For those who know the history of American espionage, Winston Scott was a legendary figure, one of our best intelligence warriors during our long Cold War with the Soviet Union. For those who worked closely with him, he was a hardworking, talented, and congenial colleague, who had climbed the ladder of success by dint of his own sweat and smarts to become a station chief in one of the CIA’s most important postings—Mexico City. But, for me, he was simply my father, my dad.
Given the nature of his work and how often it kept him away from our home life, it took awhile before the two of us could connect. Eventually, however, I got to know my Dad in my early teens and I remember those years with a great deal of affection because of his determined efforts to take me under his wing and develop a real father-son relationship with me. All that began in 1968, around the time I turned 13. I remember him supervising my first driving lesson and frequently inviting me to accompany him to the office when he worked on weekends, even though it was never quite clear to me what that work actually was. It seemed to be very important, I assumed, given the important people he knew and dealt with, including the Mexican president and other government dignitaries. During that period, the last few years of his life, we spent most of our time and had our best times together on the golf course, with me caddy driving the golf cart at first, and later graduating to become his partner in a foursome. Gradually, our relationship deepened, especially during the summer of 1970 when I worked for him as an office assistant. Later that fall I left home to attend boarding school, where I’m sure I had my moments of homesickness, especially because of how close we’d become. While there, I received letters from him every week without fail. Then, the following spring, he died.
I’m sure that, despite my best efforts to be stoic in the face of his death, it must have hit me very hard. The sudden absence of such a larger-than-life and reassuring figure from my life, right after we’d begun to grow quite close, was devastating at some level, even if I didn’t let on at the time. But as the years passed and as I found out more about my own life and little bit about his, whatever sorrow I felt was replaced by a strong desire to better understand who my father was and what his own life and work were all about. His presence in my life was still intense but the essential nature of that presence seemed shrouded in mystery, made all the more intriguing by my knowledge that Dad had written a memoir that the CIA refused to release to our family, let alone the public at large. It drew me back to my father and sent me on a very personal quest that has now taken more than three decades, brought me into the present collaboration with Jefferson Morley, and produced the book that you are about to read.
My quest often took on a life of it's own, fueled by an urgency to document recollections of his friends and associates before they passed on. At the same time, that quest was infused with a lot of anxiety about what I would likely find by digging so deeply into the past. I knew enough about the darker side of the CIA to have reason to worry that my digging would unearth some fairly unseemly aspects to my father’s life. So, I was definitely concerned that any such discovery might undermine my own idealistic view of him. I also wondered if I had the right to expose secrets that he had intended to take to the grave. But my longing to understand him, to get to know him better, was so great that ending my quest prematurely was never an option.
As a son, I'm still not sure that I have done the right thing. Only time and the reactions of others will tell. In the end, my father may not be thrilled with this book since it delves into his personal affairs and exposes Agency operations which he may have chosen to keep secret. But it’s the product of my sincere effort re re-connect, to build upon and extend the close relationship we’d forged just before his death, even though he’s no longer with us. For that I'm sure he would be grateful. In any case, this was something I had to do and, by doing so, I have finally gained some long-awaited and much-need closure. For that, I am grateful.