An Attempt to Disconnect From Comcast / OK, Let’s Talk to Hell: A Transcript

The following transcript was made from audio discovered at “Sympathy for the Comcast Rep from Hell” by John Herman:

Above is eight solid minutes of empathic pain. It is a recording of a calm, polite caller, Ryan Block, attempting to cancel his Comcast service. The representative, by the time the recording starts, already sounds angry: He demands, again and again and again, to know why Block is leaving Comcast for a smaller provider, to know what it is that he—that Comcast—can’t supply that this other company, this obviously objectively inferior company, this loser company, can. Just tell him what he did wrong, he says. Just explain to him. Just make him understand this stupid mistake.

COMCAST REP
-eight hundred and five megabits per second internet, Astound will not give you that speed.

RYAN BLOCK
Okay, we’d like to disconnect. We’d like to disconnect. Please.

C.R.
So, why do you think you don’t want the faster speed? Help me understand why you don’t want faster internet.

R.B.
Help me understand why you can’t just disconnect us.

C.R.
Because my job is to have a conversation with you. About having- About dis- About keeping your service. About finding out why it is you’re looking to cancel the service.

R.B.
I don’t understand. Is this for-

C.R.
Okay, if you don’t want to talk to me, you can definitely go into the Comcast store, and disconnect your service there.

R.B.
We’re just asking to-

C.R.
-and kill two birds with one stone. You gotta return that cable card to the store anyways.

R.B.
We’re actually just going to mail the cable card in. But if you can just please cancel our service. That would be great. That’s all-

C.R.
We actually can’t-

R.B.
That’s all we want.

C.R.
We’re actually not able to return…a cable card by mail.

R.B.
Then I will send someone like, a taskrabbit, to go return the cable card for us. I don’t personally intend to go return the cable card. That’s why we’re probably not going to be canceling in store, that’s why I need you to cancel, by phone. So, can you cancel us by phone? The answer is yes, correct?

C.R.
It sounds like you don’t want to go over this information with me, I mean, if you don’t want to go over this information, okay, then that’s the easiest way to get your account disconnected.

R.B.
Uh, I am declining to state why we are leaving Comcast, because I don’t owe you an explanation…so, if you can please just go to-

C.R.
-the number one-

R.B.
Proceed to the next question. If you have to fill out your form, that’s fine. Please proceed to the next question. And we’ll attempt to answer that, if possible.

C.R.
Alright. So. I mean, being that we’re the number one provider of internet and TV service in the entire country…why is it that you’re not wanting to have the number one rated internet service? Number one rated TV service, available?

R.B.
I’m declining to state. We’re switching providers. Can you please go to the next question?

C.R.
Okay. So, what is it about Astound that’s making you want to change to them?

R.B.
I’m declining to state. Can you please go to the next question? So we can cancel our service?

C.R.
Okay. So. Okay. I mean. I’m just trying to figure out here what it is about Comcast services that you’re not liking? That you’re not wanting to keep? Why is it that you don’t want-

R.B.
This-

C.R.
-to keep our service?

R.B.
This phone call, actually, is a really amazing representative example of why I don’t want to stay with Comcast. So, can you please cancel our service?

C.R.
So, from- Okay. But, I’m trying to help you. K. Don’t worry.

R.B.
The way that you can help me, right now-

C.R.
-by declining answer, by doing all this.

R.B.
The way that you can help me is by disconnecting our service. That’s how you can help-

C.R.
But how is that helping you, though? How is that-

R.B.
Because that’s what I want.

C.R.
Remind me how that’s helping you.

R.B.
That’s what I want.

C.R.
Okay, so why is that what you want?

R.B.
Because that’s what I want.

C.R.
Okay, so, I mean, there has to be some sortof reason behind it. That’s what we’re trying to find out. We just want to find out what it is, that’s causing a customer, that’s been with us for a long time, to leave.

R.B.
Because that’s what we want.

C.R.
Okay. I mean, you’ve been with us since…October 2005. Nine years. You’ve been a Comcast customer, k, after a decade, okay? Clearly, the service is working great for you. You weren’t having any problems. But now all of a sudden you’re moving, k, you’ve kept this service at multiple addresses…all of a sudden you’re moving, and it’s making you want to change. What is it that’s making you want to change that?

R.B.
Because that’s what we want to do.

C.R.
K, why is that what you want to do?

R.B.
That’s none of your business. Your business is to disconnect us-

C.R.
As a company that is a cable internet provider. Primarily. K? It is our business. To know why our customers are leaving. Okay? If we don’t know why our customers are leaving, how are we supposed to make it a better experience for you next time? K? When Astound turns out not to-

R.B.
That’s a fantastic question, and something you can hire a firm to go figure out. For right now, I’m just a customer. Calling in. Attempting to disconnect service. That is something you can do, right?

C.R.
Yeah.

R.B.
You said that you can disconnect service…yes?

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
Yes?

C.R.
I just don’t want to lose you as a customer!

R.B.
Is that something that you can do?

C.R.
-greatly, from transferring your service to your new address-

R.B.
Is that something that you can do?

C.R.
-offers-

R.B.
Can you disconnect us? By phone?

C.R.
-so-

R.B.
Can you disconnect our service? Yes or no?

C.R.
K. What I’m trying to find out-

R.B.
Yes or no?

C.R.
-same offer, or brand new-

R.B.
Can you disconnect our service?

C.R.
-faster internet than anyone can provide you. K? Why don’t you want services?

R.B.
Because I’m not interested in your services any longer. Can you-

C.R.
Okay. So you’re not interested in the fastest internet in the country?

R.B.
Nope. Not interested.

C.R.
K, why is that?

R.B.
Can you disconnect us? By phone? Are you capable, in your system, of disconnecting our service? Yes or no?

C.R.
Well, I’m just trying to get some information to find out why-

R.B.
Please answer my question. Are you capable, by phone, of disconnecting our service?

C.R.
It’s something we can do, I mean- Whether we do it-

R.B.
That’s something you can do, I would appreciate you now doing that.

C.R.
K. So.

R.B.
Please proceed in disconnecting our service.

C.R.
So, what is it about this other internet provider, this other TV provider? That’s making it sound so much better than the number one TV service available?

R.B.
I don’t know. It’s a totally arbitrary decision.

C.R.
K. So why not keep what you know works? When you’ve got a good service?

R.B.
Because. We’re not doing that. So, please proceed-

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
-to disconnect-

C.R.
So, you’re saying you don’t want this service? You don’t want something that works?

R.B.
No. I guess I don’t want something that works.

C.R.
So, why don’t you want something that’s good service, and something that works?

R.B.
I mean, is this like a joke? Did we call- Is this- Are you punking us right now?

C.R.
I’m trying to get information. Okay? I’m trying to help our company be better. That’s my job.

R.B.
I can guarantee you, right now, you’re doing an incredibly good job at helping your company be worse.

C.R.
Okay. Well, you know what, I’m terribly sorry that it feels like I’m being- It sounds to you like it feels like I’m trying to argue, I’m just trying to help you out and get some information. We’ll just bypass all this information, I’ll go ahead and disconnect this service, okay-

R.B.
Fantastic. Thank you.

C.R.
It’s really a shame to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can.

R.B.
Okay, well if that winds up being the case-

C.R.
-that’s what I’m trying-

R.B.
-then we’ll call you guys back up, and reconnect.

C.R.
I mean, you’re not going to get the hundred thousand free on-demand titles. You’re not going to get hundred and five megabits per second for your internet. Guaranteed. Speed at a hundred and five. Okay. I mean, no one else can guarantee their speed like we can. Okay? So, I mean, we can definitely transfer this over to your new address, get you a lower rate, I can save you almost a hundred, actually, more than a hundred dollars per month. Over a hundred dollars per month. K? Doing that transfer. K? Get you internet that’s…five, six, times faster than anything any other company can provide you.

R.B.
Are you done?

C.R.
Get you the number one T.V. service available, okay? And, I mean, so…what about those savings? Those services, are you not wanting?

R.B.
Are you done?

C.R.
What makes you-

R.B.
-because-

C.R.
-not want that service?

R.B.
You literally, just a moment ago, said that you would go ahead and disconnect our service? And that’s what-

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
-we’re gonna need to do. Can you go ahead and do that?

C.R.
I’m working on that process!

R.B.
Okay. Great. How much longer is that process going to take?

C.R.
I’m just asking some questions-

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
That’s all I’m doing.

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer it’s gonna take?

C.R.
K, I’m just asking some questions. To do this process.

R.B.
I understand. Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
Okay? If you gave me a few more minutes-

R.B.
Can you tell me how much longer-

C.R.
A couple more minutes, here. Okay?

R.B.
Okay. A couple more minutes. K.

C.R.
Okay. So. I mean, what about the service is it, that is causing you to want to change? What is it about-

R.B.
I’m-

C.R.
-the offers that we have available to you-

R.B.
I’m good. I’m just going to wait until you can confirm that we’ve cancelled service. So, I’m just going to hang up here-

C.R.
Okay, you’re all set. You know, it’s disconnected. I’m really sorry to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can, but I’d like to thank you very much, for being a great part of Comcast, have a wonderful day.

R.B.
Uh- Can you give me a confirmation number for the cancellation of service?

C.R.
I- I don’t have a confirmation number.

R.B.
Well, how do I- How do I have confirmation that we-

C.R.
Okay. You’ll receive a final statement in about three weeks.

R.B.
A final statement in three weeks?

C.R.
Yes.

R.B.
Okay.

C.R.
Alright. Again, I want to thank you very much for…being a great part of Comcast, have a wonderful day.

R.B.
Okay, just so I can confirm, you said your name is [REDACTED FROM TAPE]?

C.R.
Correct.

R.B.
Okay. Cool. Thank you.

C.R.
Okay.

R.B.
Alright.

C.R.
You’re very welcome. Have a great day.

R.B.
You too.

A comment from “John Wantland@facebook”, at the original post (link):

Display common sense, lose your job. Try to keep your job, get hated on the Internet, and get punished anyway. Oh, and let’s not forget, not only do you lose your current job by displaying common sense, but hey, for getting fired, that makes you less desirable for any other company to hire you, on top of that. What do you want? What do you expect? Are you so willing to throw your career away because you’d rather be a polite homeless beggar than slightly annoy people and get to keep your house? I’m not saying it’s right, but the world we live in doesn’t allow for that kind of attitude, not really. If you have a job, you’re damn lucky to keep it. Look, I don’t like it any more than you, but I’ll put up with being slightly annoyed by a phone rep if the alternative is he loses his job. It’s not a defense of the system, but you do what you gotta do to survive, and until the day comes when all jobs are about cleaning up rainbow spills and unicorn poops, you just gotta suck it up and deal with the fact that no matter what you’re doing, once in a while you have to do something unpleasant, and maybe something you don’t agree with on a personal level, because it’s far better than sleeping in the gutter with your principles to keep you warm.

Tagged , ,

The Secrets of Sibel Edmonds

I SPEAK FROM MY HEART
LISTEN TO YOUR HEART
IT’S YOUR INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT
ITS THE GOVERNMENT YOU CANT CONTROL,
IT’S THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE
IT SPEAKS THE TRUTH TO EVERYONE
FROM THE BABY TO THE CRIMINAL
WELCOME YOUR INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT
IT’S THE ONLY ONE THAT’S REAL

“I am the President” by Christopher Judges, via “Terry Richardson’s Prom Night and Punk Youth: Vintage Photos Unearthed” by Jessica Coen

THE INVISIBLE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD

Occasionally, one runs into a character which exerts a force that distorts everything around them, the narrative in which they’re in breaks, or the reader wishes it to break, so they might take a station appropriate to their influence. This post was supposed to continue on the theme of Bruce Fein, further annotations to a podcast transcript (“Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters: A Transcript, With Interruptions”), but we are now waylaid by a character who commands our full attention. How I’ll get back to the story of Fein, I have no idea, and for the moment it’s not important.

There does, however, need to be some introductory space before we get to our new main character. In 2008, Ohio congresswoman Jean Schmidt would face off against David Krikorian in the Republican primary. During the race, Krikorian would distribute a flier claiming that Schmidt had been bribed with blood money for her opposition to a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide – Krikorian is of Armenian descent. Schmidt won the primary, won her seat, filed a complaint against Krikorian with the Ohio Elections Commission (OEC), and then a $6.8 million lawsuit. She would win a ruling in her favor from the commission, and after four years of legal wrangling, would finally drop her defamation lawsuit1.

The fight before the OEC brought two old adversaries back against each other. Amongst Krikorian’s counsel was Mark Geragos, and among Schmidt’s was Bruce Fein. In his book Mistrial, Geragos had described Fein as “one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting,” and Fein’s denials of the Armenian genocide in a courtroom in 2001 as the moment when he nearly lost faith in the justice system. Given Fein’s supposed antipathy of the Iraq war and the war state, Schmidt stood out as a client. In 2006, as the violent fissures of civil war broke out in Iraq, Schmidt cheerfully continued to believe. “There is enormous potential there,” she said. “the kind of potential that we saw in 1776.”2 On November 18, 2005, when John Murtha voted to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, the following ruckus broke out in the House (“Cowards cut and run, Marines never do”, on youtube):

Mr. Speaker, at this time, I now yield one minute to our newest member, the gentlewoman from Ohio.

JEAN SCHMIDT
Thank you. Yesterday, I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing [sic] is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it. A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th District in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. (Angry shouting starts) Danny…and the rest…of America… (Angry shouting gets louder) AND THE WORLD… (Angry shouting continues at high volume, gavel starts pounding down) WANT THE ASSURANCE…(“Will the…” drowned out by shouting) FROM THIS BODY…(Angry shouting gets even louder, and stays at high pitch, “The house will…”, pounding gavel) WILL SEE THIS THROUGH. (gavel pounding)

SPEAKER
The house will be in order…(angry shouting) The house will be in order…(angry shouting, lower than before, but intense and sustained) The house will be in order! (someone on the floor: “Mr. Speaker!”) THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE HOUSE WILL BE IN ORDER. THE GENTLELADY WILL SUSPEND…(someone shouting on the floor)…AND THE CLERK WILL REPORT HER WORDS. (quieter now) All members will suspend. The gentleman from Arkansas has demanded that the gentlelady’s words be taken down, theclerkwillreportthegentleladyswords.

Fein worked without legal charge for Schmidt, his fees paid for by the Turkish American Legal Defense Fund. This would result in a complaint being filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that Schmidt had received legal services valued at over a half a million dollars from a lobby group as a gift. Schmidt would end up being named one of the most corrupt members of Congress in a CREW report, the House Ethics Committee would rule the gift as impermissible and order Schmidt to re-pay it. Fein would be forbidden from further participating in the case3.

It was in August 2009, before the Ohio Election Commission, that our lead makes her appearance. Sibel Edmonds had been called in to testify to the links between the Turkish government and lobby groups such as the Turkish Coalition of America, to make the case that what was said in the Krikorian fliers, that the Turkish government itself had paid for Schmidt’s stance on the Armenian Genocide resolution, had some basis in fact. The reason Edmonds might be able to give relevant testimony in this area was because of her work as an FBI translator from September 2001 to March 2002. From “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, page 17:

Q
And how did it come to be that you were working for the FBI?

EDMONDS
Okay. I will try to summarize the story so it’s not — it won’t take too long. When I was studying for my Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice/psychology, I had applied for internship position with the FBI, and this would be around ’97, 1997, 1998, and they never responded to me and except that they were interested in my linguistic abilities because I spoke Turkish and Farsi. And then I didn’t hear back from them, and I was contacted around September 11, 2001, and they said they had obtained top secret clearance for me, and they needed my services for translation in Turkish and Farsi, and they wanted me to start immediately, and because I couldn’t work full time, I took the contractor’s position with the FBI for translation of those languages, and to a certain degree Azerbaijani.

Q
All right, and so can you describe what your job was with the FBI aside from translating those languages?

