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Thursday, September 25, 2014

60: BLACKMAIL, VODKA AND THREAT TO KILL






2008


Soon after Vladimir Putin assumed the presidency of Russia, he surrounded himself at the Kremlin with colleagues from his former place of employment, the KGB, just as former KGB Colonel Igor Prelin had forecast. 

In fact, Prelin was one of those Putin installed in a Kremlin job, along with their old chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov.  The pair became “security consultants,” and their placement did not bode well for what Russia would soon become.

If I was left with any distinct impression from Edward Lee Howard and his KGB friends, it was this: 

The old crowd was out to settle scores.  And now they were the in crowd.

Putin, who has a penchant for viewing sadistic videos, especially of Chechen captives being tortured, had three priorities:

Put the oligarchs out of business and consolidate the energy sector as an instrument of Russian foreign policy, then use it to blackmail foes into submission, especially the former Soviet republics.

Siphon billions of dollars for himself through several trusted bankers and money-launderers from the Ta’ambov criminal organization of St. Petersburg. who have created a complex network of oil trading and distribution companies throughout Europe to this end.

Strike back at those who were perceived to have betrayed the Motherland.

Regarding point three, top priority was given to those who had compromised Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen.  

Although Boris Yeltsin had refused to exfiltrate Ames from harm’s way when he had the chance, the former president was untouchable – part of a secret immunity deal that was orchestrated to replace him with Putin.

When my association with Clair Goerge, the CIA’s former spymaster, surfaced on the Internet in September 2001, it would have been standard procedure for the Russian FSB to conduct a damage-control assessment of my regular dealings with Ed Howard, and by extension, Prelin, Kryuchkov, Batamirov, et al.

One hypothesis they would naturally develop is that Howard knew all along that I was working for U.S. intelligence and that he was a witting participant, fulfilling requests to introduce me to others, and keeping me updated on Russian intelligence gossip.

They knew he was desperately unhappy in their country; that he would do anything to be able to return to live in the United States without threat of imprisonment, including sell them out.

Question:  How could Howard be privy to information the Russians would consider sensitive to their national security?
   
Answer:  Often in the intelligence business, need-to- know devolves into corridor chit-chat or after-work boozy boasting. 

(As the late former CIA official Miles Copeland used to joke, “You can trust me with any secret that doesn’t have entertainment value.”)

Howard’s information, among many other things, established that another mole was at work on a senior level in the U.S. intelligence community after Ames was arrested.

If the FSB concluded that Howard was not a witting participant, they would see his involvement with me as a screw-up that embarrassed and compromised them, including the much-revered chairman of their service.

Either way, it meant trouble for Howard. 

In mid-July 2002 he was quite likely the first casualty of Putin’s campaign to get even.

Soon, the oligarch Boris Berezovsky fled to exile in the UK. 

Another prominent, if less fortunate oligarch, Mikhail Khodokovsky, was arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison in Siberia.  Both had stood in the way of Putin’s energy interests.

But what came next was truly brazen:

The systematic assassination of Russian investigative reporters who are slowly piecing together evidence of Putin’s corruption and laundering of state money for his own personal coffers and eventual safety net. 

The man who once pledged to crack down on oligarchs that exploited privatization in Russia has himself become Number One Oligarch.

The best known of these journalists is Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot to death in the elevator of her apartment building in 2006 on Putin’s birthday, October 7th.

A reporter named Yuri Shchekochikhin was poisoned to death with Thallium, on July 3rd, 2003, one year after Edward Lee Howard’s death, following publication of a book he authored entitled Slaves of the KGB

Arytom Borovin, another high-powered investigative reporter, died in the mysterious crash of a small private plane (March 9th, 2000).

Putin’s purge has not been limited to journalists.

Russian politicians who dare to speak out about Putin’s massive corruption have been threatened, harassed, physically attacked, beaten into submission and murdered.

On February 2nd, 2004, Ivan Rybkin, formerly Speaker of the Duma and Liberal Russia’s presidential candidate, published a full page ad in Kommersant that accused Putin of shady financial dealings and also identified by name a mysterious ex-KGB officer from St. Petersburg who is Putin’s personal banker/money-launderer. 

Three days later, In what has all the hallmarks of an intelligence operation, Rybkin was lured to Kiev under false pretenses and given tea laced with drugs.  He awakened four days later in another location and was shown a compromising, perverse video of himself.  Soon after, Rybkin all but abandoned his candidacy.  Moreover, he never again mentioned Putin’s plunder -- nor his partner-in-pillaging.

Eighteen months earlier, on August 21st, 2002, Liberal Russia’s co-chairman, Vladimir Golovlyov was shot and killed on a Moscow street.

On April 17th, 2003, within hours of officially registering Liberal Russia to participate in parliamentary elections, Sergei Yushenkov, a democratic politician, was shot dead near his home.

Even American reporters are not immune from Putin’s purge:

Paul Klebnikov, Moscow correspondent for Forbes magazine, was shot dead in the Russian capital on July 9th, 2004.  At the time of his death, Klebnikov was in hot pursuit of a story about Putin’s mystery banker – the same man Ivan Rybkin revealed as Putin’s shady business partner before he was drugged and compromised five months earlier.

