David Wise, 1930–2018
The journalist who lifted the veil on the CIA
David Wise was one of the foremost authorities on the CIA—much to the agency’s annoyance. The investigative reporter authored and co-wrote a trove of best-selling nonfiction books that gave ordinary Americans a glimpse inside its secretive world. There was 1964’s The Invisible Government, a well-sourced account of the CIA’s involvement in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion and in coups in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, and 1995’s Nightmover, about the agency’s bumbling efforts to unearth a Soviet mole who turned out to be CIA officer Aldrich Ames. The CIA was so angered by the revelations in The Invisible Government that it appointed a task force to consider how to discredit the book. It recommended the use of “such assets as the Agency may have” to plant bad reviews. The effort failed, and the book became a No. 1 best-seller.
Born in Manhattan to a lawyer father and a mother who sang professionally, Wise started working as a reporter while still a student at Columbia University, said The New York Times. He joined the New York Herald Tribune after graduating in 1951 and began writing espionage exposés while serving as Washington bureau chief. Wise soon became known as the best-connected writer on the spy trade: One of his main sources for The Invisible Government was former CIA head Allen W. Dulles.
Wise published three espionage novels in the ’80s, filled with James Bond–esque gadgets based on real agency innovations, said The Washington Post. They included deadly “toxins from shellfish delivered by poison darts” and pet cats wired up with listening devices. “Who’d suspect a cat?” Wise said in 1981. “Well, as a matter of fact I would. I have two cats, and I’m extremely suspicious.”