EDMONDS
I assisted Special Agents, both my — the primary supervisory Special Agents in Washington, D.C. field office, but also Special Agents in charge of various counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations around the country, and those were different FBI field offices.

Q
Now, when you refer to counterintelligence operations, can you just tell us what that means?

EDMONDS
Counterintelligence operations in the FBI had to do with collecting information, monitoring — and monitoring particular target foreign entities in the United States.

Edmonds would go on to testify that part of her translation work was of surveillance over a covert Turkish lobby, involved in intelligence operations in the United States, page 30 of the deposition:

Q
Okay. So when you talk about the covert Turkish lobby, what are you referring to there?

EDMONDS
Activities that would involve trying to obtain very sensitive, classified, highly classified U.S. intelligence information, weapons technology information, classified congressional records, recruiting — recruiting key U.S. individuals with access to highly sensitive information, blackmailing, bribery. These are some of the ones that just perhaps — and there are many others that I’m unable to think of.

This covert lobby was involved in numerous activities, including the secret campaign funding of various top level members of Congress, done via donations small enough that they didn’t need to be itemized in public filings. Those she accused of receiving such covert funding included Steve Solarz, congressman from New York, Bob Livingston of Louisiana, Dan Burton of Indiana, and then speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert:

Q
Can you tell me anything about what your concerns are about Mr. Hastert?

EDMONDS
This information has been public. The concerns, again would be several categories. The acceptance of large sums of bribery in forms of cash or laundered cash and laundering is to make it look legal for his campaigns, and also for his personal use, in order to do certain favors and call certain — call for certain actions, make certain things happen for foreign entities and foreign governments’ interests, Turkish government’s interest and Turkish business entities’ interests.

Q
Did you have reason to believe that Mr. Hastert, for example, killed one of the Armenian genocide resolutions in exchange for money —

MR. FEIN:
Leading question.

Q
– money from these Turkish organizations?

EDMONDS
Yes, I do.

Q
So if I were to say that a member of Congress — if I were to just walk out on the street and say, “Gee, I think members of Congress have taken money from these Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide,” would that be an unreasonable assumption on my part?

MR. FEIN:
That’s pure conjecture. The individual —

THE WITNESS:
No.

MR. FEIN:
– is totally irrelevant.

Q
Are you aware of other members of Congress, other than Mr. Hastert, taking money from Turkish organizations in exchange for denying the Armenian genocide?

EDMONDS
Yes, and not only taking money, but other activities, too, including being blackmailed for various reasons.

Q
Stephen Solarz is on your gallery as well. I believe he’s a Representative from New York. Is that correct? I’m really guessing.

EDMONDS
He used to be.

Q
Was, right?

EDMONDS
Correct. He is a registered lobbyist for the — or was registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey.

Q
And Mr. Hastert is also a registered lobbyist for the government of Turkey now?

EDMONDS
That’s what I have read and it was announced, yes, he is.

Q
And why is Mr. Solarz in your gallery, if you can tell me?

EDMONDS
Mr. Solarz and certain others in the gallery, as lobbyists they also acted as conduits to deliver or launder contribution and other briberies to certain members of Congress, but also in pressuring outside Congress, and including blackmail, in certain members of Congress.

Q
And Mr. Solarz and others would be doing this on behalf of these Turkish organizations?

EDMONDS
And the Turkish government, correct, both.

There was even more. Edmonds would allege that this covert lobby was in alliance with other foreign powers in setting up a network to steal nuclear and technological secrets through the state department, universities, and the RAND Corporation:

Q
One of the things that it indicates in your biographical information is that you’ve made certain allegations. Some of them we’ve talked about a little bit, and I wanted to ask you about some of the others. One of the entries indicates nuclear secrets black market, and it says, “Edmonds alleges that in the course of her work for the government she found evidence that the FBI, State Department and Pentagon had been infiltrated by a Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that paid high ranking American officials to steal nuclear weapons secrets,” and they have some footnotes for that, some cites. Is that correct that you’ve made those allegations?

EDMONDS
That information is correct, and if ever — you can get, I would say, those government organizations and others. There’s another place missing there. They list the State Department itself, but there is one other place that’s missing.

Q
And what is that place?

EDMONDS
That would be RAND Corporation.

Q
And can you tell me about the — give me some more information about the Turkish and Israeli run intelligence network that is referred to there?

EDMONDS
This information has been public, documenting methods of intelligence gathering. Yes. Through certain U.S. officials, executively appointed officials, foreign entities, not necessarily or not only government related; so if you say Israel and Turkey, not only government but other entities because it has multi-layers.

Q
All right.

EDMONDS
Their operations, and some of these layers sometimes they conduct their operations independently and with the sole purpose of obtaining a profit, and therefore, the information they obtain, let’s say, the nuclear or weapons technology, weapons technology related information doesn’t necessarily only go to Turkey or Israel, but they sell it to the highest bidder. That’s how they operate. They contact their people whether it’s in ISI, in Washington, D.C. part of the military attache for Pakistani intelligence, or the certain Saudi business people in Detroit may be contacted, and they say, okay, and talk about these Turkish entities. This is we have obtained this particular DVD containing this, and this person is willing to pay 500,000. Will you offer more because if you don’t, we will give it to this person. So what I’m trying to say is they do it both for governments, foreign governments, but some of those operatives, they also — they offer it in open market, and they have — they have individuals on their payroll on almost every major nuclear facility in the United States. RAND Corporation and various — in Midwest, various Air Force labs that develop certain weapons technology, which I am not very familiar with the technology itself.

Q
When you refer to the or when the article refers to the paid, high ranking American officials, can you identify who they are?

EDMONDS
That person has been identified by others.

Q
Okay.

EDMONDS
And he has been identified as Mr. Marc Grossman, who used to work for the State Department.

Q
Right, and Mr. Grossman, I think, was also in your gallery, correct?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And I read somewhere that Mr. Grossman had some relationships with a Turkish organization, Turkish diplomats here in the United States.

EDMONDS
Yes. He had very, very close relationship with not only Turkish diplomatic communities and entities, but business and also some of these criminal layer operatives that I told you about. Currently, that he’s nor working; he actually is working for a Turkish company called Ihals Holding.

Q
Okay. Now, was Mr. Grossman the ambassador to Turkey at some

Q
Okay, and then what was his position at the State Department, if you recall?

EDMONDS
He had several different positions. I believe in 1999 or 2000, was European Affairs. That dealt a lot with NATO, and afterwards during early bush administration’s stage, he was the second or the third highest person in the State Department. I’m not sure about the title.

Q
Okay, and during that time — I’m sorry — during that time when he was the second or third highest ranking person in State, I’ve read somewhere that you’ve alleged that he actually warned the Turkish Embassy about a CIA front company that had been set up to stop proliferation of nuclear weapons.

EDMONDS
That would be summer 2001. Whatever title he held at that point, he, Mr. Grossman, informed a certain Turkish diplomatic entity who was also an independent operative of a company called Brewster Jennings because Brewster Jennings was frequenting the American Turkish Council as a consulting or analyst firm, and there were certain nuclear related operatives who wanted to hire Brewster Jennings and have it pose as a front company. So there were talks between those Turkish operatives and Brewster Jennings, and Mr. Grossman wanted those people to be warned that Brewster Jennings was a government front, front for government, and it was a front. It was not a company for the front for government, U.S. government, and for those Turkish individuals to be told to stay away from Brewster Jennings. But the person who received that information, the Turkish diplomatic but also operative, actually contacted the Pakistani military attache and discussed with the person who was there about this fact and also told them, warned them to stay away from Brewster Jennings.

From page 206 of the deposition:

Q
To your knowledge, do you have any information about the Turkish government sponsoring chairs at universities, like Princeton, University of Utah, and other places?

EDMONDS
Georgetown University, and not only that. Some of these academic experts also are recruited agents who actually steal U.S. military and intelligence related information because they have security clearances and they have obtained position in high level institutions, and one good example would be RAND Corporation, and Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole [sic] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there that has been identified to him by his superiors, handlers, and he does it currently in — was doing it in 2002 with RAND Corporation, one of the individuals. That’s an example of academic expert that they recruit.

Q
And how do they recruit them? With money and other things?

EDMONDS
Money and in some cases combination of money and sexual related favors and information.

Furthermore, various members of Congress were also being bribed for access to nuclear technology, page 65 of the deposition:

Q
One of the other entries on your Wikipedia entry indicates that you had accused Mr. Hastert and other, quote, high ranking members of U.S. government of — let me make sure I’m reading this correctly. The entry says, “Edmonds also accuses Dennis Hastert of taking bribes.” I think we’ve talked about that; is that correct?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And then it says, “And high ranking members of the U.S. government of selling nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan.” Did you allege that high ranking members in the U.S. government had sold nuclear secrets to Turkey and Pakistan?

EDMONDS
They were involved in operations that were obtaining illegally U.S. weapons and nuclear related technology and sell it to foreign governments and also foreign independent operatives.

Burton, Hastert, Livingston, Solarz, were part of this secret network, but there were other politicians involved as well. Not all of them willingly, she pointed out in the most startling detail of the testimony. There was the possibility that Hastert was being blackmailed with compromising material, and there was a congresswoman who was definitely being blackmailed by the covert lobby, through compromising information of an affair this congresswoman had with one of the lobby’s own agents. From page 68 of the deposition:

EDMONDS
Tom Lantos is one of them.

Q
All right.

EDMONDS
I believe he passed away, and Tom Lantos’ office would be not only with the bribe, but also in disclosing highest level protected U.S. intelligence and weapons technology information both to Israel and to Turkey. His office was also involved with that. It was not only bribery, but it was other very serious criminal conduct. Roy Blunt is there. There have been individuals with a question mark there. The reason there’s a question mark is I lacked — I was terminated by April 2002, but this particular Congresswoman — the Turkish — these Turkish organizations and operatives, if they can’t do it by money, they do by blackmail. So they collect information on sexual lives and other information like that, and with this particular Congresswoman, it being 2000 until I left, they — this individual, this Congresswoman’s married with children, grown children, but she is bisexual. So they have sent Turkish female agents, and that Turkish female agents work for Turkish government, and have sexual relationship with this Congresswoman in her townhouse actually in this area, and the entire episodes of their sexual conduct was being filmed because the entire house, this Congressional woman’s house was bugged. So they have all that documented to be used for certain things that they wanted to request when I left. So I don’t know whether she — that Congresswoman complied and gave. That’s why I couldn’t use her name because I don’t — I meant her face because I don’t know if she did anything illegal afterwards. But she was — there are things; information was being collected for blackmail purposes, and her lesbian relationship, and they, the Turkish entities, wanted both congressional related favoritism from her, but also her husband was in a high position in the area in the state she was elected from, and these Turkish entities ran certain illegal operations, and they wanted her husband’s help. But I don’t know if she provided them with those. I left. I was terminated.

Q
And can you tell me how you know all that, everything you just told me?

EDMONDS
I can’t discuss the intelligence gathering method by the FBI, but in general terms, when foreign targets among themselves discuss how they were going to achieve certain goals, objectives, and if those communications are collected and recorded, not only do you have that communications, but in some cases they involved field office surveillance team to see that actually they completed. For example, if they say — somebody says at five o’clock they’re going to bug his house, the surveillance team would go out and see that he had (unintelligible). So there were various ways that things were collected.

Q
All right. So just to make sure I understand this, the Turkish entities were at least preparing to blackmail this Congresswoman.

EDMONDS
Correct.

Q
And is this Congresswoman still a sitting member of Congress?

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And why, if you know, would they want to blackmail this Congresswoman?

EDMONDS
I don’t know what reasons they had, why they just didn’t do money. They needed — I was trained as a language specialist by my agent for — to find personal information, and one of the things that we was taught in the FBI — everyone was taught in the counterintelligence — that the target U.S. persons, whether they are in Congress or executive branch or whatever, first go by foreign entities to what they refer to as hooking period, and it was very common; it’s a very common way of trying to find vulnerability, and that is sexual, financial, any other kinds of greeds, and it was — it was done a lot, was being done a lot, and in some cases certain people from Pentagon would send a list of individuals with access to sensitive data, whether weapons technology or nuclear technology, and this information would include all their sexual preference, how much they owed on their homes, if they have gambling issues, and the State Department, high level State Department person would provide it to these foreign operatives, and those foreign operatives then would go and hook those Pentagon people, whether they were at RAND or some other Air Force base. And then the hooking period would take some times. Sometimes it takes months, sometimes one year. They would ask for small favor, but eventually after they reviewed the targets that the U.S. person — some small favor, then they would go blackmail and that person would give them everything, nuclear related information, weapons related information. It always worked for them. So it was not always money.

Q
If you know, what was it that these Turkish entities wanted from this Congresswoman?

EDMONDS
I know for sure that Armenian genocide was one, but also where she came from, that city or the district where she came from is where certain Turkish operatives, lobby groups run illegal businesses for fund raising for themselves to generate money, and for laundering that money they needed her influence in that district where she is from and also her husband because he husband was also involved, had some high level position, not an elected person, with where she came from, and they had another Representative who was making it possible, but supposedly she at that point was kind of — was an obstacle. That’s all I know.

Q
In your experience, I mean, was this hooking technique used with other members of Congress by Turkish entities?

EDMONDS
Well, when I worked for the FBI, I work on operations that were not only current, but specific period of 1996 till 2000, 2001, December, 2003 January. So there were a lot of things that certain field office had provided me to go over, and some of that I didn’t complete, but one example would be with regard to Mr. Hastert. For example, he used the townhouse that was not his residence for certain not very morally accepted activities. Now, whether that was being used as blackmail I don’t know, but the fact that foreign entities knew about this, in fact, they sometimes participated in some of those not maybe morally well activities in that particular townhouse that was supposed to be an office, not a house, residence at certain hours, certain days, evenings of the week. So I can’t say if that was used as blackmail or not, but certain activities they would share. They were known.

None of this was speculation, all of it was certain, and said under oath, page 99:

Q
I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

EDMONDS
I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I –

Q
All right. That’s fair enough. I take it then from what you’ve told me that the people you’ve identified, the people that you’ve talked about today you’re certain about.

EDMONDS
Yes.

Q
And what you’ve told me today about those people is not based on speculation.

EDMONDS
No.

A month later, Edmonds would be interviewed by Philip Giraldi in a cover story for The American Conservative, “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, where she would identify the congresswoman at the center of the blackmail as Jan Schakowsky of Illinois:

GIRALDI: This corruption wasn’t confined to the State Department and the Pentagon-it infected Congress as well. You’ve named people like former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, now a registered agent of the Turkish government. In your deposition, you describe the process of breaking foreign-originated contributions into small units, $200 or less, so that the source didn’t have to be reported. Was this the primary means of influencing congressmen, or did foreign agents exploit vulnerabilities to get what they wanted using something like blackmail?

EDMONDS: In early 1997, because of the information that the FBI was getting on the Turkish diplomatic community, the Justice Department had already started to investigate several Republican congressmen. The number-one congressman involved with the Turkish community, both in terms of providing information and doing favors, was Bob Livingston. Number-two after him was Dan Burton, and then he became number-one until Hastert became the speaker of the House. Bill Clinton’s attorney general, Janet Reno, was briefed on the investigations, and since they were Republicans, she authorized that they be continued.

Well, as the FBI developed more information, Tom Lantos was added to this list, and then they got a lot on Douglas Feith and Richard Perle and Marc Grossman. At this point, the Justice Department said they wanted the FBI to only focus on Congress, leaving the executive branch people out of it. But the FBI agents involved wanted to continue pursuing Perle and Feith because the Israeli Embassy was also connected. Then the Monica Lewinsky scandal erupted, and everything was placed on the back burner.

But some of the agents continued to investigate the congressional connection. In 1999, they wiretapped the congressmen directly. (Prior to that point they were getting all their information secondhand through FISA, as their primary targets were foreigners.) The questionably legal wiretap gave the perfect excuse to the Justice Department. As soon as they found out, they refused permission to monitor the congressmen and Grossman as primary targets. But the inquiry was kept alive in Chicago because the FBI office there was pursuing its own investigation. The epicenter of a lot of the foreign espionage activity was Chicago.

