Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Have It on Good Authority

I have it on Good Authority, even if it is presently only a second or third hand report:

In his 1977 book 'The Night Watch', former CIA officer David Atlee Phillips wrote on page 123 (according to Lobster):

"...that small circle of well-bred, highly educated adventurers who were known to some in the CIA as the 'Knights Templars' - Allen Dulles, Frank Wisner, Kermit Roosevelt, Tracey Barnes, Dick Bissell, and kindred spirits. Other CIA veterans have confirmed the existence of similar associations within the agency, with names like the "Century group" and the "Gold Key group".

I  have been remembering that the early OSS was called the organization of the "Oh So Social," by its detractors. There would have been some truth in the name, since many of the insiders were handpicked by Sir William Stephenson, a man who moved in well-connected and affluent circles. It is only natural that those same insiders would become early participants in the post WWII national intelligence arenas. It also seems natural that this same, well-bred "adventurers club" would have spun off a subset of "gentlemen scientists," sons of wealthy families who encouraged and funded their every intellectual whim with the best available laboratory equipment any autodidact could want. Three who come to immediately to mind are Townsend himself, Alfred Loomis, another radar genius; and cryptographic expert, Beau Kitselman-- not a one of whom ever followed a traditional academic path. My spidey sense says that this same inner (founders') circle was probably less of a formal organization than a network of folks with shared acquaintances and shared histories.

Will I ever be able to prove any of these assumptions? Perhaps not, but I would be very surprised to find that I have missed the mark here.


Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall said...

Before the Internet became widely available, activists used to disseminate this kind of material as dog eared xeroxed documents. I remembered seeing something in the late 80s regarding Stephenson and some of the friends he hand picked for the OSS and influenced Dulles to retain in the CIA. I think it's always worked this way - these people go to the same Ivy League schools (or British equivalents), their children go to the same prep schools, and they eventually go into business or politics or the spy business together. These people are higher born than the rest of us and aren't obligated to follow any formal process. I write about my own close encounter with US intelligence in my recent memoir: THE MOST REVOLUTIONARY ACT: MEMOIR OF AN AMERICAN REFUGEE (I currently live in exile in New Zealand).

Linda Brown said...

While I think much of what you have said here is true for both the American and the English intelligence agencies there were some notable exceptions, William Stephenson being one of them.
Of course having the ability to pay your expenses out of your own pocket without answering to others is a big help and when he made millions later he is said to have personally paid his enormous staff ( and my Mother was one of them...)
Still.... living in exile or not must be very nice in New Zealand. Linda Brown