The CIA’s First Atomic Spy
   and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa
   Grove Press
   Hardcover, 1st edition May 2002
   364 pages ISBN: 0802117147
   US$ 26

   Paperback: 384 pages
   Publisher: Grove Press; March 2003
   ISBN: 080213999X
   US$ 15

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 Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa



The late James Pryor and Thomas Laird, Copyright, 2003, Thomas Laird

      Thomas Laird is an author, photographer and journalist. Peter Matthiessen wrote the text for Laird’s first photography book, East of Lo Monthang and Ian Baker wrote the text for his second one The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple.

      Laird's debut non-fiction book was published in 2002, Into Tibet: The CIA's First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa, by Grove Press—and was republished in paperback in 2003.

      His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet and Thomas Laird have been writing a concise History of Tibet for the past five years and it will be published in 2004, again with Grove Press.

      Though Laird is a US citizen he has been based in Kathmandu, Nepal for the past 32 years. His photography and writing has appeared in magazines around the world: from National Geographic to The National Enquirer, from Conde Nast Traveler to Tricycle, from Outside to Co-Evolution Quarterly, and from the biggest magazines in Europe–Stern, Le Figaro, German Geo–to world wide staples like TIME and NEWSWEEK. He was the Asiaweek correspondent in Kathmandu from 1991 to 2001 and has worked on a number of film and media projects–including BARAKA.

      Into Tibet was the result of ten years of research. In the 1990’s Laird spent months in the National Archives in Washington DC, combing through US Government documents about Tibet from the 1945-1952 period. Ultimately he filed Freedom of Information requests to obtain the key classified documents. Laird then set out on a global hunt for those who knew Douglas Mackiernan–the first undercover CIA officer ever killed in the line of duty. That lead him from Florida to Tibet and from India to Hawaii, repeatedly, over the course of six years. He ultimately taped more than 100 hours of interviews with more than two dozen primary sources–ranging from His Holiness the Dalai Lama to current members of the CIA.

      Into Tibet, demonstrates that Mackiernan and the CIA were deeply involved in atomic intelligence in Inner Asia in the 1940's; that the US dropped weapons into Tibet just before the Chinese invasion; that three CIA agents worked in Lhasa in 1950, and that the CIA has hidden all of this ever since. Though Mackiernan's work was valuable to the US it was a kiss of death for the Tibetans, which is one reason the CIA has tried to hide this chapter of American history. It is important to note that the CIA and Mackiernan helped to precipitate— they did not cause—but they helped to precipitate the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1950. Both CIA and Chinese Embassy officials in the US have taken a 'shoot-the-messenger' approach. toward Into Tibet: they have worked to smear it since its publication. One CIA officer planted reviews on Amazon.com. Chinese Embassy officials attempted to block national television broadcast of an interview with Laird saying that the book was “all lies”. Despite this campaign Into Tibet has been avidly read and well received by reviewers, who specifically note the wealth of research supporting every assertion in the book.

      Thomas Laird, or Dom, 'The Bear' as Tibetans have called him, has spent his entire adult life in the Himalayas. He hitchhiked from London to Kathmandu in 1972, crossing into India for the first time on his 19th birthday. He was based full time in Kathmandu until 2003 and speaks fluent Nepali and bad Tibetan. He is amongst a handful of foreigners who have lived in Nepal for thirty years and was the first foreigner to live within the 'Forbidden Kingdom of Mustang' for one year. He was the first foreigner to trek overland from Western Nepal to Tibet's Mount Kailash; the first foreigner to float down any large section of Tibet's Tsangpo River in a yak skin corracle. Laird has created one of the largest photo-documentation collections of Tibetan murals in the world. He's also been offered lot of great chang (Tibetan home brew beer), around a lot of smoky fires though out the Himalayas–he’s lead more than 50 Himalayan expeditions in Nepal, Tibet and India.

      Thomas Laird now divides his time between Asia and New Orleans.


© 2003 Thomas Laird  |  Contact Thomas Laird