(It seems that anyone and everyone who delves into Putin’s get-rich relationship with Geneva-based moneyman Gennady Nikolayevich Timchenko puts him/herself at enormous personal risk.)
And if all the above were not quite enough, this Putin-inspired campaign to murder and terrorize would soon be followed by a Russian state-sponsored assassination of Alexandre Litvinenko, a UK-national on UK territory, resulting in radioactive contamination on UK soil. 

Quite aside from breaking international law, this FSB operation broke the unspoken rules by which professional intelligence services normally adhere to with one another.

For all the theories and political spin, it is clear that the FSB as an institution, not some rogue element, executed Litvinenko, a former KGB officer who quit and exiled himself to Britain.

FSB Chairman Nikolai Patrushev personally approved the operation, and it was sanctioned at the very top, by his boss, President Putin. 

(Contrary to movie culture, professional intelligence services do not make policy, but implement the policies of the executive, even if it is part of their brief to provide their leader with plausible deniability.)

The FSB bungled the operation, using ten times the lethal dose of Polonium-210, and thereby left an unplanned trail of publicity, furor and the radiation poisoning of, among others, their own agents/assassins.

When Igor Prelin told me over dinner in London that he and KGB-in-exile crowd would like to kill Oleg Kalugin, this was no idle threat.  Had Kalugin chosen to exile himself in Western Europe instead of the United States, he quite likely would no longer be alive.

So far as recreating the Soviet Union goes, Putin and his cronies now understand that they do not need to achieve this politically or militarily.  That’s what Gazprom is for. 

Ukraine, Belarus, and the other former republics are learning that if they want to fuel their cars and heat their homes, they’d better cooperate with Moscow.

And multinational oil companies are discovering that ironclad contracts to build multi-billion dollar refineries in places like Sakhalin Island are not so ironclad after all.  When one such oil company’s top brass threatened to take legal action after their refinery was arbitrarily confiscated and turned over to Gazprom, they were told by Putin’s regime:  If you sue us, we’ll charge you with criminal offenses for violating our environmental laws and, when you come to Moscow, you’ll be arrested and thrown into jail.

In Vladimir Putin’s own words:  “The only way to influence people is blackmail, vodka and threat to kill.”

Not unlike 9/11, the bold, brutal regime of Putin was foreseeable—but only to those who cared enough to pay attention.

The Cold War was over, so the intelligence community paid scant attention to Russia in the years leading up to 9/11, preferring to appease and make allowances for the Russian leadership while ignoring signals that all was not well, to our detriment. 

And we’ve paid too little attention to Russia’s intelligence offensive since 9/11 because we devote most of our resources to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and on terrorism only as it applies to Islamic fanatics. 

We have ignored, and continue to ignore, state-sponsored terrorism emanating from Russia, hoping that this big bully will get tired and leave us alone. 

Bullies do not tire from acquiescence; they grow stronger and more monstrous.

Edward Lee Howard was likely one of the first to feel Putin’s wrath.

Alexandre Litvinenko will not be the last.



Wednesday, September 24, 2014

59. NO RISK, NO GAIN






When Harold MacMillan was prime minister of Great Britain, he took a good hard look at the intelligence services at his disposal, and he declared:  "Anyone who spends more than ten years in espionage will go mad.  Or they were bonkers to start with." 

For just shy of ten years, I lived a clandestine life of intrigue and lunacy, engaged in the world's second oldest profession, for FBI foreign counterintelligence.

At the risk of going mad (or maybe I was bonkers to start with), I would have stuck around another ten years to finish what I'd started with Edward Lee Howard. 

It was an important case. 

The international apprehension of a fugitive traitor, one who had given up important secrets and had caused the execution of at least one Russian CIA asset, would have been a precedent worth setting, regardless of any so-called "related conflict." 

But Howard died, and with his death came unexpected resolution to the main case on my docket. 

I was able to serve my country, in a way I felt best suited to serve.  Even better, I did this on my terms, as a maverick freelancer, with a license to think and operate outside the box. 

I learned a few things, taught a few things, and had one hell of a ride working with good people, dealing it to bad people. 

Along the way, I witnessed firsthand just how cumbersome a bureaucracy the FBI has become—ultimately ultimately exemplified by Osama Bin Laden's 9/11 terror attack on New York City and Washington, D.C., and the Bureau supposedly not having enough clues to prevent that which intelligence services had been created to prevent. 

As everyone now knows, the FBI had plenty of clues about what al-Qaida had put into place.  Lest anyone interpret my comment as conspiracy theory, the awful truth is less palatable:  The FBI was simply too slow and inefficient to piece the clues together.  Whatever leads flowed in from the field were hampered or scuttled by Headquarters. 

The FBI's problem—widespread disconnection—is recognized not only by Congress and the media, but by the Bureau itself.  They know they have become a muddled bureaucracy fraught with petty turf rivalries and an aversion to risk-taking and timely decision-making. 

