Evan Thomas

Stories by Evan Thomas

  • Disaster At Sea

    Crew members of the Japanese fishing vessel Ehime Maru had just finished lunch when they felt a jolt, then two explosions. Plunged into darkness, they scrambled on deck as the water rushed in and their 191-foot ship began to founder. As they leaped into the choppy seas off the Hawaiian island of Oahu, the survivors saw a very strange sight: the massive black hull of an American submarine, breaking the surface right before them.The crew of that sub, the USS Greeneville, carrying cruise missiles and heading home to Pearl Harbor after routine operations, will have some explaining to do. Nine people--three crew members, four high-school students on board to learn deep-sea fishing and two teachers--were missing in the collision between the sub and the fishing boat, their fates still unknown Saturday evening.How did it happen? The fishing boat was in an area marked on charts as a channel used by American submarines. As a sub surfaces, its sonar, an acoustical listening device, searches...
  • Life Of O'reilly

    Bill O'Reilly makes more than a million dollars a year, but he's damned if he'll spend $3.50 on a cup of coffee. "I will not go in a Starbucks," he says. He prefers a coffee shop in Manhasset, Long Island, where cops and firemen hang out. Chatting and jousting with the regulars there every morning, he says, he gets many of the questions he will use later that night to interrogate guests on his TV show, "The O'Reilly Factor." Blunt, sometimes obnoxious questions, the kind that most big-media talk-show hosts are too squeamish to ask. Like: Why do gay activists flaunt it? And just where does the Rev. Jesse Jackson get his money? Questions that are uncomfortable and often annoying to his guests but entertaining and dead-on to "the folks," as he calls his fans--a large and growing legion. As O'Reilly never tires of reminding anyone who'll listen, his book, "The O'Reilly Factor," was for 10 weeks the No. 1 best seller, while his show is the highest-rated cable-news program on TV.Many of...
  • 'I Will Work To Build A Single Nation'

    Restoration: With A Solemn Speech, George W. Bush Ends The Age Of Clinton. He's Striking The Right Notes, But Still Faces A Divided Nation
  • The Precarious Prince

    At St. Albans, the tony prep school he attended in Washington 35 years ago, Albert Gore Jr. appeared, at least from a distance, to be a prince among princes. Even in a place populated by other ruling-class scions, Gore stood out. The class of '65 yearbook found him to be "frighteningly good at many things... Popular and respected, he would seem to be the epitome of the All-American young man," wrote the schoolboy editors. "It probably won't be long before Al reaches the top." Flattering and prescient words--but look again. His yearbook entry shows a cartoon of Gore as a statue on a pedestal, with a football, basketball and discus tucked under his arm. Gore is being made fun of, and not very subtly. The caption beneath his portrait quotes Anatole France: "People with no weaknesses are terrible."Al Gore has been a remarkably thoughtful, disciplined and serious public servant. He is far more substantive than most politicians, including George W. Bush. Yet the jokes never stop: in 1988,...
  • Bobby At The Brink

    Bobby Kennedy Seems Frozen In Myth. But The Real Rfk Was Complex, At Once Idealistic And Devious. The Inside Story Of The Cuban Missile Crisis--Where He Found A Way Out, And Grew Up.
  • The New Billionaire To See

    On one morning last march James Kimsey, as a member of the National Gallery's Collectors Committee, helped choose between a half-dozen art works the museum was seeking to acquire (Kimsey voted for a Warhol). Then he went over to the Capitol to talk to Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Kimsey, who is on the Board of Visitors at his alma mater, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was mad because, as he put it, "some congressman was trying to screw West Point out of a new gym." Kimsey and some senators discussed what they could do to make the congressman back down. (He did.) For dinner that night, Kimsey joined several Supreme Court justices in the high court's private dining room. Seated next to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he had to excuse himself early. "I said, 'Sorry, I gotta go.' But I couldn't say why." He was off that night on a secret mission on his private jet--to meet the next morning in the South American jungle with the leader of a rebel army...
  • A Coda To The Cold War

    Religion, wrote Lenin, is a "vile contagion of the most abominable kind." But it was useful cover for the Kremlin's spies. Revived during the Great Patriotic War against Hitler in 1943, the Russian Orthodox Church was controlled by the Fifth Directorate of the KGB. How Russian Orthodox priests traveled the world recruiting not just souls but secret agents for the Rodina (motherland) is one of the great stories of the cold war. Last week the tale took an intriguing American twist with the arrest of George Trofimoff, 73, in Tampa, Fla.A retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve, Trofimoff became "the highest-ranking U.S. military officer ever charged with espionage," according to the Justice Department indictment. Working as a civilian Army employee from 1969 to 1994, Trofimoff helped run a center for interrogating Soviet-bloc refugees in Germany. He had access to many secrets about NATO defenses against the threat of a Soviet invasion. For 25 years, he allegedly photographed top...
  • Bitter Lessons

