I went to college with a CIA Lie Detector

Last night I met some of my “old” sorority sisters for dinner. It is reunion weekend at SUNY/Albany, so we thought we’d have our own get together. One of the women had gotten a letter from a guy we vaguely remember from the good ol’ days. He had kept track of lots of other people from college that we all knew in common; his letter filled us in on their whereabouts. It also filled us in on the career he wound up in with the CIA. Apparently, when I was still dorking around in graduate school, trying my best to avoid the real world, John Sullivan enlisted and
…served in the US Army from 1962 to 1967 as a Staff Sergeant E-6 in military intelligence. He was trained as a Russian linguist at the Army Language School in Monterey, California. After completing the Field Operations Intelligence (case officer) course, he was assigned to Germany where he studied the German language.
The most interesting information, from my perspective, is on Amazon.com, from the reviews of his new book, Of Spies and Lies: A CIA Lie Detector Remembers Vietnam.
This offered by Publisher’s Weekly:
…Sullivan arrived in Vietnam a war hawk. After 48 months of traversing the war zone administering lie-detector tests to thousands of enemy prisoners and others, he came home a thoroughly disillusioned dove. Sullivan chronicles his change of heart by seemingly sparing few details about his work and social lives during his extended tour of duty. He paints a generally negative picture of the CIA’s war against the Vietcong. Sullivan claims that CIA operatives produced “some good information,” but that information was misused by those at the top and produced no real progress in undermining the enemy. On the social side, Sullivan readily admits that he lived the good life in Vietnam. He and his wife and child lacked for few creature comforts in the war zone….
and this from Booklist:
There is no shortage of Vietnam War memoirs, of course, but here is one with what just might be a unique perspective: the war as seen by a CIA agent responsible for polygraphing prisoners of war, potential allies, and even his own colleagues. Sullivan is not unaware of the ironies implicit in his role as polygraph specialist–a lie-detecting expert hunting truth at a time and in a place where disinformation was ubiquitous. His work took him from one end of Vietnam to the other, as well as to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand, and his memories of the final four years of the war (1971-75) are deeply unsettling. There are no lid-blowing revelations here (like all books by former CIA employees, this one has been vetted by the agency), but the very personal story of a man confronted with the elusiveness of truth proves surprisingly moving….
I barely remember John from our college days. I have always been, after all, a peacenik. We didn’t travel in the same circles back then.
Actually, several of my sorority sisters and I didn’t really travel in the same circles either. They are the more conservative ones. But somehow, when we get together now, in our more mellow years, we enjoy each other’s company. We have a shared history of times when we were still forming who we would become. When, in those naive 1950s, we were still innocent. Some of us have stayed more innocent than others.
And we never would have pegged John Sullivan for a career detecting lies in a war zone.

3 thoughts on “I went to college with a CIA Lie Detector

  1. I don’t know what a URL is! Hope you get this.
    John Sullivan attended our 1960 Reunion Dinner.
    I did not get to speak with him but did see who he was. I sort of remember seeing him before.
    One person commented that he was always very talkative and how he could become a sneaky spy was beyond her.
    He was in the class of 1961 so his email address is not in our address book. If Judy does not have it. contact me. I’m betting Joan Cali has it someplace.

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