1. Based on Actual People and Events

    2. June 14, 2018

He Is My Father (v.5)
A Story About CIA’s Darkest Warriors

By Thomas O'Hare


Chapter 1 – The Dividing Line

Stunned by revelations of his father’s past work with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Rick stares blindly at cedar lined walls.  After twenty-two years of life with his father the realization is he never knew the man.  He knew the father who blasted the fife and drum corp on the stereo early Saturday mornings as a wake up call.  He knew the husband who had two left hands when he tried to fix something around the house.  But Rick never knew who his father really was.  Desperate to make sense of it all he asks himself; “Why didn’t I know more?  Why didn’t he tell me?  I may have regained some of the respect I lost for him.  The lies, the deceit – too much.  What did he do for the agency?  What was done for himself?  Where was the dividing line between his clandestine work and his role as a father?  Or was there one?”.  For over a year since his father’s supposed funeral the stories and the questions continued to proliferate.


In CIA speak Rick’s father had ‘Up and Died’ the year prior.  ‘Up and Dying’ was the term used when deep cover assets had blown their covers.  Their clandestine activities had been discovered and their life and limb were now at great risk.  When a CIA asset ‘Up and Dies’ it literally means they fake their deaths and make a quick and quiet exit.  If done correctly the asset’s trail, for all practical purposes, ends the day of their supposed death.  There is nothing to pursue because they are believed to be six feet under the ground.   In reality they are still very much alive but far removed from the situation.  Many times this means they relocate to another country with a totally new life and identification.  In Rick’s case, he would eventually piece together his father was extracted by a CIA ‘Black Ops’ team and relocated to South Africa.  The problem with ‘Up and Dying’ is they must remain unknown even after their natural death.  They cannot show themselves – ever.  The reason; to maintain validity of future ‘Up and Died’ operations and to extinguish any possible trail.  If accepted this is a typical way to extract critical CIA assets, the premise would no longer be valid.  ‘Up and Dying’ can be loosely compared to the ‘Witness Protection Program’.  Except Witness Protection is meant to protect a witness in a legal affair by a law enforcement agency.  ‘Up and Dying’ is meant to protect both the asset and the entities they interfaced with – or the agency they worked for and even a U.S. President.


After Rick’s father ‘Up and Dying’, stories of his father’s CIA activities continued to flourish.  Stories like his father currently re-establishing links from past covert operations.  Powerful forces trying to insure details from past activities remain mum.  Powers-to-be needing assurance future operations will remain guarded secrets.  


Rick took most aspects of his father’s life in stride.  He never had any reason to tie hidden meaning to his father’s activities.  During those early years Rick was too busy just being a kid.  And kids are naturally clueless as to how the world genuinely works.  His father displayed a life of normalcy with his job, volunteer activities and hobbies.  There was nothing irregular occurring that could cause concern for Rick or anyone else.


Any significant time Rick spent with his father was little and far between.  Time shared was when Rick was along mainly as a cover story.  When they neared his father’s rendezvous, Rick was handed a fishing rod or hunting rifle and told to try his luck.  Meanwhile his father would disappear for an hour or three to places unknown.  Upon his return Rick would join him for the ride home and be quizzed on his hunting or fishing skills.  No mention of his father’s activities would ever take place.


Being young and naive to the ways of the world was just a part of Rick’s existence.  The slow paced life in Orlando, Florida, in the 1960’s offered little excitement or intellectual challenge.  Orlando was a sleepy town, a world away from international events.  The Internet was only a dream and years away from incarnation.  Back then information to be shared was written on paper and kept tucked away on a shelf.


An ominous picture was presenting itself around the time of his father’s ‘Up and Dying’.  Connotations grander than any a young man could ever possibly piece together.  It was the mid-1970’s and the world was reeling from the Watergate break-in.  The result of which was the resignation of Richard Nixon as President of the United States.  The Vietnam War had finally ended after 19 years of bloody conflict.  And Seymour Hersh wrote the piece on CIA improprieties in the New York Times on December 22, 1974.  That article exposed improper CIA activities leading to the formation of three senate subcommittees to investigate.  The result was the CIA creating documents describing internal illegal activities and referred to them as ‘Family Jewels’.  How could any of this be of any consequence to his father?  And then again, how could they not?


