Entering the Central Intelligence Agency’s Special Operations Division in August 1970, I had to take the full gamut of traditional CIA tradecraft courses. Going through the long basic intelligence operations course at the “farm,” my mentor was Dr. Carroll. His discipline was English I think. He wasn’t a doctor Doctor.
A couple of CIA intelligence training classmates leaving for a field exercise
Staff picture of Jim "Pendy"
Dr C taught me much and was responsible for one of the great quotes I heard during my year of enter-on-duty training.
He did not like the passive voice. There were people in the Agency who, I found, did not like the communist. There were people, I found, who did not like the Yankees. Or collard greens. Dr. Carroll did not like the passive voice and he graded everything I did.
Now one of the problems with this is that, I had no idea whatsoever what the passive voice was. In the intelligence business, there is a lot of writing, and his great hate for this particular “voice” was somehow rooted in the way I wrote training reports… but I was never sure and no one I asked was particularly sure either. Dr. Carroll gave me a clue once early on when he said “…using action verbs indicate a strong command of our language.”
But then after that session when he made the telling “action verb” comment, he had some papers I had written out on his desk during a counseling session, and he was reading them, when suddenly he slowed his pace down until he came almost to a stop, pronouncing each of my written words carefully. They sounded OK to me.
Finally he lowered his head. This dignified older gentlemen. Then got up from his desk and walked over to a wall and banged his head on the wall and came back and sat at this desk, and said, “Mr. Pendy... is English your first language?”