Ralph Walter McGehee (born 1928) served for 25 years in American intelligence, being a former case officer of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). His assignments were in East Asia and Southeast Asia, from 1953 to 1972. Since leaving intelligence work in 1977, he has publicly expressed views highly critical of the CIA.
- 1 Education, family
- 2 Recruitment by CIA
- 3 CIA assignments
- 3.1 Japan, Philippines, 1953-1956
- 3.2 CIA HQ, Washington, 1956-1959
- 3.3 Taiwan, 1959-1961
- 3.4 CIA HQ, Langley, 1961-1962
- 3.5 Thailand (1), 1962-1964
- 3.6 CIA HQ, Langley, 1964-1965
- 3.7 Thailand (2), 1965-1967
- 3.8 CIA HQ, Langley, 1967-1968
- 3.9 Vietnam, 1968-1970
- 3.10 CIA HQ, Langley, 1970
- 3.11 Thailand (3), 1970-1972
- 3.12 CIA HQ, Langley, 1972-1977
- 4 Career Intelligence Medal
- 5 Writings, speeches after CIA service
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Quote
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
McGehee was born in 1928 at Moline, Illinois. His father, originally from the Kentwood, Louisiana (three generations there, of Scotch-Irish), had moved to Illinois when a teenager. His mother was from neighboring Osyka, Mississippi. Along with his older sister, they then had moved from Moline to Chicago about 1930. While a student at Tilden Tech, a "working class" high school in south Chicago now known as Tilden High School, he was All State in football, and class president. Although a Baptist, he attended the University of Notre Dame where he was a starting tackle on the football team. For the four seasons 1946 to 1949, they never lost a game, and won three national championships. McGehee obtained a B.S. in Business Administration, cum laude.
In 1950, he married. His future wife, Norma, he had met at a Presbyterian Church in south Chicago while home on vacation from Notre Dame. Eventually, they parented four children, two girls followed by two boys. Often but not always, his wife and children would move their family home to accompany him, while on foreign assignments with the CIA. After graduation from Notre Dame, he tried professional football with the Green Bay Packers. Then he coached the offensive line in the football program at the University of Dayton for a year. Returning to Chicago, circa 1951, he took a job as a management trainee at Montgomery Ward.
Recruitment by CIA
Understanding it was an important government job with foreign travel, McGehee first was interviewed at the courthouse. The recruiters declined to name the federal agency that might be his new employer. He traveled from Chicago to Washington, D.C., where he joined a pool of over a 100 candidates, men and women. Several weeks of extensive testing and lectures followed. Having survived this shake out, he began a month-long orientation, which featured cold war rhetoric and films. With 50 men he entered a "basic operations" course on espionage, to fit them for the CIA's Directorate for Plans. Then with 30 others he attended a six-week paramilitary course at the CIA's Camp Peary (known as the "farm") near Williamsburg, Virginia. Many there were former college football players. The curriculum included parachute jumping, demolition, weapons, and a "hellish obstacle course".
Thereafter he was posted to his initial CIA post.
Japan, Philippines, 1953-1956
McGehee was sent to Japan, where he went to work for the China operations group.The group's task was, in conjunction with allied governments, to gather intelligence on the PRC. The group in the Tokyo area supervised and supported four other offices or bases in East Asia (Seoul, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Okinawa). His job "unfortunately" was as a file checker. Yet he appreciated being involved in "the immense and noble effort to save the world from the International Communist Conspiracy".
He lived with his wife and daughters in a beautiful home in Hayama. They had a maid and a gardener, and a view of Mt. Fuji. Husband and wife "became intoxicated with the romance of being overseas." There was "a close knit community of Agency families". A son was born to them. Yet his wife would repeat her complaints about CIA rules which prohibited any talk of company business, even within families; she insisted that the "marital bonds and trust" should be the stronger.
After two and a half years, the China operations group moved to Subic Bay in the Philippines. Desmond FitzGerald, the CIA's Chief of Station (COS) there, would become one of the Agency's top leaders. He was a long-time friend of William Colby (the CIA Director in the 1970s). Yet because of CIA secrecy, and its "need to know" policy, McGehee knew comparatively little about its operations worldwide. The CIA's China operations at Subic Bay were then terminated, and the McGehees returned home.
CIA HQ, Washington, 1956-1959
At CIA headquarters near the Washington Monument, McGehee became chief of records for counterintelligence at China activities, basically supervising the work he had been doing in Japan. His office had a staff of 15 women; he admitted that some "could do a better job" than him. Two requests routinely came in: for a "file trace" (a search for records about a person, e.g., a candidate for doing business with the Agency); and a "clearance" (a more thorough check, often for potential CIA employees). Yet in general CIA records were in a deplorable condition. Huge piles of backorders were common. An expert proposed working criteria for selecting files to destroy, e.g., duplicates, nonsense, useless. Other problems were addressed. In McGehee's unit, the Chinese characters (often ambiguous to non-Chinese) could be variously 'transliterated' into different roman letters, making for file repetition and much confusion. Instead, each character was reduced to a 4-digit number.
