The first Lester
Knox Coleman was a Navy man.
A native of Moffat, Texas, he had signed on in 1917 to escape his
family's dirt-poor existence in the Texas dust bowl. Liking the look of
it no better when he came back from the war, he re-enlisted in the
peacetime Navy, and, in 1924, was assigned to the USS, Shenandoah, the
Daughter of the Stars, one of two Navy airships developed from the
German Zeppelins that, for many, seemed to point the way to the future
He was on board when, in 1925, the Shenandoah cast off from her mooring
mast at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, New Jersey, and headed out on a
barnstorming tour of the Midwest to drum up public support for the
Navy's lighter-than-air programme. Two days later, a violent storm broke
her back over the cornfields of Ohio, littering the ground with the
bodies of her crew.
Lester Knox Coleman survived, as no one who knew him would have doubted.
Lester Knox Coleman Jr., an engineer by profession, was another
survivor. The day after Pearl Harbor, he quit his job with the Gulf
Power Company in Pensacola, Florida, and, like his father before him in
1917, signed up for the Navy. His infant son was 18 months old before he
even laid eyes on him.
Lester Knox Coleman III was born in the USNAS/Navy Point Hospital on 25
September 1943, while the other two were overseas, fighting their
country's war against the Japanese, one in South America, the other in
the South Pacific.
Like them, he was brought up to believe in America, to honor its
principles, to be suspicious of foreigners and to distrust politicians,
who, as far as the Colemans were concerned, had about as much common
sense as a bucket of warm spit. There was nothing in his small-town
Southern background, his traditional American middle-class home or his
average educational achievement to raise as much as an eyebrow among the
team of military investigators who later vetted him back to his diapers
to determine his suitability for secret government service with the
Defense Intelligence Agency.
When Coleman was five, the Gulf Power Company transferred his father
from Pensacola to Panama City, a two-hour ride down the Florida
panhandle on Highway 98. And for the next eight years nothing much else
happened as far as Coleman can remember, except for the stroke that
disabled his grandfather. He dawdled through Cove Elementary and Jinks
Junior High to Eighth grade, showing no great aptitude for academic
study, failed Ninth grade when his father moved the family north to New
Jersey for a year, and did hardly better in Tenth grade at Pensacola
High when the Colemans returned to Florida.
Indeed, the high point in his education until then was the discovery of
progressive jazz. Under the tutelage of his friend Connor Shaw, ace
drummer of the Pensacola High 'Tiger' Band, he was introduced to the
music of Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson and Thelonius Monk, and to
other, more tangible pleasures of the Beat Generation.
Older than Coleman, and with a driver's license, Shaw would pick up his
protege in his '51 black Chevy coupe as soon as the Friday afternoon
bell rang and together they would set off for a night out in the French
Quarter of New Orleans, three hours away along the Gulf shore highway.
Nearing sixteen, Coleman read Jack Kerouac's On the Road, and took to
wearing a hip pair of shades with his dirty sweatshirts and sneakers.
Then, one day, everything changed. His father came home and said, in his
usual, unadorned fashion, 'We're moving to Iran.'
'Yeah? What part of Florida is that in, Dad?'
'You mean, Iran like in Persia? Shit!'
The pain of withdrawal from his local bohemia was soon offset by
Coleman's growing excitement at the prospect of traveling to faraway,
romantic places of the sort his father and grandfather had so often
talked about. But, as it turned out, the family was bound for the oil
company settlement of Golestan, a suburb of Ahwaz, about two hours
overland by land Rover from the city and oil terminal of Abadan. With
its neat, yellow-brick homes set in plots of real grass, its own
supermarket, school and country club, Golestan might as well have been
in Arizona as in the ancient kingdom of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi.
Continuing his teenage rebellion, Coleman decided to become an Arab.
He set himself to learn colloquial Arabic by hanging out with the
company drivers and laborers who spent a good part of every work day
sitting around charcoal stoves sipping glasses of hot tea through cubes
of sugar. It was a conscious decision. Rather than learn Farsi, spoken
only in Iran, he chose Arabic as it was the language of many nations,
from the Shatt-al-Arab waterway clear across the northern reaches of
Africa to the Atlantic Ocean.
