41 years of explosive training at a secret base in eastern North
Carolina, the CIA's paramilitary wing is back on the front lines.
For the base's neighbors in nearby Hertford, the echo of bombs is
business as usual--and nobody's business.
Y J O N E L L I S T O
n April 11, 2002, Jim Pavitts, the
Central Intelligence Agency's top covert operations official, stood
up before a Duke University Law School conference on national
security issues and did something he almost never does: He spoke
publicly about his operations. In the little-noticed speech, Pavitts
assured the audience that the CIA is actively engaged in the fight
against terrorism. To prove it, he cited the early involvement of
the agency's commandos in Operation Enduring Freedom.
of my paramilitary operations officers, trained not just to observe
conditions but if need be to change them, were among the first on
the ground in Afghanistan," Pavitts said. Indeed, the first U.S.
casualty, Johnny "Mike" Spann, who was killed in the prison uprising
at Mazar-e-Sharif on Nov. 25, was one of those officers. Spann was
part of an elite and super-secretive unit, the CIA's Special
Activities Division, which serves as the knifepoint of the agency's
cloak and dagger contributions to national security. With personnel
drawn from other commando units like the Navy SEALs and the Army
Special Forces, the unit is skilled in the dark arts of paramilitary
warfare: assassination, advanced demolitions, high-tech surveillance
and behind-enemy-lines combat.
|June 5, 2002|
|C O V E R F E A T U
"In those few days that it
took us to get there after that terrible, terrible attack" on Sept.
11, Pavitts continued, "my officers stood on Afghan soil, side by
side with Afghan friends that we had developed over a long period of
time, and we launched America's war against al-Qaeda."
Pavitts offered few details, saying he could share "just a bit"
of what the CIA has been up to lately. Among the matters he did not
discuss was North Carolina's crucial but behind-the-scenes role in
the CIA's paramilitary program.
Officials have maintained strict silence about that role for more
than four decades. In fact, no serving CIA officer has ever uttered
the words "Harvey Point" in public. That's because the Harvey Point
Defense Testing Activity, a high-security compound tucked into a
quiet corner of marshland near Hertford, N.C., and officially owned
by the Defense Department, has served as the spy agency's secret
demolitions training base since 1961. It's where CIA operatives like
the ones who infiltrated Afghanistan--and the ones who will likely
lead the way in the next battles of the war against terrorism,
starting with Iraq--learn the rough stuff.
The CIA's covert warriors train as secretly as they spy and
fight. So at Harvey Point, the boom! boom! is very hush-hush.
t's late one Friday afternoon in May, and downtown Hertford is
basking in 75-degree sunlight and coastal breezes carrying the smell
of barbecue. The town is staging its annual "Pig Out on the Green."
After paying $5 a plate, a hundred or so citizens are chowing down
over checkered tablecloths in front of the Perquimans County
Courthouse. A local cover band plays light Southern rock from the
front of the building, which is flanked by two monuments: one to the
area's Confederate Civil War dead, the other to Hertford's most
famous native son, baseball great Jim "Catfish" Hunter.
Hertford Mayor Sid Eley, who also serves as director of the
Perquimans County Chamber of Commerce, is wearing a floppy fishing
hat and manning a giant barbecue bucket. He ladles out hearty
servings of pork while other town workers pile on potatoes and
coleslaw. "When you're done with that, make sure you head across the
street to Woodmere's Pharmacy for some of that good ice cream," he
says as he passes a plate.
Hertford, the population of which has remained steady at about
2,000 for the last 50 years, is surrounded by marshy inlets and
sparsely populated farms where corn, cotton and soybeans are grown.
Looking up and down the stretch of Church Street where the
courthouse sits, there are roughly 20 businesses, and just one, the
corner Amoco, is a chain store. Only the modern offices of a local
Internet service provider seem out of place.
On this lazy afternoon, it's a postcard-perfect scene from
small-town America. But Mayor Eley, like most other locals, knows
that this is no ordinary backwater community. Beneath the quiet
veneer lies an explosive secret: The citizens of Hertford live a few
miles up the road from a classified facility that exists to help the
government break things and kill people--and do so in secret.
Unlike most locals, Eley has actually been there. A few years
ago, the director of the base at Harvey Point, which is fenced in
and doesn't allow in visitors, invited a group of about 25 local
officials to come have a look around.