From Saigon a former Chinese politician claimed that his contacts back in China had excellent intelligence, which they sent him by short-wave radio. The politician sought "financial support" in return for current political information. His reports appeared to be very valuable. But an allied intelligence agency told CIA that a "newspaper clipping service" in Saigon was the probable source. When CIA tried to listen in to transmissions, there was silence. Instead, his "intelligence" was being fabricated from bits and pieces of local Chinese press coverage, rewritten to make the incidents more significant to CIA. Yet the "germ of truth" in each gave it verisimilitude. Later, CIA discovered that the operation was run by a Taiwan intelligence agency. The rewrites told a story about mainland China that Taiwan wanted to spread.
After many applications for a change in status, McGehee was promoted. Following a 3-months training course, he'd be a CIA case officer.
As a case officer his work involved liaison with his Chinese counterparts in various Nationalist intelligence services. Their common purpose was collecting information on the PRC. The CIA worked with Taiwan "to train and drop teams of Chinese on the mainland to develop resistance movements and gather intelligence." When mainland fishermen were detained on Chinmen Island [aka Quemoy], McGehee would go out for the debriefing. The PRC shelled the island on certain hours every other day, hitting only barren spots according to a "gentleman's agreement". The 1958 Quemoy-Matsu Crisis was still fresh.
The CIA had great difficulty recruiting agents for espionage activity on the mainland. Hence its intelligence on what it then called 'Red China' was very patchy. Apparently the CIA missed the great extend of the famine in China caused by the Great Leap Forward.
Taiwan offered to share one of its best agents. American officers taught him the CIA system on many espionage subjects, marveling that he was "the best agent they had ever trained." He was to stay in radio contact daily while on the mainland. After four months away, he returned. Yet when away he seldom make radio contact. His excuses for this didn't add up. McGehee could not be sure if he was a duplicitous Nationalist, "playing games with us", or was working for the Communists.
Ray Cline, soon to become a major figure in American intelligence, was the COS in Taiwan. As a friend of the COS, Chiang Ching-kuo, son of the Generalisimo, would visit the CIA club. For an upcoming CIA "hail and farewell" gathering, a particularly lavish costume party was planned, with an Indian tribe theme. The COS and McGehee's "clique" of eight couples attended. During his late night drive home, McGehee saw "hovels of Taiwanese people" who were dressed in rags, in "a struggle to stay alive".
CIA HQ, Langley, 1961-1962
Largely because of its Bay of Pigs disaster, CIA headquarters was "rife with despair and upheaval". Based on news reports, McGehee thought "the Agency had relied too much on an anticipated uprising by the Cuban people." The CIA's move into its new 7-story headquarters building in Langley, Virginia, began in late 1961. It was located 9 miles from Washington on 219 acres and "resembled a college campus". But excitement was curtailed by a cut in personnel, one in five to be fired. The survivors celebrated. The new offices for China activities were on the third floor. After 9 months, he was offered an overseas position in Thailand.
By its Northeast border Thailand is hill country. McGehee had set up a home/office there. He worked on his Thai. On the wall he placed a poster featuring an evil-looking Mao and Ho. Contributing to cold war tension was fear of a bloodbath in event of a takeover. CIA liaison work dealt with the local Thai Border Patrol Police (BPP).
His interpreter, Captain Song (as McGehee calls him), also headed the Thai counterinsurgency operations. Song had good rapport with the locals and hill tribes, but "took an immediate dislike to anyone with direct authority over him." There were many minority ethnic groups in the rugged terrain, with several plotting for political independence from neighboring Burma. The remote hill tribes practiced a slash-and-burn agriculture, necessitating frequent relocations; their "major cash crop was opium from the poppy." At the moment the border was quiescent. China apparently failed to notice when the CIA's airplane accidentally crossed the border.
Perhaps unintentionally, political infighting developed among some Americans. Yet the CIA station chief was naturally gregarious, avoiding conflict. He'd nurtured a close relationship with Prime Minister Sarit Thanarat. The American ambassador, however, did not get along well with Sarit. At a well-attended state ceremony, Sarit avoided the ambassador in favor of the Chief of Station (COS). This exacerbated ill-feelings at the top. McGehee called the COS "Rod Johnson".
Meanwhile, the deputy COS of CIA in Bangkok had called on McGehee (now back in the north) to report to the station. Also given a fictitious name, the deputy had acquired a bad reputation (bullying, manipulation, grudge holding). The COS and his deputy made a good cop, bad cop pair. As McGehee listened in the deputy's office, he eventually came to the point where, McGehee writes, he "was tearing down my superiors in my presence and asking me to spy on them for him!" Consequently, McGehee's ethics disappointed the ambitious deputy. McGehee figured he became the latest addition to the deputy's enemy list; he then thought that people like this deputy COS, who put his career above the mission, were "aberrations" among otherwise dedicated CIA agents. Rather McGehee continued to idealize CIA activities as "somewhere between the Peace Corps and missionary work".
On a 3-week hike to visit remote villages in the Northeast highlands, McGehee lost 20 pounds. Delivery of medical goods and agricultural implements to the tribes furthered the civil development side of counterinsurgency work. To further both objectives, "small mountain airstrips" would facilitate transport to the more isolated areas. The first Yao village had about "two dozen bamboo houses with roofs of thatch" spread out on the hillside. The "gentle, intelligent" village headman agreed, at an evening meal, to build the airstrips. That morning a CIA plane had dropped supplies by parachute, scattering them over the mountain forest. A location for the airstrip was found, and young men selected to be trained. Other airstrips were arranged at other villages. Yet a few years later, because of "communist influence on the Lao border" the villages were "bombed and napalmed" by Thai warplanes. It was a bitter end for the hill tribes.
