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time to get on to the next generation. [But] I was not persuaded that any
of them were quite ready ... so I sort of shocked the place by picking Ann
Caracristi. I had watched the job she had done running A [Group]."
Inman added, "I decided to go with one more of the World War II
generation. Ann knew that I wanted to be the director in a somewhat
different role than in the long years when Lou Tordella had been the
deputy [and ©minence grise]. She had no problem." Inman also didn't
want to see deputy directors overstaying their time. "I set out to try to get
a pattern where deputy directors did somewhere between two and four
years," he said. "I think [Tordella] stayed too long in the process."
Inman wanted not just to represent NSA throughout the intelligence
community, but also to run the day-to-day operations, something
previous directors had left to the cryptologic professional, the deputy
director. "I had a sense in my first couple of months that the internal
agency's view of the director was sort of like, Treat him like the pharaoh.
Bear him around. Put him down for honors and ceremonies. Send him



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off to deal with the outside world and not get very involved in what went
on inside. I am a very hands-on person who likes to get all over an
organization." Inman began walking around and sticking his head in the
various offices”another highly unusual behavior for a director. At one
point he stopped in G Group, which was responsible for the
noncommunist parts of the world. "I walked into G7 spaces on about the
fourth of these visits," he said, "and there was a banner on the wall in
case I came. It said, 'Welcome, Admiral Inman. You will be the first
director to visit G7 since General Canine.' "
When Inman arrived, the agency was still recovering from the trauma
of dual Senate and House investigations into the intelligence community.
Determined to rebuild congressional confidence in NSA, Inman worked,
as he had in high school, to turn his adversaries into allies. Instead of
tutoring his bullies, he would tutor the powerful chairmen and members
of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees. The committee
members had long been accustomed to absolute secrecy and a "Don't
worry, we'll tell you what you need to know" attitude; Inman would win
their praises with heavy doses of uncharacteristic candor and gushing
flattery. "Few could understand this but you," he would privately tell
members, beaming boyishly. Such remarks, said former intelligence
committee staffer Angelo Codevilla, "were enough to convince most of
Inman's contacts, liberal and conservative, that they were fellow
geniuses."
Inman's plan worked as well as it had back at Mineola High. To
Congress he was the wonder boy, the spook who could do no wrong;
hearings became love-ins. "You have my vote even before I hear your
testimony," said the Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, Barry M.
Goldwater, adding, "I don't know of a man in the business that is more
highly regarded than you." Delaware's senator Joseph Biden dubbed him
the "single most competent man in the government."
At the same time Inman neutralized much of the elite Washington
press corps by currying their favor, becoming their leaker-in-chief. No
one in the press, he correctly calculated, would risk eliminating one of
their best”or only”"senior intelligence sources" by criticizing him or his
agency. He also developed as allies the senior editors and executives of
the most powerful newspapers and networks, installing them as
honorary members of his club so that they would keep in check any
rogue reporter who might contemplate breaching his fortress.
In a city where someone can be transformed from a hero to a Hitler
between commercial breaks, Inman became a near divinity. Omni
magazine, in an article entitled "The Smartest Spy," called him "simply
one of the smartest people ever to come out of Washington or anywhere,"
while Newsweek referred to him as "a superstar in the intelligence
community." The Washington Post, in an editorial, once said, "Inman's


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reviews are extraordinary, almost hyperbolic." Inman's philosophy boiled
down to a few understated words: "I have over the years practiced a
general theory of conservation of enemies."
"He certainly knew how to play the game," said John Walcott, a former
reporter for Newsweek, the Wall Street Journal, and Time, who often dealt
with Inman. Another reporter later described him as "the single biggest
leaker of intelligence information in the last 10 to 15 years." The New
York Times, years later, also acknowledged that Inman, indeed, "was a
valued source of news for the paper's Washington bureau."
Some saw Inman's approach to both Congress and the press as more
sinister than cynical. As the head of the NSA, said Suzanne Garment of
the American Enterprise Institute, "Inman was in control of unequaled
information”and, say his critics, disinformation”that put him in a
dominant position in these exchanges." Given the NSA's "ability to listen
in on all overseas phone calls," she said, "he could protect people and
give the impression of including them in the inner circles of power. Some
were happy to pay for these privileges with sympathetic writing and
legislative action. Some did not know they were paying."
Another writer put it more bluntly: "There were certain rules, of
course: You never named him; you never attributed the tidbits he gave
you; you never, in fact, did anything he didn't want you to do, or the
invitations to breakfast stopped. . . . During his time at NSA, exposes of
the agency all but disappeared."
When Inman wasn't whispering his own leaks to the media, he was
trying to get others plugged. A few months after he arrived at NSA, a New
York Times article that crossed his desk enraged him. Republican Illinois
Congressman Edward J. Derwinski, the paper alleged, was under
investigation for tipping off top South Korean officials that their country's
New York intelligence chief was about to defect. What burned Inman was
a reference to the fact that the way the FBI got on to the alleged leak was
through NSA intercepts of calls between Derwinski, who was never
charged with any wrongdoing, and the South Korean officials.
Inman flew to New York to complain in person to publisher A. O.
(Punch) Sulzberger. During the lunch at the Times Manhattan offices,
Inman made his pitch that he be called prior to any future stories
involving NSA. On his flight back he believed he had a secret agreement
in his pocket, but Sulzberger apparently had a different opinion. He
never passed any formal instructions on to his editors. Nevertheless, in
the course of normal journalistic reporting, editors frequently ran NSA-
related stories past Inman. "The truth is there was nothing nearly as
formal as [Inman] suggested," said Nicholas Horrock, who headed the
Times investigative unit at the time, "but lots of reporters, at the Times
and elsewhere, called Inman to check out stories."



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Also among those with Inman's phone number close at hand was the
Washington Post's Bob Woodward. But Woodward occasionally proposed
a story Inman didn't like, and in that case the admiral would go over his
head, to Ben Bradlee or Howard Simons, then the Post's managing editor,
seeking to get the offending material removed.
Despite his boy-wonder reputation, Inman suffered from a deep sense
of insecurity. His self-image never reached much higher than the tops of
his spit-polished Navy shoes. Rhonesboro had followed him to Fort
Meade and would never leave him. Embarrassed by his gapping teeth, he
was almost never photographed with his lips open. He would also drop
the "Bobby Ray" from his official correspondence, preferring simply "B. R.
Inman." "My name is really Bobby Ray, much as I hate it," he once said,
"but that is my real name."
At work, he saw himself as the consummate outsider, always seeking
but never quite reaching the inner circle. After a day of lavish praise, he
would wake up in the middle of the night, unable to sleep because of a
single word of criticism. Once, following a whispering campaign about
whether he was a closet homosexual, because he hadn't fired a gay NSA
employee, he felt it necessary to deny publicly that he was gay. For
"proof," he pointed to a lie detector exam in which he had denied any
homosexuality. The polygraph examiner, said Inman, had found his
answer "not deceptive." Nearly obsessed with the issue, he went out of
his way to tell others that the reason he had gay friends was that he
"deliberately [sought them out] to try to understand them."
While most saw only the confident, super-smart admiral, beneath his
membrane-thin shell was a boiling caldron of anger and arrogance, a
man "wound tighter than a hummingbird in Saran Wrap," according to
one observer. Another was reminded of Captain Queeg of The Caine
Mutiny. Still others saw a man who had lived so long in the hidden world
of spies that he now saw plots everywhere.
Among the first to get a peek of the other Inman was New York Times
columnist William L. Safire. Unaware of the secret "deal" Inman had
supposedly made with the publisher of his newspaper, Safire telephoned
Inman a few weeks later seeking information for a column. Inman
refused to provide any help or information to Safire, a former Nixon
speechwriter who felt he deserved a leak as much as anyone. As a result,
according to Inman, the columnist "was very direct that if I didn't become
a source, I would regret it in subsequent coverage." Safire denied having
made any such threat.
A few years later, in 1980, Safire wrote another column, this one
devoted to "Billygate," the scandal involving allegations that President
Jimmy Carter's brother, Billy, was working as a business agent on behalf
of the Libyan government. The tip-off came as a result of NSA's secret



319
monitoring of all communications into and out of Libya. In his column
Safire congratulated Inman for his "considerable courage" in reporting to
the attorney general about the president's brother.
Inman was livid at Safire for bypassing his secret standing order that
any mention of NSA's operations first be sent to him for "guidance." He
believed that Safire's article had caused the loss of "critical access that
gave us a lot of information on terrorists." Sitting at his oversize wooden
desk, Inman picked up the "red" telephone used for unclassified outside
calls and dialed Safire's number. According to the columnist, the admiral
"denounced [me] for doing . . . irreparable harm . . . by revealing our
sources and methods." But Safire would have none of it, instead asking
Inman how a "grown man could go through life calling himself Bobby." At
that point, said Safire, Inman, "slammed down the phone."
Safire, however, would have the last word. In a column published
shortly after the phone-slamming incident, he raked Inman over the
coals for appearing as a guest on ABC's Nightline, a strange decision for
the director of the nation's most secret spy agency. "The nation's chief
eavesdropper," Safire wrote, was "blabbing about sources and methods
on late-night TV."
Much of Inman's tenure was divided between trying to ensure an NSA
monopoly in the field of cryptography and working out protective
legislation for NSA's Sigint operations with the Senate and House
Intelligence Committees. To eliminate outside competition in the
cryptographic field, Inman took the unprecedented step of going public in
a number of lectures and interviews. Most of these, however, were low-
key affairs, intended to attract little attention and to produce even less
substance.
With regard to his unusual decision to make public appearances,
Inman told one group, "I try to do it out of any glare of publicity, because
of my conviction that the heads of the intelligence agencies should not be
public figures. ... If they are, if the work force sees their profiles day after
day on the front page of the paper, on television, on the weekly magazine
cover, and sees them getting all the credit for what they're doing, it's a
little hard for them to enforce the discipline of protecting secrecy."
In 1981, with the election of Ronald Reagan as president, Inman left
NSA to become the deputy director of the CIA under William J. Casey.
But the two never hit it off. Casey saw Inman as "a brittle golden boy,
worried about his image." The following year he resigned and entered
private industry, where he accepted a paid position on his old friend
James Guerin's "proxy board," required to guard against the transfer of
sensitive defense information to foreign governments. But within a few
years, while Inman was on the board, Guerin had reopened his illegal
pipeline to South Africa, this time sending highly sensitive military



320
equipment, such as photo-imaging systems and advanced radar-
controlled antiaircraft parts, to the apartheid government. Casey's CIA,
which knew of the operation, had turned a blind eye.
About the same time, Guerin also became a major arms dealer,
specializing in deadly cluster bombs. In 1984 it was discovered that
sensitive bomb-making design information had been illegally transferred
to a company in Chile that was manufacturing cluster bombs for the
armed forces of Iraq. Although a long federal investigation followed, the
Justice Department was never able to make any arrests. Also, there is no
evidence that Inman was aware of the deals.
But by the end of the decade, Guerin's greed had finally gotten the
best of him. He was convicted of masterminding a $1.4 billion fraud,
which one federal judge described as "the largest . . . ever perpetrated in
North America." He was also convicted of money laundering and of
smuggling $50 million in weapons to South Africa. Other allegations had
Guerin improperly selling missile technology to Iraq. Sentenced to fifteen
years in prison, Guerin still had Bobby Inman's support. At Guerin's
sentencing, Inman wrote a letter praising his "patriotism."


Once NSA was the unwanted stepchild of powerful spymasters such
as Allen Dulles, who refused its director a seat on the Intelligence
Advisory Committee. But by the late 1970s the agency had grown so
secret and powerful that the head of the CIA was complaining that it was
almost beyond control. By then NSA had become a well-oiled spying
machine, with its own army, navy, and air force; hundreds of secret
listening posts throughout the world; and massive bugs deep in space.
Its printing plant worked twenty-four hours a day turning out its own
reports, analyses, high-level transcripts, and projections. Powerful
congressmen were treating Bobby Inman as the dark prince of
intelligence, an infallible all-knowing wizard. Suddenly NSA had gone
from a 98-pound weakling, rubbing the CIA's sand from its eyes, to a
superstar.
With billions of dollars at stake, there followed a war of the admirals”
Inman at NSA and Stansfield Turner at CIA”over gargantuan satellite
programs. Inman pushed to fill the skies with more and bigger ears, and
Turner argued instead to seed the heavens with electronic eyes. Little
wonder that palace intrigue abounded. For Inman, it was Mineola High,
only for bigger stakes. Now instead of currying favor with a class officer,
he was quietly passing highly secret reports to a powerful congressman
to win support for his projects.
When Senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) of the Intelligence Committee
said he needed some secret NSA files, Inman didn't wait to get White
House or CIA approval. "I said, 'Sure,' " Inman recalled, "and sent a guy


321
running off down to deliver them to Inouye." A short while later, Inman
heard from a boiling Zbigniew Brzezinski, the president's national
security adviser. "Admiral, I understand that you are sending sensitive
material to Inouye. Who authorized that?" he demanded. "I authorized it!"
Inman shot back. "You didn't consult Stan Turner or the secretary of
defense?" asked Brzezinski. "I said, 'It is within my authority and I
authorized it,' " said Inman. "And he hung up." As always, Inman got
away with it and his legend grew within Congress as a man who could be
trusted, a man who got things done.
Administration officials seldom said no to Inman. When he proposed a
budget-busting project, every effort was made to accommodate him.
"What we wanted to do was so massive that there was no way you could
do it within the existing budget," he said of one super-expensive Soviet
collection project. At the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown
suggested that rather than adding money to NSA's budget, they cut

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