Most of the information in this writeup is taken from an article based on an interview with Ralph McGehee. The article can be found at the following website:
After graduating from Notre Dame University
, Ralph McGehee was recruited by the CIA
. He was then sent on field assignments throughout Asia
as an Intelligence Officer, travelling to Japan
, the Phillipines
In 1965, Thai communists announced their insurgency against the US-backed regime then in power. It was McGehee’s job to gather intelligence on the situation. His investigations revealed that communism was much more wide-spread in the area than was previously believed, and that the communists actually enjoyed a broad base of popular support throughout Thailand. When he reported this to his higher-ups in the agency, they were not pleased. It seems this wasn’t what they wanted to hear, and in 1967 McGehee was brought back to the U.S. and his intelligence-gathering program in Thailand was dismantled.
McGehee was still interested in fighting communism, and volunteered to go to Vietnam, where he was sent in 1968, several months after the Tet Offensive. He discovered a similar situation there as he had in Thailand; actual intelligence gathering revealed widespread support for the communists, but this information was suppressed at the higher levels of the agency. Apparently the CIA was providing propaganda to the executive branch of the U.S. government rather than actually reporting what was going on. In McGehee’s view, the war was unwinnable, and the agency’s propaganda only served to prolong it at great cost of human life on both sides.
Though he had become thoroughly disillusioned with the agency, he continued to work for them until his retirement in 1977. For the next three years, he worked on writing his memoirs, which, after a two-year legal battle with the CIA, he published in 1980 as Deadly Deceits: My Twenty-Five Years with the CIA.
Through the 1980s, McGehee actively protested the Reagan administration’s policies in Central America, lecturing around the U.S. on the CIA as well as travelling in Cuba, Nicaragua and Grenada.
He then decided to begin work compiling and cross-reference as much public-domain material on the agency as he could find. What began as index card files eventually grew into a computer database he named CIABASE, which is now probably the single most useful tool for research on the CIA. (Please see CIABASE node for ordering information.)
Since completing and distributing the database, McGehee has reported being harassed by random people everywhere he goes. He himself acknowledges how bizarre this sounds but insists that it goes beyond his imagination:
…this all has the sound of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and I realize that many will not believe it -- I would not believe it if someone else told me this story. But that is the beauty of harassment -- the citizen looks like a dolt and has little recourse.
This relates to the CIA paranoia paradox
, which is that it is in the nature of the way the agency functions that its critics tend to sound like paranoids, but the issue is confused by paranoids gravitating to the CIA as the source of their delusions. (E.g., members of the Mind Control Forum
). Causing little daily harassments that are just beyond the scope of ordinary interactions may cause more stress than out-and-out attacks; leaving enough room for doubt that the target questions his own sanity, and ensuring that he will sound like a nut if he tries to publicise his experiences. That said, my impression of McGehee is that his perceived harassment does sound quite a bit like paranoia of the plain-old variety, albeit fuelled by what is probably actual surveillance. Below is reproduced a letter he wrote to President Bill Clinton
and CIA Director John Deutch
which includes McGehee’s internet post cataloguing the supposed harassment campaign; the readers may judge for themselves.
1 March 1996
The White House
Washington, D.C. 20500
Fax 202 456 2461
Mr. John Deutch
Director of CIA
Washington, D.C. 20505
Fax 703 482 6790
Herndon Town Council
P.O. Box 427
Herndon, VA 22070
My name is Ralph McGehee and I am a twenty-five year decorated
veteran of the CIA and a critic. My primary effort in this regard is a
computer data base, CIABASE. The below letter was posted on
Internet today - a measure I reluctantly take in order to defend
myself from efforts by local police, especially the Herndon Police,
to apparently implicate me in some crime. The level of effort
directed at me has increased substantially in the last few weeks --
and I ask that these actions be halted.
