Monday, January 05, 2015

CIA cold case becomes murkier by Wayne Madsen

CIA cold case becomes murkier

On December 16, 2014, WMR reported on the suspicious death of CIA stenographer Joanne (also reported as Jeanne) Fecteau in 1953. CIA archives include two Washington, DC newspaper articles that stated Fecteau's husband, described as an Army civilian, disappeared in December 1952 on a C-47 military flight from Japan to Korea. In fact, Joanne's husband, Richard G. Fecteau, was a CIA agent who was shot down over Manchuria in mainland China along with John T. Downey. The two CIA agents were dropping supplies to anti-Communist agents. Other reports suggest that the two agents were trying to pick up a CIA agent in Manchuria when their plane was downed.

Fecteau and Downey were later released by the Chinese, Fecteau in 1971 and Downey in 1973. Fecteau was released as a Chinese gesture to the United States after secret talks paved the way for President Richard Nixon's historic trip to China. Downey was only released after Nixon agreed to publicly admit that Downey worked for the CIA. Up until that time, the U.S. State Department maintained that Fecteau and Downey were "civilian Army employees lost on a 'routine flight' from Seoul, South Korea, to Japan." However, The Washington Post reported at the time of Joanne's death that Fecteau was on a flight from Japan to Korea, not the other way around. In November 2013, the CIA awarded Fecteau and Downey the Distinguished Intelligence Cross. The CIA admitted that the CIA asset that agents Downey and Fecteau were to rescue in China had already been compromised by Chinese intelligence. The Chinese were waiting for the CIA aircraft and they hit it with anti-aircraft fire. The plane made a controlled crash but the CIA said the two CIA Civil Air Transport (CAT) proprietary firm pilots, Robert C. Snoddy and Norman A. Schwartz, died. Snoddy's remains were later recovered and buried in Eugene, Oregon. Schwartz's remains were never recovered.

The CIA's agent exfiltration operation was doomed from the start. The CIA had decided to airdrop Chinese nationalist exiles into Manchuria in order to link up with anti-Mao Zedong renegade communist generals. The problem was that no such generals existed. Mao had ironclad support from the leadership of the People's Liberation Army.

CIA director John Brennan said at the ceremony honoring Downey and Fecteau that, “It has been 61 years since Dick and Jack took to the skies over North Korea and China during the Korean War, and their ordeal remains among the most compelling accounts of courage, resolve, and endurance in the history of our agency." Amid all the honorific press stories about Fecteau and Downey, there is no mention of Fecteau's wife Joanne and the suspicious fire that took the life of the CIA stenographer on one autumn day on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The Boston Globe attempted to interview Fecteau, a resident of Lynn, Massachusetts, after his award from Brennan but the paper reported that he could not be reached for comment. Downey, who became a Connecticut state judge in 1987, died on November 17, 2014.

Neither the Nashua Telegraph of January 6, 1972 nor any other periodical to this day mentions the suspicious death of Richard Fecteau's CIA wife Joanne nine months after he was captured by the Chinese.

The few stories written about Fecteau after his release by the Chinese fail to mention Joanne Fecteau and her suspicious death. One news article appearing in Yankee magazine in 1982 states Fecteau, who returned to work for the CIA until 1976 when he became assistant athletic coach at his Boston University alma mater, rekindled his relationship with his ex-wife Peg (Margaret), who he divorced before marrying Joanne. The article states that Fecteau's two daughters were 22 at the time of his release. They were two-years old at the time of his capture. Fecteau was 25 years old at the time of his capture and he was already divorced and remarried, relatively rare for 1952 American society. The Yankee article states: "He [Fecteau] rekindled his relationship with his ex-wife Peg, who had "waited and prayed for him for 19 years." Fecteau and his ex-wife remarried in 1976.  On the same day that President Bill Clinton arrived in Beijing in 1998, CIA director George Tenet presented Fecteau and Downey with the CIA Director's Award at a ceremony at the Langley headquarters. A documentary film released by the CIA in 2011 about the ordeal of Fecteau and Downey, titled "Extraordinary Fidelity," omits any mention of Joanne. The CIA simply erased its employee Joanne Fecteau from their history except for two newspaper articles on her death contained in the CIA archival files.
The CIA in 2011 released a film, "Extraordinary Fidelity, - See more at:

John Downey (left) and Richard Fecteau, who were held prisoner in China, were honored by the CIA last month.
Downey [left] and Fecteau [right] after being awarded the CIA's top honor in November 2013.

The following is what WMR reported last month:

"CIA archives contain two articles dated September 29, 1953, published in The Washington Post and Washington Star, regarding the horrible death by burning of a stunningly attractive red-headed stenographer for the CIA. CIA veterans confirm that as a stenographer, Joanne Fecteau, 27, would have had access to the senior executives of the agency, including director Allen Dulles. Fecteau's burned body was found on September 29 underneath a bed in a cabin in Avalon Shores, Maryland, between Annapolis and Chesapeake Beach. The story of the beautiful CIA stenographer becomes murkier. Her husband, Army civilian administrative assistant Richard G. Fecteau had disappeared in December 1952 while on a transport flight from Japan to Korea.

The cabin where Joanne Fecteau's body was discovered was owned by Major Carl Garver, 39, an Air Force ROTC instructor at George Washington University. When flames broke out inside the cabin at around 6 pm, Garver claimed he tried frantically to break into the house but was 'driven back' by the flames. The conclusion by fire inspectors was that the fire was caused by faulty wiring in a hot plate in the kitchen. The Anne Arundel coroner stated that Fecteau's death was caused by burns and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Another possible murder cold case from the files of the CIA: CIA stenographer Joanne Fecteau burned to death in Maryland cabin on the infamous Chesapeake Bay, the bay that also claimed the lives of CIA director William Colby and CIA operations officer John Paisley.

According to the Post article, Garver's residence was at the Army-Navy Club in downtown Washington while Fecteau's residence was listed as the Dupont Plaza Hotel, a luxury hotel on Dupont Circle in downtown DC. The Star reported Garver's residence as 3801 Connecticut Avenue in Washington, just north of the Cleveland Park neighborhood."

* Update 1x. Curiously, The Washington Post had Mrs. Fecteau's name as "Joanne" while The Washington Star reported her name as "Jeanne." A handwritten CIA notation on the Star article has the name "Joanne" written in cursive letters before "FECTEAU," which is written in block capital letters. The Post article has a CIA handwritten note of "Richard G. Fecteau" under a redacted notation. The Star reported that the Washington, DC homicide squad told Anne Arundel authorities that Fecteau had suffered a burn on her hand during an earlier August 13, 1953 blaze in an apartment on the 2600 block of Tunlaw Road in Northwest Washington. Police said the fire was caused by careless smoking. There is no explanation of why DC homicide was involved in two blazes allegedly caused by a faulty hot plate in Maryland and careless smoking in DC.

Joanne or Jeanne? DC's two major newspapers conflicted on name of dead CIA employee.