My Q&A with Joseph C. Goulden, the veteran journalist and author of The Dictionary of Espionage and The Death Merchant, appears in the current issue of Counterterrorism magazine.
You can read the interview via the below magazine pages or the below text:
Before he became a writer, Goulden worked as an underground minor and in military counterintelligence. A native Texan, Goulden worked as a reporter for the Dallas Morning News and later the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was the newspaper’s chief of the Washington bureau.
As a newsman, Goulden said he played softball with Fidel Castro and dodged bullets from Castroist guerillas in Guatemala. He has written 18 books, including two highly regarded books on intelligence – “Truth Is The First Casualty” on the Gulf of Tonkin incident; and “The Death Merchant” on rogue intelligence officer Edwin P.Wilson.
Goulden’s updated “The Dictionary of Espionage: Spyspeak Into English” was recently published by Dover Publications. Peter Earnest, a retired CIA officer and now the executive director of the International Spy Museum, wrote the forward to the updated “Dictionary of Espionage.”
Joseph C. Goulden was interviewed by Paul Davis, an online columnist (Threatcon) and a contributing editor to the Journal.
IACSP: Your updated “The Dictionary of Espionage” was recently published. Why did you write the book originally and why update it?
Goulden:Well, I’ve always read spy nonfiction and I’m a chronic note taker. I started a file of these terms way back, 30, 40 years ago. And suddenly I said to myself there might be a little book here. At the time there was no good dictionary of these terms. The terms were thrown around and made familiar by the Church Committee, and anybody who goes to a James Bond movie knows about them. So I thought I’d check out where these words came from and how they are used and give some anecdotes. It did quite well.
IACSP: Who is your target audience?
Goulden:First of all, people in the intelligence community who want some of these things available in a nonclassified form. The CIA, the FBI and other government agencies put out their internal glossaries, but usually those are classified at least Confidential. Secondly, the book is for anybody who is just interested in espionage. That’s a lot of people.
IACSP: That includes me.
Goulden: The way this new edition came about was the acquisition editor for Dover Books, which specializes in out of print books, was in Washington last summer and he went by the International Spy Museum and talked to Peter Earnest, who is the executive director, and by coincidence, a good friend of mine. He asked him what book he would like to see back in print. And the way Peter tells me, he turned around and pulled the “The Dictionary of Espionage” off the shelf and said they could sell this book by the hundreds. So this gave me a chance to do an update on it, correct some errors, flesh it out a bit and put in some spy trivia. This is a book where you can sit down and pick any page and find something, I hope, of interest.
IACSP: Peter Earnest notes in his forward to the book that you’ve known more spies and more about clandestine operations than many of the real spies he writes about. As a journalist you’ve written a good bit about espionage and the intelligence world, am I right?
Goulden: My main exposure came about in the 1960s. I had an Alicia Patterson fellowship in Guatemala and Mexico. There was a strong insurgency going on in Guatemala supported by the Cubans. I wrote quite a bit about that and I got to know quite a few of the CIA and special ops people on the ground. By the time I got to Washington for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I wrote excessively about the Pueblo, the U.S. Navy spy ship taken in by the North Koreans. And for the last 20 years, I’ve reviewed books on intelligence and espionage for the Washington Times.
IACSP: Can you tell us a bit more about your background?
Goulden: I had three ambitions as a kid. I wanted to be a reporter for a big city paper, I wanted to have the Washington bureau for a big paper and I wanted to work aboard. And by the time I was 34 years old, I’d done it all. I had written a couple of books on the side when I was with the Philadelphia Inquirer and I had a little money saved and I had some comp time coming from the Inquirer, so I thought I could make it. If I didn’t I could always go back into newspapering. My book “The Superlawyers” was published in 1972 and the second week out it was on the New York Times best-seller list and it stayed there for 23 weeks, getting up to number three. That gave me the cushion and the courage I needed to keep on doing it full time.
IACSP: As a Navy veteran who served on an aircraft carrier in the Tonkin Gulf on “Yankee Station” during the Vietnam War, I thought your book on the Tonkin Gulf incident that started the war was interesting. Can you tell us a bit about that book?
Goulden: The basic story is President Johnson wanted a pretext to go to war in Vietnam and he seized upon the pretext even when the Navy said hold off, let us figure out exactly what happened out there. We’re still trying to do an after action report. The skipper of the USS Maddux told me that he was still sending flash messages off to Washington, trying to get them to slow down, when he looked up and saw jets going overhead to Haiphong.
IACSP: Is there any one espionage story in particular that you’ve covered over the years that most interest you, even today?
