John Stockwell

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John R. Stockwell is a former CIA officer who became a critic of United States government policies after serving in the Agency for thirteen years serving seven tours of duty. He is also a former U.S. Marine Corps major. He was hired by the CIA in 1964, spent six years working for the CIA in Africa, and was later transferred to Vietnam. In 1973 he received the CIA's Medal of Merit, the Agency's second-highest award. In 1975, Stockwell was promoted to the CIA's Chief of Station and National Security Council coordinator. As Chief of the Angola Task Force he managed covert activities during the first years of Angola's bloody civil war. After two years he resigned, determined to reveal the truth about the agency's role in the Third World. Since that time, he has worked to expose what he sees as the criminal activities of the CIA.[1]

He is the author of In Search of Enemies, an exposé of the CIA's covert action in Angola.[2] In Search of Enemies remains the only detailed insider's account of a major CIA "covert action".[3]

According to Bob Baer, writing in the Pacific Free Press:

What Stockwell had seen as an operative in Africa and across the Third World was a CIA that was purely interventionist – not gathering intelligence, but brutally machinating, vicious, a secret weapon of US presidents and White House policymakers to battle the Soviets for world control. CIA paramilitary operations through proxy forces – the funding of mercenaries, terrorists, saboteurs – were, reported Stockwell, “all illegal,” their goal to “disrupt the normal functioning, often the democratic functioning, of other societies”.[4]

Early years

Born to a Presbyterian engineer in the Belgian Congo, Stockwell attended school in Lubondai before studying in the Plan II Honors program at the University of Texas. As a Marine, Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary/intel case officer in 3 wars: the Congo, Vietnam, and Angola. His military rank is Major.

CIA career

Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa as Chief of Base in the Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968 before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.

In December 1976 he resigned from the Agency, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in third world countries. He testified before Congress and appeared on the popular American television program 60 Minutes, claiming that CIA Director William Colby and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had systematically lied to Congress about the CIA's operations. Two years later, he wrote the exposé In Search of Enemies, about that experience and its broader implications. He claimed that the CIA was counterproductive to national security, and that its "secret wars" provided no benefit for the United States. The CIA, he stated, had singled out the MPLA to be an enemy in Angola despite the fact that the MPLA wanted relations with the United States and had not committed a single act of aggression against the United States.[5]

Reasons for leaving the CIA

In In Search of Enemies Stockwell outlines his reasons for disillusion with the CIA:

The disclosures about the plot to poison Patrice Lumumba struck me personally in two ways. First, men I had worked with had been involved. Beyond that, Lumumba had been baptized into the Methodist Church in 1937, the same year I was baptized a Presbyterian. He had attended a Methodist mission school at Wembo Nyama in the Kasai Province of the Belgian Congo (Zaire), while I attended the Presbyterian school in Lubondai in the same province. The two church communities overlapped. My parents sometimes drove to Wembo Nyama to buy rice for our schools. American Methodist children were my classmates in Lubondai. Lumumba was not, in 1961, the Methodists' favorite son, but he was a member of the missionary community in which my parents had spent most of their adult lives, and in which I grew up.
There were other disclosures which appalled me: kinky, slightly depraved, drug/sex experiments involving unwitting Americans, who were secretly filmed by the CIA for later viewing by pseudoscientists of the CIA's Technical Services Division. For years I had defended the CIA to my parents and to our friends. "Take it from me, a CIA insider," I had always sworn, "the CIA simply does not assassinate or use drugs . . ."
But worse was to come. A few short months after the CIA's shameful performance in Vietnam, of which I was part, I was assigned to a managerial position in the CIA's covert Angola program. Under the leadership of the CIA director we lied to Congress and to the 40 Committee, which supervised the CIA's Angola program. We entered into joint activities with South Africa. And we actively propagandized the American public, with cruel results-Americans, misguided by our agents' propaganda, went to fight in Angola in suicidal circumstances. One died, leaving a widow and four children behind. Our secrecy was designed to keep the American public and press from knowing what we were doing-we fully expected an outcry should they find us out.[6]

Writing career

Stockwell was one of the first professionals to leave the CIA to go public by writing a bestselling book. Because he did not submit the book to CIA pre-publication censorship, the CIA sued him. As a result, to this very day Stockwell receives no royalties from his exposé[7] and anything further that he writes about CIA operations must be submitted for "review." A book of his lectures, The Praetorian Guard: The US Role In The New World Order, was published with Stockwell's permission.

His concerns were that, although many of his colleagues in the CIA were men and women of the highest integrity, the organization was counterproductive of United States national security and harming a lot of people in its "secret wars" overseas.[8]

In 1980, Stockwell said that "if the Soviet Union were to disappear off the face of the map, the United States would quickly seek out new enemies to justify its own military-industrial complex."[9] He was arguably proven correct. In 1990, after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the US bombed Iraq in the Gulf War and in 2003 the US went to war against Iraq as a first step in the 'Global War on Terrorism'.

During the 1980s Stockwell visited college campuses to speak out against CIA support for Central American death squads.

Angolan operation


Stockwell is a founding member of Peaceways and ARDIS (the Association for Responsible Dissent), an organization of former CIA and Government officials who are openly critical of the CIA's activities.[10]

Resources, External links, Further reading, Notes


External links

Further reading

  • Stockwell John December 1990 The Praetorian Guard : The US Role In The New World Order, South End Press 0-89608-395-0
  • Stockwell, John June 1984 (Reprint)In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story W W Norton & Co Inc ISBN 0-393-00926-2


  1. The Secret Wars of the CIA: Excerpts from a talk by John Stockwell, Serendipity, undated, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  2. Christopher Ketcham, Unlearning the CIA: The Education of Bob Baer, Pacific Free Press, 24 Oct 2009, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  3. The Secret Wars of the CIA: Excerpts from a talk by John Stockwell, Serendipity, undated, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  4. Christopher Ketcham, Unlearning the CIA: The Education of Bob Baer, Pacific Free Press, 24 Oct 2009, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  5. John Stockwell on the Secret Wars of the CIA: A two-part speech, The Other Americas Radio, undated, version placed in web archive 14 Jan 2008, accessed in web archive 27 Oct 2009
  6. John Stockwell In Search of Enemies Author's Note, W.W. Norton, 1978, p. 9
  7. Mary McGrory, "Fear of Seeming Wimpy", The Washington Post, 28 Nov 1985, final edition
  8. The Secret Wars of the CIA: Excerpts from a talk by John Stockwell, Serendipity, undated, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  9. This quote is widely disseminated on the web (such as in the Wikipedia article about John Stockwell) but no sources are given. If anyone can supply a source, please contact management(AT)
  10. The Secret Wars of the CIA: Excerpts from a talk by John Stockwell, Serendipity, undated, accessed 27 Oct 2009