For the Massachusetts politician, see William J. Casey (Massachusetts politician)

William Joseph Casey (March 13, 1913 – May 6, 1987) was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1981 to 1987. In this capacity he oversaw the entire United States Intelligence Community and personally directed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Life and career

A native of Elmhurst, Queens, New York, Casey graduated from Fordham University in 1934 and earned a law degree from St. John's University School of Law in 1937. His portrait now sits in Molloy College. During World War II, he worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) — the predecessor to the CIA — where he became head of its Secret Intelligence Branch in Europe.[2] He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious achievement. The OSS was dissolved in 1945.

Casey ran as a "Javits Republican" for New York's 3rd congressional district in 1966, but was defeated in the primary by former Congressman Steven Derounian.[3] After practicing corporate law in New York, he served in the Nixon Administration as the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission from 1971 to 1973;[2] this position led to his being called as a prosecution witness against former Attorney General John N. Mitchell and former Commerce Secretary Maurice Stans in an influence-peddling case stemming from international financier Robert Vesco's $200,000 contribution to the Nixon reelection campaign.[2] He then served as Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs for 1973-74 and chairman of the Export-Import Bank of the United States 1974-76. He was a co-founder of the Manhattan Institute in 1978. He is the father-in-law of Owen Smith, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of World Politics and Professor Emeritus at Long Island University.[5]

Director of Central Intelligence

Casey was campaign manager of the successful presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan in 1980, and served on the transition team following the election. After Reagan took office, Reagan named Casey to the post of Director of Central Intelligence.[2] Stansfield Turner dubbed it the "Resurrection of Wild Bill", referring to Bill Donovan, the brilliant and eccentric head of OSS in World War II whom Casey greatly admired.

Ronald Reagan used prominent Catholics in his government to brief the pope during the Cold War. Casey would fly secretly to Rome in a windowless C-141 black jet and "be taken undercover to the Vatican.[7]

Casey oversaw the re-expansion of the Intelligence Community to funding and human resource levels greater than those existing before the preceding Carter Administration; in particular, he increased levels within the CIA. During his tenure, restrictions were lifted on the use of the CIA to directly and covertly influence the internal and foreign affairs of countries relevant to American policy. Notably, Casey articulated before Congress in December 1981 that covert operations in Nicaragua were in the interest of national security.

This period of the Cold War saw an increase in the Agency's global, anti-Soviet activities, which is started under the Carter Doctrine in late 1980.

Iran–Contra affair

Hours before Casey was scheduled to testify before Congress related to his knowledge of the Iran–Contra affair, he was reported to have been rendered incapable of speech during an operation to remove a brain tumor.

In a 1987 book, Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA 1981-1987, Washington Post reporter and biographer Bob Woodward, who had interviewed Casey on a number of occasions for the biography, said that he had gained entry into Casey's hospital room for a final, four-minute encounter—a claim which was met with disbelief in many quarters as well as an adamant denial from Casey's wife, Sofia. According to Woodward, when Casey was asked if he knew about the diversion of funds to the Nicaraguan Contras, "His head jerked up hard. He stared, and finally nodded yes."[2] Independent Counsel, Lawrence Walsh wrote: "Independent Counsel obtained no documentary evidence showing Casey knew about or approved the diversion. The only direct testimony linking Casey to early knowledge of the diversion came from [Oliver] North."[2]

Personal life

Casey, a Catholic, was a member of the Knights of Malta.[2]


Casey died of a brain tumor in 1987 at the age of 74. His Requiem Mass was said by Fr. Daniel Fagan, then pastor of St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Roslyn, New York. It was attended by President Reagan and the First Lady. Casey is buried in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury, New York. He was survived by his wife, the former Sophia McDaid (d.2000), and his daughter, Bernadette Casey Smith.[2]