As Coleman's proficiency improved, and the Arabs, treated like dogs by
the Iranians, lost their suspicion of the 'young Satan', so they allowed
him deeper into their society. His new friend Ahziz, who lived in
Laskarabad, took him to visit his uncle's village to drink tea and eat
sheep's eyes and rice with the old sheik as they lounged on Persian
carpets and watched the belly dancers.
Coleman practiced his Arabic around camp fires at Refresabad, in the
wilderness near Isfahan, and while riding third-class trains to
Antimeshk. He grew accustomed to eating by the light of burning donkey
dung with people who lived in huts or tents and bathed and urinated in
open jubs as they had for a thousand years.
To placate his family and their Iranian friends, Coleman also learned a
little Farsi, but as he approached his eighteenth birthday, both he and
his father were only too conscious that his school credits were barely
worthy of a high-school junior. If he was ever to amount to anything
more than an Arabic-speaking bum, he needed to catch up with his formal
In the autumn of 1961, he was sent home to boarding school in Orlando,
Florida -- and contrived to get himself expelled in three weeks. He then
went to stay with his uncle in Birmingham, Alabama, while he attended
Shades Valley High School.
'On Friday and Saturday nights,' Coleman remembers, 'my friend Walton
Kimbrough and me went cruising in his '53 Mercury, parking at Pig Trail
Inn, elbows out the window, listening to Dave Roddy on the radio,
sipping cherry Cokes and eating Bar-B-Cues. We'd cruise up Red Mountain,
beneath the bare bottom of Vulcan Statue, past WYDE radio and into five
points south, giving the royal digit salute to every blue Ramsey High
jacket we saw. Then shoot down main-drag 20th Street, all the way to
10th Avenue North, pull into Ed Salem's Drive Inn, elbows still out the
window, watching lake-plugged hot-rods peel rubber, driven by boys from
Ensley and Hueytown with names like Billy-Joe and Leroy and Bobby.'
It couldn't last. For one thing, he no longer had much in common with
his contemporaries. When he told them he lived in Iran, they would
mostly look him up and down, shake their heads, and with doubt shading
through scorn to open hostility ask him 'Where's that?' And when he told
them where it was, they would shake their heads again and dismiss what
he said as 'a sack of porkey-pine shit'. He had never noticed before how
parochial and ignorant of the world American kids were.
'It struck me about this time,' Coleman says, 'that they seemed to lie
more than kids from other places. They didn't do it with purposed deceit
-- it was just part of America's fast-hustle, three-card-monte morality.
When a person tells the truth, other people, looking at themselves in
the mirror and seeing a liar, assume that the truth-teller is a liar,
too. You see America differently after you've been away for a while. All
us expatriate kids had the same experience. When we got home and tried
to communicate with our peers who had never left the United States,
they'd look at us like we'd just landed from Mars.'
To the relief of his parents, and to re-establish his roots, Lester Knox
Coleman III, with his friend Walton Kimbrough, applied for admittance to
The Marion Military Institute (MMI), in Marion, Alabama. Founded in
1842, and alma mater to a distinguished roster of generals and heroes in
every American war since then, the MMI was both a cradle and shrine to
the United States Army, and a cadetship among the highest honors the
military establishment could bestow on a young American of the right
Having somehow passed the written examination, Coleman reported for duty
at the start of the winter term and managed to curb his rebellious
streak sufficiently, not only to make his grades and the Dean's List,
but to put up five stripes as a Sergeant First Class Platoon Sergeant in
his senior year. Coleman Senior pretended to take this for granted when
his son rejoined the family in Iran that summer, but, for the first time
in his life, Coleman sensed his father was proud of him.
He also re-entered the Arab world as if coming home. By the time he
graduated from MMI with the Class of '63, his father had moved on to a
job in Libya with Esso. When Coleman arrived out there, the limitless
horizons of the Sahara and the brutal austerity of life among the
nomadic tribes of the desert caught his imagination so completely that
it was 1966 before the claims of higher education in the United States
again outweighed those of the liberal education he was acquiring in
Arabic and Middle Eastern affairs. As his father pointed out with
increasing acerbity, he had a living to earn, and -- not counting a
brief spell at the American University in Beirut -- nothing worth a damn
to interest a prospective employer.
