This is the best portrait of the CIA documentary period. It would be easy tear into William Colby on a number of points but I found I liked some of his coldness and discipline. So I'll just leave one flower on the grave. When Colby was fired as director of CIA, more for symbolic purging reasons than any error on his part, he is filmed expressing a wish that an outsider next got the job. That man was George H.W. Bush and not even Director of CIA, William Colby was aware that George Bush had been on the books for so long he was instrumental in the murder of JFK. That's how deep the rabbit hole goes. Colby was just a clean face while the CIA needed it during the Church committee hearings.
It's an amazing documentary, absolutely stuffed with that Yale clique of secret society lizards who used the CIA and the Whitehouse to run the drug business with people like Colby unaware of it's meta purpose. If you pay attention closely you've got an Oval office audio recording of Averell Harriman pretending to be neutral while actually stitching JFK up with bad advice that the US puppet leader Diem in Vietnam needed taking down with a coup. One that Harriman was managing through his buddy Henry Cabot Lodge Jr the new ambassador in Vietnam. Colby is silent after indicating the pro and anti coup forces are evenly matched. Either he was too political to speak up for the country or just letting power do it's thing. Nobody will ever know. Nobody really knew him including his wife who has much that is likeable about her and much that is inconsistent. Hat's off to Cobly's son for making one of the most clearly framed portraits of an intelligence officer on film. Watch this documentary. You'll learn a lot.
Here's a Vanity Fair article:
On September 11, Carl Colby, a documentary filmmaker and son of the late C.I.A. director William Colby, was in Los Angeles watching the Twin Towers smolder on CNN. He was startled to hear former Secretary of State James Baker say that he believed the unprecedented attack could be directly traced to the dismantling of the C.I.A.’s ability to perform clandestine operations. It was a directive that came after William Colby testified before Senator Frank Church’s 1975 hearings on U.S. intelligence operations. In that post-Watergate era—four of the burglars had been found to have C.I.A. connections—and as Saigon was falling at the end of the Vietnam War, former C.I.A. Saigon station chief Colby’s blunt and controversial recounting of the agency’s more nefarious practices not only brought on Congressional oversight of the C.I.A. for the first time but also ensured Colby’s sacking later that year by President Ford.
In an effort to explain his father, Carl Colby’s new documentary, The Man Nobody Knew,which premieres tomorrow, offers a Who’s Who parade of former top-level C.I.A. and government officials as well as some of the most knowledgeable journalists who cover the agency—from Robert Gates and Donald Rumsfeld to Sy Hersh and David Ignatius. As they opine on the institution and William Colby’s influence, the film gives viewers a true sense of what it is to live a lie day after day and to hobnob at the highest levels in other countries—all while seeking to advance U.S. interests by whatever means necessary.
Carl told me he saw his father cry only two times: when his 24-year-old sister died of anorexia and epilepsy and when Saigon fell. He remembers his father yelling at him just once: when Carl denigrated Richard Nixon during Watergate. “Never call your president a liar!” his father burst out. Yet after his sister’s death, she was never spoken of again, and several years after William Colby was fired, Carl says, he abandoned his family with little explanation, other than to once declare, “I am taking myself off the pedestal.” He bought a red sports car to tool around Washington, got a flashier wardrobe, and married a much younger woman. Even William Colby’s death, at age 76, was fittingly mysterious. One afternoon in 1996, while staying at his Rock Island, Maryland, cabin, he paddled off in his canoe, and nine days later his body was found drifting near the shore. No foul play was suspected.
At its heart, the film is a poignant probing of an aloof and distant father who clearly excelled in compartmentalization, taking his family with him as he worked undercover at U.S. embassies. Did he ever really love his five children and Carl’s loyal and elegant mother, who also appears in the film—or were they too all merely cover for a calculating super-spy?
Maureen Orth: Do you think your father committed suicide?
That sense of mission must have become more difficult during Vietnam.
It was as if he were a Napoleonic officer or a general in Roman times—how to suppress the rebellion in Judea.