I was too a spy: PTC author defends book’s premise of CIA covert career

Tue, 08/19/2008 - 3:02pm
By: Letters to the ...

As the author of “Enter The Past Tense,” the book being critiqued, I read John Sullivan’s letter (Aug. 12) with interest. I normally don’t argue with quacks or CIA apologists, but in this case I felt I had to respond.

Yes, Mr. Sullivan was a CIA polygrapher; but that raises two interesting points.

1. A polygrapher does not have unrestricted access to operational files. He does not have the “need to know” anything beyond the scope of the questions he is asking pertaining to a specific case. To imply that being a CIA polygrapher gives him any insight at all about CIA operations is the height of arrogance.

2. As a “loyal” CIA retiree, Mr. Sullivan is acting on the agency’s behalf, doing what the agency itself will not do, i.e., calling me a liar.

Now, to the meat of his letter. Mr. Sullivan states that the “fact that the CIA doesn’t assassinate people is a fact.” Yet in June 2007, all of the major news outlets reported that “... the agency (CIA) has declassified hundreds of pages of long-secret records that detail some of the agency’s worst illegal abuses during about 25 years of overseas assassination attempts, domestic spying and kidnapping. The documents are known in the CIA as the ‘Family Jewels’”

I don’t think that there is an American alive who is naive enough to believe that the CIA doesn’t get involved in targeted assassinations. So is Mr. Sullivan discounting the files released by the CIA itself? Or is it just that he doesn’t keep up with the news?

Yes, “the East Germans had the best intelligence service.” I said as much in my book. By not sneaking in by ground, I did not trigger any Stassi (East German Intelligence) interest. To “roll (me) up within hours,” they would have to have had some indication that I entered the country. How many terrorists have managed to infiltrate the U.S. just recently because there is no “trigger” to prompt suspicion — this despite the great leaps and bounds in sophistication of counterespionage techniques since I operated?

The CIA would not recruit 19-year-olds to be assassins? Why not? We recruit 18-year-olds by the thousands every year to become soldiers, sailors, airmen, etc. Many of them immediately go off for special operations training. Many of them end up killing the enemy and many of them die.

Is Mr. Sullivan questioning the qualifications of these fine men and women in uniform? Is the CIA somehow more “elite” in whom they recruit?

Would I go in under my own name? Why not? Sometimes the best way to hide is right out in the open. And by the way, I never stated that I always acted under my own name. I made it clear that when working in East Germany I had an alias. Did Mr. Sullivan even bother reading the whole book?

I notice that Mr. Sullivan didn’t counter my claim of having worked at the detention facility in Cuba, according to my orders which were reproduced in my book, to “coordinate intelligence activities.” Answer?

I recently had my Top Secret clearance revalidated (fact). This involves an extensive investigation into everything I have said or done. A person who would fabricate the story I wrote WOULD NOT, under any circumstances, be granted a Top Secret clearance. In fact, a person who admitted to the dependencies I had would also NEVER, EVER, be granted this level of clearance. Does Mr. Sullivan have a theory about this also?

I currently work as the Deputy G2 (Intelligence) for the U.S. Army Reserve Command (fact). Do you think that I would still be serving in that capacity if there were any doubt about my story? As a matter of fact, I have been investigated by members of Congress a number of times since my book was published, and one of those congressional investigations was initiated by Mr. Sullivan. Each time the allegations by Mr. Sullivan have been found to not have any merit.

The kind of verification Mr. Sullivan is calling for is either: 1. acknowledgment of what I did by the CIA, as if that would ever happen. The CIA NEVER comments about things like that; 2. pictures of what I did. I’m sorry, but I am not like some senators who brought their own camera crews along in Vietnam to document staged exploits.

What really bothers this desk-jockey polygrapher is that I might have shattered some idealistic fairy-tale persona that the agency has tried to maintain with the American public; i.e., other countries resort to dirty deeds, but the U.S. is a nation of laws that fights wars by following rules and regulations which would hamstring any efforts to truly defend our political system and way of life.

The last country that tried to fight a clean, orderly, by-the-rules war was the British during the American Revolutionary War. Where did it get them? This totally insults the American public in suggesting that they are both blind and naive.