CIA HQ, Langley, 1964-1965
At the Thai desk in Langley, McGehee's job was to kept track of the continuations of the work he'd done in Thailand. He called it paper pushing. The general advise was not to be harsh, which seemed to encourage platitudes. Many of the reports from Bangkok station concerned the Communist Party of Thailand. Once a week William Colby, the Far East division chief (and later DCI), would review the reports (with Langley comments) and pass on "rating sheets" that'd been written up. These would be sent back to the reporting stations around the world, where they'd be read with gravitas as the view from headquarters.
It was announced that Colby would brief a Congressional committee about the 'secret war' in Laos. He wanted approval for new plans of CiA. At first McGehee was pleased to be part of the team doing the preparation work. Colby stressed the importance of using the right word. In finding the best name for Hmong tribal groups that fought against communists guerillas, the middle path between "Hunter-Killer Teams" and "Home Defense Units" was agreed to be "Mobile Strike Forces". Facts seemed open to be tweaked into what might make a better argument. An 'ineffective' present situation could become 'what it might be'. McGehee considered it "duping Congress". Colby obtained approval.
President Johnson began to escalate the war in Vietnam. In Thailand a China-based group announced the start of the revolution. McGehee asked his desk chief to help him arrange a return to Thailand.
Thailand (2), 1965-1967
Back in Thailand McGehee's first assignment was ssisting in liaison work with "a small Thai counterinsurgency force" that the CIA itself had created. These Thai agents gathered information on communist activities; they also acted as a secret police. McGehee doubted the quality of information gathered by "untrained interrogators" from poorly vetted sources, yet at first he wrote it up for CIA reports. Then he co-wrote a review of this large accumulation of counterinsurgency data. He concluded that without detailed processing, e.g., carding the information into "geographic and subject files", the "inchoate mess remained just that". Thus, here in Thailand or back at CIA HQ in Washington, an analyst collating it "could make of it just about anything he wanted to".
McGehee came across an ambitious CIA case officer who guarded his field data in a locked file room. He claimed to be running, as a paid CIA spy, the important leader of a Communist splinter group. After this case officer left Thailand, it was discovered that his paid spy was a phony, a "fabricator" of useless, so-called intelligence. So unmasked, the 'spy' then wrote a book attacking the CIA.
The intelligence Survey
Following the departure of the disagreeable deputy Chief of Station (COS), the CIA station offered McGehee the job of "establishing an intelligence-collection program" for "the 50,000-man national police". After questioning the criteria and support available (especially his status per the American AID program), McGehee welcomed this "difficult and challenging" task. He characterized it as "my Mission Impossible: convert a bunch of unschooled patrolmen into sophisticated intelligence gatherers and do it without money and the authority that comes with it." His subsequent work here to develop the intelligence Survey program would define his second tour in Thailand.
McGehee met with Colonel Chat Chai, head of police intelligence. Its personnel knew little about Communist organization and had no intelligence training. Overcoming the Colonel's initial suspicion, they toured police HQ in Bangkok and later the provinces. Since 1963 a budding insurgency in Thailand had received some local support and had mounted some assassinations and ambushes. Although little was clearly understood, the CIA thought several thousand Communists in guerrilla bands hid out in the highlands, chiefly in the Thai northeast, and raided lowland villages for "rice, money and recruits".
From the literature on intelligence gathering in counterinsurgency situations, McGehee initially adopted a 'mail box' technique. It functioned like the 'suggestion box' in civilian life. The literate villager could provide information anonymously, about local insurgent activities, and about the identities and whereabouts of communist 'jungle soldiers' and supporters... yet remain safe from reprisals. Government agents, however, could not confirm the data so sourced, nor ask follow-up questions. This "germ of an idea I was later to develop into a full-scale, effective intelligence-counterinsurgency operation," wrote McGehee. Eventually, in-person interviews of the local villager and farmer (called taking a "census") was appraised to provide better information and results. Joining the team was Lieutenant Somboon, a university graduate with "a remarkable intitive feel for the esoteric art of intelligence gathering." He was serving then as a local deputy nai amphur (sheriff).
McGehee proposed to develop a "pilot project" and to first concentrate on one district. A thorough Survey of the views of the rural villagers and farmers would be made. The province governor helped recruit a select group of twenty-five agents with which to start. Beside police, it included military officers, several administrators, and a high-ranking educator. Also part of the team were four translators and a PAT armed force for protection against communist guerrillas. Questionnaires were developed and the Survey's interrogators trained in their use "out of hearing range of other[s]". Also started were village networks for community support and for ongoing intelligence sources. As an coordinate result, some villagers confessed to being "duped" by the Communists, named other members, then quit the 'movement' and joined the government side.
Lt. Somboon gave a motivating speech at a meeting of villagers called by their headman, which successfully countered Communist propaganda. He and others, however, also used aggressive techniques involving simulated threats of death and other cruel ruses to obtain information from suspected guerrillas, or "to sow dissension" in enemy ranks. Such methods raised human rights issues for McGehee. Counterinsurgency, if not careful, could descend into a barbarous business. Yet he was then persuaded that an efficient intelligence process, even if somewhat flawed, which also threw light on murky shadows where the guerrillas hid, would save lives in the long run of a counterinsurgency war. In fact, the Survey and police presence itself resulted in many villagers abandoning the armed communist insurgency.
