(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

Arrias on Politics: Cruise Missiles and Courtrooms

Standard Socotra House, LLC, Disclaimer: Arrias is his own guy. I happen to agree.

It was an interesting week:

The Supreme Court received its latest judge – one with a decidedly traditional view of the Constitution; Judge Gorsuch believes it means just what is says, and if you want to change that, there is a specific path to do so: amend it. Otherwise, it is as it stands.

That as strict an interpreter of the Constitution as Judge Gorsuch was nominated by President Trump is a strict fulfillment of Mr. Trump’s campaign promise to move the court towards a more literal interpretation. Which is significant relative to what happened in Syria.

In Syria, civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun were attacked using nerve agent. According to intelligence sources, the Syrian government was responsible. Mr. Trump, clearly incensed, asked for some options; apparently the intelligence was clear enough to identify a specific facility from which the attack was conducted; a while later USS Porter and USS Ross launched 59 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) and roughed up the airfield.

From an operational perspective, this wasn’t hard. It is, if you will, what the four uniformed services do. In particular, the Navy is very good at the handling and “special delivery” of TLAMs. That 58 of 59 appear to have hit their intended targets is a fairly good demonstration of that capability.

But there are several issues here that are more significant than the rather straight-forward (if a bit sophisticated) process of building, training with, and successfully employing TLAMs.

First, the US will not be constrained by previous policies. This has been shortened to “there’s a new sheriff in town,” but it’s more than that. There has been, since the 1990s, a clear position that the US will not act unless there’s international consensus. Over the past 8 years this expanded to the point that it was virtually a given that any crisis that threatened regional peace or US interests would first be debated in some international forum before any action could be taken. No more.

Second, the President has made a definitive statement to anyone who might be considering using chemical weapons specifically, or any WMD in general: If you do, we will retaliate. We will choose the time, place, and method; we will choose the level of destruction; we will choose the means of destruction. It will be more than you can possibly do to us.

This is the essence of deterrence: If you do “A” to us – or anyone else, we will do “A, B, and C,” to you. And rather than words with little action, the President chose action with few words.

North Korea and Iran should be taking notes (and China too).

Third, President Trump ordered the attack on the Syrian Air Force Base at the same time he was hosting President Xi of China. Led by a president (Xi) who wishes to establish himself as the dominant power in Asia and the world, China has a large (very) and increasingly aging population; an economy that isn’t doing as well as advertised, and is slowing; an increasingly powerful military; and an increasing thirst for energy.

China also wishes to replace the dollar with their Renminbi as the international oil currency, but that is now looking doubtful, given the rise of the US energy sector. Trend lines suggest the oil and gas market will be dominated for years to come by the US. And the largest net importer of energy will likely be, for years to come, China.

So, Xi visited the US while trying to balance these major issues – and others. And no sooner does he settle down in Trump’s house, then the US struck Syria. There are a host of messages China (and north Korea) should take from this action, but here are three:

– There’s going to be less dithering and more action. If you think you can slow roll the US for the next 4 years, as in the last 8, you should rethink your policies.

– President Trump is fully intent on keeping his campaign promises. Pay less attention to his tweets and daily ramblings; review what he definitively said, and what he has done so far; he means what he says.

– Finally, there is, indeed, a new sheriff in town. President Trump is most decidedly not President Obama. US interests will be aggressively protected. What you thought you could get away with needs to be reexamined… You need to be very careful from here on out.

Copyright 2017 Arrias

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

Life & Island Times: Hollywood Famous

Editor’s Note: Standard disclaimer: Marlow is a real person, and veers into poetry on occasion as he does this rainy morning. Me? I slogged through the taxes this morning and stabbed the button and sent them in. What an obtuse and frustrating system we have created. When I printed out a paper copy for the files, the mass came to around forty pages. This is absurd. Perhaps not as crazy as wanting to be Hollywood Famous, but you never know. Over to Marlow!

