by Wayne Madsen
04 March, 2011
For some three decades, local residents near a
top secret terrorist training base have reported on hearing explosions,
seeing sudden flashes of light and night time flares, and noticing small
planes and "black helicopters" arriving at and departing from a small
airfield on the base.
The airspace over the base is off-limits to
The base is not in Pakistan's restive Waziristan region or in Lebanon's
Bekaa Valley but in northeastern North Carolina on Albemarle Sound, near the
town of Hertford. Officially known as the Harvey Point Defense Testing
Activity base, which was once a Navy Supply Center, it actually serves
as a paramilitary training course for the CIA and allied intelligence and
paramilitary services, including Israel's Mossad and Britain's Special Air
On March 20, 1998, The New York Times reported
that during its existence, Harvey Point trained 18,000 foreign intelligence
operatives from 50 different countries.
Among those terrorists trained at Harvey Point were those who worked for,
the Chilean military junta of General
El Salvador's death squad chief Roberto
Egypt's General Intelligence Directorate
Katangan secessionist leader Moise
Angola's UNITA guerrilla force
Colombian counter-insurgency personnel
Laotian anti-communist paramilitary
Arab cadres who would later join Osama
bin Laden's forces fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan
One can only contemplate how such regulars and
irregulars from the far-flung corners of the world reacted to eastern North
Carolina cuisine, including the barbecued pork, hush puppies, and steamed
First used to train anti-Castro Cubans for the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1960,
the base has seen Lebanese Phalangist militia train for the failed March 8,
1985, west Beirut car bombing assassination attempt against Lebanese Shi'a
spiritual leader Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who was also known to be
a leading figure in Hezbollah.
Although Fadlallah escaped assassination, the
car packed with 440 pounds of dynamite leveled an apartment building and a
movie theater, killing 80 innocent people, including women and children, and
injuring some 300 others.
As the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon stands ready to indict
key members of Lebanese Hezbollah for the February 15, 2005, massive car
bombing that took the life of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri,
it is noteworthy that it has been the CIA, along with its Lebanese allies
and Mossad agents trained at Harvey Point who have specialized in the urban
car bombing tactic used so often over the past several decades in Lebanon.
And as WMR previously reported, it was these
same elements - CIA, Mossad, and their Lebanese assets - that jointly
carried out the Hariri car bombing assassination.
An article titled "CIA Missions Have Mysterious N.C. Roots" in the June 28,
1978, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, a newspaper in
Norfolk, Va., publishes the most detailed article to date about the CIA and
Harvey Point, described as an annex of the CIA training base at Camp Peary,
Virginia, was being used to train CIA operatives in car bombings.
The paper noted that every few days, Navy trucks
hauled batches of new passenger vehicles into the base and every few days
cars that were totally demolished were trucked out of the base.
Some local residents described the vehicles:
some had their hoods blown off while others
were smashed flat.
In December 1999, a rumbling from the base,
which lasted for up to five seconds, was so strong that thousands of people
in the region believed it to be an earthquake. The US Geological Survey said
it did not register any quakes in the region.
In 2009, the CIA conducted a security survey of the Elizabeth City water
plant and found that security controls were lacking. The CIA pressed local
officials to beef up security for the plant.
Former CIA operative Robert Baer wrote in his book, "See
No Evil," that his two weeks of training at
was, for all purposes,
an "advanced terrorism course."
Baer was trained in the use of plastic and other
types of explosive materials.
It is believed that former CIA and Chilean DINA
intelligence agent Michael Townley, convicted in 1978 for the 1976
car bombing assassination in Washington, DC of former Chilean Foreign
Minister Orlando Letelier and his American assistant, Roni Moffitt.
Townley became part of the federal witness
protection program in 1978 after his conviction in the murder of Letelier.
However, Townley was spotted in Stockholm in 1986 a week before the
assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.
After 9/11, CIA paramilitary operatives who were assigned to the agency's
Special Activities Division (SAD) and deployed against the Taliban in
Afghanistan were first trained at Harvey Point.
Northeast North Carolina
Center of global terrorist
training activity and home to CIA's Harvey Point car bombing training
and Xe (former
Blackwater) false flag terror camp.
With the current controversy raging about the
roles that acting CIA station chief in Pakistan Raymond Davis and
suspected CIA agent Aaron DeHaven, both jailed in Pakistan - Davis
for murder of two Pakistani nationals and DeHaven for visa violations - may
have played in false flag terrorist attacks in Pakistan, there is an
interesting footnote to Harvey Point.
