Oct 24, 2022 I Nick Redfern

If You're a Writer of Controversial Subjects, to What Extent Do Government Agencies Watch You?

That question above is an important one, because I'm often asked something like that. Namely, about that issue of surveillance if you're a writer. Indeed, a lot of people in government take note of those of us who write - whether it's articles or books. I'll give you an example that really stands out. We'll begin with a man named Milo Speriglio. Now dead, Speriglio had a file opened on him by none other than the CIA. The reason: Speriglio wrote three books on the life and mysterious death of Hollywood legend, Marilyn Monroe, who lost her life in August 1962. As for Marilyn, well, it's likely her death was a murder. Classified government documents fallen into the wrong hands. Stolen diaries; some of them burned and shredded for fear of what, one day, they might reveal. Powerful people with dangerous agendas. Famous faces. The Feds prowling around. Hollywood conspiracies. CIA agents keeping watch. Frightened people with secrets to hide. Wild sex. Drugs. Crazy parties and flowing booze. And, an incredible story of UFOs, aliens, Roswell, Area 51, Flying Saucers, and the death of a beautiful, but tragically scarred, icon. No wonder Marilyn was wiped out. 

For years, I strongly suspected that as a result of all the loud claims Milo Speriglio made about Marilyn, about her death, and about the CIA (and never mind aliens!), it was all but certain there had to be a secret record of some sort – somewhere - on the man himself. My hunch wasn’t wrong. In 2010, I obtained a copy of the CIA’s Speriglio file. And it was all thanks to the Freedom of Information Act. The CIA made no bones – at all - about saying it had zero information on the Marilyn-and-aliens document in its voluminous archives. That is, aside from photocopies and scans of the document made by eager Ufologists, who then mailed them to the CIA. Why would Flying Saucer-seekers drop copies of the Speriglio document on the doorstep of the CIA?

The answer is actually quite a simple one: to use the document in FOIA requests. The aim: to present the document to the CIA and hopefully find more about that one-page-wonder from a friendly, helpful archivist ensconced in the labyrinthine archives of the agency. So far, however, all the requests have come back with “no records found”-type responses. The CIA’s solid stance is they know not a jot about that sheet of paper, aside from what the likes of me have pestered and bothered them with. But, is that the full story? Well, the answer is: “No.” Things most assuredly do not finish there, though. You probably guessed that. It’s time to take a deeper look at the relationship between the CIA and our old friend, Milo Speriglio, the man who – for good or for bad - unleashed that much-debated document onto the world. Granted, the whole world wasn’t watching or listening to what he had to say back in 1995, but, even so, a sizeable number of people certainly were.

(Nick Redfern) Milo Speriglio, Marilyn Monroe and the CIA: an intriguing file

Although the CIA denied any knowledge of a “Marilyn Monroe File” anywhere in their archives, the same definitely cannot be said about Speriglio. I was able to secure a CIA file on the man that ran to dozens of pages and that went back to the early 1980s. On a tip from a friend in the Intelligence community –who provided me certain material for my 2005 Roswell book, Body Snatchers in the Desert – I got my eager hands on the Speriglio dossier in late 2010. Any mention of the likes of CIA “secret agents” almost inevitably provokes imagery of trench-coats, fedoras, and ruthless characters hiding in the shadows of dark, winding alleyways at midnight. And, while packing a pistol and stepping out of a “Film noir”-style production, with Mickey Spillane pulling the strings. Well, it’s not always like that. Sometimes, the easiest way to gather data on a particular person is to keep a look-out on the targeted individual’s relationship with the mainstream media. And that’s precisely what the CIA did. They quietly collected open-source material on Speriglio to see what was going on in his life.

October 2010 was when the file arrived. On the night of that arrival, I got myself a cold and potent drink, stretched out on the couch, and began to read the CIA’s Speriglio dossier. Although there were a few tidbits of material in CIA papers that dated back to 1979 (they just provided background information on Speriglio’s life and career), the careful watch of Speriglio’s activities didn’t begin until 1982 – as far as I could determine, anyway. Specifically, it started in the month of August. That’s when things began to get interesting. There was a very good reason for that: August 1982 was the 20th anniversary of Marilyn’s untimely death. With just about all the world’s media wanting to do an anniversary story on the passing of the Hollywood legend, Speriglio certainly wasn’t going to miss a chance to reveal what he knew about one of the world’s most suspicious and famous deaths. Having deep connections to the world of journalism and entertainment, Speriglio wasted no time: he started making calls all around Los Angeles. He didn’t just want to make a bit of a splash and then walk away to another story. Speriglio had an agenda: he had a new book to promote: Marilyn Monroe: Murder Cover-Up. He had articles to write, too. Radio shows wanted the guy. Speriglio was going to show the world what he had found out about how, and why. Marilyn only made it to the young age of thirty-six.