– Vic

Hollywood Famous
Coastal Empire

Long ago I knew this neighborhood boy. He lived just down the street from me on West North Broadway just up from the Olentangy River. Both of us were the oldest of our seven child families, attended the same schools, rode the same buses and played at the same parks. He was a studious, quiet person. Almost twenty years ago, I read about him in the news. Yesterday, someone sent me digital press clippings that he had been in the news. He was once again Hollywood Famous.
This prompted some free verse.
Hollywood Famous

he was five foot nine with dark brown hair
deep set brown eyes
with a wiry body
he was quiet and rode an old used bicycle
to school and work
he didn’t go out with girls
he didn’t hang much with boys
he’d pull up on his bicycle
put his foot down on the ground at
the park: “Hey. Marlow, where are you going to go
to college? You’re smart. You’ll get in anywhere.”
He was smarter than me so
I’d say the same back to him but
he’d say right back to me or others who sometimes made fun of him
“college is not for me. I’m headed for Hollywood.
I’m going to be famous.”

they never got to him in one way or
the other.
they did get to our school’s assistant principal for girls just after we
graduated, she left the nunnery, married a defrocked priest,
had children and moved out west.

in the class pictures of 1967, graduating class,
spring , Dante Soiu’s photo was there on the same page
as mine and he looked very different than the rest of us.

under each photo there was something unique
about each student:
“Loves baseball and canoeing the river . . .”
“Engaged to a student at OSU”
“Wants to be a housewife and a mother . . .”
under Dante Soiu’s photo it said:
“Going to be Hollywood famous . . .”
Dante Soiu of Watterson High
class of 1967

he should have changed his name
he looked so deranged later
with his beady eyes

now he looks mildly off the hook
he was born under a bad sign
Scorpio, the predatory arachnid
riding his old
used bicycle.

Dante’s 1998 news story | Dante’s 2016 news story

Dante 2016: acquitted and adjudged as recovered; now Hollywood Famous twice

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

Life & Island Times: Net People

Editor’s Note: Marlow, and his wonderful Coastal Empire series, comes from a real human being and is not a figment of my fevered imagination. This one struck a particularly resonant chord. I work from home- or better said, with the net, I live at the office. I find if I turn around from the AOL account, the inbox fills up rapidly with junk- normally, if I am doing something else and come back through to check, there are 20 or thirty new things to look at, some of which (though not much) is actually worth the time. I only kept the account because composing these little soap bubbles goes better here than on gmail- though of course there are a couple accounts over there where I have tried to steer the junk and promotional notes. Google seems to do that well enough that I can ignore it all. And then there is the office, of course. It is getting mind-numbing, nd the more old pals who join the ranks fo rhthe retired clearly have too much time on their hands.

– Vic

April 5, 2017

Net People

Coastal Empire


Who speaks for America today? I believe it’s the ad agencies whose hundreds of billions of dollars of creative electronic ad placements underpin this new world netted economy. They are entirely capable of showing us our unparalleled prosperity and paint a nearly present classless, raceless, faithless, secular society that is relentlessly affirmative.

These purveyors do not look for assurance. Their art proceeds from an understanding that Americans and the world will take what they show them as revelation — not of what they ought to be but of what they are at a given time and under given circumstances. Take this, eat it, shut up, be happy. Sadly, everything they give us is a small pleasure whose effect does not last, depressing its consumers as it wears off and prompting them to await with hope and then demand with anxiety the next upgrade or new thing. Some would call this jonesing for the next fix.

It should not take much to make us realize what fools we become when trapped in this cycle, but the little it takes can be a very long time in coming. Like decades. That might be not just too long but too late.

At its best the American age, the pre-hypernetted version, was a story of innovators, searchers, discoverers and true believers. As the narrative is petering out now with people drowning in self-selected multimedia streams of our own bathwater, its characters are numbly focused on a final triumph over despair by domesticating it and living happily with it.

From behind their digitally erected walls, these net people withdraw into the inner compartments of like minds where they spend most of their time. This mental bubble in which each person establishes himself allows the exclusion of that which they cannot bear going on around them. From it, they can see out and judge but in it they are safe from any kind of penetration from without. It is the only place where they feel free of the general idiocy of others. Non-likes can never enter it, but from it they feel confident that they see everything with absolute clarity.

