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The George Crile III Papers

George Crile with Charlie Wilson, ca. 1988George Crile with Charlie Wilson, ca. 1988

The Briscoe Center has acquired the papers of the late George Crile III, a renowned television reporter who specialized in dangerous and difficult assignments. His stories on American involvement in Vietnam and Afghanistan garnered both controversy and praise. The papers contain manuscript materials related to his 2003 book, Charlie Wilson’s War, which inspired the 2007 movie of the same name.

“George Crile was a fearless reporter who not only spoke truth to power, but laid both bare so that Americans could better understand how their government worked in the world,” said Don Carleton, executive director of the Briscoe Center. “His archive is heavily featured in the center’s new exhibit The Pioneers Who Changed TV News.”

Crile was born in San Diego in 1945, coming from a family of distinguished surgeons. After graduating from Trinity College Connecticut he served in the Marine reserves. His early career in journalism was characterized by stints at the Gary Post-Register in Indiana and as Pentagon correspondent for the Knight-Ridder agency. In 1973 he became the Washington editor for Harper's Magazine. In 1976, Crile joined CBS, producing “The CIA’s Secret Army,” which focused on the agency’s involvement with the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961. In 1978 he won a George Foster Peabody Award and an Emmy for producing “The Battle for South Africa.” His most controversial documentary, “The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception,” (1982) alleged that General William C. Westmoreland deliberately underestimated enemy troop numbers in the Vietnam War. The piece led to a $120 million lawsuit.

George Crile in Afganistan, ca. 1987George Crile in Afganistan, ca. 1987

In 1985 he joined 60 Minutes, producing a number of stories about the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, including interviews with close associates of Osama bin Laden that were aired after 9/11. He also did stories on the disintegration of the Soviet Union, including visiting abandoned nuclear sites and accompanying General Sergeyev, a top Russian nuclear army officer, to tour secret facilities. Building on a 60 Minutes story he did with Harry Reasoner in 1988, Crile wrote the book Charlie Wilson’s War in 2003.

The Crile Papers include letters, research notes, scrapbooks, photographs, and audio-visual materials such as cassette tapes and mini DV Tapes. Of particular significance are materials related to U.S. aid to the Afghan Mujahideen in the early 1980s, reporter files related to the Carter and Reagan administrations, and interviews made about the Iran-Contra affair and the Soviet nuclear program.