The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Milt Bearden retired from the Central Intelligence Agency in 1994, after thirty years in the CIA’s clandestine services. During a career that tracked the Cold War from the overthrow of Nikita Khrushchev and the detonation of the first Chinese atomic bomb in the mid-1960’s, through the hauling down of the hammer and sickle over the Kremlin and the reunification of Germany in the 1990’s, Mr. Bearden rose through the ranks to become one of CIA’s most senior officers.
Mr. Bearden’s early career was split between German speaking Europe and Hong Kong where he conducted classic Cold War intelligence operations. During the early 1980’s he moved to Africa to serve as CIA Chief in Nigeria and later in Khartoum, where he covered Sudan’s civil war and the ultimate overthrow of the regime of Jaafar Nimeiri. It was in the Sudan in 1985, that Mr. Bearden organized a secret airlift from the Sudanese desert to Israel of the stranded remnants of the Ethiopian Falasha Jews. For his work in Sudan Milt Bearden was awarded the Intelligence Medal of Merit, the Agency’s second highest decoration.
In the spring of 1986, Mr. Bearden was selected by Bill Casey to take charge of the CIA Covert Action supporting a flagging Afghan Resistance. The end of the war was symbolically marked by the final march of Soviet troops across Friendship Bridge over the Oxus River on February 15, 1989, thus ending almost ten years of struggle. For his service in Afghanistan Mr. Bearden was awarded the agency’s highest decoration, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
From 1989-92, Mr. Bearden directed the CIA’s clandestine operations against a decaying Soviet Empire. During this period Mr. Bearden was awarded the CIA’s unique Donovan Award, named after its founder. Mr. Bearden wound up his CIA career as the CIA Chief in Bonn where he worked with a newly reunified Germany in dealing with its Cold War legacy. For his service in Germany, Milt Bearden was honored by the German President with the Federal Cross of Merit, the only such decoration ever given to a CIA Chief in the Federal Republic.
Mr. Bearden is the author of The Black Tulip, a novel of war in Afghanistan (Random House 1998, 2002). He is a frequent contributor to the Op-Ed pages of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and has contributed to Foreign Affairs and to the book on September 11, 2001, How Did This Happen?, published by Public Affairs. He is a consultant for CBS News, and is co-author, with James Risen, of the award-winning The Main Enemy, a non-fiction account of the end of the Cold War published by Random House in May 2003. He worked with Robert DeNiro on Meet the Parents and The Good Shepherd. Mr. Bearden also worked with director Mike Nichols and producer Tom Hanks on the film, Charlie Wilson’s War. He lives in Austin, Texas with his French-born wife, Marie-Catherine.