One can only hope they do more than pretend to overcome their serious deficiencies.    

In the mid-1970s, Congress pulled out the eyes of CIA, and then, some twenty years later, Congress complained about CIA blindness.  Emasculating our intelligence services is not the correct way to proceed if the United States is to secure itself from threats external and internal.  Those threats are out there, you can be real certain of that. 

The FBI, Congress, and the media respond to public opinion.  The American public's denigration of intelligence work the latter part of last century created an environment that resulted in the malfunctioning of intelligence services, and ultimately to 9/11. 

Most of the FBI Special Agents I operated with in the field are well-meaning and hard-working.  However, they are let down horribly by middle-management, whose unofficial job descriptive is to pile paper, hide behind it, and, above all else, avoid taking risks. 

Intelligence, by its very nature, is a risky business, and, when practiced correctly, is based upon the balancing of risk versus gain. 

Avoiding risk for fear of embarrassment or demotion defeats its purpose and puts the American public in harm's way. 

The FBI's cumbrous machinery needs a major overhaul if it is ever to regain its integrity and effectively protect Americans from those who wish us harm.  

"Nobody's going to get into trouble for not doing anything," I was told with regard to Edward Lee Howard.  "But somebody might get into trouble if they do something and it goes wrong.“    

A Bureau-cratic mantra that led to, among other things, 9/11. 

I urge everyone in the FBI who subscribes to this dysfunctional dictum to resign, do something else, and make room for those individuals who truly want to make a difference and fight the good fight, efficiently, creatively, and without fear of reprimand for making an honest mistake. 


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

58. "MAKE SOME ARRESTS"






Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

June 2002


FBI Special Agent Jackie J had her baby, took maternity leave, and left the Bureau permanently for personal reasons. 

At our last meeting, when I dropped her at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, she told me, "Never, ever go to Moscow, even if they [the Bureau] say it's safe." 

A pretty, young Special Agent stepped into Jackie J's shoes and telephoned me soon after her predecessor's departure with a status update on the Howard case:  

We're still in a holding pattern, but we'd like you to stand by. 

I considered this. 

"It's been over eight years since I started work on Howard," I finally said.  "I've been standing by for seven of them.  I need a sense that you folks aren't just pulling my chain.  How about a letter from your Director saying that your shop is serious about this?" 

"That's do-able," said the gung-ho new Special Agent.

Two weeks later I received a generic certificate in a presentation binder thanking me for my cooperation and assistance in an investigation of great importance, signed by FBI Director Robert W. Mueller III. 

Not only was this not what I had requested, but, based on what I'd been doing (and still doing) for the Bureau going on nine years, it was absurd, if typical of the way Headquarters responded to requests from the field.

Three months later, a stirring from Albuquerque.  The new Special Agent on the case wanted to discuss Howard.  Could we meet in Washington?    

Of course, I said.   

She flew into DC with a female colleague from Albuquerque and we sat down for dinner at Clyde's, Chevy Chase, joined by a gal from Headquarters. 

I looked around me, three pretty females. 

"Are you women taking over the shop?" I asked.

They chuckled.  "Yeah, we are." 

"Eight years ago," I said, "I'd be sitting at this same table talking about Ed Howard with a bunch of big ugly guys.  So, what's up?" 

They wanted to know, could I still rendition Edward Howard? 

I shrugged.  "Sure.  When do you want him?" 

"Well, not yet." 

"No, of course not." 

"But it looks very promising," said the special agent from Albuquerque. 

"Sure it does."  I chuckled. 

"This is the first time," said Albuquerque, "that the initiative to rendition Howard has come from Headquarters." 

I turned to the gal from Headquarters.  "Yeah?" 

She nodded earnestly.  "That's right." 

What had apparently transpired:  In the wake of congressional and media criticism over the FBI's pre-9/11 disconnections, the Bureau needed a PR-fix.

Hence, this directive from FBI Director Robert W. Mueller III:  Make some arrests

The gal from Headquarters continued:  "I need to present a plan to my superiors.  How would you rendition Howard?" 

"Easy," I said.  "I'd tell Howard we finally have a publisher for Spy‘s Guide, but we need to update it.  I could get him to visit any number of European capitals." 

The G-women exchanged three way glances. 

One said, "Spy‘s Guide?  What's that?" 

I should have said, Cash my chips, I'm outta this circus.

What I actually said:  "It's a long story, documented in your case file, which you should probably read.  The up-shot is this: I can lure Howard to just about anywhere in Europe.  It's for you to tell me where you want him." 

I'd already been through this drill so I knew what they needed to do better than they.  "You need to find a country that will let you nail him in the international corridor of an airport." 

The gal from Headquarters scribbled notes. 

"If I got burned by Hanssen," I added, "they haven't told Howard.  I would have noticed something in his commo with me.  I don't think they trust him any more." 

"No, why not?" 

"Because, if you read your files, you'll find that for years he's been selling out everything he learns from his KGB buddies to me."   

I had become the institutional memory on Edward Lee Howard. 

