Category Archives: Hostages

Canadian Caper, CIA Exfiltration, Ben Affleck’s Argo and Hurt Feelings

In 1980, PBS aired a 54:02 video about the escape from Iran by 6 Americans who were United States Embassy employees.  The “Canadian Caper” as it is known is the rescue effort by the Canadian Government and the Central Intelligence Agency of six American diplomats who evaded capture during the seizure and hostage taking of the United States embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979.  If you watch the video below, you will note that there is no mention of the CIA.  The closely guarded secret of the CIA’s role was only revealed in 1997 as part of the Agency’s 50th anniversary celebrations. Two years later, in the Studies in Intelligence (Winter 1999-2000), the CIA’s former chief of disguise, Tony J. Mendez (played by Ben Affleck in Argo) wrote A Classic Case of Deception: CIA Goes Hollywood. You can read it online here.

The six rescued American are as follows:

Robert Anders, 34 – Consular Officer
Mark J. Lijek, 29 – Consular Officer
Cora A. Lijek, 25 – Consular Assistant
Henry L. Schatz, 31 – Agriculture Attaché
Joseph D. Stafford, 29 – Consular Officer
Kathleen F. Stafford, 28 – Consular Assistant

The Ben Affleck film, Argo reportedly borrows from the memoir of Tony Mendez, “The Master of Disguise,” which originally details how he devised an incredible escape from Tehran for American diplomats posing as a Canadian film crew.  According to Mendez’s website, http://www.themasterofdisguise.com/ Warner Brothers and George Clooney optioned the rights to his book “The Master of Disguise” following a May 2007 “Wired Magazine” article on Tony’s rescue operation during the Iranian hostage crisis.  The script was written by Chris Terrio who reportedly also drew on that 2007 Wired Magazine article and called the movie “a fictionalized version of real events.”

In addition to The Master of Disguise: My Secret Life in the CIA (William Morrow and Company, 1999. 351 pages), Mendez has also just released the book Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History (Viking Adult, September 13, 2012. 320 pages).  That’s 320 pages of details on how the escape came down from the perspective of the chief exfiltrator.

In any case, Argo had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7, and who was not invited? For godsakes this is Toronto as in Canada!  Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who sheltered the six Americans, that’s who, and our next door neighbors were not too pleased.

Via The Star:

Friends of Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran, are shocked and upset by the way he was portrayed in Argo …. The ultimate put-down comes with a postscript that appears on the screen just before the final credits, savouring the irony that Taylor has received 112 citations. The obvious implication is that he didn’t deserve them.

A separate piece had this quote from the former ambassador:

“The movie’s fun, it’s thrilling, it’s pertinent, it’s timely,” he said. “But look, Canada was not merely standing around watching events take place. The CIA was a junior partner.”

Ambassador Taylor was awarded the United States Congressional Gold Medal in 1980. In his remarks on presenting the medal, then President Reagan described not only “Ambassador Taylor’s courage but also the contribution of all the Canadian Embassy personnel in Tehran and the Canadian Government in Ottawa.” 

According to Reuters, both Affleck and writer Chris Terrio maintain that the broad thesis of the film is based on actual events, although traditional Hollywood dramatic license includes a climax scene where Iranian police chase a jumbo jet down a runway.  In his presscon after the TIFF premier, Affleck was quoted saying: “Because we say it’s based on a true story, rather than this is a true story,” he said, “we’re allowed to take some dramatic licence. There’s a spirit of truth.”

Things could still have gotten messy but did not.  Affleck apparently changed the offending postscript at the end of the movie, which Taylor’s friends regarded as an insult both to him and to Canada, was removed and replaced by a new postscript: “The involvement of the CIA complemented efforts of the Canadian embassy to free the six held in Tehran. To this day the story stands as an enduring model of international co-operation between governments.”

Ambassador Taylor and his wife were invited by Affleck to Los Angeles and attended a private screening of Argo on the Warner Bros. lot. They were also invited to the Washington DC premiere during a private screening at the Regal Gallery cinemas in downtown Washington on October 10, 2012.  Click here for a video of Affleck addressing a packed auditorium during the screening that included embassy staff, lawmakers, former CIA and former hostages.

Ambassador Taylor and his wife have reportedly taped a commentary for the extra features on the DVD version of Argo, but this will not be released until 2013.

Meanwhile, the film has now also upset the British diplomats who helped our diplomats in Iran.

I should note that among the six Americans featured in Agro, one is still in the Foreign Service. Joseph D. Stafford, III is currently assigned as Charge’ d’ affaires at the US Embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.  Except for a brief mention that he joined the FS in 1978 and that he had earlier assignments in Algiers, Kuwait, Cairo, Palermo, and Tehran, there’s no mention of that daring scape from Tehran in his official bio.

