From Bob Woodward's MasterClass

Penetrating the CIA - Building a Relationship With Bill Casey

Developing a relationship with a source over time can be one of the most productive endeavors a reporter can take on. Here, Bob shares how he managed to build a relationship with then–CIA director Bill Casey.

Topics include: The Hardest Target • Building Rapport • Gaining Respect • The Center of Gravity

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Developing a relationship with a source over time can be one of the most productive endeavors a reporter can take on. Here, Bob shares how he managed to build a relationship with then–CIA director Bill Casey.

Topics include: The Hardest Target • Building Rapport • Gaining Respect • The Center of Gravity

Bob Woodward

Teaches Investigative Journalism

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The CIA's the hardest target. A CIA director is the person who really makes lots of decisions and runs covert operations and analysis, is the president's Chief Intelligence Officer. Bill Casey, the CIA Director, I have a list of talking to him 52 times. And Casey and Reagan came into office. They're going to fight the communists and they're going to fight the terrorists and they're going to be tough. Here are the typed notes, eight single spaced pages of notes with Bill Casey when he gave a speech at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. And in it I recount what he talks about in the speech. And then, he invited me on his plane to fly back to Washington. We're sitting in the back of the plane having a scotch. It's late at night. What about your childhood? Oh, he was raised in Elmhurst, New York. He's sitting there. He's comfortable. He's stuffing peanuts and a nut mix in his mouth, with loosened tie. And he really goes after Reagan, his boss, abysmal handling on trying to get money for the covert operations in Nicaragua. The government can't do two things at once. This administration is not organized. He then-- and this is so fascinating. In history, Gorbachev had just come in to power in the Soviet Union. And Bill Casey said, oh, he's just more of the same. Gorbachev is a product of the system in every way. Don't expect he's going to be much different. Well, he was dead wrong. We know now what Gorbachev did. Then, we get into some of the CIA operations. And then, at the end, as we are landing, Casey says that he doesn't like to travel. I've done enough travel to last a lifetime. Overall, on this trip and during this talk, he is upbeat, talkative, and this is what he said. You know, I'm being indiscreet letting you in here. I shouldn't do that. You go hide and go that way. And they had a car to take me to a taxi. It always depends on how much time you have to develop these relationships. But you have to work on them. It's not hard. It's actually fun. It is the ultimate inquiry. Who is this person? Who is this man? And what drives him? What are his contradictions? What has he succeeded at? What has he failed at? The great beauty of it is-- and to a certain extent, the joy-- is the person you were chasing down, showing up. What am I doing when I go to Casey's speeches? He sees me in the audience, said, there he is again. He's listening to me. And so there's something going on here that is, of course, journalism. But it's important for the larger understanding of what, in this case, the government, in its most secretive arm, the CIA, is up to. The relationship, yes, is business. But who somebody is who they are. It's the books they've written. It's the relationship with their family. It's where they came from. It's who their siblin...

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Bob Woodward was just 29 when he changed a nation. His Watergate reporting with Carl Bernstein helped expose the corruption of the Nixon presidency. Two Pulitzer Prizes and nineteen best-selling books later, the legendary journalist is teaching his first-ever online class for anyone who wants to find the truth. Learn to investigate a story, interview sources, and understand how the news is written. The next history-making story might be yours.

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If you plan on being a journalist then you can not miss this course.

I am not a journalist yet found this class fascinating given today's political environment and its historical perspective. Bob is thoughtful and very skilled in his approach. I feel like I will be better adapt in everyday conversation and managing others after this course. Thank you Mr. Woodward for all you have done for our country and your continued passion to get it fair and right.

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Comments

Trevor S.

The “moment of awkwardness “ was an instance where Woodward was asking questions about the prosecution of an active ongoing war. He would be naive to expect an outlay of strategic information from Obama at that time. Getting a ‘no comment’ is hardly surprising.

Mia S.

"To the question of, 'You knew about this illegal diversion of funds, didn't you?' He nods. 'Why?' 'I believe.' This was in people who were his fans and believers in him would say, 'He was this idealist.' That's one side of him. The other, he was an operator. He knew I was writing a book of history, and he wanted to participate. He was using me. Some people reviewed the book said, 'Oh, Casey got his say.' Others said, 'Oh, no, Casey got destroyed by this.' I think you can look at it either way, but it's empirical - a lot of the human parts of Bill Casey didn't come through in the book, quite frankly, because I was focused on CIA business and operations. I think the takeaways from this are - find something important to work on, work it as hard as you can, find out: Who's, where's the center of gravity? The center of gravity was Bill Casey."

Mia S.