Rick began to hear a low chorus of voices building concerning his father.  A mild chant was forming a dark operetta playing out in very dramatic refrain.  Voices which included phone calls from a private investigator named Jim based in Volusia County.  Jim, was a rotund middle-aged man with a close cropped snow white beard and hair.  He operated a small private detective business located in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Jim was one of those men who walked the thin line separating both sides of the law.  Never doing anything outright wrong but did partake in a few questionable actions.  He got the job done while sometimes bending the rules to make it happen.  To Jim that was the cost of doing business.  He lived in a world filled with every imaginable type of dubious person.  Jim fully understood right from wrong.  Which is why he traversed the areas in between so easily, insuring they stayed distinct.


Towards the end of 1975 a client hired Jim to conduct an investigation.  They wanted to know the likelihood of Rick’s father escaping rather than residing in a grave.  A somewhat lengthy probe ensued to find out and peaked Jim’s interest.  So much so he decided to contact a few deep-seated resources.  People whom he only contacted when there was mutual benefit for both parties.  A collection of active and retired entities that were on both sides of the law.  He kept such questionable resources tucked away for rainy days – it was now pouring.


After Jim’s investigation concluded he decided to contact Rick and explain his findings.  The conversation was instigated by the level of intimidation he received to terminate his investigation.  Jim’s assertions included the fact two men in plain clothes approached him in a parking lot displaying U.S. Military Intelligence ID’s.  After a short discussion they very emphatically instructed Jim to cease and desist before something bad happened.  Jim, being a retired Volusia County Sheriff’s deputy, did not scare easily.  Yet the result was Jim deciding to carry a .45 caliber 1911 automatic in a shoulder holster.  He carried it for over a month while keeping both eyes wide open.  His anxiety persisted until he finally decided to follow their advice.  Jim explained it this way to Rick “Hell, how could I counter two military intelligence agents?  They were carrying loosely concealed hand guns and wanted me to know it.  How am I supposed to counter that plus the full force of the U.S. Government?  There was nothing I could do to go up against that kind of intimidation.  I’m basically a one-man operation with resources limited mainly to Volusia County and the State of Florida.  I’m no match for that kind of firepower.  When I mentioned the Cuban Spy Trawler your father sank a few miles off Ormand Beach, things got really nasty.  Between that and other items I mentioned, they let me know in uncertain terms they were dead serious...”.


Curiously included in the final report to his client was one strange notation.  Jim explained “In the file I stated I mailed a letter to your father.  I addressed it to ‘The Wild Geese Club’ in South Africa.  My hope was to get any type of response in return.  Kind of like going quail hunting; you beat the brush loudly to flush out the quail.”  Jim then told Rick in plain terms “By the time I finished that investigation I fully believed your father is still alive.  His death was manufactured by a CIA ‘Black Ops’ team.  The actual body in that grave is a Cuban who died from a heart attack.  The autopsy photos were grainy and only showed from the chin down.  There is absolutely no way to determine who is in those pictures.”.  Rick responded “WHAT?!?!”.  A cold chill went down Rick’s spine after hearing the entire set of autopsy photos were completely bogus.  Jim continued “When valuable CIA resources are compromised the term used is they ‘Up and Die’ – which means their deaths are staged.  Your father was most likely packed up and sent to South Africa.  He linked up with an old legendary CIA asset named Mike to continue his work for the agency.  Your father is a well-respected and proven resource, CIA did not want to lose him.  Well, that and a number of other sordid details from past operations he was involved in.  All of that needs to remain hidden from prying eyes.  The implications those operations represent if details ever see the light of day would be disastrous to CIA.  What really adds credence to the story is just over one million dollars disappeared from a CIA ‘Black Ops’ account.  The money went missing about the same time your father did.  For the last year there has not been one bit of evidence of what happened to that money – it’s still unaccounted for.  Best guess is his CIA handlers gave him the account codes so he could set up new operations based out of Africa.  Hell, the name of the mainframe computer he used to access that account is even top secret!”.  Jim’s conversation was the first solid and detailed account Rick had about his father’s CIA activities.  


Not long after Jim’s lengthy conversation an article appeared in a Volusia County newspaper and would confirm Jim’s suspicions.  The article called Rick’s father a ‘Super Spy’ and questioned if his father was really still alive or deceased.  It interviewed Jim plus several prominent special operators who gave their opinions.  One, a Green Beret Captain involved in the training provided by Rick’s father.  The other, a former Marine, had aided Fidel Castro and his air force just prior to the Cuban Revolution.  Years later he would be the technical adviser for Oliver Stone’s movie ‘JFK’.  Both gave separate accounts of what went on.  But both ended with the same conclusion on the actual activities and fate of Rick’s father; “No one will ever really know”.