Survey information, so collected then translated, was carded into categories, and collated, and digested, then written up. From the bits and pieces of "vague, partial, shifting, incomplete, fragmentary intelligence", it provided a hitherto "unknown total picture." It revealed, among other things, that the communist insurgency in northeast Thailand was considerably stronger than originally supposed. It also struck a blow. The Survey was distributed nationwide to government and police officials, who praised the CIA case officer responsible. The COS 'Rod Johnson' called him to CIA in Bangkok where his work was celebrated; he was promoted to a 2-year command in Thailand. Ralph McGehee felt he had hit his stride, and was reaching new levels of professional skill and acumen.
Colby visits, ends Survey
William Colby, then chief of the CIA's Far East division, came to the province in 1967. McGehee proudly told him of his teams' work on the district Survey and its findings, showing him the file cabinets with the carded and collated intelligence information. The Communists in Thailand, he explained, were far more numerous than assumed. They also enjoyed substantial support among rural people. Communists agents concentrated on "winning the cooperation of the peasants," citing the example of a specific village. Yet the Survey had, by throwing light on the insurgent violence, caused villagers to re-think the issues and many to desert the Communist cause. McGehee naturally expected some appreciation from Colby and interest in furthering the Survey work. But Colby kept his silence.
McGehee described the enemy's Farmers' Liberation Association (FLA). It recruited rural villagers, who were then secretly indoctrinated about Communist plans for widespread armed struggle in Thailand. Local guerrilla cadres were already launching minor terrorist assaults. In retaliation the Thai government ordered unfocused, brutal attacks that often fell on innocent farmers, creating an "atmosphere of hate" that the Communists were eager to exploit politically. To the contrary, McGehee's Survey teams had "used our intelligence to penetrate the Communists' crucial shield of secrecy" and accordingly had broken their grip on the villagers. Farmers had confessed, given information, and quit the FLA. Here, McGehee felt he was presenting to Colby a counterinsurgency program that worked. Otherwise, Communists insurgents would multiply in Thailand, as happened in Vietnam.
In response, Colby appeared puzzled. He was non-committal, evasive, eventually saying only, "We always seem to be losing." Later McGehee realized that Colby was "probably weighing the broader ramifications." Colby and his entourage then quickly left for the airport in jeeps and land rovers. Two months later the COS offered McGehee a plum CIA job in Taiwan on a career channel ensuring rapid promotions. But McGehee wanted to continue his work in Thailand. Au contraire the COS told him. He had to leave Thailand in three weeks, and the Survey project would be terminated. Despite local protests by involved Thai officials and by the American consul, it happened that way.
CIA HQ, Langley, 1967-1968
McGehee arrived at headquarters still mystified by the surprising and unexplained decision, which must have been made by Colby, to terminate the Survey program. It had achieved significant results, and received high praise. During his last months in Thailand McGehee had labored on it with an intense dedication. Unexpectedly the COS ordered him out of Thailand. The plum job in Taiwan, that had been dangled before him, proved to be a ruse to get him out of the way; upon his arrival at the Langley, it was already cancelled. McGehee writes that he was "having a difficult time justifying my previously idealistic view of the Agency."
The head of China activities offered him a desk job. Judging by past results, repetitive failure seemed to be the story about the job's major task: "recruiting a Chinese official to be our spy." The track record showed a repeating cycle of fruitless attempts: new idea, enthusiasm, field action, failure; new idea, enthusiasm... . E.g., after the war it became known that CIA estimates of the Chinese military in Vietnam were egregiously low.
Despite the Sino-Soviet split, McGehee thought, some in the China desk seemed to have a "vested interest" in keeping China as a major enemy. The CIA had obtained a recent, 40-page China document that detailed the PRC's long-range foreign policy and short-range moves. Nonetheless, China desk decided not to circulate it, McGehee reasoned, because the PRC's plans were reasonable, not belligerent.
He wrote a memorandum to put the Thailand Survey program back in play. First he sent it to Colby's new replacement at the Far East division (without success), then to a suggestion committee. The chief at China desk then told him that he'd ruffled the Far East division, and that he was jeopardizing his own career. McGehee wrote later about his "awakening" to see the CIA in a new, cynical way. Vietnam was in a situation somewhat similar to Thailand. He volunteered to serve CIA in Vietnam, something nobody with an eye on their career was doing in 1968. Then, out of the blue, the CIA's office of training told him how good the Thailand Survey program looked. They were already teaching this "McGehee method" as a major part of counterinsurgency training at the CIA "farm" in Virginia. Yet the Far East division remained uninterested.
CIA HQ, Langley, 1970
McGehee was set to return for another tour of duty in Thailand. At headquarters he attended several briefings, yet he was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the CIA as an institution. While back in Washington, he looked for another job; yet his lack of any work history (due to his inability to list his CIA employment) sank his efforts. In addition, his transforming state of mind made it difficult for him to effectively communicate, with anyone. He could not talk to his children about his changing attitudes toward the CIA and the cold war. On campus at Georgetown he noticed young dissenters. He wanted the war to stop, too, but felt paralyzed by internal conflicts.
