DANIEL DEL SOLAR
There was a fellow named Daniel del Solar who worked at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and whose job it was was to administer a program of modest support grants aimed at placing women and minorities in professional or managerial positions at public TV and radio stations. I regret to have learned recently that Daniel died earlier this year.
Daniel was cheerful, diligent and responsible. He was of Chilean and Venezuelan decent. His large mustache gave him a rather bandito look. He had one major flaw which was an uncanny talent for showing up desperate to talk at the worst possible times. His feelings were easily hurt, so I’d say, “Come in and sit down, Daniel. How ya doin’?”when in my heart I wished he would disappear.
It was a day like that when he came to me claiming the Russians were radiating his office and that he was having hot flashes and losing his hearing as a result. “Why are you coming to me with this, Daniel?” I asked. “Because you are the only person around here who pays any attention to what I say,” he said.
Without going any deeper into the details, I asked PBS to send over a technician to measure the level of radiation in Daniel’s second floor office. We went there to find that Daniel had covered every possible square inch of his office with aluminum foil to shield the alleged radiation. The technician passed a wand around the large window and fiddled with his instrument. The Soviet embassy was next door then, and I’m sure they monitored our every move. “So what have you found?” I asked. He gave some data. “I don’t know what that means,” I said. His answer was clear. “It means I sure wouldn’t want to sit here.”
Then we repaired to the fifth floor and the measurements were taken at the window directly above Daniel/s. Zilch. Zero. Nothing registered. The PBS guy said, “Well, it’s obvious they saw us and turned whatever it was off.” The woman who occupied that office came in and asked what we were doing in her office. I explained. “Well I thought I wasn’t old enough to be having hot flashes but have been lately. With that, I went right to President Henry Loomis’s office with the story. Henry reached for his phone and said, “I’ll call Stan Turner (Stansfield Turner was head of CIA at the time). “Hold off on that for now, Henry,” I cautioned. “Let’s lay low until we know more about what’s going on. This was pre-Gorbachev and our relations with the Soviets weren’t all that great. I tried dropping a friendly word to those I would pass on the street or in the alley now and then and never got any response whatever.
I wrote the thing up for the record, marked it confidential and copied Henry and Daniel and kept the story under wraps.
Next day, I got a call from Lisa Myers requesting an interview about CPB’s training grants program (Lisa was with the Chicago Sun-Times then and went on to NBC in 1981. She is now NBC’s chief investigative reporter). We made an appointment for that afternoon, and she came to my office. We discussed the grants program for a few minutes, and then she said, “Tell me about the radiation from the Russian Embassy.” She caught me completely of guard. I figured evasiveness would whet her appetite, so I simply stuck to the facts and low keyed it and hoped it would go away.
At home that evening, I was watching Roger Mudd on CBSNews and noticed the camera was panning our offices and the Soviet Embassy. Roger intoned, “And in Washington today at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, employee Daniel del Solar alleged his hearing had been impaired due to radiation coming from the Soviet Embassy.” This was the day after Daniel came to my office.
You sure didn’t waste any time, Lisa!
NB/ There was this creep on the human resources staff that no one could stand. We found out later that it was his practice to rifle the mailroom pigeon holes every evening after hours to look for things with which to ingratiate himself to members of the Press. No one could stand him to begin with. It wasn’t long before he was canned but was successful in finding another job within the Washington structure. Where you say? Sorry; I forgot to mention – The White House.
And we wonder where all the leaks come from.