Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • Inside The Mind Of A Spy

    EARL PITTS, FORMER FUTURE Farmer of America, army captain, FBI agent - and, more recently, spy for the KGB - stood before the judge to receive his sentence. ""Mr. Pitts,'' federal district court Judge T. S. Ellis III said last week, ""I have just one question: why did you do it?'' Pitts, looking pasty and worn in an olive drab jumpsuit with PRISONER stenciled on the back, hesitated. ""I gave in to an unreasoning anger,'' he stammered. The judge was contemptuous. ""You never mentioned simple greed,'' he told Pitts, and sentenced him to 27 years in prison. ...
  • The Plan And The Man

    During the winter of 1946-47, the worst in memory, Europe seemed on the verge of collapse. For the victors in World War II, there were no spoils. In London, coal shortages left only enough fuel to heat and light homes for a few hours a day. In Berlin, the vanquished were freezing and starving to death. On the walls of the bombed-out Reichstag, someone scrawled "Blessed are the dead, for their hands do not freeze." European cities were seas of rubble - 500 million cubic yards of it in Germany alone. Bridges were broken, canals were choked, rails were twisted. Across the Continent, darkness was rising. ...
  • Sex And Lies

    Minot, N.D., is a flat and lonely place. There's not much there, aside from the 150 nuclear-tipped ICBMs buried in the surrounding wheat fields. A young first lieutenant could grow bored and restless, especially if she were the air force's first (and only) female B-52 pilot. Lt. Kelly Flinn believed that dating other pilots would be "unprofessional," so she turned down their advances. Her fellow aviators speculated that the 26-year-old was a lesbian. She drank an occasional beer at Peyton Place, the local pickup bar, but the bartender never saw her there with another man. ...
  • Remembering Fdr

    AT THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL in Washington, bereaved families and friends often leave mementos--flowers, letters, old war medals--under the names carved on the Wall. At the Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, which will be dedicated next week, some protesters are planning a discomforting variation on the theme. Angry that Roosevelt's paralysis had been given scant attention by the designers of the memorial, they told reporters that they planned to leave their own remembrances--old wheelchairs, leg braces, crutches and canes--inside the memorial for tourists to step over and around each day. ...
  • A Question Of Consent

    THEY CALLED IT "THE GAME." at Aberdeen Proving Ground, army drill sergeants allegedly passed around a list of female recruits "locked in tight"--which meant they were willing to have sex. Some of the women, teenagers fresh out of high school, were intimidated by all-powerful drill instructors. But others used sex to get ahead--in army lingo, "sleeping with drill sergeants for stripes." Still others had sex with their DIs simply because they wanted to. ...
  • 'The Next Level'

    EXCEPT FOR THE STINK OF DEATH, everything was neat and tidy. Police found no sign of struggle or even discomfort among the 39 corpses. Each member of the cult followed the written instructions to "lay back and relax" after swallowing the phenobarbital-laced pudding chased with vodka. The cultists had apparently died in waves, 15 the first day, at least 15 the second and the survivors the third. Only the last two to go, a pair of women, still wore plastic bags over their heads. The rest lay quietly in their new black sneakers, under diamond-shaped purple shrouds. ...
  • The Trouble With Newt

    IN JOURNALS OF OPINION, covering Newt Gingrich has become a kind of death watch. Last month a widely read cover story in The New Republic was titled "The Madness of King Newt." Then the conservative Weekly Standard--once pro-Newt--wondered whether Gingrich was in "meltdown." The lead article--by a fellow GOP congressman, Peter King--called the speaker "political road kill." Gingrich's trip to China was intended to position the speaker as a statesman--but he was attacked by conservatives when his initial itinerary omitted a stop in Taiwan, the right's favorite bastion of anti-communism in the Far East. ...
  • Judgment Day

