William J. Casey

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For the Massachusetts politician, see William J. Casey (Massachusetts politician)
William J. Casey
13th Director of Central Intelligence
In office
January 28, 1981 – January 29, 1987
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded by Adm. Stansfield Turner
Succeeded by William H. Webster
Personal details
Born (1913-03-13)March 13, 1913
Elmhurst, Queens, New York
Died May 6, 1987(1987-05-06) (aged 74)
Roslyn Harbor, New York
Religion Roman Catholic

William Joseph Casey (March 13, 1913 – May 6, 1987) was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Life and career

A native of Elmhurst, Queens, New York, Casey graduated from Fordham University in 1934 and earned a law degree from St. John's University School of Law in 1937. His portrait now sits in Molloy College. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — the predecessor to the CIA — where he became head of its Secret Intelligence Branch in Europe.[1] He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement. The OSS was dissolved in 1945.

Casey ran as a "Javits Republican" for New York's 3rd congressional district in 1966, but was defeated in the primary by former Congressman Steven Derounian.[2] After practicing corporate law in New York, he served in the Nixon Administration as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1971 to 1973;[3] this position led to his being called as a prosecution witness against former Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans in an influence-peddling case stemming from international financier Robert Vesco's $200,000 contribution to the Nixon reelection campaign.[4] He then served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs for 1973-74 and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States 1974-76. He was a co-founder of the Manhattan Institute in 1978. He is the father-in-law of Owen Smith, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of World Politics and Professor Emeritus at Long Island University.[5]

Director of Central Intelligence

Casey was campaign manager of the successful presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and served on the transition team following the election. After Reagan took office, Reagan named Casey to the post of Director of Central Intelligence.[6] Stansfield Turner dubbed it the "Resurrection of Wild Bill", referring to Bill Donovan, the brilliant and eccentric head of OSS in World War II whom Casey greatly admired.[7]

During his tenure at the CIA, Casey played a large part in the shaping of Reagan's foreign policy, particularly Reagan's approach to Soviet international activity. Based on the book, The Terror Network, Casey believed that the Soviet Union was the source of most worldwide terrorist activity in spite of CIA analysts providing evidence that this was in fact black propaganda by the CIA itself. Casey obtained a report from a professor who agreed with his view. Casey also turned to Defense Intelligence Agency for a competing analysis, that was ultimately reconciled with the CIA analysts to produce the estimate circulated within the government as "The Soviet Role in Revolutionary Violence."[8] This, in turn, convinced Reagan that there was a threat.[9] After records from the collapsed Communist governments became available in the 1990s it became clear that the disputed report overestimated Communist involvement in terrorist activity.[10]

Ronald Reagan used other prominent Catholics in his government to brief the pope during the Cold War. Casey would fly secretly to Rome in a windowless C-141 black jet and "be taken undercover to the Vatican.[11]

Casey oversaw the re-expansion of the Intelligence Community to funding and human resource levels greater than those existing before the preceding Carter Administration; in particular, he increased levels within the CIA. During his tenure, restrictions were lifted on the use of the CIA to directly and covertly influence the internal and foreign affairs of countries relevant to American policy. Notably, Casey articulated before Congress in December 1981 that covert operations in Nicaragua were in the interest of national security.[12][better source needed]

This period of the Cold War saw an increase in the Agency's global, anti-Soviet activities, which is started under the Carter Doctrine in late 1980.

Iran–Contra affair

Hours before Casey was scheduled to testify before Congress related to his knowledge of Iran–Contra affair, he was reported to have been rendered incapable of speech during an operation to remove a brain tumor.

In a 1987 book, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, Washington Post reporter and biographer Bob Woodward, who had interviewed Casey on a number of occasions for the biography, said that he had gained entry into Casey's hospital room for a final, four-minute encounter—a claim which was met with disbelief in many quarters as well as an adamant denial from Casey's wife, Sofia. According to Woodward, when Casey was asked if he knew about the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras, "His head jerked up hard. He stared, and finally nodded yes."[13] Independent Counsel, Lawrence Walsh wrote: "Independent Counsel obtained no documentary evidence showing Casey knew about or approved the diversion. The only direct testimony linking Casey to early knowledge of the diversion came from [Oliver] North."[14]

Personal life

Casey, a Catholic, was a member of the Knights of Malta.[15]


Casey died of a brain tumor in 1987 at the age of 74. His Requiem Mass was said by Fr. Daniel Fagan, then pastor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Roslyn, New York. It was attended by President Reagan and the First Lady. Casey is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, New York. He was survived by his wife, the former Sophia McDaid (d.2000), and his daughter, Bernadette Casey Smith.[16]

See also


  1. Pace, Eric (May 7, 1987). "Obituary of Mr William Casey". New York Times. Mr. Casey, after serving as chief of secret intelligence in Europe for the Office of Strategic Services in World War II,<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Wolfgang Saxon (April 20, 2007). "Steven B. Derounian, 89, Judge and Nassau Ex-Congressman, Dies". New York Times.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Nomination of William J. Casey: Hearings, Ninety-second Congress, first session, on the nomination of William J. Casey to be a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission. February 10 and March 9, 1971.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Woodward, Bob (1987). VEIL: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 51.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. http://www.iwp.edu/about/page/board-of-trustees
  6. Nomination of William J. Casey: Hearing Before the Select Committee on Intelligence, of the United States Senate, Ninety-seventh Congress, First Session, on Nomination of William J. Casey, to be Director of Central Intelligence, Tuesday, January 13, 1981, Volume 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Burn Before Reading, Stansfield Turner, Hyperion, 2005, first page of chapter on Ronald Reagan
  8. Robert Gates, From The Shadows, 1996 (pp. 203-206 of Simon & Schuster 2006 paperback edition)
  9. The Power of Nightmares Part 1 'Baby it's cold outside'
  10. Gates, p. 206
  11. Officials say pope, Reagan shared Cold War data, but lacked alliance, Catholic News Service, Nov-17-2004[dead link]
  12. Webb, Gary (1999). Dark Alliance. Seven Stories Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-888363-93-7.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Did A Dead Man Tell No Tales?" by Richard Zoglin, Time, October 12, 1987
  14. https://fas.org/irp/offdocs/walsh/chap_15.htm
  15. Phelan, Matthew (2011-02-28) Seymour Hersh and the men who want him committed, Salon.com
  16. On October 5, 2000, of Roslyn Harbor. Beloved wife of the late William J. Casey, former Director of Central Intelligence. Loving mother of Bernadette Casey Smith, The New York Times, October 9, 2000

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Hamer H. Budge
Securities and Exchange Commission Chair
Succeeded by
G. Bradford Cook
Preceded by
Thomas C. Mann
Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs
February 2, 1973 – March 14, 1974
Succeeded by
Charles W. Robinson
Preceded by
Stansfield Turner
Director of Central Intelligence
January 28, 1981 – January 29, 1987
Succeeded by
William H. Webster