Thursday, December 23, 2010

MITCHELL WERBELL: THE INTERVIEW






This interview appeared in Saga magazine, 1981


ERINGER: You formed your school about two years ago...

WERBELL: It existed before, but got formalized two years. Its purpose is to train law enforcement people, private bodyguards, security personnel, etc. It's a very concentrated course in which we teach all the countermeasures against poltical assassinations, terrorists--that sort of thing.

ERINGER: Could it not be said that a school for antiterrorists could double as a school for terrorists?

WERBELL: Well, how can you tell?

ERINGER: Precisely.

WERBELL: We investigate everybody that comes here very thoroughly--right down to their socks. They have to furnish us with authentic documents testifying to their good reputation--no criminal activity, not being nuts or alcoholics. Now, everything you do in a countermeasure, of course, teaches you how they're going to do it, so you can counter them. You never know who's going to turn bad. But even the CIA has that same problem.

ERINGER: Have you ever rejected applicants to your school?

WERBELL: Yes, indeed. We have canned a couple. Tossed 'em out.

ERINGER: For what reasons?

WERBELL: Bad attitudes. We felt that some of them were potential danger spots I say some--we're only talking about two people.

ERINGER: You charge $2,500 for your 10-day course, and that doesn't include accommodations and most meals. How much if that do you make in profit?

WERBELL: (Laughs.) I can can tell you, but you'd be horrified at how little it is.

ERINGER: What I'm getting at is this: Is money the motivation for running the school?

WERBELL: Well, naturally, partially, but it really is not a big profit producer at all. We've got too many top-notch, high-priced instructors.

ERINGER: So what is your major motivation?

WERBELL: Well, I guess there's really several things. One of them is, of course, I felt there is a tremendous need for it. Plus the fact that I can't stand just not doing anything.

ERINGER: Do you recruit mercenaries from graduates of your school?

WERBELL: Well, in some cases, yes.

ERINGER: You can find employment for those that have successfully gone through your course?

WERBELL: We don't claim to do that. We can recommend them in certain areas where we get enquiries.

ERINGER: Do you keep track of Cobray graduates?

WERBELL: Oh, yeah.

ERINGER: In what sense?

WERBELL: We have a continuous on-going record of what they're doing because they all check in with us, which is extraordinary, too.

ERINGER: Suppose they don't check in with you. Do you keep track of their activities?

WERBELL: Yeah. So far none of them have turned bad.

ERINGER: That's reassuring, considering what they've been taught.

WERBELL: Well, once again, even in the CIA you have people turn bad.

ERINGER: Do you report the activities of your graduates to any U.S. intelligence agencies?

WERBELL: Nope.

ERINGER: How about your students from foreign countries? When they return to their respective countries do you report their activities to their governments?

WERBELL: Yep. The government send them.

ERINGER: What government sends them?

WERBELL: You know, there are certain things I really can't talk about. But frankly, we/'re expecting a number of Thai students over the next few months. Others come from Central and South American countries. Most of our students are Americans.

ERINGER: Students sigh a waiver relinquishing Cobray from responsibility in case of injury or death. Have there been any injuries or deaths?

WERBELL: I think one guy got a couple cracked ribs --through his own fault. He was a smart-ass and our martial arts guy tamed him down a little bit.

ERINGER: Let's go back in time. When did you first become involved in this kind of work?

WERBELL: World War II--1942--when I joined the Office of Strategic Services.

ERINGER: What missions did you undertake?

WERBELL: China, Burma, and then I went into French Indochina, before the war was over when the Japanese were occupying it.. Out outfit brought Hi Chi Minh out of hiding. And, of course, Ho Chi Minh was a big buddy of the United Stated States in those days. What spoiled it was our stupidity in going to the aid of the French.

ERINGER: Tell me about one such mission.

WERBELL: I went in on prisoner recovery, and I also took the surrender of General Sumita with 80,000 Japanese the day the atomic bomb was dropped. That was in San Che Province.

ERINGER: What did you do after the OSS was disbanded?

WERBELL: We were in an outfit called SS Unit, which was the next phase of our clandestine operations, before the CIA--which doesn't mean we played in the band.

ERINGER What does it mean?

WERBELL: Special Operations, which is the parachute-behind-the-lines unit. I made a number of jumps.

ERINGER: Did you join the CIA when it was formed in 1947?

WERBELL: I have never been CIA. I have worked very closely with them.

ERINGER: Have you ever been paid any anount of money by the CIA?

WERBELL: Boy, that ios the question that keeps popping up.

ERINGER: What is your response?

WERBELL: Nope.

ERINGER: But in his book, Spooks, Jim Houghan wrote that you "worked under contract to the CIA in the 1960s, organizing amphibious landings against Cuba from a base in the Dominican Republic."

WERBELL: I was with an entirely different facility.

ERINGER: So when you left the SS Unit, what did you do?

