Bill Josephson, One of the Founding Fathers of Peace Corps, Writes About False Information
Please note: This letter is in response to a query about Peace Corps and information from Alana DeJoseph, Producer of the Peace Corps historic Documentary, A Towering Task:
“Dear Alana and Joanne:
Thanks for Alana’s of March 30, 2023. She is certainly keeping me busy these days as I hurtle toward 90.
I have maintained a file with respect to charges and publications about the Peace Corps that may jeopardize Peace Corps volunteers. I do not warrant its completeness.
Sarge never wanted to have a security office, as such, in the Peace Corps. He assigned such issues to me, and I generally handled them personally without delegation to other lawyers.
Consequently, I was the Peace Corps liaison to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and so forth.
The General Counsel’s office also screened Peace Corps volunteer and employee applicants who disclosed an intelligence MOI as part of their previous employment.
Early on, Sarge and I visited the then head of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms, and agreed upon a no poaching policy with respect to Peace Corps volunteers.
We also enforced, quite strictly, the instruction to Peace Corps volunteers not to engage in host country political activities. Only one Peace Corps volunteer violated this policy consciously during my service from 1961-1966, the celebrated author, Paul Theroux. His Malawi service was personally terminated by me. He has never acknowledged this, and his celebration as a Peace Corps author does bother me. He and I tried a few years ago to reach an understanding about what happened, but we failed.
I cannot remember that the Peace Corps between 1961 and 1966 ever sought to rebut any specific charge against Peace Corps volunteers, no matter how blatantly false. We felt that that would be giving publicity to a story that we had hoped would die.
Therefore, I am not surprised by the Peace Corps’ reaction to Joanne’s Freedom of Information Act request.
A few years ago, a journalist professor at American University named Melillo published an article that the Peace Corps’ Advertising Council advertisements were part of the Cold War strategy. I contested this and wrote a response which the journal that published Melillo’s article declined to publish on the absurd ground that it did not publish rebuttals. Attached is a copy of my rebuttal to Melillo.
That’s the best I can do with respect to these issues.
Kind regards to all.
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