    The first hints of something wrong at Potomac Elementary came from the kids. Whispering to one another in the hallways and on the playground, then telling their parents after school, a few fifth graders began describing the peculiar behavior of their principal, Karen Karch, as she supervised the state assessment tests in mid-May. Some children who had already finished the test were reportedly summoned by the principal and told to "review" their answers. "You might want to look at this one again," Karch would say, according to the children. Other students were given an extra 20 to 45 minutes to complete the test. At one point during the social-studies section of the test, Karch was said to have held up a map and pointed to the country the students were being quizzed about.The kids were bothered and confused. "Some kids were saying to each other, 'I don't think she's allowed to do that'," one fifth grader told NEWSWEEK. The student, a 10-year-old boy, recounted that he was given extra...
  • Cashing In On Little Elián

    There was the planning team, the intelligence team, the surveillance team, the break-down-the-door team, the snatch team, the perimeter-security team, the neutralize-the-neighbors team, the air wing and the Navy (a fast boat, in case the helicopter couldn't take off). All in all, the Feds prepared to pick up 6-year-old Elián González the way armies prepare for war. Judging from the vituperative postraid response of GOP lawmakers last week, the onslaught by more than 100 Immigration and Naturalization Service agents, several armed with automatic weapons, added up to overkill. House Whip Tom DeLay excoriated "jack-booted thugs," while New York mayor and Senate candidate Rudy Giuliani inveighed against "storm troopers."Yet when the pollsters weighed in, the public turned out to take a different view. Most approved of the raid to return Elián to his father, and many people made clear that they were tired of the whole melodrama. On Capitol Hill, Republicans scheduled, then postponed,...
  • Raid and Reunion

    'What's Happening?' As Last-Minute Talks Failed, Agents Smashed Through The Door, Seized Elián And Took Him To His Father. The Final Hours, A Terrifying Dawn In Little Havana - And What's Next
  • The Last Days Of Saigon

    Frank Snepp was overwhelmed. Like his fellow spooks in Saigon, Snepp, a CIA analyst in the American Embassy, was desperately looking for ways to get his friends and informants out of the country before the South Vietnamese regime collapsed and the communist reprisals began. The North Vietnamese Army was closing in, and the embassy was in turmoil. That afternoon in late April 1975, Snepp got a call from a former girlfriend, a Vietnamese "tea girl" named Mai Ly who claimed to have borne Snepp's son. Could Snepp help the woman and child flee? Busy writing a report for the ambassador, Snepp told Mai Ly to call back in an hour. When she did, the CIA man was away from his desk. He never heard from her again. Less then 24 hours later, dressed in a flak jacket and armed with an M-16, Snepp was helping pull refugees over the embassy wall as the first helicopters lumbered in to begin the final evacuation. One of the frightened South Vietnamese seeking sanctuary was a Saigon policeman whom...
  • The End Of Innocence

    It was way past a 6-year-old boy's normal bedtime, but for Elián González, nothing is normal. Deep into the night, sometime between 11 p.m. on Wednesday and 1:30 a.m. on Thursday, little Elián sat on his bed, peered into the home video camera and emphatically declared, "Papa, I don't want to go to Cuba." He seemed almost indifferent whether his father stayed with him in the United States or returned home. "If you want, stay here," Elián addressed his father, via video. But he was adamant about his own plans. "I'm not going to Cuba," he declared. He said it again, then again, waving his index finger like a tiny but proud orator.The video was shot by Elián's Miami relatives, probably by his great-uncles Lázaro and Delfín. It was furnished to a Spanish-language TV station to show, in the family's view, Elián's true feelings, in his own words. What the video may have revealed instead was something sad--a brave little boy, caught in a cruel custody battle, flying too high in a kind of...
  • The Elian Endgame

    What does Elian Gonzalez make of all this? About once a day, the 6-year-old boy is trotted out before the cameramen who sit outside his house all day in beach chairs. Sometimes, his uncle puts him up on his shoulders, to wave and smile and flash a "V for Victory" salute. Women weep and shove flowers at him and strain to touch him. Occasionally, he is visited by middle-aged legislators in suits--at least one U.S. senator and two congressmen so far--one of whom has given him a dog. Most recently, Diane Sawyer of ABC's "Good Morning America" arrived with a camera crew and a child psychiatrist. Prodded to draw a picture, Elian drew a boat and some waves and explained his mother had not drowned and gone to heaven but had washed ashore and lost her memory. As he floated for two days in his rubber tube, Elian recounted, he was protected from the sharks by friendly dolphins.It could have been a touching fantasy spun by a traumatized boy. Or it could be a piece of crude agit-prop cooked up...
  • Senator Hothead

