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15 May 2011

My one and only experience of prison - 3 days in then-communist Czechoslovakia in 1982

When I worked as a journalist in New York City between 1976 and 1982 I received many reports from the Pentagon including all the SecDef annual reports to Congress from Donald Rumsfeld's last one under Ford to those by Carter's SecDef Harold Brown and the first one by Reagan's man Caspar Weinberger. They sent them to me in New York for free.


In Czechoslovakia in March 1982 five soldiers took me off the Vienna-Berlin train at Tabor, south of Prague, where I was thoroughly searched (stripped naked) and then kept under guard (two soldiers with Kalashnikovs right behind my back even when I went to the toilet) for several hours until two men from the Interior Ministry in Prague arrived. Some of the things they found in my luggage had made them suspicious, including some of our anti-Soviet material and one or two of those Pentagon annual reports (a diary they found also contained contact info for a man I had called a few times from New York for information: former Navy Captain Herbert Hetu, who opened the CIA's first Public Affairs office under then-director Stansfield Turner -- I found him again not long ago, here: http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/hehetu.htm ). 


I was taken at night to a big office building in Ceske Budejovice (Budweis in German) that turned out to be a high-security prison and interrogated (without any violence) for hours until very late in the evening and throughout the next day. 

On the third day they decided to send me back to Austria, took me to the border at Ceske Velenice and put me on a special train (it seemed to me I was the only passenger on that train), with two soldiers with Kalashnikovs watching as the train headed into the forest towards Gmünd on the Austrian side (I guess they thought I might jump off before the train crossed the border).

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