Former CIA official to offer ‘Inside Story’ at Dickens

‘Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.’

— Albus Dumbledore, in ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,’ by J. K. Rowling

Starting Thursday, Sept. 21, the magic of words — in the form of a brand new lectures series — will take center stage at the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville.

The first speaker in the series will be John E. McLaughlin, former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency and currently a lecturer at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). McLaughlin is also an international affairs analyst for MSNBC.

McLaughlin’s talk will be titled “Five National Security Issues to Watch.” Drawing on his 30-year intelligence career, during which he served in nearly every part of the world, as well as his service in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, his remarks will touch on international terrorism and other topics of interest.

During his CIA service, McLaughlin supervised work on intelligence analysis, clandestine operations and technology. He has received numerous awards, including the National Security Medal, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

McLaughlin has frequently briefed the president and the Congress, represented the intelligence community in meetings of the National Security Council, and worked throughout the world in efforts to strengthen U.S. relations with national security counterparts in numerous countries.

In early 2010, Mr. McLaughlin led, at the request of the director of National Intelligence, a study of the failed terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines flight at Christmas in 2009 and developed a series of recommendations for improving intelligence collection and analysis on terrorist plans. He also chairs the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation, which supports CIA families who have lost a parent in the line of duty.

In addition to all of that, Dickens owner Richard Bloch said, McLaughlin should feel at home at the Millville theater, as he is also “very accomplished magician” whose code name in the intelligence community was “Merlin.”

The larger series will include eight other speakers and will generally be held on the third Thursday of each month, Bloch said. Other planned speakers include Piper Laurie, three-time Academy Award nominated actress; and Ralph Begleiter, former CNN newsman and University of Delaware professor. Topics addressed by the speakers will range from memory loss to Irish music, Bloch said.

Each appearance will include a 40- to 50-minute lecture, followed by a “meet-and-greet” with the speaker in the parlor at the Dickens venue.

“The Inside Story” is the theme for the series, which Bloch said sums up the intent for the program: to offer an insider’s look at a variety of topics. Bloch added that he is grateful to the Coastal Point for its sponsorship of the program.

Coastal Point publisher Susan Lyons said, “The Coastal Point is proud to be a sponsor of ‘The Inside Story’ hosted by Dickens Parlour Theatre. Rich Bloch has put together diverse speakers for this new series, with exceptional backgrounds, to expand our knowledge and to improve our critical-thinking skills.”

The Sept. 21 lecture will begin at 7 p.m. The lectures are free and open to the public. Reservations are necessary, however, since seating is limited. For more information or to make reservations, call the box office at the Dickens Parlour Theatre at (302) 829-1071 or go to the theater’s website at The theater is located at 35715 Atlantic Avenue, Millville.