Thailand (3), 1970-1972
The Thailand station was a large installation. McGehee performed as "deputy chief of the anti-Communist Party operations branch". He supervised many case officers working in liaison. Yet he realized that with the CIA nothing had changed—except his own views. U.S policy goals determined what intelligence was collected. In support of a military dictatorship the CIA "never reported derogatory information". American intelligence often came from Thai leaders or liaison counterparts. Agency case officers were forbidden to "maintain direct contact with the general population". 80% of Thais were farmers, but their issues were seldom addressed. For a case officer to get information from the working classes, he risked getting the labeled "gone native" followed by a ticket home. McGehee mentions the secret war in Laos, but he did not directly participate. Although remaining committed "to stop the spread of the Communist Party of Thailand" he opposed what he considered the CIA's false testimony and counterproductive operations.
In Udorn, north Thailand, McGehee met with the police Colonel, Chat Chai, he'd worked with on the Survey program. McGehee noticed he'd changed, from a hard working, no non-sense leader, to a more relaxed cynic. They spoke together for hours at a hotel's roof-top restaurant. McGehee found the Survey deputy nai amphur, Lieutenant Somboon, in Bangkok. Stationed in south Thailand, he now faced an insurgency, and spoke up about how good the Survey project went. Confused about why it'd been dropped, McGehee replied that it'd been overruled by higher-ups. Latter in a coffee shop McGehee spotted a classmate, Jimmy Moe, from the CIA paramilitary course at its farm in Virginia almost 20 years ago. He'd fought in the secret war in Laos, where the CIA had led the Hmong tribe to defeat. "We contemplated each other, and a thousand thoughts passed unspoken between us.".
Failing to get a promised promotion McGehee wrote "a long, bitter memorandum" that he routed to the COS. McGehee claimed that the current, unnamed COS "let his secretary run the station". The touring CIA Inspector General had then put McGehee on "special probation". Yet very soon McGehee required back surgery. He was flown to Georgetown Hospital in Washington.
CIA HQ, Langley, 1972-1977
Career Intelligence Medal
In 1977 McGehee was awarded the CIA's Career Intelligence Medal. "My wife, my four children, one son-in-law, and a grandson all gathered for the awards ceremony." William W. Wells presented the medal to him. McGehee's views on the Agency began with an idealist's appreciation of its principles, when cold war tensions were high. During the second half of his 25 years of service, however, his view of the CIA had markedly declined, until reaching a bitterness. He gave his reasons why he accepted the medal.
"I agreed to accept it for three reasons: to give my children an occasion to be proud of their father, not to embarrass Jake [his supervisor at CIA who recommended McGehee for the Medal], and to lend credibility to any criticisms of the Agency I might make in the future. Otherwise, I very much wanted to say, 'Take your medal and shove it.'"
The Career Intelligence Medal is awarded by the Central Intelligence Agency for a cumulative record of service which reflects exceptional achievements that substantially contributed to the mission of the Agency.
Writings, speeches after CIA service
After leaving the Central Intelligence Agency, McGehee brought to the public his highly critical views, based on his experience. He has discussed and illustrated how the CIA's covert actions and interventionist policies can produce unfavorable outcomes. His articles on CIA activities have appeared in the Washington Post, The Nation, The Progressive, Harper's Magazine and Gannet News Service among others. He also developed CIABASE, a website containing information on events, people, and programs concerning the CIA or American intelligence, including links to other texts available to the public.
In his 1983 book, Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA, McGehee recounts his duties as an intelligence agent. For several decades he was assigned to East Asia, performing in the field and at CIA stations in Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam. Details of the practices and techniques of a CIA case officer are given. He shows how he gradually changed his view of the Agency. CIA operations in many cases damage the people affected, and overall results are often negative for America, our allies, or the world. CIA intelligence can be altered or pitched so that political purposes frequently trump the accurate information. Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair praised it as "one of the outstanding books written by former CIA agents". The book was published again in 1999 with updates.
Deadly Deceits has some peculiarities. CIA policy required its personnel to sign a contract stipulating CIA pre-publication approval for writings about their Agency experience. McGehee makes the case that CIA's review was meant to harass, and to delay or stonewall publication, not protect secrets. By persistence he eventually got around CIA objections, yet: deleted passages are marked, occurring throughout the book; aliases are used for most people (listed in the index with quotation marks); and McGehee, because he himself could not mention certain facts based on his own experience due to CIA claims that such were still classified, quotes from published books to convey the same or similar material. CIA tactics did delay publication. Among books written by former CIA, it was "the last of the major exposés of the era."
McGehee has been invited to speak at political events, rallies, and at colleges and universities. He has given interviews to the press, television, and other media.
A downside of his book, Deadly Deceits, was McGehee's personal knowledge of the extent to which the famed physician, Thomas Anthony Dooley III, was involved in CIA warfare across Indochina. This included awareness that the atrocities alleged in the best seller, "Deliver Us From Evil", 1956, were fabricated for the beginning of a psywar campaign (later revealed by the Church Committee in 1975).
A 1981 allegation by McGehee about CIA involvement in the Indonesian killings of 1965–1966 was censored by the CIA, prompting the American Civil Liberties Union to sue on his behalf. The CIA prevailed. McGehee described the terror of Suharto's takeover in 1965-66 as "the model operation" for the US-backed coup that got rid of Salvador Allende in Chile seven years later: "The CIA forged a document purporting to reveal a leftist plot to murder Chilean military leaders, just like what happened in Indonesia in 1965."
In 1999, he also filed a Freedom of Information request, claiming that he had been harassed since 1993, suspected to be because of his criticisms. Asking for a halt of the actions, he sent a letter to the president of the United States, the director of the CIA, and his town council, documenting many of the incidents. He asserted his intention to pursue the issue through the FOIA process because of receiving no response to earlier letters.