But Mark J. Lijek, one of the Argo six has written a detailed memoir of his experience in The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery.  The book is available in digital edition at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

After Tehran, Mark J. Lijek went on to assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Warsaw, Frankfurt and several tours in Foggy Bottom. On his website, he writes that the Iran experience remained a constant in his life but that while media interest came and went, he never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover.  He writes that remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side.  He and his wife, Cora, apparently also continued their friendship with Tony Mendez who masterminded their rescue. Both have been involved on the margins with the film which he calls “a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan.”

Click here for Mark’s photos in FB from his Escape From Iran Album and the Argo Six Hollywood experience.

If you want to have a rounded view of what happened behind the Argo rescue and the hostage crisis, you may also want to read a couple more books:

Our Man in Tehran: The True Story behind the Secret Mission to save Six Americans during the Iran Hostage Crisis and the Foreign Ambassador Who Worked with the CIA to Bring Them Home by Robert A. Wright

Guests of the Ayatollah: The Iran Hostage Crisis: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam by Mark Bowden

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Notes, Celebrity, CIA, Courage, Diplomatic History, Foreign Affairs, FSOs, Hostages, Iran, U.S. Missions, Where Are They Now?

Supremes Say No to Appeal from US Embassy Iran Hostages

Via NYT:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the last legal appeal for former American hostages seeking compensation for their captivity in Iran three decades ago, leaving legislation newly introduced in Congress as the last chance to resolve their longstanding grievance.

A lower court, acting at the request of the State Department, previously blocked the hostages’ effort to win compensation from Iran, holding that the agreement under which they were released barred such claims. The former hostages had sued under a 1996 law that they argued allowed them to seek damages, and in August 2001 they won a judgment of liability, because Iran did not appear in court to defend itself. But the State Department argued that its ability to conduct foreign policy would be compromised if damages were awarded.

Read in full here.

Click here for a GQ piece from 2009, a sort of oral history where more than fifty men and women—hostages, hostage-takers, commandos from the ill-fated U.S. rescue mission, and Iranian and American politicians and policymakers were interviewed for the 30th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis.

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freed...

The 52 former hostages board the VC-137B Freedom One aircraft for their departure to the United States after their release from Iran. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Families wait for the former hostages...

English: Families wait for the former hostages to disembark the plane. The former hostages will be on U.S. soil for the first time since their release from Iran. Location: STEWART FIELD, NEW YORK (NY) UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Vice President George Bush and other ...

English: Vice President George Bush and other VIP’s wait to welcome the former hostages to Iran home. Location: ANDREWS AIR FORCE BASE VIRIN: DF-SC-82-06566 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Judge Sullivan in his 2002 ruling wrote that “‘Both Congress and the president have expressed their support for these plaintiffs’ quest for justice while failing to act definitively to enable these former hostages to fulfill that quest.”

Parade’s over.  Iran is still big news, but no one is rushing to meet, or wait or put out a concert for the former hostages. Most especially, the State Department.

Support was easy when all it required was a yellow ribbon?

Yellow ribbon flown in 1979 by Penne Laingen when her husband, US diplomat Bruce was held captive during the Iran hostage crisis; among the first of the modern “yellow ribbons.”
US lib of congress picture from http://www.loc.gov/folklife/ribbons/ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2002, NYT reported that the former hostages, and in some cases their survivors, sued Iran under the 1996 law.  While the plaintiffs won their lawsuit by default in August 2001, the State Department sought dismissal, arguing reportedly that it needed to preserve its ability to make binding agreements.

And in so doing, it also sends a signal to all future state sponsored hostage takers that they can take any of our diplomats at any time and they will not suffer any consequences except a break in diplomatic relations, and limited visa issuance restrictions to its officials.  If Iran is jerking our chain these days, that’s because we have taught it the wrong lesson.  The end.

Domani Spero

Leave a comment

Filed under Court Cases, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hostages, Huh? News, Iran, Realities of the FS, State Department

Taking Care of the "Troops" — The State Department Way

Back in March, I posted a first person account of an FSO in Mexico amidst that country’s shooting war. (see US Mission Mexico: First Person from a Border Post).

I also did a follow-up post, In a War That Must Not Be Named, Leadership and Security On the Line. 

This is what I wrote then:

I supposed we may think of life in the Service as if it were a scale — the national strategic and security priorities on one side and on the other side, the acceptable personal risk of the employees.   But not everyone will get to look at that scale. And not everyone will get to make the judgment call.  Employees do not get to vote, diplomatic missions are not democracies.

That might as well apply to the mothership of diplomatic missions.

Thirty-two years ago, our diplomats were taken hostage in Iran. Moorhead C. Kennedy Jr. who served as an economic and commercial officer in the U.S. embassy in Iran during the hostage crisis has written an op-ed over in Politico asking “Whose side is the State Dept. on?”

