BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Ted Gup, what is in your book, "The Book of Honor?"
Professor TED GUP (Author, "The Book of Honor: Covert Lives and
Classified Deaths at the CIA"): "The Book of Honor" is about the men
and women who died in service to the CIA who were covert operatives
overseas. And in a--most of the cases, their identities were
concealed, were veiled in secrecy, in some instances, for 10, 20, 30,
even 50 years. So the book basically reveals the identities of covert
operatives killed in service to country and also, the aftermath of
those deaths, the burdens borne by the families and the secrecy they
were forced to carry.
LAMB: Where'd you get the idea?
Prof. GUP: About--during the Gulf War, about 10 years ago, I was at
the agency doing a history of US-Iraq relations for Time magazine and
I passed before what is called the Wall of Honor, a marble wall with
black lithichrome stars engraved, each one representing a fallen
covert operative. And in a bulletproof glass case is what is called
the Book of Honor at the agency listing the years each officer fell;
and in more than half the cases, just anonymous stars to conceal their
identity. I saw that memorial service and--that--that memorial and it
basically--it touched me very deeply and I decided then and there that
I wanted to know the identities of those individuals.
LAMB: On the cover of your book, what is this right here?
Prof. GUP: That is the Book of Honor in the glass case. It's--it's
a locked case with very thick bulletproof glass and stainless steel.
LAMB: On the back of your book--and I may have quoted--I mean, I may
have counted wrong, you have all these names and I counted about 64
names and--and four women out of that group. How many names are there
actually on the wall?
Prof. GUP: Today, including those that have been added since my book
was finished, 77. There's 77 fallen covert operatives. But of those
actually named, it's about half.
LAMB: Why only four women?
Prof. GUP: I think part of that reflects the history of the agency
in which there were not so many women on the front lines. I think
it's just a--but--but in--in--in more recent times, there are a great
number of women out there at risk.
LAMB: Do you pronounce it Douglas MacKiernan?
Prof. GUP: MacKiernan, exactly right.
LAMB: And you have a whole page here, the first group of photographs
of Douglas MacKiernan. Who was he?
Prof. GUP: Douglas MacKiernan was a much decorated World War II
veteran who, early on--at the very founding of the agency in '47, and
about that--that same period volunteered for one of the most remote
assignments in the world in Urumqi in Xinjiang, China, far west China.
And his--his mission was in large measure to monitor the--the
Communists as they surged to power and to do what he could to prevent
them or at least harass them. And the reason he's in the book--aside
from the fact that he died in service--is that he underwent a
1,200-mile trek across desert and mountains, the Himalayas, trying to
flee the Communists. He got within about 50 yards of safety, the
Tibetan border, but a message from the US government to the Dalai Lama
granting MacKiernan safe passage was not delivered in time and he was
shot to death and beheaded within a few steps of safety.
LAMB: What's this photograph right here of the--with the headline,
Missing Aide's Wife Hits Reds.
Prof. GUP: That is h--a picture of MacKiernan's widow, Pegge, and
Mary and Mike, the two one-year-old twins he left behind at his death.
The Chinese Communists accused him of being a spy, and indeed, the
Chinese knew he was a spy. The only people who did not know he was a
spy were the Americans. And it played into the demonization of the
Chinese and the Chinese government at the time.
LAMB: Do the Americans know now that he was a spy?
Prof. GUP: With publication of this book. But there's been nothing
before--a piece I wrote in The Washington Post Sunday Magazine in '97
was the first confirmation that he was a spy.
LAMB: Why are you interested in doing this?
Prof. GUP: Excellent question. Why am I interested in doing this?
I'm--I'm interested because I'm s--I'm haunted by the idea that we
don't believe in the past, that it's not real for us, that it seems to
be fiction. And I'm haunted by the oblivion to which people who gave
their lives for country are--are subjected or lost and by the fate of
the families, the--the surviving family members who have been forced
by the full weight of the US government not to speak of their loved
ones for many decades, and indeed, required to tell lies all those
decades, to stick to the cover story at the time of--of their loved
one's death. I found that haunting. And part of the reason I wrote
this, in so small measure, was to try to lift some of that burden.
It--it--it bothered me, and the more time I spent with the family
members the more it bothered me.
LAMB: How many people have you talked to?
Prof. GUP: Well, I interviewed more than 400 covert operatives, past
and present, as well as several hundred family members and I--you
know, I would say it's 800, 900 people all together over the course of
LAMB: Is there one of those in that whole group, one of the families,
one of the--the now deceased people that sticks out in your mind as
the best example of--I don't know what--of what you found?
Prof. GUP: Well, I think there are two, but one that comes to mind
is perhaps the least glamorous of the people in the book, a Barbara
Robbins, who was a 21-year-old secretary in Saigon in 1965. She
worked for the CIA. She was under State Department cover. And one
day she heard some noise in the street. She went to the window at the
US Embassy in Saigon to see what was happening. And at that very
moment, a car bomb by a terrorist detonated and the grating around the
window impaled her. She was killed instantly. I cite her because she
came from a very patriotic family. Her father was a butcher outside
of--of Denver, Colorado, and when I spoke to him, first in 1996 and
'97 and again in '98, he told me that--that one of his final wishes in
his life was to see his daughter's name inscribed in the Book of
Honor, not just an anonymous star. He wanted her recognized. He died
last year with that wish unfulfilled. His--his widow is still alive
and--and shares that wish. I--I cite her because it's an egregious
example of the CIA's obsession with secrecy. Why a 21-year-old
secretary who was killed 35 years ago cannot be identified after all
this time is beyond my grasp.
LAMB: What's this picture of in the Girl stou--Scout uniform?
Prof. GUP: That's Barbara Robbins when she was a young girl. And
the picture above is--is also a picture of--of Barbara Robbins
as--about the time that--that she went over to Saigon.
LAMB: What happens when you ask the CIA why they can't put her name
on that star?
Prof. GUP: Anyone is welcome to ask, but they neither confirm nor
deny that Barbara Robbins was a part of the agency. It's the standard
line that they've been issuing to these families decade after decade.
And they--they told me no more than they told anyone else in the
LAMB: But off the record did they tell you why they won't?