I over the last few years have made similar appeals with no action
taken in my defense. I appealed to Mary Pecora, of the U.S. Office
of Special Counsel (File no. MA-95-2196), only to be advised that
she believed me but the CIA was exempt from the Counsel's
In October of last year there was an effort at Fair Oaks Mall to
"catch me" as the exit door alarm sounded just as I entered the exit
area. I veered away fearing to exit, only to be confronted by an
angry, apparent security officer.
Due to a medical problem, I have in the last couple of weeks
availed myself of the Jacuzzi at the Herndon Community Center.
On my second visit a Herndon policeman came into the locker room
and advised me that he would, "catch me later." Yesterday shortly
after I entered the center two apparent plain clothes police (one
forgot to turn off his portable radio that began broadcasting)
entered the area and focused their attentions on me and probably
set a trap. A number of recent incidents in the local K Mart have
made me avoid that establishment.
It is impossible to enter commercial establishments in Fairfax and
Loudon Counties without being the subject immediate interest by
the store security services. In my defense I have begun -- just as I
enter an establishment - to explain to the spotter that I am a critic of
the CIA and that it is slandering me and this is the reason for
(whatever) notice that have re me. For bona fides, I hand them a
brochure of CIABASE.
In the past I have addressed letters to both you Mr. President and to
you Mr. Deutch about this situation. I was advised by Lee S.
Stickland, Chief Information, Privacy and Classification Review of
the CIA, that his office would conduct an FOIA search but that I
would have to wait my turn. From others I know that it takes
around three years for action on a request. In any case it is
extremely doubtful that the responsible Agency office(s) would
make a written record of its illegal operations.
The actions against me began in the summer of 1993, shortly after a
review of CIABASE appeared in the journals of AFIO and NMIA.
It soon thereafter became obvious that my phone was tapped and
that local commercial establishments had been warned about me.
When I made my knowledge of the tap obvious, the tap was used as
much for harassment as monitoring. I have also received an implicit
phone threat and was surveilled on a trip to Maine.
Since I have the written approval of the CIA to distribute my data
base -- it uses only non-classified material -- the actions taken
against me by the CIA are in violation of United States law.
Do you Mr. Deutch wish to be the medium for violations of law?
Has not your Agency disgraced itself enough without adding this
crime to its record? Do you Mr. President allow your executive
branch to operate illegally without taking action? Do you members
of the Herndon Town Council, allow your police force to act as
vigilantes and are you willing to accept the consequences of its
I request that addressees take appropriate action and advise me of
422 Arkansas Avenue
Herndon, VA, 22070
The below is from a posting of 15 July 1995 in response to a
number of requests for specific details of the actions taken against
Ralph McGehee 3/16/96
A number of people have contacted me about my postings re
harassment and have asked for specific examples. Below I provide
that information. Please note that I list specific individuals and
organizations -- all of which are checkable.
My name is Ralph W. McGehee and I am a 25 year veteran of the
CIA and a severe critic of the CIA and compiler of the data base -
CIABASE. I live in Herndon, Virginia, a bedroom community for
the CIA's Headquarters as well as the location of several CIA office
buildings. Following comprehensive reviews of my computer data
base on the CIA in "The Intelligence," a publication of the pro-CIA
veterans lobbying group - Association of Former Intelligence
Officers (AFIO); and, the magazine of the National Military
Intelligence Association, "NMIA Newsletter," an organization of
generally retired military intelligence officers, in July 1993, I have
been subjected to an investigation/harassment operation.
Over the last two years I wrote a number of letters to the FBI and
the CIA complaining of harassment. The FBI responded a few
weeks ago and said they were not investigating or harassing me and
that I should direct my enquiries to another government agency.
The first observable event happened in August 1993 just after the
two aforementioned reviews of CIABASE had been published.
