Cold War stories are wonderful. Across the digital expanse the tales are spun from Facebook pages, Web Logs (Blogs), digitally archived libraries and newspapers, Freedom of Information Requests, to electronic books. The story is there in the brick and mortar archives and libraries housing row after row of microfilm, too, but it takes longer to discover the trail. Like a hound on a ham bone, I listen, laugh, and cry with this huge multi-generational congregation of veterans; military and civilian. Be it a military veteran chatting about the triumphs and fears along the East German border or a nuclear cowboy spinning yarns about overcoming all odds in the 1970s to drill a fifty four inch diameter hole 5,875 feet deep to detonate a megaton range nuke in a cavity on Amchitka Island, Alaska, I am riveted. The tales of wonder, fear, triumph, lessons, and reflection are told by the winners; the men and women who made it through some very scary times more or less intact. There are those who did not.
Today, somewhere in Ohio, Jeffrey Carney, struggles to make ends meet by working three menial jobs. Released from prison in 2003 after serving the better part of twelve years of a twenty year
Jeffrey Carney After his release in 2004 (Courtesy of DOE Hanford)
prison gig for espionage, he still doesn’t much like America. Unfortunately, his country of choice, Germany, does not want him so he is stuck in the U.S. with only a cat for company. Growing up, Carney was a bright kid. He loved Germany and German military history and avidly consumed everything he could about the country including the language, which he spoke fluently.
Born in the mid-1960s, Carney grew up during the huge cultural shifts that were unceremoniously and brutally pushing and pulling U.S. society and culture. In 1980, at age 17, Carney enlisted in the Air Force. His flawless German landed him a dream assignment in Berlin at Marienfelde, a listening post cleverly disguised as Tempelhof Central Airport. According to Bill Price, Ex-Airman who also worked there, “…our work site, which was situated on top of a hill on the southern outskirts of the city, in a sub-district of
Marienfelde (Courtesy of Berlin 6912 Org)
Tempelhof called Marienfelde. Just a short distance from the hill, perhaps a half-mile, was the Berlin Wall. Most of the area was empty fields. A city dump was located nearby, to the east. To the north was a field occupied by a few modern apartment buildings and a flower nursery. All of the surrounding area was flat, and so the site stood out rather prominently in the landscape, and even more so because of the odd-looking towers, domes, and antennae that sprouted from its top.” Carney was assigned to the 6912th Electronic Security Group, which was part of the Electronic Security Command, an organization that belonged directly to Air Force Intelligence. According to a Hanford report, Carney’s ability to ‘hear’ the language and identify individual East German Fighter pilots increased his value to the unit.
Carney’s life began to fall apart on two levels between 1982 and 1983. First he discovered he was gay and second was the scary Able Archer 83 exercise. An August 29, 2003 article in Spiegel Online vividly describes Carney’s conversion:
One night, at the age of 19, after drinking too many pints of beer at an Irish pub, filled with the confused emotions of delayed puberty, he stumbles into a GDR guard post at the Friedrichstraße/Zimmerstraße border crossing. He is prepared to take revenge on America, to do something that will “make so much noise that everyone will finally listen.” He waits for an hour and a half until the Stasi’s professionals arrive. They make a copy of his military ID card; they sense that fate has delivered a golden source into their hands, and their grip begins to tighten. They frighten him. They threaten to kill him if he tries to become a double agent, but they also encourage him. Stasi Major Ralph Dieter Lehmann flatters him by telling him that if there is anyone who can do something important, something for freedom, justice, a better world, then he is the right man in the right place. He tells Carney that he too can become a “soldier at the invisible front,” one of the few who can truly make a difference. And Carney, a boy with ambitions, is more than willing. From then on, the “Source Kid” furnishes a flood of information to the Stasi’s “Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung” (Principal Intelligence Division, or HVA). He is as unsuspicious and uninhibited as a child. Instead of photocopies, he provides the Stasi’s Department XI, which is responsible for espionage activities against the United States, with numbered originals, including documents “of maximum value,” according to a top-level Stasi report written in March 1987. And he is acknowledged for his efforts: “The appropriate recognition has been issued by Army General Chebrikov of the Committee for State Security of the U.S..” …
Understanding Able Archer 83’s contribution to Carney’s destabilization requires a step back in time. In 1981 the KGB, the Soviet security agency, pretty well convinced the leadership that the U.S. was planning a secret first strike nuclear attack and, simultaneously, President Ronald Reagan was applying all manner of pressure on the former Soviet Union to bring them to their knees. And then…and then, NATO decided to conduct the ten day Able Archer exercise in 1983. Able Archer simulated a DEFCON 1 scenario in which tensions escalated to a nuclear attack. Just for fun, the exercise incorporated new elements; a unique format of coded communication, radio silences, and participation by heads of government. The resulting unintended consequences from Able Archer caused a colossal uptick in tension that frightened many, including Carney.