Prof. GUP: No. Well, I mean, th--th--there's a generic argument. A
generic argument is that they need to protect sources and methods.
Sources primarily means the individuals who've supplied them
information. Methods are the ways in which they get that information,
that intelligence. They're afraid, they say, that identifying these
individuals will put foreign nationals and our own people at risk or
will compromise the way that we gather intelligence.
LAMB: Back to Barbara Robbins. She was a secretary in Vietnam, in
Prof. GUP: Right.
LAMB: How could that possibly have any--after all these years?
Prof. GUP: The--the--the truth of the matter is--and I--I--I'm
not--I--I'm not someone that's made a living demonizing the agency,
but the truth of the matter is that this is not an issue of national
security. It's an issue of bureaucracy. There is simply no
constituency pushing for the change, the lifting for the veil of
secrecy. A butcher outside of Denver does not have enough power to
lift the veil of secrecy, even on his own daughter's name. And that's
why it's remained this way year after year after year. It is the
inertia of the bureaucracy. And unless and until someone plants a
significant political powder keg under them, they're not going to
change. This--this is the way it is. It's always easier to ignore
than to change.
LAMB: By the way, where do you live now?
Prof. GUP: We moved a year ago to Cleveland, Ohio. For 21 years, I
lived in Washington.
LAMB: Why do you live in Cleveland?
Prof. GUP: I took a position--I have an endowed chair in journalism
at Case Western Reserve University.
LAMB: And why did you live here for 21 years?
Prof. GUP: I worked as an investigative reporter with The Washington
Post under Bob Woodward for, I guess, about eight years. And then I
worked at Time magazine covering Congress as an investigative
reporter. Then I freelanced from here for a wide range of magazines.
For 18 years, I also taught as an adjunct at Georgetown University.
LAMB: And where is your home originally?
Prof. GUP: Canton, Ohio, so it's a sort of going home.
LAMB: You mentioned there were a couple, Barbara Robbins is one.
What's another one that you most remember?
Prof. GUP: Well, I c--I can't help but--but reflect on Douglas
MacKiernan. When I called his widow, Pegge, I was the first one to
put together the fact that her husband, her late husband was CIA in 47
years. And you can imagine the shock. When he died, he left behind
twins who were one year old. And--and to get a call out of the blue
saying, `I'm putting together the--the--the pieces of a puzzle 47
years old,' she was thunderstruck. Because for 47 years, the agency
had told her, `You are not to talk about your late husband and if you
do, you must say that he was an employee of the State Department, a
vice counsel in the State Department.' So she was--she was just
shocked when I called her and I think it's an example--again, the
Chinese Communists knew he was a spy and as evidence of that they
executed everyone that he had contact with within a year of
MacKiernan's flight. It was no secret to the Chinese Communists. It
was a secret to the US.
And what happens is the US paints itself in a corner. They say he was
not a spy. And then they lose credibility when they admit that--that
he was. It also plays into the--the propaganda of the Cold War, that
an innocent man was, you know, on the run and slain.
LAMB: How many individuals do you write about in your book?
Prof. GUP: Well, I--I focus on about 20. But I name about--I think
about 35 who are nameless.
LAMB: How many a--how much of this information is--is brand new?
Prof. GUP: I would say at least 75 percent, 80 percent of it. I
mean, this d--was not gathered under the Freedom of Information Act.
That was of no help. This was all kind of the old
roll-up-your-sleeve, hard-core sleuthing. It was the only way to get
LAMB: Are people in this book afraid that--that the CIA will find out
where you got this information?
Prof. GUP: No. It's a--it's--it's a curious thing, but there's
nothing off the record in this book. As sensitive and classified as
it is, all but two families cooperated fully in--in writing this book.
Some 400 covert operatives, past and present, helped me with this
book. When someone is quoted by name there, and it says such-and-such
said it, it's because they said it to me. I mean, there's--there's
no--there's no footnotes, but it--the sources are obvious in this
book. It's--it's--it is exactly what it appears to be. And--and I
think that the reason that I got so much cooperation is that even
those who have dedicated their lives to national security recognize
that--that a lot of this is preposterous, that it still be veiled in
LAMB: When did the CIA start?
Prof. GUP: 1947.
Prof. GUP: It was a sort of re-collection of the elements of the old
Office of Strategic Services, the World War II entity. Following
World War II, it was quickly disbanded and the elements went to
various places, the State Department, the Defense Department and there
was quickly, with the rise of the Cold War, perceived to be a need for
some centralized intelligence gatherer, hence the CIA. And that was
put together in 1947, largely bringing back together the--the
disbanded elements of the OSS and modeled in no small part on that
LAMB: The last one in your book is The Last Maccabeee. Why that
Prof. GUP: That's a reference to--the--the chapter is about Larry
Freedman. Larry Freedman was Jewish and very proud of the tradition,
the biblical tradition of Jewish warriors going back to the Maccabees.
He was a Green Beret in Vietnam, he was in the elite Delta Force,
counterterrorist unit that--that made the aborted effort to rescue the
hostages in Tehran. And--and he was killed in Somalia. He was the
first casualty in Somalia and I--I c--I chose the--the title The Last
Maccabee because I guess that's--I think what--what Larry Freedman
would have wanted that chapter to be.
LAMB: You have a picture in here of some of his friends. Where did
you find that picture? And who are they?
Prof. GUP: That picture was taken during an--an interview that I
conducted of--of the--the four friends. Paul Weinberg on
the--the--the l--your viewers' left, I believe, with the white beard
has since passed away and indeed, the book was slipped under his hand
as he was in a coma as...
LAMB: You actually mean the one on the right, don't you, with the
Prof. GUP: I'm--sorry. Yes. I'm sorry. The one on the right.
LAMB: And he's passed away?
Prof. GUP: He has since passed away. We got a copy to him a few
days before publication because he had wanted that. But the picture
was taken by Larry Freedman's sister, Sylvia Donor, and these four
friends were incredibly loyal to Larry Freedman and--and they gathered
basically to share stories about him with me.
LAMB: Tell us more about him.
