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A CIA Family Drama

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In his 2016 memoir, Conversations with a Masked Man, My Father, the CIA, and Me, the playwright, actor and writer John Hadden published long, verbatim transcripts of his hours-long, often unsettling, conversations with his father, who joined the CIA at the dawn of the Cold War and, among other fraught missions, later played a key role in uncovering how Israel secretly obtained U.S. uranium for its clandestine nuclear bomb program.

John Hadden II (from his web site)

The dialogues are full of startling statements, such as, “We had an ambassador in Israel, when we came there, who was an Israeli, as far as that was concerned — working for them.”

On his tour in the 1960s as CIA station chief in Tel Aviv: “Mossad was following me all the time… And of course they tapped the phone; they listened to every phone conversation and they trailed me all over Israel.”

On Cuba: “Bobby Kennedy was always after us to kill Castro. So we thought of these dumb ideas to kill Castro. You do what you’re told. Or you get out.“

He also had a very dim view of covert action. 

Refer a friend

“It was with these cowboys, who thought bombing and assassinations were the way to get things done…These puerile shenanigans, which have taken over the CIA have caused us nothing but grief and harm, and they have nothing to do with espionage. They damage our intelligence in more ways than one.“

On spying:  “Espionage requires a byzantine mentality, living in a world of secrets, and the Americans aren’t suited for it. They talk too much. The idea of keeping a secret never occurred to an American — out of the question.“

And of a career in clandestine operations:  “It was not a healthy life.”

In this week’s edition of the SpyTalk podcast, I talked with Hadden about all this and more. Do give it a listen. You can find it on Apple or wherever you get your podcasts.

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