(This incident was followed in rapid succession by a series of other
harassments). In early August 1993, I entered the super market at
Reston's Lake Anne area, gathered a few things and went to the
check out counter. The two female checkout clerks were not there
but soon arrived. I tried to pay for the food but the clerks kept
stalling until apparently the manager and another male came and
stood by the checkout clerk focusing their attention on me. When
finally permitted to pay for the food and as I started to leave the
manager stepped directly in front of me as if to confront me. I
thought this was quite strange but thought they may have suspected
me of being a shoplifter and were checking me out. About a year
later I went back to the supermarket (now closed) and asked the
same cashier why they acted as they did. She denied any such
A day or so after that, I was in Staples in Herndon and the store
was nearly void of customers. As I entered Aisle 3 the loudspeaker
told an employee to go to aisle 3. As I went to check out two
employees apparently from the manager's office stood and watched
me. The reason for this I could not fathom except again that they
may have suspected me of shoplifting. There have been two or three
similar incidents in this store over the next two years. The manager
and other employees of this store are a checkable resource. I did
confront the manager in about May this year but he denied my
On about the first week of September, I went to Giant's supermarket
in Herndon, bought a few things and as I tried to check out a Giant
employee came up immediately behind me in the two-person line.
By now becoming upset at this procedure I left the line and went to
the next one. As I was driving on the road in front of Giant's, a car
in a parking aisle that was facing front sped out of the space and
came directly towards my truck. I had to swerve to avoid being hit.
Later I saw that Giant employee park his vehicle in the same spot as
the threatening vehicle - it appeared to be the same vehicle.
Again in September on a Sunday, I went in to Super Fresh in
Herndon, bought two items and went to the checkout counter. The
manager came immediately to stand beside the cashier who told him
to go away as she could "handle this." This latter employee I believe
still works a Super Fresh.
On the 23th of September 1993, I planned to go with a friend to the
afternoon showing of "Demolition Man," at Worldgate in Herndon.
I went to the ticket window and a male came up and said they were
closed, I could not fathom this as the theater was operating at full
capacity. I stood there and he repeated that they were closed.
Finally as I stood there and as the line behind me began to grow, he
deigned to sell me a ticket. I entered and handed my ticket to a
ticket-collector who seemed upset to see me and asked "what is
your name." As the film ended and the viewers exited we had to
walk through a narrow cordon of velvet ropes where a number of
theater employees were standing eyeing those leaving including a
large black man wearing a police or security-type jacket. This type
of cordon is the first time this has ever happened to me in that
theater. What is particularly upsetting about this event is that the
employees all seemed to have been prepared in advance for my
appearance. This of course is a very checkable event. All that needs
to be done is to get the work sheets for that day and interview those
on duty at the time.
From mid-October to mid-December 1993, I went bicycling about
six times on the bike trail and parked my truck in the small parking
lot across the street from the Herndon Golf Course. I went biking
for approximately two and a half hours on each occasion. On three
of the occasions when I returned, an occupied Herndon police car
was the only other vehicle in the parking lot. The police car was
facing the empty ball field - not the street. On one other occasion
there was an occupied car next to the police car - I could not
determine if this was an unmarked police car.
In Manassas at about this time I went with my wife, Norma, to get
some glasses. The manager - after we went back to pick up the
glasses - said nastily "Why don't you go home." He loudly
proclaimed uncomplimentary information about my wife. We were
both quite upset. Manassas is some 15 to 20 miles from Herndon -
apparently word on me was wide-spread or was being disseminated
based on phone taps or house bugs.
In about mid-December 1993, I went to the Book Alcove in Hunters
Woods Plaza in Reston where I have often gone and purchased
many used books from their excellent collection of books on
intelligence. I spent a lot of time looking over their collection on
intelligence and more on their art collection. When I turned around
I saw immediately outside the window near where I was looking
over the Art books, a person wearing a "police" or "security" jacket
who was eyeing me. As I left he made sure to enter the door as I
opened it and made a point of addressing me.
On Saturday the 7th of January 1994, I went with a friend to a
clothing store - Nachman's - on its announced last day of operation.