Just north of the CIA terrorist training
facility, past Elizabeth City, lies the sprawling Moyock, North
Carolina training facility of the company formerly called
Blackwater and now known as Xe Services.
Now known as the
United States Training Center, the
Moyock facility is on a former U.S. Navy installation that once hosted a
U.S. Naval Security Group Activity listening station that was part of the
National Security Agency's global signals intelligence eavesdropping
Harvey Point is used by Navy SEALS/Underwater Demolition Teams for training.
Blackwater founder Erik Prince had served
as a Navy SEAL and many of his early Blackwater employees were ex-SEALS.
Their numbers were later supplemented by retired CIA officers.
Navy SEALS/UDT and CIA teams trained at Harvey
Point in the 1980s for the illegal planting of mines in Nicaraguan waters.
In 1990, personnel trained at the base unsuccessfully attempted to capture
Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in the secret "POKEWEED" operation.
In 2008, the U.S. government used an eminent domain acquisition to procure
the Moorman Pine tract adjacent to Harvey Point for use by the CIA base. The
owners of the tract acquired the property in 2002 for a golf and residential
project. The owners settled with the government for $5.8 million.
The operations of Harvey Point and Moyock appear to complement one another
and jointly place a huge secretive CIA footprint in northeast North
The Truth About Harvey Point
by Jon Elliston
June 05, 2002
Facts about the CIA's activities at Harvey Point, along with other details
about the secretive facility, have seeped out slowly over the years. Pieces
of the puzzle have surfaced in government documents, investigative news
reports and accounts by former CIA officers.
Below is a chronological summary of previous
disclosures about the base.
1961: The U.S. Navy announces in June
that it will establish a secret weapons testing facility at Harvey
Point. A spokesman says that some of the training currently
conducted at Camp Perry in Virginia will be moved here. (Camp Perry
is later identified as the CIA's main officer training school.)
1967: The magazine Ramparts, in the
midst of a series of exposÚs on the CIA's domestic operations,
publishes a detailed testimonial by an anonymous former CIA officer.
He writes that he decided to quit the agency because of what he was
taught at "demolition training headquarters." He does not, however,
name the location of the base.
1974: In their groundbreaking
intelligence history, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, former
CIA officer Victor Marchetti and former State Department officer
John Marks note that "demolitions and heavy weapons" are "taught at
a secret CIA base in North Carolina."
1975: The President's Commission on CIA
Activities within the United States offers the first official
disclosure about Harvey Point in its final report. The report
reveals only a portion of the CIA's activities, however, saying
merely that the agency has used the facility for training domestic
and foreign policy forces in bomb detection and disposal.
1976: "Purported CIA Base Classified,
Fenced," says the headline of an article in the Burlington Daily
Times-News, which reports mounting speculation about the agency's
activities at Harvey Point.
1978: Outside magazine reveals that the
CIA trained amateur mountain climbers at Harvey Point in the early
1960s. The climbers were ultimately sent into a remote region of
India on a failed mission to place a listening station that would
monitor Chinese nuclear tests.
Shortly thereafter, The Virginian-Pilot and The Ledger-Star, a
newspaper in Norfolk, Va., publishes the most detailed article to
date about the CIA and Harvey Point. Titled "CIA Missions Have
Mysterious N.C. Roots," the article reveals that the facility has
been instrumental in training U.S. and foreign operatives for some
of the agency's most sensitive projects.
1985: The Washington Post reveals that
the CIA has trained a force of Lebanese operatives to rescue U.S.
hostages and stage paramilitary attacks. The group winds up killing
80 civilians in a failed assassination attempt. Leaders of the group
received CIA training in North Carolina, writer Amir Taheri reveals
in his 1988 book, Nest of Spies.
1998: The New York Times reports that
the CIA recently trained security forces from the Palestinian
Authority at Harvey Point.
1999: Jane's Intelligence Review, a
respected journal based in London, publishes a detailed report on
the CIA's commando units, revealing additional details about the
training at Harvey Point.
Nov. 2001: Washington Post reporter Bob
Woodward reports that CIA paramilitary operatives are leading the
way in the war against the Taliban. A follow-up report in the London
newspaper the Guardian notes that the operatives trained at Harvey
Jan. 2002: In his book
See No Evil, which is vetted by the
CIA prior to publication, former CIA officer Bob Baer describes his
two weeks at Harvey Point. "By the end of the training, we could
have taught an advanced terrorism course," he writes.
by Jon Elliston
June 05, 2002
After 41 years of explosive training at
a secret base in eastern North Carolina, the CIA's paramilitary wing
is back on the front lines.
