Claire Sterling

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Claire Sterling (née Neikind; October 21, 1919 - June 17, 1995) was an American author and journalist whose work focused on crime, political assassination, and terrorism.[1][2][3] Her theories on Soviet bloc involvement in international terrorism and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, presented in The Terror Network and The Time of the Assassins, respectively, were politically influential and controversial.


Sterling was born in Queens, New York. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Brooklyn College, worked as a union organizer, and was briefly a member of the Young Communist League.[1][4] After receiving a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1945, she became the Rome correspondent of "a fly-by-night American news agency."[1] When it folded, she joined The Reporter, which she wrote for until it ceased publication in 1968.[1] Sterling began writing her first book after losing her job at The Reporter; it was published in 1969.[1] She also wrote for various newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Reader's Digest.[1]

She married Thomas Sterling, a novelist, in 1951.[1] After spending their honeymoon in Italy the two moved there, living in Rome for several decades.[1][5] They had two children.[5] She died of cancer at age 75, in a hospital in Arezzo.

Work as an author[edit]

Sterling's first book revisited the 1948 death of Jan Masaryk, the Czechoslovak foreign minister, which she blamed on Soviet or Czechoslovak Stalinists.[1] More controversial were her books The Terror Network (1981) and The Time of the Assassins (1984). In the former book, which was translated into 22 languages, she claimed that Soviet Union was a major source of backing behind terrorist groupings around the world. The book was read and appreciated by Alexander Haig and William Casey, but its arguments were dismissed by the CIA's Soviet analysts.

According to Melvin Goodman, head of the CIA's office for Soviet analysis, "several of us met with Casey to try to tell the director that much of Sterling's so-called evidence was in fact CIA 'black propaganda', anticommunist allegations planted in the European press." But, Melvin continued, "Casey contemptuously noted...that he 'learned more from Sterling than from' " all of them. Others who came under sway of Sterling's "evidence" included Alexander Haig, Paul Wolfowitz and State Department official Robert "Bud" McFarlane. CIA experts knew that the Soviets actually discouraged terrorism. Casey, however, according to his deputy Robert Gates, had come to the CIA "to wage war against the Soviet Union." [6]

Sterling was the first to claim (in a September 1982 article in Reader's Digest) that the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John II had been ordered by the Bulgarian Secret Service, a theory that became known as the "Bulgarian Connection"[7][8] but that has also been, in detail, refuted and attributed to bias by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent.[9] The Time of the Assassins dealt with the assassination attempt and advanced this now-discredited theory.[10] Her last two books dealt with the Sicilian Mafia and post-Communist globalized organized crime, respectively.[1]


  • Our Goal Was Palestine (1946) (a 20-page pamphlet, published under her maiden name)[11][12]
  • The Masaryk Case (1969)
  • The Terror Network (1981)
  • The Time of the Assassins (1984)
  • Octopus: The Long Reach of the International Sicilian Mafia (1990)
  • Thieves' World: The Threat of the New Global Network of Organized Crime (1994) (published in the UK as Crime Without Frontiers[13])


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Eric Pace (1995-06-18). "Claire Sterling, 76, Dies". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Bird, Kai; Holland, Max (1985-08-01). "Claire Sterling and the C.I.A.". The Nation. 
  3. ^ Seliktar, Ofira. Politics, Paradigms, and Intelligence Failures. M.E. Sharpe. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7656-1464-3. 
  4. ^ "The Politics of Fear". Washington Post. 1981-04-11. 
  5. ^ a b Wolfgang Achtner (1995-06-26). "Obituary: Claire Sterling". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Stone, Oliver; Kuznick, Peter (2012). The Untold History of the United States (Paperback Edition October 2013 ed.). New York, NY 10020: Gallery Books. pp. 426–7. ISBN 978-1-4516-1351-3. 
  7. ^
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  10. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (1983-12-30). "Books Of The Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  11. ^
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  13. ^


  • Bart Barnes (1995-06-18). "Claire Sterling, Investigative Writer, Dies". Washington Post. 

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