During the unprecedented visit, Eley was told that the base is
used by all branches of the armed services, along with other federal
entities, for testing explosives. "They took us out there and showed
us basically what they do," Eley remembers. "We were in a bunker and
they gave us a display. They started with a hand-grenade--I had
never seen an actual hand-grenade go off. Then they worked their way
up to bigger stuff and eventually they blew up a car. The top of it
flew way back over our heads."
Such tests, Eley was told, are intended to help the authorities
detect and contain terrorist bombs. For instance, Harvey Point
personnel said they had staged re-enactments of the bombing that
took place at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, trying to
determine precisely what sort of device had been used.
After a short briefing, a lengthy bombing display and a good meal
at the base cafeteria, the visit was over. Grateful for the peek
inside the secret facility, some of the civic officials sent a
thank-you note to Harvey Point's director: "When we hear an
explosion from that general direction or feel the ground shake due
to the same, we will, from our experience, know, in some degree,
what it is for. We will now be able to explain to our people why we
have the Base and what it is doing for our Nation."
But those explanations are still necessarily incomplete, because,
as Eley and other local leaders readily admit, they still don't know
the details about who trains at Harvey Point, and to what ends.
And most of the base's neighbors, it seems, are content not to
know. "This CIA crap, it's all just speculation," says Charles
Skinner, a retiree who serves as the town's resident local
historian, about the widely reported accounts concerning the base.
"I don't know what they're doing. They might be playing with Roman
candles down there. It's very obviously explosives, because you can
feel the vibrations. But I'm not that concerned, so I don't pay any
attention to it, no more than thunder."
"Everybody's just satisfied that we're up here and they're down
there," says Susan R. Harris, editor and publisher of the
Perquimans Weekly, explaining why her newspaper rarely
reports on the base.
For anyone who does want to know, getting the facts from the
government can prove to be a frustrating endeavor. Because of the
shroud of secrecy over Harvey Point, military and intelligence
spokespeople have difficulty being candid about it, and they can't
quite get the cover story straight. The Independent started
by calling the Navy, which acquired the property during World War II
and later announced it was setting up an off-limits testing center
there. A spokesman for the Navy's Mid-Atlantic Region Command in
Norfolk, Va., which oversees operations in the area, checked with
the Defense Department and then referred questions to the CIA. A CIA
public affairs officer, in turn, refused to discuss the base and
suggested contacting the Defense Department.
Eventually, a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Mike Halbig, agreed to
field questions about Harvey Point. "The Department of Defense took
over the facility in 1961," he says. "The primary mission is to test
and evaluate conventional explosives, ordnance and ballistic
And what of the stories that it's a major center for CIA special
warfare training? "It is a Department of Defense facility that
serves the military services and it serves the special needs of
other U.S. government departments," is all Halbig will say. Base
personnel cannot speak to reporters, he says, nor can visits be
arranged. "The projects and materials that they test there are
highly classified, and for that reason we do not allow public
access," he says.
It's true that the CIA hasn't been the only government entity to
make use of Harvey Point. According to press reports and government
documents, over the years, several military units and police squads
have trained there, along with personnel from the DEA, FBI, Secret
Service and other agencies. A recent Treasury Department report, for
example, says that the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy and the Defense Department have established a joint program
at Harvey Point for devising methods of stopping drug runners.
Despite the CIA's best
efforts to keep its role at Harvey Point under wraps, there is a
mounting body of public information about the base's secret history.
The latest example: In his newly published memoir, See No
Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on
Terrorism, former CIA officer Bob Baer describes the "two weeks
of nonstop demolition training" he received in North Carolina as a
young recruit in the early 1970s:
"We spent two days crimping blasting caps to make sure we
understood that if you crimped them too high, they'd explode and
take your hand off. After we'd mastered that, we crimped them in the
dark, by feel. Then we started blowing things up: cars, buses,
diesel generators, fences, bunkers. We made a school bus disappear
with about 20 pounds of U.S. C-4. For comparison's sake, we tried
Czech Semtex and a few other foreign plastic explosives.
"Not that you really needed anything fancy. We blew up one bus
using three sacks of fertilizer and fuel oil, a mixture called ANFO
(ammonium nitrate fuel oil), that did more damage than the C-4 had.
The biggest piece left was a part of the chassis, which flew in an
arc, hundreds of yards away. We learned to mix up a potent cocktail
called methyl nitrate. If you hit a small drop of it with a hammer,
it split the hammer. Honest. We were also taught some of the really
esoteric stuff like E-cell times, improvising pressurized airplane
bombs using a condom and aluminum foil, and smuggling a pistol on an
airplane concealed in a mixture of epoxy and graphite. By the end of
the training, we could have taught an advanced terrorism course."
ong before the CIA arrived to practice blowing things up, Harvey
Point was a storied and mysterious place. A small peninsula that
pokes into the north side of the Albemarle Sound, in the early 1700s
it served as the stomping ground of the infamous pirate Blackbeard.
