In January 1970, Christopher Pyle, a former captain in Army intelligence, wrote an article in the Washington Monthly magazine criticizing the Army for going beyond proper bounds in collecting information on civil disturbances. Pyle’s article prompted inquiries to Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor from various members of Congress, including Senator Sam Ervin, the North Carolina Democrat who chaired the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights. The responsibility fell to the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Gen. Joseph McChristian, to gather the necessary information internally for the Secretary to respond to the detailed questions being raised. McChristian in turn asked the head of his OACSI’s Directorate of Counterintelligence, Col. John Downie to take on the task. Since CIAD was under him, I started to work more closely with Downie than I had up to that point.
My immediate work area of the AOC was rearranged. My desk was in the same place, but it had turned 90 degrees. This struck me as a symbolic reflection of the Army’s own change of course in the intelligence gathering at this time. I was also given an elaborate new title that I never knew I had at the time: Staff Researcher and Allegations Analyst, Allegations Branch, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, and Department of the Army Special Task Force.
What Under Secretary of the Army McGiffert had tried and failed to do in 1969, now got done. Secretary Resor told Gen. Westmoreland on March 6, 1970 to make sure no computerized data banks on civilians should be instituted anywhere in the Army without the approval of both the Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff. The new Under Secretary of the Army Thaddeus R. Beal wrote Sen. Ervin on March 20 that the spot reports on violence created by the Army would be kept for only 60 days. Later directives flatly banned the use of computers to store proscribed information on civilians.
Pyle wrote a second article with additional allegations in a July 1970 Washington Monthly article on military surveillance, and I went back to work with my fact gathering. Then at the end of the 1970, a whole new batch of allegations of Army spying on civilians appeared and received wide media attention. John M. O’Brien, a former Staff Sergeant with the 113th Military Intelligence Group in Chicago, told Sen Ervin that prominent elected officials had been spied on by the Army, including Sen. Adlai Stevenson, III, Rep. Abner Mikva, and former Illinois Governor Otto Kerner.
In the wake of all these allegations, the first Senate hearings on military surveillance took place on March 2, 1971. Fred Buzhardt, General Counsel of the Department of Defense, must have thought the hearings went well for the Army, as he sent a letter to the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Westmoreland, complimenting him on the materials used to prepare for the hearings. Westmoreland in turn complimented Gen. Joseph McChristian, his Chief of Staff for Intelligence. McChristian, who had also been Westmoreland’s intelligence chief when Westmoreland was commander of the forces in Vietnam earlier, in turn thanked the head of his Counterintelligence Directorate, Col. Downie. And Col. Downie kept the ball rolling by sending me an attaboy to round things out.
When I had first began working with him at the Pentagon, I had been introduced to the heart and institutional memory of the Counterintelligence Directorate of OACSI. I don’t remember her last name, but Millie had served as the CD’s indispensable secretary for several decades.
When I learned about her tenure, I asked her if she’d ever run across a now retired counterintelligence officer in Chicago I knew, Col. Minor K. Wilson. Did she know him! She nearly fell off her chair that I knew him as too. When she was a young secretary new in the Directorate, Col. Wilson was ending his Army career in the same job Col. Downie now held. Small world indeed.
I had come to know Col. Downie well in my time at the Pentagon and I admired him as a decent, straight forward officer who had devoted his life in the honorable service of his country.