"Okay, don't do anything yet," said the gal from Headquarters.  "We need to run this up the ladder." 

Of course. 

They were still "running it up the ladder" when, seventeen days later, Edward Lee Howard met a freakish death in Moscow under circumstances that remain murky.


Monday, September 22, 2014

57. DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN



Albuquerque, NM



Undercover with FBI Counterintelligence

June-September 2001



In June 2001, I moved from Washington, D.C. to Santa Barbara,California. 

As a result, a Bureau fracas ensued over which FBI field office would work with me and prioritize (the up-side) and administrate (the down-side) my sting operations: 

Would I remain with WFO? 

Or, with the Einhorn ruse in full bloom, should Philly take over? 

Should Ventura (the nearest FBI office to Santa Barbara) or Los Angeles oversee my work? 

Or should I revert to Albuquerque, where I'd started, not least because I was passively active on the Edward Lee Howard case?   

My diversity perplexed protocol.  

In the midst of this, Headquarters had its own idea about how to proceed with the Howard case.  I learned of this bold new initiative just one week before departing Washington, when I met at Starbucks with Special Agent James O, a Russia specialist.  He was one of the two Special Agents with whom I'd spent an engaging evening in London, along with John H, on my first rebound from Moscow six years earlier. 

The new thinking:  I may have been burned by Robert Hanssen, who was believed to have gained access to casework on Edward Lee Howard.  (Hanssen had evidently uploaded computer serials on Howard.  Big-time counterintelligence had cut in, known by one pundit in the business as smoke and urinals.  "Don't visit Russia or Cuba any time soon," I was told.  "For any reason.") 

Taking this new situation into account, a plan had been tabled for presentation to me:

On the assumption that I'd been burned by Hanssen, I would organize a rendezvous with Edward Howard in Switzerland and tell him:  Yeah, I've been working for U.S. intelligence, but I'm fed up with those bastards, and now I'm open to offers from your friends in Moscow.

Howard would most certainly convey this to his KGB friends, and my offer would undoubtedly reach a senior FSB officer named Z----, who handled all the important American agents but rarely left Russia.  I would lure Z---- to Switzerland, and the FBI would have a crack at recruiting him. 

If it sounded a tad cheesy, well, at least somebody at long last was thinking creatively.   

Should I reach out to Howard, I offered, set it up? 

No, no, no.  The Russia specialist needed more time to outline the plan to his superiors, attend meetings, obtain approvals… 

By the time the Big Cheese Family signed on to James O's proposal, in mid-July, it no longer mattered, because it had been determined at some other bureaucratic level that my operations would revert to FBI Albuquerque.

What's more, John H had been asked to step out of retirement and consult on the Howard case. 

Great news indeed. 

It suggested that the Bureau had finally resolved the "related conflict" that had stymied a Howard rendition for six years.  

Next, a phone call from Jackie J, the Special Agent assigned to Howard's case in Albuquerque.  Pregnant and unable to fly, she invited me to visit herself and John H in New Mexico. 

A few weeks later, in early September, I flew out to Albuquerque and, over Tex-Mex cuisine with my old partner John H, and Special Agent Jackie J, I recounted the odyssey I had undertaken with WFO: 

Prelin, Sokolov, the Cubans, and WFO's instruction to "stop billing as of today" despite the multiple stand-downs that would have resulted. 

They listened in awe, all of it news to them. 

What's more, they had not even heard about the Z---- Lure, conceived three months earlier by James O at Headquarters.  They knew nothing of Z----, did not care about him (nor the plan), and since Z---- was not Albuquerque’s concern, that was the end of that.

With hindsight, it's a damn good thing it did not happen.  The Bureau, given its widespread disconnection, might have lost me in a wilderness of mirrors and misconstrued an approach to the Russians as the real thing! 

"Did you know," I said, “Howard was prepared to travel to New Mexico?" 

John H and Jackie J expressed astonishment.  John H could not have known, because he had retired and was therefore out of the loop.  But news of Howard's proposed visit to his old haunts in the southwest USA had never reached Jackie J, nor the Special Agent who handled the case in between John H and herself.

Neither WFO nor Headquarters had bothered to notify FBI Albuquerque about the potential opportunity to snare Howard in their own backyard.   

"But we still have a warrant for Howard in New Mexico," said Jackie J. 

"I know," I sighed.  "Main thing, you're finally ready."

John H and Jackie J exchanged glances.   

"Well, not quite," said Jackie J.  "We can't do anything yet."  She paused.  "But we're getting real close to a green light.  We'd like you to hang in there, remain in contact with Howard till we're ready." 

The old "related conflict," apparently still unresolved.

To quote Yogi Berra:  It was deja vu all over again.

Meantime, unknown to me (until a few weeks later), Edward Howard had visited Thailand to investigate a job offer with a residential development company called AIH (Thailand), Ltd.  It promised to move him from grim Moscow to Phuket, a tropical island paradise.   

On his return to Russia, Howard's e-mails reflected his elation about the prospect of living in a beach house, driving a Jeep, and shepherding prospective buyers to new condo developments.

  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

56. IRA EINHORN GETS CUFFED





Undercover with the FBI

2001


We were now content in our belief that if Ira Einhorn chose to flee, he would do it my way, to Poland.  I would be along for the ride.  And the Philly Fugitive Squad (Mike and Ed) would be just inside the Polish border to greet Einhorn and take him home. 

Now we needed to wait and watch; monitor Einhorn's appeal process and his state of mind.  A stall for time, giving him as little progress as possible on the publication of his novel. 

We knew he was desperate for money, and that, in his mind, I was his only hope for making any.  We would play this to our advantage. 

To commence the stall, I sent Einhorn an e-mail saying I had consulted a lawyer (his own suggestion) regarding the structure of a foreign entity that could pay Einhorn an advance that would escape scrutiny of those enforcing the civil judgment against him. 

The imaginary lawyer, I wrote, had been negative on the whole project.

On what basis? Einhorn shot back by e-mail.  Has the first amendment disappeared? 

I pretended to seek a second opinion, then "decided" to use a British lawyer, which would have to wait until I next visited London "in the very near future."

Einhorn's anxious e-mails to me soon became caustic and frustrated.  I was winding him up, and enjoying the process.   

But in mid-February, Einhorn outright demanded that I produce bound galleys for him, and on the 20th of that month he snapped – and zapped me a menacing e-mail:  

I have shared what you are proposing [the escape plan] with two close advisors, one in the media, who are aghast at what you are proposing, I am preparing to go on the INTERNET with the story and will do so if I have not heard from you by tomorrow night. 

Fat Ass was trying to blackmail me into publishing his wretched novel! 

I phoned Einhorn.  "Hey, chill out," I said.  "What's the problem?" 

I listened a full five minutes while Einhorn vented his spleen, acid reflux rising to a gorge.   

"The galleys are almost ready," I said.  "Do you want them or not?"

Einhorn finally calmed down.  "Would it be okay," he asked, "if I provide my own colophon?" 

Sure, I said. 

"A calligrapher friend of mine in Philadelphia has drawn a unicorn." 

"Get it to me," I said. 

(One week later, a unicorn colophon arrived by post from Einhorn's friend, Roy David.)   

Then I wrote this memo for Mike and Ed in Philly:

Short of new pressure from France, EINHORN remains content to sit where he is and wait out the next round of his appeal.  It could be a year or longer before he decides his liberty is in danger.  Only then will he consider my Poland option, or implement his lawyer's advice to seek refuge in Cuba. 

The only way for me to remain on good terms with EINHORN would be for me to provide him with bound galleys of his novel.  I am loath to do this as EINHORN will use these galleys to attempt to improve his standing in the French media by depicting himself as a man of letters. 

Perhaps we should inform the French police of the contempt EINHORN has shown for them in his private conversations with me, and of EINHORN's scheme to flee France for Cuba. 

The French would be greatly embarrassed if EINHORN was able to escape. 

The Philly boys concurred.  But in the interest of buying more time and remaining in sync with Einhorn, they requested that I bind some galleys and keep him moderately happy. 

Thus, in mid-March, I sent Einhorn a small batch of bound galleys. 

In mid-April Einhorn wanted more bound galleys. 

I told him I sent a box of ten, but did not.  Then I expressed surprise that the box had not arrived. 

What copies? Einhorn e-mailed back, his blood pressure arise.  Our mail is very well handled here, so that can't be a problem.  If it would get to here, WE WOULD GET IT.  All packages should be marked gift and listed as being of no value (he got that right) AND WELL WRAPPED.  This could be the only answer IF you sent a package.  THE POST IS NOT GENTEEL!!  I have been buying books from the USA for over three years, about 100 individual packages--NOTHING HAS FAILED TO ARRIVE.  Please confirm, as I don't want to turn this into S.J. Perleman (sic) writing to his Chinese laundry man.

In keeping with his wishes, I replied with one word:  

Okay.  

EINHORN:  Has your package gone missing--your very cryptic reply didn't confirm that? 

ME:  Apparently so

EINHORN:  Nothing we can do about that--please send me 10 copies and confirm that you have done so. 

ME:  All right.  

When I dragged my feet about sending galleys to a number of addresses supplied by Einhorn, he turned to menace again. 

Call me today, he e-mailed (June 3rd, 2001), or deal with the press and the police as I have consulted a number of people about what you have done and none of them is against my doing what I am about to do.  You agreed to do something which you have miserably failed to do.

 I telephoned Einhorn and attempted humor. 

The niddering buffoon launched into me (as I gather he once launched into Holly Maddux, though she had the misfortune of standing with her back to him at the time).

The only weapon at Einhorn's disposal was words, and these he lashed with risible venom. 

"You have to get over here within a week and talk to me or I'm exposing you!" 

"That's impossible," I said. 

"Then it's all over," Einhorn spewed in a murderous high-pitched voice, reminiscent of Hitchcock’s classic Psycho.  "I'm going to ruin your life!" 