    THE FIRST PIECE OF EVIDENCE FELL OUT OF the sky. At about 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995, Richard Nichols, a maintenance man in Oklahoma City, was huddled on the floor of his car, cowering from an enormous blast that seemed to sweep over him like a prairie twister, when he heard a strange whooshing noise. It sounded, he thought, like a giant boomerang spinning right at him. With a crash, a heavy rod of twisted metal smashed into the hood of his car, shattering the windshield. It was a truck axle. It had belonged to a Ryder truck filled with two tons of explosives that had, moments earlier, transformed the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building into a mass morgue. ...
  • Falling Out Of The Sky

    LT. (J.G.) CAREY LOHRENZ WANTED to fit in. She was willing to put up with the loutish behavior of her fellow pilots, the misogynist jokes and the male strutting. She understood why naval aviators sometimes act like fraternity boys. Landing a 35-ton, $40 million warplane on a heaving deck in the middle of the night is extremely difficult. In the clubby world of naval aviators, macho posturing is a way of fighting off fear, drinking and carousing a way of easing the pressure. Lohrenz, a 22-year-old University of Wisconsin grad whose father, brother and husband were all navy or Marine pilots, was eager to join the brotherhood. ...
  • Trouble In The Ranks

    GENE MCKINNEY, THE SERGEANT major of the U.S. Army, is the most senior of the army's 410,000 enlisted men. He has a staff of six and an office on the E-Ring of the Pentagon alongside the army chief of staff. A decorated Vietnam veteran, McKinney has long been regarded as a model soldier and an important symbol of African-American success in the military. Last November he was appointed to a commission charged with reviewing the army's sexual-harassment policies. That was too much for one of his former aides, Sgt. Maj. Brenda Hoster, who read about McKinney's latest achievement in the newspaper. Last week Hoster went public with accusations that McKinney tried to sexually assault her in a hotel room. ...
  • The Role Of A Lifetime

    TENNESSEE SEN. FRED THOMPSON scowled as he listened to the story about his red pickup truck. According to a recent article, Senator Thompson had been spotted secretly ditching his truck, a popular symbol of his folksy campaign, and driving off in a ""sweet silver luxury sedan'' one night after a speech in Tennessee. Thompson denies the whole thing. But what seems to bother him is not so much the suggestion that he was a phony, but rather that he would take foolish risks. ""Do you think,'' he growls, ""that I'd do anything so dumb?''Thompson leaves little to chance. He has played a submarine captain in the movies, won re-election to the U.S. Senate and may be a formidable presidential candidate in 2000. But Thompson, a divorced 54-year-old, is perhaps best understood as a lawyer. He likes to be in control, and he hates surprises. That's why he has been grinding lately. Next month he will begin chairing hearings into alleged Democratic campaign-finance abuses. ""He's absolutely...
  • Death Of A Truthteller

    IN THE WINTER OF 1991, PAUL TSONGAS gathered his family together to give them some important news. His three children worried when they saw the grave look on their father's face. Tsongas had been told in 1984 that he was almost sure to die from cancer of the lymph nodes. Dropping his promising political career, the former Massachusetts senator had undergone radical treatment--and survived. Now his children wanted to know: was Daddy sick again?"It's something worse," said Tsongas. "I want to run for president."The answer was classic Tsongas. A wry, self-deprecating man, Tsongas, who died last week at 55, nonetheless saw himself on a mission. He called it "the obligation of my survival." As a congressman and senator from 1975 to 1984, Tsongas had been one of the first Democrats to really question the Big Government credo of liberalism. Now, plunging into the 1992 Democratic primaries, he warned America that it had to face up to the crippling national debt.Tsongas could be preachy....
  • Friends For Now

    RELATIONS BETWEEN Presidents and vice presidents are famously chilly; between their wives, catty or worse. Jackie Kennedy used to refer to Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird as "Uncle Cornpone and his Little Porkchop," and in eight years the Reagans never once invited the Bushes to dine in the White House residence. The Clintons and Gores have been exceptions to the rule. Al Gore's clout with Bill Clinton is by now well established. "The president doesn't make a decision without consulting Gore. He just doesn't," says a presidential adviser. White House spinners start to gush when they match up the two couples. They listen to country music, dance together, go to church together, jog together. Their children are all attractive. They even psychobabble together: "We achieved what I call gestalt," says Gore.The reality, according to people who have spent time with both couples, is more complicated and more interesting. There is genuine affection between the Clintons and the Gores, but also...
  • Social Insecurity