“I was one of the 66 U.S. citizens taken hostage in Tehran in November 1979. Ten months before, revolutionary militants stormed the U.S. embassy, holding the mission personnel hostage for several hours and generating fear for the safety of the remaining Americans in Iran. After this group of U.S. Foreign Service personnel were recovered and removed, our State Department sent out a request to all its posts worldwide, seeking volunteers to staff the embassy in Tehran. Volunteers were informed that it was safe in Tehran and were encouraged to bring their families, including preschool-age children. In all, 66 Foreign Service officers answered this call to serve.

It was not as safe as the State Department had indicated. By October it had seriously deteriorated, as the Carter administration agreed to allow the shah to enter the U.S. for medical treatment.

As Carter had predicted, in reaction to Washington’s acceptance of the
shah, hundreds of thousands of Iranians demonstrated throughout Tehran.
Nov 4, a group of Iranians stormed the U.S. embassy, kidnapping 52
Americans. That they did so with the blessings (and under the apparent
direction) of Tehran can hardly be challenged, since less than a month
later, the government announced its intention to try the hostages as
spies and execute them — unless the U.S. paid $24 billion.
[...]
Ultimately, in January 1981, the Carter administration entered into a series of agreements known as the Algiers accords. These provided Iran a $7.8 billion payment and established the U.S.-Iran Claims Tribunal — through which businesses and financial institutions could file and obtain compensations for property and contract claims against Iran.
[...]
The accords, however, contained a provision that precluded the 52 hostages and their families from bringing suit against Iran for seizure, detention and injuries. They, and only they, were unable to obtain any compensation for the life-changing injuries they suffered while in the service of our country as volunteers answering the call of our government.
[...]
Congress has passed various statutes, allowing US nationals, victimized by terrorism, to obtain compensation for injuries. Literally hundreds have pursued claims in U.S. courts and received compensation for terrorism sponsored by Iran, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Cuba, Sudan, North Korea and Libya.

The Tehran embassy hostages also sought to pursue similar claims in U.S. Courts. In August 2001, we obtained a judgment against Iran — which had refused to appear to defend their indefensible conduct. But the State Department intervened to protect Iran’s interests, asserting that dismissal was necessary to protect U.S. national security interests and uphold the waiver of claims in the Algiers Accords.
[...]
In the next 10 years, all our appeals, and other efforts to obtain justice and compensation, have been defeated by the State Department. At the same time, the department has aggressively protected the rights of all U.S. corporations and banks to seek compensation from Iran. Indeed each claim has been adjudicated, and literally billions of dollars awarded, through these channels and paid by Iran.

The signal that Iran has drawn from this is clear – the U.S. cares about protecting interests of its corporations — but has no real interest in protecting its diplomats, no matter the State Department’s lip service about to the importance of diplomatic immunity and the sacrosanct status of our embassies.”

Read in full here.

I think his question deserves an answer.

Here is the relevant part of the Algiers Accords signed on January 19, 1981:

11. Upon the making by the Government of Algeria of the certification described in Paragraph 3 above, the United States will promptly withdraw all claims now pending against Iran before the International Court of Justice and will thereafter bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran of any pending or future claim of the United States or a United States national arising out of events occurring before the date of this declaration related to (A) the seizure of the 52 United States nationals on November 4, 1979, (B) their subsequent detention, (C) injury to United States property or property of the United States nationals within the United States Embassy compound in Tehran after November 3, 1979, and (D) injury to the United States nationals or their property as a result of popular movements in the course of the Islamic Revolution in Iran which were not an act of the Government of Iran. The United States will also bar and preclude the prosecution against Iran in the courts of the United States of any pending or future claim asserted by persons other than the United States nationals arising out of the events specified in the preceding sentence.

The late Warren Christopher, then the State Department’s Deputy Secretary negotiated the agreement. He was appointed 63rd Secretary of State from January 20, 1993 – January 17, 1997 by President Clinton.

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Service, FSOs, Hostages, Org Life, Realities of the FS, State Department

January 20, 1981: The Iran Hostages – 30 Years Later

Thirty years ago yesterday, fifty-two U.S. diplomats and public servants were released after spending 444 days as hostages at the US Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Below is a clip from Andrea Mitchell‘s show with former hostages Ambassador L. Bruce Laingen (US chargé d’affaires when the embassy was overrun by student protesters) and Ambassador John W. Limbert.

                                    


Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Diplomatic History, Foreign Service, FSOs, Hostages, U.S. Missions

Nov 4: The Day the Roof Fell In

A defaced Great Seal of the United States at t...Image via Wikipedia

Today is the 30th anniversary of the takeover by militants of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. According to the Carter Library, of the 66 Americans who were taken hostage, 13 were released on Nov. 19 and 20, 1979; one was released on July 11, 1980, and the remaining 52 were released on Jan. 20, 1981.


