Cord Meyer

Cord Meyer










The picture and the frame

“Central Intelligence Agency.”

“Directorate for Plans, please.”

“One moment.”

“Directorate for Plans.”

“Mr. Cord Meyer, please.”

“Who should I say is calling?”

“This is Lester Krup from Ramparts Magazine.”

“Mr. Meyer is not in his office. Would you care to leave a message?”

“Yes. Mr. Krup would like to ask Mr. Meyer about the activities of Mr. Richard Ober at SOG.”

“That’s Richard Ober O-b-e-r at SOG S-O-G?”


“I will give Mr. Meyer the message.”

Thirty minutes later, Lily, the Ramparts secretary, waved at Krup to pick up the phone.


“This is Meyer. You may not record this conversation.”

“Perish the thought.”

“My secretary said you wanted to know about a Mr. Richard Ober at something that sounds like fog.”

“Actually she wrote down SOG”

“There is no Richard Ober and there is nothing I know of called fog. Besides fog.”

“They don’t exist or you don’t know about them?”

“They may exist in Outer Slobovia but not here.”

“The Ober and the SOG I know about exist either in the United States or the Bahamas.”

“What gives you that idea?”

“I’m holding a memo from Mr. Richard Ober of the S-O-G to a Paul Helliwell at”

“I know Mr. Helliwell.”

“He exists.”

“He exists. He co-owns the Castle Bank and Trust in the Bahamas.”

“You agree that he exists because he is in the public record, while Mr. Ober is not in the public record.”

“Mr. Ober is not in any record. Mr. Ober does not exist.”

“So you’re saying that this memo I’m holding in my hand from Ober at SOG is a fake.”

“Memos from people who don’t exist are often considered unreal.”

“The memo is real. I’d like to know if it’s a fake.”

“The memo, if you have it, is fake if it concerns a man who does not exist.”

“And an organization?”

“I do not know that something that sounds like sog or fog is anything at all. It could be a country club.”

“Then you confirm that the memo’s a fake.”

“I can only confirm a fake if I know who faked it and why. I do know that it is not real, that is, relates to any person, place, or thing existing in the real world.”

“So if Ramparts prints the memo, highlighting the words ‘Richard Ober’ and ‘SOG,’ you will not deny.”

“We will deny.”

“You’ll deny after we print it.”

“I’m denying right now.”

“Will you deny now in writing?”


“Why not?”

“That would engage us in a public written controversy about things that do not exist.”

“You’re afraid that would make it sound real.”


“You’d rather wait until after we publish it?”

“Then we can state honestly that you published it despite our persistant and specific denials.”

“Which you won’t put down in writing.”


“If I were to treat the memo as fake and write that it is fake, you would not contradict me.”

“I have no idea what is in the so-called memo.”

“That’s true, we’ve only talked about Ober and SOG. You haven’t asked what Ober wrote.”

“Ober does not exist.”

“Therefore I should conclude that what Ober alleges is untrue?”

“The non-existence of a source does not necessarily imply the falsity of what the non-existent source alleges.”

“Do you want to know what Ober wrote?”


“Suppose the content of the memo revealed the identity of a highly-placed CIA asset?”

“Does it?”

“It claims to.”

“And that would be?”

“Oh no. Then I’ve given you information and you haven’t given me any.”

“You’ve given me plenty of information already, Mr. Krup is it?”

“You know full well who I”

“Don’t give yourself airs.”

“Why would someone send me a fake memo and fake bank checks,”

“Bank checks?”

“Just adding to your fund of information. With a fake source and false information?”

“Maybe they’re trying to make a fool out of you.”

“In my opinion, Mr. Meyer, the only people who would want to make a fool out of Ramparts by leading us to expose someone who doesn’t exist is the CIA, and if the CIA is behind it, you should be assuring me that the memo is real and what an authority Mr. Ober is and how all-knowing SOG is, in order to sucker me into printing it.”

“Or, on the other hand, Mr. Krup, maybe I’m saying exactly what a CIA officer would say when asked about a fake memo sent out by persons whose intentions are unknown to either of us. To embarrass you, embarrass us, who knows? You would not be calling me if you had any corroboration of this document.”

“And you wouldn’t be talking to me if the only names I’ve mentioned, Ober and SOG, meant nothing to you.”

“Or are not what you think they are, but are something entirely different, perhaps a code, which you are unknowingly transmitting right now, in which case I would be happy to talk to you all day.”

(cough, umh hnh!)

“Mr. Krup?”

“Let me summarize: the memo was obviously sent by a third party, not Ober and SOG.”

“True. Non-existent people do not write memos.”

“If they do exist, the third party knows it, and can only know it from inside the Company.”

“If they don’t exist, anyone outside could make them up, and did.”

“If they don’t exist, the memo is false.”


“If they do exist, the contents are either true or false. If the contents are true, and I print it, I expose three CIA operations: SOG, Ober, and the person named. If it’s false, I only expose two: SOG and Ober, if they exist.”

“And you endanger the person named; furthermore, if they don’t exist, the only person you endanger is the person named, who may have nothing to do with the CIA.”

“You’ve been a great help, Mr. Meyer.”

“So have you, Mr. Krup.”


Krup percolated sweat. He limped to the water cooler, mopped himself, blotted and reviewed his notes. Meyer had distinguished between the “memo” and its contents. Krup laid the memo over the fluorescent light of the glass-top layout table; it was a copy of a copy, flecked and sprinkled with black flakes of copied light and scratches. The body of the message, between the salutation, “Paul,” and the concluding set of initials, “RO,” was less dense with flecks than the top and bottom. The frame of the memo, containing the words “Richard Ober” and “SOG” and their attendant phrases had been copied more often than the message itself. The message must have been pasted over an existing memo, suggesting that the recipient and sender were real, but the message faked. Who would have access? Sender and recipient, precisely those who would NOT fake a memo in their own names. Meyer had suggested nothing was what it seemed, that Krup was a pawn in a game having not to do with what was in the memo but with the act of passing along the memo’s existence. The guy’s clever. No wonder he got promoted after blowing his own network of front-groups on three continents.

Krup decided on a working assumption: the message (Jimmy and Cathy are CIA assets) was false and the frame (Halliwell, the banks, SOG, and Ober) was true. Six years later this would culminate in the revelation of Operation CHAOS.


Cord Meyer, Jr. got off the phone with one question: who?

1. Who had leaked the existence of Richard Ober and the Special Operations Group, which occupied the basement floor a hundred feet below him?

2. Who could investigate this leak without risking the reputation of Cord Meyer, Jr.?

For all he cared, whoever had been exposed by the memo could be killed tomorrow. The nonexistence of SOG, not the nonexistence of someone on Company pay, outweighed all. What the memo said in print was irrelevant. What it said in fact was: somewhere in the interconnections between Ober and Halliwell lies a MOLE. Somewhere between Langley and Nassau, in any direction. And that MOLE knew a secret most of the men who kept secrets didn’t know.

Who #2 was easy: James Jesus Angleton, Chief of Counterintelligence, once Meyer’s counterpart, now his subordinate, the T.S. Eliot of double, triple, n-tuple agentry.