    As an alarming number of Americans gloomily give up on the future of Social Security, Washington is scrambling for solutions. A presidential commission wants to put the nation's retirement money in the ever-volatile stock market. But there are better ways to preserve the most popular government program in history than just taking a plunge. Trouble is, few in power want to talk about them--yet.Daniel patrick moynihan can be a gloomy Irishman, but over the years Washington has learned to listen to his jeremiads. He predicted the collapse of both the inner cities and the Soviet system long before either seemed imminent. The senior senator from New York, who advised both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, has been trying to shore up the welfare state since he was a professor at Harvard in the 1960s. Lately, he has heard the foundations cracking.Last week Moynihan sat in his darkened office on Capitol Hill, unhappily contemplating the uncertain future of Social Security. He noted that...
  • See Dick Run The Country

    AS DICK MORRIS TELLS IT IN his new memoir, "Behind the Oval Office," he called up the president one day last August to lecture him on ways to improve his place in history. He told Bill Clinton that, barring a war, he would never rank in the "first tier" of presidents. "I broke the news to him gently," writes Morris. " "Okay'," said Clinton, who then ventured hopefully, " "[How about] second tier?' " Morris was starting to tell Clinton "the three big things and four medium things" he had to do to break out of the "third tier" when the president asked him to wait a second. He needed to get a paper and pen. " "Okay'," said Clinton when he returned to the phone. " "What are the big things?' "Are we to believe this story? It could, of course, just be Morris's vast ego talking. The disgraced consultant claims he was able to reconstruct his private conversations with the president from memory. During these talks, it often appears that Morris was busy running the president's re-election...
  • The Spy Who Sold Out

    STUDENT SPIES AT ""THE Farm''--Camp Peary, the CIA's 9,275-acre training ground near Williamsburg, Va.--are taught to make ""surveillance detection runs,'' better known in spook parlance as ""dry cleaning.'' They learn how to tell if they are being followed by looking at the reflections off shop windows, by retracing their steps, by entering and quickly exiting subway terminals. The students under the tutelage of Harold J. Nicholson, a CIA veteran who taught at the Farm in 1994 and 1995, should wonder about the quality of their instruction. Last June, Nicholson slipped out of the Garden Wing of the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore on a dry-cleaning run that took him past department-store windows, up and down bustling streets, in and out of a subway station. Satisfied that he wasn't being followed, he climbed into the back of a limousine with Russian diplomatic license plates. The FBI was watching the whole thing. ...
  • An American Melodrama

    ALGER HISS WAS ""FIRST RATE IN every way,'' according to Felix Frankfurter, his professor at Harvard Law School. He was tall, handsome, perhaps a bit arrogant but graceful and sure. Voted ""best hand shaker'' at Johns Hopkins, Hiss had been a protEgE of Oliver Wendell Holmes; a State Department aide to FDR at Yalta; president of the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace. It sometimes seemed as if the entire Eastern establishment was ready to rise to his defense. He could not have been a Soviet spy. ...
  • A Heroic Failure

    AS YOUNGSTERS, MOST GREAT American leaders were not expected to turn out to be formidable figures. They were neither popular, athletic nor commanding. They did, however, have one thing in common: a sense of history. They got it from reading -- alone at night by firelight like Lincoln or while sickly and bedridden like Teddy Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Nearsighted, flat-footed and bookish, young Newt Gingrich was, at least in this sense, just like them. ...
  • Riddle Of The Depths