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

I only came across this story recently, but I was not alone at my astonishment at the charges that Edmonds made here and elsewhere, though they did not travel far beyond the press fringes. “The old lesbian honeypot! Wow!” wrote Gawker‘s “Pareene” (Alex Pareene) in “Did This Congresswoman Have Lesbian Affair With a Turkish Spy?”. “Anyway we can barely follow this insane story,” Pareene wrote, expressing the feelings of the multitude, “so who knows if you should be freaked out about the Turkish spy ring selling nuclear secrets or if their bribery and blackmail has thus far succeeded only in preventing Congress from officially recognizing this mass murder they perpetrated in 1915.” “Turkey’s influence over lawmakers surfaces in Ohio hearing” by Luke Rosiak at The Sunlight Foundation would also give coverage, while “U.S. Nuke Secrets for Sale? And What Was the Deal With that B-52 Stratofortress Again?” by Brian Doherty, in the libertarian magazine Reason, would link to a story in the Sunday Times on Edmonds’ accounts of the theft of nuclear secrets. Last year, Ron Unz, the publisher of The American Conservative would cite the Sibel Edmonds case as one of three major stories that a functioning, healthy press should be investigating, but which appeared to occasion no interest. From “Our American Pravda”:

For most Americans, reality is whatever our media organs tell us, and since these have largely ignored the facts and adverse consequences of our wars in recent years, the American people have similarly forgotten. Recent polls show that only half the public today believes that the Iraq War was a mistake.

Author James Bovard has described our society as an “attention deficit democracy,” and the speed with which important events are forgotten once the media loses interest might surprise George Orwell.

Edmonds had been hired by the FBI to translate wiretapped conversations of a suspected foreign spy ring under surveillance, and she had been disturbed to discover that many of these hundreds of phone calls explicitly discussed the sale of nuclear-weapons secrets to foreign intelligence organizations, including those linked to international terrorism, as well as the placement of agents at key American military research facilities. Most remarkably, some of the individuals involved in these operations were high-ranking government officials; the staffs of several influential members of Congress were also implicated. On one occasion, a senior State Department figure was reportedly recorded making arrangements to pick up a bag containing a large cash bribe from one of his contacts. Very specific details of names, dates, dollar amounts, purchasers, and military secrets were provided.

The investigation had been going on for years with no apparent action, and Edmonds was alarmed to discover that a fellow translator quietly maintained a close relationship with one of the key FBI targets. When she raised these issues, she was personally threatened, and after appealing to her supervisors, eventually fired.

Since that time, she has passed a polygraph test on her claims, testified under oath in a libel lawsuit, expanded her detailed charges in a 2009 TAC cover story also by Giraldi, and most recently published a book recounting her case. Judiciary Committee Senators Chuck Grassley and Patrick Leahy have publicly backed some of her charges, a Department of Justice inspector general’s report has found her allegations “credible” and “serious,” while various FBI officials have vouched for her reliability and privately confirmed many of her claims. But none of her detailed charges has ever appeared in any of America’s newspapers. According to Edmonds, one of the conspirators routinely made payments to various members of the media, and bragged to his fellow plotters that “We just fax to our people at the New York Times. They print it under their names.”

At times, Congressional Democratic staff members became interested in the scandal, and promised an investigation. But once they learned that senior members of their own party were also implicated, their interest faded.

These three stories-the anthrax evidence, the McCain/POW revelations, and the Sibel Edmonds charges-are the sort of major exposés that would surely be dominating the headlines of any country with a properly-functioning media. But almost no American has ever heard of them. Before the Internet broke the chokehold of our centralized flow of information, I would have remained just as ignorant myself, despite all the major newspapers and magazines I regularly read.

Am I absolutely sure that any or all of these stories are true? Certainly not, though I think they probably are, given their overwhelming weight of supporting evidence. But absent any willingness of our government or major media to properly investigate them, I cannot say more.

However, this material does conclusively establish something else, which has even greater significance. These dramatic, well-documented accounts have been ignored by our national media, rather than widely publicized. Whether this silence has been deliberate or is merely due to incompetence remains unclear, but the silence itself is proven fact.

The Edmonds story first broke in a big way on a 60 Minutes piece, “Lost in Translation” (link goes to video, program transcript is here), which featured a small fragment of her allegations. On that program, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley would famously vouch for her. “She’s credible,” he said. “And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.” Vanity Fair would cover the Edmonds case in 2005 with “An Inconvenient Patriot” by David Rose, giving space to her allegations about Hastert, and portraying her, again, as an honest, credible witness. In 2006, she would win the “PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award” for her attempts to describe what took place in the FBI’s languages division despite gag orders. On a podcast hosted by Scott Horton, Edmonds would appear alongside James Bamford, the man thought to have written the definitive accounts of the NSA (such as Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace), and the title of the transcript carried this writer’s approval of her work: “James Bamford: ‘I support Sibel Edmonds. You should too.’” “Any final closing comments from either of you?” asked Horton. “I just want to supply my support to Sibel’s effort here,” replied Bamford. “I think she’s been doing a fantastic job of trying to get this out there, and all the listeners out there, I hope they join in with their support.” Daniel Ellsberg, a hero to millions for his work in publishing the Pentagon Papers, would offer his support as well, with “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case”. Ellsberg chastised the press for ignoring the bombshell allegations of Sibel Edmonds, a “courageous and highly credible source”4. “Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time,” said Joe Lauria, who wrote a Sunday Times piece (“For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets”, behind a paywall) on the theft of nuclear secrets with Edmonds as principal source, “or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people.”5

What did I feel when I came across this story? I think I am possessed most of all by the storyteller’s ruthlessness, wanting a great, captivating narrative and indifferent to all else. I had come across, without hyperbole, what might potentially be the most important story of the new century. I do not doubt that what I felt was something like the happy captive state of writers like Philip Giraldi and Joe Lauria, where you ignore the small details that break the dream. I felt the kind of enthusiasm where I really might have surpassed any past foolishness by promoting this obscure story like a three alarm blaze. Then, the unsettling details gather in a concentrated point, and something like glass shatters. You are outside the dream, cold and unspelled, your quest now entirely different, to demonstrate how certain flaws in the reflecting light, so numerous as to be no coincidence or accident, make obvious that this is an illusion. If Ms. Edmonds is reading this, this is where she should feel a certain cold sense of dread of what comes next. I’m no Mace Windu, but I think I can call this party over.

THE EMPIRE OF ILLUSION

What I will first do is to compare multiple accounts of the time Sibel Edmonds spent as a translator at the FBI, from September 2001 to February 2002. What we will be focusing on are deviations from these accounts, not on small details but very large ones. I believe Edmonds to be more than a little careless about libel and deception, but I am not, so I am cautious about stating in definite terms what these deviations amount to. My principal sources will be the following: “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the declassified Office of the Inspector General’s Report, A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds (this is the non-pdf version), Edmonds’ own memoir Classified Woman, Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives have Penetrated Washington by Paul Sperry, a fearmongering book about the supposed Muslim takeover of the U.S. government for which Edmonds served as a source and in which she is frequently quoted, and David Rose’s “An Inconvenient Patriot” from Vanity Fair. Arguably, all of these tell Edmonds’ story from her perspective or in ways favorable to her. A Review of the FBI’s Actions is often cited as vindicating Edmonds, the memoir is her own, her allegations in the Sperry book are taken almost without qualifier or skepticism, and on a podcast with Brad Friedman (“Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ Scheduled Guests: Sibel Edmonds, David Swanson”), she spoke approvingly of the Vanity Fair piece as thoroughly researched, well-sourced journalism (from 26:00-27:40 on the audio):

FRIEDMAN
When Vanity Fair reported this, and it was an exhaustive exposé, frankly, I can’t remember how many thousands of words it was, but, it went into great detail. After the Vanity Fair story, did the other media, AP, New York Times, Washington Post, did they pick the story up in anyway to advance what he had to say? Just amongst the many remarkable things he had to say.

EDMONDS
Not one. Not one.

FRIEDMAN
And they were alleging that the Speaker of the House, at the time that he was Speaker of the House, and they were alleging that he was accepting tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars, from these Turkish foreign agents. Correct?

EDMONDS
And Brad, this was not based on my testimony, this article was written with really strict conditions on the author, on the investigative journalist, usually they require two to three sources. In this particular case, for this particular case, because the speaker of the House was involved, because of the case being high profile, they required more than four, five, sources. So, that’s what this reporter got. And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework. And again, this is not an alternative media outlet. We are looking at Vanity Fair. They have two million circulation number. And yet, not a single, not one newspaper, or network channel, or cable channel, nobody reported on it. There was this deafening silence.

What follows will focus very much on the details of Edmonds’ story, rather than make any attempt to re-tell her narrative. Those wanting that kind of succinct, well told arc which hews close to how Edmonds presents herself and wishes to be seen – someone who stumbles upon a network of criminality through her translation work and is unjustly punished for it – then I recommend Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, which will also be helpful as a roadmap for the various events discussed here.

There is first the description of how she joins the FBI translation division. Joining this organization will have an extraordinary impact on her, and it was done in the days after September 11, the kind of national tragedy where people’s memories become hypervivid of the exact moments of what took place. These were the first deviations I noticed, and in some ways they’re small, but when I came across them I felt an unsettling, the first cracks in a collapsing structure. A Review of the FBI’s Actions gives a thorough and detailed description of what took place:

Edmonds applied to the FBI on March 10, 1997, for a linguist position. After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998, the FBI offered Edmonds a position as a CL [Contract Linguist]. The offer was contingent upon Edmonds receiving a Top Secret security clearance.

Pursuant to instructions in the offer letter, Edmonds completed, on June 4, 1998, an SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions – the standard form used by the federal government to collect information for background investigations of persons applying for positions that require a security clearance. As part of the background investigation, Edmonds was polygraphed on December 4, 1998. The FBI also conducted a Personnel Security Interview (PSI) of Edmonds on December 16, 1998. Her security file does not reflect any activity on her background investigation during 1999. It appears that through a series of oversights and lack of follow through, the FBI did not take action on her background investigation, and therefore Edmonds did not begin work as a CL during this time period.

In February 2000, the FBI asked Edmonds to submit another SF-86. In April 2001, LSS [Languages Services Section] wrote a memorandum requesting that the PSI be updated, and asking that the necessary work be done to complete the background investigation. The FBI conducted supplemental PSIs of Edmonds on May 1, 2001, and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, four years after she first submitted her application, the FBI granted Edmonds a “Top Secret” clearance. No job interview was conducted other than the PSIs.

Edmonds began working for the FBI on September 20, 2001, first as a Contract Monitor (CM), and shortly thereafter as a CL.

So, we have an application in 1997, questionnaire and interview in 1998, oversight in 1999 which led to delayed processing, the FBI asking Edmonds to re-submit in 2000, followed by interviews with Edmonds on May 1, 2001 and July 19, 2001. On September 13, 2001, perhaps in connection with what happened two days earlier, Edmonds gets a top secret clearance. Edmonds did not simply call up the FBI after September 11, and offer help, but had been pursuing work there and had been in touch with the bureau that year for two Personal Security Interviews.

I do not think there is anything wrong, suspect, or shameful in these events, yet Edmonds always omits the details that she was in touch with the FBI that year before September 11, actively pursuing this work.

In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, she contacts the FBI after September 11 because she is haunted by the fundamentalist takeover of Iran, which she saw up close as a child:

In 1978, when Sibel was eight and the Islamists’ violent prelude to the Iranian revolution was just beginning, a bomb went off in a movie theater next to her elementary school. “I can remember sitting in a car, seeing the rescuers pulling charred bodies and stumps out of the fire. Then, on September 11, to see this thing happening here, across the ocean-it brought it all back. They put out a call for translators, and I thought, Maybe I can help stop this from happening again.”

There is a slightly different take in this interview with David Swanson, “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”; she applies to the FBI, they lose her files, and then she calls them up after September 11 to offer her help:

Swanson: What made you inclined to take a job with the FBI as a translator?

Edmonds: There needs to be a brief explanation – three years before I took that job, I was doing my studies in forensic science and criminal justice, and I had applied for an internship position with the FBI, not a full time or permanent job position, and at that point they were interested in my language skills, but they basically messed it up. I sent them the application, I took the polygraph test for that internship position for their language department, and somehow in 1999 they lost all that information – not only mine, but from 150 other applicants they had for language specialist positions. These documents, these files were lost within the FBI – or at least that’s the explanation they gave to these applicants.

And then the 911 terrorist event took place and I’d turn on the TV and kept hearing the Director of the FBI pleading for language specialists – especially for the languages that I speak – because they were desperate for language specialists. And at that point it was a duty to go and say “Look – I have these skills, you need these skills for the nation, and I’m offering it to you.” So I took this position as a contract language specialist for those languages and my top secret clearance was issued and I started working five days after 911.

In Classified Woman, Edmonds applies to the FBI in 1997, there is supposed to be follow-up in 1999 but there is none, and she is then contacted by the FBI after September 11. However, she says that she had no contact with the FBI since 2000, when A Review of the FBI’s Actions has her interviewed twice in 2001, and she says that she did not initially apply to be a translator while A Review has her applying for exactly that position. A Review has her completing her proficiency exams in 1998 (“After she took the requisite language tests, by letter dated May 6, 1998″), while Classified has her taking them in 1997, “After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English…I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997.”. From Classified:

I recalled an incident in Iran I had witnessed a few years later, when I was eight years old. I was in a minivan with six other girls, on my way home from school. We’d heard an explosion. Traffic stopped and we saw thick smoke rising in a column only a few yards away. Our driver got out and started talking with other drivers. I rolled down the window to hear one man explain, “… either a big fire or a bomb explosion in a building, probably the movie theater on the circle. I heard there were many people trapped inside …” As we passed the building, I leaned out the window and looked. The rescue teams, together with civilian volunteers, were removing charred bodies and stumps, dropping them on the sidewalk in front of the building. The driver, recovering as though from a trance, turned around and yelled, “Get down on the floor! You shouldn’t be looking at this!”

The 9/11 attack had brought back viscerally all that horror and trauma. Another casualty of that day was my newly shattered sense of security and optimism about a country I believed would never experience such horrors.

As depressing as things felt, we knew that together we would make it in the end. Our marriage, our true partnership for the past ten years, had made it through other difficult times and crises, the last being my father’s sudden death a year earlier; it would also make it through this one, I was sure.

After finishing our comfort soup and ordering our customary Vietnamese coffee, Matthew used his cell to check voice mail at home, jotting down the messages on a napkin. He slid it toward me and pointed to one. Someone from FBI Headquarters had left his number, urging me to call him back as soon as possible.

I wondered what this was about. The only connection I had with the FBI had to do with my application for a temporary part-time intern position I had sent them four years earlier, in 1997. I was interested in their department that dealt with crimes against children, having worked as a trained and certified advocate for the Alexandria Juvenile Court, where I investigated and represented child abuse cases for over two years. I had sent them my application for an internship (summer or a part-time position) relevant to the degree I was pursuing in criminal justice.

After reviewing my application, someone at the bureau evidently found my linguistic abilities of interest and asked me to take proficiency tests in those languages and in English. At first I was put off by the prospect of working as a translator but on second thought decided it could be a stepping-stone to where I wanted to be until I completed my degrees. I went ahead and took the intense and excruciating proficiency tests in the summer of 1997. Afterwards they said that all language specialists, whether full-time or contract, were required to obtain top-secret clearance (TSC), since they would be dealing with sensitive and classified intelligence and documents. The process of background checks and issuance of TSC could take anywhere from nine to fifteen months, I was told. They would then notify me and offer me options, such as contract or full-time employment.

