An obituary for a friend, neighbor, and a true hero

Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
A good friend and neighbor recently died. His obituary appeared yesterday in the New York Times. In these days when so much is disputed, I thought it useful to point out just what an indisputable American hero really is like.

Frank Anderson, Former Spy Who Supplied Afghan Insurgents, Dies at 78

The New York Times – by Sam Roberts – February 19, 2020

He supervised operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East and oversaw a top-secret link with a high official of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Frank Anderson, an American spymaster who oversaw the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert mission to funnel weapons and other support to Afghan insurgents fighting their Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, died on Jan. 27 in Sarasota, Fla. He was 78.

The cause was a stroke, his wife, Donna Eby Anderson, said. Mr. Anderson lived in Sarasota and had been in hospice care.

During his nearly 27 years with the C.I.A., Mr. Anderson became the ranking American clandestine officer in the Arab world. He served as Beirut station chief; was promoted to chief of the Near East and South Asia division of the agency’s Directorate of Operations, its covert branch; and directed the agency’s technical services division, a role similar to that of James Bond’s “Q.”

Among his missions was, as head of the C.I.A.’s Afghan task force in the late 1980s, to supply weapons to the mujahedeen, the anti-Communist Muslim fighters who resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

The Soviets invaded in December 1979, setting off a nine-year Cold War proxy struggle that left as many as a million Afghan civilians and tens of thousands of troops and insurgents dead. It ended with the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the year the Soviet Union collapsed.

The withdrawal left a vacuum and ignited a civil war with the Taliban, the Islamic fundamentalist political movement, that has raged for decades.

“The one lie that they could continue telling themselves was that all this was somehow worth it, because at least the military structure was intact and they were defending the socialist motherland,” Mr. Anderson said of the Soviet Union in an interview with the National Security Archive for CNN in 1997.

“What happened in Afghanistan was that that lie was exposed,” Mr. Anderson continued, and “the real strategic issue there was that by inflicting that defeat on the Red Army, we really did hasten the fall of an evil empire.”

Mr. Anderson also served three tours as station chief in Middle East countries, where his responsibilities included the oversight of a high-level informant within the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Around 1970, Robert Ames, a C.I.A. agent, had opened a back channel to the informant, Ali Hassan Salameh, who headed the personal security force and counterintelligence unit under Yasir Arafat, the P.L.O. chairman. Their covert contact was politically sensitive, to say the least: The P.L.O. was classified as a violent guerrilla group, and Mr. Salameh was a self-proclaimed terrorist.

“Anderson believed the C.I.A., through its careful cultivation of clandestine sources, had created the opportunity for the Oslo Accords,” Kai Bird wrote in “The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames” (2014), and had “brought the Palestinians in from the cold.”

The Oslo agreement called for an interim Palestinian government in Gaza and Jericho in the West Bank and eventual Israeli withdrawal. But the process collapsed after terror attacks against Israel resumed and Israelis continued to establish settlements in the West Bank.

After Mr. Salameh was killed in 1979 by Israeli intelligence, Mr. Anderson wrote to Mr. Salameh’s eldest son: “At your age, I lost my father. Today, I lost a friend whom I respected more than other men. From the memory of my past loss, and from the pain of today, I share your pain. I promise to honor your father’s memory — and to stand ready to be your friend.”

The condolence note was signed, “A friend.”

In 1993, as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel and Mr. Arafat were signing a peace accord at the White House, Mr. Anderson discreetly staged his own ceremony.

He commandeered a bus at C.I.A. headquarters and took dozens of newly minted officers and analysts to Arlington National Cemetery to pay homage to Mr. Ames, who had been killed in a truck bomb attack on the United States Embassy in Beirut in 1983.

Another Ames, Aldrich (no relation), later led to Mr. Anderson’s demotion and departure from the agency.

Aldrich Ames was arrested in 1994 as an agency mole for Moscow. That October, R. James Woolsey, the director of central intelligence, severely reprimanded Mr. Ames’s supervisor, Milton Bearden, for serious failures during two stints in that role.

The next day, Mr. Anderson and John MacGaffin, who was second in command of covert operators, bestowed an official award on Mr. Bearden for outstanding work on the Afghan operation in the 1980s, when he was the station chief in neighboring Pakistan.