Prof. GUP: Well, he was a hellion. I mean, he was--he was a kid who
before he reached 13 held up a gas station with a bow and arrow, I
mean a real hunter's bow and arrow. He sawed off the top of a car to
make it a convertible. He drove Harleys at high speeds. He got in
more than a little trouble. And were it not for his finding the Green
Berets and the military, I'm not sure exactly what would have become
of him. But it was a perfect match and it harnessed all of his
excessive energy and his incredible courage and his patriotism and it
was a perfect match. And--and he became one of those who trained
Delta Force at Ft. Bragg, and was brought into the CIA upon
retirement from Delta Force. And he became one of their--he w--he was
renowned as a sniper. He could--he could run five, six, seven miles
with a full pack, set up his rifle and--and wait for two or three days
for 10 seconds of a window, when someone passed by to--to--to do what
he did as a sniper. I mean, he was a--he was deadly accurate, deadly
patient and a perfect physical specimen and very patriotic.
LAMB: What happened to him in Somalia?
Prof. GUP: All of those resources and skills that he had were of no
avail. The v--the vehicle he was in hit a landmine, a Russian
landmine and he was immediately killed. He--he was near Badera and he
was there to ensure that airports were open so that food and relief
supplies could reach the--the starving people of the country. He was
not there in a capacity as a sniper. He was there as a kind of
intelligence officer and liaison between the incoming US military and
the embassy and--and other elements of our US government.
LAMB: And what year did he get killed?
Prof. GUP: '92, December '92.
LAMB: Is his name up on the wall out there at the CIA headquarters?
Prof. GUP: No, he's an anonymous star.
LAMB: How many names again are on the wall?
Prof. GUP: This is a rough guess, about half of the 77 are named,
may--maybe as many as 40. The rest are nameless.
LAMB: Can I go out to the CIA and see this wall?
Prof. GUP: You as a journalist can, but the ordinary citizen cannot.
You need a reason, an invitation to--to get into the--the--the
headquarters at Langley.
LAMB: How did they deal with you when they knew you were doing this
Prof. GUP: The first person that I interviewed was the chief of
public affairs at the CIA. This was not done in any kind of sub-rosa
fashion because I knew I'd be setting off trip wires and alarms left
and right--I mean, I knew I was going to have to interview hundreds of
covert officers and that probably the first time I made a call it
would get back to CIA headquarters. So I called their--their public
affairs staff and said, `This is what I'm doing. I'm doing a project
to try to unmask the identities of your fallen covert operatives. Can
I get any help?' I--I don't want to sound as naive as I may sound in
that. It was really a way of setting down a bookmark and saying,
`This is what I'm doing. I'm not trying to end run you. I want you
to know this is, you know, what I'm up to.' And they--they had me
over. We talked. They tried to dissuade me from doing it. And in
the course of the total four years, they provided many courteous
return phone calls and zero cooperation.
LAMB: Did you ever ask them off the record why they wouldn't
cooperate with you?
Prof. GUP: Well, they just invoked the sources and methods argument
that I mentioned before. That was it.
LAMB: You write up a 1998 ceremony that George Tenet, the current
CIA--I guess they call him DCI...
Prof. GUP: Right.
LAMB: ...the director of Central Intelligence had inside the agency.
What--were you there?
Prof. GUP: I was not.
LAMB: Who was and what was it?
Prof. GUP: I--I was not allowed to be there. No one from the press
has ever witnessed this ceremony. It's an annual ceremony in which
family members of the deceased are brought in from all over the United
States. They don't know each other.
LAMB: They only go once in their lives?
Prof. GUP: No, they're--some of them go back repeatedly. Usually
this ceremony has a focal point. It may be losses in Laos or it might
be the--the Mideast. The one that you're referring to, which was the
most recent one that I could get into the book, was--was a standard
memorial service held before the memorial wall and the Book of Honor
at the agency headquarters. And I had--th--the agency forewarns the
families that they are not to discuss what happens there with anyone.
But they don't even trust the families. They will not say the names
of the deceased except for the named stars, even at the ceremony. So
you have family members sitting there knowing, obviously, that they
lost a son or a husband, but even in that context the director of
Central Intelligence will not utter the person's name. And in the
particular chapter, the epilogue that you mentioned, I had prearranged
with many of the families to meet with them moments after the ceremony
so that I could debrief them and superimpose each account on the
other, weeding out what was repetitious so that I could reconstruct in
great detail what transpired at the ceremony. That's how that was
LAMB: You talk about one time when one of these families--groups were
being honored and they got a call from the president, LBJ, to come to
the White House. Remember that one?
Prof. GUP: Yes. That was John Merriman. John Merriman's story
is--is particularly sad. He--he was killed in the Congo in 1964. His
widow, Val, and--and son, Jon are people that I've gotten to know
quite well in the course of my reporting. And they were at the--at
the director of Central Intelligence's office to receive a medal and
immediately--not long after they arrived, a w--a call was placed from
the White House inviting them to--to come over and meet the president
and--and Lady Bird and--so they did go over there and, you know,
there's no mention of it in the logs at the White House. I--I went
through the--the Johnson Library. There's no reference. As you know,
it was all hush-hush.
LAMB: How did you get this picture of his wife getting some kind of
Prof. GUP: That's probably the--the Intelligence Star. She--she
provided the photo to me.
LAMB: But they allowed this to be taken then?
Prof. GUP: Yes, but with the understanding that--that it would be
in-house, that it would not go out. And in her case, it's--it's very
strange because John Merriman is a named star, not a nameless star.
But what's--what's most peculiar about this memorial is that even the
named stars are completely unknown to the people who work at the CIA
because everything is compartmented. The only thing you know is what
you have a need to know. So that, in a sense, it's not that different
being named or unnamed. It's un--it's different for the family
because being unnamed means you can't talk about your loved one.
LAMB: Where is this picture up top there with the two little kids and
Prof. GUP: I believe that's taken in Alaska and that--one--that's
John and his wife, Val. He was a very courageous flyer and--and as a
sad irony to his story...
LAMB: What--by the way, what year is this picture?
Prof. GUP: Oh, let me see. I think '52.
LAMB: And have you talked to any of these people in the picture?
Prof. GUP: Yes. Well, I--h--his widow is the--is the--the woman
there, his wife, Val, and...
LAMB: There she is on the other side.
