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February 19, 1987

Former high-ranking CIA agent and current agency critic John Stockwell spoke in the Chapel. As a Marine paramiltiary intelligence officer, Stockwell was chief of base in Katanga during the latter part of the Congo Crisis (1960-66), and he served as the director of intelligence operations in Tay Ninh province in Vietnam. In 1975, after service as chief of the Angola Task Force during the Angola Civil War and deeply disillusioned with the agency he’d served for over a dozen years, he retired with the rank of Major.

Stockwell’s controversial best-seller, In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story (1978), focused on the layers of duplicity he’d witnessed in Angola. “in the Angolan operation,” he wrote, “we were now lying to each other, even while we read and wrote cables which directly contradicted those lies. In fact, there were several levels of untruth functioning simultaneously, different stories for different aspects of our activities, one for the working group, another for unwitting State Department personnel, yet another for the U. S. Congress.” At Vassar, he saw the same “macho aggression, paranoia” continuing under President Ronald Reagan, whom he called a “very dangerous man, perhaps one of the most dangerous in history.” The President, he said, “functions to appeal to Americans’ irrationality…. He is appealing to people not to think and not to be responsible…and that’s why they cling to him.”

Stockwell’s lecture informed much of the campus debate around CIA recruiting on campus in the following months. Dan Mindich ‘87, in an opinion piece for The Miscellany News later in February, told his fellow seniors, “The thin veil of national security that the CIA operates under is just that, a veil which hides, unsuccessfully thanks to men like John Stockwell, the truth about the worst terror instrument in the history of the world…Please think carefully before choosing your career, and use your power to make this world a better place fore everyone and not a nightmare for some.” The Miscellany News

The Years