As a result of Dana Priest’s three-part article, Top-Secret America, published in the Washington Post, pundits have been falling all over themselves in their rush to describe the size and implications of the elephant in the living room. Forget that none of these pundits has seen fit to write about the elephant before. More important is the fact that the elephant has dimensions Dana Priest never even touched upon.
Let me tell you a story.
In 1985, I was contacted by Larry, a CIA officer who had had a breakdown and wanted to talk to me. He had served as a deep cover agent overseas for over 15 years at that point. He had been recruited from the Marines in Vietnam, and given a fake life in which his father had been an Australian soldier in World War II, and his mother a Filipino who died in childbirth. The Australian soldier had abandoned the mother before she gave birth. The father had later died in World War II, and Larry, having been brought up in an orphanage, was adopted as an infant by a couple in the United States.
In the legend created by the CIA, Larry’s foster parents told him about his real parents while he was a Marine in Vietnam. Larry took advantage of his proximity to the Philippines to travel there and claim his right to Filipino citizenship. In this way the CIA established an agent in the Philippines, with impeccable credentials. Larry eventually was even elected to public office.
To make a long story short, after Larry’s breakdown, the CIA got him a job as a manager of a Playboy club in Detroit. Later they transferred him to Washington, DC, as manager of the Four Ways restaurant. When I met him there, his Filipino wife and entourage were staffing the facility, along with his CIA hand-holder, who handled finances.
This was the fanciest place I had never been in my life. It was a place where State Department officials, foreign dignitaries and business tycoons enjoyed the finest wines and the most haute cuisine. Each lavishly appointed room had its own dining table and waiter. As I sat in a leather booth in the wood-paneled basement bar with Larry, he explained that each room was bugged by the CIA.
As we were talking, a group of well-dressed younger people in the company of one older man took occupied the booth next to us. The rest of the basement bar was empty. They ordered drinks, but remained silent and alert as Larry explained the ins and outs of his CIA experience to me. At one point, he nodded to the older man at the other table; then he informed me that the young people were junior officer trainees from Langley, who were also listening to his lecture.
Again, to make a very long story short, Larry explained that the CIA manages a parallel society to American society, where deep cover agents like him, as well as retired CIA officers and their agents, are provided with comfortable employment in their retirement years, or when they otherwise need recompense for their service. Many of these agents have no resume that is suitable in the modern professional world. So there is this parallel universe that they are folded into, as managers of the local Ford dealership, or Chinese restaurant, or hotel, or in hundreds and thousands of other jobs.
Think of it as a sort a witness protection program. Since 1985 it has grown substantially. It is, of course, another facet of Top-Secret America, but the ex-spooks in this dimension are not your average every day wingnut ideologue informant or strong-arm man. They know how to burn down buildings, which is what the CIA does.
As John Lennon said, “Imagine.”
Doug Valentine is the author of “The Phoenix Program” and his latest book is “The Strength of the Pack: The Personalities, Politics and Espionage Intrigues That Shaped The DEA.” Please visit his website at http://www.members.authorsguild.net/valentine/bio.htm.