Saturday, July 4, 2020


On Retainer to the Prince of Monaco

June 2003, London

Once CIA signed on, SIS—which considers itself CIA’s gatekeeper to Europe—strengthened its own ties with our fledgling service, not least because SIS identified another issue (beside oil embargo-busting) that overlapped with Monaco, namely, a retail tycoon whose wife had established residency in Monaco to exile the family money from UK taxes.  

SIS suspected this individual, along with six other Monaco-based Brits, of insider trading and manipulating the UK stock market.  

So SIS requested that we assist them and I agreed to broach this with the Prince for authorization, as their target was the Prince’s sometime tennis partner.  

The Prince, without hesitation, authorized me to add this rather grotesque individual  to my target list and commence an investigation, both to assist SIS and to determine if the Prince should thereafter keep this generally obnoxious cretin at arm’s length.

The next step was for the Prince and me to meet in London with CIA and SIS (separately) during the Prince’s private visit to the British capital on June 17th and 18th—one full year since the Prince commissioned me to create his own intelligence service.

In a memo to the Prince, I wrote:  

The purpose of these meetings is to develop a high level of trust and cooperation between the US/UK and the Prince personally.  In practical terms, this means that we may call upon the tremendous resources of CIA/SIS to assist us with our ongoing enquiries.  Conversely, CIA/SIS may call upon us to discreetly assist with their own operational concerns in Monaco, an overlapping of mutual interests.  Best of all, these meetings convey the Prince’s good faith for wishing to keep Monaco clean of money laundering and organized crime activity.

The Prince landed at Luton Airport late in the afternoon and jumped into action the moment he arrived at the London Hilton Hotel, where we met up.

First, a short drive  up Park Lane to the Marriott Park Hotel where two very large men from CIA awaited us in their Marble Arch Suite. 

One of the two was European Division Chief Tyler Drumheller, who we had met four months earlier in Washington, D.C.

The other intelligence officer: Paris Station Chief Bill Murray (not the actor, too bad, would have made for a much higher L.Q.). 

CIA had decided that all contact with our service would be channeled through Paris.

CIA’s initial playbook was basic, if doomed to failure:  

Cut out the middleman and deal directly with the Prince.

This was not unexpected but in fact standard operating procedure, as our "chairman emeritus" Clair George predicted and then cautioned:  

If you’re the middleman, watch for the cut.

London, June, 2003

We were ready and watching.

The Prince and I had our own plan:  

I would coordinate all intelligence/contact with CIA, and I would manage and monitor all contact with any intelligence service.  

I could thereby ensure that no service took advantage of their liaison partnership with us.

As stated in my memo to the Prince:  

It is my role to manage these relationships; not only for maximum effectiveness, but also to ensure the Prince’s best interests are served.  As such, I become a liaison between parties—understood by all—with loyalty to my client, the Prince.

Our dynamic duo from CIA wrote it up their own (self-indulgent) way, I soon learned.  

They fancifully mischaracterized our meetings in Washington and London as their recruitment of Prince Albert. 

"The crowning moment of my career," Tyler Drumheller was heard to crow around the corridors of Langley. 

(I know this because, by now, I had sterling sources everywhere.)

To my mind, and Albert's, our relationship with CIA was purely liaison-plus, which is to say, a special liaison partnership with no strings attached. 

Certainly, this was not a recruitment of the Prince, so much for ye truth setting anyone free (CIA's motto).

We would soon ensure that Congressional Intelligence Oversight (including House Committee Chairman and soon-to-be CIA Director Porter Goss) fully understood the true nature of the Prince Albert/Monaco-CIA relationship.

CIA, said the Paris Station Chief, had already notified the French internal security service (then, the DST) of their contact with the Prince; the French, he told us, had no objection to this arrangement. (France is pledged, by treaty, to defend Monaco, and they use it as an "offshore" haven for their own purposes.)

(I never asked the French intelligence services for permission to be Prince Albert's spymaster, though I would eventually seek their assistance, and receive it.)

In fact, Murray added, the French had been unusually cooperative of late, arresting terrorists and confiscating their money.

The focus of our relationship with CIA, its division and station chiefs determined, would be counter-terrorism, which was the only game being played by Western intelligence services in the years following 9/11, to the detriment of all else.

Friday, July 3, 2020


Neil Young's new old album

Another brief break, this holiday, to celebrate America's birthday, along with the First Amendment, while we still have it.

On Independence Day, I make no apologies for being a white male; no apologies for “white privilege.”

No apologies, either, for being straight.

And no apologies for being into the third-third of my life.

