Monday, November 9, 2009

Fish and a Record

Some crank correspondents are remarkably well educated and successful in business or the arts. Take the 50-year-old daughter of a high-ranking Army officer who now owns a prosperous small-town shop. Educated in Europe and widely traveled, she served abroad with the Red Cross in World War II and has written many successful books--including one which was made into a major motion picture. She writes beautifully and, at first glance, convincingly.

It was the fish that gave her away. Her early letters just asked for information about an inner circle of Government officials who used a drawing of fish as the symbol of "a confidentially shared community of patriotic attitude." Then she started sending CIA officials postcards with crude drawings of fish. Later she adopted the fish as a signature to her own letters.

In 1962 the fish-woman asked the vice president of a Washington bank to help finance a small private counterespionage organization working to expose "the mammoth traitorous operation at present flourishing within our Government." Meanwhile she wrote threatening anonymous letters, mailed them to herself, and then forwarded them to CIA to prove the existence of a conspiracy. Ignored for years, she continues writing long and quite articulate letters. The most recent one, mailed in March 1965, contains roughly 11,000 words.

One might think that if no one answered their letters the crank correspondents would eventually get discouraged and quit writing. This is not always true. CIA's most faithful correspondent has been plugging a single theme steadily since 1951, when he decided a "CIA agent" had welshed on a job offer. Almost every day he mails a postcard with the same message: "Take Action on CIA Agent Joe Blank!" He has been arrested and released on his promise to stop writing; within a few days the postcards arrive again. He has written from Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Rochester, Colorado Springs, and Hampton, Va.--hitting his peak in 1962 with a total of 332 postcards to CIA. He has also carried his complaint to the Secretary of Defense, but a special assistant at the Pentagon politely suggested in reply that he deal directly with CIA.

No comments: