CIA produced the Murphy Memo, based on audio recordings made by bugs planted by Guatemalan intelligence in the bedroom of Ambassador Marilyn McAfee. In the recording, Ambassador McAfee verbally entreated “Murphy”. The CIA circulated a memo in the highest Washington circles accusing Ambassador McAfee of having an extramarital lesbian affair with her secretary, Carol Murphy. There was no affair. Ambassador McAfee was calling to Murphy, her poodle.
The CIA spread the word in Washington that the US ambassador to Guatemala was a lesbian after listening to her making cooing affectionate noises on a secret tape. Too late, the spy agency found out that the ambassador, Marilyn McAfee, was talking not to a woman, but to her poodle Murphy.
Details of the allegation, which turned out to be a scurrilous falsehood, have come to light as George Tenet, President Bill Clinton’s nominee, is undergoing Senate confirmation hearings to become head of the CIA. On the basis of the tape, the agency wrote up a report in 1994 on Ms McAfee’s purported sexual predilections which was distributed first at headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and then on Capitol Hill.
The ordeal of Ms McAfee reveals the depth of intimacy between the CIA and the most consistently brutal military regime in Latin America in recent times and shows how closely aligned they were in thinking.
The origin of the attempt to smear the ambassador’s reputation was a hidden tape-recording device installed in her official residence, not by the CIA but by the Guatemalan army, which passed the tape on to the agency.
Ms McAfee, as the agent of official US policy on Guatemala, would challenge Guatemalan army officers about human rights abuses. Such an assertive woman, the macho officers concluded, had to be a lesbian – a hypothesis that their CIA masters readily shared, for they were continually at odds with the ambassador over her irritating tendency to upbraid their well- paid Guatemalan spies.
Nobody has been punished for the attempt to smear Ms McAfee, who has since been promoted within the State Department. Dan Donohue, the CIA station chief in Guatemala at the time of the bugging, was not sacked after his lapse came to light, but merely chided in an internal report for exercising “poor judgement”.