I make no apologies for saying the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school. 

I hope my grandsons are pledging at their public school, but this being California, it may be outlawed by now—or will be soon. 

No apologies for saying Merry Christmas. 

What it means to me is, Happy Holidays, whatever you celebrate, I’m sticking with Christmas. 

I’m not angry about anything.

I have not hated, still don’t. 

Bait me if you want with words like cracker or snowflake, won’t work; won’t hate you, don’t actually care to. Sticks and stones.

Yes, I am white, male, straight, and of senior age. 

But I arrived here from the same kind of persecution those of a darker skin suffered.  My ancestors on both sides suffered bigotry and worse.  They were victimized by attempted genocide and the Holocaust.

Armenian lives matter.

Jewish lives matter.

Black lives, white lives, brown lives, and the lives of police officers. They all matter.

My grandparents came to America for a better life and found one.

They came here.  

To America. 

It wasn't easy for them. But they worked hard and eventually prospered.

And now popular culture fantasizes that I get down on my knee and apologize?

No, thank you.

That’s just the kind of thing that incited my grandparents to say, "Good riddance, hometown, we're outta here, movin' someplace better."

No, I don’t apologize for being white and straight.

I don’t kneel or “take a knee” to anyone.

Best I can offer is Neil Young.


Now, back to intrigue & lunacy (especially the latter) with a true & telling tale about cheese:

Washington, D.C. Autumn 1993

The guys at National Press Books wanted to get moving on their Edward Lee Howard book.

I, conversely, was bent on slowing all movement until the FBI could get a grip.

Joseph and Sultan called a meeting at their office.

"So what's happening?" asked Joseph.  "Are you in or what?"

"Still thinking about it," I said. 

"We want to publish this book next spring," said Sultan.  "We need to know immediately if we're going ahead."

"Do you really think Howard will write a book in time for spring publication?"

"He's already written a hundred pages," snapped Joseph.

"Huh?"  The manuscript referred to by John H had apparently surfaced.  "Have you seen it?"

"Sure," said Joseph.  "We've got it here in the office.  It's good."

Time to change gears.  "Another thing that concerns me," I said, "is the legality of publishing Howard's secrets."

"We'd never publish anything we know to be classified," said Joseph without hesitation.  "It's a felony.  The CIA will hate this book.  We don't want to give them a reason to jump all over us."

"What will Howard say about that?" I asked.

"We won't even bring it up," replied Sultan.  "Ultimately, we control the editorial content of the book."

"May I see Howard's material?"

"Sure," said Joseph. 

Sultan left the room and returned with a sheaf of manuscript.

I thumbed through it: neat, polished prose. In other words, nothing like John H's description.

"We've got to know whether or not you're in," said Sultan.  "By tomorrow.  Take the material, read it, let us know."

Back home, I touch-keyed John H’s direct line.  "I'm under pressure to make a decision," I said.  "They're convinced they can publish in the spring because they received a hundred pages of manuscript."

"Did you get a copy?"

"Of course."

"Will you mail it to me?"

"I’ve already posted it."

"I'll phone Headquarters," said John H. 

Next morning he phoned me back.  "This is the situation:  There's a Big Cheese who needs to make the final decision.  But he's out all this week.  So no decision till the Big Cheese returns on Monday.  But," John H added, "it's at the top of his pile.  You've got a lot of people behind you at Headquarters who want to do this."

I played for time with National Press.

John H phoned me the following Tuesday.  "There's been a non-decision," he said.

"A what?"

"The Big Cheese saw the memo this morning.  It's going higher than the Big Cheese."

"Bigger cheeses?"

"Our people are putting a lot of pressure on the people dealing with the super-superiors," he continued.  "They promise a decision tomorrow."

Next day, no word from John H till late in the afternoon.  Then:  "I still don't have an answer.  It has to go to the Biggest Cheese." 

"Jeez," I said, "I thought it already reached that cheese?"

"No, things don't move that fast around here.  We work in a Unit, which works for a Section, which works for a Department... we're lucky it's gone up the ladder as quickly as it has."

Lucky?  I was beginning to think bad luck had gotten me into this fromagerie.

Quickly?  Bad guys may have less to worry about than they think. 

"So when will it reach the Biggest Cheese?" I asked.


Which is exactly what I'd been telling National Press for five days straight:  Tomorrow.  I felt like the bologna between two pieces of stale rye.

"It had to get everybody's initials on it," said John H.  "And that's done.  This is a reputation-maker.  But now the Biggest Cheese has to decide.  He's the one who will have to face the cameras if things go wrong." 