Nine months passed; then another nine, and another. In 2000, I called FBI Headquarters to inquire about the status of the position I had applied for nearly four years earlier. Toward the end of that year I finally received a call from a woman from FBI Headquarters who told me with much sincerity and apologies that in 1999 the bureau had lost my entire information package and test results, together with those of over 150 other applicants. That package contained my bank account information, tax records, Social Security and private medical and family-related information. “What?!” I asked, incredulous. “… Do you realize what people can do with that information?”

She apologized again and said the bureau would conduct expedited background investigations and have the position ready for me in a year. “If you change your mind and decide to go ahead with it,” she told me, “the position will be ready and available for you.” That was the last I’d heard from the FBI-until then.

I grabbed the napkin and stepped outside to make the call. The HQ man came on and thanked me profusely for returning his call. He then went on to explain how badly the bureau was in need of translators in Middle Eastern and certain Asian languages: Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, Pashtun, Urdu, Uzbek, and so on. The bureau had tens of thousands of leads and evidence waiting to be translated into English before the agents could take any further action. They had thousands of pieces of raw intelligence pouring in daily, but they all were in foreign languages and could not be processed or assessed until translated. “Ms. Edmonds,” he concluded his pitch, “we need your skills badly. Your TS clearance came in last week and we would like you to start working for us immediately.”

According to “Lost in Translation” on 60 Minutes, from the very day she begins work, she is repeatedly told to slow down so that the translation department can get more money:

Edmonds says that to her amazement, from the day she started the job, she was told repeatedly by one of her supervisors that there was no urgency,- that she should take longer to translate documents so that the department would appear overworked and understaffed. That way, it would receive a larger budget for the next year.

“We were told by our supervisors that this was the great opportunity for asking for increased budget and asking for more translators,” says Edmonds. “And in order to do that, don’t do the work and let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department.”

Edmonds’ immediate supervisor was Mike Feghali, and in their first meeting in Classified Woman, she contrasts her sleek stylishness with his runt-like squalor:

That morning I had taken extra time to prepare. I was going to work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and my attire had to reflect that-an assumption proven wrong within the first few days. I had chosen a black light wool pantsuit with a long-sleeved parliament blue shirt, black pumps, and a black suede briefcase; classic.

A few minutes later, I noticed a short man bustling toward me. He was bald and overweight by at least fifty pounds and clad in a shiny-gray polyester suit. His dark olive complexion glistened with oil and perspiration. He greeted me with a big forced smile and introduced himself as Mike Feghali. After checking the status of my entry card and ID badge (another two days for both), we took the elevator to the fourth floor, which housed the FBI’s largest and most important Language unit.

In Classified, it is Feghali who brings up the idea of slowing down work so they can get additional funds, but he does not do so on the day that Edmonds starts, or within days of her starting, but in early October:

One day in early October, I received such a call from a New Jersey field agent. I could hear his desperation. He suggested that to save time I should have the results faxed to him over an FBI-secured fax line immediately after I was finished. (Ordinarily, completed assignments from field offices had to be sent to HQ in hard copy; the administrators then would send it via secure mail to the requesting field agents. That slowed everything. Our Language unit could not or would not send anything electronically.)

I worked quickly until I finished the agent’s documents. Since I was not familiar with the secure fax, I went to Feghali’s office and asked him for instructions. He asked me to sit down. Feghali had something to tell me.

“I see you are working very hard and fast. That’s very good but you need to slow down a bit and take breaks during your work. You don’t want to burn out or collapse in exhaustion. We wouldn’t want that for you either; you have already become a very popular translator. Look what I have for you.”

He handed me a two-page document. It was from the special agent from Baltimore who had supervised my interrogation translation. The commendation letter praised my work, professional conduct, and insightful feedback I’d given them.

“He says he will request you in particular for anything else they may have in the future that deals with Farsi or Turkish. You see, you don’t have to kill yourself, work too hard, to be liked and admired.”

I assured him that I knew my limitations and wouldn’t exhaust myself.

Grinning and nodding to show that he understood, Feghali nevertheless went on to emphasize that it is not helpful to work fast; that doing so may in fact “end up hurting the department.”

I was baffled. I had no idea what he was getting at. Had someone complained?

“What do you mean?”

“Look,” he began (never a good sign), “for years and years the bureau, all these agents, treated us, the translators, as second-class citizens…. Now, thanks to the 9/11 terrorist attack, all that has changed; the terrorists and what they did put us translators on the map.” Feghali continued, “That’s why I say sometimes good things come out of bad things. Some may consider what happened on 9/11 terrible, but we, the translators, see it as a cause to celebrate. Look at these date cookies my wife baked yesterday: see, we are still celebrating the attack; this is our customary celebration cookie. Have some.” He extended the cookie bowl toward me.

I was sick to my stomach. I shook my head and refused. Perhaps I misunderstood; could he have possibly meant that the attack finally opened people’s eyes to the threats we all face? Could that have been it?

Yet Feghali continued in this same disgusting vein. “This is the time for us, for our department to flourish…. This November the FBI is going to present its budget request for our department, and to make the case, they have to show this huge backlog of untranslated material: the bigger the backlog, the more money and more translators for this department. Do you get the picture?”

“But we already have a huge backlog; hundreds of thousands of hours and pages, if you count all the languages.”

“I know, I know,” he said dismissively, “but still … for instance, you worked so hard and too fast to translate this agent’s document, and want to go the extra mile … You say this guy is desperate; well, sometimes desperation is a good thing. Better to have this guy complain to and pressure his bosses and HQ for not getting his translated documents than to make him satisfied and happy … and have him forget about it later. All I’m asking you is to be a better friend to your colleagues: accompany them to lunches and coffee breaks, take regular breaks, and do not work this fast, that’s all.”

This was hateful. I had to get out of his office, right away. I started out when he called me back. Now he held the cookie bowl only inches from my face. “Have a cookie. Don’t refuse my wife’s famous cookies.” I grabbed one and left.

As soon as I found my way clear of his office, I dumped the cookie in the nearest trashcan. Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. My first order of business was to fax this document to the agent in New Jersey. (I did, with Amin’s help [Amin was a fellow translator, in Farsi].) What happened in Feghali’s office was sickening. I well knew this was the second time I had defied him; I prayed it would be the last.

This lengthy excerpt provides, I think, a good sense of Edmonds’ sensibility in this book and why people should perhaps be a little cautious in trusting her accounts. In contrast with what we expect from office life, even the office life of a semi-secret agency, made up of banalities and drudgery, occasionally relieved by moments of intellectual excitement, challenge, and humor – the life of Sibel Edmonds is charged with the heroic and dramatic. She dumps a cookie made by the boss’s wife into the garbage and it’s not an instance of petty rebellion, but one moment in an epic struggle: Not on my life would I ever eat anything baked to celebrate 9/11. This concept of date cookies being eaten to celebrate 9/11, a ritual that she does not take part in and which utterly sickens her, recurs in a different variation in a very disturbing scene in the book Infiltration, a moment that would no doubt have stayed in the mind of anyone who witnessed it, but which is absent in every other account by Edmonds of her time in the language bureau. Infiltration, as said, is a reactionary book about a possible Muslim takeover of the U.S. government from the inside, and I think it can properly be classed in the genre of Paranoid Islamophobia. That this extraordinary scene occurs here, and nowhere else, made me wonder for the first time whether Edmonds manages to intuit what each listener wants to hear, and gives them that version. Paul Sperry wanted to hear about Muslims celebrating the destruction of the two towers, and she gave him exactly that. The celebration takes place on the very day she starts at the office (this section from Infiltration is currently available on Google Books, page 166):

CELEBRATING 9/11

When Edmonds showed up for her first day of work at the Washington field office, a week after the 9/11 attacks, she expected to find a somber atmosphere. Instead, she was offered cookies filled with dates form part bowls set out in the large open room where other Middle Eastern linguists with top-secret security clearance translate terror-related communications. (The highly secure language unit room is walled off from agents, who do not have badge access and must be escorted into the room.)

She knew the dessert is customarily served in the Middle East at weddings, births, and other celebrations and asked what the happy occasion was.

To her shock, she was told the Arabic linguists were celebrating the terrorist attacks on America, as if they were some joyous event. Right in front of a supervisor from the Middle East, one Arabic translator named Osama cheered, “It’s about time they got a taste of what they’ve been giving to the Middle East!”

Edmonds says her co-workers were not shy about making such hostile comments. “These statements were neither rare nor made in a whisper,” she says. “They were open and loud.”

She found out later that it was her supervisor Feghali’s wife – an Arabic linguist on loan from the National Security Agency – who brought the date filled cookies.

Edmonds was taken aback by the blatant display of anti-Americanism that day. But she soon found that it was more the rule than the exception. The language squad was rife with linguists with questionable loyalties, she says, all with top-security clearance.

“There were those who openly divided the fronts as ‘Us’ – the Middle Easterners who shared certain views – and ‘Them’ – the Americans who were the outsiders [bristling] with arrogance that was now ‘leading to their own destruction,’” she says.

Though all translators working for the FBI must be U.S. citizens, “citizenship doesn’t take care of it,” she says referring to loyalty.

“Wherever there’s a conversation about America or Americans, it’s always still ‘They’ or ‘Them,’ and not ‘Us,’” says Edmonds, who is not a practicing Muslim. “Whenever 9/11 is brought up, you know, it happened to Them.” She estimates that the roughly forty Arabic linguists there account for “easily more than 75 percent of the loyalty problems,” and yet they are the most indispensible to investigations of al-Qaida suspects.

A warning in advance of an encore al-Qaida attack more than likely will come in the form of a message or document in Arabic that will have to be translated. That message may go to an Arab or Muslim sympathizer within the language department, and it may never be translated in full, if at all, Edmonds warns.

“The translation of our intelligence is being entrusted to individuals with loyalties to our enemies,” she says. “Important [terrorist] chatter is being intentionally blocked.”

Another translator who worked in the Washington field office before his recent promotion to headquarters agrees with Edmonds up to a point. Middle Eastern translators on the Arabic desk “did express their displeasure with U.S. policy in the Middle East,” he says, ” but they never said they wanted to see the U.S. attacked so far as I heard.” He doubts their objection to U.S. foreign policy affects their loyalty.”

An incidental note about Infiltration: this book, and nowhere else, states that Edmonds has recently earned her Ph.D.6

This is not a case of Edmonds being selectively or manipulatively quoted by the writer of Infiltration. She made these claims in multiple places, according to the Office of the Inspector General’s report, though she somehow did not make those claims with the OIG, again according to the report: “According to some media accounts, Edmonds made additional allegations relating to the September 11 terrorist attacks and the allegedly inappropriate reaction by other FBI linguists to those attacks. However, Edmonds never raised those allegations to the OIG, and we did not investigate them in our review.”

Though A Review of the FBI’s Actions supposedly vindicates Edmonds in every respect, it finds no evidence for her allegations of deliberate work slowdowns:

A. Edmonds’ Initial Allegations

Edmonds alleged that shortly after she began work for the FBI, linguists were directed to slow the pace of their work so that the material to be translated would “pile up” and the FBI would have a basis to request more translators. Edmonds also said that she was reprimanded for working too quickly. Edmonds provided the OIG with the names of several linguists whom she believed had heard these instructions.

The persons supervising Edmonds denied ever telling Edmonds or any other linguist to slow down so that more linguists would be hired. Instructions to slow down, the OIG was told, only were given if a linguist’s pace was adversely affecting the quality of the linguist’s work. The OIG was told that such an instruction was never given to Edmonds because the quality of her work was good.

The OIG interviewed ten linguists who were either named by Edmonds in her allegations or were named by Edmonds as having information relevant to her allegations, including those whom Edmonds specifically stated could corroborate her allegation regarding the alleged instruction to slow down. Only three of these linguists stated that they recalled hearing about the alleged instruction to slow down. Two said they heard the allegation only from Edmonds. The third said that she had heard about the slow down instruction from others in addition to hearing about it from Edmonds, but said she could not recall who those others were. The other seven denied ever hearing about such an instruction.

We found insufficient evidence to substantiate Edmonds’ allegation that such time and attendance abuse was condoned or occurred. Moreover, given the backlog of translation work at the FBI, we do not believe the FBI would need to intentionally slow down the linguists’ work to support hiring additional translators.

Edmonds turns Feghali into a cartoon villain. He is a lazy bureaucratic slob who celebrates 9/11 because it might mean a budget increase, but someone who uses brute force, fraud, and petty litigation to move up in the workplace and who sells out the FBI’s secret informants, who might end up killed as a result. From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, another interpreter] added, “Not only that, we’re stuck with the worst guy among the supervisors: Feghali. Do you know how he became supervisor here? Let me tell you …”

He then launched into the sordid history of a sordid man, a bureaucrat who clawed his way into his current position by using and stepping on people, committing fraud, abusing his authority (there were charges of sexual misconduct and other outstanding complaints against him), and threatening those who challenged him with phony discrimination lawsuits. Apparently, this last threat got the FBI’s attention and he was left alone-to continue his abuses. The managers all were wary of him.

I decided to hear Kevin [Kevin Taskesen, another interpreter] out before giving Feghali the memo. When I got to the coffeehouse, Kevin was already there, looking rattled.

“Do you know how only agents are allowed to know and maintain informants’ and assets’ identities, contact information?”

I shook my head no. During my work I had not come across anything that involved procedures concerning FBI informants’ information, and wondered what this had to do with Feghali or Dickerson [Melek Can Dickerson, a co-worker who soon becomes a major player in the story].

“Feghali has found a way to access that information,” Kevin continued. “I don’t know how. Also, according to Sarshar, Feghali has found a way to use and cash in on this information. Again, I don’t know how. I’m telling you what I’ve heard from several sources.” He went on to describe illegal transactions involving nepotism and other illicit activities, all of them disturbing. Kevin sounded afraid. He considered Feghali evil. “I won’t inform Saccher [Dennis Saccher, Edmonds' other supervisor]. I want to stay away from this shit.”

I looked him in the eye and told him he didn’t have a choice, that if we didn’t report this, we would be co-conspirators. “Like it or not, you’ve been exposed to this; you are a witness.” I sighed. “I’ll call Saccher tomorrow morning. This information on informants can be huge. Think about it: he could be selling that information to the targets. Do you know how much he can get for that-for ratting out FBI informants? Do you know that this can get some of these informants killed?!”

As I got up to leave, Kevin said he wanted to wait a few minutes; he didn’t want us to be seen together by Feghali. What a paranoid chicken! I thought. That was then.

Perhaps the most pivotal event to take place in Edmonds’ time at the bureau was when another interpreter, “Helen” Melek Can Dickerson, and her husband, Major Douglas Dickerson, met Edmonds and her husband Matthew at Edmonds’ house for brunch. Edmonds believes that when Helen Dickerson invited her to join the American Turkish Council and the Turkish American Associations, it was in fact an invitation to spy on behalf of the Turkish government, passing them useful information and blocking any investigations into improprieties related to Turkey. Given that the version of the meeting in Classified Woman is doubtless the one closest to Edmonds’ perspective, I give her depiction in full:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning. The Dickersons showed up right on time and Matthew went downstairs to greet them. By the time I came down, the first round of introductions had been made. Douglas Dickerson appeared to be in his late thirties or early forties. He was tall and wiry, with salt and pepper hair neatly cropped, and a pair of steely gray eyes framed by silver-rimmed glasses. He shook my hand and asked me to call him Doug, and his wife gave me an unexpected hug. We moved to the kitchen and I went to pour hot tea while they were being seated.

We sipped our drinks and made small talk for about fifteen minutes. “Doug” briefly talked about his background and current position with the U.S. Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency, under the procurement logistics division at the Pentagon, which dealt with Turkey and Turkic-speaking Central Asian countries: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. And, he casually added, he was part of a team at the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans overseeing Central Asian policies and operations. I was surprised. His wife had told me he worked for the State Department, and that’s what I’d said to my husband. Without missing a beat, Matthew went ahead and asked, “I thought you were with the State Department?” Dickerson chuckled and said it didn’t make any difference which agency, since his activities involved the Pentagon, State Department, DIA, NATO and others. Well, it made sense.