    Of the 55 republicans in the U.S. Senate, only four support John McCain for president. Most of the rest--39 in all, with two more signing on last week--back George W. Bush. Why can't McCain win the votes of his own colleagues? To explain, a Republican senator tells this story: at a GOP meeting last fall, McCain erupted out of the blue at the respected Budget Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, saying, "Only an a--hole would put together a budget like this." Offended, Domenici stood up and gave a dignified, restrained speech about how in all his years in the Senate, through many heated debates, no one had ever called him that. Another senator might have taken the moment to check his temper. But McCain went on: "I wouldn't call you an a--hole unless you really were an a--hole." The Republican senator witnessing the scene had considered supporting McCain for president, but changed his mind. "I decided," the senator told NEWSWEEK, "I didn't want this guy anywhere near a trigger."Domenici...
  • The Woman By His Side

    From middle distance, Cindy McCain seems shy, a little fragile, a suburban matron with a rich father and a degree from USC--"the University of Spoiled Children," her husband likes to tease. Watch her on the campaign trail, however, and she comes across as tough and protective. She mothers McCain, unsuccessfully supervising his diet and handing him the bottle of disinfectant he likes to use after serial glad-shaking. During debate preparation, she stands along the back wall, her bright blue eyes watchful as McCain banters and cracks jokes. Cindy, 45, McCain's second wife and nearly 20 years his junior, has always been a partner in political ambition. It was her father, Jim Hensley, a wealthy beer distributor in Arizona, who helped bankroll and launch McCain's first congressional race back in 1982.Still, the senator says that his wife is ambivalent about his run for the presidency. She knew she would have to relive a dark period in her life, when she became addicted to prescription...
  • The Future Of Terror

    In many countries, when police want to clear the streets of any dangerous characters, they "round up the usual suspects" and put them in jail. In the United States, the FBI engages in a more discreet practice known as knock-and-talk. At dawn last Thursday, the day before New Year's Eve, FBI agents in a half-dozen cities across the country knocked on the doors of about 50 people whose phone numbers had shown up in the phone records of Ahmed Ressam, the 32-year-old Algerian who had been caught earlier in December smuggling a carload of bomb-making material into the United States. Only a few arrests were made, mostly for immigration violations, and only in one place, a section of Brooklyn known as Little Pakistan, did the raid look like a scene from the movies. There a counterterror force clad in black pullover masks and body armor ran, shouting, into an apartment building to arrest Abdel Ghani, an alleged co-conspirator of Ressam's. The main purpose of the knock-and-talk dragnet, FBI...
  • Caesar And Edison And... Saylor?

    Michael Saylor, the CEO of MicroStrategy, says his role models are Caesar, Churchill, Lincoln and Gandhi. He's not much interested, he says, in other businessmen, except maybe Henry Ford. Just as Caesar's mission was to "spread civilization," Saylor says his mission is to "purge ignorance from the planet." He wants to make intelligence into a public utility, available "like water or electricity" (Edison is another hero). He wants to create "technology to place the right piece of insight with the right decision maker at the right time." He envisions a society in which choices are always well informed, an environment where danger is avoided and opportunities are never lost. He wants to eliminate waste and vanquish mediocrity.How will he achieve this smart new world? By placing a wireless device one tenth the size of a watch on your wrist and a tiny speaker in your ear, whispering practical information pulled off the Web. Has your flight home been canceled? A little voice will alert...
  • Hard Of Hearing

    In the 1998 movie "Enemy of the State," rogue operators from the supersecret National Security Agency (NSA; sometimes known as No Such Agency) assassinate a U.S. congressman who's trying to limit the NSA's electronic spooks' ability to listen in on ordinary Americans. The film plays to the "Big Brother is watching you" paranoia of people who assume that the government can, and routinely does, eavesdrop on innocent conversations. Watching the movie one night last winter at his local cineplex, Air Force Lt. Gen. Mike Hayden, the new chief of the NSA, slunk down in his seat as the audience jeered the bad-guy spies. By the end of the film, Hayden recently recalled, he was practically hiding in his seat.Hayden, who says privacy should be protected from government snooping, worries about his once invisible spy outfit's poor public image. The public may take an even dimmer view when it learns of a new alliance between the NSA and the FBI. NEWSWEEK has learned that the NSA is now drafting ...
  • A New War Over Vouchers