    As divers dodge sharks to solve the mystery of TWA Flight 800, the Feds are trapped between scores of grieving families and an incredibly complex caseTHE DIVERS CALL IT MAKO CITY, AFTER THE MEDIUM-size sharks that prowl there. In a seabed 130 feet beneath the Atlantic nine miles off the coast of New York's Long Island, small whales, sea turtles and sharks meander around a maze of thick wire cables and shards of jagged metal. It is forever twilight in the graveyard of TWA Flight 800; a diver swimming into the stygian gloom risks becoming entangled in the debris, or slicing an air hose, or coming face to face with a hammerhead. Or a corpse.Hardly an ideal working environment: entering it, one diver told The Washington Post, was like being "lowered into hell." Yet out of this gloom must come answers, and none too soon. The victims' families, who are understandably beginning to sound more like hostages than like mourners, are demanding the bodies of their loved ones. The gumshoes, on...
  • Death On Flight 800

    THE DEAD DO SOMETIMES TELL tales, if you know how to look for them. Behind drawn shades in the autopsy rooms of the Suffolk County medical examiner's office, Dr. Charles Wetli and his team of 10 pathologists were looking for clues that could explain exactly how the 230 passengers of TWA Flight 800 died. The body of a person killed by a bomb looks different from the body of a victim in an ""ordinary'' plane crash. The flesh of bomb victims is shredded and may be singed by chemicals. But most of the corpses Wetli and his team examined had been killed by the impact of hitting the water after falling from a height of more than two miles -- a long (a minute and a half) and terrible way to die. The mystery of their deaths will be solved -- in time. But it won't be easy, and it probably won't be quick.In the heavy swells off New York's Long Island coast last weekend, a high-tech Pinger Locater System trolled the ocean bottom looking for the all-important black boxes (which are actually...
  • Hillary's Other Side

    THE OCCASION WAS JUST THE SORT OF SOCIAL event that the Clintons are said to loathe: a gathering of Washington establishment insiders, clustered around candlelit tables for 10 to fete one of their own, media heavy Mortimer Zuckerman. Seated next to Hillary Clinton at this dinner party last week was Bob Woodward, the veteran Washington Post reporter. Famous for his role in uncovering the Watergate scandal, Woodward was only a few days away from publishing his latest investigative chronicle, ""The Choice,'' a narrative of the 1996 presidential campaign that is excerpted this week in NEWSWEEK. One of the principal subjects of Woodward's book is Hillary Clinton.In his new book, Woodward writes that one of Mrs. Clinton's favorite sayings, borrowed from Alcoholics Anonymous, is ""fake it till you make it.'' Self-control, the First Lady tells her friends, is the key to survival. Woodward quotes Hillary as saying, ""I really believe you can change the way you think and feel if you...
  • A Matter Of Honor

    COMMAND, THE SAYING goes, is lonely, and it can be lonelier still for a naval officer. Navy lore says a captain in battle always goes down with his ship; in modern practice, that means the captain is always held responsible, whether he is truly to blame or not. A desktop command in peacetime can be just as demanding and isolating. As the navy's top officer, Jeremy (Mike) Boorda had to contend with scandals over sexual harassment, cheating at the Naval Academy, and the too-frequent crashes of the navy's premier fighter, the F-14. Boorda was to blame for none of these upheavals. But in the long tradition of his service, he took responsibility. In a speech two weeks ago to the midshipmen of Annapolis, Boorda stressed that "every single person in the navy should have one leader they can look to and say, "That person is responsible and accountable for me'." ...
  • The Reluctant Spymaster

    THE MORNING AFTER FORMER CIA director William Colby vanished, a fisherman found his empty canoe, swamped and drifting along the Potomac River. In his weekend home nearby, the former spymaster's computer was still running, and a glass of wine sat by the sink in the kitchen. The river had been rough the day before, with a two-foot chop, but sometime after 7 p.m. Colby, a hale 76-year-old, apparently set out for an evening paddle. Last week, as frogmen searched the murky waters, the conspiracy theorists began to spin their tales. ...
  • A School For Scandal

