The following is an excerpt from the cover story is this month’s Zman…
Now, as America marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic attacks that have changed the nation forever, Zman has contacted a former CIA officer who played a critical role in the war against terror. This officer has spent a large chunk of his career inside a secret CIA prison, where he was even the lead investigator overseeing the imprisonment of nearly 20 captured Al Qaeda members high on the list of the CIA’s most-wanted.
His name is Glenn Carle. He is the type of character one would read about in books, mostly novels, but would never dream of meeting in real life. Until the day of the September 11 attacks, Carle’s expertise lay in intelligence gathering. For most of his career, he was a clandestine operations officer, or, in layman’s terms, a spy. He was a secret agent who would travel around the world on missions for the US, recruiting other spies, organizing operations, etc. More than once, his missions required him to risk his own life.
In a recently published book authored by Glenn, entitled “The Interrogator,” he succinctly describes the gist of his duties as an officer in the CIA:
I was a spy. I broke laws. I stole. I lied every day, about almost everything: to my family, to my friends, to my colleagues, to everyone around me. I almost never was who I said I was, or did what I claimed to be doing.
Sometimes I was not American. I exploited people’s deepest hopes, won their deepest trust, so that they provided me what my government wanted. I was an angel who made men’s dreams come true, but my name was Faust.
I healed a father’s desperately ill child, helped a frustrated employee do in his boss, or the organization that slighted him. Sometimes I was a revolutionary, nodding my head as some worked to overthrow oppressive governments; sometimes I sympathized with racists; sometimes I suppressed insurgents.
I bounced around mines in a jeep, carried a weapon, wore a keffiyah over my face to conceal my identity and offer a less obvious Western target to snipers, and almost got shot. Some were ruined from what I did. Some were saved; others died. Few of the living, and none of the dead, knew I had anything to do with their fates.
I was faceless, all-powerful, and omnipotent: I was unknown but could destroy people’s lives or cause an international scandal, and yet often I could not even control minor details of my daily life.
I paid people off. I deluded men and convinced them they were acting against the United States, or one of their personal enemies, when in fact they were serving me and my country, so that we could undermine the causes in which they believed.
I made it possible for American children to sleep safe at night, and for American adults to ignore that I existed or to disdain or hate me, and to forget or never learn that the world was full of men and forces that would harm or destroy them, and our way of life.
It is particularly thrilling to meet with a man who has conducted spy missions so intriguing that he cannot talk about them. Though he is already retired, Carle is still legally bound by CIA regulations to remain mum about sensitive information he is privy too, including information that has already been leaked to the public, both through the CIA itself, or through its enemies.
During our conversation with him, it was obvious that Mr. Carle was speaking very guardedly, taking great care not to inadvertently let slip any information that would reveal any the CIA’s espionage activities or its interrogation techniques of terror suspects. Nevertheless, we sat glued to our seats in suspense as Glenn regaled us with fascinating details aboutAmerica’s war on terror. The CIA veteran allowed us a glimpse deep inside the secret corridors of CIA facilities all over the world, taking us as far as he safely could without compromisingAmerica’s security, or violating any CIA regulations even if he disagrees with them.
Rescuing a Jewish Girl
Glenn Carle was born and raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, a suburb in Boston where approximately 70% of the residents were Jewish. He has very fond memories of his childhood and recounts his admiration and respect for the local Jewish population. Because of their majority status in Brookline, Carle came into frequent contact with Jews.
Carle’s father, Owen, had many close Jewish friends and in fact spoke a passable Yiddish, which he picked up from his friends. Carle picked up some words here and there, and they have become a part of his vocabulary, like oy, zaftig, and shpilkes.
Owen Carle was a successful accountant who eventually established his own business, which really prospered. Carle credits his father’s Jewish friends with much of his success:
My father went into business for himself because his Jewish friends told him, “Listen, Owen. Why are you working for someone else? Why are you investing your labor to make another man rich? You must use a Yiddishe kopf. Work for yourself. Start your own business.
Glenn Carle was a bright boy who excelled at his studies. He was always among the top students. He smiles. “I was always the only goy in my classes, because I was in honor classes….”
When Carle was ready for college, he attended the prestigious Harvard University, where he graduated with honors. That was when he encountered an unusual opportunity to save a Jewish girl from communists. This is a saga he still recounts with pride.
From 1979 to 1981, Carle studied in France as a graduate student. The USSR was then under communist rule. Carle was studying international relations and government and decided to try to sneak behind the “Iron Curtain” to discover what life was really like there.
He attempted to travel to Albania, but wasn’t even allowed entry into the embassy. He then tried getting into Russia itself, but wasn’t granted a visa. Eventually, he managed to procure a visa toCzechoslovakia. He toured a number of sites around the country, including the Jewish ghetto in Prague, where some 75,000 Jews resided before the war (almost all of whom were murdered in the Holocaust) — though at the time of Glenn’s visit the city’s entire Jewish population consisted of no more than 200 families. Glenn visited the Jewish museum in the city where he says the Jewish symbols on display were pleasantly familiar, transporting him back to his childhood in Jewish Brookline.
The Jewish director of the museum was clearly excited at the unusual visit by the young American. After making sure that no one else was around, she pulled Glenn aside and began crying uncontrollably. She introduced herself as Blanca Svatkova, and proceeded to relate a horrific saga of pain and suffering, which she and her family endured under the communists.
“My father is a scientist. The regime has destroyed our lives because of our Jewish origins and has barred my father from his profession because he is Jewish. I’m 18 years old. I recently graduated high school and my parents and I have decided that we will not allow the communists to ruin my future as well. I must see myself out of this wretched country at any price. I cannot stay in this hostile atmosphere any longer. There is no future for me here.”
Carle was taken aback. At first, he wondered if this was some kind of provocation engineered by the communist government, which was notorious for its use of underhanded tactics in order to shame America and the West. But the Jewish girl’s sincerity and genuine pain gradually convinced him that she was speaking the truth.
Carle could not stand idly by in the face of this girl’s suffering. After much thought, he settled on a plan. He would return to Paris, and, posing as the girl’s uncle, send her an invitation to come visit him in France.
The young student traveled back toFrancefrom where he wrote a formal letter to Blanca Svatkova and to the Czech authorities, and included a round-trip ticket. In the letter, Carle introduced himself as her uncle and said that he would love to spend some time together with his niece. He was requesting that she be allowed to visit him inParisand was personally guaranteeing her safe return to her family after one week.
Before mailing the letter, Carle went down to the French police and told officials about his plan. “I want to help this Jewish girl get a visa in order to enable her escape the persecution she is suffering there because of her Judaism.”
“I was certain they would throw me out of the police station,” Glenn relates, “but instead, they remarked, ‘That’s a great idea. Give us the letter.’ They took the document and stamped it with official looking signatures and symbols of the French government. They returned the letter to me and told me, ‘Here you go. We, the French police, have confirmed your identity. You are an elderly man who is married and lives with his wife inParis. You are inviting your niece for a week’s vacation at your home, and we will ensure that the girl returns once her vacation is over.’”
Carle mailed the letter, but, to his disappointment, his clever scheme failed, and the Soviet authorities refused to grant the Jewish girl an exit-visa.
He was deeply frustrated by the failure of his plan, but three years later, already having returned to the US, he got good news. Blanca called him from New York and told him that she had just landed in the US with the assistance of a Jewish religious organization in New York.
Apparently, the Soviet authorities had finally granted her permission to visit her uncle….