I started serving the pie and cake while Matthew, always to the point, answered their questions about what kind of work he did. As we ate, the Dickersons talked about their life in Turkey and Germany, and their plan to retire in a few years and move to Turkey permanently, where they owned several properties. I thought Doug looked too young to retire anytime soon but attributed that to his joining the military at a very young age.

Doug asked whether we knew a lot of Turkish people, since so many of them lived in the Washington, DC, area. We didn’t. I told him that except for two brothers I had met in college and their family, we didn’t know any other Turkish people, and added that we visited Turkey at least once a year and that my family visited us here annually. He nodded and exchanged a look with his wife, who nodded back.

He followed that up with another question. “How about Turkish organizations here in the States? There are many of them, some very influential and powerful.”

Matthew shook his head and said no.

“Oh come on, how could you not?” he chided. “Some of these organizations are movers and shakers, both in the U.S. and Turkey. You mean you don’t know the American Turkish Council, ATC? Or the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, ATAA?”

I readjusted myself in my chair uncomfortably; I didn’t want to discuss those organizations. Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.

Matthew, oblivious to my evident discomfort and sudden silence, began by answering, “I know what ATC is, but they’re involved with companies and people who do business with Turkey or Turkish businesses that export to or work with the U.S.” Then he turned to me. “Honey, isn’t that right? In fact, when we had our business, we checked them out as a possible advertising venue for our IT services.”

I specifically avoided answering and asked if anyone wanted more tea. My transparent attempt to change the subject was ignored. Doug pressed harder. “Matthew, ATC is one of the most powerful organizations in the States. They have several hotshot lobbying firms working for them: the Livingston Group, run by the former Speaker of the House, Bob Livingston; the Cohen Group, headed by the former secretary of defense, and others. They deal with the highest-level people in the Pentagon, State Department and the White House. They’re able to secure hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. government contracts for Turkish companies every year, many of them for stuff in Central Asia; they rule Congress. Turkish companies, through ATC and ATAA, get most of the contract grants reserved for Central Asian countries and do tons of work for us; Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and the rest of them, those countries are our future bases and energy sources. Where have you been?”

Now it was Matthew’s turn to feel baffled and confused. “Okay, right, but as I said, they deal with those companies that are involved in those particular business areas. They don’t invite individuals, people like Sibel or me, to join. It’s a membership-based organization for Turkish and American businesses.” Doug smiled and said, almost as though he were spelling out each word, “Of course they will accept you, Matthew. In fact, they would love to have you join them. They will take care of setting up a business for you.” He extended his left arm forward and pointed his finger at me while he kept his eyes on Matthew. “All you have to do is tell them where Sibel works: what she does and who she listens to. You’ll get in “-he snapped his fingers-”just like that. They’ll make sure you’re set; you can retire in a few years and settle in Turkey. They’ll take care of everything. I can assure you. How do you think I’m retiring, my friend? I’m already set, ready to live the good life over there.”

I felt as if I’d been hit by a truck. Initially I was unable to move my body, even my head. I couldn’t swallow. I couldn’t sort out what was swirling so horribly inside me. When I finally managed to move, I turned around to look at Jan Dickerson. Was it possible that her husband, Doug, had no idea what she and I were doing at the bureau? Could that be? Or was this some sort of test, to see how the enemy camp might recruit me? Were these people sent by the bureau?

Jan locked eyes with me and smiled-no, it was a smirk: a lopsided, crooked grin. I realized then; they were trying to recruit me! They were here in my house, trying to purchase us. I thought, My God, this can’t be happening. How can this be? Matthew continued to listen to Doug’s pitch without a clue as to what was taking place.

Doug now pointed to his wife. “My wife worked for them, you know. Jan worked for ATAA and ATC. Before we came to the States, while in Germany, she worked for their sister organization in Germany. There are several Turkish-German organizations like that over there. I am very active with them and their Pentagon arm.”

I was seized by a panic attack. My heart was pounding; my hands were sweating and my mouth had gone dry. This was surreal. It couldn’t be real; maybe I was hallucinating. In fact, this was impossible. Melek Can Dickerson had been hired by the FBI and granted Top Secret Clearance after a thorough background check. No way in hell the bureau would hire her and give her clearance knowing that she worked for those organizations: they were our targets, housing high-level operatives and criminals.

Doug looked me in the eye. “Sibel, I’ll introduce you to our two best friends, our Turkish friends. One of them lives in McLean, Virginia. In fact, later today we’ll visit them. We visit their house at least once a week. Do you know the Mediterranean Bakery on Van Dorn? Jan shops for them there. We get them bread and Middle Eastern baked goods from there.” He paused and named the individual. “He is one of the key operators for the ATC, Colonel ______.” Doug named one of the FBI’s top counterintelligence targets; in fact, one of our top, primary targets.

He continued. “When Jan worked at ATAA and ATC, she was liaisoned to his office since we knew him from way back when, in Turkey and later in Germany. You guys would like him; we’ll introduce you to him. Also…” He went on to name others, detailing where they lived and what they did-two out of three being the FBI’s primary counterintelligence investigation targets. The names he dropped kept on, from Douglas Feith to Marc Grossman, from a division in the Pentagon to a special unit in the State Department.

I sprang to my feet and grabbed Matthew’s teacup, my hands badly shaking. Jan extended her cup to me. “More tea for me also. Aren’t you glad we finally got together?” I looked at her in disbelief and grabbed the teacup. I brought the refilled cups back to the table, and before sitting down said, “I have two term papers waiting for me. Sorry to cut this short.” Doug looked down at his watch. “Oh, I can’t believe we’ve been here for almost two hours.” Then to his wife, “Honey, we need to go also.” Jan dropped two sugar cubes into her cup and said, “I know; on the way we have to stop at the Mediterranean Bakery.”

I started clearing the table. Matthew shot me a quizzical look, sensing something was wrong-he just had no idea how wrong. A few minutes later, Matthew walked them to the door. I mumbled a cool good-bye and stayed in the kitchen, not bothering to see them out.

Matthew rushed into the kitchen as soon as he shut the door. “What the heck was that all about?”

I continued to empty plates, without looking up. “I know he gave you his number, but I don’t want you to ever call him, OK? If he calls, just hang up-OK? Let me know, but do not talk with either of them. They are dangerous; extremely dangerous.”

What is astonishing here is the way a malevolence is assumed of these organizations, as if they are well-known terrorist groups, rather than ethnic or national associations: “Of course I knew who they were and what they did-too well. They constituted a big chunk of what I worked on and monitored for Saccher’s department.” She later tells us explicitly why she thinks these organizations are so fearsome, though it’s a claim she never gives any proof for in the book, and which I’ve never seen any evidence of anywhere:

Melek Can Dickerson had worked for ATC, ATAA, and before that, with these organizations’ counterpart in Germany. Individuals and entities within these organizations, including certain Americans, were directly involved in global criminal activities: nuclear black market, narcotics, and military and industrial espionage. These organizations and their players are not driven by any ideology or nationalistic objectives. To them this is business, and the highest bidder, regardless of nationality or ideology, gets the goods.

This paranoid vision, never given any actual evidence or specifics, continues on at another moment in Classified Woman:

When it comes to criminal and shady global networks, most of us tend to envision either the Mafia, with its own rules and culture of omertà, knife-wielding, semiautomatic-toting Colombian or Mexican drug cartels, or ordinary street-level gangsters with guns. Contrary to these stereotypes, Turkish criminal networks consist mainly of respectable-looking businessmen (some of whom are among the top international CEOs), high-ranking military officers, diplomats, politicians and scholars. Their U.S. counterparts are equally respected and recognized: high-level bureaucrats within the State Department and Pentagon, elected officials, or combination of the two, who now have set up their own companies, NGOs and lobbying groups. When asked, people here in the States generally don’t name Turkey as threatening our national security in the fight against terrorism, nuclear proliferation, or international drug trafficking.

Curiously, despite highly publicized reports and acknowledgments of Turkey’s role in narcotics, the nuclear black market, terrorism and money laundering, Turkey continues to receive billions in aid and assistance annually from the United States. With its highly placed co-conspirators and connections within the Pentagon, the State Department and NATO, Turkey need never fear sanctions or meaningful scrutiny. The criminal Turkish networks continue their global activities right under the nose of their protector, the United States-and neither the 9/11 catastrophe nor their direct and indirect ties to this attack diminish their participation in the shady worlds of narcotics, money laundering and illegal arms transfers.

The “respectable” Turkish companies have bases in Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and other former Soviet states. Many of these front companies and nonprofit organizations, disguised as construction and tourism entities and Islamic charter schools and mosques, receive millions in grants from the U.S. government to establish and operate criminal networks throughout the region. Among their networking partners are the mujahedeen and the Albanian Mafia. Clearly, having in their pocket high-level congressional representatives on the appropriate committees goes a long way to guarantee the flow of these grants. While the U.S. government painted Islamic charity organizations as the main financial source for Al Qaeda, they were hard at work covering up the terrorists’ true financial source: narcotics and illegal arms sales. Why?

Western Europe, followed by the United States, is the principal target of this massive trafficking operation. Yet most of these governments, including that of the United States, prefer to maintain a disturbing and perplexing silence on Turkey’s role and dealings in processing and distributing illegal drugs. Why is that the case?

There is also a strange difference between how this meeting comes about in Classified Woman and “Inconvenient Patriot”, the article which Edmonds tells us was thoroughly fact checked and sourced. I quote again how this meeting happens in Classified Woman; perhaps one of the most important meetings in Edmonds’ life, one where we might expect all the surrounding details to remain seared into her memory:

On the first Saturday in December, Matthew and I spent the entire day preparing and decorating our house for Christmas. I was doing my best to recreate our traditional holiday mood, despite the sadness and melancholy; this would be the second Christmas without my father.

That evening, while I was busy making dinner, the phone rang. Matthew answered. “It’s for you,” he called from our upstairs office, “Jan Dickerson, from the FBI.” I was surprised. A few days earlier she had asked for my number in case of a work-related emergency. I picked up.

Dickerson apologized for calling us on a Saturday evening and asked us to brunch the following day.

I thought a moment before responding. “I have to check with Matthew. We don’t have any particular plans, but there are tons of things to do around the house and I have five final exams in less than two weeks.”

“Even an hour would do,” she insisted, and mentioned being homesick before breaking the news that she was pregnant. I congratulated her, after which she suggested, “How about this? We can come to your house and take care of the introductions there.” At first I was taken aback but recalled my manners. “Sure … in fact, I’ll prepare some Turkish delicacies and tea; instead of going to brunch, we’ll have something here.” She sounded delighted, and said they would come by our house at eleven the following morning.

The call for the meeting takes place on a Saturday evening. She distinctly remembers decorating the house for Christmas. She is cooking dinner when the call comes. It’s understandable that all these distinct details would stay with her so many years later, given the importance of the call. Classified Woman was published in 2012; what follows is how the meeting comes about in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot” published in 2005:

In Washington, D.C., and its suburbs, December 2, 2001, was fine but cool, the start of the slide into winter after a spell of unseasonable warmth. At 10 o’clock that morning, Sibel and Matthew Edmonds were still in their pajamas, sipping coffee in the kitchen of their waterfront town house in Alexandria, Virginia, and looking forward to a well-deserved lazy Sunday.

Since mid-September, nine days after the 9/11 attacks, Sibel had been exploiting her fluency in Turkish, Farsi, and Azerbaijani as a translator at the F.B.I. It was arduous, demanding work, and Edmonds-who had two bachelor’s degrees, was about to begin studying for a master’s, and had plans for a doctorate-could have been considered overqualified. But as a naturalized Turkish-American, she saw the job as her patriotic duty.

The Edmondses’ thoughts were turning to brunch when Matthew answered the telephone. The caller was a woman he barely knew-Melek Can Dickerson, who worked with Sibel at the F.B.I. “I’m in the area with my husband and I’d love you to meet him,” Dickerson said. “Is it O.K. if we come by?” Taken by surprise, Sibel and Matthew hurried to shower and dress. Their guests arrived 30 minutes later. Matthew, a big man with a fuzz of gray beard, who at 60 was nearly twice the age of his petite, vivacious wife, showed them into the kitchen. They sat at a round, faux-marble table while Sibel brewed tea.

Now, the phone call takes place on Sunday morning, the same morning as the brunch. Sibel and her husband are in their kitchen, in their pajamas, sipping coffee. Now the Dickersons arrive only a half hour later after the call. Again, the vividly recalled details suggest something that has never left Sibel’s memory – yet how could this be if the phone call in which Dickinson invites herself over takes place at such two distinctly different times? Again, this is Edmonds speaking to Friedman about the Rose article: “And you know how they usually do fact-checking, after the article is submitted, by the reporter, well in this case they did triple fact checking, they did it three times, going back to every single source. And so, they really did their homework.”

After this meeting, the next crisis point involves a meeting with Dennis Saccher, the F.B.I.’s special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, where it’s discovered that Melek Can Dickerson has been labeling conversations affecting counter-intelligence targets, such as the Colonel mentioned at the brunch meeting, as “not pertinent”. There are three depictions of this meeting and what leads up to it – Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, Infiltration (page 162 in Google Books), Classified Woman – and they all adhere closely in the crucial details. Before this meeting, Dickerson had arranged that each Turkish translator – Dickerson, Edmonds, Kevin Taskesen – would translate material from a specific set of sources. The Colonel mentioned at brunch and other counterintelligence targets Dickerson reserved for herself, according to “Inconvenient Patriot”:

To monitor every call on every line at a large institution such as the Turkish Embassy in Washington would not be feasible. Inevitably, the F.B.I. listens more carefully to the phones used by its targets, such as the Dickersons’ purported friend. In the past, the assignment of lines to each translator had always been random: Edmonds might have found herself listening to a potentially significant conversation by a counter-intelligence target one minute and an innocuous discussion about some diplomatic party the next. Now, however, according to Edmonds, Dickerson suggested changing this system, so that each Turkish speaker would be permanently responsible for certain lines. She produced a list of names and numbers, together with her proposals for dividing them up. As Edmonds would later tell her F.B.I. bosses and congressional investigators, Dickerson had assigned the American-Turkish Council and three other “high-value” diplomatic targets, including her friend, to herself.

This is the description of the meeting with Saccher, again from Rose:

On the morning of January 14, Sibel says, Saccher asked Edmonds into his cramped cubicle on the fifth floor. On his desk were printouts from the F.B.I. language-department database. They showed that on numerous occasions Dickerson had marked calls involving her friend and other counter-intelligence targets as “not pertinent,” or had submitted only brief summaries stating that they contained nothing of interest. Some of these calls had a duration of more than 15 minutes. Saccher asked Edmonds why she was no longer working on these targets’ conversations. She explained the new division of labor, and went on to tell him about the Dickersons’ visit the previous month. Saccher was appalled, Edmonds says, telling her, “It sounds like espionage to me.”

There is one key difference between “Inconvenient Patriot” and Classified Woman. In “Patriot”, the meeting takes place on January 14. Classified requires us to deduce the meeting’s date. We are told that the day of the meeting on which Dickerson divides up the conversations between the three translators is January 3 – the bold is my own:

On the third day of January I was hard at work when Dickerson stopped by my desk holding a legal-size sheet of paper.

“I’ve been thinking,” she began. “We-the three of us, you and I and Kevin-have been randomly reviewing and translating the incoming intelligence related to these targets.” She placed the paper in front of me. “This is not the most efficient way. Instead of doing it this way, we should divide these targets into three groups, and have each group of targets assigned to one of us. This way we will each have a group of targets we regularly monitor and translate.”

Two pages later, it’s evening of the same day, January 3:

That evening, Kevin called. He had waited until 6:30, he said, but Feghali was still in his office with Dickerson when he left. “I even wiggled the doorknob; he had the door locked. I could hear them whispering inside…. What time will you be in tomorrow?” I told him I would be there by ten. The situation was getting out of control; I decided to contact Saccher if this continued.

