the members of the staff, and I had mine. I wasn’t told at the end of the interview whether I was retained or not for the new staff, but I did find out a few days later that I passed the test and my contract would be retained.”

“That is a comforting reassurance. Were any let go?”

“I don’t know what he planned. Schlesinger only stayed in that job for five months. He left in July 1973 to become Secretary of Defense.”

“I certainly would have.” I said and looked at the Pollyface devilled eggs that Jasper has slid in front of me on a long dish. Willow always served five half-eggs, and it drove us nuts trying to figure out where the other half went. I was trying desperately to stay on the Paleo diet at the time, thinking that the sugar in the happy hour white was as much as I could justify. I looked longingly at the smoked Buffalo wings- Tracy O’Grady is from Buffalo, after all- and I had missed lunch. But I am nothing if not resolute. I took one of the egg-halves and popped it in my mouth. Tracey says the recipe is from her Grandmother.

“I was on the Community Management Staff in my time at Langley,” I said. “But that is amazing. Our organization was the one you helped establish for central control of the loose confederation of independent intelligence organizations. You actually helped create the Intelligence Community Staff, the organization charted to bring order out of intelligence chaos.”

“That was the plan. Except for the initial review of the personnel making up the Intelligence Community Staff at that time, Jim Schlesinger didn’t give very much attention to the intelligence community role in his few months as DCI. Instead, he devoted his attention to trying to do reorganizations and straightening out in CIA, who thought they worked directly for the President. The DCI said that he was going give his attention first to the agency and then to devote attention to the community.”

“That philosophy was around a long time after you retired, Admiral. In fact, despite the establishment of the office of the Director of National Intelligence after the 9/11 attacks, most Directors of the CIA seemed to treat the DNI as irrelevant.”

“That was certainly true at the beginning, since it was all about budget authority and review. DCI Schlesinger’s tenure was too short for him ever to get back to the community. So, whatever he had intended to do to strengthen the community role, other than the review of the staff personnel, the change in the name, and bringing a military officer to head the staff, he didn’t really exert any further influence on the IC Staff.”

“An active duty guy? Who was that?”

General Vernon Walters, U.S. Army. We knew him as Dick. He had been Deputy DCI for many years- I think from 1972 or perhaps earlier, until 1976. Then he became acting DCI until Bill Colby could arrive to take over the DCI job. Colby had been Chief of Station in London.”

“Minister plenipotentiary for the CIA to the Court of Saint James,” I smiled, thinking about how well the representatives of the individual intelligence agencies lived there.

“Indeed. Colby was named prospective DCI when Schlesinger left to become Secretary of Defense in July, and Colby didn’t arrive and take over the DCI directorship until September of 1973.”

“So it was all ahead full, and then things stalled, right?”

“Basically. The revelations of CIA connections to the White House “Plumbers” coincided with Schlesinger’s first months as DCI. He correctly understood that the building crisis in the Nixon Administration was going to challenge the very existence of the Agency and required hands-on attention. From what we could see, Watergate began to take over almost everything else.”

“That was like the Scott Speicher MIA affair after the Gulf War. Tom Wilson was Director of DIA then, and he told me answering Congressional questions and testifying took most of his time. So how did you get through the biggest politica-Constitutional crisis until the next one?””

“I think the next evolution of personnel on the IC Staff was when General Lew Allen moved to NSA and became director of the National Security Agency. We were delighted to see because, by that time, we had come to know him extremely well and appreciated his talent and capabilities. He was still serving years after he retired. I heard they called him out of retirement to lead a blue-ribbon panel on recommendations to fix the Hubble telescope.”

“Truly a multi-threat officer,” I said, downing another egg.

“I am going to have dinner back at The Madison, but I envy those eggs. I am watching my cholesterol.”

“Don’t listen to the Docs,” I said. “They tried to tell us that coffee was bad, too. You could not have won the Pacific War without it.”

“Or Three Feathers Whiskey. Just to finish this off, since I have to be going to make the first seating back home, at a date that I no longer can document, Bill Colby brought in Lieutenant General Sam Wilson as the head of the Intelligence Community Staff. Now, during these evolutions….”

