When his father vanished in Uganda in 1971, Ted Siedle, who was 17 years old at the time, had no idea that nearly two decades would pass and he still would not know for sure how, or even if, his father had died. Today the U.S. government refuses to tell Siedle the truth.
Robert L. Siedle was a 46-year-old sociologist who, in 1971, was lecturing in Uganda at Makerere University. He had three sons and an estranged wife in the United States. In Africa he had befriended an American freelance journalist, Nicholas Stroh, who worked for several U.S. newspapers.
On July 7, 1971, Stroh and Siedle set out for Mbarara, Uganda. Stroh was looking into reports that there had been a massacre at the Simba Barracks of the Ugandan army. Siedle was writing a book about missionaries and thought he might tag along with Stroh and do some research.
They spent two days in Mbarara, and on the morning of July 9, Stroh set out for the Simba Barracks on his own in a beat-up blue Volkswagen.
Siedle had stayed behind at the hotel that day, until a car called for him at the hotel. Three Africans dressed in the shirts of Uganda's special forces ushered him into the back seat and drove away. Neither man was heard from again.
Idi Amin, the brutal Ugandan dictator, ordered an investigation, more out of obligation than curiosity. Nearly a year later, investigators found Stroh's burned-out car outside of town at the bottom of a ravine. A former lieutenant in the Ugandan army came forward with a story. He said he saw Stroh arrive at the Simba Barracks and saw him being led away at gunpoint by soldiers. The lieutenant was then ordered to "destroy everything." He burned the Volkswagen and then went with another soldier to a spot 10 miles out of Mbarara where they found the charred remains of two bodies, poured gasoline on them, burned them again and scattered the ashes in a river.
Idi Amin decided the investigation had gone far enough. He said the two men had died "at the hands of unidentified persons," and closed the case. But that wasn't good enough for their families. They pressed their own government for answers and got none.
Today, Ted Siedle, 36 and president of a securities company in Providence, R.I., knows a little bit more. But he didn't get it through official channels.
In the 1980s when Siedle was studying at Boston College, he approached the former U.S. ambassador to Uganda, Clyde Ferguson, for some answers. Ferguson was teaching at Harvard. He told Ted Siedle that his father and Stroh may have been mixed up with the Central Intelligence Agency, which had a heavy contingent in Uganda.
Since then, Siedle has learned that his father met with a known CIA officer the night before he and Stroh set out for Mbarara.
In 1982, Siedle filed a request with the State Department under the Freedom of Information Act. He wanted the file on his father. The department gave him a few documents with much of the information blacked out because it was classified.
"At this point, I'd just like to know the truth," Siedle told our associate Tim Warner. "If people like my father are encouraged by the CIA to engage in amateur investigations, the CIA and the government should be accountable for what happens to them."