In the next passage, it’s now the next morning, January 4:

The next morning I arrived at ten o’clock sharp. I always started off the day by going through my e-mails and phone messages. Almost immediately, Kevin appeared at my desk, with dark circles under his eyes. He looked as though he hadn’t slept at all.

As we talked, I glanced at my screen and scanned e-mails. There was one from Feghali, sent the previous evening at 6:41 p.m., addressed to Kevin, Dickerson and me. “After reviewing your workload and projects under Saccher’s Counterintelligence division,” it began, “I’ve decided to divide the targets among the three of you, permanently. This will increase the efficiency of processing these lines.” Beneath this he listed the target ID numbers and the name of the translators assigned to them. I unlocked my drawer and pulled out Dickerson’s handwritten instruction: Feghali’s division scheme was identical to it. As a postscript, Feghali added, “Please do NOT discuss this with Special Agent Dennis Saccher. This decision does not concern him and I forbid you to discuss this with anyone but me. Also, from this point on you shall not meet with SA Saccher without notifying me first.”

The same day, still January 4:

When I got to my desk, my phone light was blinking: voice mail. As if connected telepathically, Saccher had left a message, asking me to meet him about something urgent the following morning at nine sharp. Now that was Karma! I thought about Feghali’s warning, You are not allowed to meet with your case agent, Saccher, without notifying me first. I shrugged and mumbled to myself, “Screw you, Feghali; you and the Dickersons are about to be exposed.”

The page after, the next day, January 5:

The following morning, only one day after Feghali’s e-mail and before signing in, I stopped by to meet Saccher at his cubicle. He’d left a message that he wanted to see me on some urgent matter. I had no idea what it was about.

This is the same meeting mentioned in Rose, where Saccher and Edmonds discover that Helen Dickerson is shielding certain clients by classifying their conversations as “Not Pertinent”, and Saccher calls it espionage:

With every passing minute Saccher’s face grew darker; his pupils dilated and he was breathing hard. When I finished, he jumped to his feet. “Come on; let’s go upstairs to the security department. Let’s go and check if Feghali ever reported this shit. I also want to check Dickerson’s personnel file. Let’s go …”

We hastened to the eighth floor, which houses the FBI-WFO Personnel Security Division. Saccher had me wait in reception while he went inside.

About ten minutes later he came back extremely agitated, nearly yelling. “There is not a single damn thing in her entire file, Sibel! No report, no memo, no notice-nada! Feghali never reported this. Do you know what this is, Sibel? This is espionage. It smells like it, it sounds like it, and now it sure looks like espionage. This should have been reported to me right away. Oh Sibel, how could you be that stupid? You should have come to me a month ago!”

So, this meeting corresponds in almost all the details as that of “Inconvenient Patriot”, except that it somehow takes place ten days earlier, on January 5 instead of January 14. There’s also something unusual about this date – January 5, 2002 is a Saturday (taken from What Day of the Week for January 5, 2002).

After this meeting with Saccher in “Patriot”, Saccher arranges for Edmonds and the other Turkish translator, Kevin Taskasen, to go back over Dickerson’s work and meet on February 1:

Saccher asked Edmonds and a colleague, Kevin Taskasen, to go back into the F.B.I.’s digital wiretap archive and listen to some of the calls that Dickerson had marked “not pertinent,” and to re-translate as many as they could. Saccher suggested that they all meet with Feghali in a conference room on Friday, February 1. First, however, Edmonds and Taskasen should go to Saccher’s office for a short pre-meeting-to review their findings and to discuss how to handle Feghali.

In Classified Woman, it’s arranged that they meet on the Monday following this January 5, after which Edmonds works on translations for four days until the meeting on Friday. The Monday meeting, then, is on January 7, and the Friday meeting should be very far from February 1, on January 11.

I took the elevator back down to the fourth floor and noticed I was shaking. I went straight to Kevin’s station and told him to meet me in the coatroom in three minutes. When he got there, I quickly explained what happened. He was to meet me in Saccher’s office the following Monday at eight without raising any suspicions. Feghali and Dickerson specifically were not to know. Poor Kevin looked devastated.

The following Monday I got to Saccher’s unit a few minutes before eight. Kevin arrived moments later and the meeting began. Saccher had met with his boss and the unit chief for counterintelligence. He then explained briefly their decision to collect more evidence before transferring the Dickerson case to the FBI Counterespionage division. He had confirmed, via his sources and informants, that Dickerson indeed had worked for and with certain target entities; and that she and her husband appeared to be part of a larger operation, a global network. The players included U.S. officials-both elected and appointed-and certain Pakistani, Saudi and Israeli elements.

Dickerson’s success in penetrating our unit meant that all of the targets already had been tipped off and would no longer be of value. More important, though, was that Saccher’s unit had lost any chance of pursuing the U.S. officials under parallel criminal and espionage investigations. Nearly everything Dickerson had blocked dated back to 2000 and early 2001-before she had gotten inside.

Edmonds then tells us what she discovered over the course of four working days, between Monday and the Friday morning meeting. As stated already, this meeting should fall on the eleventh of January, given where we are on the calendar, yet somehow this meeting is also on February 1:

During my next four working days, I spent time going over Dickerson’s blocked communications. Among hundreds of pieces, in every ten or fifteen checked, I would come across a mother lode of hot intel that no translator, no matter how incompetent, would or could ever miss.

We were looking at people involved in sophisticated networks and operations geared to penetrate our nuclear and military technologies and intelligence-that were then sold to the highest bidder in the global black market. This could be a government entity, another network, a front organization, or individuals connected with a known terrorist group. This was not about any one ideology or nationalism; this was about power and money.

We were also dealing with a list of dirty joint CIA and Turkish operatives in Central Asia, Caucasus and the Balkans. As the FBI pursues foreign terrorists who target our nation, other agencies carry out equally bad or worse attacks overseas. Stunningly, some of these black operations employ the same groups accused of carrying out attacks against us.

Within a week I had identified four explosive pieces of communication blocked by Dickerson and was almost finished translating them verbatim. There were hundreds more, but I knew these four were enough for Saccher’s planned “blast” interrogation.

Meanwhile, Saccher called to let us know that he had set up the meeting with Feghali for the following Friday, February 1, at 9:30 a.m. I stayed off Feghali’s radar until then. I knew how easily he could be provoked; and now Feghali couldn’t stand the sight of me.

Kevin too, despite his linguistic shortcomings, discovered three important pieces of intelligence blocked by Dickerson, one of which dealt with the Pentagon’s own network of moles. Between the two of us, we were ready for the upcoming meeting.

The discoveries here dealing with nuclear technology, terrorism, and drug dealing that are made in these four days would become part of the secrets that Edmonds would reveal in her deposition and elsewhere. There are a number of striking things about this passage. For instance, that her discoveries accord entirely with her earlier assumptions of the secret activities of the ATC and the ATAA. There is also the extraordinarily short amount of time in which the discoveries are made. Apparently, the suspects are speaking openly on their phones with codes that are easily deciphered, or no codes at all, thus allowing this vast secretive network to be picked out in less than a week. That people were supposedly using codes in these surveilled calls, and expected their calls to be surveilled, is stated explicitly by Edmonds in Infiltration. This inspires the obvious question: given that Edmonds was simply a translator, without access to the higher level deciphering of people who’d spent considerable time on these investigations, how was she able to determine what these various code words meant on her own? From Infiltration (on googe books, page 173):

Bad guys planning an attack do not come right out and say it, even in Arabic. In fact, terrorist targets know the FBI is listening in now more than ever, and they “make fun of it on the phone,” Edmonds says. They throw out terms such as “melon” or “wedding” when they mean something else to try to throw off agents. They also invoke dates and events of special Islamic significance. Unfortunately, very few agents and even analysts in the bureau understand the culture and history of Islam and the Middle East to catch the hidden meanings behind certain words and phrases. They rely almost exclusively on the interpretation of the Arabic linguist from that region, whose loyalties are often suspect.

The other striking point is the incredible non-specificity of the source of these revelations. Most people who do investigative work will be able to pick out a moment when after days, weeks, months, years of digging (most of us are lacking in the luck and skill of Sibel Edmonds) we have a fortunate point of eureka, a criss-cross connecting disparate areas or excluding a possibility, and which remains distinct in memory. Edmonds has nothing of the kind in what may well be the unveiling of the single biggest trove of secrets in U.S. history. The reader might contrast this with an earlier moment, when Edmonds discovers a conversation which might relate to the planning of September 11. One may well question Edmonds’ interpretation here, but she does refer to an actual specific conversation whose content might be interpreted, whereas the cluster of conversations that are the motherlode of secrets are never given a discernible presence. From Classified Woman:

One afternoon toward the end of October 2001, slightly over a month after I began working for the bureau, Mike Feghali stopped by my desk to hand me a box containing tapes and a thin file of paper documents. He said an agent from one of the Nevada field offices had sent them. The operation dated back to July and August 2001, and the contents initially had been translated by a language specialist in summary format.

In light of the events of September eleven, on a hunch the agent decided to send it to us for review: he believed something had been overlooked or not translated correctly, and if true, he wanted to be informed immediately and have everything translated verbatim. The agent also included in the package information obtained post-9/11, up to October 1, 2001.

“I’m sure everything was OK the first time around,” Feghali commented. “Just go over these and see if anything significant was missed.” With that he dropped the file and the accompanying tapes on my desk and walked away.

After a short lunch break, I switched gears. I put aside what I had been working on and started the new assignment. I decided to give a quick listen to the tapes and skim the package before typing, to see if anything grabbed me. Later, I would go back and start over again, if necessary, the tedious, slow translation.

For the first few minutes I was having a hard time staying focused; boredom had set in. The target was in jail, talking to someone in a remote and underdeveloped border region of Pakistan and Iran (I knew from the accent and dialect where they were from). They chatted about some real estate and bridge projects; all the requirements they had to meet and the schedule they had to maintain. The very short, less than three-sentence-long original translation basically said that the subject discussed inconsequential matters and talked about some real estate development. I thought it more or less sufficient and accurate. Feghali’s observation seemed to be right-so far.

A few minutes passed before something made me sit up at once, with the force of an electric jolt. I thought I had heard something that didn’t fit, something that was out of place. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I felt spooked.

I rewound the tape and this time listened carefully. Oh my God-there it was! The target was going to send the blueprints and building composites for the project: those buildings had to be skyscrapers, a hundred floors or higher, to fit the specifications. I looked at the date: late July, 2001. The region to which these blueprints, building composites and bridge specifications were to be sent was as primitive as could be; they barely had mud huts. How could they be discussing the construction of skyscrapers in a nomadic village with huts? They specifically mentioned skyscrapers. Also, the blueprints and building composites were to be sent via human courier, not by mail, FedEx, or fax. Why would someone go to that much trouble to send simple blueprints, building and bridge plans and composites? Why was a “trusted source” to travel around the world to deliver it?

I believed the agent’s hunch was right on target. September eleven attacks and skyscrapers; blueprints and building composites of skyscrapers hand delivered to Iran; the date preceding the attacks by approximately two months.

Now I was awake and alert. I decided to go over a little bit more before notifying Feghali and the agent who’d sent the assignment. I fast-forwarded the tape to the first recorded date after September 11, 2001, to 11 a.m. September 12, 2001. I pushed the Start button and went over it. Bingo! First, the target and recipient congratulated themselves for this precious Eid. (Eid is a religious holiday in the Muslim world.) I knew all the dates for Eid that year: there were no religious holidays in September. These congratulations were given one day after the 9/11 attacks. Were they celebrating a successful operation? I jotted that down too.

Within the same communication, on September 12, the target warned that “using men would be dangerous, not wise, after this. The next round had to be women, young women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four.” There also was a brief discussion of “channels to obtain visas in return for money,” most of them in the United Arab Emirates. Their network included people with connections and contacts in U.S. embassies there.

At this meeting on the morning of February 1, Saccher is supposed to be there, but ends up canceling at the last minute. Instead, Edmonds and Taskasen meet with Feghali and Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. In “Patriot”, this meeting has Bryan recommend that Edmonds write up a confidential memo, which she submits to Bryan on February 11. The following day, February 12, Edmonds is called to a meeting with Bryan, Feghali and Dickerson. Near the end of this meeting on February 12, Dickerson threatens her family in Turkey:

Instead, Edmonds was ushered into the windowless office of Feghali’s colleague, translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. Investigating possible espionage was not a task for which Bryan had been trained or equipped.

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

In Classified Woman, Bryan and Feghali are at this February morning meeting – but so is Dickerson:

As we entered the conference room, the first thing I saw was Melek Can Dickerson seated at the table. At one end sat Bryan, and at the other end, Feghali. Kevin and I sat together facing Dickerson, with our notepads before us.

Stephanie spoke first. “I understand there are some personal problems between the Turkish translators, Sibel, Kevin, and Jan. This is normal. Whenever you have people, you’ll have conflicts, misunderstandings and problems. These issues can be resolved through open communication; through dialogue. That’s why we’re gathered here today …”

I could tell she had no idea what this meeting was about. After all, she’d been asked to participate only minutes earlier. I remained silent. With Dickerson present I was not about to say a word.

In “Patriot”, we are given one explanation why Saccher is not at the meeting he himself called:

Later, Edmonds says, she called Saccher on the internal phone. “Why the hell did you cancel?” she asked. Bewildered, he told her that immediately after she and Taskasen had left his office Feghali phoned him, saying that the conference room was already in use, and that the meeting would have to be postponed.

Edmonds says Saccher also told her that he had been ordered not to touch the case by his own superiors, who called it a “can of worms.” Despite his role as special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, he had even been forbidden to obtain copies of her translations. Saccher had two small children and a settled life in Washington. If he dared to complain, Edmonds says, he risked being assigned “to some fucked-up office in the land of tornadoes.”

In Classified Woman, we are given another. The following takes place right after Edmonds returns from the meeting:

As soon as I got to my desk, I dialed Saccher’s extension. He answered on the second ring.

“What in the world happened to you?” I asked.

“What do you mean? Feghali called me as soon as you and Kevin left and said that he had to cancel the meeting and reschedule it for the following week. He had something important on a counterterrorism case involving one of his translators.”

This was unbelievable. I told Saccher what Feghali told us: that he, Saccher, had canceled the meeting for a supposedly unexpected field operation.

Before I could even finish recounting, Saccher cut me off. “This is friggin’ nuts!” He was yelling. “That bastard … that sonuvabitch! I’m going to see him in jail. Meet me at the fire exit-the secondary stairway, on the sixth floor landing.”

“What? Why there?”

“We need to talk,” he said. “I’ll see you there in three minutes sharp.” He hung up. Why there? I thought, baffled. I started toward the unit exit; then took the stairs two at a time, and when I got there, Saccher was waiting.

He asked me to go over the entire episode, including Dickerson’s reactions and body language during the meeting, and tell him word for word what Stephanie had instructed me to do.

“I don’t know Stephanie Bryan well,” Saccher went on to explain. “I don’t know if she’s trustworthy or competent. This is not her area. She’s only an administrator; she doesn’t know a damn thing about this area, about counterespionage investigations. She can ruin the entire case. Don’t submit the translations to her,” he added. “Drag your feet; bring it to our unit by the end of the day.”

I was exhausted, confused, and getting exasperated. “Dennis, I cannot take this anymore. As of today, she is my admin supervisor. She specifically instructed me not to submit the translation to you. She ordered me to prepare a long memo containing everything that occurred and everything I reported to Feghali in writing and verbally.”

“Okay, let’s go.” Saccher, angry now, grabbed my arm and pulled me with him inside. “We’re taking this to my boss. I’ll ask him to issue a direct order to Stephanie and whoever else in there. I’m going to tell him about this nonsense she’s pulling.”

Outside the office, Saccher motioned me to wait. “Let me go first. I’ll go talk to him; then I’ll bring you in, OK?”