“Organizational conniptions,” I said around a sip of wine.

“Well, true enough, but remember, we were a growing group. And don’t interrupt. The Intelligence Community Staff continued to grow from a initial cadre of perhaps a dozen people in 1972, all of them being CIA people. The staff was clearly growing by the addition of people like myself who were hired as contract employees.”

“Flesh out? That is a euphemism. When existing organizations are told that they have to cough up people, who do you think are chosen? It is the only way to clear out government dead wood. Send them to the new staff.”

“And everyone wonders why things work the way they do. There were people being assigned from other agencies to flesh out the staff, and I don’t have specific numbers in mind. But from the original cadre of dozen people the staff grew into the range of perhaps 50 people within a period of a couple of years. It grew rather rapidly. We had our own administrative officer. Again, we were paid by CIA, we were housed by CIA, but every possible effort was made to identify us separately from CIA. No one really believed it, though. That was one of the main reasons for the name change to Intelligence Community Staff. Our old name was about budgets. We needed to reflect a more inclusive identity.”

“When did the staff relocate to 1724 F Street in downtown Washington. Did you want to be closer to the White House?” I asked and popped the last of the devilled eggs into my mouth.

“You are getting ahead of my story. Actually, that happened sometime around 1977 or ’78. The decision to move out of the Langley Headquarters and establish the staff separately in a building all its own was a decision that was made by George Bush, when he was DCI during 1976- the only year he was there.”


“I had no idea it was that recent,” I exclaimed. “I understood that the building you moved into used to be the place used by the Selective Service in World War Two.”

“Started during World War One and lasted until the Vietnam War was lost. George Bush made the decision to move to reinforce the idea that we were an independent organization and not creatures of the CIA bureaucracy.”

“We wound up right back at Langley as the Community Management Staff,” I said. “It was sort of cool driving up to the gate in the morning, except for the left turn off Chain Bridge Road where Mir Aimal Kasi shot all those commuters.”

“I have found the government operates in an elliptical manner. After we moved down to that building, and probably sometime in 1978, I was walking between the F Street building and the Old Executive Office Building when I encountered Vice President George Bush, who I had come to know well, and George asked me if we ever made to the building that he had arranged. And I said, “Yes indeed.” And I asked him if he’d like to come see us. And he said, “I certainly would.” I then aborted the mission that I was then on, whatever it was, and I took George Bush back to the headquarters building and. As a former Director of Central Intelligence, he had access rights to the building, and he was welcomed by many old friends.”

“I almost got a chance to brief him during the Gulf War,” I said. “I screwed up and went for a jog and my deputy got to do it.”
“He was a good man. We showed him through the building, and he spent a couple hours greeting friends and looking over the building that he had arranged for us a couple of years earlier.”

“So, what it sounds like to me is that we just saw this all over again with the establishment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the reason for their move to the Liberty Crossing facility in Fairfax.”

Mac nodded. “There seems to always be a conflict between what its responsibilities were and how much authority they had over the community. It seemed to me from where I was, that that authority was largely what the other agencies were willing to grant. There was always a tension between the intelligence organizations and the IC staff.”

“True enough. But our only real authority was budgetary. We couldn’t tell anyone what to do directly, unless we drafted a DCI Directive or made DCI guidance in the formation of the President’s Annual Budget.”

“Ouch. I spent two years of my life working on DCID 7-1.”

“What was that about?” asked Mac. He was having a good week and has permission to take a sip of Anchor Steam beer with satisfaction.

“I wish I could remember,” I said. “But then there was 9/11 and everyone lost their minds.”

“It happens,” said Mac. “You should have seen what happened after Pearl Harbor.” He did not have to reach for his wallet, since Liz-S had given him a pass for a lifetime of free drinks at the Willow Bar.

