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Duane Ramsdell "Dewey" Clarridge (born April 16, 1932) was a senior operations officer for the United States Central Intelligence Agency and supervisor for more than 30 years, who became known in the mid-1980s for his role in the Contra end of the Iran-Contra Affair. He is the planner of the clandestine mining of Nicaragua's harbors during the Nicaraguan Revolution. Clarridge was the founding director of the Counterterrorist Center.
Clarridge was born into a "staunchly Republican family" in Nashua, New Hampshire. His father was Duane Herbert Clarridge and his mother was Alice Scott Ramsdale. Duane Herbert Clarridge worked as a dentist.
Duane Ramsdell Clarridge went to the private college preparatory Peddie School for high school, and then went to the Ivy League Brown University. For graduate school he went to Columbia's Graduate School of International Affairs and joined the CIA in 1955. He then rose through the ranks of the CIA in "a normal career pattern up to the late 70s", (as quoted in an interview he gave to CNN's Cold War Episodes program), being chief of the CIA station in Istanbul, where he maintained close contacts with the Counter-Guerrilla, the Turkish stay-behind anti-communist organization. He transferred to Rome before becoming chief of the Latin America division in 1981. According to the New York Times, "[f]rom his days running secret wars for the C.I.A. in Central America to his consulting work in the 1990s on a plan to insert Special Operations troops in Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, Mr. Clarridge has been an unflinching cheerleader for American intervention overseas."
During his three-year tenure, he directed several of the CIA's more notorious operations in Latin America, including the 1984 mining of Nicaraguan harbors, an act for which the United States was convicted in the 1986 World Court at the Hague. When asked about his role in the mining, Clarridge was open about his involvement but downplayed the severity of the covert operation: "So we decided to go big time for the economics alright... So I was sitting at home one night, frankly having a glass of gin, and I said you know the mines has gotta be the solution. I knew we had 'em, we'd made 'em outta sewer pipe and we had the good fusing system on them and we were ready. And you know they wouldn't really hurt anybody because they just weren't that big a mine, alright? Yeah, with luck, bad luck we might hurt somebody, but pretty hard you know?"
Clarridge was also instrumental in organizing and recruiting Contra forces to overthrow Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government. Clarridge used aliases such as "Dewey Maroni" during these operations. He described the early Contra force as "about 500... some of them were former members of the Nicaraguan National Guard (whose leader Anastasio Somoza Debayle had been overthrown by the Sandinistas in 1979), or a lot of them were just you know peasants from the mountainous areas between Honduras and Nicaragua who had been at war with somebody, forever. And in many respects they were like a bunch of cattle rustlers. Bandits. Not bandits, they weren't robbing people but they were doing the things they do in that area." But, Clarridge maintained, by the end of the conflict, the Contras numbered more than 20,000 peasants due less to the CIA's efforts than to the Sandinistas' attempts at reeducation and land redistribution.
In 1984 he became chief of the European Division of the CIA, where he ran a successful "counterterrorist" operation. Later, with the support of CIA director William Casey, he set up a Counterterrorist Center that operated out of Langley, Virginia.
He has claimed that he had no involvement in the later illegal diversion of funds to the Contras or the subsequent cover-up. Clarridge was indicted in November 1991 on seven counts of perjury and false statements. On Christmas Eve 1992 in the waning hours of his presidency, George H. W. Bush pardoned Clarridge before his trial could finish. At the same time, Bush pardoned five of Clarridge's associates in the Iran-Contra Affair including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, a former assistant secretary of state for Inter-American affairs; former National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane; and former CIA employees Alan Fiers and Clair George.
Clarridge currently runs a "private spying operation . . . from poolside at his home near San Diego. According to the New York Times, "he has fielded operatives in the mountains of Pakistan and the desert badlands of Afghanistan." Specifically, he "has sought to discredit Ahmed Wali Karzai, the Kandahar power broker who has long been on the C.I.A. payroll, and planned to set spies on his half brother, the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, in hopes of collecting beard trimmings or other DNA samples that might prove Mr. Clarridge’s suspicions that the Afghan leader was a heroin addict." In addition to these efforts, Clarridge's "dispatches — an amalgam of fact, rumor, analysis and uncorroborated reports — have been sent to military officials who, until last spring at least, found some credible enough to be used in planning strikes against militants in Afghanistan. They are also fed to conservative commentators, including Oliver L. North, a compatriot from the Iran-contra days and now a Fox News analyst, and Brad Thor, an author of military thrillers and a frequent guest of Glenn Beck."
Colleagues say that Clarridge now views the CIA "largely with contempt." He has "likened his operation, called the Eclipse Group, to the Office of Strategic Services, the C.I.A.’s World War II precursor."
- Gladio, NATO's paramilitary anticommunist organizations during the Cold War, active in most European countries and which followed a strategy of tension in Italy and Turkey.
- Operation Charly
- Fonzi, Gaeton. "The Troublemaker". The Pennsylvania Gazette (November 1994).
- Historical Encyclopedia of U.S. Independent Counsel Investigations, Gerald S. Greenberg, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2000, p. 57
- Dickey, Christopher. Securing the city: inside America's best counterterror force : the NYPD. Simon and Schuster, 2009. p.25
- Mazzetti, Mark (2011-01-22) Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A., New York Times
- Staff. "EX-CIA OPERATIVE PLEADS NOT GUILTY A FOUNDING FATHER OF THE CONTRAS, HE WAS REVERED BY YOUNGER CIA OFFICERS.", The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 7, 1991. Accessed February 5, 2011. "Born in Nashua, NH, in 1932, the son of a prosperous dentist and a homemaker, Duane Ramsdell Clarridge graduated from the Peddie School."
- Baer, Robert. See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002.
- Clarridge, Duane. A Spy for All Seasons (1997 memoirs)
- Kornbluh, Peter and Malcolm Byrne, eds. The Iran-Contra Affair: The Making of a Scandal, 1983-1988 (Document collection). Alexandria, VA: Chadwyck-Healey; Washington, D.C.: National Security Archive, 1990.
- Kornbluh, Peter and Malcolm Byrne, eds. The Iran-Contra Scandal: The Declassified History. New York: New Press, Distributed by W.W. Norton, 1993.
- Walsh, Lawrence E. Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-up. New York: Norton, 1997.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Works by or about Duane Clarridge in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- Former Spy With Agenda Operates a Private C.I.A., Mark Mazetti, The New York Times, January 22, 2011
- Three-minute Cliffs Notes of U.S. foreign policy, interview with John Pilger
- Interview With Duane Clarridge, February 21, 1999
- Clarridge on TV arguing with John Pilger