Cyber citizens’ experience is largely rootless. They can go anywhere. They belong nowhere and everywhere. Being alien to nothing and everything, they end up being alienated from any type of larger entity other than their self-defined community. The borders of their culture and country are the sides of their skulls.

I had what passed for higher education and a richly experienced life back in the day. With the rise of the seamless internet, Google and social media, I am no longer deceived by any former confidence in my book learning and life experience.

This loss was felt not as a pain but as a tide. It rose within me, over many years of unawareness. It rose as my children and children’s children chose and sustained these new ways to the detriment of their privacy. I wonder how or even if they might hear those who wander this violent world when they break their silence to shout a warning about impending dangers.

The age we live in now is full of the stuff of which fanatics and madmen are made. How does one stay upright and make progress in such a time and place when the choice is at times between madness and empty despair? What should be the direction when the bubbled ones lose their balance? Is there a choice? A real, let alone a good, one?

I might be silly here, but the internet saddens me at times. There seems to be little to nothing in it but trifling domestic doings — people buying stuff, youth watching, posting, commenting on video, folks haggling about this or that . . . what do they get out of it? I wonder. Where is there any chance for self-expression – – not the Snapchat crapfest of image/video manipulations or snarky political comments on news media sites — for creation, and for art? Blog websites? They’re so digital 19th century.

All around the web, it’s the same — hundreds of millions of sites and hundreds of billions of daily posts, images, videos and texts by people scurrying about with their hands full of little packages and their minds full of little packages — mothers with children in daycare, job and home life pulling her, jerking her, dragging her away from a peaceful moments of small pleasure with the family; she like others will probably be pulled and jerked the rest of her life. And there are others with their lives sped up and complexified by the ever increasing spew of new technology. Is all of this digital hurry making us walk faster, drop our life’s package contents all over the streets and forcing us to ignore our loved ones’ pleas for more face time (pun unintended), while up the street folks speed up and strangers crowd us from behind too close for comfort.

During my pre-networked years, we may have felt more, but certainly we saw less. Today’s digerati in my opinion feel less, see more, even though they see with the blind unsentimental eyes of acceptance – an unquestionable faith in their bubble and its underlying construct. In the absence of feelings, tenderness is lost. What passes for tenderness is wrapped in dry communications theory. When tenderness is detached from its human source and object, the logical outcome is terror. It ends in digital forced-outrage storms on the web and on our city streets and college campuses.

As we become dumbed down, the American mystique and mystery seem to me to be gradually evaporating. Dogma is the chief guardian of mystery. As the American canon failed to morph/evolve and then disappeared from our schools and public life, so has America mystery. Its loss was spiritually significant in ways that we cannot fathom.

We are living in a new age which doubts both fact and values. We are swept this way and that by momentary convictions. Instead of reflecting a balance from the world around us, we are forced to achieve one from a felt balance inside ourselves and our bubbles. Seeing and judging become difficult. Without a set of agreed to values, this easily becomes a hopeless fool’s errand inside our bubbles. If one is without hope, one really cannot make sense of life.

Perhaps we digiterati should plunge into the gritty reality outside ourselves and our bubbles and experience its very cold shock to our systems. To sustain this encounter, monetary rewards are insufficient. What is offered is the chance at revelation and salvation. Will this suffice?

What I am spitballing here is a draft approach to life that begins with the risks and possibilities of real life rather than the probabilities and certainties of our bubbles. We must force ourselves to confront the unpleasant, the different in life – to meet evil and those who act solely on behalf of themselves.

Copyright © 2017 From My Isle Seat

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

The Mac Book


See? Isn’t that one of the problems? I have been a useful idiot for Apple products for several years- I think since I was working for IBM and discovered that Big Bluw was going to sell the ThinkPad lap-top line to the Chinese.