Rick now believed there was enough credible evidence mounting about his father’s activities to have merit.  He took comfort in the fact independent sources had the same story line.  The concept that rumors were becoming fact was actually a relief to Rick.  Being so close to the story he would at times question his own sanity over this issue.  Hearsay has that kind of effect on people.  So does trying to draw a distinction between black and white when you are delving in areas where only murky shades of gray exist.  The simple truth that it’s not his imagination, but verifiable fact, gave Rick solace.


One afternoon Rick received a voice message on his answering machine.  The caller identified herself as Pat and stated she was an NBC Television Producer.  She asked Rick to return her call to discuss his father.  The next day Rick returned her call anxious to find out what this was about.  Pat acknowledged Rick in a professional manner and proceeded to lay out a story describing his father’s CIA exploits.  Pat specifically targeted the 1973 overthrow of the Chilean regime by CIA.  She began explaining to Rick about his father’s unquestionable direct involvement in the Chilean operation.  Rick’s attention peaked when she mentioned the infamous Watergate attorney Bernard “Bud” Fensterwald.  She proceeded to expound on Bud’s attempts to throw their investigation off his father’s trail.  Pat assured Rick that Bud was a notorious ‘CIA mouthpiece’ who was known for his attempts at protecting CIA from any damage caused by ‘loose ends’.  Bud went as far as to try to inject an author into the mix.  One who supposedly was writing a book about his father’s exploits.  Bud asked Pat “Why not talk to the author and answer any questions he may have about Rick and his father?”.  Pat rhetorically replied “Bud, that makes absolutely no sense.  Why not just have the author you hired to do your dirty work talk to Rick directly?”.  According to Pat, Bud fell mostly silent and did not offer much in the form of an explanation.  During her single phone call with Rick Pat emphatically stated “I have no doubt that conversation was an attempt by Bud to find out what we know and throw our investigation in another direction.”.  What befuddled Rick was the matter of fact way Pat finished their conversation.  She stated to Rick “We decided there wasn’t enough interest in the story to satisfy our viewers...  We have decided not to pursue your father’s alleged CIA exploits any further.”.  Totally shocked Rick was flabbergasted that Pat had decided to drop that segment after all that research and expense.  The most remarkable aspect for Rick was the simple fact Pat had taken time to call him and go into such great detail about her investigation about his father.  It was incontrovertible to Rick this was her way of letting him know the powers-to-be had succeeded in shutting down her attempt to uncover the real story.  She had obviously gotten too close to the truth.  When an attorney like Bud Fensterwald gets directly involved it has to be extremely serious.  Bud was a high priced Washington D.C. lawyer who did not call anyone on a whim.  Bud had unsuccessfully defended James McCord over his involvement with Watergate break-in the Nixon administration had instigated.  He had also had Mitch WerBell as a client.  Mitch was well known as an armorer for the CIA – especially with compact silenced sub-machine-guns.


When a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent (SA) asked to interview him after his father’s supposed ‘death’, Rick new something was definitely up.  SA Don was a straight laced and totally focused FBI senior agent.  He had a gentile mannerism about him but could also become very direct.  Rick quickly recognized Don was a ‘good cop, bad cop’ rolled into one.  He normally spoke easily and sympathetically to Rick about his father.  But if the line of questioning was going nowhere Don would end the communication abruptly.  He was a man who believed in his job and doing it effectively.  He also believed in doggedly pursuing a case until satisfied the correct conclusion was obtained.


Don conducted numerous interviews with sources about Rick’s father before talking with Rick directly.  But not long after his interview with Rick the case was scrapped because the subject was ‘deceased’.  True, the official FBI investigation ended for a valid reason.  The real question was why did the investigation even start when they already knew the subject was deceased?  What really bugged Rick was the phone calls from Don that continued after the investigation was shut down.  Don would pointedly asked Rick on multiple occasions “Where is your father?”.  Don also mailed unsigned letters to Rick mentioning events surrounding his father’s ‘death’.  So enthralled with this case the agent spent hours of his off duty time following up on Rick’s father and his alleged CIA activities.  It became clear to Rick someone high up in the U.S. Government wanted the FBI investigation suddenly terminated.  Rick considered it a forced ending.  His reasoning; a well seasoned FBI Special Agent does not tenaciously pursue a subject after the case is officially closed unless there was more to it.  FBI Special Agents just don’t do that.  They are not going to put their careers at risk for trivial reasons.