    The wolves are coming!" cried out the Rev. Wendell Armstrong, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP. A chorus of "amen" rang out in the crowded church. The "wolves," said Armstrong, "are coming in the shape of vouchers, dressed in sheep's clothing!" Vouchers--public and privately funded scholarships that enable schoolchildren to attend private schools--threaten to wreck the public-school system, declared Armstrong and 11 other speakers during a recent three-hour rally at Fellowship Chapel in northwest Detroit. "Vouchers don't educate, they segregate," warned NAACP president Kweisi Mfume.Vouchers are still very much of an educational experiment, affecting perhaps .1 percent of American schoolchildren. Only a couple of cities--Milwaukee and Cleveland--have large-scale programs. Polls show that most whites are indifferent to vouchers and are satisfied with their public schools. But vouchers are popular with some poor African-Americans and Hispanics eager to get their kids out...
  • A Question Of Privacy

    Technology is a two-edged sword. Rarely is this as clear as it is in the realm of health care. Technology allows doctors to test their patients for genetic defects--and then to turn around and spread the results throughout the world via the Internet. For someone in need of treatment, that's good news. But for someone in search of a job or an insurance policy, the tidings can be all bad.Last week President Bill Clinton proposed a corollary to the patients' bill of rights now before Congress: a right to medical privacy. Beginning in 2002, under rules set to become law in February, patients would be able to stipulate the conditions under which their personal medical data could be divulged. They would be able to examine their records and make corrections. They could learn who else had seen the information. Improper use of records by a caregiver or insurer could result in both civil and criminal penalties. The plan was, said Clinton, "an unprecedented step toward putting Americans back...
  • Gentleman Pol

    Sen. John Chafee, of Rhode Island, who died last week at 77, landed at Guadalcanal as a 19-year-old Marine in 1942. He fought at Okinawa, the Marines' bloodiest battle, and was recalled during the Korean War as the commander of a rifle company. Yet as a politician, he hardly ever mentioned his experiences in combat. At a time when congressmen are known for posturing and partisanship, Chafee was a moderate Republican who worked closely with Democrats, especially to safeguard the environment. He was remembered last week for his stubborn gentility and his decency.
  • The Burdens Of An Insider

    James (Scotty) Reston, The New York Times's top Washington reporter from the 1940s through the '70s, personified a certain kind of journalist. He was a true insider, the sort of figure who referred to Washington as "this town" and picked up story tips in the lobby of the Metropolitan Club. To an older generation of newsmen he was a role model, but after Watergate made Washington journalism more adversarial, he was regarded by some as a tool of the establishment. Late in his life (Reston died in 1995 at 86), he knew that his reputation was tarnished. In 1980 he wrote his fellow Timesman Tom Wicker that he was "bother[ed]" by "the suggestion that I have been allowed upstairs because I would peddle whatever garbage the great men wanted to put on my conveyor belt... It's true that I have used the column as a vehicle for interviews with every big shot I could find anywhere in the world, but there has never been any personal relationship in any of this."But like many Washington reporters,...
  • Trouble To The Right

    It looked, for a moment, like a perfect opportunity for George W. Bush. Pat Buchanan, the pugnacious conservative, had suggested in a new book that the United States could have avoided fighting Nazi Germany in World War II. At the same time, Buchanan was threatening to bolt the Republican Party. Bush might have said good riddance to Buchanan, and used the moment to denounce extremism in the GOP. The model was Bill Clinton, who at the right moment in the 1992 election signaled his distance from Jesse Jackson and the Democratic left by denouncing the violent rhetoric of rap singer Sister Souljah. Instead, Bush said nothing at first, and then tepidly asked Buchanan to remain loyal to the GOP.Why did Bush hold back? He kept his cool even after Sen. John McCain, who is emerging as his one credible challenger, jumped at the chance to denounce Buchanan for being soft on Nazism. Bush, it turns out, was paying attention to simple mathematics, say his aides. If Buchanan runs as a third-party...
  • The Path Of An Imperfect Storm

