Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Violence and CIA Cranks

Are such cranks actually dangerous? Read on.

On 13 March 1963 a "consulting nuclear engineer" called at CIA's downtown personnel office and tried to see the DCI. File checks showed that four years earlier he had sent the Director a letter marked "DEATH" and signed "Lord God, God of Israel." On 28 October 1958 he had hired a taxi in Richmond, picked up two hitchhikers and a 9-year-old boy, and tried to invade the Quantico Marine Corps School brandishing the boy's toy pistols.

The night of 21 February 1962 a man who thought he was a CIA agent telephoned four times trying to report to the Director. On 11 November 1962 the same man was arrested in Rapid City, S.D., after terrorizing residential areas of that city, firing dozens of shots through windows, and wounding one resident. When arrested he was carrying a high-powered rifle, a .22-caliber rifle, and a large quantity of ammunition.

One crank has been bombarding more than 50 top Government officials with details of alleged Communist electronic thought-control by "a coherent light process of inducing a state of controlled hypnosis by radiation of radio frequency energy on a wavelength of approximately 4 x 10^-8 centimeters." The writer is officially diagnosed as a paranoiac schizophrenic, potentially dangerous.

On 12 December 1964 a 53-year-old Florida real estate salesman mailed the DCI a crude threat note ending "Your card is the ACE OF SPADES." This man had tried to see the Director in the past--once to discuss a proposed trip to Russia, again to report his invention of the hardest metal in the world. He is diagnosed as a chronic schizophrenic paranoiac with "delusions of grandeur, seclusiveness, and hostility" who should be kept in a "structured and supervised setting." He was arrested three times in 1964, once for carrying a concealed weapon. Earlier he had been arrested for armed robbery and in 1960 in Arlington, Va., for attempted murder.

In 1962, with the arrival of a new DCI, CIA informally reviewed protective measures with Secret Service and Metropolitan Police Department officers. It was reaffirmed that, while the threat of an attack on top Agency officials was unpredictable and might never materialize, it was nevertheless real enough to require professional protection. Events since then have underlined this view, although there has been no (knock on wood) actual injury. Probably the closest call was when a woman wrestler traced one top official to the home of relatives and lunged at him with a bouquet of roses which was afterwards found to hide a jagged broken beer bottle.

In any intelligence agency it is important to keep track of crank contacts, not only to improve protection but also to assure continuity of control and analysis. Centralization of records in CIA's Office of Security permits quick identification of phonies and time-wasters. Professional security officers know how to handle the off-beat approach, and others would do well to rely on the professionals when they receive an irrational letter or find themselves face to face with an apparently unbalanced stranger.

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