CID stands for the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, historically an agency with investigative autonomy. It is tasked with investigating serious violations of military law. West Berlin in the 1960s had more spies than any other city in the world. The CID, naturally, wanted to insure our spies weren’t providing their spies with secret information. And this is where the spy vs. spy mindset became downright humorous.
The long-held view that Military Intelligence is an oxymoron was never more apparent than among those who served in West Berlin in the 1960s. The relative autonomy of the CID branch in Berlin and the fear that normal soldiers had about being called in for an interview with a CID agent gave many of those who served in that agency an overblown view of their own investigative prowess.
The Army Security Agency, on the other hand, was under the operational command of the Director of the National Security Agency, located at Fort Meade, Maryland, as opposed to the Pentagon in Washington. We reported directly to the NSA. Perhaps because we were young and dumb, we had no fear of the CID and held their agents in contempt.
Anyone who has read McCurry’s War got a glimpse a CID agent who was running amok. His attempts to prove that McCurry was using the relationships he had with two German nationals, one a close friend and the other his girlfriend, to pass secrets to the enemy were both humorous and ultimately dangerous.
I did have a very close friend who was a German national during my time in Berlin. Unlike McCurry, I didn’t have a girlfriend; I was married. But, like McCurry, because of my relationship with the German national, I had a number of run-ins with the CID.
Members of the ASA didn’t weren’t permitted to wear a patch indicating what unit they were in and, as Don Cooper, a friend and author of C-Trick, pointed out, if asked, we were to say we were a clerk in Berlin Brigade. As we all learned early on, the Berlin Brigade line didn’t fool many Germans who had been around awhile, but it certainly caused consternation among the members of the CID. If we worked for Berlin Brigade, why didn’t we have a unit patch on our uniforms. We must have been up to something hinky.
A typical confrontation with a CID agent who learned I wasn’t a clerk in Berlin Brigade but couldn’t figure out exactly what I did, went something like this:
Sitting outside our compound, the CID agent grabbed me as soon as I hit the street.
Flashing a badge, he’d say, “C’mon Thompson, you’re coming with me.”
Pulling my arm from his grasp, I said, “Under whose authority?”
“Under my authority. Now git in the car.”
“Now, hold on their cowboy. You can’t question me unless my commanding officer is present.”
“Bullshit, I can do anything I need to do during an investigation.”
“What are you investigating?”
“You, for palling around with that German national friend of yours.”
“Oh, and did he do anything wrong?”
“That’s what we’re trying to find out. Now get your ass in the car.”
“You really want to take that chance, asshole. You don’t have the authority over me you think you have. The last jerk that tried to do this got his ass kicked back to the States and is probably utilizing his investigative prowess in Vietnam by now. Wanna join him?”
This was usually enough to back them off. They were like most bullies; stand up to their bullshit and they go crawling back under the rock they came from.