"Another important step in the relationship with Casey: after the Beirut bombing in 1983, that killed 241 Marines and servicemen, giant terrorist attack, the biggest before 9/11 - it was trauma for the country, Reagan pulled out of Lebanon. I was sitting around, this is the thinking period with some colleagues at the Washington Post and asked the question, 'Well, who did it?' I called Casey and said, 'We're going to go find out who did the Beirut bombing.' He said, 'Okay, come by,' kind of briefed us on, 'This is what we think' - they didn't know who did the Beirut bombing, Casey was concerned about communists... And we found out who was responsible for the bombing, it was Syria and Iran, and I remember, wrote up that story. We ran it and I ran into Casey and he said, 'Wow, that's - we checked, that's pretty good, you got that right.' So all of a sudden he saw that we'd done some good reporting work and found out something that they really didn't know about or weren't sure of. So then when I said, 'I want to get into this more, ask questions,' we started really getting close to the bone. At one point, Casey called Ben Bradlee over to the University Club and said, 'You're printing too many secrets in your newspaper, we're going to prosecute you, send you to jail.' And Ben was kind of, 'Oh well, we're trying to be as careful as we can, but we're also going to be very aggressive.' Casey was a really interesting human being with an interesting brain. The last story I did about him for the paper was a secret arrangement that we were selling arms to Iran - the opponent in the war was Iraq. The Iran-Iraq War in the '80s was one of the bloodiest wars ever - a million people died in that war. So we're selling arms to Iran, and some people told me that we were giving top secret satellite photos to Iraq to show where the Iranians were positioned in this war. We were providing arms and intelligence to both sides so they would kill each other more, make it bloodier. The day I wrote the story, Casey had a stroke. I never talked to him about the story, never called him about the story. The last time I saw him after that was the next month when he was in the hospital after he had his operation."

Mia S.

"It always depends on how much time you have to develop these relationships. But you have to work on them - it's not hard, it's actually fun. It is the ultimate inquiry. Who is this person? Who is this man? What drives him, what are his contradictions, what has he succeeded at, what has he failed at? The great beauty of it is, and to a certain extent the joy is, the person you were chasing down, showing up... What am I doing when I go to Casey's speeches? He sees me in the audience, said 'There he is again, he's listening to me.' So there's something going on here that is of course journalism. But it's important for the larger understanding of what in this case the government in its most secretive arm is up to. The relationship, yes, is business. But who somebody is is who they are, it's the books they've written, the relationship with their family, it's where they came from. It's who their siblings were, what they care about, so as a reporter, you can't unrelate those. They're related. They're integral. Casey told me at one point, 'Oh I've written a book that's unpublished about OSS and World War II. I said, 'Can I read it?' He said, 'Sure.' He had somebody from the CIA call me the next morning and said, 'Come on out to the CIA this afternoon, you can come in a room and sit and read it.' His experience getting spies behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany... So of course, next time we met, next time I showed up at his speech, we talked for 20 minutes about his book, and I gave him a book review. What is the nature of that transaction? The nature of that transaction is, 'I want to know what you're doing,' and we talked about his covert operations - he had them going all around the world - and then I said, in the end he was an idealist - he believed in what Reagan and he and others in the administration were doing. He did the things he thought were necessary. Certainly in one case, illegal; in other cases, he killed people. In other cases, he spent a lot of taxpayer money on covert operations that maybe went somewhere or maybe didn't."

Mia S.

"The CIA's the hardest target -a CIA director is the person who really makes lots of decisions and runs covert operations and analysis, is the president's Chief Intelligence Officer. Bill Casey, I have a list of talking to him 52 times, and Casey and Reagan came into office, going to fight the communists, the terrorists, and they're going to be tough. He gave a speech at the Metropolitan Club in NYC, and in it I recount what he talks about in the speech, and then he invited me on his plane to fly back to Washington. We're sitting in the back of the plane, having a scotch, it's late at night. 'What about your childhood?' He's sitting there, he's comfortable, he's stuffing peanuts in his mouth, with loosened tie, and he really goes after Reagan, his boss: 'abysmal handling on trying to get money for the covert operations in Nicaragua.' 'The government can't do two things at once, this administration is not organized.' He then, and this is so fascinating - in history, Gorbachev had just come into power in the Soviet Union, and Bill Casey said, 'Oh, he's just more of the same - Gorbachev is a product of the system in every way. Don't expect he's going to be much different.' Well he was dead wrong - we know now what Gorbachev did. Then we get into some of the CIA operations - then at the end, as we were landing, Casey said he doesn't like to travel. 'I've done enough travel to last a lifetime.' Overall during this talk he is upbeat, talkative, and this is what he said: 'I'm being indiscreet letting you in here, I shouldn't do that - you go hide and go that way,' and they had a car to take me to a taxi."

Pamela K.

Fascinating interview. I find, overall, people WANT to talk. Woodward is also kind of the "gold standard" of being interviewed by a reporter. If you were a man/woman of power -- wouldn't you want to be interviewed by the best? Casey was a devoted Catholic. After he retired, he lived in Roslyn, New York (north shore of Long Island) and used to go to an upscale french restaurant in Locust Valley with all of his contacts, political friends, former spooks. My aunt was a Catholic nun killed by the death squad in El Salvador in 1980... so this conversation was fascinating to me. I always type up my notes right after an interview, so I don't forget anything, and get the quotes/vibe right.

Ioannis M.

Isn't it unethical and possibly a crime to sell arms to both sides? Has this question been posed by Mr. Woodward?

Sunny N.

Takeaway: Quality of investigation reflects directly on the quality of the report.

John S.

The key to building relationships with people is showing up. You can’t just say, “I care.” You must show you care by your actions. Woodward is persistent and dogged in his pursuit which ultimately pays off as a reporter.

Jennifer

Question for Bob. I wonder if: you ever asked Bill Casey about the downing of Korean airliner 007 in September of 1983. This incident almost started WWIII . I was asked to write a Screenplay by a Russian Producer on the truth of that shootdown. My consultant was David Pearson. Universal Pictures was stopped at the last minute from committing to the project, threatened with a heavy lawsuit from the Government. I cannot stress enough, the horrific cover-up by the U.S. Government. If you get a chance to read this book: The Flight of KAL-007: the cover-up, by David Pearson, I sincerely hope you do. Cheers, Jenn