Mystery Solved: Ron Silver Was Not a CIA Agent

When Ron Silver died in March, the New York Post's Cindy Adams eulogized him by revealing that he'd once been a CIA operative: "I remember him saying he'd been in the CIA at age 22." It's not true.

Adams quoted Silver as once saying of his CIA service: "I thought it was patriotic. But then time came that life, love and girls distracted me." We took some interest in the tidbit, because Silver once told us the same thing: At a party, he claimed—off the record—to have worked with the CIA in the early 1970s in Laos, running drugs. Cool, we thought.

Well it looks to have been a tall tale he used to impress reporters. We've obtained Silver's FBI file through a Freedom of Information Act request, and it is fairly definitive: While he briefly considered becoming a CIA analyst, he never worked for the Agency.

In September 2007, Silver was named by George W. Bush to the board of directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace, a federally funded organization that advises the government on conflict resolution. Silver's position required a security clearance, so he subjected himself to an FBI background investigation.

The results of the background check, which run to hundreds of pages, are the only records in Silver's FBI file. It contains everything from his credit report to interviews with his agent, neighbors, and former therapist—all in all, he seems to have been a stand-up guy. But it also says unequivocally that the FBI checked with the CIA, and the agency had no record of Silver having worked with it:

Mystery Solved: Ron Silver Was Not a CIA Agent

Silver did travel around Southeast Asia in his early twenties, which in the Sixties and Seventies was practically a guaranteed tip-off that someone was a spook. But he told the FBI about his travels, and said it was all on the up-and-up. While he did very briefly consider a career as an "analyst in one of the intelligence agencies," he met once with one CIA representative and gave up on the idea:

Mystery Solved: Ron Silver Was Not a CIA Agent

So somewhere along the line, it looks like Silver blew up a sit-down with a CIA recruiter into a few swashbuckling years in black ops. Of course, it is possible that Silver's service was so sensitive that he lied—under penalty if perjury—to the FBI about it. Or maybe it was scrubbed from the file before being submitted to the White House for review. Indeed, five pages of the file were redacted by the FBI because they were classified "in the interest of national defense or foreign policy"—which could mean dark secrets are hidden there. But we're betting on Ron Silver liking the sound of saying, "I used to work with the Agency."