The 52 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981.

Anna Tinsley of the Star-Telegram in Fort Worth, TX wrote recently about Rick Kupke, one the the 52 hostages, who recalled his 444 days as Iranian hostage (As anniversary nears, Arlington man recalls his 444 days as Iranian hostage). Excerpts below:

Rick Kupke was busy encrypting classified messages inside the U.S. Embassy in Tehran when the Marine Corps guard yelled over the radio, “They’re coming over the wall!”
[…]
Kupke, then a 33-year-old communications officer and electronics specialist, sent the telegram, closed a vault door to keep workers in the second-floor office safe and began shredding sensitive government documents — including those about unpopular Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who fled to the U.S. that year.

“The State Department asked me if I destroyed all the cables going back and forth about the shah. They said, ‘You have to confirm to us that you personally destroyed that.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ Then they gave us the order to destroy all of our equipment.”

After Kupke smashed Teletype machines, he began the first of three trips to the roof to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of Iranians. After his third trip, he became the 66th — and final — American taken hostage that day.
[…]
Kupke said he’ll call a handful of the 42 living hostages Wednesday. But Nov. 4 is not the day many of the hostages choose to remember.

The day they’d rather remember is Jan. 20, when they were released, former charge d’affaires L. Bruce Laingen of Bethesda, Md., has said.

“That’s a good day,” he said. “Nov. 4 is the day the roof fell in.”

Read the whole thing here.

Related Items:

Related articles by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Foreign Service, FSOs, Hostages, Iran, Terrorism

Operation Jaque: Post-Rescue Photos Now Online

Three passports with the last known image of the three men,
their proof-of-life, had been prepared by
the American Embassy Bogota Consular Section in record time.
The Ambassador (William Brownfield) would present them with these symbols
in a small ceremony, welcoming them home.
[US Embassy Photo via Facebook]


Slightly over a year ago,
Operation Jaque conducted in July 2, 2008, in Guaviare, Colombia secured the released of former Colombian presidential candidate Íngrid Betancourt and the three American military contractors for Northrop Grummanwho were held hostage by the FARC: Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes, and Keith Stansell.

The three former hostages have released a book about their experience (“Out of Captivity: Surviving 1,967 Days in the Columbian Jungle”) earlier this year. Ingrid Betancourt is reportedly finishing her own book about the ordeal.

The US Embassy Bogota in its new Facebook page has released for the first time, some of the pictures taken that day in Tolemaida and Bogotá. The post-rescue photos are posted here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Hostages, People, U.S. Missions

Insider Quote: What Diplomacy Is All About

John Limbert was one of 100 Americans held hostage after Iranian students took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Limbert is a former U.S. ambassador and distinguished professor of international affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent Heather Maher asked him for his reflections on the 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

RFE/RL: How do you think your time as a hostage in Iran changed you?

“Well, I really don’t know, specifically. I mean, I’m the worst person to ask this, you’d have to ask maybe my family members or colleagues.

But I think a couple things came out of it. One, I think I got a new appreciation for our own profession — that is, the profession of diplomacy. And the idea of how do you solve problems between nations and between people? Because at the end of the day, that’s what diplomacy is all about, and the importance of that process. Because if that process breaks down, you essentially have anarchy, of the kind that we encountered in Tehran in ’79.”


John Limbert
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania

Former Embassy Hostage Says He Was ‘Wrong’ About Iran’s Revolution
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
February 6, 2009

Leave a comment

Filed under Diplomacy, Hostages, Iran, Quotes

Insider Quote: What Diplomacy Is All About

John Limbert was one of 100 Americans held hostage after Iranian students took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Limbert is a former U.S. ambassador and distinguished professor of international affairs at the U.S. Naval Academy. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) correspondent Heather Maher asked him for his reflections on the 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

RFE/RL: How do you think your time as a hostage in Iran changed you?

“Well, I really don’t know, specifically. I mean, I’m the worst person to ask this, you’d have to ask maybe my family members or colleagues.

But I think a couple things came out of it. One, I think I got a new appreciation for our own profession — that is, the profession of diplomacy. And the idea of how do you solve problems between nations and between people? Because at the end of the day, that’s what diplomacy is all about, and the importance of that process. Because if that process breaks down, you essentially have anarchy, of the kind that we encountered in Tehran in ’79.”


John Limbert
Former U.S. Ambassador to Mauritania

Former Embassy Hostage Says He Was ‘Wrong’ About Iran’s Revolution
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
February 6, 2009

Leave a comment

Filed under Diplomacy, Hostages, Iran, Quotes

Coming Soon to a Screen Near You

Leave a comment

Filed under Ambassadors, Foreign Service, Hostages, Reputation, Secretary of State

Mumbai Online

Leave a comment

Filed under Countries 'n Regions, Hostages, Terrorism