Rick began to contemplate the time he spent with the father he buried a year prior.  Their relationship together was rather unusual.  How many fathers used their twelve year-old son to help train Special Forces in Jungle Warfare?  Training that included jungle patrol tactics and ambushes complete with automatic rifles and explosives?  Rick let his mind drift back to those days and try and get a feel for what his father was doing in the 1960’s.  Those years were full of considerable conflict, both nationally and internationally.


As the sun made it’s way across the sky Rick was well worn from all that was going through his head.  His thoughts continued to drift as the sun slowly crept lower.  One line of self questioning kept springing up as a reality-check “Is my father really a heavy hitter in the CIA or did he overplay a role?  He pulled off a lot in his life like the Vietnam Village and much more, but deep cover CIA?  Was he conning people to attain a military goal?  Did he really write ‘CIA’ on a napkin in a diner and pass it to others?  Did he play his armed-forces role too far?  Would he play it to this degree?”.  The total uncertainty and lack of any substance tired Rick immensely.  Rick knew he needed to rest but the unanswered questions would not let go of him.  So he closed his eyes and let the questions swirl around his head to try and make sense of it all.


In the distance the unmistakable sound of a helicopter blade could be heard.  The classic ‘thump, thump, thump’ as the rotors bit hard into the air propelling it forward.  Rick heard it but paid little attention as Florida was full of military installations.  The sounds of aircraft flying overhead around Orlando was no big deal.  Still, the sound of blades biting harder into the air meant the chopper was approaching.  Rick, always fascinated by military hardware, decided to go outside and watch the chopper fly by.


Reflections of days gone by when his father had coordinated helicopters flying in for training maneuvers found him.  Remembering craft routinely flying out with loads of Special Forces on board added drama.  The choppers hauled troops to designated landing zones and their payloads would vanish into tree lines.  The special operators would deploy and make their way back to the designated ‘Village’.  The Village was half a dozen huts constructed by his father with the help of a U.S. Marine construction unit.  It was made from Cypress wood and palmetto fawns that grew nearby and complete with an underground tunnel system.  That is where as a young twelve year old Rick would lay in ambush with an automatic rifle in hand waiting for their attack.


There was something very unusual about this chopper approach though.  The helicopter seemed to be slowly descending as it came closer.  While standing half way between his house and the road Rick became concerned.  It now was evident the chopper was unmistakably getting lower and slower and heading at him.  Curiously he quickly scanned the area around where he stood in a circular motion looking for anything out of place.  All appeared normal to Rick as the thumping sound from the rotor blades continued to grow louder.  


His pulse rose as the memory of being with his father on military maneuvers crystallized.  He took pride when he stood shoulder to shoulder with America’s finest.  The fact he was with them as they trained for tasks in the U.S. best interests thrilled Rick.  These were the times he remembers best in the little time they did share.  Rick rarely saw his father during those field maneuvers.  His father was too busy coordinating resources and watching over entire training exercises.  The fact that Rick was sharing the experience meant a lot to both of them.  Very little was ever spoken in a father and son manner and this was not so different.  His father seemed to have lacked the same closeness with his own parents from what Rick knew.  Even though a valid reason it did little to help Rick form close bonds with his father and mother.  Lack of intimacy with his parents carried over to his inability to interact well with others.  The bravado of military maneuvers helped to compensate for his deficiency of social abilities.  As the lone helicopter approached Rick continued to reflect on those memories.


When the chopper was within a quarter mile those memories vanished and the feeling of excitement set in.  Rick’s thoughts intensified to a near yell “What the hell is going on?  Are they actually going to land here?”.