For the base's neighbors in nearby
Hertford, the echo of bombs is business as usual - and nobody's
On April 11, 2002, Jim Pavitts, the Central Intelligence Agency's top
covert operations official, stood up before a Duke University Law School
conference on national security issues and did something he almost never
does: He spoke publicly about his operations. In the little-noticed speech,
Pavitts assured the audience that the CIA is actively engaged in the fight
To prove it, he cited the early involvement of
the agency's commandos in Operation Enduring Freedom.
"Teams of my paramilitary operations
officers, trained not just to observe conditions but if need be to
change them, were among the first on the ground in Afghanistan," Pavitts
Indeed, the first U.S. casualty, Johnny "Mike"
Spann, who was killed in the prison uprising at Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 25,
was one of those officers.
Spann was part of an elite and super-secretive
unit, the CIA's Special Activities Division, which serves as the knifepoint
of the agency's cloak and dagger contributions to national security.
With personnel drawn from other commando units
like the Navy SEALs and the Army Special Forces, the unit is skilled in the
dark arts of paramilitary warfare:
assassination, advanced demolitions,
high-tech surveillance and behind-enemy-lines combat.
"In those few days that it took us to get
there after that terrible, terrible attack" on Sept. 11, Pavitts
continued, "my officers stood on Afghan soil, side by side with Afghan
friends that we had developed over a long period of time, and we
launched America's war against al-Qaeda."
Pavitts offered few details, saying he could share "just a bit" of what the
CIA has been up to lately.
Among the matters he did not discuss was North
Carolina's crucial but behind-the-scenes role in the CIA's paramilitary
Officials have maintained strict silence about that role for more than four
decades. In fact, no serving CIA officer has ever uttered the words "Harvey
Point" in public.
That's because the Harvey Point Defense Testing
Activity, a high-security compound tucked into a quiet corner of marshland
near Hertford, N.C., and officially owned by the Defense Department, has
served as the spy agency's secret demolitions training base since 1961.
It's where CIA operatives like the ones who
infiltrated Afghanistan - and the ones who will likely lead the way in the
next battles of the war against terrorism, starting with Iraq - learn the
The CIA's covert warriors train as secretly as they spy and fight. So at
Harvey Point, the boom! boom! is very hush-hush.
It's late one Friday afternoon in May, and downtown Hertford is basking in
75-degree sunlight and coastal breezes carrying the smell of barbecue. The
town is staging its annual "Pig Out on the Green." After paying $5 a plate,
a hundred or so citizens are chowing down over checkered tablecloths in
front of the Perquimans County Courthouse.
A local cover band plays light Southern rock
from the front of the building, which is flanked by two monuments: one to
the area's Confederate Civil War dead, the other to Hertford's most famous
native son, baseball great Jim "Catfish" Hunter.
Hertford Mayor Sid Eley, who also serves as director of the
Perquimans County Chamber of Commerce, is wearing a floppy fishing hat and
manning a giant barbecue bucket.
He ladles out hearty servings of pork while
other town workers pile on potatoes and coleslaw.
"When you're done with that, make sure you
head across the street to Woodmere's Pharmacy for some of that good ice
cream," he says as he passes a plate.
Hertford, the population of which has remained
steady at about 2,000 for the last 50 years, is surrounded by marshy inlets
and sparsely populated farms where corn, cotton and soybeans are grown.
Looking up and down the stretch of Church Street
where the courthouse sits, there are roughly 20 businesses, and just one,
the corner Amoco, is a chain store. Only the modern offices of a local
Internet service provider seem out of place.
On this lazy afternoon, it's a postcard-perfect scene from small-town
America. But Mayor Eley, like most other locals, knows that this is no
ordinary backwater community. Beneath the quiet veneer lies an explosive
secret: The citizens of Hertford live a few miles up the road from a
classified facility that exists to help the government break things and kill
people - and do so in secret.
Unlike most locals, Eley has actually been there. A few years ago, the
director of the base at Harvey Point, which is fenced in and doesn't allow
in visitors, invited a group of about 25 local officials to come have a look
During the unprecedented visit, Eley was told that the base is used by all
branches of the armed services, along with other federal entities, for
"They took us out there and showed us
basically what they do," Eley remembers.