Carney did not just make copies of the documents he secreted to the East German authorities, he provided numbered originals; hundreds of them. While Carney was paid under $200 for each document, the U.S. estimates the damage costs in the tens of billions of dollars. Carney described the fear and exhilaration of being a spy: “I took a huge document and another huge document with me, went across the hall into an unsecured room, laid the documents out on the table, secured everything, and had my camera ready, and started photographing. . . . I was walked in on two times while I was photographing. . . . My face went red as a beet because my blood pressure was unbelievable, and the people went, ‘Oh, excuse me, I didn’t know you were busy.’ And they turned around and walked out.”
1984 found Jeffrey Carney continuing his espionage work at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas. He got ‘spooked’ after he was scheduled for a psych evaluation and took off for
Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth
Mexico where he reported to the East German Embassy and requested a rescue. Carney was repatriated to East Germany through Cuba where he apparently lived happily until 1991. The Air Force unit OSI, however, had not forgotten about Carney who now carried a West German ID card. According to Spiegel Online International (See Footnote 3), he was kidnapped in front of his Berlin apartment, returned to the U.S., tried, convicted and sent to Ft. Leavenworth to serve his sentence.
Jeffrey Carney considers himself a victim of the Cold War. In his advice for stopping future ‘Jeffreys’, can be found his list of grievances “If you want to do these people a favor who have problems — and I’m talking from experience — say something. If somebody had said something to me and put a block in front of me and said, ‘I think Jeff’s got a problem and I don’t think that he’s handling it very well,’ that would have been enough to stop the process….I lost everything — my dignity, my freedom, my self-respect.”
Perhaps he is right, but as I re-run the stories of the veterans in my head I do not think so. I think Carney bought into the ‘victim’ trap laid by the Stasi. His justification for selling-out his brothers-in-arms was the lie that he was saving the world. He blames others for not reaching out to him but there is no tale of his effort to reach out to others for help, except that he did try to quit military service. In Carney, the Stasi recognized an individual who needed constant reinforcement and stroked his ego.
Other service men and women found ways to ‘keep the faith’. These people lived in the long shadow of death that could strike instantaneously from the mountains, valleys or skies of East
Blackhorse Trooper Image depicts a soldier of the U.S. 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment on duty along the inter-zone German frontier during the Cold War.
Germany yet they made it through with help from each other. The service men manned their tanks, their aircraft, their listening posts, walked post, exercised their companies and knew on a moment-by-moment basis their world could erupt into pitched battle. Still the military kept its machine going; served three meals a day, maintained the equipment and trained. The serving military laughed, cried, thought, reflected, drank, partied, and stood their ground.
Recently I had the privilege of witnessing a conversation among a group of veterans focused whether or not each, as individuals, would have fought and died had the Russians come through the German line. Veteran James Hanebury summed up all twenty or so comments eloquently when he said, “All enemies both Foreign and Domestic. At the point of the Fulda Gap in Bad Hersefeld we would not have much choice. But that choice was made when you raised your right hand and took that one pace forward. Always felt it was better there than on American soil…Up in Hersfeld we used to joke about learning Russian so we could say don’t shoot I know secrets or just wave them
through the TCP with a Das Verdanya Torvarich . My MP Platoon would have been chopped to the 3/11 ACR as scouts so we would have been in front of everybody. Same thing when I had the
Jay Cooley taking care of business in 1976 or 1977 around Wildflecken, Germany (Courtesy of James Hanebury)
Heavy Platoon 3rd MP Co 3rd INF Div. We would escort the Jump and Main TOC then be chopped to combat opns in the Div support area from the front back 20 klicks looking for Russian Descant Forces. Both units would have been some of the first to engage Soviet Forces. Damest thing is it never seemed to bother us. Boy, talk about young and dumb.”
And the gravel in the gut didn’t stop with the soldiers on the line, it ran right through the families who shared the dangers with their soldiers. Veteran Bill Sier was stationed in Germany with his family. He writes, “We were supposed to report Russian aircraft over the West. My wife told me once a chopper flew low over our quarters and my son, who would have been about 5, ran to her in the bedroom and said “Don’t worry, Mom, it’s one of ours.”
I pity Jeffrey Carney and the man he became. He never knew or grew to understand the value of sacrifice and service. Carney will never feel the gratitude of Americans thankful to the men and women of the Cold War who gave so that we might live free.