Translate

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

RULE # 2






Nothing is more cutthroat than a royal court.


Through the ages, worldwide, courtiers and relatives of a sovereign king or prince have regularly murdered one another for closer access to him or her—or to become Sovereign.

The Principality of Monaco is one of the last absolute monarchies in the world—and today it thus provides the best example of Machiavellian backstabbing within a royal court.

Royal relatives, courtiers, government ministers, subjects, ambassadors, and residents of the principality alike play an endless game of who can attain the brownest nose, by ingratiating themselves with the prince through flattery, compliments, and gifts.

Everyone wants the ear of the Sovereign, whether it is for social prestige or financial gain, or both.  They want to be his best friend and/or chief adviser; their seating positions at social events involving the Sovereign attest to others their importance, or lack thereof.

Murder and mayhem has given way, in modern times, to vendetta and character assassination.

Courtiers content with the status quo conspire to quash the newcomer possessing honorable intentions, and intent on cleaning up graft and corruption.

Such was the case, in Monaco, of Prince Albert II’s first chief-of-staff following the prince’s enthronement.

With the assistance of the prince’s spymaster, the new chief-of-staff attempted to implement, at the prince’s direction, a new code of ethics for his principality.

Corrupt courtiers and government ministers were mortified by the advent of such proposed change, and, fearing the worst for their positions, conspired to oust the chief-of staff from his perch inside the palace.

The metaphorical knives were plunged, the chief-of-staff, exiled—with the prince’s spymaster to follow.

The prince then perpetuated the pretense of an ethical code while he himself accepted inappropriate gifts, applauded by corrupt courtiers that had the most to gain from their organized crimes.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

RULE # 1






Don’t stiff your spymaster, he probably knows too much.


By the very definition of his job, a spymaster knows secrets.  He knows the deepest secrets of the leader of the country for whom he works, as well as knowing the secrets he and his operatives have uncovered at the request of said leader; secrets that would be embarrassing, on both levels, if ever revealed.

So why screw your spymaster?  

Why cast him out without explanation and final payment?  

It makes no sense.

But sometimes leaders make no sense.  Especially when they are surrounded by corrupt courtiers.

Such was the case with Prince Albert II of Monaco, who employed a spymaster for five-and-a-half years.

The inept prince, who followed a corrupt path instead of the ethical path he had promised his subjects and the world, would not bring his spymaster’s account current, despite legal notice, which the prince chose to ignore.

This resulted in a lawsuit filed in a U.S. court.

Leaders of foreign countries deal with lawsuits filed against them in U.S. courts by hiding behind “sovereign immunity.”

But lawsuits attract publicity. 

A prominent British Sunday newspaper reported the spymaster’s lawsuit.  Soon, an avalanche of bad publicity fell upon the prince and his principality.

The prince’s lawyer finally responded, with prevarication, saying that the spymaster’s intelligence service had never existed.

This, of course, was a lie.

To prove the veracity of his claim, the spymaster created a blog and revealed, globally, the full story of his service to Prince Albert.  It naturally included very many secrets.

Consequently, the prince was proven to be a liar, as well as corrupt and inept. 

And though he continues to be a prince, his subjects—and many others around the globe—laugh at him behind his back.


Friday, December 19, 2014

44. MONACO






Early in 2002, I decided I wasn’t ready to retire from the spy biz.  I could no longer operate undercover.  However, I had enough expertise to teach and run others.  

And, after 9/11, I felt motivated to do something.

What I did was move to London—and, from there, launch to Monaco to see Prince Albert.
           
Almost two years had passed since providing the Prince with the report he authorized on Russians in Monaco, which I’d hand-delivered to him at The Mark Hotel in New York City in September 2000.

Over drinks in the bar at Hotel Columbus, the Prince retained me to be his intelligence adviser.  He concurred that I should endeavor to open channels of communication between myself, on his behalf, and both CIA and SIS.

I flew to Washington, D.C. to get started and, over martinis in the Chevy Chase Club, took great pleasure recruiting Clair George to be chairman emeritus of the special service I would create.   (That evening, dining in the club’s Maryland Room, Clair introduced me to William Webster, former FBI and CIA director, while Al Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, dined nearby.)