"We were in a bunker and they gave us a
display. They started with a hand-grenade - I had never seen an actual
hand-grenade go off. Then they worked their way up to bigger stuff and
eventually they blew up a car. The top of it flew way back over our
Such tests, Eley was told, are intended to help
the authorities detect and contain terrorist bombs.
For instance, Harvey Point personnel said they
had staged re-enactments of the bombing that took place at the 1996 Summer
Olympics in Atlanta, trying to determine precisely what sort of device had
After a short briefing, a lengthy bombing display and a good meal at the
base cafeteria, the visit was over.
Grateful for the peek inside the secret
facility, some of the civic officials sent a thank-you note to Harvey
"When we hear an explosion from that general
direction or feel the ground shake due to the same, we will, from our
experience, know, in some degree, what it is for. We will now be able to
explain to our people why we have the Base and what it is doing for our
But those explanations are still necessarily
incomplete, because, as Eley and other local leaders readily admit, they
still don't know the details about who trains at Harvey Point, and to what
And most of the base's neighbors, it seems, are content not to know.
"This CIA crap, it's all just speculation,"
says Charles Skinner, a retiree who serves as the town's resident local
historian, about the widely reported accounts concerning the base.
"I don't know what they're doing. They might
be playing with Roman candles down there. It's very obviously
explosives, because you can feel the vibrations. But I'm not that
concerned, so I don't pay any attention to it, no more than thunder."
"Everybody's just satisfied that we're up
here and they're down there," says Susan R. Harris, editor and publisher
of the Perquimans Weekly, explaining why her newspaper rarely reports on
For anyone who does want to know, getting the
facts from the government can prove to be a frustrating endeavor.
Because of the shroud of secrecy over Harvey
Point, military and intelligence spokespeople have difficulty being candid
about it, and they can't quite get the cover story straight. The Independent
started by calling the Navy, which acquired the property during World War II
and later announced it was setting up an off-limits testing center there.
A spokesman for the Navy's Mid-Atlantic Region
Command in Norfolk, Va., which oversees operations in the area, checked with
the Defense Department and then referred questions to the CIA.
A CIA public affairs officer, in turn, refused
to discuss the base and suggested contacting the Defense Department.
Eventually, a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Mike Halbig, agreed to field
questions about Harvey Point.
"The Department of Defense took over the
facility in 1961," he says. "The primary mission is to test and evaluate
conventional explosives, ordnance and ballistic materials."
And what of the stories that it's a major center
for CIA special warfare training?
"It is a Department of Defense facility that
serves the military services and it serves the special needs of other
U.S. government departments," is all Halbig will say. Base personnel
cannot speak to reporters, he says, nor can visits be arranged.
"The projects and materials that they test
there are highly classified, and for that reason we do not allow public
access," he says.
It's true that the CIA hasn't been the only
government entity to make use of Harvey Point.
According to press reports and government
documents, over the years, several military units and police squads have
trained there, along with personnel from the DEA, FBI, Secret Service and
other agencies. A recent Treasury Department report, for example, says that
the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Defense
Department have established a joint program at Harvey Point for devising
methods of stopping drug runners.
Despite the CIA's best efforts to keep its role at Harvey Point under wraps,
there is a mounting body of public information about the base's secret
history. The latest example.
In his newly published memoir,
See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the
CIA's War on Terrorism, former CIA officer Bob Baer
describes the "two weeks of nonstop demolition training" he received in
North Carolina as a young recruit in the early 1970s:
"We spent two days crimping blasting caps to
make sure we understood that if you crimped them too high, they'd
explode and take your hand off. After we'd mastered that, we crimped
them in the dark, by feel.
Then we started blowing things up: cars,
buses, diesel generators, fences, bunkers. We made a school bus
disappear with about 20 pounds of U.S. C-4. For comparison's sake, we
tried Czech Semtex and a few other foreign plastic explosives.
"Not that you really needed anything fancy. We blew up one bus using
three sacks of fertilizer and fuel oil, a mixture called ANFO (ammonium
nitrate fuel oil), that did more damage than the C-4 had. The biggest
piece left was a part of the chassis, which flew in an arc, hundreds of
We learned to mix up a potent cocktail
called methyl nitrate. If you hit a small drop of it with a hammer, it
split the hammer. Honest. We were also taught some of the really
esoteric stuff like E-cell times, improvising pressurized airplane bombs
using a condom and aluminum foil, and smuggling a pistol on an airplane
concealed in a mixture of epoxy and graphite.
