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What was the primary source of intelligence for the idea that another Tehran-like hostage incident was under way? Concerned parents and the telephone game. Students at St. George's University Medical School phoned home with news of the fighting in the streets, and their worried parents in turn called the State Department. At least one politically connected family contacted Secretary of State George Schultz directly. Passing through the hands of Maj. Oliver North, Adm. John Poindexter, and National Security Adviser Robert MacFarlane before eventually reaching President Reagan, the threat of students being taken hostage took on a life of its own.


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The students were probably more in danger of flunking their midterms. The Grenadian government denied any hostage-taking intentions and dispatched police to protect the students during the coup. Since the medical school was Grenada's primary source of steady foreign income, the government had no real motivation to take its students hostage. British intelligence categorically rejected the possibility.

The further failures of intelligence in Grenada would be comical were it not for the 23 U.S. combat deaths and the hundreds of Cuban and Grenadians who were killed. The CIA had no agents on the island, and the U.S. Army was reduced to using tourist maps. Detailed intelligence on Cuban and Grenadian troop deployments from the government of Barbados was forwarded to Washington, filed, and forgotten. The National Military Intelligence Center reported the medical students were all on one campus, when they were scattered at multiple locations. Consulting the medical school's catalog would have corrected this erroneous assumption; and while the phone lines continued to operate for the duration of the three-day invasion, no one in Washington thought to call the students (or any other Grenadian phone number) to find out what was happening.