A car with an older black man was sitting across the rear of cars
pulled into a convenience store next to Nachman's. I parked across
the street and as I and my friend crossed in front of the apparently
parked car - it leaped forward and struck me a glancing blow. The
car had stopped just before it would have struck my friend. I did
not report it as I was not hurt and I feared that the Herndon police
who also had been harassing me would not be objective. My friend
can attest to this incident. I am not suggesting that this was part of
the harassment - merely a consequence of the distribution of
derogatory information about me in the general geographic area of
Herndon/Reston and Tysons Corner.
On 16 January 1994, about 3 p.m., I entered the nearly empty
Jamesway Store at Herndon Junction. I shopped for about 10
minutes when the loud speaker announced that security should go
to section 2 - an employee came hurrying up behind me, made a
comment in my ear, and then went down an adjacent aisle. As I
continued toward the front of the store - the loud speaker
announcement said security should go to Section 5.
In about July 1994, after making telephone arrangements, two
members of the Covert Action Working Group, visited my home.
Just prior to their arrival at about 12 noon, two Herndon police cars
pulled up and double-parked on the narrow street in front of my
house. The two cars sat there for 20 minutes to a half hour and the
police in the cars seemed to be looking in through my picture
window. The two members of the group remember seeing the police
cars there - this is a checkable resource.
I later speculated on the arrival of the two police cars just minutes
before the two members were scheduled to arrive. We had
discussed meeting arrangements over the phone - this and a number
of other events led me to the conclusion that my phone was tapped.
About two weeks after the visit by the two Herndon Police cars,
another Herndon police car sat across from my house as I installed
a bike rack on the back of my truck. After finishing, I put the bike
on the rack and just as I opened the door to get in the truck the
police car started his motor. After this obvious warning I wrote
letters to the Town Council and police harassment stopped for
some time. I asked the Town Council to advise me of their
determination re the police harassment - they have never responded
- this is an easy-to-check resource.
After the Herndon Police temporarily stopped their harassments,
civilians in a number of vehicles and situations apparently assumed
their task. Since the various Fairfax County police forces work in
close coordination with the CIA and receive training and support
from the CIA - I suspect they had been used by the Agency and
when the Herndon police were ordered to stop by the Town
Council - then the CIA's Office of Security stepped up the
On several occasions as I biked on the nearby bike trail, I suspected
surveillance - once especially when I approached Partlow's store in
Ashburn, a man on a bike with a radio-phone reported my position
as I passed by. On a number of other occasions persons on the trail
whom I was not really looking at - shouted at me as if to draw
attention to the fact that I was their target. A number of what
appeared to be surveillance vehicles also parked in the golf course
parking lot across the street from the small parking lot I use.
I speculated on how I was being harassed at various stores when I
had only announced to my wife where I was going - and was alert
for vehicular surveillance and noticed none. To test my theory that
the house was bugged I shouted out that I was going to Kmart and
instead went to Caldors across town. I shopped unmolested for
about a half an hour and left. As I left, a well-dressed young white
male in a discreetly marked yet obvious commercial van, sped up
jumped out and recorded obvious and visible dismay when he saw
me. I repeated this process a number of times with occasionally
I believe that the harassment developed a process wherein store
managers or personnel when they saw me, called a number - either
of the CIA's Office of Security and/or the Association of Former
Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and that a person or persons are
frequently dispatched to try and arrange for a harassment action. If
that is not possible, then the store personnel -- who have obviously
been provided derogatory information about me, on occasion take
action on their own.
A number of incidents in the local Kmart - all initiated by supposed
Kmart personnel - and my confronting the manager over them
forced me to avoid that store for about a year. A number of
unpleasant incidents at the nearby McDonalds, and 7/11 has forced
me to stop going to those stores.
On 2 October 1994, I went to COMP USA on Route 7 near
Vienna, Virginia. As I finished making my purchases the security
man at the door walked toward me militantly and pulled my cart
away from me. This special treatment seemed to apply only to me.