Clair’s guidance during the next five-and-a-half years, as my retainer grew into the Monaco Intelligence Service, was priceless.  He guided me through many a minefield.

The interesting thing about Clair was that he never came out with a whole lot of expert advice at once.  He delivered it sparingly, and only when the occasion demanded.

For instance, after I had a bad experience with a Monaco would-be informant, Clair said, “Beware of sociopaths in the intelligence business.  They're everywhere, and you'd never know them at a cocktail party.  These are the kind we'd always watch out for in CIA.  They'll sell their services to four different adversaries.  You can’t hire people just off the street.”

On another occasion:  “It’s not today’s problem—look at it tomorrow with fresh eyes.”

And this:  “Never take it personally—it’s business.”

When, over dinner at the Chevy Chase Club, I told Clair that CIA Director Porter Goss had decreed that the protection of Prince Albert and Monaco be a doctrine at the agency, he shook his head, amazed, and said quietly, “Al will never truly understand the magnitude of what you’ve done for him.”

Clair added:  “Every European intelligence service has put a question mark on your name.”  

His advice:  “Keep the mystery spinning.”

“You kidding?” I replied.  “The less mysterious I try to appear, the more mysterious I seem to others!”

A few days before his 75th birthday, I took Clair to lunch at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown.  He ordered a bacon-cheeseburger (“Don’t tell Mary”) and I gave him a card (along with a bottle of Lagavulin single malt scotch whiskey) that read:  It’s your birthday… and nobody gives a rat’s ass!  

He howled with laughter.   

I excitedly told Clair about a new intelligence principle I’d learned with reference to liaison partnerships called the Third Party Rule.  Essentially, it means you don’t share any secret you’ve learned from one intelligence service with another intelligence service.

Clair took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and looked at me with amusement.  “In this business,” he said, “there are no rules.”

Even though he had become legally blind from macular degeneration and was frequently attacked by his own gall bladder, Clair was always stoic, and even humorous, about the challenges of older age.  “A year without lawyers and doctors,” he told me, “is one f------ good year.”

Over dinner at Citronelle in Georgetown, after the infighting had begun in Monaco, Clair had only one question:  “How are you with Al?”

“Good,” I replied.

“That’s all that matters.  Bill Casey used to say, ‘I have only one friend in Washington—but it’s the President.’”

We would mostly laugh, and when things took a bad twist or turn in Monaco, Clair would say, “Remember, it will all be over one day, so you might as well enjoy it.”

Another Clairism:  “Remember, the proof is not in the pudding, it’s in the tasting of the pudding.”

When I revealed the depth of corruption I had uncovered among Monaco’s government ministers, Clair voiced a prediction.  “You’re messing with their rice bowls,” he said.  “This is how it will happen:  A group will go to Albert and demand, ‘Get rid of Robert.’”

Often, like when I was having a secretive dinner, say, on the Ile St. Louis in Paris, or in the midst of cutthroat palace intrigue in Monaco, I would answer my cell phone and hear Clair’s signature greeting:  “Where are you and what are you doing?”

Toward the end of my service to the Prince of Monaco, when Clair’s prophecy was becoming reality, I responded to Clair’s query thus:  “Everything is going according to plan.  Unfortunately, it is someone else’s plan.”

He roared with laughter.  Whatever the situation, L.Q. (laugh quotient) remained a priority.  When we stopped laughing, he said, quietly, “Five years is long enough to be an intelligence chief.”

Soon after, we lunched at CafĂ© Milano in Georgetown.  I gave him a check, his semi-annual stipend.

“What can I do?” he asked, grateful for the extra cash.

“I think we need to overthrow Al,” I said, tongue-in-cheek.  “Can your old hands handle that?”

Clair thought a moment.  “That’ll get you fired,” he said.

“And, by the way,” I added.  “Xanax [which Clair recommended to me years earlier for jet lag] is destroying my memory.”

“Oh yeah,” said Clair.  “I forgot to tell you that.”