Mr. Woolsey was furious. Mr. Anderson and Mr. MacGaffin were ordered reassigned, a penalty more severe than any meted out to the officials who supervised Mr. Ames. They retired rather than accept their reassignments.

The award was viewed by some as defiance of Mr. Woolsey, who otherwise, Steve Coll wrote in “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden” (2005), “liked and admired Anderson and relied on him heavily for analysis about Afghanistan and the Arab world.”

Mr. Bearden said in an email that Mr. Anderson never regretted the gesture of support that led to his rebuke. “Frank was one of the more thoughtful officers in the Directorate of Operations,” he said, “an extremely fair and honest man” with unfailingly good judgment.

Frank Ray Anderson was born on Feb. 1, 1942, in Chicago. His father, also named Frank, owned a bar and died when his son was 14. His mother, Dorothy (Ray) Anderson, worked for a radio manufacturer.

After serving in the Army domestically and in South Korea from 1959 to 1962, Mr. Anderson earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago and graduated from the Foreign Service Institute’s School of Arab Language and Middle East Area Studies in Beirut.

His first two marriages, to Dorothy Kaehn and Barbara Virginia Krieps, ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Donna (Eby) Anderson; two sons from his first marriage, Frank Jr. and Mark; a daughter from his second marriage, Amy Anderson; a son, John, from his marriage to Ms. Eby; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

After leaving the C.I.A., Mr. Anderson was president of the Middle East Policy Council, whose mission is to educate the American public on issues in the region. He was an outspoken critic of the use of torture to extract information.

“As an operations officer and leader, I learned that good guys have bad days, and that fear, anger and ambition degrade, rather than enhance, judgment and decision making,” he wrote in The Miami Herald in 2014.

Worse,” he added, “false ‘information’ that came from men who told their interrogators what they wanted to hear in order to stop the pain inflicted on them contributed to serious policy errors.”

“Mistreating detainees, even detainees who clearly deserve mistreatment,” he continued, “is ineffective, counterproductive, illegal and morally repugnant.”

As an agent, Mr. Anderson was methodical and old-school.

“Frank Anderson was one of the last of a generation of C.I.A. station chiefs who were more influential than the American ambassadors in the nations where they served,” Tim Weiner, a former New York Times reporter and the author of “Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA” (2008), said in an email. “He saw himself as much as a diplomat as a spy. He would shake the hands of Arab leaders while picking their pockets with his free hand, but the handshake would seem warm and genuine.”

Mr. Anderson also preferred to rely on information from human sources, but usually with a measure of skepticism. Mr. Bird, in an interview, recalled that when he was researching his book, Mr. Anderson gave him this advice:

“Continue to exercise caution with stories that can only be corroborated by dead guys. Fabricated stories are almost never made up out of whole cloth, but are made by stitching together generally known facts with bits of uncheckable fantasy.”
 
M

Midwesthonky

Audioholic Chief
I think people today rely on too much technology and ignore the importance of actual live human intelligence operations. An old school spy in a more civilized age. I will raise my glass to him.
 
mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Audioholic Slumlord
Thanks. You must have had some interesting get togethers or not.
 
davidscott

davidscott

Audioholic Field Marshall
Thanks for the post. That was one hellova of an American Patriot.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
I think people today rely on too much technology and ignore the importance of actual live human intelligence operations. An old school spy in a more civilized age. I will raise my glass to him.
It's sounds odd to say that in the 1980s the Middle East was more civilized. It seemed pretty frightening at the time.
Thanks. You must have had some interesting get togethers or not.
Yes, we did. I first met Frank when he moved into my neighborhood in 1994. I knew people said he was retired CIA, but I knew nothing of what he had done, or why he retired. I knew enough not to ask. He was tall, strong, good looking, charming, diplomatic, and well spoken. I believe his rank at the CIA was equivalent to a 2 or 3 star General. Apparently, he had run a division at CIA headquarters of more than 1,000 people, with operations covering all the Middle East and South Asia. This photo was in the NY Times obituary.
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People quickly guessed that Frank was the real thing, because a few months after he moved in, King Hussein of Jordan personally visited his home. I was out doing my evening walk, but his block was closed off. There were black SUVs and lots of unusual looking armed body guards, no uniforms. There was no sign of any local police, although they might have been further away. I didn't recognize the licence plates on the SUVs. One guard came over to me and politely but firmly told me, in perfect English, that I could not pass until they had left. If I lived on the block, he offered to have one of his men escort me to my home! In a few days, the word got out. Frank later said, he knew King Hussein well, and after he retired the King went out of his way to visit his new home to thank him for his work, and to bless his new home.