An aimless year at Jacksonville State University, Alabama, failed to
remedy the deficiency, but it did at least point the way. Through a
friend, Jim Sands, he was introduced to the trials, tribulations and
occasional rewards of scrub broadcasting.
A big, round, jolly fellow, Sands supported himself, more or less, by
working at one of the scores of marginally profitable, day-time radio
stations that had sprouted their directional antenna arrays all over the
South. Under Sands's benevolent auspices, Coleman tried his hand as disc
jockey-cum-announcer-cum-newsman and realized at once that he had found
his vocation. Nothing would do now but a career in broadcast journalism.
As foreign correspondent for CBS in the Middle East, maybe. Or even for
NBC, at a pinch.
But he had to start somewhere. And as the FCC required each station to
have a licensed engineer on duty at all times, and as you were obviously
more employable if you were both announcer and engineer, he dropped out
of Jacksonville and enrolled at Elkins Electronics Institute in New
Orleans to study for the FCC exams, which he passed with flying colors
It was the first flush of a passion for advanced electronics that, with
his other qualifications, was later to prove of special interest to the
United States government. At the time, however, it was of more interest
to one-horse radio stations in Pasagoula, Mississippi, and Bay Minet,
Alabama, where the transmitter sat in the middle of a cow pasture and
Coleman had to dodge the resident bull to get to work every morning.
Stripped to his shorts in the heat and confined to a toolshed studio
that turned blue with static electricity during a thunderstorm, he spun
records, recorded supermarket commercials, and, for a change of pace,
did occasional remote broadcasts from remote places like the local John
Deere tractor outlet. A year of this brought him to the comparative
luxury of a Country and Western 5000-watt station in downtown Mobile,
but there his new career stalled.
For one thing, he could see that he needed better academic credentials
if he was ever to get back to the Middle East as a network TV
correspondent, and for another thing, his best friend, Jim Sands, was
now also his brother-in-law.
Sands had invited him over to his mother-in-law's place one Sunday and
introduced him to his wife's sister, Jocelyn. Hitting it off on sight,
Lester and Jocelyn were married soon after, but even in 1967, it was
tough for a married couple to live on $90 a week. When their daughter
Karen was born in February 1968, it proved impossible. The following
September, Coleman left his job at 'Woonie Radio' and took his new
family to Jacksonville, where he went back to university, as a mature
student of 25 and rewrote the definition of working one's way through
While coping with the not inconsiderable load of his degree course,
Coleman held down jobs in a photo lab, on a radio show from 6 p.m. until
midnight, six days a week, and as a paid football announcer on
Saturdays. For her part, his wife worked as private secretary to the
football coach, as well as looking after their infant daughter, and
together the Colemans managed a 110-unit apartment complex which
provided them with rent-free accommodation.
Thus stretched, they somehow survived the three years it took Coleman to
equip himself for the big time with a bachelor's degree in political
science and economics. But by then it was 1971, in the middle of a
recession, and despite his now glittering qualifications, CBS wasn't
interested. Nor was NBC or even ABC. After fruitlessly trawling the job
market, Coleman took his wife and child back to Mobile and rejoined 'Woonie
Radio' as News Director at $125 a week. It felt like he had put himself
and his family through some pretty exhausting changes for an extra $35 a
Working out of a converted broom closet, his one-man news department was
expected to write and deliver eight newscasts a day, although, as he
... the major activity at Woonie
Radio was still station manager Rocky Reich's running poker game. It was
too rich for my blood, but I did manage to pick up an extra twenty-five
dollars a week producing the Dot Moore Radio Show. That meant I had to
push a shopping cart carrying a heavy Ampex 601 tape recorder around
Bellas Hess department store while Dot interviewed local shoppers. I'd
then take the tape back to the studio, dub in the commercial breaks and
add the music. But I couldn't see it as my life's work somehow.'
'Mobile was not exactly a hot news town anyway. My hourly five-minute
newscasts were filled with the usual Fuz'n Wuz from the police blotter,
the Wuz being the corpses from shootings, house fires and traffic
pile-ups. Once in a while a bit of political juice from City Hall would
spice up my news day, usually about Lambert 'Lamby Pie' Mims, Mobile's
Bible-thumping Mayor, whose gospel of civic trust finally landed him in
a Federal penitentiary. After five months in the 'Home of the Woonie
Bird', I was open to the first reasonable offer.'