Prof. GUP: Yes. And--right. And the young boy he's holding up,
that's--that's Jon Merriman Jr.--actually not a junior, because
there's no H in his--in his name. There was in the father's, but not
the son's. I've spent many, many hours with them. They're absolutely
LAMB: Where do they live, by the way?
Prof. GUP: I--Jon lives right outside of Washington, and Val lives
LAMB: And that picture was with her new husband, the one that we have
Prof. GUP: No, that's with her son, Jon.
LAMB: Oh, that's her son? OK.
Prof. GUP: Yeah, that's her son, Jon.
LAMB: And how much time did you spend with them and what did they
tell you about their father?
Prof. GUP: Well, I think I probably interviewed each of them--I'm
not sure--maybe a--15 times. I mean, it's hard to say. I mean,
probably four or five really formal interviews, but many, many, many
subsequent follow-up phone interviews.
LAMB: What year was he killed?
Prof. GUP: '64.
LAMB: What was the circums--what were the circumstances?
Prof. GUP: He was flying a plane in the Congo, helping to suppress a
Communist insurgency there and he took ground fire and crashed. And
he was presumed dead and the rest of the--the squadron returned to a
remote base there and the next day, some indigenous people there drove
up with a truck and a crumpled-up body in the back and it was the body
of John Merriman, who was very much alive, although in agony. And he
was taken to the base hospital, which didn't even have aspirin much
less doctors or nurses. He ha--he had nothing to treat his pain. He
had numerous broken bones, lacerations, internal bleeding. The straps
from his seat belt had slashed into his skin. And he was allowed to
stay there without medical attention for well over--I think it was
over a week. He was in agony, passed in and out of consciousness.
And--and when he was conscious, all he said was, `Take me home. Take
me home.' And then he was allowed, essentially, to--to--to waste away
in a--in a--a Congolese hospital for another couple of weeks before he
was--any attempt was made to bring him home and he died en route over
And the saddest part is that his widow was told that he died in a
hospital in Puerto Rico, that he had asked for ice cream. They had
brought him ice cream and he died quietly in his sleep without pain.
He was never in Puerto Rico. He never asked for ice cream. He died
on a transport plane after great agony.
LAMB: What was he supposed to have been doing in Puerto Rico?
Prof. GUP: That part of the c--I think he was--I'm not sure what
part of the cover story--how far--sophisticated they got, but the
local newspaper in Tennessee, where his home was, reported as his
death certificate did that he was killed in a car crash in Puerto
Rico, hitting an abutment.
LAMB: So how did you--how do you know that what you know about him in
the Congo is accurate?
Prof. GUP: I...
LAMB: Where did that information come from?
Prof. GUP: I interviewed the Cuban pilots that flew with him, that
he trained and that flew with him. I interviewed the chief of station
at the time and--and the agency. I interviewed probably 40 or 50
people that--that were familiar with what he was doing in the Congo at
LAMB: Is his name on a star?
Prof. GUP: His name--he is named, but I asked probably 50 or 60
current covert operatives if they knew who John Merriman was and none
of them knew who he was. None of them knew anything about him. They
never heard of him.
LAMB: Why had he trained Cuban pilots?
Prof. GUP: The Cubans, after the--the Bay of Pigs, remained a
resource for the CIA to conduct counterinsurgency activities. They
hated Castro. There was nothing more they could do to dislodge Castro
after the fiasco of Bay of Pigs. They had enough distance from the US
government being Cuban that they gave the US government some
deniability. Many of them were trained pilots from the Bay of Pigs,
so they simply became a kind of surrogate air force for the CIA.
LAMB: What was John Merriman doing in the Congo?
Prof. GUP: He was there to supervise the Cuban pilots. He was
actually, technically, not supposed to fly, but he couldn't resist it.
He--he--he was truly a flyboy. He loved to be in--in aircraft.
LAMB: Where is this picture of him with the--looks like a bear.
Prof. GUP: It is a bear. That was in Alaska. He shot the bear and
it--it bothered him so because it was such a majestic creature that he
swore off hunting ever after.
LAMB: Who was Hugh Redmond, who ends up in three different chapters?
Prof. GUP: Yes. Un--unfortunately, in three different chapters
because it reflects the--the sad attenuation of his life. He was
in--he was supposed to be a businessman in Shanghai prior to the--the
Communists taking control of the government there. In fact, he was a
NOC--an NOC, a--a non unc--under non-official cover. He was a CIA
person. Actually, he went over even before there was a CIA and then
be--became a part of the CIA when it--when it came into being in '47.
He was arrested trying to come home. He was--he was helping
nationalists within China conduct sabotage, supplying them with
information and probably weapons as well. He was arrested,
incarcerated for 19 years, much of it held incommunicado. He was
beaten. At points, he was starved. He suffered from malnutrition.
His--he lost his teeth prematurely. Just terrible record of agony.
And he never admitted he was a spy. The US government never admitted
he was a spy; and if they had, he probably would have been released at
LAMB: You have a picture right next to the one I showed of him. Is
that his mother, by the way, that's in this picture right there?
Prof. GUP: It is. Yes.
LAMB: And then right next to it are three women and a man with
pictures. What's that from?
Prof. GUP: Those are the mothers of Downey and Fecteau and the
brother of one of them. They--they were on their way to China. The
Chinese government granted permission for the mothers of Downey,
Fecteau and Redmond, all three CIA spies held in Chinese prisons, to
visit their sons who had been imprisoned for many years. And--and all
the while, the US government denied that they were CIA spies.
LAMB: Is Hugh Redmond's name on a star?
Prof. GUP: No, it's nameless. And--and it dates back to 1970, when
it was said that he slashed his wrists with an American razor in the
Chinese prison. We have no idea how he really died because the
Chinese waited three months and then handed us an urn of ashes.
LAMB: A--again, any reason why after 40, 50 years of this that they
can't--you know, from the--what--what--what actual year did he--they
throw him in prison?
Prof. GUP: He was imprisoned in '51, and he died in '70.
LAMB: Did--what'd they do with the body?
Prof. GUP: They cremated it and turned the ashes over to the Red
Cross, who carried it over the bridge, the Lo Woo Bridge, into Hong
Kong and presented it to American Embassy officials there.
LAMB: What happened dur--during those 19 years with his mother?