A crowning moment of glory for me arrived four years into my Monaco mission when, on May 23rd, 2006, USA Today published a story I engineered myself, headlining:  Monaco Steers Clear of Once-Shifty Image—Beefed-up Intelligence Operation Monitors Comings, Goings.

I phoned Clair’s house to remind him to pick up USA Today.

Mary, his wife, answered—they had already seen the story.  “Clair is so proud of you,” she said.

It meant the world to me.

And reminded me of something Mary had said about her husband over dinner during the early days of our partnership, when Iran-Contra simmered on a backburner: “I’m proud of Clair—I know what he has done for his country.”

Tragically, Mary lost her life, at a relatively young age, to MRSA, following a hospital visit.

Clair, the most stoic of the stoic, was devastated.

His eyesight worsened along with his health in general.  

But he continued to live life his way, with bacon-cheeseburgers and whiskey.

We meant to drive to Beaver Falls together.  He wanted to see it one last time and point out to me his old house and old school.  We never made it.

Clair became reclusive near the end.  His wife had managed their social lives, and without her, he simply gave up a social life, doting on his two daughters and three grandchildren.  

Unable to deal with stairs anymore, he moved to a nearby assisted-care apartment building, and sold the modest house he had owned and felt secure within for half-a-century.

Clair loved his family, and CIA.  And the Redskins.  

In the early hours of August 12th, 2011, nine days after his 81st birthday, my good friend and mentor Clair George died of a broken heart.

On the first rainy day—there are not many in Santa Barbara—I draped Clair’s Burberry raincoat around me, collar up around my neck.

It fit like a glove.



Thursday, December 18, 2014

43. TIME TO LAY LOW






On August 30th, 2001, Salon.com published a feature story about a lawsuit filed against The Circus.  All one had to do from that day forward was Google my name to discover my role as an undercover spy, and my partnership with a former top CIA official.

Fortunately, I had by then completed damage control and no operations were compromised.

Two months earlier, I relocated from Washington to Santa Barbara, California, where I planned to lay low.

I continued to talk with Clair three times a week, sometimes laughing our way though the legal-atrics in which we were compelled to engage—a case that would take eight years to resolve and prove to be a wonderful learning experience.

Walking down Coast Village Road in Montecito, I saw Jonathan Winters, the venerable comedian, walking toward me.  Knowing that Winters lived in Montecito, Clair had tongue-in-cheek tasked me with organizing lunch for the three of us.  Clair had reached the point in life where he did not care to meet new people, not least because, with macular degeneration, he could not see them well.  Winters—one of Clair’s favorite entertainers—was the sole exception.

Atop his square head, the madcap Winters wore a wide-brim cowhide hat and a fisherman’s vest that girdled his hefty paunch.

“Mister Winters?”

He stopped, squinted at me, like, do I know you?

“I just moved here from our nation’s capital,” I said.  “A good friend of mine there used to run the CIA.  The only ambition he has left is to have lunch with you one day.”

Winters narrowed his eyes into mine.  “CIA, you say?  Hmmm—they’re scary people.”

I pulled out my cell phone and tapped Clair’s number in Bethesda.

Clair answered.

“Hold on,” I said, before handing the phone to Jonathan.  “Here he is, Mister Winters.”

He accepted the phone and held it to his ear.  “So you used to run the CIA?  Oh, it was your twin brother?  Yep, I had one of those, too.  I don’t know if he was drunk or stupid, probably both.  Huh?  No, the only thing I have against gays is parades.  You’re in Washington, huh?”

They yakked like old friends for three minutes, until Winters said goodbye and handed me my phone.

“So,” I said to Winters.  “We’ll have lunch when my friend comes to town?”

“You’re on.”  He wrote out his phone number.

Further down the street, I reconnected to Clair.  “Enjoy yourself?”

“Yeah.  Who was that guy?”

“What do you mean who was that guy?  That was Jonathan Winters!”

“What?”

“He’s ready to have lunch with you.  If I bump into John Cleese, we’ll make it a foursome.

That was Jonathan Winters?”

“Of course, who’d you think?”

“I don’t know.  He was vey funny.  I thought it was some old CIA guy you dug up.  Jonathan Winters?  How did you meet him?”