I rolled my eyes, but did as I was told. I could hear shouting, a heated exchange; fifteen minutes later, I was face to face with the head of Counterintelligence for the FBI, a man in his early thirties who introduced himself as “John.”

This boss then tells Edmonds directly that she should stay out of this case, and tells her directly that it’s a can of worms.

“Dennis told me what went on there, downstairs. Ms. Edmonds, I have no tolerance for twisted game playing by your administrative supervisors. For years, that department, the translation division, has caused us trouble and headache.”

“Sibel is caught in the middle of this shit,” Saccher broke in. “Come on, John, it’s Feghali and Bryan you should be saying this to-”

His boss didn’t let him finish. “It’s not only that, Dennis, you know that … Ms. Edmonds, the bureau is already under pressure regarding the Turkish operations. The targets, as you are now aware, are connected to people in high places: State Department, Pentagon, White House, Congress … The activities have too many beneficiaries in this country-the CIA, weapons companies, military, lobbying firms, Congress, you name it. Now,” he continued, “on top of this pressure, we appear to have a ‘real spy’ problem, the Dickersons.

I don’t think HQ executives want to know about this; they don’t want this to explode. They have made it very clear. Saccher and I tried, but we’re being prevented from pursuing this espionage case. They didn’t say it in so many words, but I know the lingo. They want this to go away …”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t even understand the meaning-the implications-of everything he was telling me.

“This is ridiculous!” Saccher was almost yelling now. “HQ’s attitude about this, the bullshit happening downstairs, Bryan asking her to keep translations out of our reach-”

“Drop it, Dennis,” John said sharply. “I have a bad feeling on this one, man; my gut feeling says this is going to be bad for all. On top of everything, I don’t want you to get dragged in the middle of the war zone in the translation department, you hear me?” He looked straight at me. “Ms. Edmonds, this is going to be a can of worms-a major disaster. I don’t want my good men, my agents, my unit caught in the middle of this shit storm.”

“Then what do you want me to do?” I meekly mumbled. “I’m being bombarded with instructions; which way do you want me to turn?”

“This is going to be a can of worms,” he repeated. “We’ll let HQ and the security division handle most of it. I’m willing to bring in Dickerson and put her under a ‘blast interrogation.’ That’s it. OK?”

I nodded, confused. Saccher looked like a bomb about to explode, jaw twitching, his face deep purple red. He shot John an angry look before escorting me out.

This is still February 1st in Classified Woman. The next chapter opens in the following week, on Thursday, with Edmonds dropping off the memo for Bryan. It’s the Thursday following the Friday February 1st meeting, so this takes place on February 7th, rather than Monday, February 11th in “Patriot” – “Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11.” After submitting the memo, Bryan calls her in for a meeting:

The following week, on a bitter cold Thursday, I grabbed a yellow envelope that contained a small disc and two printed copies of the three-page memo and headed out. At work, I stopped by Bryan’s office to hand it over. She was on the phone; she nodded, took the package and waved. What a relief. They now had the facts, including incidents of intentional blocking of highly important intelligence and Dickerson’s role.

I turned on my computer and got to work. I had a lot to do: in addition to several counterterrorism investigations there was my ongoing Turkish counterintelligence project from Chicago and, of course, my ongoing Turkish Counterintelligence translation tasks involving DC. I put on my headset and began.

My desk phone rang about two hours later. It was Bryan, asking me to come to her office right away.

I turned off my computer, placed my folders inside the drawer and headed to her office. She pointed to a chair. Scattered across her desk was my three-page memo. Next to it was the pile I had turned over to her the previous week, containing selected translations of the top-secret intelligence blocked by Dickerson.

Bryan cleared her throat. “I read the memo. Thorough job, very disturbing; it’s worse than I expected. Great job. Thank you.”

I got straight to the point. “So, are you taking it to Frields today-right away? Have you sent the copies of the five translated documents to Saccher and his boss? They’ve been waiting.”

She cleared her throat again. “Sibel, you have never worked for the federal government before this job, is that right?”

I was at loss. “No, why?”

“Because things work differently in government. While private companies are concerned with efficiency, security and productivity, the government couldn’t care less. Of course, the jobs here come with other pluses: less work, more benefits, retirement …”

Bryan discourages her from pursuing any complaint. This is followed by an afternoon meeting with Bryan. She sees Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson in another office looking at her memo and various translations. Bryan says she will launch an investigation against Edmonds for producing the memo on her home computer:

After a long lunch, it was almost three by the time I got back to my desk. Fifteen minutes later, the phone rang. I picked up, hoping it was Saccher, but no such luck. It was Bryan. I was to report directly to her office. Now what?

On the way over I had to pass by Feghali’s office. His door was wide open. I stopped. There were Feghali, Dickerson, and Feghali’s daughter-a special agent in the white-collar crime division and an attorney-seated around the table. On top of it was the yellow manila envelope next to the stack of translated intelligence intentionally blocked by Dickerson. What the hell was going on? Saccher and his boss were supposed to set up a surprise interrogation of Dickerson in order to send the case to the counterespionage division. So now the suspect, Dickerson-the person under investigation-is given access to the entire case, the memo and translations?

Feghali saw me and nudged Dickerson. She turned and gave me a lopsided smile. I made tracks to Bryan’s office and pointed toward the meeting down the hall. “What the hell is that, Stephanie? What are they doing with my memo and the translated evidence?”

Bryan shrugged. “Oh, that. I took the stuff to Frields per your request. He said that since Feghali and Dickerson are involved and accused, to go ahead and give them the documents and have them review them. They have the right to review any allegations made against them, and respond. He will review the stuff, together with Dickerson’s response and also Feghali’s, all at one time. So … I gave them to Feghali and he’s reviewing them with Dickerson. His daughter is here because she’s an attorney. She will advise both Dickerson and her dad. I’m sure you understand their need for solid legal advice.”

This felt like “The Twilight Zone.” “Have you told Saccher? Have you notified him or his boss? This is their area. This is not how the counterespionage investigation is supposed to go. They specifically requested-both from you and me-that this be kept completely away from Dickerson. And what do you mean by his daughter being present as an attorney advising Dickerson and Feghali? This is not a court case, for God’s sake!”

Bryan waved her hand dismissively. “Anyway, I asked you to come here for a totally different matter. We have decided that by producing the memo, the one you gave me today, at home, on your home computer, you have violated the security rules of the FBI. The content of your memo involves top secret topics, names and issues. Your conduct needs to be investigated; it may be determined that it is a criminal act. I had to report you and your conduct involving a breach of security to the personnel security investigations office on the eighth floor. The agent investigating you is Melinda Tilton. She wants to interrogate you immediately, today.” She then jotted a few numbers on a yellow Post-It and handed it to me. “Call her immediately-right now. This is a very serious matter and cannot wait. As of this moment you are under investigation, Sibel.”

All of this takes place in “Patriot”, but rather than happening all on a Thursday, February 7th, it’s split between two days, February 11th and 12th:

Bryan heard Edmonds out and told her to set down her allegations in a confidential memo. Edmonds says that Bryan approved of her writing it at home. Edmonds gave the document to Bryan on Monday, February 11. Early the following afternoon, the supervisor summoned Edmonds. Waiting in a nearby office were two other people, Feghali and Melek Can Dickerson. In front of them were Edmonds’s translations of the wiretaps and her memo.

“Stephanie said that she’d taken my memo to the supervisory special agent, Tom Frields,” Edmonds says. “He apparently wouldn’t even look at it until Mike Feghali and Dickerson had seen it and been given a chance to comment. Stephanie said that, working for the government, there were certain things you didn’t do, and criticizing your colleagues’ work was one of them. She told me, ‘Do you realize what this means? If you were right, the people who did the background checks would have to be investigated. The whole translation department could be shaken up!’ Meanwhile, I was going to be investigated for a possible security breach-for putting classified information onto my home computer. I was told to go to the security department at three p.m.”

Before Edmonds left, Dickerson had time to sidle over to her desk. According to Edmonds, she made what sounded like a threat: “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?”

This same threat also takes place in Classified Woman:

From the corner of my eye I spotted Dickerson, heading in my direction. She came straight up to me and hissed, “You asked for it. What did I tell you about the FBI not giving a damn about it, huh? This is nothing. The worst is yet to come-for your family in Turkey. You can blame yourself for what’s to come for them.” She then named both my sisters and the neighborhood in Turkey in which the middle one lived.

After receiving this threat in Classified Woman, Edmonds declares that she will from now on document all her office conversations, which makes the major discrepancy in dates here surprising:

Back at my computer, I opened a new file and word document noting the date, time and conversation; I also noted the name of the translator who witnessed the event and what she said she’d heard. I saved it; then I e-mailed both Bryan and Feghali an account of what had occurred with Dickerson. I clicked Send and off it went: I was on record. From that day on, from that moment, I made sure all my communications-everything that occurred at work-were documented and witnessed. This was a battle.

What happens next is one of the most astonishing discrepancies between “Patriot” and Classified Woman. Here is the passage describing what happens after Dickerson’s threat in “Patriot”. I bold what’s the crucial part in the text:

As soon as she had returned home from the February meeting where Dickerson allegedly cautioned her not to endanger her family in Turkey, Sibel called her mother and sister in Istanbul, even though it was the middle of the night there. Sibel is the oldest of three sisters. The youngest was studying in America and living with the Edmondses in Alexandria, but the middle sister-whose name Edmonds wishes to protect-was enjoying a successful career at an international travel company based in Istanbul. The 29-year-old was also engaged to be married. Within days of receiving Sibel’s call, she flew with her mother to Washington.

This is what takes place in Classified Woman. I bold what I think is the astonishing point:

That night, after dinner, I sat down with Matthew and told him everything-omitting only classified details related to names and specific criminal activities. I unloaded nonstop, barely taking time for breath. I’d bottled up so much that now it all came pouring out in a flood. By the time I finished I was exhausted.

Matthew listened intently without interrupting. Although he knew some of the issues, he was stunned by the extent of what had gone on and horrified at the implications. He started to pace. “I think you had better call your sister in Turkey and have her pack her stuff and come here immediately.”

“How can she? She has a job, a career! She is engaged to be married next year. What am I going to tell her? Pack and leave everything behind and come over here? What will she do here? How long will she stay? I-”

He cut me off, explaining the stark facts. My sister in Turkey had been named. “At least your other sister is here,” he pointed out, “and I’m glad you persuaded your mother not to go back…. You know what they can do to you over there; you know there are no laws and no protections over there for either you or your family.”

Infiltration gives us something closer to “Patriot”. Again, I bold the most crucial text (page 162 on Google Books):

THINLY VEILED THREAT

Edmonds says Dickerson had instructed her not to translate certain FBI wiretaps involving the Turkish subject, explaining that she knew him personally and was confident that there would be nothing important to translate concerning him. When Edmonds refused, she says Dickerson managed to get ahold of translations meant for Edmonds and forged her signature and initials, rendering the communications useless to the case agent.

Edmonds says in documents filed in federal court that “extremely sensitive and material information was deliberately withheld from translations,” and that her supervisor barred her from alerting the case agent about the serious matter. Ferghali decided not to send the retranslated information to Sacher who requested it, she says. Instead, Ferghali sent him a note stating that the translation was reviewed and the original translation was accurate. He explained to Edmonds that sending the revised translation would only hurt Dickerson and cause problems for the FBI language department.

Here the story takes a bizarre turn.

When Dickerson heard about her tea companion complaining about her translations, she made a thinly veiled threat for her to stop. “Why would you put your life and your family’s life in danger?” she allegedly told Edmonds, a petite brunette. Not long afterward, plainclothes agents with Turkish intelligence showed up at her younger sister’s apartment in Istanbul with an interrogation and arrest warrant. Luckily, Edmonds had already brought her sister, employed by a major airline, and mother to Washington in anticipation of such reprisals.

When this threat is made by Dickerson, is the mother of Sibel Edmonds in Turkey or the United States? In “Patriot”, she’s in Turkey with the sister. In Classified Woman, she’s already in the U.S. With Infiltration, she appears to have flown separately or together with Edmonds’ sister because of the harm that Dickerson might bring about.

As part of their investigation into Edmonds, the FBI would seize their computer. This takes places February 13 in “Patriot”:

On February 13, the day after her interview with the bureau security office, three agents came to her home and seized the computer she shared with her husband. “I hadn’t had time to back up the data, and I told them that most of my business was on that computer,” Matthew Edmonds says.

A Review has the incident take place on February 13 as well:

On February 13, with Edmonds’ consent, the FBI seized her home computer. That same day, Edmonds also wrote to a higher-level FBI official about her allegations and requested to meet with him regarding her concerns.

However, it takes place on February 14 in Classified Woman:

The lull ended the following week, on February 14, Valentine’s Day, with a phone call around noon. It was Agent Tilton [Melinda Tilton, the agent heading up the investigation of Edmonds]; she wanted me to go up and see her.

“Sibel,” she greeted me cordially. “I did my best to persuade headquarters and Bryan. They still insist on a full-blown investigation of you.”

“Actually you do. They want us to examine your computer-your PC.”

“My home computer?” I asked, incredulous.

She nodded. “Of course, you can demand a court-issued subpoena, but I recommend highly against that. We, the security department, know there will be nothing there, but others, as you know, insist.”

“That computer is not mine alone, my husband and I share it. He has his and his clients’ data on it. After I typed the memo, I put it on a disc and erased the file from the PC, just as Bryan instructed. I gave you guys the disc and the only printed copy.”

“I know,” she said. “It will take us only a few hours to check the PC and confirm that there is nothing there, then report to headquarters. Let’s get this over with ASAP. You don’t want this ridiculous investigation hovering over your head. Forcing us to get a subpoena will only aggravate everyone more, and will drag this out longer for you.”

I had to think. “When?”

“Today. In a couple of hours.”

That her computer was examined is without question. What is significant here is the sincere insistence that it took place a day later and a very specific day, on Valentine’s Day, a vision as real as what is in the other accounts.

Edmonds would make various appeals over the next month. No description of her actually working is given in Classified Woman until her very last day, on March 22:

On Friday, March 22, I started my work at ten in the morning. I spent the day working mainly on Chicago files. Of the counterintelligence cases I’d worked on, this was by far the most intriguing and contained the most explosive elements: well-known Chicago political figures-including certain Illinois representatives in Congress-who were directly involved with targeted Turkish operatives, some of whom were among Interpol’s most wanted fugitives. I had placed most of my focus on files dating from mid-1996 to January 2002, as well as ongoing DC counterintelligence-part of which I was still going through, auditing those that had been reviewed by Dickerson. Since no one specifically asked me to stop going over those documents, I chose to press on-assuming I was still under the same order.

I went through and documented each thoroughly. On this day too I spent a couple of hours going over Dickerson’s cover-up, in the middle of which I hit a new mother lode. Five or six pieces of additional audio communications-all stamped as not pertinent by Dickerson-contained information so volatile that I had to bite the bullet and report it to Saccher’s unit. The information included specific U.S. persons, facilities and payments, all involving U.S. nuclear secrets being passed to foreign entities who then offered them to the highest bidder. In one case, the highest bidder who purchased one of these illegally obtained, highly classified information sets happened to be a non-state group with highly likely ties to a Middle Eastern terrorist organization. The players involved high-profile Pentagon and State Department figures, congressional staff, academic and think-tank-based individuals. The penetration went as deep as top nuclear labs, U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons labs and research facilities, and the RAND Corporation.

We might note again the lack of specificity here, and once again her astonishing luck, uncovering an astonishing payload in an even shorter time period before. Then, she discovered a nuclear secret theft ring over the course of four days; now she finds a network connected to the State Department, the Pentagon, and various prestige universities in six hours of work, from ten in the morning to four in the afternoon.

A Review of the FBI’s Actions has Sibel allegedly working very little after February 22:

On March 8, Edmonds complained that work she had been asked to translate had not been loaded properly onto her computer, and that FBI Special Agents had been waiting for the translations for three weeks. The Language Supervisor [Mike Ferghali] responded that since February 22, 2002, Edmonds had only worked one day, on March 8, 2002.