By the end of the training, we could have
taught an advanced terrorism course."
Long before the CIA arrived to practice blowing
things up, Harvey Point was a storied and mysterious place.
A small peninsula that pokes into the north side
of the Albemarle Sound, in the early 1700s it served as the stomping ground
of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Around the same time, North Carolina's
first native-born governor, Thomas Harvey, lived here, as did his grandson,
John Harvey, one of the key local leaders to conspire against English
authorities and launch the Revolutionary War.
Several members of the Harvey family are buried at Harvey Point. But the
public can't visit the historic gravesite, which features some of the oldest
known tombstones in North Carolina. Today those stones sit within the
classified confines of Harvey Point.
The Navy bought the 1,200-acre peninsula in November 1942, paying five
land-owners a total of $41,751 for the property and quickly setting up an
air station to help fight World War II. After the war, the site served as a
blimp base, but remained relatively quiet until another big project came
In 1958, the Navy chose Harvey Point to house an experimental long-range
bomber, the "Martin P6M Seamaster."
The size of a B-52, the plane took off from and
landed in the waters near Harvey Point, but as a viable weapon, it never
really got off the ground. It crashed and burned too often for the Navy to
sustain the project, and just one year later, in August 1959, the fleet of
six Seamasters was mothballed.
The closing of the base hit Hertford hard. Local merchants were counting on
revenues from Naval aviators and their support staff. Charles Skinner
remembers one businessman, in particular, who was devastated.
The man had opened The Seamaster Tavern, a
short-lived beer garden.
"When they pulled out the seaplane, he had
to close up," Skinner says.
Rep. Herbert Bonner, a Democrat who then
represented the area in Congress, met with the Secretary of the Navy and
pleaded that a new use for the facility be found.
Shortly thereafter, his request was granted, and
this time, Harvey Point would be getting a lot more than a half-dozen sea
planes: The CIA was about to open an outpost in North Carolina.
The agency has never disclosed its reasons for setting up an undercover bomb
school at Harvey Point. But the timing and the context, along with scattered
press reports, offer indications of the base's original purpose. Fidel
Castro, it seems, was the impetus - and the target of the first commandos to
train at Harvey Point.
The story begins in 1959, when Castro led a revolutionary government to
power in Cuba. At first, White House officials hoped to topple him quickly.
In March of 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered the CIA to create a
force of anti-Castro, Cuban exile fighters, and John F. Kennedy, who
succeeded Eisenhower in 1961, authorized the operation to go forward.
In mid-April of that year, the CIA staged its most ambitious and disastrous
paramilitary operation: the Bay of Pigs invasion. It took Castro's military
and militia just three days to rout the agency's force of 1,300 Cuban
exiles. The debacle was viewed as an abject failure by the CIA's
Harvey Point had played a supporting role in the disaster, press reports
would later reveal. The CIA quietly amassed weapons for the operation at the
base, which was secretly on its way to becoming a full-blown training
In June of 1961, two months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, the Navy
announced it was officially opening a new facility at the old Seamaster
base. A spokesman said that all four branches of the military would conduct
"testing and evaluation of various classified materials and equipment" at
He added that training,
"now being done at Camp Perry, Va., will be
transferred to Harvey Point."
At the time, Camp Perry, which is located next
to Williamsburg, was officially a military base.
But since then, reporters and CIA veterans have
written about the camp's true role: It is the agency's training compound for
new spy officers. Code-named ISOLATION, the 12,000-acre Camp Perry is
referred to in the intelligence community as "the Farm," and to this day it
serves as the CIA's main spy school. But in 1961, the agency moved its most
dangerous and sensitive training - in demolitions and unconventional
weaponry - to Harvey Point.
Following the Bay of Pigs, Harvey Point is one place where the CIA hoped to
continue efforts to undermine Castro.
JFK wanted the job done right, and he appointed
his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to oversee the new
operations, which mainly consisted of hit-and-run sabotage raids.
"Bobby wanted boom and bang all over the
island," Sam Halpern, a high-ranking officer on the CIA's Cuba desk,
told a historian years later.
The "boom and bang" the Kennedy brothers pressed
for would be taught at Harvey Point.
