[Marxism] David Wise, Journalist Who Exposed C.I.A. Activity, Dies at 88

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Oct 10 08:35:49 MDT 2018

NY Times, Oct. 10, 2018
David Wise, Journalist Who Exposed C.I.A. Activity, Dies at 88
By Katharine Q. Seelye

David Wise, one of the first journalists to expose the clandestine 
operations of the Central Intelligence Agency and a standard-setter for 
investigative reporting into government espionage, died on Monday in 
Washington. He was 88.

The death, at Georgetown University Medical Center, was confirmed by his 
wife, Joan Wise, who said the cause was pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Wise was the author, with Thomas B. Ross, of “The Invisible 
Government,” an explosive 1964 exposé of the C.I.A. and its covert 
operations. To keep its contents from the public, the C.I.A. considered 
buying up all copies of the book but backed off when the publisher, 
Random House, made clear that it would simply print more.

Mr. Wise began his journalism career in the late 1940s as a campus 
stringer for The New York Herald Tribune while studying at Columbia 
College. In his senior year he was editor of the campus newspaper, The 
Spectator, alongside another aspiring journalist, Max Frankel, who in 
1986 became executive editor of The New York Times.

Mr. Frankel said on Tuesday that Mr. Wise seemed born to write about 
espionage: He always kept information — even what he had for lunch — 
close to the vest.

Mr. Wise joined the Herald Tribune’s staff in 1951 and later moved to 
Washington, where he covered politics and the Kennedy White House. He 
was named Washington bureau chief in 1963 and served in that role until 
the paper closed in 1966.

At that point he devoted himself full time to writing books. Over the 
next half century, he wrote a trove of nonfiction works that include the 
stories of America’s most notorious spies — Aldrich Ames and Robert 
Hanssen among them. In the telling he revealed details of the 
government’s bungling and deceptions.

He also wrote three spy novels, which were praised for their insight and 

Methodical and persistent, Mr. Wise would check, double check and triple 
check his work, his wife said. He cultivated his sources over periods of 

“Even people he criticized would still come back and talk to him because 
they knew they would get a fair shake and they trusted him,” she said.

His assiduous attention to detail gave his work authenticity.

“Not only does Wise tell where, in Langley and environs, C.I.A. 
employees eat, drink and shop,” Jonathan Yardley wrote in The Washington 
Post in reviewing Mr. Wise’s novel “The Children’s Game.” “He also 
provides juicy details about such arcana as the ‘low-signature bullet,’ 
a ‘powerful transmitter’ in the shape of a ‘tiny black beetle, about 
one-eighth of an inch long.”

He added, “Of such tidbits are the warp and woof of espionage thrillers 
manufactured, and Wise supplies exactly the most satisfying amount of them.”

His nonfiction work began with “The U-2 Affair,” a 1962 collaboration 
with Mr. Ross recounting the behind-the-scenes story of the Soviet 
Union’s 1960 downing of an American spy plane piloted by Francis Gary 

“While the Air Force was still clinging to the fiction that the 
high-flying spy craft was a weather plane, the pair wangled their way 
into a U-2 plane on Edwards Air Force Base in the remote California 
desert,” their agent, Sterling Lord, wrote in a memoir, “Lord of 
Publishing.” They received an up-close look at the plane and other details.

“They were admitted onto the base after expressing great interest in 
research on cloud formations,” Mr. Lord added.

Mr. Wise and Mr. Ross followed that success with “The Invisible 
Government.” It was a startling unmasking of C.I.A. involvement in the 
Bay of Pigs and in coups in Guatemala and Iran. It also revealed the 
agency’s covert operations in Laos and Vietnam and its attempts, with 
British assistance, to overthrow President Sukarno in Indonesia, among 
many other previously undisclosed activities.

The C.I.A. obtained an advance version of the book and fought 
ferociously to censor it. After dropping the idea of buying up all the 
copies, Mr. Lord said, the agency appointed a task force that 
recommended that the C.I.A. use “such assets as the Agency may have” to 
plant bad reviews.

The efforts came to naught. The book became the No. 1 best seller on the 
Time magazine list and No. 2 on The New York Times list, behind Ernest 
Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast.” It remained on the Times best-seller 
list for 22 weeks and was published in eight foreign editions.

David Wise was born May 10, 1930, in Manhattan. His father, Raymond, was 
a lawyer in private practice who also took on cases for the American 
Civil Liberties Union. His mother, Karena (Postan) Wise, sang 
professionally, including, in her early years, as a member of the 
Metropolitan Opera chorus.

David showed an interest in journalism as early as 10 years old, when he 
would cut out newspaper articles about World War II and paste them into 
a journal.

Mr. Wise grew up on the Upper West Side and attended the High School of 
Music and Art, where he became editor of the school paper, Overtone.

Mr. Frankel, also a student there, said Mr. Wise was a mentor to him in 
both high school and college. While they were at Columbia, a job as a 
campus reporter — or stringer — for The Times came open and the two sat 
down over hamburgers to game out their futures, Mr. Frankel recalled.

Mr. Wise, who was stringing for The Herald Tribune, considered jumping 
to The Times, but concluded that young people there “were suppressed and 
oppressed and took years to get a byline,” Mr. Frankel said.

“He figured the Trib guy would move ahead faster,” he said, so Mr. Wise 
continued to string for The Herald Tribune and Mr. Frankel got the job 
stringing for The Times.

Mr. Wise went to Washington in 1958. At the book party for “The U-2 
Affair,” he met his future wife, Joan Sylvester, who became a lawyer. 
She survives him, as do their son Jonathan; a brother, William; and 
three grandchildren. Their older son, Christopher James, died in 2004.

Mr. Wise contributed to many magazines, including Vanity Fair, The New 
York Times Magazine, Esquire, The New Republic and Smithsonian. He was 
also an intelligence and national security commentator on CNN for six years.

All told, he wrote 15 books, including “The Politics of Lying: 
Government Deception, Secrecy, and Power,” published in 1973. It was an 
unvarnished analysis of government duplicity and won a George Polk Award.

Despite his illness, Mr. Wise spent the last year finishing his final 
book, “The Seven Million Dollar Spy,” a nonfiction account of the 
F.B.I.’s payment of $7 million to a Russian agent who enabled the bureau 
to identify Mr. Hanssen as a mole. It is to be released this month as an 
audiobook by Audible, his wife said.

“Just a few weeks ago, David was carefully writing out a pronunciation 
guide with all the Russian names for the reader,” Ms. Wise said. “He was 
always very careful, down to that level of detail. His was a good brand. 
Very reliable.”

More information about the Marxism mailing list