"But you seem bent on this path whatever happens," I said calmly. 

"Don't you understand what you've done to me?" hollered Einhorn. 

(Not only did I understand, I hadn't finished.) 

"Done to you?" I said.  "I've paid money to print and bind galleys and mail them to you.  Instead of gratitude, all I get are threats." 

"You don't grasp what I'm saying!" yelped Einhorn.  "You have held me up two-and-a-half years!"  Blah, blah, blah.  The onslaught continued another ten minutes.  "I don't know what's going on in your mind!" he concluded with a guttural rasp. 

If he only knew. 

Once Einhorn had spent his rage, we carried on as before.  I told him that I would dispatch galleys to persons on his list. 

Einhorn changed the subject to insects; rather, the absence of insects from the Charente this season due to spraying. 

"I feel very close to insects," said Einhorn. 

Holly Maddux's siblings (two sisters and a brother) no doubt had similar feelings about the orthopterous Ira Einhorn.  And they allowed their feelings to be known when they met in early June with Attorney General John Ashcroft. 

In advance of their scheduled appointment, Ashcroft naturally asked his minions for a briefing on the Einhorn case.   

When Attorney General Ashcroft learned Einhorn was plotting an escape to Cuba, he presumably telephoned his French counterpart and demanded action. 

All of a sudden, on July 10th (months ahead of schedule) a French judge announced that Einhorn's appeal would commence the following day, with a decision expected the day after. 

Not only that, Einhorn's house was then surrounded by about forty police officers. 

Einhorn scribed me this e-mail:  

Some judge freaked.  No one knows why.  It should have been September or October or later.  The [French] government is pushing.  There are now 8 cars parked outside and they have set up a customs post outside our house so that when Annika leaves without me, the car is searched for alcohol and tobacco, as I might be hiding in the 18" by 18" box in the back of our very small car.  They also have posted men in the field around my house.

(That would be the backyard Einhorn intended to walk across when it came time to boogie). 

I e-mailed back:  

This sounds serious.  What the hell is going on?

Einhorn:  House now surrounded by a small army.  The entire area is blockaded and no one is allowed in without questioning.  

The court decision went against Einhorn.   

To protest imminent extradition, Einhorn invited a French TV crew into his house and, while they filmed, pierced his own throat with a kitchen knife. 

If Einhorn truly meant to kill himself (I am certain he did not), he failed miserably.  All he bought himself was one week before the French authorities declared him fit enough to travel. 

Tension reigned supreme on the Fugitive Squad in Philadelphia.  They still worried Einhorn would make a run for it. 

On July 18th, Einhorn planned a party at his home, part celebration of Annika's 50th birthday, part bon voyage bash for himself.   

Philly had a concern that Einhorn would use the party to mask an escape. 

But at eight o'clock next morning, Einhorn confirmed his presence at Moulin de Guitry in an e-mail to me: 

The media are gathering outside... a swat squad has joined the 7 other police services in town. C’est fou (it is mad). 

This message wasn't good enough for Philly.  

"Call him," said Mike.  "Make sure he's there." 

I phoned, spoke with Annika, heard Einhorn yakking in the background.  Then I phoned Philly.  "He's there."

At two p.m., French police officers took Einhorn into custody and drove him to Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, where a U.S. government chartered plane awaited his arrival. 

At about 1:10 a.m. Paris time, I received a call from Ed, who'd just cuffed Einhorn and buckled him into a seat.

"We got him!"  Ed sounded ecstatic.  "We're just about to take off."  

Ed and Mike phoned me the following day from Philadelphia. 

"Sorry we didn't do it in Poland," said Mike. 

"You kidding?" I said.  "The evil scumbag is behind bars.  Mission accomplished." 

"Get this," said Ed.  "On the plane back, Fat Ass told me he had a publisher for his novel. I asked him, 'Who's publishing your book?'  He wouldn't give you up.  He thinks his future as a famous author depends on it." 

The guy who considered himself the smartest man in the world had been out-smarted. 

On October 24th, Einhorn wrote me from state prison in Houtzdale, Pennsylvania: 

According to Annika, you have just disappeared.  When we last talked you said you would work to get Cantor Dust published... blah, blah, blah. 

Fat Ass still did not realize he’d been stung! 









A man convicted of the brutal killing of his ex-girlfriend and hiding her body in a locked closet for years has been turned down in an effort to get the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to consider his case.

The court today declined to take up a lower appeals court ruling earlier this year, leaving in place Ira Einhorn's conviction for the 1977 murder of Holly Maddux in Philadelphia.

Einhorn fled the country and spent nearly 17 years hiding in Europe before being returned to the United States and convicted in 2002.

In February, a Superior Court judge said a "vast and compelling quantum" of evidence was presented at trial to show Einhorn killed Maddux.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

55. OPERATION BEEZLEBUB





Undercover with the FBI

January 2001



Ira Einhorn had gained weight.  It was almost exactly two years (and hundreds and hundreds of e-mails) since I had first met this fugitive killer.  His face was now ravaged with stress, cheeks swollen with malevolence, teeth rotting, and gums rotted. 

