John Stockwell

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Person.png John Stockwell   Amazon C-SPAN NNDB Powerbase Spartacus Unwelcome Guests WikiquoteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
(Spook, Whistleblower, CIA whistleblower, Author)
John Stockwell.jpg
Angleton, Texas, USA
Interests • Covert operations
• Death squads
• Angola's bloody civil war
An early and prominent critic of the CIA with a fairly high ranking position.

Employment.png Agent

In office
1964 - 1976

John Stockwell is a former CIA officer who became a critic of United States government policies after serving in the Agency for thirteen years serving seven tours of duty. He is also a former U.S. Marine Corps major. He was hired by the CIA in 1964, spent six years working for the CIA in Africa, and was later transferred to Vietnam. In 1973 he received the CIA's Medal of Merit, the Agency's second-highest award. In 1975, Stockwell was promoted to the CIA's Chief of Station and National Security Council coordinator. As Chief of the Angola Task Force he managed covert activities during the first years of Angola's bloody civil war. After two years he resigned, determined to reveal the truth about the agency's role in the Third World. Since that time, he has worked to expose what he sees as the criminal activities of the CIA.[1]

Stockwell speaking in March 1989


Born to a Presbyterian engineer in the Belgian Congo, Stockwell attended school in Lubondai before studying in the Plan II Honors program at the University of Texas. As a Marine, Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary/intel case officer in 3 wars: the Congo, Vietnam and Angola, rising to the rank of Major.

CIA career

Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa as Chief of Station in Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968 before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.


In December 1976 he resigned from the Agency, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in third world countries. He testified before Congress and appeared on the popular American television program 60 Minutes, revealing that CIA Director William Colby and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger had systematically lied to Congress about the CIA's operations. Two years later, he wrote the exposé In Search of Enemies about that experience and its broader implications. He claimed that the CIA was counterproductive to national security, and that its "secret wars" provided no benefit for the United States. The CIA, he stated, had singled out the MPLA to be an enemy in Angola despite the fact that the MPLA wanted relations with the United States and had not committed a single act of aggression against the USA.[2]


He is the author of In Search of Enemies, an exposé of the CIA's covert action in Angola.[3] In Search of Enemies remains the only detailed insider's account of a major CIA "covert action".

According to Bob Baer, writing in the Pacific Free Press:

What Stockwell had seen as an operative in Africa and across the Third World was a CIA that was purely interventionist – not gathering intelligence, but brutally machinating, vicious, a secret weapon of US presidents and White House policymakers to battle the Soviets for world control. CIA paramilitary operations through proxy forces – the funding of mercenaries, terrorists, saboteurs – were, reported Stockwell, “all illegal,” their goal to “disrupt the normal functioning, often the democratic functioning, of other societies”.

In In Search of Enemies Stockwell outlines his reasons for disillusion with the CIA:

The disclosures about the plot to poison Patrice Lumumba struck me personally in two ways. First, men I had worked with had been involved. Beyond that, Lumumba had been baptised into the Methodist Church in 1937, the same year I was baptised a Presbyterian. He had attended a Methodist mission school at Wembo Nyama in the Kasai Province of the Belgian Congo (Zaire), while I attended the Presbyterian school in Lubondai in the same province. The two church communities overlapped. My parents sometimes drove to Wembo Nyama to buy rice for our schools. American Methodist children were my classmates in Lubondai. Lumumba was not, in 1961, the Methodists' favourite son, but he was a member of the missionary community in which my parents had spent most of their adult lives, and in which I grew up.
There were other disclosures which appalled me: kinky, slightly depraved, drug/sex experiments involving unwitting Americans, who were secretly filmed by the CIA for later viewing by pseudoscientists of the CIA's Technical Services Division. For years I had defended the CIA to my parents and to our friends. "Take it from me, a CIA insider," I had always sworn, "the CIA simply does not assassinate or use drugs..."
But worse was to come. A few short months after the CIA's shameful performance in Vietnam, of which I was part, I was assigned to a managerial position in the CIA's covert Angola program. Under the leadership of the CIA director we lied to Congress and to the 40 Committee, which supervised the CIA's Angola program. We entered into joint activities with South Africa. And we actively propagandised the American public, with cruel results - Americans, misguided by our agents' propaganda, went to fight in Angola in suicidal circumstances. One died, leaving a widow and four children behind. Our secrecy was designed to keep the American public and press from knowing what we were doing - we fully expected an outcry should they find us out.[4]

Writing career

Stockwell was one of the first CIA agents to go public by writing a bestselling book. Because he did not submit the book to CIA pre-publication censorship, the CIA sued him. As a result, to this day Stockwell receives no royalties from his exposé[5] and anything further that he writes about CIA operations must be submitted for "review." A book of his lectures, The Praetorian Guard: The US Role In The New World Order, was published with Stockwell's permission.

In 1980, Stockwell said that "if the Soviet Union were to disappear off the face of the map, the United States would quickly seek out new enemies to justify its own military-industrial complex."[6] His words proved to be prophetic, as the fizzling out of the Cold war was quickly followed by a rebooting of the "War on Terror".

During the 1980s Stockwell visited college campuses to speak out against CIA support for Central American death squads.


Stockwell is a founding member of Peaceways and ARDIS (the Association for Responsible Dissent), an organisation of former CIA and Government officials who are openly critical of the CIA's activities.

External links

Further reading

  • Stockwell John December 1990 The Praetorian Guard : The US Role In The New World Order, South End Press 0-89608-395-0
  • Stockwell John June 1984 (Reprint)In Search of Enemies: A CIA Story W W Norton & Co Inc ISBN 0-393-00926-2


Quotes by John Stockwell

Death squad“They don't meet the death squads on the streets where they're actually chopping up people or laying them down on the street and running trucks over their heads. The CIA people in San Salvador meet the police chiefs, and the people who run the death squads, and they do liaise with them, they meet them beside the swimming pool of the villas. And it's a sophisticated, civilized kind of relationship. And they talk about their children, who are going to school at UCLA or Harvard and other schools, and they don't talk about the horrors of what's being done. They pretend like it isn't true.”1987Third World Traveler -
Death squad“[...] in country, after country, after country, of our allies, or our client states in the third world, you've find that the CIA helped put in power the dictator, or reinforced someone who had just gotten into power, train their police, train them in oppression, suppression of the people [which includes heavy torture techniques as was discussed shortly before in the conversation] and it worked for a decade, a decade and a half, sometimes for twenty years [...] (25:20)”1980
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  1. The Secret Wars of the CIA: Excerpts from a talk by John Stockwell, Serendipity, undated, accessed 27 Oct 2009.
  2. John Stockwell on the Secret Wars of the CIA: A two-part speech, The Other Americas Radio, undated, version placed in web archive 14 Jan 2008, accessed in web archive 27 Oct 2009
  3. Christopher Ketcham, Unlearning the CIA: The Education of Bob Baer, Pacific Free Press, 24 Oct 2009, accessed 27 Oct 2009
  4. John Stockwell In Search of Enemies Author's Note, W.W. Norton, 1978, p. 9
  5. Mary McGrory, "Fear of Seeming Wimpy", The Washington Post, 28 Nov 1985, final edition
  6. This quote is widely disseminated on the web (such as in the Wikipedia article) but no sources are given.