Prof. GUP: His mother pleaded with the government to do everything
they could to get him out. I think it was four times she visited her
son. It was a horrible kind of stroboscopic experience watching your
son age prematurely. He developed all kinds of tics and ailments. He
was never treated properly. And--and he became--he--he was very
tough, but he was not immune to the kind of despair that one would
encounter seeing your whole youth pass before your eyes. And his
mother, it just--it just disabled her with--with pain and regret
to--to see this happen to her son.
LAMB: But there was--is she the one from Yonkers?
Prof. GUP: She was from Yonkers, that's right.
LAMB: But they had the whole--the--the townspeople involved in this?
Prof. GUP: Oh, it wa--it was very sad. The Yonkers community was
completely behind Hugh Redmond's mother and every effort to free him.
They had fund-raisers, they had all kinds of appeals to government.
It was an incredibly celebrated case, not only in Yonkers, but in the
Northeast an--and to some degree, around the country at the time.
And--and the sad thing was that it was allowed to feed into the
anti-Communist, anti-Chinese propaganda because the way the US
government allowed it to--to be played is that here was an innocent US
businessman held for 19 years, when, in fact, he was a--a trained CIA
operative probably engaged in direct sabotage or certainly assisting
sabotage. I'm not sure what government wouldn't hold a saboteur in
prison, but that conflicted with the Cold War objective, so they did
not acknowledge that he was a spy.
LAMB: What's the average age of these people that you're writing
Prof. GUP: I would guess--certainly, they--they died prematurely.
I--there were a few that--that might have reached a mature age, but
I'd say the average age is probably early 30s.
LAMB: And what happened to them in most cases when they were killed?
How would you--how would the CIA bring the bodies back here? And what
did the press say?
Prof. GUP: Well, the press was always fed a lie. The press was
always told that these were State Department employees or workers for
AID, the Agency for International Development, or civilian employees
of the Defense Department or employees of foreign corporations. So
that the--the press was never told who they really were, what they
were really doing. The widows or widowers were informed of the loss.
There was a ritual in which the director of Central Intelligence would
pen a letter to the--to the--the widow or widower expressing his deep
regret and sorrow and that would be presented to the widow or widower
along with a medal. And then both the medal and the letter would be
promptly withdrawn within a matter of an hour or two. Usually
immediately after the funeral, the agency would recollect them and put
them in a--in a locked vault, so there was no evidence that they
indeed worked for the agency.
LAMB: What kind of money is available to widows, families normally?
Prof. GUP: They would get the same kind of compensation that any
other government employee would--would get. That is, it's
not--they--they--there's certainly no windfall involved in losing your
life for the agency. It's a--it's a kind of employee compensation and
that's it. It's--it's--it's, you know, federal laws that govern the
Department of Labor and all the other agencies and departments. It's
not a--a special provision for--for agency people.
LAMB: Who was the wife that refused the insurance?
Prof. GUP: That was John Merriman's widow Val because it was--it was
a double indemnity policy that they had taken out years earlier as
newlyweds. And she was given the double indemnity. I--I forget how
much it was. I think it was an extra $5,000. And she believed that
because he was in--essentially in combat, that it was not warranted,
that it was fraud, and that her husband would not want her to accept
the money. And so she returned it. And the agency actually met with
the president of the insurance company to explain the situation and
still, Val Merriman did not want the money. She--she thought it was
LAMB: Now you had something to do with that story that broke at White
Sulfur Springs, West Virginia.
Prof. GUP: I did. I had something to do with it. The Greenbrier,
which is a four-star resort in West Virginia under which a top-secret
government relocation center had been operating since about 1959 or
1960, until I exposed it in 1992 in The Washington Post. That
was--What is that?--40--almost 30, 32, 33 years. That was one of the
most sensitive secrets in the US government. It was the place to
which Congress was to go in the event of nuclear war. And from there,
they were to govern as a government in exile.
LAMB: Why did you break it?
Prof. GUP: I broke the story for a number of reasons. And--and mind
you, there are a lot of secrets I know that I've not written and--and
won't write. Just to mention one, there's the identity of someone
who's not named in the book that I know and I refer to because it
could compromise national security. So I don't write everything I
know. But the Greenbrier story I wrote because it was an anachronism.
It would not have worked. And the only reason it survived all those
decades is because of secrecy. What happened was the people who ran
it got a kind of literal bunker mentality, where the enemy was not
foreign powers but the American people; that is, disclosure is what
they feared most. And so administration after administration, speaker
of the House after speaker of the House, you know, was
basically--they--they knew about it, but they had no opportunity to
The reason I broke it? A couple of things. One, a recent speaker of
the House at the time, Tip O'Neill, told me that he never would have
gone and nor would his colleagues because there was no provision for
their loved ones, their family. They would have been left to be
incinerated at ground zero. So that was one reason I wrote it was
because it was impractical. Another is because the nature of nuclear
warfare changed so dramatically in the intervening years that the
whole idea of it was preposterous. That--the--the amount of time you
had for warning had been reduced to minutes, not hours.
LAMB: You said it was an anachronism. Was that your decision, that
it was an anachronism, or was that somebody else's?
Prof. GUP: Well, it's a good question. The preliminary, the
first-level decision, was my decision. That is, the decision to
pursue the story. But the decision to publish it in The Washington
Post was not my decision. I had input, I was consulted. But
ultimately, that was the decision of the publisher and the editors of
the paper because it was of a magnitude that warranted that level of
decisionmaking. You know, they asked me what do I think and--and what
do we lose, what we do we risk here? But ultimately, the decision was
theirs and rightfully so. And if they had told me, `This is not
appropriate to break because we'll harm national security,' I would
have honored that. I would not have taken it elsewhere.
LAMB: You--you say that there is a name that you didn't use in the
book because you'd compromise national security. In what way?
Prof. GUP: To reveal the identity of this individual could put some
other individuals at risk and could compromise ongoing operations, I
guess is the generic way to describe it.
LAMB: How do you know that?
Prof. GUP: I don't know it. I take it as something of a matter of
faith, but good faith, in that the agency at the highest level made
the argument to that effect with some--some degree of specifics.