And a short, barrel-shaped body that left a trail of pig-snot. 

The only way to fool beezlebub is on his own terms, with a bottle of whiskey in one hand and a Cuban cigar in the other.  So it was that I came head to head with Ira Einhorn on January 16th. 

We met at Le Claud Gourmand, a Restaurant-Hotel de Charme, halfway between Saint-Claud and Champagne-Mouton. 

I extended my right hand, but Einhorn wanted to hug, ensuring that I catch a whiff of his putrid breath. 

I checked Einhorn and his wife Annika into Chambre 2 (my tab) and myself into Chambre 3.  This place wasn't The Ritz, but it sure beat Hotel Plaisance in Einhorn's grim village. 

We settled in the parlor for tea and anchovy-filled croissants, and re-acquainted ourselves.  We had the hotel and restaurant to ourselves.  Indeed, we were its only guests this day and night. 

Einhorn, ever the enthusiastic blabbermouth, desired an update on all my book activities since last we met.  Had I been to Cuba? he asked.  How did that go? I told him about my Cuban escapades:  Vesco, Chesimard, Castro, a spy-ring… 

Einhorn listened with attentiveness.  Then he said quietly:  "That's where my lawyer has advised me to go.  Cuba.  He says he can make the introductions and arrangements.  All my friends have been urging me to flee." 

So here it was.  This stinkard was planning an exit-stage-left.  Surprise, surprise. 

"But aren't you watched by the French police?" I asked.   

Einhorn nodded.  "I have three sets of surveillants," he boasted.  "The local gendarmes, who take turns coming down from Lille, the anti-terrorist squad in Paris, and the federal intelligence agency." 

"So how can you flee to Cuba?" 

"Very easy," Einhorn replied.  "I'd only have to walk across my garden." 

"But don't you have to check in with the cops every few days?" 

"I'd have five days before they knew I was gone," Einhorn whispered.  "Annika will stay and pretend all is well.  She can't live underground again."  He paused.  "And in a worst case scenario, I have a plan to kill myself.  But lets not talk about that in front of Annika.  It upsets her." 

The last thing we wanted was for Einhorn to end up in Cuba, where scores of American fugitives freely roam, courtesy of Fidel Castro, who grants political asylum to American criminals.  And Einhorn was driving distance of Madrid, where he could catch a nonstop flight to Havana. 

"Cuba sucks," I said.  "I have another idea, and it sure beats dying." 

"Yeah?  What?" 

"A plan that will generate massive publicity for your novel." 

"Let's not talk about it here," Einhorn whispered.  "Later." 

Einhorn suggested a stroll in the grounds.  He pointed out his watchers, one unmarked car with two policemen, and told me most of them had been friendly and sympathetic to his plight; that several had helped him stack firewood and had come into his home for New Year's drinks.  He added, contemptuously, that one had even given Annika a kiss. 

Einhorn's smirk and body language implied that the liberty-loving French were helping him get away with murder. 

"Annika and I are now separate," said Einhorn. 

Annika stopped, upset.  "Are you saying we're not married?" she asked him. 

"Of course we are," Einhorn patronized her stupidity.  "I mean we're separate financially.  The house is in her name.  I have nothing."  Einhorn dug into his blue-jeans pocket and plucked a 200-franc note.  "Except this," he chuckled. 

We soon cut indoors from the cold for a round of Pineau.  Einhorn seemed anxious to hear my publishing plan for his novel Cantor Dust.   

I laid out this fantasy:  We would print 500 deluxe copies, bound exquisitely with slipcovers.  They would be numbered.  The first 100 would bear his signature.  Signed books would sell for $250; unsigned, $100.  We would also print 250 bound galleys for reviewers.

Einhorn grew excited.  "I need fifty bound galleys," he said.  "I need to demonstrate to the French that I am a man of letters.  This will help my case." 

Through our special deluxe edition, I continued, we would hope to attract a large publisher to publish a mass-market trade-paper version.  Interest would depend, I added, on the amount of publicity Einhorn could generate. 

Einhorn nodded.  It all made such sense. 

"I need an advance," said Einhorn.  "We're broke." 

The roof had still not been repaired, said he, and leaking like a sieve. 

"I almost mentioned it to you before you came, so maybe you could bring some money."  Einhorn shrugged, polyester sheepishness.  "Is twenty thousand dollars possible?" 

"Maybe," I said.  "I'd have to calculate the total cost of publishing and see what I can afford.  Maybe I should have your bank details?"  

"Give it to him, Annika," Einhorn instructed. 

Annika dipped into her handbag and produced a hand-written note:

Annika's Bank Account, Annika Flodin, Moulin de Guitry, 16350 Champagne Mouton, France 31-127 246-43 Compte bleu, Banque Generale de Luxembourg, Agence B6L "Royal Monterey" 27, Avenue Monterey, L - 2163 Luxembourg SWIFT B6LL LU LL TEL.  352-4799-2556, FAX.  352-4799-2112. 

Annika's concern was timing:  How soon could I publish the novel? 

