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Veteran Calgary journalist Arthur Kent probes US ambassador’s 1979 kidnapping, death in new podcast

When veteran Calgary journalist Arthur Kent first travelled to Afghanistan four decades ago, a year had already passed from the time US ambassador Adolph “Spike” Dubs was kidnapped in Kabul and killed.

A cloud has hung over the death – this past Valentine’s Day marked the 40-year anniversary – and those covering the looming Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the time said questions surrounding the death still go unanswered today.

Investigation into Spike Dubs’ death is the premise of Kent’s newest project, Who Murdered Spike Dubs?, a serialized podcast that will track interviews, documented evidence and eyewitness accounts of the moments before, during and after the Feb. 14, 1979 incident.

“It’s always been a bit of a haunting story to any of us who were concerned with covering various stages of the Afghan war; and to understand the Soviet invasion and occupation, that first phase of the war, you had to understand what happened to Spike Dubs and the fact that there were even fewer answers then than we’re getting now added to the mystery,” Kent said.

Kent, an award-winning broadcast journalist, who began his career back in 1975 and worked at NBC, the CBC, the BBC, the Observer and Maclean’s, among others, came across a cable two years ago that he says dated back to the days shortly after Spike Dubs was killed. That cable ID’d some of the US foreign service officers who’d been at the Hotel Kabul that night and were trying to help.

One in particular, Mike Malinowski, was someone Kent knew from later in his career, but not during his own time in Afghanistan. So, he reconnected with him.

Then, he met Dubs’ daughter, Lindsay Dubs McLaughlin.

“That really sealed it,” Kent said.

“It became apparent this was a very human story. Back in the days that it happened, you heard news reports of a US ambassador kidnapped and killed. It didn’t really go much further than that.”

Still based in Calgary, Kent is doggedly pursuing more answers in this decades-old whodunit. And while the story still sticks with him to this day, he views the changing media landscape as an opportunity for this story and others to be told to a worldwide audience.

He said radio documentaries were one of his first loves and with the advent of streaming services in the media realm, he thought it would be great to deliver an old story in a re-invented medium – and bring Spike Dubs back to the forefront.

“It’s no exaggeration to say, it certainly makes me feel young again,” said Kent, now 65.

“I’m working with young people and I’m working in an environment where young people are articulating themselves as no young generation has been able to do before.

“All I would say is that those of us who were there for events four or five decades ago, who are eager to film, record, podcast, we have something to say, too. There’s a good deal of relevance today.”

Kent expects, similar to other investigative, serialized podcasts, that new information will come forward as they continue to broadcast and investigate – especially as the podcast becomes more widespread.

He also believes now, when the people who were a part of these events are still alive, it’s time to capture their stories so they can be documented as a part of an accurate world history.

“I’m really mindful, having witnessed key events of the Cold War, that the participants, the people driving those events at the time. Many of them are still alive and this is very definitely the time to get to them and get their stories recorded on these new digital recording platforms.”

The first episode is already out, and Kent expects the second one shortly. He anticipates a new one every two weeks.

The story’s already taken him to California, Washington D.C., he still maintains contacts in Afghanistan and has associates working in Moscow.

“We’re going to go where we need to go to find the answers,” Kent said.

MORE: Kent penned a piece for CNN that outlines the story of Spike Dubs’ kidnapping and death