Around the same time, North Carolina's first native-born governor,
Thomas Harvey, lived here, as did his grandson, John Harvey, one of
the key local leaders to conspire against English authorities and
launch the Revolutionary War.
Several members of the Harvey family are buried at Harvey Point.
But the public can't visit the historic gravesite, which features
some of the oldest known tombstones in North Carolina. Today those
stones sit within the classified confines of Harvey Point.
The Navy bought the 1,200-acre peninsula in November 1942, paying
five land-owners a total of $41,751 for the property and quickly
setting up an air station to help fight World War II. After the war,
the site served as a blimp base, but remained relatively quiet until
another big project came along.
In 1958, the Navy chose Harvey Point to house an experimental
long-range bomber, the "Martin P6M Seamaster." The size of a B-52,
the plane took off from and landed in the waters near Harvey Point,
but as a viable weapon, it never really got off the ground. It
crashed and burned too often for the Navy to sustain the project,
and just one year later, in August 1959, the fleet of six Seamasters
The closing of the base hit Hertford hard. Local merchants were
counting on revenues from Naval aviators and their support staff.
Charles Skinner remembers one businessman, in particular, who was
devastated. The man had opened The Seamaster Tavern, a short-lived
beer garden. "When they pulled out the seaplane, he had to close
up," Skinner says.
Rep. Herbert Bonner, a Democrat who then represented the area in
Congress, met with the Secretary of the Navy and pleaded that a new
use for the facility be found. Shortly thereafter, his request was
granted, and this time, Harvey Point would be getting a lot more
than a half-dozen sea planes: The CIA was about to open an outpost
in North Carolina.
The agency has never disclosed its reasons for setting up an
undercover bomb school at Harvey Point. But the timing and the
context, along with scattered press reports, offer indications of
the base's original purpose. Fidel Castro, it seems, was the
impetus--and the target of the first commandos to train at Harvey
The story begins in 1959, when Castro led a revolutionary
government to power in Cuba. At first, White House officials hoped
to topple him quickly. In March of 1960, President Dwight D.
Eisenhower ordered the CIA to create a force of anti-Castro, Cuban
exile fighters, and John F. Kennedy, who succeeded Eisenhower in
1961, authorized the operation to go forward.
In mid-April of that year, the CIA staged its most ambitious and
disastrous paramilitary operation: the Bay of Pigs invasion. It took
Castro's military and militia just three days to rout the agency's
force of 1,300 Cuban exiles. The debacle was viewed as an abject
failure by the CIA's paramilitary wing.
Harvey Point had played a supporting role in the disaster, press
reports would later reveal. The CIA quietly amassed weapons for the
operation at the base, which was secretly on its way to becoming a
full-blown training facility.
In June of 1961, two months after the Bay of Pigs invasion, the
Navy announced it was officially opening a new facility at the old
Seamaster base. A spokesman said that all four branches of the
military would conduct "testing and evaluation of various classified
materials and equipment" at the site. He added that training "now
being done at Camp Perry, Va., will be transferred to Harvey Point."
At the time, Camp Perry, which is located next to Williamsburg,
was officially a military base. But since then, reporters and CIA
veterans have written about the camp's true role: It is the agency's
training compound for new spy officers. Code-named ISOLATION, the
12,000-acre Camp Perry is referred to in the intelligence community
as "the Farm," and to this day it serves as the CIA's main spy
school. But in 1961, the agency moved its most dangerous and
sensitive training--in demolitions and unconventional weaponry--to
Following the Bay of Pigs, Harvey Point is one place where the
CIA hoped to continue efforts to undermine Castro. JFK wanted the
job done right, and he appointed his brother, Attorney General
Robert Kennedy, to oversee the new operations, which mainly
consisted of hit-and-run sabotage raids. "Bobby wanted boom and bang
all over the island," Sam Halpern, a high-ranking officer on the
CIA's Cuba desk, told a historian years later.
