The death of Charles Hostler, a longtime contributor to the financial wellbeing of San Diego State University, has been marked by tributes at the highest levels there.
“Charles Hostler was a visionary and a true American hero,” said SDSU president Elliot Hirshman in a statement regarding Hostler’s recent passing at the age of 94. “His passion for international affairs and international collaboration left an indelible mark on our campus’ academic and co-curricular programs."
"As a young boy, he attended boarding school in England and learned to speak French fluently — a talent that would prove invaluable during his service in the Army Air Corps, attached to the Office of Strategic Service, precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency."
Later in Romania, according to a 2004 news release from the Eisenhower Foundation, Hostler "began smuggling 'democratic sympathizers' out of the country in bags of mail."
"Five people were taken out of the country each week, and over the course of the operation, 50 Romanians were shipped to Vienna."
CIA records of the post–World War II period chronicle Hostler's James Bond–style relationship with a certain Tamara Stefanescu, described in a once-classified agency document as "an early Soviet recruit."
"She was one of Prime Minister Groza's girls," says an August 8, 1949, memorandum to the agency's assistant director of operations marked "Secret & Personal."
"I presumed that she was planted on Charles Hostler.
“(Comment: Formerly X-2 and SSU chief of station in Bucharest.)"
"At any rate he took her as a mistress shortly after his arrival in Bucharest in spite of the fact that she was listed in my records as an agent. I gave this information to Klassen who wrote her name on a scrap of paper and placed it on his desk where Hostler, who was back on [temporary duty], could see it.
"Klassen told me later that Hostler took the bait, became somewhat stormy and demanded to know the source. What happened after that I do not know except that Hostler dropped her."
Writes Pulitzer prize winner Tim Weiner in his Legacy of Ashes, the History of the CIA: "Hostler spent the closing months of the war on an interim assignment in Italy, working at a 1,200-room royal palace outside Naples, helping James J. Angleton of the OSS in 'strengthening his control over the various Italian intelligence and security networks."
After the Eisenhower years of the 1950s, Hostler retired from the Air Force as a colonel in 1963 and became an executive for missile maker McDonnell Douglas. President Richard Nixon made him a deputy assistant secretary for international commerce and director of the Bureau of International Commerce, according to the SDSU release. He arrived in San Diego 1977 and went into the real estate business.
In 1989 the first President Bush named Hostler ambassador to Bahrain. The tribute on SDSU’s website says the appointment was made in “recognition of his OSS and CIA experience in the Middle East,” though other factors may also have come into play.
According to a Los Angeles Times report in January 1989, Hostler had been a member of "Team 100," a group of high-dollar contributors that had given at least $100,000 each to Bush's 1988 election campaign.
"Hostler, a private investor and international business consultant, said he made his $100,000 donation to the party 'because I felt it was important that George Bush and Republican candidates receive adequate support,'" the paper reported.
"'I've been a consistent donor of varying amounts over the years, but this is the biggest amount,' said Hostler, a retired Air Force colonel who has lived nearly half his life abroad and is fluent in four languages.
"Although Hostler said he has no strong yearning to return to Washington, he added: 'I have the highest respect for both George Bush and Jim Baker. If Jim Baker consults me, or, if there would be an offer, I'd be happy to consider it. I guess I'll take it as it comes.'"
J. Neal Blue, chairman and chief executive officer of General Atomics, which makes Predator drones, was also a member of the well-heeled Bush backers.
In December 1991, Hostler was identified by NBC News as a figure in a federal investigation into the controversial Bank of Credit and Commerce International, with ties to Bahrain's ruling family.
The same month the Boston Globe reported that in 1983 Hostler had been a real estate agent for Mohammad Hammoud, a Lebanese businessman who the paper said was an alleged front for the bank's dealings in the U.S.
Another account said that Hostler had met Hammoud while Hostler was an Air Force officer working out of Beirut, and that Hammoud's wife had taught Hostler Arabic.
The SDSU news release adds that Hostler "met Chinyeh Rose, a Taiwanese native and San Diego State University alumna, who became his adviser and traveling companion."
Hostler, who died September 28, is to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.