December 20, 2008
Past Tense PretenseBy Clarice Feldman
I confess I do not and never really will understand the workings of large bureaucracies. Correspondence on my desk today confirms that I probably will spend the rest of my sentient days wondering of them, "What were they thinking?"
The troublesome letters indicate that Roland Haas, author of Enter the Past Tense, has been and remains in the employ of the U.S. Army Reserve Command in a sensitive and responsible position -- senior intelligence officer. The book he authored claims that at 19 years of age (in 1971) he was recruited by the CIA and that for 19 years from the date of his recruitment to 2000 he assassinated 18 people, including several inside the United States on orders from the CIA.
Of course, such a claim would indicate that the agency has been violating federal law during all that time, including the years it was led by now Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, whom Barack Obama has indicated he intends retain in that position.
More specifically the editorial review of his book, in which Haas admits to alcohol and drug dependency problems, describes the contents like this:
[Quote] While at Purdue University on an NROTC scholarship in 1971, Roland Haas was recruited to become a CIA deep clandestine operative. He underwent intensive training to prepare for insertion into hostile areas, including High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachuting and weapons instruction. In the course of his first mission (to East and West Germany, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bulgaria, Romania, and Austria), he assassinated several international drug dealers. On his return, he was thrown into an Iranian prison, where was physically and psychologically tortured. Over the next thirty years, he served the agency on an as-needed basis, engaging in such activities as hunting down and eliminating members of the Red Army Faction and extracting Soviet Spetsnaz officers from East Germany. His cover jobs included being a part owner of an Oakland health club, which brought him into close contact with steroid abuse in professional athletics, drug abuse in general, and the Hell's Angels, whom he believes tried to have him killed. He also served in Germany as site commander for the Conventional Forces in Europe weapons treaty. His most recent cover was as the deputy director of intelligence in the U.S. Army Reserve Command, which involved him with the Guantanamo detention facility. [/quote]
I have neither read his book nor do I intend to, but former CIA employees have refuted his claims online and to his present employer (the U.S. Army Reserve) noting among other things:
The CIA does not assassinate people. Executive Order 12333 forbids it. Certainly it has not in the period of time that Haas claims to have been employed there.
The CIA does not recruit anyone let alone an 18 year old, to be an assassin.
Haas claims to have had some bad trips on LSD. No CIA applicant who acknowledged LSD use was hired. Haas claimed as well to have continued to use drugs after his recruitment, but that seems unlikely to have been missed in regular polygraph tests of agents.
He never explains how he avoided the draft, but in that period of time CIA employees were drafted while serving in the agency and did not get deferments.
He claims to have undertaken covert operations under his own name; an assertion deemed the epitome of poor tradecraft.
He doesn't explain why he was selected to go to Guantanamo in his present position, and the only explanation is a TDY boondoggle, of a piece with hiring him and granting him a security clearance at all and then failing to terminate him when it became apparent that he lacks the sort of character any rational person would consider the sine qua non of a grant of a security clearance. Haas himself has said, "In fact, no one who admitted the dependencies I had would also NEVER, EVER, be granted this level of clearance." So why does he have such a clearance now after admitting such dependencies?
The very nature of his book and subsequent employment by the U.S. Army suggest (a) the book was fabricated and the Army doesn't care, or (b) he violated every secret of his prior employment (it was never reviewed by the agency's Publications Review board as all books by CIA employees must be) and the Army nevertheless thinks he's just the ticket for classified employment.
That his story itself is preposterous goes without question. Replete as it is with James Bond-like tales of derring do as a captive of the Iranians, released through the auspices of the CIA and then continued on as a covert agent; meeting and killing Afghan drug dealers; killing an East German cop who stopped him; being sent on a mission into East Germany when he was suffering from stress, no intelligence officer I can find considers it even remotely credible.
Several have tried to make his employer aware of the problems with the book and have met with -- to me -- an astonishingly nonchalant response to their heartfelt assertions that the book debases the agency and this government.
Among the military the retired officers have contacted, contending that Haas "has stained the honor of our government and its intelligence apparatus" and that his "employment in an intelligence capacity with the Army Reserve Command" should be a source of "embarrassment to his superiors" are Brigadier General Anne F. Macdonald, Col. Charles E. Phillips and General Stultz.
In the latest response received to these letters, Colonel Stephen E Castlen, Staff Judge Advocate, Headquarters , U.S. Army Reserve wrote that "The United States Army Reserve Command neither endorses nor discredits the accounts in Enter the Past Tense. ...We do not have any position regarding the veracity of his claims."
Neither the complaining retiree nor I can see the truth in this defense. If Haas' book is a fabrication --given its nature (it's not purporting to be fiction) -- continuing to employ the author in "a sensitive and responsible position, the U.S. Army Reserve Command has in effect taken a clear position supporting the veracity of his claims."
Maybe someone in Congress can get to the bottom of this.
Or maybe Secretary Gates will get wind of it and straighten out this matter.
In the meantime, I can only ask of the Army Reserve Command: Whatever are you thinking?