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23 January 2015


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I saw Shedd when he testified at Sterling's trial. Not impressed. In re the size of the DIE it has been my experience that gigantism in intelligence leads to poor performance. What you need is a few good men and women. pl


Jill, if I would be pressed hard enough, I may jump on something on the surface. On the other hand, exactly that passage--with the idea of covert operations in the back of your mind--makes a lot of sense.

But if I may, let me pick out another passage. Where for a second I got lost, not quite sure if there were two Salih's one a Yemite the other a British MI6 representative. I went back to check the passage, pondered a while if a serial comma (Oxford, Havard) would help. To discover in the end, it would destroy one subtlety of the passage, remember so far the person was "Lang" suddenly he is "Pat":

"The USSR supported both sides in this war between north and south largely because Ali Abdullah Salih, the Yemeni president, displayed great skill in playing the Soviets, the US and the UK off against each other to make sure that happened. Salih, the British MI-6 station commander and Lang often went hunting together. The British fellow introduced Pat to Salih."



One Pat Lang, one MI-6 station commander, an Englishman (I will not name him), one Ali Abdullah Salih, president of the Yemen Arab Republic. This is literature. Remember? pl


I was a bit too short, I guess, I cannot check it.

As I know myself, I may have left out some steps ...

In a way, "Jill" attracted me. Otherwise, I would have kept my fingers of the keyboard. Jack and Jill?


It's true. Modern managers, private or public, tend to not have much respect or trust in their workforce. Col, the shirt and sunglasses you are wearing look like 1979. I think I had the same striped, wide-collared shirt.

FB Ali

Fascinating account!

Seems the country hasn't changed much - in essence, though the superstructure may have.


Your last line about how many of us believe the story gives me some pause--but regardless, it was a great story. Thanks for sharing!




Every word is true. You should have seen that. pl


I was fortunate to be able to serve as a summer intern in COL Lang's office in both 1980 and 1981, and can testify that this is certainly only a 'minimalist' account of his exciting adventures in Yemen. However, I have no memory of him ever participating in or informing me of any activities involving shooting any animals that might be endangered species, wearing foreign military uniforms, involvement in armed conflict, or involvement with foreign intelligence officers. I do remember some of the most fun times of my life, including many adventures on the road with his faithful driver Abdullah, and being inspired to want to try and follow in his footsteps. When I arrived in Yemen 20 years later as the Defense Attaché, COL Lang was still remembered well by President Ali Abdallah Salih and his family, and that I benifited from that connection.



"Endangered animals?" Well, we did not tell this West Point cadet everything. pl

Patrick Bahzad

Very interesting as well as entertaining account of a time when things were different ... The world is a dangerous place they say, but I suppose it makes more sense to send people out there who know what they're doing and how to get some useful intel/info from actual sources on the ground.
Someone was wondering in a post whether the French were still in a position to 'tap' any HUMINT source in a ME-government outside Afar and Isssa tribal lands. Personally I would be more interested and more concerned in the number of reliable sources and assets any Western government has in the wider ME.
Seems to me that Southern Turkey, the whole of Syria, most of Iraq, part of Lebanon, large areas in the Arab peninsula, as well as Somalia (not middle-east as such, but an extension of Arabian peninsula in some ways), have turned into some sort of "black hole": sucking in anything that comes too close and not letting anything out that can't be seen with our "eye in the sky".

Margaret Steinfels

Of course, I've never gardened in my life. Maybe gardens flourish in deserts. Do they?



Yes, if you water them. pl

Abu Sinan


I thought you might be interested in this article. It is by Atiaf al-Wazir. She is my wife's cousin and a journalist. She covered the uprising of recent years and is now in Sana'a.



Thanks for the link. It was very interesting.


Thanks very much for your brief account of your experiences in Yemen. I'm looking forward to a full account. Yemen is a fascinating country, which regrettably I haven't had the chance to visit. In the 1970s and 1980s it must have been like a medieval country still surviving in the 20th century, much like my experience of Afghanistan in 1968.

At that time I was experiencing Jordan and Iraq, quite different. "Modernised" states, quite different from Yemen.

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