It soon became obvious the helicopter was setting down on the street directly in front of him.  Half full of Adrenalin and the rest concern, he continued to watch the approach.  As the door of the chopper opened Rick labored to see inside and read the situation.  A man dressed in army fatigues suddenly filled the doorway of the chopper.  Rick strained to see through debris being hurled in every direction by helicopter rotor wash.  His focus was now totally on the silhouette perched in the doorway.  Like a lightning strike he suddenly recognized the face – his father!!!  In the middle of the chaos with hand held out, Rick’s father yelled “Come on, let’s go!”.  Rick, frozen solid in total shock, stood speechless.  The man he had buried a year earlier was in the doorway of a hurricane to take him away.  But Rick needed to do something else first.  In great excitement he yelled back “I have to get something!  I will be right back!”.  His father returned his reply with “NO!  We have to go NOW!  Leave everything and let’s go – NOW!!!”.  Rick needed to go back inside the house to get his trusted side arm.  If he was going to leave with his father he believed he required armament.  Especially after all the stories Rick heard about his father and his CIA backed exploits.  Rick wanted to be be prepared for trouble plus show off his new Italian made Beretta 92.  He loved the new side arm and knew his father would be impressed.  The U.S. standard issuance of the Beretta 92F side arm for American troops had not occurred yet.  This was Rick’s chance to impress his father with his pick of a real side arm.  Racing into the house Rick grabbed his Beretta.  As he reached for the last pouch of magazines he heard the chopper throttle to near full power.  Rick quickly bolted for the front door.  As he approached the door of the house the chopper bolted into the air.  Staring in total disbelief he watched it blow debris in all directions.  In the doorway of the helicopter his father was crouched down with his arm extended.  Rick tried in vein to catch the chopper before it could get fully airborne.  Disbelief permeated every part of him as the tail rotor swung side to side steadying itself as it climbed.  From the doorway of the helicopter he saw his father’s face slowly fade.  Rick shouted “NO, NO, NO, NOT AGAIN!!!”.  “Come back, I need to go with you!!!” Rick continued to belt out in despair.  He repeated those words like a mantra as the chopper grew smaller.  The distinct thumping sound of the blades became eerily more distant.  Rick stood in the road holding his armament staring as the spectacle grew higher in altitude.  Before long his father’s chariot became a faint spot in a blue sky.  Once again Rick stood alone in despair watching his father leave without him.  He unquestionably knew deep inside this was the last time he would ever catch a glimpse of his dad.  Rick accepted from that day forward he would never have contact with his father again.  So physically close and once again his father slipped away to places unknown.  Once more he was left fending for himself without explanation or a goodbye.  Tears flooded Rick’s cheeks and the question “Why?” reverberated through his head.  “Why was I left alone without any warning?  Why was my father leaving without any clues?  Why was I abandoned one more time by the father I know had an unspoken love for him?  Why?


Rick felt a great shock run through his entire body.  He jumped out of the recliner in uncontrolled panic.  Like abruptly being kicked hard by a mule.  Realization hit him similar to a bucket of ice water in his face.  He yelled out “A dream!?!?  It was only a dream!?!?  What the hell?”.  He begins thinking “How could anything be so real be only a dream?  Where in the world do dreams like that come from?”.  Sitting down in his chair once again Rick continues with his frustration “Why am I dreaming this stuff?  How long can this go on?”.  Continuing to ask “Why am I being tormented like this?  It has nothing to do with reality but finds me again.  I’ve got to put a stop to this.  This can’t go on.  The only way to end these dreams is to find the answers.  These dreams must go or I’ll lose any resemblance of sanity.  To find peace in my life I must find resolve.  This can’t go on.”.  He then muttered out loud in a low and disgusted tone “Why in hell am I paying the price for what my dad did?  Why the hell did he leave me in the cold and not somehow say goodbye?  What did I do to cause him to treat me like this?”.  As Rick slowly began to regain composure he realized this would be his own personal nightmare and would continue to return and haunt him.  Again and again he would live in a hellish world and stay obsessed with his father’s disappearance.  For reasons unknown, unspoken, maybe never able to find a real answer it will continue.


Rick was thrown into a world he knew very little about.  A world that few could even begin to fathom or comprehend.  A world that would take years of dogged determination to get a glimpse.  Rick made up his mind and became resolute to find answers.  He was without explanation as to why this would become part of his being, but it is.  A passion and relentless drive to know what happened to his father and why.  The undiminished necessity to document and prove just what his father’s activities were. A quest so important that it tortures him to find out what consumed his father.  The need to prove to himself that the father who abandoned him did so for a greater cause.


Welcome to the quest to discover the kind of man Rick’s father really is.  The kind of people who puts loyalty to brothers-in-arms and the good of a nation above all else.  The resilient bond and brotherhood that no other entity can break.  Bonds forged by war, loss of close friends during those wars and survival.  A diminutive group who carried out deeds and shared them with no one.  Over a lifetime they lived a seemingly normal life that cloaked their clandestine world.  Welcome to the darkest shadows the CIA has – Welcome to the world of the Dark Warrior.