It came from the
Boy Scouts of America (BSA), which, as Coleman later discovered, served
not only the nation's youth but also the military-industrial complex
that had so exercised President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s.
Seated one day in his broom closet, writing copy and eating Krispy
Kremes, Coleman took a call from Mark Clayton of the BSA National Public
Relations Office. An Eagle Scout from Mobile had been selected to meet
President Richard Nixon on the White House lawn, said Clayton. Was
Woonie Radio interested in covering this event?
'Sure,' said Coleman. 'I'll take a tape feed of our Eagle Scout meeting
the President of the United States. Great stuff. I'd like to ask him how
it feels to get chosen out of four million Boy Scouts to shake his
President by the hand. We'll do an interview, okay?'
Tongue intermittently in cheek, Coleman taped a few questions and
answers and then, jokingly, asked Clayton if the Boy Scouts of America
were looking for someone with a bit of broadcasting experience.
'Well,' said Clayton, surprised. 'Now that you mention it, yes. You mean
you'd be interested in taking a job with us?'
Coleman looked around his broom closet newsroom, with its mops and pails
and industrial-sized bottles of Mr. Clean, and sighed for his lost
'Sounds like an exciting opportunity to me,' he said.
Brought over from Britain in 1910 by Chicago newspaper publisher William
D. Boyce with the idea of building character in his street-corner
newsboys, Scouting had grown by 1972 into a nationwide movement,
chartered by Congress, with a full-time professional staff of 4000
directed from BSA headquarters in North Brunswick, New Jersey.
After a preliminary meeting with Clayton in Mobile, Coleman was flown in
for two days of interviews and put up in the Scout guesthouse, next door
to a museum full of Norman Rockwell paintings, in the middle of a
30-acre game preserve criss-crossed with neatly tagged nature trails.
The job opening he had stumbled upon was in the public relations
department, which already had a staff of 20 writers and photographers --
many of them former military public information officers -- under the
general direction of Ron Phillippo, a cigar-smoking outdoorsman in a
three-piece suit, whose secretary, Marcia Schwartz, and right-hand man,
Russ Butkins, USN (retd) between them ran the place. Being all 'print
people', with no practical experience of radio or television, they
needed somebody who could get the Scout story 'on the air' for $12,000 a
Satisfied he was made of the right stuff, BSA offered Coleman the job,
and in March 1972, a big cross-country moving van delivered the family's
worldly goods to their new home in Heightstown, near Princeton, New
Jersey, about 20 minutes by Toyota south of New Brunswick on Route 130.
If not quite as he had imagined. Coleman had made the big time as the
BSA's National Event Public Relations Executive.
A former Cub Scout with a school troop at eight, he soon discovered
there was more to modern Scouting than rubbing damp sticks together in
the wilderness. It was a franchise operation. With a network of regional
offices, heavily staffed with former military personnel, to oversee 'the
product', the BSA sold franchises to Local Councils in cities and towns
across the nation. These councils, in turn, employed full-time
professional staff to recruit volunteers and sponsors to run and finance
Scout troops at neighborhood levels.
In overall charge of the operation was a Chief Scout, a full-time
salaried executive of BSA, Inc., and a volunteer counterpart with the
title of National President. In 1972, they were, respectively, Alden
Barber, a polished, smooth-talking businessman who could have stepped
out of any corporate boardroom, and Robert W. Sarnoff, chief executive
officer of the Radio Corporation of America.
Coleman's connection with the big time was through the National Public
Relations Committee, a volunteer group he was encouraged to cultivate
for help and support. One of its members was Walter Cronkite, of CBS
'Can you imagine?'
Twenty years on, Coleman still remembers the excitement of hopping on a
train to New York, taking a cab uptown from Penn station to the corner
of 57th Street and 10th Avenue and walking in to tell the guard he was
there to see Walter Cronkite.