Unfortunately, Mr. Sullivan is a man with both an agenda and an axe to grind. I have encountered him while speaking in Washington, D.C. (where I was also invited by the Department of the Navy to speak at the Naval Museum). When Mr. Sullivan rose to say how “appalled” he was at my book, he was openly called a “jerk” by another CIA employee and was told to sit down. He chose instead to leave.

The bottom line is that, yes, they were dirty jobs, and, yes, they were necessary, and, yes, somebody had to do them. I was as qualified as any long-term veteran, and, more importantly, I was willing to risk my own life to do them. And that is a fact.

Roland W. Haas

Author, “Enter The Past Tense”

Peachtree City, Ga.

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Submitted by RDestatte on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 2:36pm.

Please permit me to add my comments on Mr. Haas's letter to the editor entitled "I Was Too a Spy," and the tales he spun in his book “Enter the Past Tense – My Secret Life as a CIA Assassin.”

Mr. Haas devoted much of his letter to the editor to challenging the manliness and professionalism of one of his critics, a person Mr. Haas has never met--a man named Mr. John Sullivan, who is a retired CIA polygraph technician.

I have never met either Mr. Haas nor, to my knowledge, Mr. Sullivan. However, I did serve in intelligence positions during much of my more than 43 years of service in the U.S. Army and Department of Defense.

Unlike Mr. Haas, I have had the privilege to work with CIA polygraph technicians who helped me vet a few human sources and their stories. Mr. Haas's distorted description of a CIA polygraph technician's duties and scope of knowledge reveals that he has no first-hand knowledge about CIA polygraph technicians and polygraph operations.

I won't waste time engaging Mr. Haas in a pointless "Yes-I-do," "No-you-don't," food fight about the polygraph. Rather, I would like to focus on the ridiculous story he spun in “Enter the Past Tense…" about his alleged life as a CIA assassin.

One does not need special knowledge about intelligence operations to recognize that Mr. Haas's story is a hoax. Any intelligent and reasonably well-informed American who knows how to use Google and exercises the least bit of critical thinking while reading Roland Haas's book, should be able to recognize that the exploits he describes in the book are fiction.

His story cannot pass a common sense "Huh!?" test on any level.

Mr. Haas's chief claim to fame is his claim that over the course of 30 years he carried out 18 CIA-directed assassinations in several countries, including the United States.

In judging the plausibility of that claim, consider that each of those 18 alleged assassination operations, by its very nature, must have been a clandestine operation. A quick Google search could inform a reader that clandestine operations are designed to ensure that the identity of the sponsor-- in Mr. Haas's tale that would be the CIA and the United States--is concealed. Covert operations, a term sometimes used to describe Mr. Haas's alleged actions, are statutorily defined by Congress as activities by the US government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, and are designed to ensure that the fact of the operation itself is concealed. If successful, one can hardly conceal the fact that an assassination took place.

Further, understand that for a variety of professional and personal reasons intelligence professionals who plan and conduct clandestine operations routinely employ measures that are designed to ensure to the extent possible that CIA/US sponsorship will be concealed.

Consider also that the Congress has exercised day-to-day oversight of the intelligence community for more than 30 years, since May 1976. Intelligence officials are required by law to coordinate all clandestine and covert operations in advance with oversight authorities in the Congress. The Iran-Contra hearings in 1986-87 demonstrate the consequences of any violation of that requirement.

Note also that the CIA is prohibited by federal law from conducting domestic intelligence operations.

Regardless of how one might feel about the notion of assassinating America's most notorious foreign enemies on foreign soil, one must recognize that the assassination of any person on American soil would be murder--purely and simply murder. Murder that local law enforcement certainly would investigate and local courts certainly would prosecute.

Considering the preceding realities, a person reading or listening to Mr. Haas's tales of daring-do might wish to ask himself or herself whether it is plausible that the CIA would have dispatched an American citizen, traveling under his true identity, on a valid American passport, into a foreign country on a clandestine mission to carry out an assassination?

Before answering, allow your mind to explore the risks associated with any clandestine mission--the infinite number of chance elements that could arise unexpectedly to compromise any given operation and lead to an arrest of the field agent.