“On the street.”

“On the street?”  For a guy who once ran CIA, Clair was not with it this day—probably because Washington was hotter than an extra small girdle on the circus fat lady.

“Yeah, he was walking down the street. I introduced myself, called you, and handed him the phone.”

“I can’t believe it,” said Clair.  “I just talked to Jonathan Winters on the phone?  You just made my day—no, my year!”

“Was he funny?”

“Funny?  He was hilarious!”

“What else is happening in DC?”

“It’s one of those days when you draw all the curtains, turn out the lights and run air conditioning to the max.  How about there?”

“Sunny, seventy-three, an ocean breeze.”

“Are you ashamed of yourself yet?”


The film Spy Game came out and I called Clair to tell him about it as we often exchanged notes on new movies.  

“Our friend, Jack [a former CIA operations officer], says it’s about you and me—but that Robert Redford and Brad Pitt are better looking.”

Clair laughed.  “He got that right.”



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

42. THE JEFFREY ARCHER BREAKFAST CLUB






Spying is awfully like a drug.  It is a great high while you’re doing it, traveling on a mission—or several missions entwined, which is how I operated, handling several clients at once, all sharing expenses.  But when you’re not, the comedown is a bitch.  One day, you’re mixing it up with Russians in a foreign capital, a total adrenalin focus, puffing on Cuban cigars, sipping vintage Armagnac, watching for watchers.  Next day, you’re home.  The six year-old needs a bath, the teen, counseling, and the dog, a walk.

That’s why I was glad to be back on a jet flying toward London and the French Riviera for a new round of intrigue.

My novels about espionage had become almost prophetic: plots and characters transformed into reality.  

As for my report writing, I enjoyed the most exclusive readership in the world:  a limited circulation of government employees cleared to read my prose on a need-to-know basis.  As I understood it, my reports were much sought after for their entertainment value alone.

But nine years of espionage was not without some fallout.

A few months earlier, Clair and I had been named as defendants in a lawsuit against The Circus, to which I alluded much earlier in this memoir.  Media interest in the case suggested that my ability to operate undercover would soon come to an end. 

It was under such circumstances that the old spymaster joined me on this trip to Europe.  We had to see the countess—perhaps one of our last visits with her—and I had to wrap up a couple of undercover assignments before my exposure as “a spy and saboteur” reached the public eye.

While in London, we attended Jeffrey Archer’s Breakfast Club.

Archer, the best-selling novelist, was deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in 1984 when I helped him organize his first breakfast for a visiting U.S. political leader.

Our guest on that occasion: Jack Kemp, then a U.S. Congressman from New York with higher political aspirations.

Jeffrey managed to assemble almost all of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet to meet Kemp over scrambled eggs, kedgeree, and orange juice, champagne, and coffee in his penthouse apartment on the River Thames overlooking Westminster.

Through the 1980s and 1990s, this became Britain’s most exclusive breakfast club.

The downside:  It was cursed.

Kemp was unsuccessful and divisive as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the presidency of George Herbert Walker Bush; he did not attain his presidential or vice-presidential ambitions—and died of cancer at age 73.

Archer’s next guest was New Jersey Governor Thomas Kean.  Also perceived as a political high-flyer, Kean went nowhere after his governorship ended.

Third guest:  Former U.S. Senator from Texas, John Tower.  The U.S. Senate rejected Tower as George H. W. Bush’s choice for Defense Secretary.  Two years later, Tower died tragically in an airplane crash.

Fourth guest:  Carroll Cooper, Governor of South Carolina and thought to be presidential timbre.  But diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at the age of 61, Cooper was forced to abandon his campaign for gubernatorial reelection—and died from a heart attack four years later.

Jeffrey Archer himself:  Sentenced to four years imprisonment for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

Clair and I attended Archer’s breakfast for… Newt Gingrich.  

Newt introduced his then wife, Marianne, as “the love of my life.”  (From that point on, Newt, too, was cursed.)

Clair was delighted and amazed to meet the Tory party’s opposition ministers (if less enamored by Newt)—and much amused by how they introduced themselves.  “Hello, I’m Shadow Defense.”

When we returned home, I wrote up the experience as a mock news story.

On his first trip to London, House Speaker Newt Gingrich blamed the deficit on diabetics.  

“They go blind and have to have their feet amputated,” he said.  “It costs 23 percent of all Medicare. Once we stop these diabetics, we’ll have no further need for inheritance tax—and our social security ills will be resolved.”

Addressing shadows at a shadow power breakfast given by twice-disgraced Lord Archer, Mr. Gingrich said the only way to keep U.S. troops in Bosnia was to bamboozle the American public.  This was not difficult to do, he added, since the average American never thinks about Bosnia—or anything, for that matter, except “paying their bills, getting their kids to soccer practice, and deciding what movie to see over the weekend.”  

Continued Gingrich:  “If we rotate our troops from Hungary to Bosnia, no one will notice.”

Mr. Gingrich declared the importance of emphasizing value over efficiency, pointing out that the cell phone was invented in Chicago, not Tokyo—and he hailed the fax machine as the greatest invention of our time.

Clair howled with laughter.

In return for Jeffrey’s breakfast, Clair took me for lunch at DeCarlo’s with the legendary CIA director Richard Helms.

The reason Clair became legendary among CIA colleagues was partly because he went to Athens when no one else at the agency wanted the job and ran for cover.  Richard Welch had just been assassinated by a Greek terrorist organization and they needed a new station chief to fill the position.  

Only Clair was willing.  

The agency tried to sweeten the deal. For a start, they’d buy a new residence for the new station chief.  

Nothing doing, said Clair, I’ll live where Welch lived.  

Okay, then we’ll put up ten-foot high gates.  

Clair said, Nope.  

He refused to hide himself.  Instead, he enjoyed nightly cocktails on the residence’s front porch, in public view.  

Clair understood odds as well as any actuary and, like an actuary, he knew the odds favored him. 

When Clair served in Beirut, and civil war raged around him, he’d take his dog for a walk on the promenade—to the horror of his British counterpart.

There’s a downside to this story, concerning fate, that Clair lived with, and revealed to me:  

Soon after he became Deputy Director for Operations, a young female officer who had never been overseas pulled him aside after a meeting.  She was about to embark on a brief visit to Beirut, her first trip abroad, and it worried her.  

“Will I be okay, Mister George?” she asked.  

“Relax,” he assured her, his standard response.  He knew the odds were way on her side.  

She was among a number of CIA personnel killed when a suicide bomber crashed into Beirut’s U.S. Embassy and detonated a bomb.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

41. FEBRUARY 2000





One day before departure to Europe, I hand-delivered a report to the Washington station chief of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service.  The matter was extremely sensitive, and unconnected to the matter I was handling for them.

And so I flew into a London storm, dealt with the matter at hand, and carried on to Monaco.  

I had time only for a short walk before cabbing to the Palace for a 5 p.m. meeting with Prince Albert.  I sat in the austere anteroom—so quiet you could hear its clock tick—until summoned.

The Prince apologized for keeping me waiting.

“I know your schedule is unrelenting,” I said.  “As for me,” I deadpanned, “I’ve survived three assassination attempts between Washington and here.”

“Really?” The Prince’s eyes popped.

“Just kidding.”

“But it wouldn’t surprise me,” said the Prince.

“Not after what I discovered about that name you gave me…”

“Fedorichev?”

“Read this,” I said, producing a single sheet from my back pocket, the same way Clair would have done.  (Over time, I adopted his mannerisms.)

The Prince read, mouth agog. What he learned excluded this Russian from buying into Monaco’s football team.

“It seems to me,” I said, “that Fedorichev and the person I briefed you on in December are just a small part of what’s going on in Monaco.  There are others like them here, and more Russians waiting in the wings.  This may be Monaco’s greatest danger in the years ahead.  The Red Mafia.  The best posture will be preventive action.  Stop them from getting here.”

The Prince concurred.

I told him the next step, if he was interested, should be for me to provide him with an overview of how the Russian intelligence services and the Red Mafia perceived Monaco.

The Prince asked me to put a proposal in writing.









Back in London, I hosted two former KGB officers—part of my undercover assignment for the FBI.  

At the conclusion of their visit, they bestowed upon me membership in the retired KGB officers association.  


Monday, December 15, 2014

40. DECEMBER 1999






I set off to Europe, solo, cloaked in Brioni and armed with a LaGuiole corkscrew—as a weapon, more versatile than a dagger, yet capable of uncorking a bottle of Margeaux.

Not only was I still engaged in undercover assignments for the FBI, I had also contracted my services (with the FBI’s acquiescence) to Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service (introduction courtesy of Clair George).

This would be my most important trip to date:  my old beat, multiple new missions. 

My driver slyly cut around Thanksgiving Sunday bumper-to-bumper traffic by detouring through the long-term car park, dropping me at Arrivals.  This had the added benefit of confusing any possible surveillance.  

I did not think I was being watched yet, but I knew surveillance would cut in sooner or later.  Behind me, I had left a trail of spies—Cuban and Russian—who had been probing my legend by not only accessing public records about me but also conducting cursory inspections of my various accommodation addresses.

I boarded a Swissair Airbus 330 and took my seat in first class with its eiderdown comforter and feather pillows.

I hadn’t planned to eat, just sleep, but the service was so efficient and cuisine so good, I tucked into caviar and smoked salmon and full-bodied Bordeaux.  With Xanax cutting in, I slid into a solid four-hour slumber before gliding into Zurich at 8:35 a.m.  

Not twenty minutes later, I belted myself into another aircraft destined for Geneva—an earlier flight than that posted on my ticket.  Not only did it save time, it would also complicate life for anyone expecting me on the later flight.

I hopped the Alps to the tune of the High Llamas' Cold and Bouncy, my rallying cry for sub rosa assignments, which aptly described the flight.

Geneva was as gloomy and austere as its Calvinist founders.  In contrast, the Beau Rivage welcomed me with warmth.   A message was waiting from Edward Lee Howard, discussed earlier in this memoir, who was in Geneva to meet me.

Clair once told me, “Defectors almost never adjust.”  Such was the case with Howard.  After many years in Russia, he was terribly homesick and wanted nothing more than to return to the United States.

I had become Howard’s new best friend since we’d met six years earlier.  

But, as revealed earlier, our friendship was an illusion—one I had conceived, crafted and executed for the FBI, a book ruse—similar to the one I invented for Baron von Biggleswurm. 

Surveillance cut in soon after Howard showed up at the Beau Rivage for the first of several meetings over the next few days.

This would be the last time I would see Howard.  He came to an untimely end a few years later:  a mysterious “accident” near Moscow.  I have always believed he was murdered by Russian intelligence, partly as a result of his relationship with me.

I left Howard Christmas shopping near the Mont Blanc Bridge.  I had a plane to catch, another adventure.

(The full story of my undercover work for FBI Counterintelligence is told in my book, Ruse, Potomac Books, 2008, which is archived on this site.)

Checking in for my 3:05 flight to Nice, I noticed Air France ran a two p.m. flight, and snagged it, again disrupting the plans of any would-be watchers expecting to pick me up in Nice.

Maybe ninety seconds elapsed between stepping off the plane and climbing into a taxi.  

“Monaco,” I instructed.  “Hotel de Paris.”

A phone message awaited me:  my next appointment.
I cannot write about this particular assignment as it remains subject to a nondisclosure agreement.  

Next day, another assignment.  

Morning cappuccino at my favorite Monte Carlo coffee bar with one of Prince Albert’s closest friends.   A month earlier, the friend had asked me to investigate a Monaco resident who, he claimed, was trying to strong-arm him out of a sporting project. 

I conveyed our findings, the significance of which transcended my friend’s immediate concern.

“Prince Albert should know about him,” I said, not least because this individual had skillfully inserted himself into the Prince’s social orbit.

Calls were made, a late dinner scheduled:  Pizzeria St. Michel in Cap d’Ail, 10:30.

A poetic choice.  Since first visiting the principality eighteen years earlier, I had passed this little pizzeria hundreds of times.  Each time, I had said to whomever was in the car (or to myself), I must stop there for a pizza one day.

Early evening I strolled through Monaco, winding up at Stars & Bars, a trendy American-style sports bar.  

Over a glass of Bandol wine I contemplated my life.  I did not need to dress for work, had not knotted a tie around my neck this trip.  I did not spend my working days in fluorescent shoeboxes and conference rooms.  My meetings did not go on for hours.  I did not write long reports.  As Clair George put it, “the best intelligence is a scrap of paper in your back pocket.”

In my back pocket I carried a bombshell for the Hereditary Prince of Monaco.

Moono, the IRS sting artist, once told me that an undercover agent has lots of blank spaces, free time.  The work itself—if you call it that—is about total focus and role-playing, but only for short, intensive periods.  

I arrived at the pizzeria first.

(Clair George:  Always arrive early—and recon the rendezvous site.)

The proprietor had reserved a table near the door.  I requested one furthest away, without mentioning I expected Prince Albert to join me. 

The place was rustic, decorated with antique farming equipment.

My friend arrived; we ordered wine.  And then Prince Albert strode in, his two bodyguards took a table near the door.

I gifted the prince with a reproduction vintage baseball hat, Kelly green with an A (for Albert) embroidered on it (insignia for the Brooklyn Athletics).

We ordered pizza and my friend explained why he had organized this meeting at such short notice.  And then it was my turn.  I conducted an oral briefing.

The prince was shocked and horrified.

After we finished eating, I handed him the crumpled report to read.  (And then, like Clair, I carefully retrieved it.)

“The more immediate problem is our friend having to terminate the relationship.  If the target of this report values his existence in Monaco, a few words from you, Albert, would solve the problem.”  I paused.  “The larger problem is this bad guy’s continued existence in Monaco.  Like a cancerous tumor, he will grow and become more intimidating.  It’s just a matter of time before they start pulling hits in Western Europe.”

(Twenty-four hours later, Edmund Safra, a banker, would be dead from asphyxiation—a fire in his Monaco penthouse that to this day remains mysterious and controversial.)

The Prince looked at me.  “May I ask you something?”

“Of course.”

”If I give you the name of a Russian, could you find out about him for me?”

“Of course.”

The Prince borrowed my pen, the Hemingway Mont Blanc ball pen I’d carried all decade, and scribbled Alexei Fedorichev, Fedcominvest.  “He wants to buy into our football team.”

The Prince offered to drive me back to Monaco.  Outside the pizzeria, still and quiet at this late hour, he donned his new baseball cap.  We climbed into the backseat of his bodyguards’ car and they drove us the quarter-mile to where Albert had parked his car.  He zipped me through Monte Carlo’s dark streets and pulled into the forecourt at Hotel de Paris.

The doorman, about to open my door, froze when he glimpsed the prince, and waited, unwilling to interrupt our conversation.

When I awakened next morning, this was my first thought:  I’m working for Prince Albert of Monaco!

It was still dark at 6:50 a.m. when I checked out of the hotel for my flight to London.

The staff at Lowndes Hotel greeted me like an old friend.  Indeed, it had become my second home.

I punched a call from the public phone.  “I’m in,” I told the man I was looking for.

“In where?”

“To paraphrase John Le Carre, in from the warmth.”  

Indeed, London was frightfully cold compared to the French Riviera.

“Where are you?”

“The usual place.”

“Can I come straight over?”

“I don’t have a room yet.  Wait an hour.  Unless you want to grab a bite with me in the restaurant.”

“No.”

He was right, of course.  Security protocol dictated we avoid public places.

I saw him arrive at the hotel’s entrance from my window.  I timed his steps impeccably, and opened my door just as he raised his hand to knock.

“Clever,” he said.

“No.  I’ve got cameras everywhere.”

He chuckled.  “So what happened?”


Britain’s Official Secrets Act bars me from writing more.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

39. DUE DILIGENCE





Early 1998

Clair and I shuttled to Herbertville to assess the end of our water partnership.  

“I need to look in his eyes,” said Clair, who could figure out what someone was really thinking through a good eye gaze.

“Ah, it’s the one-two punch,” Herbert greeted the spymaster and me.  “Just the guys I want to see.”