The "boom and bang" the Kennedy brothers pressed for would be
taught at Harvey Point. The base was code-named ISOLATION TROPIC,
but most of the operatives who trained there came to call it "the
Point." Over the years, it has carved out a unique space in
paramilitary history as a clandestine landmark, of sorts. Veterans
who have passed through it share an intimate knowledge of how covert
action plays a central role in U.S. foreign policy. Over the years,
U.S. and foreign commandos who trained at "the Point" have fought in
shadowy conflicts around the globe, from Cuba to the Congo, from
Nicaragua to Vietnam, and lately, in Afghanistan.
For its first decade or so of operations, the base managed to
maintain the covert character the CIA was looking for. But slowly,
parts of the real story began to filter out. (See "The Truth About
Harvey Point," p. 22.) A major, but still only partial, disclosure
appeared in the April 1967 edition of Ramparts, a once
popular and now defunct leftist magazine. The issue carried a
testimonial from a CIA officer who had recently resigned after
passing through the agency's demolitions course.
The former officer, who kept his name out of print, did not
specify the location of his training. But now it's clear that the
place he wrote about, the place where he ultimately soured on the
CIA, was Harvey Point:
"The stated purpose of the
paramilitary school was to train and equip us to become instructors
for village peasants who wanted to defend themselves against
guerrillas. I could believe in that.
"Some of the training was conventional: But then we moved to the
CIA's demolition training headquarters. It was here that Cubans had
been, and still were, being trained in conventional and underwater
demolitions. And it was here that we received training in tactics
which hardly conform to the Geneva Convention.
"The array of outlawed weaponry with which we were familiarized
included bullets that explode on impact, silencer-equipped machine
guns, home-made explosives and self-made napalm for stickier and
hotter Molotov cocktails. We were taught demolition techniques,
practicing on late-model cars, railroad trucks, and gas storage
tanks. And we were shown a quick method for saturating a confined
area with flour or fertilizer, causing an explosion like in a
dustbin or granary.
"And then there was a diabolical invention that might be called a
mini-cannon. It was constructed of a concave piece of steel fitted
into the top of a #10 can filled with a plastic explosive. When the
device was detonated, the tremendous heat of friction of the steel
turning inside out made the steel piece a white-hot projectile.
There were a number of uses for the mini-cannon, one of which was
demonstrated to us using an old Army school bus. It was fastened to
the gasoline tank in such a fashion that the incendiary projectile
would rupture the tank and fling flaming gasoline the length of the
bus interior, incinerating anyone inside. It was my lot to show the
rest of the class how easily it could be done. I stood there
watching the flames consume the bus. It was, I guess, the moment of
truth. What did a busload of burning people have to do with freedom?
What right did I have, in the name of democracy and the CIA, to
decide that random victims should die? The intellectual game was
over. I had to leave."
Of course most officers stayed in the spy agency, and the
operations that benefited from such training were many and varied.
In 1978, Outside magazine published a detailed account of a
madcap mission involving Harvey Point. According to the magazine, in
1964, the CIA brought a small group of amateur mountain climbers to
the base for demolitions training. The climbers later infiltrated an
isolated mountain range in India in an attempt to place listening
devices for monitoring Chinese nuclear tests. The mission failed,
but at Harvey Point, the climbers did learn how to blow a hole in a
glacier where the devices were supposed to be placed.
Those who trained at Harvey Point certainly learned how to do
some damage, and some continued to use their deadly skills after
they quit working for the CIA. The Cuban exiles were perhaps the
most prodigious bomb experts to pass through the facility. Not only
did they set off a sizable wave of terrorism against Cuba, some of
them went freelance after their CIA ties were cut, and helped make
Miami the car-bomb capital of the world during the 1970s. In
addition, Cuban exile operatives, some of whom had received CIA
training, staged two audacious acts of terrorism in 1976: They
bombed a Cuban airliner, killing 73 people, and participated in the
assassination of Chilean exile leader Orlando Letelier and his
assistant, Ronni Moffitt, who were killed by a car bomb as they
drove up Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.
In the 1980s, Harvey Point played a role in some of the CIA's
most controversial covert operations. In 1983, a team of agency
operatives mined Nicaraguan harbors--while floating the cover story
that Nicaraguan contra guerrillas had placed the mines. The
attack prompted quick rebukes from Congress, which moved to halt
funding of such sabotage operations. According to a 1999 article in
Jane's Intelligence Weekly, which detailed the CIA's modern
paramilitary capabilities, the team that mined the harbors trained
at Harvey Point.