WERBELL: Well, I became a civilian. At that time I was a captain in a parachute unit and I didn't like it. So I transferred into Military Intelligence and stayed in there in reserve and didn't do a damn thing. So I quit and went into the advertising business. I was advertising director of Rich's department store, the biggest department store south of New York. That lasted about a year, and then I got back into geopolitics.

ERINGER: You missed the excitement?

WERBELL: Well let me tell you a little story. You see, a guy went to a house of pleasure. And he picked up this broad and took her upstairs--the $100-a-whack type. And she had a beautiful accent. He said, "My goodness, where are you from?" Well, she was raised in Haverford-Philadelphia, Mainline, you know, comes from a socially prominent family. He says, "Holy Christ, what's a cultured, charming woman like you doing in a whorehouse." And she said, "I guess I just got lucky." You get it? I guess I was just lucky.

ERINGER: So how did you make your comeback?

WERBELL: What do you want me to do, pull down my pants and show you my palms?

ERINGER: I'm just asking how you got back in the business.

WERBELL: Like the babe said, I guess I just got lucky. One of my major assignments--it was about 1957--was to keep Batista in business. Not that everybody was favorable towards Batista, but we knew at that point what Fidel was all about. Actually, Fidel never fought a battle. Fidel never did a goddamned thing. The students did all the fighting. That son-of-a-bitch never fought a battle, he never fired a round. However, my job at the time was to keep Batista in.

ERINGER: What went wrong?

WERBELL: The New York Times, The Washington Post--those no-good crap liberal bastards we have in this country. That's what went wrong.

ERINGER: What do you mean?

WERBELL: The so-called liberal press that is communist bought and owned. The New York Times--what a bunch of crap those guys are. The Washington Post. They're traitors. Quote me on that.

ERINGER: At what point did you start Military Armaments Corporation?

WERBELL: About 1967. It was originally called Sionics. We produced silencers.

ERINGER: To whom did you sell them?

WERBELL: The Philippines. Thailand. South Vietnam. The Israelis. The raid on Entebbe was all done with my weapons and silencers.

ERINGER: Is that company still operational?

WERBELL: I saw the writing on the wall. They wanted to retire me because I was such a prickly thorn.  First, I was president, then I was chairman of the board, and you know what happens when you're chairman of the board at a young age. Next step is the boot. I told 'em, the only way to retire me is buy my stock. So I sold my stock and two years later they folded and went under. Now I've got Defense Systems International.

ERINGER: Have you ever gotten into trouble with the U.S. Government because of your international arms dealings?

WERBELL: The Firearms, Alcohol and Tobacco people are always bugging me. I've had some real battles with those bastards. I think they're all pinheads.

ERINGER: What sort of battles?

WERBELL: Concerning their regulations. And they've come up with the most goddamned stupid ones I've ever heard.

ERINGER: Are you still engaged in mercenary recruitment?

WERBELL: What a question. You know it's illegal in the United States? We don't recruit mercenaries. We recruit security personnel.

ERINGER: You still doing that?

WERBELL: Under certain conditions.

ERINGER: What conditions?

WERBELL: I can't get into that.

ERINGER: Is it true you once bombed Vietnam with live rats infected with bubonic plague?

WERBELL: (Laughs.) Yeah.

ERINGER: Was that bombing sanctioned by the U.S. Government?

WERBELL: No.

ERINGER: It was all on your own?

WERBELL: It was special operations.

ERINGER: For whom?

WERBELL: (Laughs.) The group that I worked for.

ERINGER: And who was that?

WERBELL: That's unimportant.

ERINGER: Are you a religious man?

WERBELL: I don't believe in organized religion. I'm religious in the sense that I committed myself to Jesus a long time ago. I don't make a big stink about it. And the Pope, incidentally, sent me a blessed cross when he was here in the States. And the Pope himself sent word that they were including me on the mass for the sick every week, which is very flattering. The way it happened is this: his major Bishop assistant was the nuncio in the Dominican Republic when I was leading the loyalists in the revolt. I'm rather proud of that.

ERINGER: The Pope realizes you're sick?

WERBELL: Yeah, I've got cancer. We think we've got a piece of it under remission, but I don't know. There's no real way to find out except surgery and I've got a legal document that prevents any of them from doing tricks while I'm in surgery.

ERINGER: Tricks?

WERBELL: No life support and no bags hanging or anything like that. It's not my lifestyle.

ERINGER: Is it true you're taking Laetrile, the controversial vitamin derived from apricot pits banned by the FDA?

WERBELL: Yep. I'm convinced that Laetrile had a major effect pulling me through the first bout. When I came back from five weeks at the clinic in Alabama, one of my conventional doctors said, "I don't know what the hell you'r doing, but keep mit up. it seems top be working." But I couldn't take all the damn vitamin pills. I was taking 50 pills with every meal.

ERINGER: What would you most like to be remembered for?

WERBELL: I don't give a damn about being remembered. But if I've got to be remembered for something, I'd like it to be for being a good military officer and a patriot.


Mitchell WerBell III died in 1983.