I always hated Microsoft products because the Government made us use them, and I am not completely comfortable with Mr. Bill Gates being involved in the various configurations of my life. The constant attacks by malware shard at the office was another constant irritant, and I drifted to the operating system that was (then) less targeted by the bad guys. Now, of course, Bill’s software made our personal information readily accessible to innumerable hackers, and a (small) part of my busy day is spent in dealing with some asshat in Ohio who stole my personal information from China or wherever and continues to claim he is “me” to a variety of credit-granters in the hopes of stealing my life.

So I went with a hybrid solution of Apple hardware and some Microsoft applications- mostly the hated Office suite for compatibility with the rest of the computing world. For the record, I also was not particularly enamored with the personality and management stylings of Mr. Steve Jobs, but you have to admit that his products were sleek and approachable and seemed to work much more intuitively. Plus, they shared Apple-unique features across a variety of platforms- iPod, iPad, MacBook Pro and so on.


Which was one of the problems I encountered when I began to get serious about putting the informal (very) biography of RADM Donald “Mac” Showers together.

My last iteration of laptop is a MacBook Pro- a nice portable piece of IT, but one that fell out of favor once I purchased a big-screen desk-top 27-inch iMac. It is wonderful for the capability to have more than one application open on the screen at a time, and the ability to rapidly switch things around.


That is also part of the problem: when I imported the contents of the second-to-last Mac laptop, I naturally labelled the contents of the old hard drive as “Mac Book.” Even though I knew I was actually writing something I was calling the “Mac Book.”



Anyway, one of the fun things about interviewing Mac for that great decade we spent at Willow (and other places) was the fact that we could start anywhere, meander through anything and everything in his ten decades on the planet at the establishment and zenith of the American Century. We did not bother with any strict chronology. Naturally, the events that changed history so dramatically took center stage: the Battle of Midway first among them, and the ambush of Admiral Yamamoto. The Bomb and the Surrender. So that was covered first, but then came all the rest, some preceding the war, some long after it, personalities of the Government in the 1970s and 1980s and all the rest in no particular order.

I figured I could always unscramble the files later, and I had the amazing luxury of having Mac review the stories as they were created to ensure I did not get too far off the reservation.

It was an amazing romp through history. He had decided to stay in the Navy when most people who served could not get off to something else fast enough. Mac’s post-war career included the early Cold War in Europe; the intense planning required to train a force prepared to goto war with the Soviets; collection tactics, sources and methods.

Then Vietnam, in the same job his boss Eddie Layton had when the Japanese attacked.

Then all the rest: Director of Plans and Programs at the Defense Intelligence Agency, retiring as the Chief of Staff at the ascendancy of the Zumwalt Whiz-kids. Then the ten years at CIA, or better said, the Intelligence Community Staff, the entity the Director of Central Intelligence used to deal with Congress and the fractious kittens who compose the Intelligence Community.

It was a brilliant career in Government- it almost reminds me of the Pug Henry character in Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War,” a charactr who was at every significant event of the Second World War. Except for Korea, that actually was Mac Shower’s life.

And there was much more. During the time he had to share with us, my folks were sliding from alert seniors to something much less. Mac had experienced the same thing when his beloved wife Billie was struck by dementia. He managed to be a caregiver for ten years, and then the decade that followed in which she needed more intense care than he could give. He was a mentor and counselor as I tried to come to grips with what was happening to my folks. Away from the Spook community, he organized support groups and served as a mentor to those who did not know what life was about to present them.

Anyway, I started bitching about computers, but it was my fault. I never should have named the whole contents of the hard drive as “The Mac Boo,” because they are two very different things and goodness knows what files wound up where.

I think we are about done with the first draft of the real Mac Book, which I think is going to be titled “Cocktails with the Admiral: The life and Times of Mac Showers at the Zenith of the American Century.” Of course the second part of the title will be in smaller font- there are standards, you know. The manuscript has become vast enough that it is broken up into )at least) three sprawling Word Documents. I think it is time to put them together and take a look at what we have got.

It is certainly better than listening to the politics in this town. Mac confronted two existential threats to America: the Empire of Japan, and the global ambitions of the Soviet Union. I prefer thinking about the part where Mac and his comrades actually beat them both.

The rest can wait.

Copyright 2017 Vic Socotra