    The more beautiful the eye of a hurricane, the more dangerous the storm. So when hurricane hunter Gerry McKim punched his plane through the seamless eight-mile-high wall of Hurricane Floyd on Saturday, Sept. 11, he instantly began worrying for the safety of his family back in Florida. "The eye wall was spectacular," said McKim. "It was perfectly round, and the storm walls were thick and muscular. It looked like the inside of the Rose Bowl. Like the inside of an ice-cream cone. It was something to be afraid of."McKim was still anxious when he took off four days later with a crew of 16 hurricane watchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and a couple of reporters from NEWSWEEK and CNN. A former Navy flier who had chased Soviet subs during the cold war, McKim, 55, was making what he says is probably his last flight as a hurricane hunter. Ten years ago to the day, he had almost died when his plane hit a tornado in Hurricane Hugo. Two of his crew members quit...
  • The Last Of His Kind

    He had commanded the most savage war-fighting fleet ever assembled and vanquished the enemy. But now, on the eve of Japan's surrender, Adm. John McCain sat in his cabin, feeling sad and low. "I'm lost," he told one of his aides. "I don't know what to do. I know how to fight, but now I don't know whether I know how to relax or not." A few days later, spent by war, his usefulness finished, Admiral McCain died of a heart attack.The admiral's grandson Sen. John McCain tells that story to begin his moving memoir, "Faith of My Fathers" (349 pages. Random House. $25). The book is meant to be a paean to his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals; a remembrance of his own grueling experiences in the Vietnam War, and, not coincidentally, the campaign biography of a candidate for president. The book amply demonstrates that McCain was a brave warrior and an honorable man. Whether it shows that McCain would make a good president is a more complicated question.McCain's faith, and the...
  • Jfk Jr.'S Final Journey

    Inside the church, the grief was real. Sen. Edward Kennedy's voice caught as he read his lovely eulogy, and when he was done, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg stood up and hugged him. She bravely read from Shakespeare's "The Tempest" ("Our revels now are ended. We are such stuff as dreams are made on"). Many of the 315 mourners, family and friends of the Kennedys and Bessettes, swallowed hard through a gospel choir's rendition of "Amazing Grace," and afterward, they sang lustily as Uncle Teddy led the old Irish songs at the wake.After the last eulogy was said, the last tear fell and the last camera clicked off, there remained the painful thought of what might have been. John F. Kennedy Jr. "had only just begun," said his uncle, Sen. Edward Kennedy. "There was in him a great promise of things to come."Outside the church, where the cameras peered and the talking heads spoke in low and mournful tones, the sorrow seemed more contrived. In a celebrity age, without any overarching national...
  • Living With The Myth

    As a schoolboy, John F. Kennedy Jr. was playful, a prankster, a little hyperactive, and he liked to give the Secret Service the slip. One day, "Lark" (his Secret Service code name) eluded his guardians in Central Park and was promptly mugged by a thief who made off with his expensive Italian bicycle. The Secret Service was embarrassed, but Jackie Kennedy, somewhat surprisingly, said the experience was good for her son, that it would help him to grow up like other boys. The president's widow wanted to protect her child, but not in a gilded cage. She understood that John Kennedy needed to be set free from the burden of his past.In his own way, he was. Not free of his name, though he preferred to be called "just John" without the middle initial or the "Jr." (Contrary to myth, his family never called him John-John--the nickname was a reporter's invention.) Not free of celebrity. Although he was not afraid to take a swing at a paparazzo who pushed too close, he certainly wasn't shy about...
  • The Private Eleanor

    The First Lady goes off on a driving trip, without Secret Service protection, with her alleged lesbian lover. Reporters finally catch up and give chase at high speed--shades of Diana--but the First Lady pulls over, takes out her knitting and calmly refuses to say where she is going. The news hounds back off. Not a word is printed.It could never happen today. But Hillary Clinton's idol, Eleanor Roosevelt, was permitted a zone of privacy modern politicians can only envy. In 1992, the first volume of Blanche Wiesen Cook's biography of Eleanor Roosevelt (also known as "ER") caused a flap when Cook, a feminist historian, asserted what others had hinted at or gossiped about--that the First Lady had both a male lover (her former bodyguard Earl Miller) and a female lover, Lorena Hickok. Historians harrumphed that Cook could not prove a physical relationship, but the letters she excerpts in her second of presumably several volumes are suggestive ("Darling, I ache for you...").In numbing...
  • Why Clinton Won

    ON JAN. 5, TWO WEEKS after the House had impeached President Clinton, eight ranking senators--four Republicans and four Democrats--met privately in Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's hideaway office on the third floor of the Capitol. The most senior senator, Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, had something he wanted to say. At 96, Thurmond does not speak up much these days, and when he does, his drawl can be hard to comprehend. But on this occasion he was perfectly clear about the prospects for convicting the president of high crimes and misdemeanors. ""It takes two thirds to get rid of this fella,'' said Thurmond. ""We don't have it. Let's get it over.'' ...