The espionage career of the man who until recently held the number three position at the Central Intelligence Agency began in Delaware.
David W. Carey, 58, who retired as executive director of the CIA in April 2001 after 32 years with the agency, was recruited as a graduate student at the University of Delaware in 1968.
He returned to his alma mater last week to speak to a gathering of more than 400 as part of the school's "Spies, Lies and Sneaky Guys" lecture series organized by UD professor and former CNN correspondent Ralph Begleiter. Carey said it was the first time he has spoken publicly about the CIA and he only broke his silence because it was a request from his alma mater.
Few in the audience noticed Carey when he slipped into Clayton Hall wearing a gray suit and carrying what appeared to be a laptop computer in a nylon bag.
During the Cold War, Carey was at the forefront of the conflict and had direct knowledge of Soviet generals who were turned to the American side and later executed for their crimes. He also knew of Americans who died serving their country secretly whose only memorial is an unnamed gold star on the walls of the CIA's headquarters in Langley, Va.
His decisions held the power of life and death and affected the course of history, but during his visit to UD he looked more like a banker than a spymaster.
He had no entourage and no apparent security detail.
He was balding and sometimes spoke in sonorous tones.
In an interview afterward, he said he was not fond of alcohol, so he would never be caught sipping a martini - shaken or stirred - at a posh club in Cairo.
His favorite drink is tonic water and he enjoys it best at home where he likes to pass the time with woodworking.
His favorite movie, "The Hustler," does not involve spies or intrigue but the game of pool.
The only telltale sign Carey was once responsible for daily operation and strategic planning at the nation's spy agency was his cufflinks, which bore the insignia of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Carey, who was born in Texas and raised in Rochester, N.Y., said it was never his goal to be a spy.
As he was finishing up his studies for an MBA at UD in the late 1960s, he met a CIA recruiter who convinced him to apply. Carey said his plan was to "rip off the CIA" for some free college education by working just long enough to earn his Ph.D. for free and return to academia.
Carey said he has fond memories of those days when UD was a much smaller school and Newark was a much smaller town. He recalled Newark having three bars, one being the Deer Park, and two movie theaters in walking distance. "In reality there was only one movie theater," he said, adding the one at the edge of town didn't count because it showed "The Sound of Music" for something like 28 weeks straight. "Still can't stand that movie," he said.
Carey had already landed a job at UD teaching agriculture when the CIA finally contacted him, some 10 months after he applied.
He had a background in business and agriculture - which made him attractive because he could help the agency analyze Soviet agriculture, a major component of that nation's economy.
To know the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet economy was to know the strengths and weaknesses of the military it had to support, he said.
Once in the CIA, Cary said the experience was intoxicating and he abandoned his plans to go back to teaching.
"It is addictive," he said, knowing or finding out things that few in the world know. And he said until the day he left, he still got a buzz from writing a report that he knew would be read the next day by the president.
Details about what Carey did and when and where are sketchy. There are many things he could not talk about because they remain classified.
But there also was a yearning, after more than 32 years of silence, to tout the achievements of the agency he served for so long and to give public recognition to people whose work and names are largely unknown.
At UD, he talked about Richard Bissell and John Parangosky, the men who created the first spy satellites that took the first detailed pictures of the USSR. The satellites then ejected their film canisters, which plunged to Earth and were snagged midair by Air Force planes.
And Tony Mendez and Robert Barron who pioneered "Mission Impossible"-like disguises that used silicone applications to mask operatives who were headed to clandestine meetings, escapes or to retrieve information from a secret spot, or "dead drop." Carey said such activity was known as "Moscow rules" in the agency. He also talked about fellow UD graduate Richard Evans Hineman, who was a pioneer in missile analysis and later became deputy director for science and technology.
And while this cloak-and-dagger behavior sounds like it comes from a movie, Carey said much of Hollywood's depiction of spies and spycraft is entertainment and bears little resemblance to reality.
Some is decidedly unglamorous work, he said, like the CIA men who camped in a shack on top of remote mountains in Iran for a year at a time to monitor Soviet missile tests.
He also joked about how Washington work could sometimes be as dangerous as field work. "It is important to speak truth to power," he said.
For example, Carey said recently declassified information shows that the CIA got it right on Vietnam, but policy makers ignored CIA advice and warnings.
He also said he was posted abroad at least twice and those postings were the only time he had to lie about who his real employer was.
At his UD appearance, Carey avoided many topics including current events. He laughed when asked if he'd ever been ordered to kill someone. "I was never ordered to kill," he said.
He said the work was extremely stressful, but that was not the reason he left. "It was more wanting to do something different," he said, adding he did not regret his decision to leave.
In September 2001, Carey became a vice president of the computer company Oracle.
Oracle's offices are in Reston, Va., not far from CIA headquarters. Carey said the company was started as a spin-off of the CIA's "Project Oracle," a first-of-its-kind cross-referencing database that later was commercialized.
And Carey is still a fan of the agency. At the end of his talk at UD, he encouraged students in the crowd to apply.
Many approached him afterward and one even handed Carey a resume he just happened to have with him.
The discussions were likely very similar to the discussions Carey had with a CIA recruiter somewhere near that very spot, 35 years ago.
Reach Sean O'Sullivan at 324-2777 or at email@example.com.