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John Alex McCone (January 4, 1902 - February 14, 1991) was an Americanmarker businessman and politician who served as Director of Central Intelligence during the height of the Cold War.

McCone was born in San Francisco, Californiamarker. His father ran iron foundries across California, a business started in Nevada in 1860 by McCone's grandfather. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeleymarker in 1922 with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, beginning his career in Los Angeles' Llewellyn Iron Works. He rose swiftly and in 1929, when several works merged to become the Consolidated Steel Corporation, he became executive vice president. A prominent industrialist, McCone also served for more than twenty years as a governmental advisor and official. Most importantly, he was chairman of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1958 - 1961) and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) (1961 - 1965).

According to journalist Seymour Hersh, in December 1960, while still Atomic Energy Commission chairman, McCone revealed CIA information about Israelmarker's Dimona nuclear weapons plantmarker to the New York Times. Hersh writes that President John F. Kennedy was "fixated" on the Israeli nuclear weapons program and appointed McCone CIA director in part because of his willingness to deal with this and other nuclear weapons issues - and despite the fact that McCone was a Republican.

He was a key player in the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. In the Honeymoon telegram of September 20, 1962, he insisted that the CIA remain imaginative when it came to Soviet weapons policy towards Cubamarker, as a September 19 National Intelligence Estimate had concluded it unlikely that nuclear missiles would be placed on the island. (The telegram was so named because McCone sent it while on his honeymoon in Paris, Francemarker, accompanied not only by his bride, but by a CIA cypher team as well.)

McCone's suspicions of the inaccuracy of this assessment proved to be correct, as it was later found out the Soviet Unionmarker had followed up its conventional military build up with the installation of MRBMs (Medium Range Ballistic Missiles) and IRBMs (Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles), sparking off the crisis in October when they were later spotted by CIA's Lockheed U-2 surveillance flights.

McCone resigned from his position of DCI in April 1965, believing himself to be unappreciated by President Lyndon B. Johnson, who he complained, would not read his reports, including on the need for full-fledged inspections of Israeli nuclear facilities. Upon his resignation, McCone submitted a final policy memorandum to Johnson arguing that Johnson's expansion of the war in Vietnam would arouse national and world discontent before it brought down the North Vietnamese regime.

Throughout his career, McCone served on numerous commissions that made recommendations on issues as diverse as civilian applications of military technology and the Watts riots.

In 1987, McCone was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Ronald Reagan.



  • Chapters 7–8, and pp. 321–322.

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