Nov 04, 2014 444 Days in Tehran: The Story of CIA Officers Held Captive During the Iranian Hostage Crisis
It was a warm, sunny November morning when six CIA officers stationed at the US Embassy in Iran first heard the rumblings of a crowd amassing outside. A small group of mostly nonviolent protesters had been gathering near the Embassy for several weeks to demonstrate against US support for the exiled Iranian leader Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. This protest seemed no different. Then, slowly, the noise from the crowd changed, intensified, and grew closer. By mid-morning, a group of radical Islamist students breached the perimeter of the US Embassy on Takht-e-Jamshid Avenue in Tehran and took sixty-six Americans hostage. Fifty-two of the hostages, including the CIA officers, remained in captivity for 444 days. That was 35 years ago.
The Iranian hostage crisis began on November 4, 1979 and was one of the greatest US foreign policy crises of the last century. While much has been written about the crisis, this week we recount the story of two CIA officers who were held hostage during this critical point in American history.
Read Part 1: Storming of the Embassy: November 4, 1979
Read Part 2: Life in Captivity
Read Part 3: The Release: January 20, 1981
Oct 02, 2014 2014 CIA Trailblazer Awards Presented
Last month, Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan presented this year’s Trailblazer Awards to Donald R. Cryer and another valued employee, whose work remains classified. The Trailblazer Awards were established in 1997 to recognize CIA officers who, by their actions, example, innovations or initiative, have taken the CIA in important new directions and helped shape the Agency’s history. This year’s honorees continue this tradition.
Since 2008, the CIA has recognized officers with an award for outstanding work in promoting diversity and inclusion to enhance the mission. In 2010, that award was officially renamed for Cryer, a 42-year veteran of the Agency and tireless advocate who laid the groundwork for CIA’s diversity and inclusion programs. His concentration on building an inclusive, high-performing workforce through strategic planning, succession planning and success measurement—as well as his emphasis on removing obstacles and barriers that impede employee success—remains in effect today. Cryer attributes the accomplishments recognized by the Trailblazer Award to the host of people who mentored, supported and inspired him throughout his career.
To read about previous Trailblazer Award recipients, follow these links:
Sep 15, 2014 CIA Reaches Deep to Feed Local Families
The "Feds Feed Families" food drive, which began in early June, concluded last month with Central Intelligence Agency officers having donated 11,798 pounds of food to local families at risk of hunger. This year's poundage nearly doubled the 2013 campaign, which accumulated about 6,300 pounds. All of the food donated by CIA was delivered to the Capital Area Food Bank, which distributed it to local families.
During the past five years, federal employees have donated more than 24 million pounds of food. Goods collected through the program are distributed to several hundred food banks, soup kitchens, and other service organizations across the metropolitan area. Food is processed quickly on a first-in, first-out basis and can take as little as two weeks to get to needy families.
Sep 05, 2014 CIA Unveils Portrait of Former Director Leon E. Panetta
Today, CIA honored the legacy of former Director Leon E. Panetta with the unveiling of his portrait, which joins those of his predecessors in the Agency’s Directors’ Gallery. Mr. Panetta served as CIA Director from February 2009 to June 2011, leading the Agency and managing human intelligence and open source collection programs on behalf of the Intelligence Community. At the portrait unveiling ceremony, CIA Director John Brennan spoke of Mr. Panetta’s many achievements during his tenure at CIA, including the operation that killed the world’s most wanted terrorist. In addition, Director Brennan praised the work of the artist, Steven Polson, who also painted the agency’s official portraits of former directors George Tenet and General Michael Hayden.
Aug 29, 2014 #HISTINT: Aug. 29, 1959: Design Selected for Supersonic Successor to the U-2
On August 29, 1959 --55 years ago today-- an interagency panel selected Lockheed’s 12th design for a supersonic successor to the U-2. The research and development program, codenamed OXCART began, and in1962, after arduous work by Lockheed and CIA program managers and technical officers, the first A-12 took flight. It took another three years for engineering challenges to be surmounted and the fleet to be declared operationally ready.
To learn more about the A-12 check out these additional resources:
Almost immediately after the recovery effort, planning began for a second mission to recover the lost section. A bizarre and totally unforeseen occurrence, however, had already started a chain of events that would ultimately expose the Glomar Explorer’s true purpose and make another mission impossible. In June 1974, just before the Glomar set sail, thieves had broken into the offices of the Summa Corporation and stolen secret documents, one tying Howard Hughes to CIA and the Glomar Explorer. Desperate to recover this document, CIA called in the FBI, which in turn enlisted the Los Angeles Police Department. The search drew attention, and by the autumn of 1974 the media began to pick up rumors of a sensational story.
Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby personally appealed to those who had learned about AZORIAN not to disclose the project. For a while they cooperated, but on February 18, 1975 the Los Angeles Times published an account that made connections between the robbery, Hughes, CIA, and the recovery operation. Journalists flooded into the Long Beach area where the Glomar was preparing for its second mission. The Ford Administration neither confirmed nor denied any of the stories in circulation, but by late June, the Soviets were aware of the Glomar's covert mission and had assigned a ship to monitor and guard the recovery site. With Glomar’s cover blown, the White House canceled further recovery operations.
The Glomar's brief covert career was now over, and it was mothballed for over a quarter century. Then in the late 1990s, a US petroleum company restored the ship and used it for deep-sea oil drilling and exploration.
Although Project AZORIAN did not meet its full intelligence objectives, CIA considered the operation to be one of the greatest intelligence coups of the Cold War. Project AZORIAN remains an engineering marvel, advancing the state of the art in deep-ocean mining and heavy-lift technology
Sailing from Long Beach, California, the Glomar Explorer arrived over the recovery site on July 4, 1974 and conducted salvage operations for more than a month under total secrecy—despite much of the time being monitored by nearby Soviet ships curious about its mission. During the operation, many small things went wrong but were quickly corrected. However, during the lift when the submarine was a third of the way up, it broke apart, and a section plunged back to the ocean bottom. Crestfallen, the Glomar crew successfully hauled up the portion that remained in the capture vehicle.
Among the contents of the recovered section were the bodies of six Soviet submariners. They were given a formal military burial at sea. In a gesture of good will, Director of Central Intelligence Robert Gates presented a film of the burial ceremony to Russian President Boris Yeltsin in 1992.
Constructed over the next four years, the ship included a derrick similar to an oil-drilling rig, a pipe-transfer crane, two tall docking legs, a huge claw-like capture vehicle (known as Clementine), a center docking well (called the “moon pool”) large enough to contain the hoisted sub, and doors to open and close the well’s floor. To preserve the mission’s secrecy, the capture vehicle was built under roof and loaded from underneath the ship from a submerged barge. With these special capabilities, the ship could conduct the entire recovery under water, away from the view of other ships, aircraft, or spy satellites.
The heavy-lift operation was complex and fraught with risk. While moving with the ocean currents, the ship had to lower the capture vehicle by adding 60-foot sections of supporting steel pipe, one at a time. When it reached the submarine, the capture vehicle then had to be positioned to straddle the sunken submarine, and its powerful jaws had to grab the hull. Then the ship had to raise the capture vehicle with the submarine in its clutches by reversing the lift process and removing supporting pipe sections one at a time until the submarine was securely stowed in the ship’s docking well.
August marks the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest intel coups of the Cold War: Project AZORIAN, also known as #Glomar.
The story began in 1968 when K-129, a Soviet Golf II-class submarine carrying three SS-N-4 nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, sailed from the naval base at Petropavlovsk on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to take up its peacetime patrol station in the Pacific Ocean northeast of Hawaii. Soon after leaving port, the submarine and its entire crew were lost. After the Soviets abandoned their extensive search efforts, the U.S. located the submarine about 1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii on the ocean floor 16,500 feet below. Recognizing the immense value of the intelligence on Soviet strategic capabilities that would be gained if the submarine were recovered, the CIA agreed to lead the recovery effort with support from the Department of Defense. CIA engineers faced a daunting task: lift the huge 1,750-ton, 132-foot-long wrecked submarine intact from an unknown ocean abyss more than three miles below—under total secrecy.
In 1970, after careful study, a team of CIA engineers and contractors determined that the only technically feasible approach was to use a large mechanical claw to grasp the hull and heavy-duty winches mounted on a surface ship to lift it.
This week, CIA’s Diversity and Inclusion efforts were highlighted in two featured articles on Advocate.com. Check out the articles below:
The CIA has made positive strides toward a more diverse and inclusive workforce. Learn more about the Agency’s commitment to diversity and inclusion by downloading the latest publication released by the Office of Public Affairs, Diversity & Inclusion at the CIA.