The base was code-named ISOLATION TROPIC, but
most of the operatives who trained there came to call it "the Point." Over
the years, it has carved out a unique space in paramilitary history as a
clandestine landmark, of sorts. Veterans who have passed through it share an
intimate knowledge of how covert action plays a central role in U.S. foreign
Over the years, U.S. and foreign commandos who
trained at "the Point" have fought in shadowy conflicts around the globe,
from Cuba to the Congo, from Nicaragua to Vietnam, and lately, in
For its first decade or so of operations, the base managed to maintain the
covert character the CIA was looking for. But slowly, parts of the real
story began to filter out. (See "The
Truth About Harvey Point")
A major, but still only partial, disclosure
appeared in the April 1967 edition of Ramparts, a once popular and now
defunct leftist magazine. The issue carried a testimonial from a CIA officer
who had recently resigned after passing through the agency's demolitions
The former officer, who kept his name out of print, did not specify the
location of his training.
But now it's clear that the place he wrote
about, the place where he ultimately soured on the CIA, was Harvey Point:
"The stated purpose of the paramilitary
school was to train and equip us to become instructors for village
peasants who wanted to defend themselves against guerrillas. I could
believe in that.
"Some of the training was conventional: But then we moved to the CIA's
demolition training headquarters. It was here that Cubans had been, and
still were, being trained in conventional and underwater demolitions.
And it was here that we received training in tactics which hardly
conform to the Geneva Convention.
"The array of outlawed weaponry with which we were familiarized included
bullets that explode on impact, silencer-equipped machine guns,
home-made explosives and self-made napalm for stickier and hotter
Molotov cocktails. We were taught demolition techniques, practicing on
late-model cars, railroad trucks, and gas storage tanks. And we were
shown a quick method for saturating a confined area with flour or
fertilizer, causing an explosion like in a dustbin or granary.
"And then there was a diabolical invention that might be called a
mini-cannon. It was constructed of a concave piece of steel fitted into
the top of a #10 can filled with a plastic explosive. When the device
was detonated, the tremendous heat of friction of the steel turning
inside out made the steel piece a white-hot projectile.
There were a number of uses for the
mini-cannon, one of which was demonstrated to us using an old Army
school bus. It was fastened to the gasoline tank in such a fashion that
the incendiary projectile would rupture the tank and fling flaming
gasoline the length of the bus interior, incinerating anyone inside.
It was my lot to show the rest of the class
how easily it could be done. I stood there watching the flames consume
the bus. It was, I guess, the moment of truth. What did a busload of
burning people have to do with freedom? What right did I have, in the
name of democracy and the CIA, to decide that random victims should die?
The intellectual game was over. I had to
Of course most officers stayed in the spy
agency, and the operations that benefited from such training were many and
In 1978, Outside magazine published a detailed
account of a madcap mission involving Harvey Point. According to the
magazine, in 1964, the CIA brought a small group of amateur mountain
climbers to the base for demolitions training. The climbers later
infiltrated an isolated mountain range in India in an attempt to place
listening devices for monitoring Chinese nuclear tests.
The mission failed, but at Harvey Point, the
climbers did learn how to blow a hole in a glacier where the devices were
supposed to be placed.
Those who trained at Harvey Point certainly learned how to do some damage,
and some continued to use their deadly skills after they quit working for
the CIA. The Cuban exiles were perhaps the most prodigious bomb experts to
pass through the facility. Not only did they set off a sizable wave of
terrorism against Cuba, some of them went freelance after their CIA ties
were cut, and helped make Miami the car-bomb capital of the world during the
In addition, Cuban exile operatives, some of
whom had received CIA training, staged two audacious acts of terrorism in
1976: They bombed a Cuban airliner, killing 73 people, and participated in
the assassination of Chilean exile leader Orlando Letelier and his
assistant, Ronni Moffitt, who were killed by a car bomb as they drove up
Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.
In the 1980s, Harvey Point played a role in some of the CIA's most
controversial covert operations. In 1983, a team of agency operatives mined
Nicaraguan harbors - while floating the cover story that Nicaraguan contra
guerrillas had placed the mines. The attack prompted quick rebukes from
Congress, which moved to halt funding of such sabotage operations.
According to a 1999 article in Jane's
Intelligence Weekly, which detailed the CIA's modern paramilitary
capabilities, the team that mined the harbors trained at Harvey Point.
About the same time, the agency used the base to train three Lebanese
operatives for a most-sensitive mission:
They would lead a special, CIA-sponsored
squad for rescuing U.S. hostages and combating Islamic extremists.