    THE 1992 CHEATING SCANDAL THAT implicated 133 of their mates. The 1995 drug bust that caught 24 would-be officers. The stolen-car ring indicted this month, the midshipman just arrested for molesting a child, and the two hapless seniors who got caught last week sneaking into the house of the former state superintendent of police in order to see his teenage daughter at 2 a.m. All of this left Annapolis midshipmen discouraged. But what really demoralized the Brigade, said several Naval Academy professors, was the case of a senior midshipman who is now in the brig at Quantico. The senior was an Academy five-striper, in command of hundreds of midshipmen. He had been given a leadership post because he was supposed to set an example. Here, sources told NEWSWEEK, is how he allegedly set it: when women were caught having sex at Bancroft Hall, the vast stone dormitory that houses all 4,000 "mids," the senior offered them a deal--have sex with him, or face disciplinary charges. The midshipman...
  • The End Of The Road

    AFTER 18 YEARS OF VAINLY trying to get its man, the FBI wanted to be absolutely sure it had the right one. In the woods outside the rude shack where the suspect lived in the distant mountains of Montana, the FBI had assembled enough high-tech spying equipment to stage a James Bond movie. Special agents from the bureau's elite Hostage Rescue Team peered down from the trees through night-vision goggles while highly sensitive listening devices eavesdropped on any words the suspect might have chanced to mumble. Thousands of miles overhead in space, satellites surveyed the desolate home the suspect rarely left in the raw of winter. ...
  • In Bosnia, A Policy Built On Personality

    There are any number of think tanks, graduate schools and scholarly journals devoted to the study of foreign policy, but perhaps the best way to understand American foreign policy today is to watch Richard Holbrooke enter a room. Holbrooke, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, often arrives late but never unnoticed. He does not so much walk in as barge in. He is immediately the center of attention--noisier, more optimistic, more demanding and dominating than anyone in the room. He is at once plain-spoken and cunning, honest and manipulative, principled and devious. In short, he embodies most of the virtues and some of the flaws that make American power indispensable to getting things done around the world. ...
  • Whose Obsession Is It, Anyway?

    Docu-dramas by and large make a hash of history. Ambiguity and nuance are routinely sacrificed for dramatic pacing. But like it or not, movies and TV are the only way many Americans learn about the past. So, though purists may squirm, traditional notions of historical accuracy may have to be replaced by a cruder standard: does the film get the basic truth right, even if some (or most) of the facts are wrong? ...
  • Missing The Moment

    The house democrats had a problem last Thursday morning. They wanted to mock Speaker Newt Gingrich for his infantile outbursts by bringing giant baby bottles to wave on the House floor, but the local Price Club store that sold the props didn't open until 11 a.m. Never mind that the federal government was also closed, and that most Americans were blaming both parties for the mess. There were important matters to debate in the people's chamber. Such as: was it permissible, under the rules of the House, to display a blown-up image of that morning's New York Daily News with the front-page headline "CRY BABY"? The parliamentary question was put to a vote, and Republicans protected their speaker's honor, 231 to 173. The tabloid, depicting a diapered Gingrich, was ceremoniously removed. ...
  • Why He Got Out

    THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF THE Powell presidential fantasy came on the morning of Friday, Nov. 3, as General Powell was lying in bed with his wife, Alma, She was quietly weeping and he was silently praying. Alma had never been one to mince words with her husband, and the word she used this morning at home in McLean, Va., was a simple "no." She told Powell that she didn't want him to run for president. The general was gloomy when he called one of his closest advisers later that morning and recounted the conversation with Alma. "I think things are going south," Powell said. He hadn't entirely ruled out a nm, NEWSWEEK has learned, but he knew his heart wasn't in it. ...
  • Can Peace Survive?

    Yitzhak Rabin wanted to linger, to relish the moment. In Kings of Israel Square in central Tel Aviv last Saturday night, 100,000 had gathered to celebrate peace with songs and speeches, and the Israeli prime minister seemed to be enjoying the happy buzz. His security detail was anxious: there had been threats from right-wing extremists who compared Rabin to a Nazi. But Rabin had scoffed a few weeks earlier when his cabinet suggested that he beef up security to guard against an assassination. "He believed that something like that could never happen," Yossi Beilin, the minister of economy and planning, told NEWSWEEK. ...