Goulden: The Alger Hiss case, which I’ve made a long study of. My interest goes back to when Nixon ran for governor of California. He was beaten and ABC News put out a so-called documentary called “The Political Death of Richard Nixon.” Included in the people interviewed was Alger Hiss. Now by happenstance my publisher at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Walter Annenberg, was a director of ABC and owned the ABC outlet in Philadelphia. He raised hell at corporate management and refused to let the outlet air the documentary. There was a great hubbub about censorship and Walter called me up to his office and said OK, it is obvious by some of the mail we’ve been getting that these people don’t have any idea who Alger Hiss was and why this was an important case. I want you to go back and write me a long piece and if it runs two pages of type, that’s OK with me. The Philadelphia Inquirer library had copies of transcripts of both of his trials, which was one hell of a lot of paper. I holed up in an office and I read that stuff nonstop for two weeks and took notes. I wrote an exhaustive study of the Hiss case, which ended with his being found guilty by a federal court jury and sent to prison. We made a big splash out of that piece and I got a very nice note from none other than Richard Nixon. The Nation magazine wrote that Hiss was framed and I wrote several long rebuttal pieces. The Nation later got some Russian general to look at the KGB files during the period the Russians were opening up some of their files. The general reports back that the KGB had nothing about Alger Hiss in their files, therefore he is innocent.
IACSP: That’s because Hiss was a spy for the GRU, Soviet military intelligence.
Goulden: That’s the whole thing! By happenstance, this general was working on POW issues and he was in Washington testifying. I was there with another old red-baiter, a guy named Herb Romerstein, and we looked across from one another and as soon as the testimony ended he was coming out and we hit him - one on one side, one on the other. Here are two former PFCs in the U.S. Army cross-examining a three-star general in the Red Army, with a four-star U.S. general acting as an interpreter. We told him Hiss didn’t work for the KGB he worked for the GRU and the Comintern. Did you check their records? No, he didn’t, as he was asked to check the KGB. He went back to Moscow and said the GRU was not releasing information on Hiss. And he retracted what he said about Hiss. Now the New York Times had run the thing on the front page when they said Hiss was innocent. The retraction? What do you think? Way inside.
IACSP: I believe there are intercepts that absolutely prove that Hiss was a Soviet spy, am I right?
Goulden: Yes, the Venona intercepts. But the GRU has still not released anything on him.
IACSP: But it is beyond doubt that Hiss was in fact a Soviet spy.
Goulden: Case closed.
IACSP: I’d like to ask about your book “The Death Merchant.” I believe it was the first book of yours I read. In light of the death of Kaddafi in Libya, please tell us about how you came to write the book about Edwin Wilson, the illegal arms dealer?
Goulden: Edwin Wilson was working as a contract officer for a naval intelligence task force that did reporting on foreign ship movements and such. Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, then the director of naval intelligence, told me that he was down at some senator’s office and there was a weird guy there, a big, strapping fella, and he came over to Bobby and said, you know I work for you. Bobby said, yeah, tell me more. They went to lunch and this guy said, look I know the Navy needs some influence with senators and I can certainly handle that for you. Bobby didn’t say much, just said thanks, I’ll think about it. He went back to the office and checked him out and sure enough he had these Navy contracts. So Bobby burned him on the spot. He kicked him out. Wilson then gets contracts with Kaddafi and he wants Special Forces, DoD men and others to come to Libya to work for him. First thing, the Libyans took their passports. There are three ways to get out of the country; you leave legitimately on a passport, you swim out, or you walk across the desert. Hell, they were trapped. The Libyans start doing all sorts of nefarious things and they could not do a damn thing about it. The irony is, Wilson was making millions of dollars on legitimate military contracts, uniforms and boots and things like that, but he couldn’t resist the dirty part. Things started rolling up on him and people who worked for him went before Grand Juries, and they talked to the FBI, the CIA and all that. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in D.C. had a whole platoon of those guys. The U.S. Attorney allowed me to talk to these guys after they were debriefed. They had a lot they wanted to get off their chest and it was fascinating to listen to them. One person I tried to get to was Wilson, but he ignored me. So he finally gets out of jail and calls me and raises hell for my not getting his side of the story. I said I asked you for an interview and you had a chance to testify, but didn’t. What am I supposed to do, make up your side of it? He called me a dirty name and hung up.
IACSP: Well, he may not have liked the book, but we did.
Thanks for talking to us.
Paul Davis is a contributing editor to the Journal. He can be reached at PaulDavisOnCrime@aol.com