Authors: Stuart Methven
Tags: #History, #Military, #Nonfiction, #Retail
Laughter in the Shadows
The latest edition of this work has been brought to publication with the generous assistance of Marguerite and Gerry Lenfest.
Naval Institute Press
291 Wood Road
Annapolis, MD 21402
© 2008 by Stuart E. Methven
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
ISBN 978-1-61251-576-2 (eBook)
The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:
Methven, Stuart E.
Laughter in the shadows : a CIA memoir / Stuart E. Methven.
1. Methven, Stuart E. 2. Intelligence officers—United States—Biography. 3. United States. Central Intelligence Agency—Officials and employees—Biography. I. Title.
Print editions meet the requirements of ANSI/NISO z39.48-1992 (Permanence of Paper).
This manuscript has been reviewed by the CIA to assist the author in eliminating classified information; however, that review neither constitutes CIA authentication of factual material nor implies CIA endorsement of the author’s views
Photographs are from the author’s personal collection
To my immediate family: Laurie, Kent, Gray, and Megan, who lived through
in both Asia and Africa, and to their spouses, Kris, Denise, Terri, and Rusty, and to their progeny, Marcus, Page, Joey, Jessica, Mike, Brian, Amber, and Kendall
And to my devoted wife Nicole, who was part of the African equation and provided steadfast support and affection in getting me to finish this book
I would like to thank my friends and colleagues, Tom Ahern and Ed George, the latter particularly for his input into the book’s introduction.
I am also indebted to my brother Don, now deceased, who helped correct and provide support, and to his family, especially my nephews David and Mike, who carried on with support for the book after my brother’s death.
Finally, I thank Jerrold and Leona Schecter, my patient and supportive literary agents and longtime friends, and the Naval Institute Press for the book’s unique cover and their vote of confidence in publishing
Laughter in the Shadows
And yet—it’s rather curious, you know, this sort of life! I do wonder what can have happened to me! When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!
There ought to be a book written about me, that there ought! And when I grow up, I’ll write one.
Alice in Wonderland
n a period of American history that seems to abound in startling ironies and melodramas, perhaps none is as striking as that of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Here is an organization, dedicated to anonymity, that suddenly became the most widely and sensationally publicized secret institution in history.
It was incredible, the stuff of comedy and tragedy, unexpected and improbable, ludicrous and grave. In the catalogue of the CIA’s alleged misdeeds, there was a hint of some cosmic mind at work behind the scenes. The scheme to destroy or denigrate Castro, sinister in its intent, slapstick in its results, or “stemming the tide” in Southeast Asia with bands of ragged tribesmen, ideal in conception, bloody in conclusion.
Make no mistake about it: even with the CIA’s flaws, the Central Intelligence Agency has much to be proud of. In its early years, there was probably no other federal agency with a comparable level of talent and expertise in so many different and often arcane fields. No other agency was less bureaucratic and hidebound. No other agency was more demanding or tolerant of its people.
The results were remarkable. Out of an improbable mix of high purposes and low methods, cloistered intellectuals and daring adventurers, opportunists and idealists, bureaucrats and innovators, the Agency fashioned one of the most efficient, effective, and responsive organizations in the U.S. government.
The damage inflicted on the CIA later by unwanted publicity forced it to retrench and consequently to lose much of its independent spirit. Yet, even with the unfrocking of its main opponent, the KGB (the Soviet Union’s Committee for State Security), the Agency still has a formidably complex task trying to find coherence and predictability in a crazy-quilt world tattered and torn at by insurgents, terrorists, war lords, and religious fanatics.
This book is about the early, more heady days of the CIA. It is the story of essentially conventional people in a chimerical, yet precarious world, written by an operations officer who was part of it.
The experience was almost addictive. Those of us involved might not approve of or fully comprehend everything that was happening, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away. The constant sense of wonder led us to raise questions but left us unsure about the answers.
The characters in this book are real, although names have been changed to protect those still guarding their cover. Locales where covert engagements may still be running have been disguised.
If at times the book pokes fun at the Agency, it is not to discredit it. The demarcation between the rational and the fanciful has never been well defined, and one may very well have thought he was in one state without realizing he had crossed into the other. This is why even the best-intentioned clandestine operations appear tragicomic in their tail-chasing frenzy.