LAMB: You mean the director of Central Intelligence talked to you
Prof. GUP: Did not talk to me, but talked to the editor of The
Washington Post at a time when I was contemplating revealing her
identity in the Post. It was a woman. And--and it was decided that
this would not be appropriate. And I might point out that it is the
only name--at the time, I was disclosing the identities of seven
nameless stars in 1997 in The Washington Post Sunday magazine and I
gave those names to the CIA just prior to publication. They came back
and they pleaded with me to delete the one name. They made no
argument on behalf of the other six, all of whom were nameless stars.
And to me--I cannot help but wonder if something is national security,
how do you slice and dice and say, `Well, this is more sensitive than
this'? I showed that I was approachable and--and by deleting that
name. And yet, they made no such argument for--on behalf of the other
six. And in doing the book, they had gained enough respect for my
reporting skills to know that I'd penetrated the system, and they
never came to me asking for other names to be deleted.
LAMB: Did you submit the manuscript of your book to the CIA?
Prof. GUP: I--I would not do that. What I did do is I gave them a
copy of the book five days or six days before publication. That's
all. But I would never submit a manuscript to the CIA.
LAMB: Did they complain about anything?
Prof. GUP: They--they complained about the project at the beginning,
and then they resigned themselves to the fact it was going to be done.
I think in the end, they had two emotions. One, they were aghast at
the degree to which their own people had cooperated with me. And two,
they were much relieved that I had treated these lives with the
dignity and respect to which they were deserving.
LAMB: Here's a picture of a man named Maloney. Who is he?
Prof. GUP: Arthur Maloney was a veteran of--of Normandy, a West
Point grad and a true combat officer. And he was wounded shortly
after Normandy, and because of his wounds, he could not pursue his
military career and by default, he entered the CIA. And he is in the
book, both of his own right and also because his son became a CIA
officer. And his son was on a helicopter that in 1965 crashed in
Laos. And on that aircraft--his son's name was Mike Maloney--and on
that aircraft was another Mike named Mike Dewel.
LAMB: By the way, who's in this picture with Mike Maloney?
Prof. GUP: That is his widow, Adrienne. On the aircraft were two
CIA case officers, Mike Maloney and Mike Dewel. And they had
something in common. They were both--that's Wally Dewel, Mike's
father--Mike Dewel's father.
LAMB: And then over here?
Prof. GUP: Pointing in the river is Mike Dewel, his son. And
what--what the two Mikes on the helicopter had in common was that they
were both the sons of senior CIA people. They'd both had very young
brides. They were newly married. And--let me get this straight--yes,
and both of their wives were pregnant at the time that they were
killed. They were killed in '65, and their identities hushed up.
LAMB: This is a picture here of Mike Maloney with a small child. Is
that--who's that? Do you remember?
Prof. GUP: I believe that that is Mike--that's Michael Maloney, his
son. And the other son is in utero, Craig. An--and so that's--that's
his own son.
LAMB: So where were--where were the two Mikes?
Prof. GUP: The two Mikes were in Laos, part of what was then called
the Secret War, which was increasingly becoming less than a secret.
And they were flying a helicopter and they crashed near Pakse into a
very dense jungle and were killed instantly. And the US press
reported the death of two AID officers, the Agency for International
Development. And for 35 years, that stood. No one linked them to the
CIA. In 1997 in a Post article, I disclosed that--that Mike Maloney
was CIA, not AID. And what is sad about that story is that his widow,
Adrienne, for years had asked the CIA to recognize her late husband by
name, to put his name in the Book of Honor at agency headquarters for
the benefit of her sons, her two sons.
LAMB: Did you talk to Adrienne?
Prof. GUP: Oh, many times. A wonderful lady.
LAMB: Where does she live?
Prof. GUP: She lives in Wiscon--in--in Connecticut. And she was
told by then-DCI, the director of Central Intelligence, John Deutch,
`Write me a note. You know, don't--it doesn't have to be anything
fancy. Just write me a note. We'll see what we can do about getting
his name recognized in the Book of Honor.' She wrote him a note,
didn't hear anything. Sent a letter registered mail, didn't hear
anything. Called, was told her letters were lost. And they basically
ignored her and wanted her to go away. The day that my article came
out, they called her and said they changed their mind and they put his
name in the Book of Honor.
LAMB: How often when you--like, for instance, how many names in your
book are not on the wall?
Prof. GUP: How many names...
LAMB: In other words, you name people in here that are--that their
star's on the wall at the CIA, but their names aren't there.
Prof. GUP: Right. Right.
LAMB: Roughly how many new names are in this book then?
Prof. GUP: Oh, that are not--you mean...
LAMB: Not on the wall, yeah.
Prof. GUP: Oh, I--well, the stars are on the wall, but their names
are not in the Book of Honor of the agency, of course.
LAMB: I mean--I'm sorry. Yeah. There are no names on the wall at
Prof. GUP: I would say that there are about--about 35 new names in
LAMB: Will they put the names in there now?
Prof. GUP: They are re-examining it. I would like to be optimistic
and say yes. But they have this incredible talent for taking fiction
over fact. They--they seem to believe that if they ignore it, it will
go away. I mean, just--just as an example, they won't allow this book
to be sold in the CIA bookstore. It's--it's--it's selling out fast in
McLean at bookstores, private bookstores as CIA personnel buy it, but
somehow, by not allowing it to be sold at CIA headquarters, it's as if
the book doesn't exist. It's--it's--it's the idea of fiction over
LAMB: In the back of the book, though, having said all that, you talk
about Aldrich Ames, Douglas Groat, James Nicholson and John Deutch.
And who--why did you mention all of them in the back?
Prof. GUP: Well, I wouldn't lump them all together under the use of
the ….rule. I would get Deutch out of there because
the other three were essentially traitors to the United States. I
mention them because I think they're reflective of a very deep problem
at the CIA, which is the obsession with secrecy. It's my belief that
the obsession with secrecy is more of a threat to national security
than lax secrecy, that because everything has been classified secret
and top secret, people within the agency no longer take it seriously.