Frank's son was about the same age as my son & daughter, as well as a whole group of kids who had all moved into a new neighborhood within a year or so of each other. They were a close group, and still are today.
Thanks for the post. That was one hellova of an American Patriot.
I certainly don't know many details about what Frank did, but one of the most threatening things he faced must have been when he became the new CIA Station Chief of Beirut in 1983, right after the US Embassy was destroyed by a truck bomb, killing the previous station chief.
 
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mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Audioholic Slumlord
Boy, it would have been an interesting evening talking about spy movies, current ones, to see how well they come to the real deal in the business.
An all nighter I bet.
 
JerryLove

JerryLove

Audioholic Samurai
The Mujahideen were populated heavily with foreign fighters pulled in by Abdullah Azzam (Muslim Brotherhood). Two prominant Mujahideen leaders were Osama Bin Lauden (who founded Al Qaeda) and Mullah Omar (who founded the Taliban)

When back in the volunteer camps and training centers that he helped set up around Peshawar, Pakistan, Azzam exercised a "strong influence." He preached the importance of jihad: "those who believe that Islam can flourish [and] be victorious without Jihad, fighting, and blood are deluded and have no understanding of the nature of this religion"; of not compromising: "Jihad and the rifle alone: no negotiations, no conferences and no dialogues"; and that Afghanistan was only the beginning: jihad would "remain an individual obligation" for Muslims until all other formerly-Muslim lands—"Palestine, Bukhara, Lebanon, Chad, Eritrea, Somalia, the Philippines, Burma, South Yemen, Tashkent, Andalusia"—were reconquered.

This fight to remove the Soviets who came in in support of what had been Afghanistan's government for a century prior to a Coup by the PDPA is not just how we got the instability in Afghanistan, but a good deal of what goes on throughout the Persian and Arab world.

The man you are honoring worked in service to his country. I laud that. Let's not rewrite the history of the Mijahideen though in his obituary.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
Boy, it would have been an interesting evening talking about spy movies, current ones, to see how well they come to the real deal in the business.
No, most popular Hollywood spy movies were nothing at all like what he did.

Frank’s job was to recruit or buy human intelligence sources from the other side, not shoot them. He had to understand their culture & quickly judge who was lying, trying play him, or who was reliable.

He said two movies weren’t bad, Bridge of Spies and Argo. Each were a mix of some truth & some Hollywood.
 
Swerd

Swerd

Audioholic Spartan
The man you are honoring worked in service to his country. I laud that.
That's why I posted his obituary.
Let's not rewrite the history of the Mijahideen though in his obituary.
I avoided doing that, and so should you.

The story behind the Mujahideen (if that's how it's spelled) is long and complex. The definitive version of what happened is not yet written. There are too many politicians still around who were involved in that episode for any accurate and impartial history to get written, yet. And, I don't think it belongs in a thread that is intended to praise a guy who only recently died.

When Frank first worked on the supporting the Afghani opposition to the Soviets, the US policy goal was to help the locals by arming them in order to defeat the USSR's brute force invasion. No one, including Frank, knew how that would work out in the long term. Not that the British hadn't warned us about Afghanistan. By the end of the 1980s, Frank was back in the US, in Langly, VA at CIA HQ. He retired from the CIA in 1994.

When the 9/11/2001 attacks took place he was as dismayed as anyone was. He was appalled by the W administration's decision to attack the Taliban because he knew it wouldn't work. They could hide indefinitely in Pakistan. And when W & D!ck invaded Iraq, Frank changed his political party registration from Republican to Independent. He was adamantly against their ill planned effort. He knew it could only help Iran if W & D!ck created a power vacuum in Iraq. His obituary already said what Frank thought about waterboarding and other forms of torture:

“Mistreating detainees, even detainees who clearly deserve mistreatment,” he continued, “is ineffective, counterproductive, illegal and morally repugnant.”​

For the last word on Frank Anderson, I like the last words in his obituary. He really talked just like that, and I can easily imagine him saying just those words. Picture him with a broad grin on his face, as he spoke these sober sounding words.

“Continue to exercise caution with stories that can only be corroborated by dead guys.”​
 
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