About the same time, the agency used the base to train three
Lebanese operatives for a most-sensitive mission: They would lead a
special, CIA-sponsored squad for rescuing U.S. hostages and
combating Islamic extremists. The operation is detailed in two
books, Bob Woodward's Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA,
1981-1987, and Amir Taheri's Nest of Spies: America's Journey
to Disaster in Iran. In March 1985, the squad staged a
disastrous assassination attempt against a prominent holy warrior in
Beirut. They missed their target, but managed to kill an estimated
80 civilians when their car bomb crashed into the wrong building. As
a result, the CIA cut its ties to the group.
Even then, the CIA continued to instruct foreign operatives,
along with its own personnel, in North Carolina. In 1998, The New
York Times reported that Harvey Point's most recent guests
included members of the security detail for Yasser Arafat's
oday, Harvey Point may be playing its most important role ever.
The CIA's Special Activities Division--its paramilitary force--did
indeed lead the way in Afghanistan, according to a recent report in
the Boston Globe. The article, citing officials in the White
House and CIA, revealed that an agency force of 50 paramilitary
officers infiltrated Afghanistan on Sept. 27, 2001. Another 100
followed soon thereafter.
Inside Taliban territory, the operatives, working in small teams,
spread out and laid the groundwork for the coming combat. They
passed cash to Northern Alliance leaders and earned their
allegiance. They acquired safe houses and conducted surveillance for
the Army's Special Forces, which would be soon arriving by the
hundreds to do the bulk of the fighting. Later, the CIA's commandos
identified targets for the agency's pilot-less Predator drones,
which fired down laser-targeted missiles on al-Qaeda leaders.
Such operations were the opening salvo in the war against
terrorism, and a sign that the CIA is in the midst of its biggest
expansion of paramilitary operations since the Reagan era, according
to press reports and intelligence experts. In February, the
Associated Press reported the basic details of the Bush
administration's funding request for the CIA during the next fiscal
year. The agency's overall budget will increase from roughly $3.5
billion to almost $5 billion.
A good portion of that spending will be focused on bulking up the
CIA's commando force, says John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense and
intelligence policy research group in Washington, D.C. "Most of it
will have to be going toward counterterrorism, toward the kinds of
things they do at Harvey Point more than the kinds of things they do
at Camp Perry," where traditional espionage is taught. The CIA, he
says, is "hiring a lot of muscle."
The Bush administration's plans to continue a global war against
terrorism could portend still more CIA paramilitary operations, Pike
says. The next target is Iraq, and if some Bush advisors get their
way, the agency will lead the way in an attempt to overthrow Saddam
Hussein. One faction within the administration is reported to be
arguing that "the Afghanistan scenario"--carefully crafted covert
operations, along with airstrikes and coordinated attacks by
opposition groups--could do the job, sparing the United States from
a major military commitment.
Another faction argues that Hussein is too entrenched to be
toppled as easily as was the Taliban. Pike agrees. "I don't think
the CIA can get rid of Saddam Hussein," he says. "The joke going
around is that this is the 'Bay of Goats' plan--it's probably just
enough to get a lot of people killed and not enough to remove
Hussein." But both President Bush and CIA Director George Tenet are
fans of the CIA's paramilitary performance in Afghanistan, according
to recent press reports, and both may soon order similar operations
in Iraq, if they haven't already.
Whatever covert operations are in the works, the secretive yet
noisy training at Harvey Point continues. In Hertford, the echo of
bombs is business as usual--and nobody's business. Despite all the
intrigue emanating from their community, most people living near
Harvey Point have gotten used to the boom and bang.
"They're good neighbors,"
says a woman standing in the doorway of her home on Harvey Point
Road. "They don't bother us and we don't bother them." The woman,
who has shared a property line with the base for 20 years, asks that
her name not be printed and says she's not precisely sure what goes
on behind the facility's fenced perimeter.
"It's for testing explosives, and that's all I know," she says.
"A lot of different looking things go by here," she adds, pointing
to the road that runs past her house to Harvey Point's high-security
gateway. "Like busses that you can't see through the windows of, and
a lot of old cars and trucks that they blow up. When you see an
18-wheeler going in at midnight, you wonder what they're carrying in
The noise isn't usually a bother, but "every once in a blue moon,
they let off a good one," she says. "When they do one of the big
ones, it jars everything, shakes everything for a few seconds."
Several times a month, the sound of the bomb blasts is strong
enough to carry two miles to the east, to Holiday Island, a spot
popular with boaters that cruise the waters off of Harvey Point.
April Ghose, 17, has lived there for nine years.