Its credibility is eroded. And what happens is that individual case
officers make their own decisions. They say, `Well, it's classified,
but it shouldn't be classified at this level.' Or, `It's classified,
but it won't hurt if I share this with someone.' So what happens is
someone like me comes along and I'm the beneficiary of that obsession
with secrecy because al--many of those people who helped me should not
have helped me under the rules of the CIA. But they took it upon
themselves to make the judgment about what should and should not be
classified. This is a direct result of the obsession with secrecy.
John Deutch took enormously sensitive materials and put him on--put
them on an unsecured home computer. And that is reflective of a lack
of respect for the security system. Some of the spies that you
mentioned, you know, they--part of their defense at times was, `Yes, I
gave the enemy classified materials, but--it was classified, but
shouldn't have been classified. It did no serious harm.' Well, that
opens the door to this kind of individual decisionmaking, which is
truly a threat to national security.
LAMB: Other names: Matt Gannon and his brother Dick.
Prof. GUP: Oh, Matt Gannon was a CIA case officer who was one of the
agency's finest Arabists. He was a wonderfully likable Southern
California boy who--who was--was from a very large Catholic family and
had the ability to pass in the Arab world because of his language
skills, his knowledge of the culture. He was very brave, and in
December of '88, he was in Beirut.
LAMB: By the way, is he in this picture with all of the folks in it?
Prof. GUP: He...
LAMB: I know he's at the bottom right there. We've shown him.
Prof. GUP: Yes, he's in the bottom right. And he is in the--in the
other picture as well. I'm trying to pick him out. I think he's in
the front. I think he's the lad in the front with arms crossed and
LAMB: That's the family?
Prof. GUP: That's the family. It's a very large family.
LAMB: Matt Gannon.
Prof. GUP: And he--he was in Beirut, gathering intelligence on
hostage situations--there--Americans were being held. This was in
'88--and--and on some of the fundamentalist terrorist groups in the
region. And he did such a fine job that he got permission to come
back a day early to be with his wife and two daughters. This was a
couple days before Christmas in 1988. He had the misfortune of
boarding a flight called Pan Am 103, which was blown up by terrorists
over Lockerbie, Scotland. His brother, Dick Gannon, is a security
officer with the State Department who had survived the blast in '83 in
Beirut when that embassy was blown up. So the family has been touched
by its share of terrorists.
LAMB: Who's James Spessard?
Prof. GUP: James Spessard, known to his friends as--as Jimmy, was
one of six CIA employees or contract people killed in '89 in a
resupply effort in Africa. They were bringing materiels and weapons,
explosives, to Jonas Savimby in Angola. And the plane that Spessard
was on hit a treetop. It was a night landing. They fly by night
there to avoid detection. It cartwheeled into the ground, exploded
and six CIA employees and staffers were killed. And in at least two
of the instances, maybe three, there was nothing to bury. There were
LAMB: This is him in the white suit?
Prof. GUP: That's right.
LAMB: And what's the occasion of that picture?
Prof. GUP: Let me see. That's with his father and I believe that
that was at--yeah, that was his wedding in '81.
LAMB: And where did you get the information on him?
Prof. GUP: From his widow, from his father, from co-workers, from
people that served with him in Angola and--and in the United States.
LAMB: Where is his widow today?
Prof. GUP: She's in Maryland.
LAMB: And this picture is of their wedding back in 1981?
Prof. GUP: It is. It is.
LAMB: Did you have trouble finding information on some of these
people and just have to give up?
Prof. GUP: Yes and no. Yes, I had trouble finding information on
some of these people, and, no, I did not give up.
LAMB: I mean, are there stories that are still out there that didn't
make it into the book?
Prof. GUP: I'm sure that there are. I would be incredibly
presumptuous and egotistical to--to suggest otherwise. But I didn't
give up on anything. Everything that I was in pursuit of, I did
ultimately manage to get, but not very efficiently or effectively.
For example, I tracked one false lead three and a half months. I was
told there was a plane crash in El Salvador that took the lives of six
people. I spent three and a half months and interviewed probably 200
people in pursuit of that. And it turns out that was the Angola
crash; it was not in El Salvador. So that sort of thing happened in
the course of reporting this book.
LAMB: How much money does the CIA have in its budget every year?
Prof. GUP: Yeah, I don't know. You know, there's--it's--it's never
been made public. We know that in terms of intelligence, from a
figure released--I believe it was last year, there's more than $25
billion, in terms of intelligence gathering all around. But the NSA
gets a large portion of that, the National Security Agency,
which--which does intercepts--communications intercepts and such. The
CIA--you know, their budget--this is just a guess--but, you know,
under $10 billion.
LAMB: Do you know how many people work at the CIA?
Prof. GUP: I can take a stab at it. Somewhere between 12,000 and
LAMB: Is the--the number of dollars and the number of people going up
or down in this time period in--in our history?
Prof. GUP: Well, it's--it's fluctuated. Under Reagan, I think, it
did quite well. Under Bush, it did quite well. Actually, I think
it's relatively stable now. They're rebuilding. They lost an
enormous number of people in recent years. With the demise of the
Cold War, the end of the Cold War, it might have been a victory, but
it almost undid the agency because their reason for being was removed
in the eyes of many. And so a lot of the most experienced people
left. They said, `The job is done,' and they walked away or they took
retirement. It was a generational cycle.
LAMB: You say that you're from Canton, Ohio, originally. Where did
you go to college?
Prof. GUP: I went to Brandeis in Waltham, Massachusetts, and Trinity
in Dublin, Ireland.
LAMB: What did you get at Trinity?
Prof. GUP: I studied classics, I studied Latin and Irish poetry.
LAMB: Are you married?
Prof. GUP: I am.
LAMB: How long you been married?
Prof. GUP: Eighteen years.
LAMB: How many children?
Prof. GUP: Two, David and Matthew, nine and 10.
LAMB: And how long did you work for Time magazine?
Prof. GUP: Six years.
LAMB: And The Washington Post?
Prof. GUP: Eight years.
LAMB: Anybody else that you worked for over the years besides your
Prof. GUP: I worked for The Akron Beacon Journal for a year. I
worked for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and I worked for the York
County Coast Star in Kennebunk, Maine, as a part-time sports writer at
the very beginning.
LAMB: You say in the book this is your first.
Prof. GUP: It is.
LAMB: What was it like?
