Claire Sterling (née Neikind; October 21, 1919 – June 17, 1995) was an American author and journalist whose work focused on crime, political assassination, and terrorism. Her theories on Soviet bloc involvement in international terrorism and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, presented in The Terror Network and The Time of the Assassins, respectively, were politically influential and controversial.
Sterling was born in Queens, New York. She earned a bachelor's degree in economics at Brooklyn College, worked as a union organizer, and was briefly a member of the Young Communist League. After receiving a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University in 1945, she became the Rome correspondent of "a fly-by-night American news agency." When it folded, she joined The Reporter, which she wrote for until it ceased publication in 1968. Sterling began writing her first book after losing her job at The Reporter; it was published in 1969. She also wrote for various newspapers and magazines, including The New York Times, Washington Post and Reader's Digest.
She married Thomas Sterling, a novelist, in 1951. After spending their honeymoon in Italy the two moved there, living in Rome for several decades. They had two children. She died of cancer at age 75, in a hospital in Arezzo.
Work as an author
Sterling's first book revisited the 1948 death of Jan Masaryk, the Czechoslovak foreign minister, which she blamed on Soviet or Czechoslovak Stalinists. More controversial were her books The Terror Network (1981) and The Time of the Assassins (1984). In the former book, which was translated into 22 languages, she claimed that Soviet Union was a major source of backing behind terrorist groupings around the world. The book was read and appreciated by Alexander Haig and William Casey, but its arguments were dismissed by the CIA's Soviet analysts.
Sterling was the first to claim (in a September 1982 article in Reader's Digest) that the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John II had been ordered by the Bulgarian Secret Service, a theory that became known as the "Bulgarian Connection" but that has also been, in detail, refuted and attributed to bias by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent. The Time of the Assassins dealt with the assassination attempt and advanced this now-discredited theory. Her last two books dealt with the Sicilian Mafia and post-Communist globalized organized crime, respectively.
- Our Goal Was Palestine (1946) (a 20-page pamphlet, published under her maiden name)
- The Masaryk Case (1969)
- The Terror Network (1981)
- The Time of the Assassins (1984)
- Octopus: The Long Reach of the International Sicilian Mafia (1990)
- Thieves' World: The Threat of the New Global Network of Organized Crime (1994) (published in the UK as Crime Without Frontiers)
- Eric Pace (1995-06-18). "Claire Sterling, 76, Dies". The New York Times.
- Bird, Kai; Holland, Max (1985-08-01). "Claire Sterling and the C.I.A.". The Nation.
- Seliktar, Ofira. Politics, Paradigms, and Intelligence Failures. M.E. Sharpe. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-7656-1464-3.
- "The Politics of Fear". Washington Post. 1981-04-11.
- Wolfgang Achtner (1995-06-26). "Obituary: Claire Sterling". The Independent.
- Robert D. Kaplan (1993). Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. Pan Macmillan. pp. 208–. ISBN 978-0-312-42493-0.
- Raymond Garthoff (26 July 2000). The Great Transition: American-Soviet Relations and the End of the Cold War. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 92–. ISBN 978-0-8157-9144-7.
- Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam (2011-07-06). Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307801623.
- Kakutani, Michiko (1983-12-30). "Books Of The Times". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
- Williams, Michael (1946-01-01). Commonweal. Commonweal Publishing Corporation.
- Naylor, R. T. (2004-01-01). Wages of Crime: Black Markets, Illegal Finance, and the Underworld Economy. Cornell University Press. ISBN 0801489601.
- Bart Barnes (1995-06-18). "Claire Sterling, Investigative Writer, Dies". Washington Post.
- A film clip "The Open Mind - "The Terror Network" (1981)" is available at the Internet Archive
- A film clip "The Open Mind - An Update on "The Terror Network" (1982)" is available at the Internet Archive
- Claire Sterling papers at the Hoover Institution Archives