Death of CIA agent John Arthur Paisley
One of the more suspicious suicides ever. Paisley has been linked to the JFK assassination of 1963, Nixon's Plumbers Unit in the early 1970s, and played an important role in recruiting Team B members in 1976. Co-founder Rush River Lodge Corporation in 1971, where sex parties were hosted for Washington's elite. Carl Bernstein, who broke Watergate Scandal with Bob Woodward, based on old J. Edgar Hoover employee Mark Felt ("Deep Throat"), went here. Died in 1978.
Robert Crowley (former CIA assistant deputy director operations and later AFIO director) alleged private comments:
"No, that term ["Terminate with extreme prejudice"] is used for in-house problems. Like the unfortunate fellow who shot himself in the back of the head and jumped off his little boat with weights on his feet. Things like that. ... [That was] John Arthur Paisley. He used to be the deputy director of the [CIA's] Office of Strategic Research. ... When we shot Paisley in the back of the head and chucked him off his sail boat, we put weights on him so he wouldn't come up. When divers did find him, he was rotten to the core. Had to cut off his hands to try to get fingerprints. ... Tragic. Shouldn't have sold out to the Russians. ... We [actually] let it get out he was suspected of dealing with the Soviets but actually, it had to do with the Kennedy business."
The Annals of Unsolved Crime: The Submerged Spy
"I became interested in spies after I met James Jesus Angleton, the legendary head of CIA counterintelligence in 1976. We met in Kensington Nursey outside of Washington DC. Orchids were, as I was to learn, Angleton’s living metaphor for deception. I also learned from Angleton that intelligence services have been known to engage in what he termed “surreptitiously-assisted deaths.” These were murders disguised to look like suicides. He told me “Any thug can commit a murder, but it takes the talents of an intelligence service to make a murder appear to be a suicide.” He explained that they work because coroners tend to look for a murder signature, such as rope burns or bruises, and those signatures can be easily erased.
All the conditions of a “surreptitiously-assisted death.” can be found in the drowning/shooting of John Arthur Paisley, a fifty-five-year-old former deputy director of the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research. Although it was ruled an apparent suicide, I believe it was murder. - Edward Jay Epstein
On September 24, 1978, the Brillig, a thirty-one-foot sloop, was found off the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. No one was aboard the vessel. Its owner, and last known passenger, was John Arthur Paisley, a fifty-five-year-old former deputy director of the CIA’s Office of Strategic Research, who had worked on ultra-secret assessments of the CIA, such as “B Team,” a unit of the president’s foreign intelligence advisory board. In his last known communication from the boat, Paisley informed a friend, Mike Yohn, over the ship-to-shore radio that he had an important report to write. Aboard the Brillig, which Paisley had named from the “Jabberwocky” poem in Lewis Carroll’s book Through the Looking Glass, was a telephone directory from the CIA and other documents.
Then, on September 26, 1978, Paisley’s body bobbed up in the nearby Patuxent River. Strapped to the body, which had been disfigured beyond recognition by its immersion, were diving weights weighing thirty-eight pounds. The autopsy established that the cause of death was a gunshot wound behind the left ear. There were also rope burns on the neck. But since there was no evidence of anyone else aboard the Brillig, the death was ruled a suicide by Calvert County, Maryland coroner, Dr. George Weems. Since no weapon had been found on the ship, and there was no blood or brain tissue anywhere on deck, the theory of the Maryland State Police was that Paisley must have strapped thirty-eight pounds of weight on his chest, positioned himself in the water next to the boat, and then shot himself.
This verdict raised eyebrows among his former colleagues at the CIA, since it was well known that Paisley was right-handed, so to shoot himself behind his left ear would be difficult. As a result of the unconvincing verdict, a number of theories have emerged to account for the death. First, there is the coroner’s theory that Paisley shot himself. Despite the convolutions he would have had to go through, it is possible that he shot himself behind the left ear while holding onto the boat.
Second, there is the “man-who-never-was” theory. In this version, the corpse that floated to the surface was not that of Paisley but a corpse dressed in his clothing. The basis for this theory, which has been advanced by investigative journalist Joseph Trento among others, is that the CIA’s office of security had focused its search for a possible mole in Paisley’s unit just before his retirement from the CIA in 1974. In this view, Paisley faked his own death to avoid being exposed as a KGB mole. The theory proceeds from the fact that the badly decomposed corpse had been cremated without being positively identified by any of Paisley’s family members. In addition, the skin on his fingers had been peeled back several layers, making fingerprint identification less than certain.
Finally, there is the theory that Paisley was killed by an unknown party. In these circumstances, murder is the only plausible alternative to suicide.
My assessment is that this was a case of a murder...