If Mr. Haas's tales were true, his superiors, the folks who would have planned and approved each of his alleged assassination missions, in every instance would have had to take into account the possibility that some unforeseeable event could lead to Mr. Haas's arrest. They had to have considered that even in the unlikely event Mr. Haas could endure torture or death in a foreign country without disclosing details about his operation, it would be impossible to conceal the fact that he was an American citizen, traveling in true identity, on a valid American passport. It would be impossible to conceal the CIA's and the United States' sponsorship.

Revelation of CIA and United States sponsorship would lead inevitably to official investigations, Congressional inquiries, and a media frenzy that would turn the lives of the CIA, White House, and Congressional officials who planned and approved the failed operation into a living hell. Simply defending their actions would bankrupt many of them.

If one of Mr. Haas's fictional operations on American soil went awry, local and state authorities would have ensured that he and many of the aforementioned officials would all go to jail for many years.

It is inconceivable that the many government officials and functionaries that necessarily would have participated in the planning, coordination, approval, funding, and execution of the type of clandestine operation Haas describes would have, en masse, without exception, placed their careers, their personal finances, and there personal freedoms at risk--repeatedly at risk--over the course of three decades.

Even in the unlikely event that our fictional assassin, Mr. Haas, miraculously could have carried out the 18 alleged clandestine assassination operations he describes without ever being detected and caught, we must still consider the range of personalities that make up our Congress.

As a practical matter, it is impossible to prevent knowledge of any specific clandestine operation--let alone a series of 18 such operations--from becoming more-or-less common knowledge among members of Congress and their staffs.

If Haas's story has a shred of truth, it is inconceivable that a self-serving or self-righteous member of Congress or congressional staffer has not exploited knowledge of Haas's operations to seek personal or partisan advantage. The Church and Pike Sub-Committees in the mid-1970s, and the Iran-Contra hearings in 1986-87, easily come to mind as examples.

Back to the question, is Haas's story plausible?

Of course not! It is not plausible on its face. It is fiction.

I am confident that any reader who revisits Haas's story with a critical eye, and subjects it to a prudent level of fact-checking, will agree that Mr. Haas is a fraud.

Robert Destatte
Temecula, CA
25 October 2008

Submitted by merle pribbenow on Tue, 09/02/2008 - 7:36am.

Mr. Haas,
In your 19 August letter you said that Mr. Sullivan is "a man with an agenda and an axe to grind." You also called him a "desk jockey." I have known Mr. John Sullivan for more than 35 years after initially meeting him and working with him for several years in Saigon during the Vietnam War. Mr. Sullivan is no "desk jockey" - unlike you, he repeatedly put his life on the line to serve his country overseas. I would also like to advise you that you mistakenly identified Mr. Sullivan as the man who confronted you during your book tour in Washington DC. That was not Mr. Sullivan - that was me. And it was not Mr. Sullivan, as you claim, who initiated the Congressional investigation into your situation. The person who initiated that Congressional investigation was me, through letters to my Senator, the Honorable James Webb. My name is Merle Pribbenow and I am a retired CIA operations officer with extensive overseas service - not a "desk jockey." I am indeed appalled by your book, since I consider you to be both a danger and a disgrace to your employer, the U.S. Army Reserve Command. Your claims that rules and regulations were made to be disregarded, that murder and torture in violation of U.S. laws and executive orders are necessary and can and should be condoned or "winked at" and ignored, is dangerous to the maintenance of order and discipline in the armed forces in general and the Army Reserve Command in particular. Impressionable young soldiers who come into contact with you or who read your book could easily end up getting into terrible problems if they listen to and believe your preposterous claims. Why your superiors in the Army Reserve Command continue to condone your actions is simply beyond me. In the REAL CIA, the organization in which I toiled for 27 years, you would have been kicked out on your ear in a heartbeat.
By the way, if you have any question about my background, just Google me.
Merle Pribbenow

Submitted by PTC Observer on Wed, 08/20/2008 - 10:29am.

Mr. Haas,

Real company men and patriots would not write about it. Pocketing money at the expense of your country is no virtue, is it.


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