'And then actually getting in to see him. Escorted down one narrow
hallway after another, past Xerox machines, past dark studios with the
ghosts of John Cameron Swazy and Edward R. Murrow, then into the CBS
newsroom, into Cronkite's glass fishbowl of an office, and there he is
-- thinner and younger-looking in person, wearing a khaki suit, loafers
kicked off, feet on the desk, talking to me about the next Explorer
Scout Olympics in Fort Collins, Colorado.'
Most of the national events Coleman worked on were organized by the
BSA's Explorer Division, the then-new co-ed Scout 'product' for young
people between fourteen and twenty, offering hands-on experience in the
career fields that interested them.
It was the Explorer programme that finally married the Boy Scouts of
America to the military-industrial complex. The military saw Scouting as
a training ground for leaders who were also good team-players,
disciplined, respectful of authority and imbued with ideals of service
to God and country, while the business community saw it as a politically
neutral means of indoctrinating youth in the principles of free
enterprise capitalism and the American way.
Nobody had a bad word for Scouting. It was the perfect public relations
vehicle for acquiring civic virtue on the cheap while continuing the
ruthless pursuit of corporate self-interest in government and the market
place. In government, all the way up to Federal level, sponsorship of
Career-Interest Explorer Posts proved so popular among image-sensitive
agencies such as the police that a special unit was set up at BSA
headquarters to administer 'Law-Enforcement Exploring' and to work
alongside existing departments responsible for Congressional Relations,
Military Relations, Mormon Relations (the Boy Scouts of America is the
official youth movement of the Mormon Church), Corporate Relations and
As Coleman would discover at first hand, it was not so much that
Scouting was controlled by the octopus as simply incapable of denying it
a favor. When a two-star general in Washington called a retired colonel
in North Brunswick to ask if the BSA could find a job for one of 'our
people' from overseas, the only possible answer was, 'Yes, sir.'
In his two years at headquarters, Coleman came across several 'spooks'
cooling off in executive niches of the Boy Scout Movement, and later
became one himself. He also came to appreciate the mutual benefit of
having a Boy Scout troop on every significant US military base around
the world. It not only helped with the BSA's numbers game but served as
a benevolent advertisement for the American way of life, as well as a
convenient cloak for low-level intelligence gathering.
As with any franchise operation, growth was the bottom line. In 1972,
the BSA's national advertising slogan claimed that 'Scouting today is a
lot more than you think', but in fact it was a lot less. Under pressure
from head office to meet ever higher 'sales' targets, Local Council
staffs had begun to create imaginary Scout troops, in much the same way
as Teamster union officials had once created 'paper' Locals, and to pad
the rolls of existing troops with phantom members.
By 1974, the BSA had 6.5 million Scouts on its books, of which two
million existed only in the minds of hard-pressed District Executives.
It was too many. When somebody at last blew the whistle, not even the
National Public Relations Office could explain away so great a
discrepancy. The Scouting hierarchy collapsed from top to bottom,
sending Chief Scout Alden Barber into the decent obscurity of Santa
In 1972, however, still untarnished by scandal, the BSA plugged Coleman
into the military-industrial complex through Tom Geohagen, Department of
Public Affairs, US Steel, Washington, D.C. A short, white-haired man
with big ears and a booming radio announcer's voice -- he had worked for
years at NBC News -- Geohagen was chairman of a high-powered committee
of media experts put together to publicize the National Explorer
Presidents' Congress, an annual meeting in Washington of Explorer Post
leaders from all over America. The event was Coleman's first assignment,
and Geohagen liked his style. Appointing himself Coleman's mentor, he
was soon urging him to 'use this Scout business' as a stepping stone to
higher things, perhaps in government service, where he could make the
most of his command of Arabic and his background in the Middle East.
'Wherever we went in Washington,
Tom introduced me to his contacts [Coleman recalls]. We would go for
lunch down the street from his office to the Army-Navy Club, and he knew
everybody. You'd get these grey men in grey suits, sitting around
smoking cigars in red leather armchairs under portraits of Nimitz and
Patton, and they'd all say hello and pass the time of day. One, I
remember, was General Danny Graham, an old spook buddy of Tom's, who had
been sent over from the Pentagon to clean house at the CIA.