The CIA is not now nor has it ever been a central intelligence agency. It is the covert action arm of the President's foreign policy advisers. In that capacity it overthrows or supports foreign governments while reporting "intelligence" justifying those activities. It shapes its intelligence, even in such critical areas as Soviet nuclear weapon capability, to support presidential policy. Disinformation is a large part of its covert action responsibility, and the American people are the primary target audience of its lies.
- Church Committee - 1975 U. S. Senate investigations of intelligence activities
- CIA activities in Vietnam - 1945 to 1972
- Directorate of Operations (CIA) - the Clandestine Service
- United States and state terrorism - allegations, critiques
- Philip Agee - author, former CIA case officer in Mexico and Ecuador
- Robert Baer - author, former CIA case officer in Middle East
- Peer de Silva - author, former CIA Chief of Station in East Asia
- Richard Helms - author, former Director of CIA
- Victor Marchetti - author, special assistant to Helms
- Ray McGovern - former CIA senior analyst and national security adviser
- Robert David Steele - author, former U. S. Marine Corps Intelligence and CIA
- John R. Stockwell - author, former CIA case officer in Vietnam and Africa
- See text below for sources.
- McGehee, Ralph W(alter) (1928-) in Contemporary Authors published by Gale Cengage, Thomson Gale (April 26, 2006).
- 1949 Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team. Over 4 seasons: 36 wins, no losses, 2 ties.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 1-2 (school, football, coaching), 17-19 (marriage, starts family).
- Youtube.com: "The Secret Government, Bill Moyers (1987) - Ralph McGehee, and other former CIA officers/agents". McGehee on his "gung ho" outlook when young, 28:45-29:13.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 2-16 (CIA: tests, orientation, training).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 21-22 (China ops file checker), 22 ("noble" quote).
- Prados (2003, 2009), pp. 89, 190-191 (FitzGerald, Colby).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 17-21, 31-32 (Japan, Hayama), 19-20, 32 (wife and secrecy, "trust" quote), 31 ("romance" and "close-knit" quotes), 31-32 (son born); 32-33 (Subic Bay). McGehee writes about world-wide CIA activities, pp. 22-31.
- Philip Agee, Inside the Company (1975), pp. 56-58 (traces and clearances), re McGehee (1983) p. 35.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 34-38, 40-41 (chief of records, CIA files per China).
- Cf., Powers (1979), p. 47. In the early 1960s IBM computers eventually gave CIA "a sophisticated file-retrieval system called Walnut which could pop out the 1934 graduating class of a Sverdlovsk high school at a moment's notice."
- Cf. Helms (2003), pp.92-100, Chapter 9, "Fabrication Factories", re post-war Europe.
- Cf. Dulles (1963), pp. 214-217, re "intelligence fabricators".
- McGehee (1983), pp. 38-40, 50 (Taiwan fabricator in Saigon), 39 (quotes: "clipping", "germ"); 43 (McGehee made a case officer).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 46-47 (liaison work, quotes). Youngest son born (p.46).
- Cline (1976), pp. 176-181. Cline then was the Taipei COS. Here he discusses the CIA station in Taiwan during 1958-1962. Also pp. 172-173, 174. For the 1958 Quemoy Crisis: pp. 174-176.
- Cf. Anne Applebaum, "When China starved", in The Washington Post, August 12, 2008. The major event in China during 1959-1961, due mostly to failures of government policy, was the great famine that claimed 36 million lives. Stories eventually circulating outside the PRC were confirmed decades later with Yang Jisheng's book Tombstone (Hong Kong 2008).
- Compare: Henry McAleavy, The Modern History of China (New York: Praeger 1967), the section 'Great Leap Forward', pp. 346-351, reported that the agricultural failures "though inflicting great hardships on the people, at least did not cause famine" (p. 351).
- Jonathan Spence, In Search of Modern China (New York: Norton 1990), later stated: "The result was famine on a gigantic scale, a famine that claimed 20 million lives or more between 1959 and 1962."
- Frank Dikötter, Mao's Great Famine. The history of China's most devastating catastrophe (New York: Bloomsbury 2011).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 47-50 (intelligence agent shared by Taiwan), quotes at 48, 49.
- Cline (1976), pp. 193-195, 194: in March 1962 Cline was promoted from Taiwan COS to leadership of the Directorate of Intelligence, one of the top half-dozen positions at CIA.
- Prados (2003, 2009), pp. 127, 240 (Cline).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 51-53 (COS Cline, Chiang, CIA party), at 52 (quotes).
- McGehee (1983), pp.54-56 (Cuba, new HQ, cut, new offices); pp. 63-66 (Thailand).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 69-71 (BPP, Captain Song, hill tribes): Thai BPP p.69, home/office p.70, quote re Captain Song p.70; opium quote p.71. The China overflight went unreported p. 71.
- Sarit Thanarat had been Field Marshall of the Army. In his 1957 coup Sarit took power from Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Prime Minister 1938-1944, 1948-1957). Sarit thereafter held office as Prime Minister. Claude A. Buss, Southeast Asia and the World Today (Princeton: Van Nostrand 1958), pp. 58-61. Sarit died in office in 1963.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 71-73 (infighting), pp. 71-72 (the P.M. Sarit, the COS, and the ambassador).