The operation is detailed in two books,
In March 1985, the squad staged a disastrous
assassination attempt against a prominent holy warrior in Beirut.
They missed their target, but managed to kill an
estimated 80 civilians when their car bomb crashed into the wrong building.
As a result, the CIA cut its ties to the group.
Even then, the CIA continued to instruct foreign operatives, along with its
own personnel, in North Carolina. In 1998, The New York Times reported that
Harvey Point's most recent guests included members of the security detail
for Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
Today, Harvey Point may be playing its most important role ever.
The CIA's Special Activities Division - its
paramilitary force - did indeed lead the way in Afghanistan, according to a
recent report in the Boston Globe. The article, citing officials in the
White House and CIA, revealed that an agency force of 50 paramilitary
officers infiltrated Afghanistan on Sept. 27, 2001. Another 100 followed
Inside Taliban territory, the operatives, working in small teams, spread out
and laid the groundwork for the coming combat.
They passed cash to Northern Alliance leaders
and earned their allegiance. They acquired safe houses and conducted
surveillance for the Army's Special Forces, which would be soon arriving by
the hundreds to do the bulk of the fighting. Later, the CIA's commandos
identified targets for the agency's pilot-less Predator drones, which fired
down laser-targeted missiles on al-Qaeda leaders.
Such operations were the opening salvo in the war against terrorism, and a
sign that the CIA is in the midst of its biggest expansion of paramilitary
operations since the Reagan era, according to press reports and intelligence
experts. In February, the Associated Press reported the basic details of the
Bush administration's funding request for the CIA during the next fiscal
The agency's overall budget will increase from
roughly $3.5 billion to almost $5 billion.
A good portion of that spending will be focused on bulking up the CIA's
commando force, says John Pike, director of
Global Security.org, a defense and
intelligence policy research group in Washington, D.C.
"Most of it will have to be going toward
counterterrorism, toward the kinds of things they do at Harvey Point
more than the kinds of things they do at Camp Perry," where traditional
espionage is taught. The CIA, he says, is "hiring a lot of muscle."
Bush administration's plans to continue a global war against
terrorism could portend still more CIA paramilitary operations, Pike says.
The next target is Iraq, and if some Bush
advisors get their way, the agency will lead the way in an attempt to
overthrow Saddam Hussein. One faction within the administration is reported
to be arguing that "the Afghanistan scenario" - carefully crafted covert
operations, along with airstrikes and coordinated attacks by opposition
groups - could do the job, sparing the United States from a major military
Another faction argues that Hussein is too entrenched to be toppled as
easily as was the Taliban.
"I don't think the CIA can get rid of Saddam
Hussein," he says. "The joke going around is that this is the 'Bay of
Goats' plan - it's probably just enough to get a lot of people killed
and not enough to remove Hussein."
But both President Bush and CIA Director
George Tenet are fans of the CIA's paramilitary performance in
Afghanistan, according to recent press reports, and both may soon order
similar operations in Iraq, if they haven't already.
Whatever covert operations are in the works, the secretive yet noisy
training at Harvey Point continues. In Hertford, the echo of bombs is
business as usual - and nobody's business.
Despite all the intrigue emanating from their
community, most people living near Harvey Point have gotten used to the boom
"They're good neighbors," says a woman
standing in the doorway of her home on Harvey Point Road. "They don't
bother us and we don't bother them."
The woman, who has shared a property line with
the base for 20 years, asks that her name not be printed and says she's not
precisely sure what goes on behind the facility's fenced perimeter.
"It's for testing explosives, and that's all
I know," she says. "A lot of different looking things go by here," she
adds, pointing to the road that runs past her house to Harvey Point's
"Like busses that you can't see through the
windows of, and a lot of old cars and trucks that they blow up. When you
see an 18-wheeler going in at midnight, you wonder what they're carrying
The noise isn't usually a bother, but,
"every once in a blue moon, they let off a
good one," she says. "When they do one of the big ones, it jars
everything, shakes everything for a few seconds."
Several times a month, the sound of the bomb
blasts is strong enough to carry two miles to the east, to Holiday Island, a
spot popular with boaters that cruise the waters off of Harvey Point.
April Ghose, 17, has lived there for nine years.
