Spy games

  • Wednesday, May 28, 2014


There were two men years ago who still keep in touch today – one a CIA spy who has written several books and the other, Caldwell County native David T. Flaherty, Jr.

Flaherty has worked as an attorney, and he worked on the Governor's Highway Safety Program from 1989 to 1993.

Robert Booker Baer, a retired CIA officer, met Flaherty, Jr., who later became a state representative for the 46th House District and District Attorney for the 25th Prosecutorial District.

They met at Culver Military Academy. Flaherty served in the 46th House District and represented Alexander, Avery, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Mitchell and Watauga counties.

Flaherty was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine by Gov. Jim Martin in 1989. Also he worked on the Advisory Task Force on Counter Terrorism for the Western District of North Carolina (2002-2003). He studied law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Also he was a deck hand a long time ago on a shrimp boat with June T. and Eight Flags.

Baer was born July 1, 1952.

You may see Baer on CNN a lot, commenting on terrorism.

He has spent time shadowing and practicing his trade in the North Carolina area in the past. “There's a base here in North Carolina which I am not allowed to mention,” Baer said. “I spent a lot of time there. I've done a lot of training in North Carolina. We used to drive counter surveillance in Greensboro and Winston-Salem area.”

How does an agent follow someone?

“It depends on the traffic and how far you have to back off,” said Baer. ”You switch cars. We had all types of techniques. You have a set of lights on the car under the bumper and you turn them off so it looks like a different car. You switch cars then. A lot of it is radio. If you are doing work down in North Carolina, it's not like the police are aware of it,” he said.

On Jan. 29, he talked about how technology has changed since he joined the agency.

“It's gone from human intelligence to drones, data and algorithms. The whole principle touch is gone. There used to be a time when you'd go out, and it would be just you and your source, out late at night. But now there are companies like Blackwater providing security everywhere, whether it's Egypt or Libya or Iraq or Afghanistan. You can't go to a meeting and have any sort of relationship with people where you had 20 security guys following you around. The human side of intelligence is gone. The National Security Agency is picking up chatter overhead. Drone photography. As far as I'm concerned, our touch with things overseas, real life, is pretty much gone.

“It used to be a time we would have dispatches. You would crank them up. And you would put the dispatch in a diplomatic pouch and send it out. That was the way it was done. It was paperless carrying it back and forth. They had Telexes. It was before computers.”

A telex is a communication service involving teletypewriters connected by wire through automatic exchanges. Look up “The Wang 1200,” a word processor from late 1972. Its language worked with an OEM IBM Selectric typewriting.

“In the early days you just wrote something up, and you gave it to a communicator and condensed it short. He would sit there and type it out manually so you could look at it. We just had typewriters. And they were specially made. We had IBM typewriters,” said Baer.

They used Tempest radiation which Baer said could be read through a wall.

“As far as writing long, lengthy cables, no. You couldn't get the satellite photography because it was bulky and big. It wasn't real-time. But now you just watch it on a flat-panel screen wherever you are or the area you are interested in. You can see what's going on. If someone says they are going to a meeting somewhere in the Pakistan tribal areas, you just watch the meeting go down. This is all just brand new.”

There are some with high-resolution cameras. “They fly at 50,000 feet,” he said. “Those are the ones you use when your spouse is cheating on you.”

“It's pretty much real. It's not the resolution as in the movie, but it's something new,” Baer said.

“I'm writing a book on assassination,” he said. Look up the word, and you find “to kill suddenly or secretively, especially a politically prominent person; murder premeditatedly or treacherously; to destroy or harm treacherously and viciously.”

Baer said he has never killed anyone, but he has been involved in operations. Some think he is an American hero, pure and simple. Somebody has to do our dirty work.

Know what a sniffer is? Crypto centers are protected by radius control zones 200-feet around. Remember when Baer (Clooney) was “killed” in “Syriana” and his bosses were watching his car and the caravan transporting Matt Damon was bombed from the heavens?

“That photography is basically drones. They are 10,000 feet,” he said.

If you want to learn more, study the C.I.A. Spy Gear e-book, and you will learn about the matchbook camera, the Mark IV microdot camera, the Caltrop tire spike and more. There is a declassified secret document listing 10 techniques including the attention grasp, walling, facial hold, facial slap, insult slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation, insects placed in a confinement box and the waterboard.”

Flaherty keeps up with the books Baer writes.

Baer talked about his film “The Cult of the Suicide Bomber” and “Car Bomb.” A lot of soldiers love his work.

“They all watched them in Afghanistan and in Iraq,” he said. “I was surprised. I do a lot of talks at bases around the United States. I've given a talk down at Fort Bragg once or twice.”

Walling is when the person is put with his heels touching the wall and his shoulder blades hit the wall. The torture guy tries to prevent whiplash, and the interrogator pushes the person into the wall. The victim has been told the false wall has been built to create a loud sound so when the person hits it, there will be a loud sound to create shock or surprise and a sound that “will make the impact seems far worse than it is.”

The government reports it is not “uncommon for someone to be deprived of sleep for 72 hours and still perform excellently on visual-spatial motor tasks and short-term memory tests.”

Ever heard of the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991? Catholic nun Sister Dianna Ortiz was abducted and tortured by security forces in Guatemala in 1989. She and another sister went to the convent retreat center in Antigua, and she was praying in the garden when two men came up. One had a gun.

Then she was put in a police car, blindfolded and taken to a large military installation near the U.S. Embassy. She was “badly tortured and repeatedly raped at a police academy.”

Bill Clinton ordered the release of CIA papers on this matter. Ortiz brought the first civil case under the act and she sued for $5 million. One torturer spoke English.

He entered the room and said, “You idiots! Leave her alone. She's a North American, and it's all over the news.”

He told her, “You have to forgive these guys ... they made a mistake.”

Her memoir is “The Blindfold's Eyes: My Journey From Torture to Truth” from Orbis Books, 404 pages also on Kindle. Abducted in 1989, she was released 24 hours later, her body burned with cigarettes, after beatings and being forced to torture a lady already near death.

Publisher's Weekly called it “a powerful story.”

Journalist Seymour Hersh wrote a blurb for Baer's book “See No Evil” that Baer “was considered perhaps the best on-the-ground field officer in the Middle East.”

Baer was the subject of the George Clooney film “Syriana” which has a torture scene out of this world. Now, he consults and you see him a lot as a talking head on network television, consulting and talking about terrorism.

He became a friend of Flaherty while a student at Culver Military Academy in Culver, Indiana from 1967-71. There were other Lenoir students there at that school at the time. Read “See No Evil,” “Sleeping with the Devil,” “The Devil We Know” and “Blow the House Down.” His favorite is “The Company We Keep: A Husband and Wife True Life Spy Story.”

Baer talked recently about world affairs and his writing.

Sudan: It is a tribal situation that “goes back forever.” “It could very well spread,” said Baer, who was raised in Aspen, Colorado. Born July 1, 1952, he has written on intelligence for TIME and has been a contributor to Vanity Fair, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.

Saudi Arabia: “It feels betrayed by the invasion of Iraq. It feels betrayed by the dialogue between the United States and Iran. And I think they have some real stability problems.”

Syria: “I don't see any sort of solution for a very long time.”

What did he think of Clooney's portrayal of him in the movie?

“I liked it,” he said. “The whole thing came as a revelation to him to survive.”

To involve himself in oil and politics was never “his deal,” Baer said.

What about Obama?

“Well I don't think he's done much of anything,” said Baer. “He inherited a bad deal. There was not much he could do with Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Baer thinks the National Security Agency has gone way beyond its auspices.

“You know, what are they doing with Congress? The National Security Agency, what are they doing with journalists?”

Metadata is used. Does the system thwart terrorist attacks?

“I don't think the system works all that well,” Baer said. He also commented on Edward Snowden. “We're talking about code breaking, and that's just a no-no. You know, I don't have any problem with whistleblowers when a crime has been committed. But first of all Snowden did not demonstrate a crime, spying on Congress or spying on journalists. I still look as Russia as the enemy. That's my real problem. I'm an old-school warrior. Whistleblowing is one thing, but you do it on the steps of Congress, and you don't go to Moscow. You don't ever go to Moscow ever. The Russians are bastards.”

What did he think of the younger President Bush?

“I liked the father a lot better,” said the spy. “George H. W. Bush, I loved the guy.” Baer used to go out to Texas with the president.

“You'd tell him something, and he'd get it right away. You'd just tell him something, and that was enough,” said Baer. “I just really liked the father. He was a great director, a fabulous director. I just loved the guy.”

What about Russia?

“I put the bigger danger in China right now. They've got too much money. They're moving on too many fronts,” he said. “They are challenging us in the Pacific.”

What about the leader of North Korea?

“I think he's barking crazy,” said the spy.

The former Clinton administration brought the housing crisis, he said, and the 2008 financial crisis. Could Washington fund the CIA better?

“The CIA has got too much money as it is,” he said. “There's all this bullshit about the National Security Agency will take over intelligence. It's just a fact that Bin Laden wasn't found by the NSA, he was found by sources.”

Where was Baer on 9/11?

“First you wonder what's happening. I don't mean it in a mean sense, but it's like I told you so.”

Where was he when Bin Laden was killed?

“I was in Newport Beach,” Baer said. “You know, the guy deserved it. I don't say that about a lot of people. It was a long time coming. We had a chance to get him in 1995 when the Saudis offered him to us.”

Some of his work in the first book was redacted by the government, and it looked like somebody filled a water gun with black ink, squirting it.

“You can't name names,” he explained.

If you are planning a tourism trip to Washington, D.C., the International Spy Museum will post your Facebook photo on its website as “Recently Recruited Agents.” It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 800 F St. NW. The most popular T-shirt there says “Deny Everything.”

Tim Bullard, 58, has a book published by The History Press of Charleston, “Haunted Watauga County.” He is married with a son, Conor. They live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He also has a column in the North Myrtle Beach Times and has won a S.C. Press Association feature writing award and a N.C. Press Association writing award. His web site is www.timbullard.com.

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