- Prados (2003, 2009), p. 171: Prados retells this story. About the two unnamed dramatis personae: the COS was Robert "Red" Jantzen, a legendary figure in Thailand, and the U.S. Ambassador was Graham Martin, in 1973 appointed Ambassador to South Vietnam.
- Cf. de Silva (1978), pp. 232-233, regarding the relationship dynamics between U.S. ambassadors and the COS, in general.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 73-75 (the deputy COS, quote 75); cf. pp. 80, 88, 92, 117 (holds grudge); p. 92 ('aberrations', quote re ideal CIA).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 76-80 (hike to villages); quotes: pp. 76 (airstrips), 78 (village), 79 (headman), 80 (later bombed).
- Cf. Colby (1989), pp. 195-196.
- Also, Colby (1978), pp. 182-183.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 81-82 (Thai desk); pp. 82-84 (Congress; quotes re group names at 84, "duping" at 81: title); p.86 (return to Thailand).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 88-91 (liaison assignment); p.89 quote re Thai "force", p.90 quote re "untrained", p. 91 quotes re "geographic", and "inchoate"; p. 90 quote re analysts and data.
- Chawin Sarakham, Unmasking the CIA (Bangkok: Kribisak and Thapthiuami 1974).
- McGehee (1983) p. 91-92 (ambitious case officer); the fabricator's book: p.207,n2 to text at 92. Compare above sections, CIA HQ, Washington, 1956-1959 and Taiwan, 1959-1961, re suspect intelligence and "fabrication" (per pp. 38-40 and 49-50). McGehee entered a Bangkok hospital at this time for treatment of a liver problem (pp. 92-95).
- Dulles (1963), pp. 214-217 re fabricators of phony intelligence.
- See Thailand (1) section above.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 95-96, quotes. About the deputy COS, see section Thailand (1).
- Tran Ngoc Chau, Vietnam Labyrinth (2012), re Chau's "Census Greivance" method.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 96-101 (Col. Chat Chai 96-98, mail box 99, highland guerrillas 100, Lt. Somboon quote 101, nai amphur 100-101). The two Thai names are fictitious. Quotes: "rice, money" at p.100, "germ of idea" at p.99. Census programs, pp. 107-108, 'jungle soldiers' p.104.
- Likely the Province of Sakorn Nakorn in the northeast. McGehee (1983), p.109.
- Cf. Ahern (2011), re People's Action Teams (PAT).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 100-108 (McGehee's proposal 100; Lt. Somboon 101, 103-104 (his speech), 105-106 (methods); team of 25 & training 102-103; Survey impact 104-105, 107, 108; human rights 103, 106). Quotes: "hearing range" at p.104, "sow" p.105, "duped" at 107.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 108-111 (Survey report). Quote "vague" at p. 109. Praise from COS at 110, McGehee's cresting career at pp. 88, 109-110.
- Cf. Powers (1979), pp. 212-217, re the 1967 bitter controversy between the CIA and the U. S. Army over the Viet Cong's Order of Battle. It regarded the estimated number of enemy ccombatents in South Vietnam. See Richard Helms, "Viet Cong numbers" section.
- McGehee (1983), p. 116: Colby probably terminated the Survey work in the Thailand countryside because it would create unwanted difficulties for the war effort in Vietnam. So McGehee concluded years later.
- Cf. Ahern (2011), re FLA role in Communist insurgency.
- McGehee (1983), 111-116: Colby's visit, McGehee's narration (Communist strength, FLA, Survey success), COS re project terminated. Quotes: "winning" 112, "hate" and "penetrate" 113, Colby's "We always", and "probably" 114.
- McGehee (1983), p. 117 (Survey termination, "idealistic" quote).
- Peer de Silva (1978), pp. 193-194 (CIA failures to place or find spies in China), re McGehee (1983) p. 119.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 117-121 (China), p. 118 (no results), p. 120 ("spy" quote).
- John Pomfret, The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom. America and China, 1776 to the present (New York: Henry Holt 2016), pp. 432-433. American estimates were that the PRC sent 40,000 troops to aid North Vietnam in the 1960s, but the Chinese latter admitted to sending 320,000 troops into Vietnam.
- "China admits combat in Vietnam War" in The Washington Post, May 17, 1989. The PRC, in addition to the 320,000 troops, also spent twenty billion dollars to support the war efforts of the North Vietnamese Army and the Viet Cong.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 117-121 (China), 120 ("vested" quote), 120-121 (China document).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 121-123 (Survey memo), 123 ("awakening"); 123-124 (Vietnam); 124 ("McGehee method").
- McGehee (1983), pp. 160-162.
- Youtube.com: "The Secret Government, Bill Moyers (1987) - Ralph McGehee, and other former CIA officers/agents". McGehee on his inner conflicts about the CIA and the war, 47:02-47:39.
- Cf. Sokhom Hing in Frazier (1978), p. 82. American intelligence presence in Thailand includes William J. Donovan, founder of the OSS in World War II, and U.S. Ambassador to Thailand until 1954.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 165 (quote: "deputy chief", quote: "never reported"), 165-166 (quote: "direct contact"), 166 (farmers, "gone native"), 166-171 (McGehee observes CIA bungling: inexperienced deputy COS confuses Thai agents, CIA's forged letter discovered by press, CIA party blows agent covers, secret Laos war, valueless and bogus information), 171-172 (disgusted at CIA, quote: "stop").
