Monday, May 25, 2009

My Time as a Mole

I watched the movie "Donnie Brasco" this morning. It was about an undercover FBI agent (Johnny Depp) who infiltrates the mafia. In one of the scenes he and his fellow mobsters go into a Japanese restaurant. Everyone is asked, as is custom, to take off their shoes. Johnny knows he can't do it or the wire in his boot will be revealed. He makes a big scene about not wanting to follow Japanese customs because his uncle was killed in WWII.

The movie reminded me of the time I was recruited by the FBI to infiltrate the radical branch of SDS, the Weathermen. It actually reminded me of an exact moment during that episode. I was in college. It was 1968. I was sitting alone in the campus coffee shop, The Sugar Bowl, (great french fries) when this young, short haired guy sat down next to me. He asked me if I might take a walk to discuss a matter of importance to American security.

"Sure," I said. "No problem."

I figured it had something to do with a potential assassination of the president. Another FBI agent had recently come to my fraternity to question us about some rumors: apparently, one of my fraternity brothers had made threatening remarks about President Johnson.

This young, short haired guy told me me that the government needed my help to infiltrate a dangerous, anti-war group. I had never heard of SDS or the Weathermen. I was pretty much apolitical. He told me to my surprise that a girl with whom I was having a casual sexual relationship was sharing a house, off campus, with two SDS members. He told me I would have to wear a wire, and try to tape some incriminating conversations.

I viewed myself as a loyal American. I accepted the assignment. I did not tell my mother; she would have freaked out. I didn't tell anyone until now. I guess the burden of carrying this secret for all these years has finally gotten to me. It's not easy when you risk your life for your country and can't reveal any of the details.

I had only been to the house one time and had no immediate plans to go back. My only motivation in contacting this girl was sex. She wasn't very attractive, which pains me to say, because all girls are beautiful, especially when you're having sex with them, and she was especially nice. Her parents died. When I first met her she was living with her grandmother. She was happy to have moved out, to have found two likable roommates.

Shortly after my conversation with the Fed, I was feeling a little horny, which was not unusual for me at the time. I called the girl and asked her if I could come over for a few hours. She said there was a meeting going on but it would probably be all right if we stayed in her room. I immediately called the contact number given to me by the agent. I spoke the code word, EGG ROLL, and hung up. I had chosen the word as one I would not forget.

Within fifteen minutes my contact agent arrived at my house. I was living at home at the time, only fifteen minutes from my college campus. I introduced the agent to my mother as one of my professors who was giving me some extra tutoring. We went into my room. Fortunately my sister was out at the time (we still shared a room). He pulled out the wire, asked me to undress and put it on me. He then took it off and asked me to put it on. I fumbled a little but I finally got it right.

He went outside to the front of my building in the project. I spoke normally. He came back and said everything tested A-OK.

I arrived at the girl's house within an hour. I wasn't very nervous. My mind was primarily on sex. She greeted me at the door and quickly escorted me through the living room to her bedroom. There had been eight or ten long haired types sitting around in the living room. There were a lot of papers lying around. No one seemed especially dangerous but I was inexperienced in these matters.

We went into her bedroom and started making out. I began to unbutton her blouse. I then realized that if I undressed my wire would be revealed. How could I not have thought of this before? This was the exact moment I was reminded of in watching "Donnie Brasco today. He handled it cooly and was able to get past the moment without exposing himself. I was not that cool and began to panic. I didn't know what to do. I finally told her that I was suddenly feeling sick and needed to go home. I called my FBI contact as soon as I got home and explained what had happened. I told him this was not for me and asked him to come pick up the wire.

"No problem," he said.

He came right over and picked up the wire. I never heard from him again. I hadn't thought about this much until now. I feel better now that I have revealed this story. Maybe I'll reveal other stuff that I have been holding back.


  1. Ira....this story in unbelieveable. What kind of secret life did you lead? Are you sure this happened? Were you doing heavy drugs at the time.........or now? I will talk to you Tuesday.
    JC P.S.-- what other "stuff" are you holding back? Your blogs are fascinating.