The CIA, John Stockwell, And A Tale of Two Speeches

January 19, 2018

John Stockwell is one of the highest ranking CIA officers to quit the agency, go public, and educate the public on the crimes of the CIA. Let’s take a brief look at his background from Wikipedia:

“As a Marine, Stockwell was a CIA paramilitary intelligence case officer in three wars: the Congo Crisis, the Vietnam War, and the Angolan War of Independence. His military rank is Major. Beginning his career in 1964, Stockwell spent six years in Africa, Chief of Base in the Katanga during the Bob Denard invasion in 1968, then Chief of Station in Bujumbura, Burundi in 1970, before being transferred to Vietnam to oversee intelligence operations in the Tay Ninh province and was awarded the CIA Intelligence Medal of Merit for keeping his post open until the last days of the fall of Saigon in 1975.
In December 1976, he resigned from the CIA, citing deep concerns for the methods and results of CIA paramilitary operations in Third World countries and testified before Congressional committees.”


Thanks to our friends at “Our Hidden History” (, we have access to various collections of important audio lectures that are extremely valuable today. Yesterday I listened to Stockwell give a speech in Toronto in the fall of 1991. Ironically, I heard a version of the same speech in Portland Oregon a few weeks later – a speech that left me confused and questioning Stockwell’s motivation. I’ll explain my thoughts about that, but let’s focus on the Toronto speech first.

John Stockwell is an impressive speaker, and he relates his experiences with great passion – he’s walked the walk and been there to know. The subject for the speech was his latest book at the time – “The Praetorian Guard”, which I understand was mostly about the Kennedy Assassination.

In the first of two hours, Stockwell describes the CIA by saying that the rank-and-file CIA employee is generally a very nice person, the kind of neighbor you would trust to feed your cat while you are on vacation. Keep that line in mind, it is relevant to the version of the lecture that I attended in Portland. Stockwell uses this entry to begin to explain the culture of the agency, the bureaucracy and the distant chain of command that allows for the misuse of the agency. Much of his information comes not just from personal experience, but from the library of a thousand-or-so books he has researched. His knowledge on the subjects he discusses is deep and complex.
Stockwell builds an impressive list of CIA misdeeds. He was able to forecast the invasions of Grenada and Panama before they happened, but he got it wrong about Cuba. Cuba, to this date has dodged the U.S. bullet. He talked about traveling the world looking for a place to settle down, but returned to the states to become an activist and author. Interestingly, in the second half there was a question and answer session, which appears to have been sabotaged by an unknown live radio feed that played over the Halls speaker system. The agency at work?
I highly recommend this passionate and instructive lecture, especially if you did not experience the concerns during the Reagan-Bush senior Iran-Contra era. (It was 1991 after all).

Here is the link to download the two mp-3’s for the audio:


Here’s what bothered me about the version of the speech I heard later in Portland, and what may have been going on.

We sat down in a large auditorium at Portland State University. I had seen Phil Agee (another CIA whistle-blower) there previously. The audience waited with great anticipation.

Stockwell appeared at the podium and began speaking. Early in the presentation he gave the same line as Toronto, that the CIA employee living next door would be the person you most trusted to feed your cat while you were on vacation. That George Bush senior was a genuinely nice person. And on and on.

Stockwell may have been ill, or very troubled. He seemed to struggle to sip water, and was perspiring.
His latest book, “The Praetorian Guard” was about the Kennedy Assassination, but he refused to talk about it only saying that he had got it all wrong. (I assume he put a degree of blame on the CIA).
In fact, he said he had told his publisher to recall all unsold books.

Needless to say, the audience was stunned by this contrary presentation. We assumed that the CIA had threatened him. KBOO community radio was there to record the event. They told us that the recording malfunctioned. I don’t believe that, it’s more like Stockwells people asked them to shit-can it.

So what happened?
One clue is at the start of the Toronto speech. Stockwell thanks the organizers, and said he appreciated being able to rest and play a little tennis before his lecture date. He also complained that so many times people are so demanding of him that they suck the life energy out of him. We have all experienced that at times.

So by the time Stockwell made it to the Portland speech, he was so drained he was at the point of failure. It’s my understanding that he has had so many “hangers-on” that were idealistic youth that rotated in and out of his circle. It comes with the territory. You can hear evidence of this in the Toronto question segment, as well as the speech I attended in Portland. For instance, Stockwell gave a very short question period at our speech. One of the loud young guys in the room stood up and yelled a bit about the only solution to our problem was a genuine socialist/communist revolution. Completely out of order for the format. This must be an example of what drives Stockwell, a man who has seen danger on multiple continents – crazy.

The problem with our version of the Stockwell speech was he never got much past the “CIA are good neighbors” part of the speech, and divulging the excesses of the CIA we hear in the Toronto version.
I’m glad I heard both versions, I think it helps me understand Stockwell better, and I will certainly give him the benefit of the doubt – he was tired, and just plain sick and tired.


Now, I would like to finish with a remaining question. What about “The Praetorian Guard”, Stockwell’s book on the Kennedy Assassination? He told us he had recalled the book, and that he got it wrong about the assassination. What the hell was that all about? Did the CIA threaten him?
I see the book was re-released in 1999. I am ordering a copy today, but one question:

Does anybody out there have an original (pre-1999) version of “The Praetorian Guard”? And what are his previous conclusions about the Kennedy Assassination?

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One Response to The CIA, John Stockwell, And A Tale of Two Speeches

  1. Tex on January 21, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    I sent you a link via email to a bookseller that may have a copy of the 199o version.

    I remember that speech he gave in Portland quite well. What I remember most was his profuse sweating and the stunned silence of the crowd…Stockwell looked as though he was seriously ill, almost ashen-faced. Like he had a serious case of the flu or something.

    I believe we both saw him speak on a previous visit he made to Portland. His manner of speech and cadence on the night in question were unlike the previous appearance. Very uncharacteristic. Almost like he had been drugged or something? It was as though he was having a mental and physical meltdown right there on stage…he lacked the confidence and assertiveness of his previous speech…

    After 20 minutes or so there was a collective jaw-dropping from the crowd as nobody could believe what they were hearing. I remember quite clearly thinking to myself that I had just heard John Stockwell recant virtually everything he had said he first time I saw him speak and pretty much everything I had ever read that he had written up to that point. I came away from the experience thinking that he must have been taken in the back room and had the rules o engagement explained to him in a way scared the living daylights out of him.

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