"How fast can you correct and return the galleys?" I asked. 

"You can have them tomorrow morning," said Einhorn.

We would be the only dinner guests this evening, he added, so whenever we wanted to eat, they'd serve us. I suggested we get on with it.  

Dining room lights switched on and we took our seats at a round table in the corner.  

Proprietor-chef Jean Marc Rougier appeared before us and suggested a five-course truffle dinner. Who could say no?   

Chef Rougier scooted to the kitchen then reappeared, big grin, with a jar of fresh truffles. 

I asked him to recommend a fine red wine to accompany our meal. 

How about, he suggested, a selection of wine to compliment each course?  

You kidding?  Do it. 

Chef Rougier descended to his wine cellar and returned with three half-bottles of red.  The first, a Domane Sant Vincent Saumur-Champgny 1999, he un-corked and poured, then served the first course:  warm sliced truffle over a piece of garlic toast on a bed of mixed greens.  It was heavenly. 

"What are you reading?" Einhorn asked me.  This is his favorite question, as he considers himself the world's most voracious reader. 

"On Writing by Stephen King," I replied.  "I don't read books about writing any more, but I flipped it open at a bookstore and it looked good.  I learned a few important things." 

"Like what?" said Einhorn. 

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs." 

Needless to say, Einhorn's novel was paved to hell with adverbs. 

The second course, even better:  Sliced warm truffle with pan-sautéed foie gras in a rich butter sauce, accompanied by Ampelida 1998. 

With the doors closed, Einhorn proclaimed it safe to speak as we got into our third course, truffle potpie and a Clos les Cotes Pecharmant 1997. 

"Poland," I whispered.  "I've kept up a relationship with the former underground activists from Solidarity.  Using a network of old safe houses, these guys could hide you, settle you in a city like Krakow.  It's full of intellectuals like yourself." 

Einhorn absorbed everything.  He liked the plan, the best he'd heard, said he.  "And very do-able," he declared. 

Traveling by car, Einhorn could cross the border into Germany without identification, then drive across Germany to the Polish border. 

"That's where you would need papers," I said.  "My Polish friends would be able to organize that." 

Einhorn said it would mean separating from Annika.  "She can't live underground again."   

Annika confirmed that an underground existence could no longer work for her; she’d be happier with the stress of litigation than living on the lam.  However, she added, life for Ira in Poland would be better than his plan to commit suicide. 

"If the court goes against me," said Einhorn, "I will kill myself in a very public demonstration." 

"How?" I asked. 

"Self-immolation," replied Einhorn.  "I plan to set myself on fire in a public place." 

(When he later heard this, Mike from Philly quipped, "Can I bring the marshmallows?") 

As much as Einhorn liked my Poland plan, he was in no hurry to leave France and separate from Annika.  He believed he had many, many months, perhaps years, before his pro bono lawyers would exhaust their appeals, ultimately (they hoped) in the Court of Human Rights at The Hague. 

Course four:  Sliced truffle with a fried egg. 

And finally dessert:  Truffle inside warm peaches, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream topped with cocoa powder.  A chilled bottle of Sauternes. 

This being cognac territory, Chef Rougier poured snifters of the best of the best:  Vielle Grande Champagne Cognac Hors D'age Paul Beau.

I suggested a Cuban cigar.  Einhorn concurred.  I returned to my room and retrieved two Monte Cristos.  We lit, drew, puffed, and drank fine armagnac as we conspired into the night.  

Next morning, Einhorn joined me for breakfast and produced his corrected galleys.  Einhorn told me he and Annika had labored intensely; that he was finally satisfied with the novel's ending: 

She once again glanced at him with the eyes of the 19 year-old and calmly walked to the hook on the wall that held the strap they had used to beat each other and shyly smiled at him as she reached for it.  Daddy's little girl was home again. 

Again, we agreed to use fax for all sensitive communications.  I devised a code for the escape plan.  We would refer to this as a documentary.  Hence, if I could get him false Polish ID, I would fax:  The documentary producer has offered a contract

As I settled the hotel-restaurant tab, a tough-looking character, shaven head, black leather jacket, commando boots, strode by to get a fix on things.  I went outside, returned to the lobby.  Baldy and another cop were chatting with Chef Rougier. 

The plan had called for Annika to drive me to the airport, but when we got in, her Fiat wouldn't start.  A dead battery.  By sheer luck, a taxi meant for Einhorn (to take him home) rounded into the forecourt.

"I'll take the taxi," I said, not planning to miss my flight, nor wishing to stick around with Baldy. 

The French Napoleonic code allows them to hold anyone they want for weeks just for the hell of it.  And who knew what they thought of my presence. 

"I must check with Ira," said Annika, who wouldn't so much as belch without Einhorn's permission.   

To hell with Ira.  I stowed my bag in the trunk, seated myself in the cab.  

Annika returned.  "Ira says it's okay." 

As if it really mattered at this point. 

Many hours later, beneath a long hot shower, I endeavored to scrub away every last trace of beezlebub's breath and persona.