That is one full-service restaurant, and the only one I know that comes with a chance to talk to Mac.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Overcome By Events


Gentle Readers,

In view of the controversy regarding the unmasking of American names caught up in “incidental collection” and the parallel accusation that some Americans were inappropriately in contact with agents of the Kremlin, I thought it might be fun to take a look a the way the national security state came to be, masks or no masks. When I heard last night that we had lobbed 59 Tomahawk Land attack Missiles into Syria, I was initially impressed by the numbers. Watching the coverage from Russian TV (I am sure that it going to get me stripped of my mask) it doesn’t look like much was done. I wish I still had access to the post-strike imagery to make up my own mind. I poked around looking for some notes about the transition from Mac Shower’s active Navy Service to working for the Christians in Action up at Langley. There might be something that resonates yet in Mac’s words to me in that splendid dark bar with the wonderful wood paneling and the nicest bunch of bar-tenders and bar-flies you could ever hope to meet…

I was still dressing up for the office in those days. I think it was late spring- possibly warm enough for the seersucker suit that serves to keep me temperate through the atrocious soggy Washington season.

Owner Tracy O’Grady came out to press the flesh with the usual suspects before the kitchen got busy with the dinner trade. She worked the Amen Corner there by the front window for a while as Old Jim showed her his latest flight of blank verse from the notebook he kept in his corduroy jacket. Jim is still quite the poet. My pen was still poised. “Ok, Sir, you retired in 1971?”

(Broson Tweedy).

“Yes. Novermber of 1971. Bronson Tweedy called me and asked if I could meet him for lunch at the Georgetown Club, which I agreed to do. He liked that place- very traditional Washington institution. At lunch he said, “In view of the Schlesinger study making these demands on what the newly established Director of Central Intelligence is supposed to do, the DCI has decided reluctantly that he will have to expand his budget staff to carry out more coordination of the intelligence community. And among other things we’d like you to come and and work for us.” I asked him at that point if he wanted me to come in uniform or if he wanted me to come as a civilian. He said, “We want you as a civilian.”

“When was that, Admiral?”

“This was probably the first week of November. He said, “We’d like to have you on board by the first of December.” I told him that I doubted that I could get “unhooked” from the Navy that quickly, but I would try. After a pleasant lunch, I returned to the Pentagon and made inquiries, and the first thing I was confronted with was that General Bennett, the Director of DIA, was away on a trip. I was told that there was no way that I could send my request for retirement without his endorsement and agreement, which was obvious. So, it being readily apparent that I couldn’t carry get on the retired list by the first of December, the earliest I would be able to do it would be the first of January the following year. That was agreed to, and that’s what happened. As soon as General Bennett returned from his trip, I had my letter on his desk requesting retirement. He endorsed it, I went through the necessary procedures, and I was retired as of the 31st of December 1971 and went on the retired list on the 1st of January 1972.”

“I was still worried about the Draft then,” I said with a sigh. “I was dodging the draft and hoping I wouldn’t get nailed as soon as I graduated. Did you have any regrets about going to the CIA after all those years in Naval Intelligence?”

“No. It was a good offer. I don’t remember the pay scale at the time, but Bronson Tweedy’s offer to me was that, “We will take you on as a contract employee. We’ll give you a one-year contract renewable. And we will pay you the equivalent of a GS-16 salary,”

“That would be a General Schedule employee equivalent to a Rear Admiral, right?”

“Yes. The concept of the Senior Executive Service did not exist then. Compensation was about the same as what I was making from the Navy. I knew that I would have to forego part of my retired pay. I think the formula at the time was that I’d have to lose half of my retired Navy pay while I was in government employ and have that restored to the full annuity upon leaving government service. But I would concurrently be getting a full civil service salary or salary from the DCI, which would really give me a pay-and-a-half and make me a real true “double dipper,” a status for which I was accused of many times.”

“It always seems to irritate some people around here when somebody in the military finally gets a decent salary. With full military retirement and a job, you can actually afford to live in DC. At least you did not have to go into bid-and-proposal work with the rest of us Beltway Bandits.”

“I am thankful for that,” he said, taking a nibble of the celery stalk in his Virgin Mary. “New Year’s Day of that year fell on a Sunday, so we had Monday off to observe the holiday. I believe I retired on a Friday, and went to work at CIA headquarters on Tuesday. I know I had a three-day break between careers — time to have a New Year’s party and recover from it.”