- See Thailand (2), 1965-1967 re Col. Chat Chai and Lt. Somboon.
- McGehee (1983), pp.172-174 (Thai Colonel, 96, 172; Thai Lieutenant, 101, 173; CIA classmate, 13-14, 174).
- Prados (2003, 2009), p. 170. Robert Jantzen (called "Rod Johnson") while COS in Bangkok had known McGehee during his first Thailand assignment. McGehee, p. 72; see above "Thailand (1)". Colby had turned Jantzen against him during his second time in Thailand, ending in 1967. McGehee, pp 114-116, 117. But Jantzen had been replaced by Peer de Silva as COS Bangkok. Prados, p. 170.
- Peer de Silva, Sub Rosa (1978), pp. 286-288: de Silva claims COS in Bangkok 1966-1968. McGehee, however, didn't arrive for his Thailand (3) until September 1970 (McGehee, p. 163); he favorably mentions de Silva's book twice (Ibid., pp. 119, 198).
- McGehee (1983), pp. 175-176 (letter, COS and IG, probation); 175, 176-177 (back surgery). His family is discussed at pp. 163-165, 174-175, 177.
- William W. Wells (c.1925-1913), Obituary in the Washington Post: Wells served in the CIA 1952-1977, where he was a "China Watcher".
- McGehee (1983), p. 191, with two quotes.
- CIA website: Medals of the CIA.
- 1997 Factbook on Intelligence: Medals of the CIA.
- McGehee, Ralph (9 December 1996). CIA and the New World Order. CIABASE
- Materials of McGehee's CIABASE are found on a variety of websites, as of 2015.
- See bibliography.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 192-195.
- Cockburn and St. Clair were co-editors of CounterPunch until 2012.
- Cf. Alexander Cockburn (April 1985), "Tinker with gadgets, tailor the facts." in Harper's Magazine.
- Such CIA-caused deletions also occurred in Marchetti's 1974 book, and in books by other dissenters.
- McGehee (1983), pp. 196-203: "Appendix: This Book and the Secrecy Agreement".
- Olmsted in Theoharis (2006), p. 211 (quote).
- E.g., Moyar (1997), pp. 359-360.
- Taubman, Philip (February 22, 1983). Ex-Official's Obsession with Vietnam War. New York Times
- Reuters (May 26, 1987). C.I.A. Accused of Manila Role.
- Staff report (March 29, 1981). Censorship by the C.I.A. Challenged in Court Suit. New York Times
- Taylor, Stuart, Jr. (October 5, 1983). C.I.A.'s Censorship Backed on Appeal. New York Times
- John Pilger, Our model dictator, The Guardian, 28 January 2008
- "For my Protection (letters sent 1995-1996)". Ralph McGehee / Pink Noise. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
- McGehee, Ralph (1999) . Deadly Deceits. Ocean Press. p. 192. ISBN 1-876175-19-2.
- Thomas L. Ahern, Jr. (2010), Vietnam Declassified. The CIA and counterinsurgency, University of Kentucky.
- Ray Cline (1976), Secrets Spies and Scholars, Acropolis, Washington, D.C.
- William Colby (1978), Honorable Men. My life in the CIA, Simon and Schuster, New York.
- William Colby (1989), Lost Victory, Contemporary Books, Chicago.
- Peer de Silva (1978), Sub Rosa. The CIA and the uses of intelligence, Times Books, New York.
- Allen Dulles (1963), The Craft of Intelligence, Harper and Row, New York.
- Daniel Ellsberg (2002, 2003), Secrets: A memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, Viking Penguin, New York.
- David Harris (1996), Our War. What it did to Vietnam, and what it did to us, Times Books, New York.
- Richard Helms (2003), With a Look over my Shoulder. A life in the Central Intelligence Agency, Random House, New York.
- Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones (1989), The CIA and American Democracy, Yale University, New Haven.
- Victor Marchetti and John D. Marks (1974, 1980), The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, Knopf, reprint Laurel, New York.
- John T. McAlister, Jr., and Paul Mus, (1970), The Vietnamese and their Revolution, Harper Torchbook, New York.
- Ralph W. McGehee (1983, 1999). Deadly Deceits: My 25 Years in the CIA, Sheridan Square; Ocean Press ISBN 1-876175-19-2.
- Mark Moyar (1997), Phoenix and the Birds of Prey. The CIA's secret campaign to destroy the Viet Cong, Naval Institute.
- Thich Nhat Hanh (1967), Vietnam. Lotus in a sea of fire, Hill and Wang, New York.
- Thomas Powers (1979), The Man who kept the Secrets. Richard Helms and the CIA, Knopf, New York.
- John Prados (2003, 2009), William Colby and the CIA. The secret wars of a controversial spymaster, University of Kansas.
- Tran Ngoc Chau, Vietnam Labyrinth. Allies, enemies, and why the U.S. lost the war (Lubbock: Texas Tech University 2012).
- Douglas Valentine (1990), The Phoenix Program, Avon Books, New York.
- Howard Frazier, editor (1978), Uncloaking the CIA, Free Press, New York.
- Athan Theoharis, editor (2006), The Central Intelligence Agency. Security under scrutiny, Greenwood Press, Westport.
- Ralph W. McGehee (April 11, 1981), "Foreign Pollicy by Forgery: The CIA and the White Paper on El Salvador" in The Nation, pp. 423–434.