Matt Lewis

A closer look at ex-CIA spymaster William Colby

America’s intelligence community has been in the spotlight for years now. The war on terror has given the CIA and other intelligence organizations more responsibility to gather information, carry out covert operations, and provide other logistical aid to conventional troops. The increased responsibility has come to the fore with Osama bin Laden’s death and, more recently, the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki.

But what do we know about the people behind America’s intelligence agency?

In a recent conversation Carl Colby, son of CIA director William Colby, talked with me about his new documentary film, “The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father, CIA Spymaster William Colby.”

(Listen to our full conversation here.)

A Princeton University graduate, William Colby began his career at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. He later accepted a job at the CIA — and was eventually placed in Vietnam. It was there that Colby helped develop “irregular warfare” strategies that the officer corps in Iraq and Afghanistan have found invaluable in confronting the insurgency.

Rising through the ranks, Colby eventually became CIA Director — and post-Watergate, when it became evident the CIA had, for decades, engaged in questionable, clandestine activities — it fell to Colby to reveal the CIA’s so-called “Family Jewels.”

The younger Colby and I also discussed the personal dimension of his film.

While he initially meant for the film to be a purely professional depiction of his father, he soon found that the personal dimension was unavoidable. In the days when his father served, Carl noted, the intelligence community took morality very seriously. His father was a staunch Catholic and his mother would always hold his father accountable for his actions, always encouraging him to do what was right, he said.

Listen to our full conversation here.

View the trailer here: