The (CIA s) quiet American in Belfast

WITH HIS HORN-RIMMED spectacles, toothbrush mousstache and three piece slightlyyout-of-fashion suit he looks like an English bank manager. By CHRIS DOHERTY


His speech is quiet and guarded, his manner is friendly but distant; he is, he confesses, a reader of Republican News.

Some politicos in Belfast believe he is a station head of the Central Intelligence Aggency there, others reckon he is no more than an official of the State Department whose duties begin and end with his consular work at his Queen's House office.

Regardless of these connflicting views, much of what the Carter administration will learn about Northern Ireland over the next and a half years will come from the tall Texan who represents the U.S. Government in Belfast, Mr. Charles Stout, the American Connsul General.

Mr. Stout is reticent when asked his views on "the Irish situation". He produces a copy of President Carter's statement urging peace in Northern Ireland and explains that his thoughts, as well as those of his government, are set out there.

He keeps informed by meeting figures from parrliamentary political groups, the churches, journalism, and business circles, as well as keeping in close touch with the perspective viewed from Stormont Castle. "But," he says with an air of finality, "we don't meet anyone connnected with violence."

Essentially however, he is not a collector of information, he explains. His functions are those of a consular official anywhere: checking visa appplications, pension claims, dealing with U.S. firms which have local branches, and helpping expatriate Americans.

He is prepared to admit, though, that he is not the sort of consul who would have occupied the Belfast post a few years ago. He accepts that he is a "political" officer and agrees he arrived in Ireland from Chile last August.

What he is not prepared to admit, initially, is that he is aware of the allegations about his CIA connection. He smiles and says he had not heard that it is common gossip in Belfast's political underworld.

Did he not know he had been named by the East Germans as a U.S. espionage agent? He was never in East Germany in his life, he says. But was he named as a spy by the East Germans in 1908? Yes, he admits after a long pause, he seems to recall he was on some sort of list- but so were "thousands of others."

His memory of another list of alleged CIA men is more vague. He denies ernphattically that he has seen a second published list in which his name was mentioned.

But, whether he has seen such a list or not, is he preepared to say that he was unaware that he was named in Italy as a CIA man in 197 6? His memory is jogged.

"I remember now. A friend wrote to me from Italy and told me I was on the list. But I didn't pay much attention to that," he says.

The two lists apart, Mr. Stout's background is suffficiently colourful to cause tongues to wag in a city where paranoia is epidemic and spy stories are legion.

Born in' Missouri and raised in Texas he graduated from Berkley, California, in 1945. From there he went straight into the army, serving for two years in Italy. In 1948 he left the army to join the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence andiResearch (INR), set up by Harry Trueman in 1945 as the "central and supreme intellligence body" of the United States. Two years later, after disputes between the military and the civilian parts of the INR, the Central Intelligence Agency was formed.

Mr. Stout's view of the INR, as he told a reporter. shortly after he arrived in Belfast, differs from that of many Americans. He told the Guardian, and was quoted in a piece headlined "The Quiet American in Ulster", that "the most important word in the title is research, not in telligence".

Andrew Tully, author of The Super Spies, disagrees. He gives details of INR intellligence activities in a number of countries including Cyprus, Greece and Cuba where an INR double agent who was supposed to be working for the East Germans spied on a militant black leader, Stokely Carmichael.

Tully also claims that "the INR picked up from an Irish diplomat stationed in Vienna the first hard news that Great Britain was about to devalue the pound in November, 1967."

Since the late Forties Mr. Stout has served as a "polittical officer" in Yugoslavia, Italy and Chile, as well as acting as desk man in Washinggton on East German affairs. He has also spent a year at the Pentagon, where he was a specialist in European and NA TO matters. Another year was spent at the National War College.

Mr. Stout and his assistant, Allan Roy, dismiss the idea that there might be CIA men in Ireland as ridiculous."What makes you think the CIA would be interested in anything here?" asks Mr. Roy.

And with a touch of diplomacy he adds " People are sometimes offended that the CIA isn't investigating them. Ten years ago the CIA would have been interested in what time the President of Finland got up in the morning. But not now."

Mr. Roy cocks an ear in the direction of a teleprinter chattering in a room next door. "That's the only link we have- that and the teleephone. If we were the CIA we would have a lot more than that ," he says.

"That list the East Gerrmans published," says Mr. Roy, referring to the list his superior had difficulty recalling a few minutes earlier, "had Hubert Humphrey on it. It even had Elvis Presley, I think."

Both Mr. Stout and Mr. Roy are regular visitors .to Dublin. Every other week one of them drives south to colllect classified material" from the U.S. Embassy in Ballssbridge. But the Belfast connsulate general is linked officcially with the U.S. Embassy in London, and Mr. Stout, his one American assistant and six local adminstrative workers, co-operate with the northern Irish specialists there.

"Ireland is a nice country", says Mr. Stout. He is not especially worried about the dangers of Belfast. "We have our own security men. They are not provided by Stormont Castle," he says.

"Is that young, shortthaired man in the outer office one of your security men?" "Yes he is part of a world-wide security organissation at certain U.S. diploomatic posts. There are similar men in London, in addition to the Marine guards there."

"But why has he an English accent?" Mr. Stout hesiitates and his number two takes over. "Do you want to know the truth? We called the Employment· Exchange and they sent about a dozen guys up. He was the best of them. He is engaged to an Irish girl," says Mr. Roy.

Mr. Stout nods silently in agreement as he looks out from his first floor office across Queen Street to the security gates which mark the beginning of the Falls ghetto. Outside a skinhead is being frog-marched into Queen Street R UC station by two youthful British squaddies: from behind his lace-curtained window the quiet American has an excellent view.