"I heard it was FBI or CIA training, one of them," she says.
"When I first moved down here, I didn't know what it was. My house
started trembling and I said, 'Granma, what was that?' And she was
like, 'It's just Harvey Point.' Now it's not a really big deal, I'm
so used to it." But Ghose's great-grandmother, she says, can't get
used to it: "She just turned 87. She has really bad Alzheimer's, so
when it comes she doesn't know what's happening."
Phillip Jackson, a 15-year-old friend of Ghose's who lives in
Hertford, says that the main thing he knows about Harvey Point is
that he's not supposed to go anywhere near it. "My stepdad, he's
heard of people going down there too close in boats, and looking in
there with binoculars, and they get shot," Jackson says. "The law
around here is, if you get a hundred feet from the fence they can
Other locals say there have been no such shootings, but that
boaters who stray too close are told to back off by Harvey Point
In fact, most of the community's experience with Harvey Point has
been good, according to Perquimans County Manager Paul Gregory Jr.
"I'm not aware of any danger in the past or in the present," he
says, and besides, the base is at least a small economic boon.
Twenty or so local civilians, he estimates, work at the base as
mechanics, janitors and cafeteria staff. "For us, that's a lot of
jobs, anytime you get over 10 or 15 jobs. That's a big positive for
Gregory goes so far as to say that "we've not had any negative
impacts whatsoever from them being there." But local officials have
no oversight authority for Harvey Point, because it is a federal
facility. "They've provided good jobs, but they haven't provided a
whole lot of information about what they say and do in there," he
County officials do not know, for example, what environmental
damage, if any, has resulted from four decades of bomb testing. The
base at Harvey Point does have a full-time environmental
coordinator, Dr. Wade Jordan, but when The Independent
contacted him recently on the telephone, he said he is not permitted
to talk to the press.
Publicly available federal records do indicate that an
environmental cleanup company, Potomac-Hudson Engineering Inc., did
work at Harvey Point in 1996. According to a company-written summary
of the job, the Defense Department paid $250,000 for "remediation of
PCB and VOC contaminated soils at explosives test range and waste
Gregory says that the county has a more pressing concern than
Harvey Point--another national security project that could
potentially disrupt the good life in Hertford. The Navy is seeking
landing sites for a new fleet of F/A-18 "Super Hornets," an
exceedingly noisy jet that will be based in Norfolk, Va. A spot five
miles north of Hertford is on the Navy's short list, and in
response, Perquimans officials have joined several neighboring
counties to lobby against locating an airstrip in their neck of the
"We are patriotic, but we've got agriculture, we've got tourism
and we're a popular place for retirement--that's all we've got going
for us," Gregory says. "If the noise comes, there goes the tourism,
there go the retirees, who aren't going to want to live here." The
Navy is slated to name its Super Hornet landing sites later this
Whatever happens with the Navy's jets, it seems like the CIA's
bomb school is here to stay. Last year's defense appropriations bill
authorized the Navy to purchase an additional 200 acres in
Perquimans County, "To provide a buffer zone for the Harvey Point
Defense Testing Activity." And if the Bush administration decides to
try the "Afghanistan scenario" in Iraq--using the CIA's troops as a
vanguard--then the tempo of the training may well increase.
Bob and Thelma Brannock, two retired postal workers who live
across the Perquimans River from Harvey Point, say they're content
to let the government's secret warriors do their thing--whatever it
is. Through the windows in their living room, they can see the mini
marina the CIA built around the concrete ramps that the Navy
Seamaster planes once used to get to their hangars. They can see the
mouth of the clearing that leads to the base's airstrip.
Since nothing but a few acres of trees surrounding the base and a
mile-and-half of open water stand between their house and Harvey
Point, the Brannocks don't just have the best view--they also hear
the bombs more than most folks do. The loudest blasts "sound like
the fireworks on the fourth of July," according to Bob. "Sometimes I
actually thought they were right here in the yard," Thelma says.
"But it hasn't done any damage to our house. Now I have heard some
people say it knocks the pictures off the wall."
"It doesn't bother us," Thelma says as Bob nods. "I know roughly
what it is, and to me, we need some security someplace. Everybody
shouldn't know everything, as long as they're protecting us. We
can't know everything or else all the other countries will know
everything. It kind of makes me mad when I hear people say they
don't want it around, because the noise bothers them. They've got to
Bob thinks for a minute, then says cryptically: "I think you
don't wanna know. My theory is that there's a lot going on over
© 2002, Durham Independent