On 23 October 1994, at Computer City in Vienna, Va, as I
approached the cash register, a young female rushed to the register
and to the consternation of the cashier told the cashier to get away,
leave. I then moved to a second cash register - the same woman
rushed to that register but the transaction was completed before she
could effectively intervene. Similar later incidents like this also
happened in the same store. About three months ago to blunt the
action I went up to the man standing watching those entering and
told him I was a critic of the CIA and that it had initiated a
defamation action against me and therefore asked that they assign a
security person to accompany me. The manager was advised and he
said I would have to exit though their security system and it was
not necessary to send a security guard around with me. On this
occasion I was overcharged about thirty dollars. I noticed the
difference, objected, the security man or manager was summoned
and the price was reduced to its regular price. Store personnel and
managers are an easy-to-check resource.
About six to eight months ago I took my truck in for servicing at
the near by Shell station where I have done business for years. As I
went to pick up the truck one of the two owners/mechanics pointed
and yelled at me and screamed at his employees to park their
vehicles (across the exit route via the 7/11). I normally exit from the
station using this exit. They did this and this was the only time I
have ever seen that entrance blocked. The owner is an easy
On 13 November 1994, at Crown Books at Herndon Junction as I
was scanning the book racks - a large man came close and stood
facing directly at me. He stayed the entire time I was there. As I left,
a man with a radio-phone was outside the store looking in. I had a
number of other confrontations at this store - this is an easy to
When I returned from a Christmas visit to my daughters family out
of state - within hours I received a phone call from a person
claiming to be her friend asking her address - but the caller in
monotone recited all the details of where she lived - the town, how
many children she had, where she lived previously, etc. I tried to
talk to the individual but he was not interested in a conversation.
The caller created the strong impression that this was a threatening
On 23 April 1995 my wife noticed our shed door lock's hasp was
sheared and the shed opened - nothing appeared to be taken. I did
not report this to the police and I suspect they might have provided
assistance to those conducting the break in. At about the same time
a Herndon Police car tail-gated my wife's car through town.
In about late June 1995 as I and a friend were returning from
Walmart in Loundon County, I turned right on the Herndon
Parkway about 50 yards behind a Herndon Police car. I was driving
in the middle lane and the police car had pulled into the left turn
lane - as my vehicle drew along side the police vehicle, it swerved
widely out into my lane forcing me to swerve to avoid hitting being
hit by the police car - my friend can attest to this occurrence.
The June 19, 1995 issue of "The New Yorker," carried an article
that mentions me and may or may not be part of the harassment
effort - I do not suggest that the purpose of the article was to get
me, but since it involved a group I had participated in - it was
convenient to discredit me by calling me paranoid because of my
comments re the harassment.
The above is a list of some of the more recordable incidents -
representing perhaps about one half to one third of all that seemed
to me to be harassments. Please note that I list specific incidents,
specific stores and specific individuals - many can be checked -
particularly the Herndon Mayor and Town Council, the Herndon
Police, my friend, two members of the Covert Action Working
Group, the reporter who wrote the article in The New Yorker,
managers and employees of the named stores, theater personnel and
a number of other sources and individuals.
What cannot be checked is the numerous sometimes daily "wrong
number" phone calls seemingly by the same individual, the several
identical recorded phone messages to re-schedule a visit by the
"septic field" clean-up truck. What also cannot be checked without
official government action are the past various incidents of vehicle
surveillance, surveillance on or around the bike trail and of course
the bugging and wire-tapping operation.
To help me determine the responsible parties I am filing a Freedom
of Information Request and a Privacy request with the CIA. I doubt
that I will receive any admissions of guilt but if I receive redacted
documents dated the last two years I will have some substantiating
Only an ignoramus would confuse a writeup which uses quotation with one that is purely cut-n-paste.