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An Unsuspecting CIA Daughter Finally Learns the Truth

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An Unsuspecting CIA Daughter Finally Learns the Truth

An Unsuspecting CIA Daughter Finally Learns the Truth
December 23
00:20 2019

Some children grow up not knowing that one or more of their parents – usually their father — works in the clandestine service.  At some point, they might figure it out for themselves, not necessarily revealing what they’ve come to surmise, much less “outing” their father.

But in some cases, the truth never comes out – until one day, their father himself spills the beans.

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Such is the case with Elliam Crozier who says she never suspected that her father whom she assumed was a busy corporate executive with overseas responsibilities, worked for the CIA.

And she never could have imagined that his involvement in the clandestine service had been so momentous – indeed, almost legendary in the minds of those in the CIA who’d known and worked with him.

Crozier only discovered the truth in 1969 when she turned 16.  She’d traveled with her father and her Mexican-born mother to Mexico Costa Rica and pre-revolutionary Cuba and seen her share of political violence and intrigue, but never suspected that her father might be involved in the unfolding events.  As far as she knew, he worked for a Miami, FL-based company named “Zenith Electronics.”

In fact, Zenith Electronics was the code name for the CIA station based there.

Ross Lester Crozier’s CIA career began to take off when he became a “deep cover” operative assigned to make contact with the Cuban insurgent movement led by Fidel Castro and fellow revolutionary Che Guevara.  Crozier spoke fluent Spanish and displayed a keen ability to ingratiate himself with Castro’s entourage while posing as foreign journalist seeking to document Castro’s rise and ambitions.

The CIA had provided Crozier with an elaborate cover story and identity – even having articles supposedly written by him under his fictitious name placed in newspapers where the CIA had inside contacts with their publishers and editors.

Crozier spent hours smoking cigars with Castro and Guevara and learning of their strong anti-American bias.   At one point he told Castro he could get him an American helicopter for his personal use – which impressed his host.

Crozier’s photos of those encounters later appeared in the New York Times and other magazines – under his real name.

Crozier soon received a commendation for his work in Cuba, but many of his key insights into political developments there went unheeded.

One of the most important was his knowledge that the Soviet Union planned to place missiles on the island.  He relayed this information to CIA headquarters but nothing was done.  He later came to believe that an opportunity to avert the Cuban missile crisis in October 1961 – which almost triggered a US-Soviet nuclear war — was missed.

Crozier eventually became the CIA’s top field liaison to the paramilitary exiles that launched a campaign to oust Castro, with American support.  Privately, he was skeptical of their fighting abilities but did his best to support them

Several of those exiles would later become part of the team of Watergate burglars that broke into Democratic Party headquarters at the behest of President Nixon on the eve of his re-election in 1972.

Much of what is now known about Crozier’s role as a CIA operative is due to the release last month of once-classified files from the Kennedy administration.  There are voluminous documents about Crozier’s role in Cuba and elsewhere.

Prior to Cuba, Crozier had also been involved in the CIA’s efforts to overthrow the leftist government of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954.  Crozier helped generate the CIA-funded radio broadcasts that stirred up animosity in the Guatemala military which ousted Arbenz in a coup.

Crozier’s cover in Guatemala was so deep that he was able to pose as a student at the national university.  He even set a number of track and field records that stood for a decade.

No one suspected that he was an American, let alone an American spy.

The accounts of Crozier’s exploits help fill out the picture of American clandestine warfare in Latin America in the 1960s.  The role of top figures like E Howard Hunt, who directed the efforts to overthrow Castro, and Davis Atlee Phillips who oversaw the anti-Arbenz operations in Guatemala, is already well known.

Crozier was a senior operative who actually carried out the operations on the ground that Hunt and Atlee Phillips supervised from afar.  The raw intelligence he gathered – and the spy networks he developed – proved invaluable.

And yet they were not always taken full advantage of – an issue for historians and spy-craft professionals to consider

Crozier almost became a public figure in the early 1970s when a number of film companies wanted to produce a movie about Che Guevara, who’d been killed waging guerilla warfare in Bolivia in 1967.

Crozier had come away impressed with Guevara’s passion and intellect and wanted to share his story.  But the CIA prohibited him from participating in the production.

His efforts to tell of his encounters with Che in a book were also shut down.

Eventually, Crozier’s relationship with the CIA soured.  He became an alcoholic and his bosses considered him unreliable. But to keep him quiet and to protect the agency, they helped Crozier secure a civilian job outside the CIA.

Crozier’s daughter says her father eventually divulged his work with the CIA during a fishing expedition in 1969.  She kept the secret to herself for over a half-century, telling no one, not even close friends.

But the release of the JFK documents last week spurred her to talk and to reminisce about the daring spy and patriot who played a critical unsung role in the history of clandestine warfare.

The man she called “Papa.”

About Author

Stewart L

Stewart L

Stewart Lawrence is a trained sociologist and political scientist and a regular columnist for the Washington Times and the Federalist. He is also a former feature contributor to Inside Philanthropy, Counterpunch and the Huffington Post. In 2012 and 2016, he covered the US presidential election campaign for the conservative news magazine Daily Caller. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor and Washington Post. He is currently working on a book about the politics of US immigration policy.

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