(Nick Redfern) Milo Speriglio wrote three books on the death of Marilyn Monroe. No wonder certain people listened

My trusty friend and ally, the Freedom of Information Act, showed me that the CIA chose to keep its eyes on Speriglio in one of the easiest and simplest ways possible: they had their people go out and grab copies of almost every newspaper that was then covering the 20th anniversary of Marilyn’s demise. By 2010, I thought, they were just old newspapers. They were. But, they provided me with a great deal of data – and even demonstrated the concerns the CIA had about what really happened back in August 1962 and what people were saying two decades later. One of the newspapers the CIA added to its quickly growing file on Speriglio was the Washington Post. On August 11, 1982, the staff of the Post ran a lengthy article titled: “Monroe Probe: L.A. Reopens Inquiry Into Actress ‘Suicide.’” A section of the article was underlined - by what seemed to have been a pencil - by someone in the CIA. It read:

"Last week, shortly before the 20th anniversary of Monroe’s death, a private investigator offered a $10,000 reward for the actress’ diary, claiming it will prove his theory she was murdered by a ‘dissident faction of the CIA’ to protect secrets revealed to her by Robert Kennedy. Investigator Milo Speriglio claims Monroe threatened to reveal CIA plots to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro after Kennedy, the attorney general, refused to marry her.” I couldn’t fail to note that the one section of the article the CIA chose to underline was directly relative to a couple of the very same matters that appeared in the Speriglio document: plans to have Castro blown away; and the matter of Marilyn’s missing, elusive diary. As the days progressed, there was even more pencil-underlining from CIA personnel. Let’s have a look at another example of that surveillance of Speriglio and his activities.   

The newspaper: the Chicago Tribune. The date: August 12, 1982. The title of the article: “The Marilyn Monroe ‘Mystery.’” Yep, the CIA had yet another article to add to its growing file on Speriglio and his Marilyn research. In the Tribune’s feature there were references to secret plans to have Castro whacked (something that, yet again, also appears in the Speriglio document) and the November 22, 1963 killing of JFK – who, we’ve seen, may also have been killed because of top secret UFO knowledge. As around 3:00 a.m. came along, and while I was still sprawled out on the couch, the most interesting part of this story reached my eyes. The CIA’s document on the Tribune feature read as follows: “The disappearance of Miss Monroe’s red diary from the coroner’s office shortly after her death is being used to support a private investigator’s theory [Speriglio] that she did not die of an overdose of pills but was murdered by the CIA in order to protect certain secrets.” Clearly, the issue of Marilyn’s journal was still disturbing the CIA, all those years down the line. As were the Castro controversies and concerns of a CIA connection to Marilyn’s “overdose.”    

(Nick Redfern) Portions of the FBI's file on journalist Dorothy Kilgallen

Speriglio’s name appeared in dozens of newspapers and magazine-articles in August 1982 that had been photocopied by the CIA and for the CIA. Speriglio clearly, and quickly, became what today, is referred to as “a person of interest.” A bit of advice: don’t ever aspire to be such a person; things will only turn very bad for you. CIA personnel reading Speriglio’s every word. Plots to take out Castro. Concerns that, one day, Marilyn’s pesky diary just might float to the surface like a stinking turd that refuses to stay in the depths of the can. Combined, it all amounted to an important portion of my investigations. I was satisfied with the latest thing I’d found. That I could prove the CIA quietly watched Speriglio in 1982 – on the 20th anniversary of Marilyn’s death - made me strongly suspect the agency did something very similar when Speriglio appeared in 1995 with the controversial UFO/Marilyn document. Even though no such file has appeared. Yet. 

One of Marilyn's friends was journalist, writer and celebrity, Dorothy Kilgallen. She was the subject of both FBI and CIA files opened on them. I read the FBI’s file on Kilgallen from front to end, which, I can tell you, was no easy task. It was a combination of copies of Kilgallen’s newspaper articles and FBI memoranda. The file dated back to the 1930s and was packed with entertaining material. It was also packed with government secrets that Kilgallen had an impressive knack of getting hold of from insider sources. For example, an FBI document of March 27, 1945 quotes Kilgallen as saying that “…Marshal Tito, the Yugoslav leader, has agents in this country who beat and terrorize Yugoslav who disagree with his policies.” On July 18, 1950 the FBI one of J. Edgar Hoover’s Special-Agents wrote that, “…in the Journal American on May 12th had contained information indicating that an Israeli Intelligence official had been traveling in the United States incognito.” This was a far cry from mere Hollywood gossip. No wonder Hoover had a file created on someone who seemed to know everything of a secret and scandalous nature. Let’s see what else Kilgallen was probing into in the years before her death.

(Nick Redfern) At the time of her death, Dorothy was investigating the death of JFK

For Kilgallen, it was when she started to dig into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - at Dallas’ Grassy Knoll - that things began to get dicey for her. She was particularly interested in the connections between JFK’s alleged murderer, Lee Harvey Oswald, and Dallas strip-club-owner, Jack Ruby; a man who knew all the influential, powerful, and murderous characters – including the Mob - who called Dallas their home. When Oswald was shot and killed by Ruby on November 24, 1963, Kilgallen really sat up, suspecting that Oswald had been killed to prevent him from revealing what he knew of the complexities surrounding the president’s death. Things got even more intriguing when Kilgallen got her hands on an advance copy of the controversy-filled Warren Report that investigated the death of JFK. How she got a hold of that is still a much-debated issue for those who haven’t given up on the matter of who was behind the president’s killing. Kilgallen even managed to secure an interview with Ruby, himself. Kilgallen was no fool: she knew that, by that time, her life was in a fair degree of danger. Kilgallen’s hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, made no bones about it: “Her life had been threatened.” The threats became more and more. Then, on November 8, 1965, Kilgallen was found stone cold dead. So, in conclusion: yes, if you're a writer - and you write about controversial issues - you can expect to be watched. Just like Milo Speriglio was by the CIA.

Nick Redfern

Nick Redfern works full time as a writer, lecturer, and journalist. He writes about a wide range of unsolved mysteries, including Bigfoot, UFOs, the Loch Ness Monster, alien encounters, and government conspiracies. Nick has written 41 books, writes for Mysterious Universe and has appeared on numerous television shows on the The History Channel, National Geographic Channel and SyFy Channel.

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