'Now there's a guy you ought to talk to,' Tom said afterwards. 'You'll
like him, and I know he'd be real interested in your background. Tell
you what -- why don't I set up a meeting?'
'No, Tom,' I said. 'Thanks all the same. I still want to see how far I
can go with journalism.'
But Geohagen kept
on trying, determined his protege should make the most of himself. His
next manoeuvre on Coleman's behalf was to secure a staff position for
him with the US Olympic Team at the 20th Olympiad in Munich that
September. This was exciting but also embarrassing, for Mark Clayton,
who had got him his job in the first place, had to be bumped out of the
slot to make way for him.
'It was Clayton's assignment, Tom, and he's my boss,' Coleman protested.
Half-heartedly. 'And why me? I've only been here six months.'
'Well, let's just say you have special talents that your committee feels
would be better suited to this assignment,' said Geohagen. 'Let's just
say there are people who want to see how you make out, how you handle
yourself under fire, so to speak. So let's show 'em, okay?'
Of course it was okay. It was damned okay. To be in Munich with the US
team at the Olympic Games was about as far as you could get from a broom
closet in Mobile.
Geohagen's wish to see how Coleman handled himself 'under fire' turned
out to be curiously prophetic, for the 1972 Olympiad was to be
remembered, not for Mark Spitz's seven gold medals or Cathy Rigby's
bare-bottom picture in Sports Illustrated, but for the slaughter of
Israeli athletes by hooded assassins from Black September.
It was Coleman's first direct experience of Arab terrorism. Although he
saw no more of the siege and carnage than anyone else in the Olympic
Village, he had earlier taken the fullest advantage of his staff pass to
explore the compound and to fraternize with athletes and officials from
other countries, particularly those from the Middle East for the chance
it gave him to practice his Arabic.
Although there were armed guards everywhere, security was a joke.
Photo-ID badges were rarely checked, and no attempt at all was made to
confine badge-holders to the specific areas of the Village for which
they had security clearance. In theory, only someone with a press pass
could gain access to the Olympic Press Centre, for example, but Coleman
came and went as he pleased, in and out three or four times a day, every
day, without ever being challenged.
Before the attack, he enjoyed the same freedom of movement to meet and
drink coffee with his new Arab friends in their Olympic quarters -- and
also with Andrei, one of the Soviet team's 'trainers', who spent a lot
of time in their company, drinking beer and picking away at salt fish
wrapped in brown paper. After the attack, Coleman saw no cause to wonder
how Black September had managed to smuggle explosives and automatic
weapons into the compound, but he wondered long and hard about Andrei,
who had mysteriously disappeared when the terrorists struck, and about
the not-so-mysterious defection of the Arab teams, who now melted away
for fear of Israeli reprisals.
Like everyone else, Coleman watched the drama build up to its bloody
denouement on television, still misusing his pass to keep abreast of the
latest developments via the Press Centre's battery of monitors.
Under the critical weight of world attention, Munich's beleaguered
police chief, Manfred Schreiber, was now at pains to lock the barn door
after the terrorist horse had bolted. His officers were ordered to
question everybody they could trace who had set foot in the Arab camp in
the course of the Games, including Lester Coleman, public relations
assistant with the US Olympic Team, on loan from the Boy Scouts of
In what turned out to be a curious link with the future, Coleman struck
up a friendship with Hartmut Mayer, a local police officer whom he would
meet again 15 years later in Cyprus, when Mayer was resident agent on
the island for the BKA, and like Coleman, concerned with a DEA operation
where sloppy security opened the way to an even bloodier atrocity than
at Munich -- the destruction of Flight 103.
For Coleman, there would be other curious links, too, between Munich and
Lockerbie. In 1987, after renewing his acquaintance with Mayer, he was
to work on the same poorly managed DEA operation with a
Lebanese-American named Ibrahim El-Jorr, a key informant who claimed to
have been one of the US Army support group sent into Munich after Black
September took over the village.
In the troubled aftermath of Lockerbie, Coleman would also meet up with
Juval Aviv, a private investigator hired by Pan Am, who was said to have
been a member of the Mossad hit team turned loose after the Munich
massacre by Israel's Golda Meir to track down and kill every member of
the Black September squad responsible.
But the strongest link for Coleman was the continuing fascination of the
American intelligence community with Arab terrorism.
On his first day back in the office after flying home with the Olympic
team, he was called down to Washington by his sponsor.
'There's some people would like to hear about your experiences,'
Geohagen said, on their way out to Georgetown to have lunch at the
Sheraton Park Hotel. 'Some of Danny Graham's boys. I told 'em you
wouldn't mind. You can probably give 'em some useful insights, just from
being there in Munich.'
'Think so?' Coleman shrugged. 'I'll be glad to talk to them, Tom, but
there were a lot of people a lot closer to what happened than me. Are
you saying they didn't have any of their own people in the Village? They
must have done. I heard the KGB was all over the place.'
'Well, I expect they did. But I guess they didn't have anybody out there
who spoke Arabic. Or spent much time talking to the Arab teams.
It was only when somebody stopped by their table in the Sheraton's bar
to say they were expected upstairs after lunch that Coleman began to
wonder how Geohagen knew how he had spent his off-duty time in Munich,
and it rather took the edge off his appetite.
After the meal, they adjourned for coffee to a suite on the third floor,
where Geohagen introduced him to three men, who identified themselves as
Bob, Nat and Herb, and then excused himself, saying he would see Coleman
back in his office after they had finished. Nervous at first, but soon
relaxing in their warmth and friendliness, Coleman told them about
Andrei and tentatively identified him from a grainy ten by eight print
that Herb produced from a file folder on his lap.
'You know who he is?' asked Coleman eagerly. 'Is he KGB?'
'It's not important,' Bob said. 'We keep tabs on all kinds of people.
Can you tell us what you talked about?'
'Oh, Olympic-type things. You know, how it's good for East and West to
get together, for people to exchange ideas, one to one, leaving politics
out of it for a change. That sort of stuff.'
'You didn't talk politics? Not at all?'
'Well, depends what you mean by politics. Not cold war politics anyway.
He asked me a lot of questions about what was going on here. Said he
couldn't understand how people could be out of work or homeless or
without proper medical attention and still be loyal Americans. He seemed
to know a lot about black militant groups. Our 'dissidents' is what he
'Uh-huh. And how do you feel about 'em?'
Coleman spent 15 minutes defending his own political views before Bob
finally turned to the subject of the Arabs he had talked to in Munich.
And the same thing happened. After covering the ground, the three seemed
to be at least as interested in examining Coleman's views on the
Arab-Israeli question as the views expressed by the people he had met.
'Did you form any opinion about where the terrorists were from?' asked
Nat, pouring him another cup of coffee.
'Well, I only know what I heard and saw on television,' Coleman said.
'But one of them sounded Libyan to me.'
'Libyan? Black September is a Palestinian group.'
'Yeah, I know. But King Idris took in hundreds of refugees from
Palestine in the Fifties -- the guy could still have been a member of
the PLO. Seemed to me I recognized the accent. I worked with two
Palestinians in Libya when my father was out there.'
They appeared to know about that, too, and after a lengthy discussion of
Middle East politics, went on to ask him about what he had told Hartmut
Mayer, of the Munich police, and how he felt generally about the
Germans, their security arrangements and their attitude towards the
The questioning went on for more than two hours, and ended with another
round of warm handshakes as they ushered him into a taxi for the ride
back to Geohagen's office on K Street, North West.
'It had all been very friendly,' Coleman recalls, 'but I left feeling
drained, as if I'd just sat through a really testing examination. But I
also felt relieved from telling everything I knew to people I thought
could do something about it, who could stop another Munich from
happening. I guess I was still naive enough, going on twenty-nine, to
believe in the fatherly image of the American government, as somehow
all-protecting, all-knowing, and capable of fixing anything.'
By the time Coleman reached K Street, Geohagen had already heard from
'They were very impressed,' he said. 'You know, Les, you really ought to
consider working for those guys. You could have a big future there.'
'Well, thanks, Tom,' said Coleman. 'I'm flattered by their interest and
I'm glad if I've been of help. But, like I say, I really am hooked on
broadcasting. I want to see how far I can go.'
'Yeah, well, I told them that. But if you ever change your mind, Danny
Graham says you're to go see him about it. Anytime.'
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