Arts & Entertainment, Business, Writing

Penetrating the CIA - Building a Relationship With Bill Casey

Bob Woodward

Lesson time 10:56 min

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.

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


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...

About the Instructor

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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Bob Woodward

In 24 lessons, learn how to uncover the truth from the greatest journalist of our time.

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