William J. Casey
File:William Casey.jpg
13th Director of Central Intelligence
In office
January 28, 1981 – January 29, 1987
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Adm. Stansfield Turner
Succeeded by William H. Webster
Personal details
Born (1913-03-13)March 13, 1913
Elmhurst, Queens, New York
Died May 6, 1987(1987-05-06) (aged 74)
Roslyn Harbor, New York
Religion Roman Catholic

William Joseph Casey (March 13, 1913 – May 6, 1987) was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Biography[edit | edit source]

A native of Elmhurst, Queens, New York, Casey graduated from Fordham University in 1934 and earned a law degree from St. John's University School of Law in 1937. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — the predecessor to the CIA — where he became head of its Secret Intelligence Branch in Europe.[1] He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement. Casey ran for New York's 3rd congressional district as a "Javits Republican" in 1966, but was defeated in the primary by former Congressman Steven Derounian. [1] After practicing corporate law in New York, he served in the Nixon Administration as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1971 to 1973;[2] this position led to his being called as a prosecution witness against former Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans in an influence-peddling case stemming from international financier Robert Vesco's $200,000 contribution to the Nixon reelection campaign.[3] He then served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs for 1973-74. He was a co-founder of the Manhattan Institute in 1978. He is the father-in-law of Owen Smith, the president of Friends of the Planting Fields Aboretum State Historic Site in Oyster Bay.

Director of Central Intelligence[edit | edit source]

Casey was campaign manager of the successful presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and served on the transition team following the election. After Reagan took office, Reagan named Casey to the post of Director of Central Intelligence.[4] Stansfield Turner dubbed it the 'Resurrection of Wild Bill', referring to Bill Donovan, the brilliant and eccentric head of OSS in WWII whom Casey greatly admired.[5] During his tenure at the CIA, Casey played a large part in the shaping of Reagan's foreign policy, particularly Reagan's approach to Soviet international activity. Based on the book, The Terror Network, Casey believed that the Soviet Union was the source of most worldwide, terrorist activity in spite of CIA analysts providing evidence that this was in fact black propaganda by the CIA itself. Casey obtained a report from a professor who agreed with his view. Casey also turned to DIA for a competing analysis, that was ultimately reconciled with the CIA analysts to produce the estimate circulated within the government as "The Soviet Role in Revolutionary Violence."[6] This, in turn, convinced Reagan that there was a threat.[7] After records from the collapsed Communist governments became available in the 1990s it became clear that the disputed report underestimated Communist involvement in terrorist activity.[8]

Casey oversaw the re-expansion of the Intelligence Community to funding and human resource levels greater than those existing before the preceding Carter Administration; in particular, he increased levels within the CIA. During his tenure, restrictions were lifted on the use of the CIA to directly and covertly influence the internal and foreign affairs of countries relevant to American policy.

This period of the Cold War saw an increase in the Agency's global, anti-Soviet activities, which is started under the Carter Doctrine in late 1980.

Notably, Casey oversaw covert assistance to the mujahadeen resistance in Afghanistan, with a budget of over $1 billion, by working closely with Akhtar Abdur Rahman, the Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan. He also oversaw assistance to the Solidarity movement in Poland; and was associated with a number of coups and attempted coups in South- and Central America.

Hours before Casey was scheduled to testify before Congress related to his knowledge of Iran-Contra, he was reported to have been rendered incapable of speech, and was later hospitalized. In a 1987 book, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, Washington Post, reporter, and biographer, Bob Woodward, who had interviewed Casey on a number of occasions for the biography, said that he had gained entry into Casey's hospital room for a final, four-minute encounter—a claim which was met with disbelief in many quarters as well as an adamant denial from Casey's wife, Sofia. According to Woodward, when Casey was asked if he knew about the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras, "His head jerked up hard. He stared, and finally nodded yes."[9]

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Casey was a devout Catholic and a member of the Knights of Malta.[10]

Death[edit | edit source]

Casey died of a brain tumor in 1987 at the age of 74. His Requiem Mass was said by Fr. Daniel Fagan, then pastor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Roslyn, New York. It was attended by, (among others) President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan. Casey is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, New York. He was survived by his wife, the former Sophia McDaid, and his daughter, Bernadette Smith.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Pace, Eric (May 7, 1987). "Obituary of Mr William Casey". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4DC153EF934A35756C0A961948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=1. "Mr. Casey, after serving as chief of secret intelligence in Europe for the Office of Strategic Services in World War II," 
  2. http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC00136875
  3. Woodward, Bob (1987). VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987. New York: Simon and Schuster. pp. 51. 
  4. http://books.google.com/books?vid=OCLC07312471
  5. Burn Before Reading, Stansfield Turner, Hyperion, 2005, first page of chapter on Ronald Reagan
  6. Robert Gates, From The Shadows, 1996 (pp. 203-206 of Simon & Schuster 2006 paperback edition)
  7. The Power of Nightmares Part 1 'Baby it's cold outside'
  8. Gates, p. 206
  9. "Did A Dead Man Tell No Tales?" by Richard Zoglin, Time, October 12, 1987
  10. Phelan, Matthew (2011-02-28) Seymour Hersh and the men who want him committed, Salon.com

External links[edit | edit source]

Government offices
Preceded by
Hamer H. Budge
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair
Succeeded by
G. Bradford Cook
Preceded by
Thomas C. Mann
Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
February 2, 1973 – March 14, 1974
Succeeded by
Charles W. Robinson
Preceded by
Stansfield Turner
Director of Central Intelligence
January 28, 1981 – January 29, 1987
Succeeded by
William H. Webster

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