"I heard it was FBI or CIA training, one of
them," she says. "When I first moved down here, I didn't know what it
was. My house started trembling and I said, 'Granma, what was that?' And
she was like, 'It's just Harvey Point.' Now it's not a really big deal,
I'm so used to it."
But Ghose's great-grandmother, she says, can't
get used to it:
"She just turned 87. She has really bad
Alzheimer's, so when it comes she doesn't know what's happening."
Phillip Jackson, a 15-year-old friend of Ghose's
who lives in Hertford, says that the main thing he knows about Harvey Point
is that he's not supposed to go anywhere near it.
"My stepdad, he's heard of people going down
there too close in boats, and looking in there with binoculars, and they
get shot," Jackson says. "The law around here is, if you get a hundred
feet from the fence they can shoot you."
Other locals say there have been no such
shootings, but that boaters who stray too close are told to back off by
Harvey Point security guards.
In fact, most of the community's experience with Harvey Point has been good,
according to Perquimans County Manager Paul Gregory Jr.
"I'm not aware of any danger in the past or
in the present," he says, and besides, the base is at least a small
Twenty or so local civilians, he estimates, work
at the base as mechanics, janitors and cafeteria staff.
"For us, that's a lot of jobs, anytime you
get over 10 or 15 jobs. That's a big positive for Perquimans County."
Gregory goes so far as to say that,
"we've not had any negative impacts
whatsoever from them being there."
But local officials have no oversight authority
for Harvey Point, because it is a federal facility.
"They've provided good jobs, but they
haven't provided a whole lot of information about what they say and do
in there," he says.
County officials do not know, for example, what
environmental damage, if any, has resulted from four decades of bomb
The base at Harvey Point does have a full-time
environmental coordinator, Dr. Wade Jordan, but when The Independent
contacted him recently on the telephone, he said he is not permitted to talk
to the press.
Publicly available federal records do indicate that an environmental cleanup
company, Potomac-Hudson Engineering Inc., did work at Harvey Point in 1996.
According to a company-written summary of the
job, the Defense Department paid $250,000 for,
"remediation of PCB and VOC contaminated
soils at explosives test range and waste asbestos."
Gregory says that the county has a more pressing
concern than Harvey Point - another national security project that could
potentially disrupt the good life in Hertford.
The Navy is seeking landing sites for a new
fleet of F/A-18 "Super Hornets," an exceedingly noisy jet that will be based
in Norfolk, Va.
A spot five miles north of Hertford is on the
Navy's short list, and in response, Perquimans officials have joined several
neighboring counties to lobby against locating an airstrip in their neck of
"We are patriotic, but we've got
agriculture, we've got tourism and we're a popular place for retirement
- that's all we've got going for us," Gregory says. "If the noise comes,
there goes the tourism, there go the retirees, who aren't going to want
to live here."
The Navy is slated to name its Super Hornet
landing sites later this year.
Whatever happens with the Navy's jets, it seems like the CIA's bomb school
is here to stay. Last year's defense appropriations bill authorized the Navy
to purchase an additional 200 acres in Perquimans County,
"To provide a buffer zone for the Harvey
Point Defense Testing Activity."
And if the Bush administration decides to try
the "Afghanistan scenario" in Iraq - using the CIA's troops as a vanguard -
then the tempo of the training may well increase.
Bob and Thelma Brannock, two retired postal workers who live across the
Perquimans River from Harvey Point, say they're content to let the
government's secret warriors do their thing - whatever it is. Through the
windows in their living room, they can see the mini marina the CIA built
around the concrete ramps that the Navy Seamaster planes once used to get to
their hangars. They can see the mouth of the clearing that leads to the
Since nothing but a few acres of trees surrounding the base and a
mile-and-half of open water stand between their house and Harvey Point, the
Brannocks don't just have the best view - they also hear the bombs more than
most folks do.
The loudest blasts,
"sound like the fireworks on the fourth of
July," according to Bob.
"Sometimes I actually thought they were
right here in the yard," Thelma says. "But it hasn't done any damage to
our house. Now I have heard some people say it knocks the pictures off
"It doesn't bother us," Thelma says as Bob nods.
"I know roughly what it is, and to me, we
need some security someplace. Everybody shouldn't know everything, as
long as they're protecting us. We can't know everything or else all the
other countries will know everything. It kind of makes me mad when I
hear people say they don't want it around, because the noise bothers
them. They've got to train somewhere."
Bob thinks for a minute, then says cryptically:
"I think you don't wanna know. My theory is
that there's a lot going on over there."