“That only means you were not trying hard enough,” I said with a snort. “You told me about the party the senior officers had at Joe Rochefort’s house during the War after the word came back that Station HYPO had been right, and the Japanese were shattered at the Battle of Midway.”
Mac nodded solemnly. “We did not see some of them for a few days. But this was no war and we were all a little older. When I arrived at the DCI headquarters, I first went into a group that was headed by J.J. Hitchcock, who was one of my previous friends in naval service. I had first met J.J. at the Naval Security Station back in ’47-48 when he was doing some research work on indications and warning. J.J. had become the indications and warning expert for the DCI over the years. He was instrumental in setting up the Watch Committee and doing the Weekly Review of worldwide Indicators and he issued the weekly Watch Report that was a major instrument of power in the government during those years. By then, though, J.J. wasn’t doing that kind of work any longer. He was simply doing staff work.”

“The bane of the the Sixth Floor of the Original Headquarters Building,” I sighed.

“There was no new building to confuse the issue then, and besides, were were still downtown in the building on F Street near the White House. J.J. had the people on the budget staff- the NIPE- who were going out to the DIA and the other agencies and looking over their shoulders, as I said, at their budgets and their programs. It was at that point that I first became acquainted with Major General Jack Thomas, USAF, who was also in the same office, having retired from the Air Force a year or so earlier and gone into similar employ.”

“This is eerily similar to the Community Management Staff where we all worked for Joan Dempsey, and the General was still there. He was moving pretty slowly, though.”

“I am not surprised. So, Jack and I were both ensconced there working for J.J., and we soon became enmeshed with a gentleman by the name of John Clarke, who had been the Comptroller of CIA for many years and now was moved over to the NIPE staff to manage the program and budget development and comptrollership, if you will, for the while intelligence community because one of the specific recommendations in the Schlesinger Report was that the DCI, should, in fact, become responsible for the consolidation of the program and budget of all of the elements of the intelligence community, not just looking over the shoulder in review but, in fact, becoming a participant in the development and in the weighing and in the trade-offs, and so forth, in order to avoid the duplication and trim the fat, etc., et c.”

“Yep. We were always going to save a whole bunch of money through enhanced efficiency, but it never seemed to work that way.”

“So about the same time I arrived on the now-expanding NIPE staff, John Clarke arrived from Comptrollership of CIA to do a similar job for the intelligence community.”

“It sounds as though Helms took this very seriously, whether his cooperation was reluctantly given. and he really did try to carry out the recommendation from Schlesinger.

(Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms).

“Yes, he did, except it was still reluctant. I heard Dick Helms say on one occasion, when we were confronting him with some of the problems we encountered early on, “Look, I didn’t ask for this responsibility. I don’t want this responsibility. It is being forced on me, and I’m going to do my best, but I want you gentlemen to do it. Please don’t bother me with your little problems. I’m bringing you in and putting you together to do what I was told to do, and I want you do do it in my name.” And he really wanted to hold himself above it. That’s why I say he did it reluctantly. And he really did, but nevertheless, he was supportive and helpful to the extent that he could be. But his interest lay with the Central Intelligence Agency more than with the other elements of the intelligence community.”

“Doesn’t seem to have changed much,” I said. “The more things change….”

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra

Culpeper Spring

Scientists now have arrived at the 97% consensus: temperatures in Culpeper, VA, were once warm enough to support the growing of grapes for wine. To demonstrate, our team of expert scientists sampled an experimental personal analysis of the local product at lunch today, courtesy of Quentin, our server at the Copper Fish on historic East Davis Street in the vibrant Downtown:

(L-R) Vic Kim and Paul)

There was a lot to talk about. And it was wonderful to catch up with great pals. And the food was pretty tasty. Here is a sample of the mussels:


The spring is rising and you can feel it in your bones. The bad news is that the weeds have already outgrown the grass. It is the beginning of the Season of Growth in northern Virginia.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra