Austin Goodrich, Spy Who Posed as Journalist, Dies at 87
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: July 10, 2013
Austin Goodrich, an American spy who used credentials as a journalist, including from CBS News, to establish his cover during cold war postings abroad, died on June 9 at his home in Port Washington, Wis. He was 87.
The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, his daughter Kristina Goodrich said.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Mr. Goodrich was far from the only journalist doubling as a secret agent. Several who did so, along with some top news executives, later said that during the cold war the separation between the news media and the government was considerably more negotiable than it subsequently became.
However, it was not until the 1970s, after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence investigated the Central Intelligence Agency, that reports by Rolling Stone magazine and The New York Times revealed that journalists from myriad news organizations had served the agency in various capacities, sometimes with the full knowledge of their employers. Mr. Goodrich became one of the first examples of a journalist-spy to be publicly disclosed.
The Times reported that at least 22 American news organizations, including CBS News and Time, Life and Newsweek magazines, as well as The Times itself, “had employed, though sometimes only on a casual basis, American journalists who were also working for the C.I.A.,” and that “in a few instances the organizations were aware of the C.I.A. connection, but most of them appear not to have been.”
Mr. Goodrich joined the C.I.A. straight out of college in 1949, two years after President Harry S. Truman signed the National Security Act, which created it. Having spent part of his college career studying in Stockholm, he was returned there by the fledgling agency. “They said ‘Goodbye, good luck, and work your way into a job in Stockholm, and take it from there,’ ” he recalled in a video recorded by his daughter. “I was given a slip of paper with a phone number on it, and I was told, ‘If you’re really in trouble, call that number. Otherwise, we’ve got your bank account and we’ll put your salary in there, and you go out and develop your own cover.’ ”
He set himself up as a freelance writer and reporter, sending back dispatches, largely to Midwestern newspapers, about Scandinavia, including reports from Finland as it held on to its independence in the ominous shadow of the Soviet Union. He wrote about sports for the Paris edition of The New York Herald Tribune contributed to The Christian Science Monitor and Yachting magazine and served as a correspondent for Swedish radio stations.
At the same time, he was foraging among local Communists for dissatisfied party members and performing other clandestine tasks. His daughter said he told of planting ham radios in the forests of Finland so the Finns would have access to communications devices in the event of a Soviet invasion.
“My specialty was recruiting to our service disillusioned and unhappy members of the Communist Party,” Mr. Goodrich said, “people who were strongly motivated to noble purposes, which they felt had been betrayed by the party apparatus.”
Mr. Goodrich began contributing pieces to CBS as a stringer in the 1950s, and for a time the network brought him back to New York to serve as a news writer, but he was discreetly fired in 1954 after CBS learned of his connection to the C.I.A. In 1958, however, he appeared as a reporter on an installment of the CBS News program “The Twentieth Century,” anchored by Walter Cronkite, about Soviet propaganda in Finland.
Mr. Goodrich was born in Battle Creek, Mich., on Aug. 30, 1925, the son of Marjorie Austin and Cyrus Goodrich, a lawyer. He enlisted in the Army at 18 and served in the infantry in Europe during World War II. Afterward, he studied political science at the University of Michigan and spent his junior year in Stockholm.
His first marriage, to Eva Rosenberg, whom he met in Oslo, ended in divorce. In addition to his daughter Kristina, survivors include his wife, the former Mona Stender, whom he married in the early 1990s; four other children, Britt V. Weaver and Austin, Timothy and Sammy Goodrich; three sisters, Ethel Ackerson, Eleanor Guilbert and Helen Putnam; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
After his time in Stockholm, Mr. Goodrich went on to agency assignments in the Netherlands and once again in Scandinavia, where he continued to work as a journalist. In 1964 he returned for a time to the United States. His subsequent postings, in Thailand and West Germany, did not require a cover.
Mr. Goodrich retired from the C.I.A. in 1976 and was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit by the future president George H. W. Bush, then the director of central intelligence. Unlike some reporters whose C.I.A. work was a sideline and who cooperated out of a sense of patriotism or, in some cases, for the money, Mr. Goodrich was first and foremost a spy.
“I think he took pride in the journalism he did, but in the final analysis that was not his full-time commitment,” Kristina Goodrich said. “He really believed in the importance of the democratic way of life and the danger of any system that could lead to totalitarian control over people.”