Thursday, November 27, 2014

RIP: John T. Downey, former prisoner of the Red Chinese

Washington Post

"HARTFORD, Conn. — John T. Downey, a former CIA agent who survived more than 20 years in Chinese prisons during the Cold War before becoming a Connecticut judge, died Monday. He was 84.
Downey was diagnosed with cancer a month ago and died at a hospice facility in Branford, according to his son, Jack Downey, of Philadelphia.
The elder Downey had graduated from Yale University and joined the Central Intelligence Agency a year before his plane was shot down during a botched cloak-and-dagger flight into China in November 1952. He spent the next 20 years, three months and 14 days in Chinese prisons. He was released in March 1973 shortly after President Richard Nixon publicly acknowledged Downey’s CIA connection.
After returning to the United States, he graduated from Harvard Law School and was appointed to the Connecticut bench in 1987.
Downey and Fecteau [his fellow intelligence officer] were hauled off to prison, interrogated and isolated in separate cells. Each spent long stretches in solitary confinement.
After their release, Fecteau said they would visit occasionally during Downey’s time in law school and split a pint of ice cream, because neither of them drank. He said he admired his friend’s mental strength during their time in captivity. 
He never weakened. He never felt sorry for himself,” Fecteau, 87, said Monday. “What happened happened and he lived with it as best he could, and I liked that.”"

Great story. Hey, Washington Post! He was a United States Intelligence Officer, not a "CIA agent." The guy he was going to pick up was an "agent" [i.e., a foreign national working clandestinely for the U.S.]. I will settle for "CIA officer." Decades of imprisonment in China, by the way, is what happened to Paul Christopher in the excellent spy novels by Charles McCarry. Christopher also handled it with aplomb.

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