July 13, 1979

Friday the 13th

“The 13th of the month is more likely to occur on a Friday than on any other day of the week,” or anyway that’s what the bespectacled stranger on the bus insisted to me about ten days ago – “and you can prove it,” he said. . . . For the next week it took over my life.

And Lawrence Weschler’s quest took over six pages of the (Friday) July 13 Reader, pages so slathered with charts and numbers they looked like stills from A Beautiful Mind. Weschler’s conclusion: “Just barely.” Who was this madman? Next thing we knew, Weschler was writing for the New Yorker. Next thing we knew after that, he was running the Chicago Humanities Festival.

“I’ve got the best lawyer in the Midwest and if there’s anything in that story that’s not the truth, I’ll sue. I stopped this story once and I’ll stop it again.” —Thomas Miner, February 2

February 2, 1979

The CIA’s Chicago Front Man

Put plainly, in these circles where one often has a branch in Karachi or a man in Kabul, the word has been out for years: Tom Miner has clout. Certainly at the State Department’s Agency for International Development, which has frequently hired him as a private contractor. Maybe at the Commerce Department and even at the White House. And, yes, as some have been aware, also at the Central Intelligence Agency. Miner’s firm provided cover for the CIA in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. —Thomas J. Dolan, February 2.

Dolan began investigating Miner (no relation) and his Chicago-based international consulting firm in 1977, when Dolan was at the Sun-Times. He ran into problems. One seemed to be that Miner represented the Mid-America International Development Association in Africa, and Chicago’s First National Bank was heavily involved with MIDA. And the bank’s chairman, Robert Abboud, was a director of Field Enterprises, which owned the Sun-Times, and Marshall Field was a director of the bank. And Abboud did not relish appearing in Dolan’s story.

Which the Sun-Times did not publish. Dolan was transferred from the city room to the criminal courts at 26th and California, and in 1978 he was laid off. So he took his files to Chicago magazine to work with Ron Dorfman, an editor there. For the Reader, Dorfman would eventually write—

February 2, 1979

The Story Behind the Story

“The idea that MIDA was affiliated in any way with the CIA is an absolute lie,” [Abboud] shouted. “The idea that there were discussions about the CIA [within the MIDA board] is an absolute lie. If you print anything about that, we would have to recall our people all over the world. . . . We would have to bring the maximum lawsuit against you and against Chicago magazine.” He screamed and yelled some more and within about 15 minutes the interview was over.”

In the end, after a series of adventures that saw the Tribune‘s legendary libel attorney, Don Reuben, make an appearance on the side of Miner (!), Chicago publisher Ray Nordstrand spiked Dolan’s story and Dorfman resigned in protest.

Dolan and Dorfman’s next stop was the Reader. What the hell—we ran Dolan’s story, and also Dorfman’s, which in some respects was even juicier. “All I remember was we were very apprehensive that we were likely to get sued,” says Bob Roth, our editor and publisher at the time. But we weren’t.