Bottom line:  The Division Chief, the Assistant Director for National Security, the Deputy Director—none of them had the cojones to take the buck.

National Press, although going up a wall, issued me a deadline five days hence.  After what I'd been going through on a daily basis, it felt like a vacation.

John H’s word:  "The Biggest Cheese has a few questions."

"Will it have to go beyond him?" I asked.

"No.  Now it's coming back down again, to get his questions answered.”

“What kind of questions?”

“Like, should we really be doing this kind of thing," he said.

Should we really be doing this kind of thing?  

You mean, instead of the equal opportunity meetings we do so well?

If they, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had to ask, should we really be doing this kind of thing, I'd have to ask myself, should I really be doing this kind of thing.  

After all, it wasn't my job to enforce the laws of the United States and catch spies.

I related this conversation to Clair George.

"Should we really be doing this kind of thing?" he echoed, incredulous. "Sounds like the Clinton Administration, all right.  It's over," he added.

Two days after National's deadline, John H phoned.  "Good news," he said.  "It looks like we're in business.  The confusion was sorted out and everybody agrees we should do this.  There's just one more meeting tomorrow."


"Let's say you get a go-ahead," I said.  "At what level will this be managed?"

"I'll be the guy who deals with you," said John H.

"So what happens," I said, "if we're into this and we have to move on something?  Are we going to have to wait three weeks for the Big Cheese Family to approve something?"

"Well, at some stage it may involve the State Department."


John H phoned late afternoon the next day.  "The meeting that was supposed to take place today is going to take place tomorrow."

It wasn't funny any more; the L.Q. was way low on the yuk-o-meter.

Next day, Joseph and Sultan phoned, an onslaught of huffiness.

I phoned John H.  "Any word?"

"It's very discouraging," he said. 

"National Press just gave me a final deadline," I said.  "Four p.m. today."

"That's fine by me," said a dispirited John H.  "I'll call Headquarters and tell them if they don't have a yay or nay by four p.m. they no longer have to worry about making a yay."

Two p.m.  Nothing from John H.

Three p.m.  Still nothing.

At one minute to four my cell phone whistled.           

"I guess it's over," said John H.  "The latest is, they have to show it to the number two man under [U.S. Attorney General] Janet Reno.  Probably..."

"Don't say it..."

"Tomorrow," said John H.

Louis Freeh
"The Biggest Cheese"
No buck, he

Turns out, the Biggest Cheese, presumably FBI Director Louis Freeh, didn't want the buck either.

"I told them it didn't matter any more," added John H.

Clair George had called it right.

I faxed National Press a letter bowing out of their Ed Howard book.

Eight days later, an unexpected call from Alan Sultan.  "Any news your end?" he asked.

"Jeez," I said, "after my waffling the last few weeks, I didn't think you guys would even want to talk to me again."

"Nah, we're not like that," said Sultan.  "We're doing the book anyway.  If you want to participate, we're still interested.  It's perfect for you.  We've got a cover designed.  You want to see it?"

A minute later, the book cover mock-up arrived by fax.

Fate would not loosen its grip.

I phoned Clair.  "Dammit," I said, "I could get this guy.”

“I know you could,” he said.  “I’ll make a call.”

(A few days earlier, Clair filled me in on what had transpired at the highest level.  The FBI Director was gung-ho about my proposal but the Deputy Attorney General had given it to seven lawyers to study.)

Clair phoned me later that day:  "I talked to a guy named Tom Twetten" (then DDO, spymaster) "and Tom called the number two guy at the FBI to tell him CIA is strongly in favor of this operation."

Two days later Clair called me with an update:  "I just got a call from Ted Price, the DDO's deputy.  He wanted to get to the bottom of this.  So I filled him in, told him all about the bureaucratic foot-dragging.  He said, 'Jesus Christ, this is one of the most important things we could be doing!'  He's charging over to the Bureau this morning to raise a ruckus and try to get it back on track."

Very soon after, I received another call, this one from John H in Albuquerque.  "If you're still interested, it looks like we're getting somewhere," he said, a tad puzzled by such progress.  "I've been called to Washington.  And I have the power to get you started."

And that's how (thanks to Clair George) it became my job, on behalf of FBI foreign counterintelligence, to create a sting that would attempt to ensnare America's most wanted spy. 

Once John H reached town, we agreed an hourly fee for my service.  He issued me a codename, and we created an additional alias specifically for communication purposes.  

Only a handful of officials inside the Bureau with a need-to-know would be aware of my true identity.