Prof. GUP: Well, it's funny. I--I have a great reverence for books,
probably too much so. And I knew that my life was not going to be
complete unless I did a book. And I was really 44 or 45 before I--I
started this. And about that time, I was trying to resign myself to
the fact that this was one thing I wouldn't accomplish in life.
And--and so this book was--was a true gift in many, many ways.
Because I--I didn't want to do a book that I--I--I didn't care about
absolutely. I didn't want to just do a book to get it on the shelf.
I wanted it to be something that mattered to me and mattered to
others. And when this presented itself, I knew. It just felt like
that wall reached out to me. I know that sounds kind of overly
romantic, but that's how it felt.
LAMB: Have you personally stood before the wall?
Prof. GUP: Oh, many, many, many times, yes.
LAMB: You dedicate the book to the sons and daughters of the CIA
stars, named and unnamed alike, and `In memory of my father, who told
me the only thing a man may hope to leave behind is his good name.'
When did he tell you that?
Prof. GUP: Throughout his life. He died 26 years ago at my age.
He--he was 50, and I'm 49. But he told me throughout his life that
there's nothing you can take with you and the only thing you can leave
behind is your good name. And there was a--a kind of play on words
there because of these nameless stars. And I--I had a feeling that
this was something that my father would have approved of and taken
pride in. So that's why I dedicated it to him.
LAMB: How did you get a grant from the MacArthur Foundation?
Prof. GUP: The--the research for this--I had no one who would
support me or help me with this initially. I borrowed against my life
insurance policy for several months to keep going, and got in
something of a financial hole. And then I--I sold a part of the story
to The Washington Post Sunday magazine. They were very generous in
supporting a part of the research that preceded the publication. But
I went through those funds as I continued researching. Went to the
MacArthur Foundation, and they alone, among all the foundations in the
country, would have anything to do with me because it was a kind of
scary project. It involved the CIA. It was unclear how much progress
I would make or what would come of it. And to their credit, they
crawled out on a limb with me and--and supported me.
LAMB: Can you tell us how much?
Prof. GUP: Initially, it was to be $50,000, and I turned back
$15,000 because I later on got a--a very large advance from Doubleday
and I did not want to take what I didn't need.
LAMB: You tell a story in here about one of the men in this picture.
You say he ended up in Connecticut at age 84.
Prof. GUP: Richard Bissell.
LAMB: Richard Bissell. He goes all the way back to the Bay of Pigs.
Which one is he in that photograph with Jack Kennedy?
Prof. GUP: Let's see. He's the gentleman to Kennedy's right.
Prof. GUP: Yes.
LAMB: With the glasses and the paper in his hand.
Prof. GUP: Yes, yes.
LAMB: And then he's right down here below...
Prof. GUP: Right.
LAMB: ...in that picture.
Prof. GUP: That's in retirement, I think.
LAMB: Who--who--is he still alive?
Prof. GUP: No. He passed away. And...
LAMB: Did--when did he pass?
Prof. GUP: A couple of years ago.
LAMB: Did you meet him?
Prof. GUP: No, I--I spoke with his widow. I spoke with several of
his children, neighbors, friends, people that worked with him, his
personal assistant. Lots of people. And I read his--his--his book
and--and many of his writings.
LAMB: What's the story on Richard Bissell?
Prof. GUP: Well, Richard Bissell was a--was p--was--I--I hate to use
this word because it's so overused, but I think he was genuinely a
genius. He was the father of the U-2 spy plane. And he was really
responsible, in no small measure, for the SR-71 Blackbird surveillance
plane. And he was instrumental in the first satellite imagery.
So--so he was someone that materially advanced our ability to keep an
eye on--on--on those we wished to keep an eye on. He was also and
probably even prouder of his role in sponsoring covert activities
overseas. He was a part of that era in the--in the late '50s when the
agency had a kind of carte blanche and were active all around the
world. So he was one of the architects of the disastrous Bay of Pigs,
which is why he's in the book. Because despite all his triumphs,
he'll forever be linked to and remembered, at least in part, for his
role in that debacle.
LAMB: Somewhere in here--and I forgot where I wrote it down, you--you
quote Theodore Draper as having a comment about the Bay of Pigs. You
remember that it was?
Prof. GUP: Oh, is this the one about "How could I have been so
dumb?" The--the Kennedy quote.
LAMB: No, it was the one about a perfect disaster or something...
Prof. GUP: Oh, yes.
LAMB: A pe--a perfect failure, I think it was.
Prof. GUP: Oh, yes. Yeah. Re--right. Right. There--there's
another quote in there about Kennedy saying, `How could I have been so
stupid?' But, yeah, it really was an unmitigated disaster and it was
foreseen as such by many, and that was the saddest part, is that--what
happened was that they had a--a--a s--a plan which may or may not have
been workable, but at least it had the indicia of--of possible
success. But it was continually cut back and curtailed to preserve
presidential deniability and prevent the US from being linked to it,
which was absurd. Even as the operation was ongoing, the US hand was
all over it. So what we had done, the US that is, is basically we had
condemned ourselves to failure and--and--and four American pilots died
in the Bay of Pigs. Their identities were known within weeks or
months and their identities appeared--circulated in newspapers and
books around the country for the ensuing three decades. But the
agency refused to recognize their names and they were nameless stars
in The Book of Honor.
LAMB: Quick recap. The Book of Honor stands for what?
Prof. GUP: The Book of Honor is the volume at CIA headquarters in a
bulletproof glass case in which the names of those killed for the
CI--in CIA are remembered and nameless stars are--are etched in the
LAMB: How many stars are on the wall today?
Prof. GUP: Seventy-seven.
LAMB: And the time period you're talking about in your book is from
when to when?
Prof. GUP: It spans the entire history of the CIA from 1947,
basically, to the present.
LAMB: If you had this book to do over again, what would you change?
Prof. GUP: What would I change? Oh, I would just work more
efficiently. I think that's all.
LAMB: And you're based now in Cleveland, at Case Western Reserve
Prof. GUP: That's right.
LAMB: Teaching what?
Prof. GUP: Journalism and non-fiction writing.
LAMB: Our guest, Ted Gup. This is the book: "The Book of Honor:
Covert Lives and Classified Deaths at the CIA." Thank you very much.
Prof. GUP: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2000. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.