Clair and I exchanged puzzled glances; a whim-whim situation.

Herbert sat us down and explained that he had ventured into a partnership with a Ukrainian and that The New York Times had just exposed the Ukrainian's links to organized crime.  

Herbert wanted to know, just how bad is he?

Clair and I were put on retainer to investigate.

Water was never mentioned once.

“What was he thinking?” I asked Clair over hamburgers at Soup Burg, corner of Madison and 69th, assuming Clair had penetrated his brain.

Clair shook his head and cupped a hand conspiratorially around his mouth.  “It’s very simple,” he whispered.  “Herbert is insane.”
Clair chose the right source to get the goods on the Ukrainian and two weeks later we had such findings in our possession.  

The Ukrainian was worse than anyone could ever have imagined.  Many years earlier, he had sold his soul to the KGB; his finger-pointing had led to the arrest, imprisonment, and execution of others.

We delivered our file to Herbert.  Though mortified, he was at a loss over what to do about it.  They were, after all, already partners.

“President Kuchma personally recommended him,” said Herbert.  “I’m supposed to go to the president and say that guy you recommended is a spy and a crook?  Anyway, he isn’t my partner anymore.”  He pointed at Dick.  “He’s his partner.”

The courtiers of Herbertville tittered.

They had another investigation for us:  a Pole that had opposed a project Herbert wanted to tackle in Poland.  

We dug up dirt.

Next, due diligence on an individual Herbert was considering for a top position.  We gave him a clean bill of health and he got the job.

Next, an investigation of an American businessman in Kiev who had filed a lawsuit in New York against Herbert in which he alleged unfair competition, improper payoffs, and corrupt methods.  Our investigation showed that it was the businessman who had taken illegal cash bribes and then laundered his booty.

So impressed was Herbert by our capability to acquire sensitive information, he had a new investigation in mind when next we met.  Herbert wanted us to dig into the prime minister of a Central European country. 

Truth was, the prime minister had been recruited by the KGB when he was 18 years old while attending university at Rostov-on-Don, and had secretly collaborated with the KGB for fifty years.  He helped the KGB quash a rebellion in his country and the KGB returned the favor by nurturing his political career.  

Herbert was pleasantly amazed by our findings.  “We could bring him down with this,” he grinned.  “How would you do this?” he asked Clair.

“Well,” said Clair, “it’s one thing obtaining highly sensitive information for ourselves and quite another going public with it.  It will be obvious where the information is coming from and would therefore put our operatives at risk.”

“Okay, okay.”  Herbert paced around the conference table.  “I’m prepared to spend several hundred thousand dollars on an operation that would topple him.  Come back to me with a plan.”

We returned to Herbertville three weeks later:  With the consent of our sources (who would be paid handsomely for their risk), Clair would take the story to a major U.S. newspaper, whose key editors he knew socially and who respected his credibility.  To make it seem like the prime minister was not being personally targeted, Clair would throw in the Ukrainian and the Pole.  If the newspaper ran this story and exposed the prime minister as a long- term Russian agent, it would scuttle his chance for reelection six months down the road.

Herbert loved the plan, and refined it with a twist of his own:  add two additional persons to the mix for further muddying.

Clair’s source came up with two new dossiers.

The first, on Vladimir Zhirinovsky, confirmed that the KGB had recruited this ultra-nationalist politician to create a political party and dilute election voting.

The second was the nephew of Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch.

Herbert was thrilled.  “Can we keep it secret?” he asked.

“As I said to President Reagan,” said Clair, “when he asked if we would be able to keep our arms-for-hostages operation secret:  Of course.”

Clair went to see several senior editors.  He laid it out for them, in general terms, without identifying the prime minister or any of the others.

They apparently salivated.

All we needed was the project fee, which included paying sources for their risk.

Herbert balked, busy with other matters.  

Three months passed.

Come mid-May, the Central European country held its election.  Although the incumbent prime minister was favored to win, he lost, rendering the operation redundant.

Herbert finally got bored with his new toy (the spymaster and me) and turned elsewhere to satisfy his bouts of whimsy.