Austin Goodrich, Cold War CIA officer and CBS correspondent, dies at 87

July 6, 2013

Austin Goodrich, an undercover CIA officer during the Cold War who also worked for several years as a CBS television correspondent before his identity was unmasked, died June 9 at his home in Port Washington, Wis. He was 87.

He had Alzheimer’s disease, his daughter Kristina Goodrich said.

Mr. Goodrich, a rugged onetime football lineman, fought in World War II and later studied in Sweden while he was attending the University of Michigan. He joined the relatively new Central Intelligence Agency soon after his graduation from Michigan in 1949.

While stationed in Oslo and Stockholm early in his clandestine career, he sought a suitable occupation to cover his true profession. He assumed a dual identity as reporter and spy.

At the same time that he was recruiting sources to provide information on the Soviet threat, Mr. Goodrich was meeting the deadlines of a working journalist. He reported on sports for the International Herald Tribune, contributed pieces to Swedish radio programs and, in the early 1950s, became a stringer for CBS News.


Austin Goodrich, undercover CIA officer and CBS correspondent, at his desk. (Family Photo)

He did his job so well — both jobs, it would seem — that CBS asked Mr. Goodrich to work as a news writer in its New York headquarters in 1953. No one at the network suspected his CIA affiliation.

In 1954, Mr. Goodrich’s boss at CBS, Sig Mickelson — who is credited with inventing the term “anchorman” — was invited to the office of William S. Paley, the CBS chairman.

“I was called in to see Mr. Paley,” Mickelson recalled to the New York Times more than two decades later, “and found two CIA agents in his office. It was then that I learned our man in Stockholm, Austin Goodrich, had been placed there by the CIA and was working for them.”

In those days, according to 1977 investigative reports by Rolling Stone and the New York Times, it was not uncommon for CIA officers to conceal their occupation by working as part-time foreign correspondents or stringers. Reporters for legitimate news organizations were sometimes debriefed by spy agencies after overseas assignments. Such cozy arrangements lasted, in some cases, into the 1970s, when they were increasingly seen as unethical.

“I didn’t raise an eyebrow about cooperating back then,” Mickelson told the Times in 1976. “But those were different times, 23 years ago, and it seemed perfectly normal to do it. I assumed that in the cold war climate that existed all the networks were cooperating.”

Mickelson, who died in 2000, said he fired Mr. Goodrich from CBS in 1954 after learning of his CIA connections. When the story came to light in 1976, it was one of the first public revelations of the identity of an undercover CIA officer. It effectively ended Mr. Goodrich’s work as a spy.

After CBS, Mr. Goodrich continued to work on the side as a writer and journalist. He wrote a guidebook about Helsinki in the late 1950s and, in 1960, published a well-received book about Finnish history, “Study in Sisu: Finland’s Fight for Independence.”

Despite Mickelson’s assertion that he dismissed Mr. Goodrich in 1954 — “We got rid of Goodrich fast,” he said — Mr. Goodrich continued to appear on CBS News as late as October 1958, when he reported from Finland on Soviet propaganda efforts for the documentary “The Red Sell.” The host of the program was Walter Cronkite, who had been hired from a Washington TV station by Mickelson to work for the CBS network.

Austin Goodrich was born Aug. 30, 1925, in Battle Creek, Mich., where he was outstanding high school football player. He was an Army combat soldier during World War II.

In addition to Scandinavian languages, he spoke German, Dutch and a little Finnish and French. His CIA assignments included postings in Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, West Germany and Thailand. At his retirement in 1976, he received the Intelligence Medal of Merit from then-CIA Director George H.W. Bush, who praised his “enviable record of recruitments.”

His marriage to Eva Rosenberg Goodrich ended in divorce.

Survivors include his wife of 22 years, Mona Stender Goodrich of Port Washington; four children from his first marriage, Britt V. Weaver of Vienna, Kristina Goodrich of Potomac Falls, Austin J. Goodrich of San Jose and Timothy L. Goodrich of Chicago; a daughter from his second marriage, Sammy Goodrich of Port Washington; three sisters, Ethel Ackerson of Grand Rapids, Mich., Eleanor Guilbert of Fox Point, Wis., and Helen Putnam of Washington; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.

After his formal retirement, Mr. Goodrich continued to work on contract for the CIA for a number of years before settling in Wisconsin. In later years, he contributed an essay to “Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul,” and he wrote several self-published books, mostly about his career.

In one book, “Born to Spy,” which was reviewed by CIA censors, Mr. Goodrich described his training in lock-picking.

“Most of us stole a set of picks before the course ended,” he wrote. “Although I never picked a lock to gain access to a denied target area, I used the equipment for many years to get into my home when I forgot my keys.”

Matt Schudel has been an obituary writer at The Washington Post since 2004.
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