Again, according to A Review, linguistic resources had been reallocated away from Edmonds. She’d received no new assignments, and no temporary assignments:

On March 15, the relationship between the Language Supervisor and Edmonds became even more tense. Edmonds asked the Language Supervisor why the Special Agent who she assisted had not been in contact with her in over a month. Edmonds also inquired about her work assignments. The Language Supervisor responded that he did not know why the Special Agent had not met with Edmonds and that, due to Edmonds’ limited work hours and the need to have certain work assignments completed, he had requested that linguistic resources be reallocated. In response, Edmonds stated that in the past few weeks, “coincidental” to her reports of wrongdoing, she had received no new assignment and no offers of temporary duty (TDY) assignments.

Having looked in detail at Edmonds’ own varied accounts of her brief period at the FBI, one might question whether she is as credible and honest a witness as others claim her to be. That her account has not received greater skepticism is due in part to the very power of secret information. In Hillaire Belloc’s “On a lost manuscript” (from On Nothing and Kindred Subjects), he invests a missing text with powers that are almost mystical, its very non-existence allowing it to claim such virtues: “Much depended upon it; it would have led you to a great and to a rapidly acquired fortune; but you must not ask for it. You must turn your mind away. It cannot be re-written, and all that can take its place is a sort of dirge for departed and irrecoverable things.” We might speak of the hidden information of Edmonds in the same manner. Because it is unknown, it must truly be something like a vast map of secret corruption, and because of misunderstandings, willful or otherwise, various writers and interviewers seem to think she is restricted from letting us know all.

There have been two restrictions that Edmonds has had to deal with since her case became public. The first has been the State Secrets privilege, which can be exercised by the executive to prevent someone from introducing into evidence, in court, any information that might have a secret classification. It was the state secrets privilege that halted her suit against the FBI for terminating her. However, it was not used when she testified at detailed length at the Ohio Election Commission hearing on Jean Schmidt’s complaint. The other constraint was an order by the Attorney General which reclassified some material that had been made public by the FBI in a Senate Judiciary hearing on Edmonds’ case. This re-classification was reversed in February 20057. There are no obstacles to Edmonds speaking in public about whatever she wants, as freely as she wants. She would admit as much in “An Interview with Sibel Edmonds”, her interview with David Swanson. I bold the most relevant part:

Swanson: So I should ask, I guess, before I start, are you under any gag order? Are there things that you can and cannot talk about?

Edmonds: Well – that’s a very interesting question, David, because when the government invoked the State Secrets Privilege, it was specifically for the court procedures, so there won’t be any court hearings, and as far as the courts are concerned, my case is gagged and classified.

Separately, they invoked the retroactive classification order on Congress and this was for the Senate Judiciary committee in May 2004 – and the way the imposed this gag order – and I have to emphasize that this gag order was illegal, because in order for them to retroactively classify congressional investigations, the Attorney General for the Justice Department had to meet three criteria and he did not. But even though the gag order was illegal, at that time in May 2004, the Senate Judiciary committee complied with it, they complied with an illegal gag order.

But I’ve never had a gag order placed on me as far as the public statements, or any other investigative procedures are concerned, but as you know they have declared everything in my case, including my languages, and what I did for the FBI, classified. Now the question is whether this classification that they’re using is even legal, or justified. As you know the executive branch has complete control over the classification.

We might see the way this classification is cited as a reason why she cannot tell her full story, and then just as easily ignored in a pair of interviews. From May 8, 2009, on a podcast hosted by Scott Horton (transcript taken from “Sibel Edmonds ” Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton”):

SH: Can you not get with your ACLU lawyers and just sit down and write a book and tell us every single incriminating thing you learned, classified or otherwise to whatever degree, and damn-the-consequences and bring-it-on? Come on, Sibel.

SE: Scott, believe me or not, I would do that whether the question of can-you-or can’t-you is answered or not. But you’ve got to find one organization, and find one mainstream media, and that includes a publishing house, who is willing to do it. Just find one for me and I tell you what, I’m going on the record right now here, I will do it.

SH: All I’ve got to do is find you a publishing house? I mean, that doesn’t seem impossible.

SE: Well, it’s not only a publishing house, because what happens is, regardless of the State Secrets Privilege, all these people who have worked for the FBI, anyone, the agents, the attorneys, the language specialists, as part of getting that job, you sign documents saying that in the future, if you ever write anything, whether there is the State Secrets Privilege or classification, you have to submit your work for pre-publication review.

I need to do that, OK, I have already gone through several law firms and said ‘Here it is, and they looked at it and said ‘Even the most innocent stuff there, you are facing 60-70% of this manuscript – which is ready! It has been ready for quite a while – which will be blacked out. Now once you get the blacked out version not a single person will publish it. What are you going to publish?’ Look at my Inspector General report – 90% of it is blacked out. Nobody is going to publish a blacked-out book! Then, you are in this position of going to court, and start fighting, line-by-line, everything that has been blacked out, saying this was not correct, this is not truly classification, and challenging it.

That’s why I’m telling you, find any organization that would be willing to represent this because they look at me and say ‘Sibel, this is impossible. Especially with your case, this is impossible. It is a fight that you won’t win.’

Now we have Sibel Edmonds in 2012, promoting Classified Woman, in an interview on RT with Abby Martin. She now can seemingly submit a book to the justice department, ignore the fact that they never give their approval, and publish it unredacted. From “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (0:55-2:26):

ABBY MARTIN
Sibel, there’s been a gag order on you for years, and you’ve decided to come out now, why?

EDMONDS
Well, it took several years. To be exact, five years. To fight this case, or try to fight this case, in courts. And through Congress. And through executive agencies such as the Inspector General’s office. And basically, at every turn, I was further classified, in fact, the government, and this is during the Bush Administration, the Attorney General at the time, John Ashcroft, ended up invoking a gag order on Congress. They retroactively classified everything Congress had investigated in my case. So, after those six years, I was exhausted. I went away for two years, came back in 2009, thinking that we were going to have a new administration, and that we were going to see hopefully, come kind of a change, and that didn’t take place, but I started writing this book. And I abided by the justice department’s own regulations, the law, I submitted it to them, they had thirty days to redact it and give it back to me, and they didn’t. And they kept sending letters for a year to my attorneys saying I cannot publish a single word in this book, but they would not give us a redacted version. We fulfilled our obligations, I have, I have constitution on my side, so I went ahead and finally published this book, so it’s out.

Despite this, her book gives us only generalities about the vast network which has its tentacles in the Pentagon, the State Department, Congress, and various universities.

Edmonds is equally arbitrary in what she can and cannot reveal with regards to the Jan Schakowsky case. In her deposition, there are things she cannot reveal because she supposedly doesn’t want an innocent person’s reputation destroyed. The “classification I don’t believe”, I guess refers to the re-classification that had been repealed four years before this deposition:

Q
I assume that – -well, let me just ask you, and I’m not trying to put you on the spot. If you can’t answer, just tell me. Would you be prepared to tell me who the Congresswoman is that we’ve been talking about?

EDMONDS
I would have, and it wouldn’t be because of classification I don’t believe. I — if in case this congressional person did not bend under the pressure in case. I just don’t want somebody, innocent person’s reputation destroyed because I don’t know if this person complied with whatever she happened to be blackmailed later. I think I –

Why exactly would a classification that had been repealed in 2005 affect her in 2009? That she was utterly indifferent to an innocent person’s reputation being destroyed is obvious because only a month later she would freely name this congresswoman as Jan Schakowsky in “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, her interview with Philip Giraldi:

GIRALDI: So the investigation stopped in Washington, but continued in Chicago?

EDMONDS: Yes, and in 2000, another representative was added to the list, Jan Schakowsky, the Democratic congresswoman from Illinois. Turkish agents started gathering information on her, and they found out that she was bisexual. So a Turkish agent struck up a relationship with her. When Jan Schakowsky’s mother died, the Turkish woman went to the funeral, hoping to exploit her vulnerability. They later were intimate in Schakowsky’s townhouse, which had been set up with recording devices and hidden cameras. They needed Schakowsky and her husband Robert Creamer to perform certain illegal operational facilitations for them in Illinois. They already had Hastert, the mayor, and several other Illinois state senators involved. I don’t know if Congresswoman Schakowsky ever was actually blackmailed or did anything for the Turkish woman.

Only a month earlier, in a podcast for her website Boiling Frogs, “Podcast Show #3″, Edmonds had said she could not get into the specifics of the Schakowsky case (32:55-34:20 in the podcast audio):

EDMONDS
You’re right, and you mentioned something else, you mentioned this process of hooking, and that’s exactly what they do. Now, the hooking can be via getting first some innocent information and then making that information level go higher and higher, money, and in some cases, just sexual stuff. In what case I had, I can’t talk about the specifics, it was this particular congresswoman, and she’s still a congresswoman, that this ATC and AIPAC related individuals, got dirt on her. They found out that even though she was married and she still is, and has a grown-up kid, she is also, she is bisexual. She also has interest in other women. And they use that. They actually provided a Turkish lady to go and have an affair with her, and they tape-recorded the entire relationship. Okay? Because in their initial attempt to hook this congresswoman for a particular objective they had, it did not work, had not worked, so they went to the next level, and said, okay, this is how we hook. So, there are various ways they go and hook people.

COLLINS
Any comment, Phil Giraldi?

GIRALDI
Well, no. That’s an interesting story.

Edmonds was able to get away with all this for so long because her eager listeners and supporters never considered any mistake or inconsistency to be a reason to question the whole edifice. After publicly naming Jan Schakowsky as the target of this blackmail plot, Schakowsky hit back hard, and made Edmonds look ridiculous. In “Schakowsky Responds to Edmonds Claim, Vehemently Denies Lesbian Tryst With Turkish Agent” by Brad Friedman, the Congresswoman would deny the allegations, writing that “A simple review of the facts would lead any responsible person to conclude that there is not a shred of truth to any aspect of this story.” Furthermore:

From the start, the fantasy is riddled with factual errors. It claims that an “intimate” relationship between a fictional female Turkish spy and the congresswoman began at the funeral of the congresswoman’s mother after 2000, however, Rep. Schakowsky’s mother died thirteen years earlier in 1987.

Furthermore, it is alleged that the “relationship” occurred in the congresswoman’s bugged town house even though she has never owned or lived in a town house in her life. Congresswoman Schakowsky shares a small apartment with her husband in a busy Washington, DC apartment building and owns a single-family home in Illinois.

You would think that such humiliating mistakes might cause Edmonds to reconsider her accusations, but this would be to underestimate Edmonds. That Edmonds’ allegations were horribly wrong was not the fault of Edmonds, but of Schakowsky. Edmonds’ letter of reply was quoted in full in “Edmonds Issues Formal Response to Schakowsky’s Denial of Lesbian Affair with Turkish Operative” by Brad Friedman. “It is an age-old tactic, when one cannot refute statements with facts,” wrote back Edmonds, “to attempt to discredit the witness.” This letter was titled, without irony, “In Pursuit of the Facts: Inviting Ms. Schakowsky to Join…” Edmonds’ letter suggested a child who carried a vast wealth of incriminating files in their head, which might be rendered real through sheer will – and Schakowsky’s rebuke was a rebuke of the power of imagination itself. It suggested as well a holy saint who had a choice of over a hundred ensembles picked out for her martyrdom.

A year later, when Friedman wrote “Sibel Edmonds: The Traitors Among Us” for Hustler Magazine (NSFW due to small ads on the side of the text), a plea for greater mainstream coverage of the revelations of Edmonds, you might think that he would mention Edmonds’ egregious failures in her knowledge of the most obvious facts of Schakowsky’s life, such as when her mother died or whether she ever owned a town house. This was to underestimate Brad Friedman as well. “Schakowsky’s office has vehemently denied the allegations,” Friedman wrote. “She has also refused Edmonds’s challenge to take a polygraph test and has not yet sued her for libel, as the whistleblower has challenged her to do.” If you don’t sue, and don’t take a polygraph, you could already be assumed guilty.

Edmonds was allowed to move her claims from the hazy intangible of possibility to firm certainty, through a lack of anything like a firm discipline of what was proven and unproven. A Review of the FBI’s Actions in Connection With Allegations Raised By Contract Linguist Sibel Edmonds, we are told, vindicates her completely, when it doesn’t. It finds a basis for the hiring of an unqualified translator (this is Kevin Taskesen) and a basis for one instance of abuse of travel voucher fraud. For other travel abuse allegations, charges of improper gifts, or an intentional work slowdown, it found no basis. The OIG report, it’s often implied, endorsed her most outlandish claims, when the scope of the report was very limited, as the report explicitly states: “Our review focused on the allegations made by Edmonds to the OIG, particularly Edmonds’ allegations regarding the FBI’s handling of the concerns about the co-worker, her allegations about inappropriate practices in the language program, and her allegation that the FBI retaliated against her for raising those allegations.” What the report has to say about the allegations against this co-worker, Melek Can Dickerson, is where there is a most conveniently selective reading. “With regard to some of Edmonds’ allegations,” the report says about Edmonds’ charges against Dickerson, “the OIG did not find evidence to support her allegation or the inferences that she drew from certain facts.” The report does stress that “Edmonds’ assertions regarding the co-worker, when viewed as a whole, raised substantial questions and were supported by various pieces of evidence. While there are potentially innocuous explanations for the co-worker’s conduct, other explanations were not innocuous.” The conclusion made by Edmonds and her adherents, but never made by the report itself, is that the explanations cannot be innocuous. The review would conclude that “many – although not all – of Edmonds’ allegations about the co-worker had some basis in fact.” This is the line that gives life to all of Edmonds’ later accusations, and it ignores the sentence which immediately follows it: “This evidence does not prove, and we are not suggesting, that there is sufficient evidence to conclude that espionage or any improper disclosures of FBI information occurred.”

There was the claim, heavily qualified, about Dennis Hastert based on Edmonds’ allegations of what she heard, which appeared in David Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large-scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing, and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out-a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert’s federal filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, were only $99,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government-the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years, attempts had been made to get the House to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full House vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests8. Again, the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert’s spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, “and to insinuate anything else just doesn’t make any sense.” He adds that Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps: “He does not know these organizations.” Hastert is “unaware of Turkish interests making donations,” the spokesman says, and his staff has “not seen any pattern of donors with foreign names.”

Again, this is only based on what Edmonds alleges that she heard, and at no point does she even allege hearing Hastert. Yet when Edmonds was with Friedman on the Mike Malloy show, we had suddenly moved to unqualified certainty: “several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct.” There is no confirmation of any such kind in Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part One (24:20-25:34):

FRIEDMAN
Yeah, and one of those folks is Dennis Hastert. The former speaker of the House, who has now gone to work for the Turkish government.

EDMONDS
Isn’t that amazing. Because as you know, in 2005, August 2005, Vanity Fair had a seven, six seven page article on this issue, and the fact that several FBI agents and DOJ officials, as sources, and some congressional people, confirmed to this reporter, David Rose, that at the time, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert was a recipient of various briberies, and other illegal conduct. Let’s put it that way. And this came out. And Dennis Hastert didn’t do anything. He didn’t go and sue Vanity Fair. In fact, they didn’t really issue a real denial, and, as you know, he resigned a year later, and now he works actually for the Turkish lobby, that the Vanity Fair article named, as the place, one of the entities giving Mr. Hastert his bribes.

On a podcast on August 13, 2009, for Edmonds’ own site, Boiling Frogs, host Peter Collins and guest Philip Giraldi would also speak of the Hastert case in terms of certainties. “And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests,” says Collins, though no such links were established in the Rose article. “The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks,” says Giraldi, though no such thing had been made clear in the Rose piece or anywhere else. From “Podcast Show #3″ (27:40-29:40):

COLLINS
Phil, next I’d like to ask you what you know about former Republican speaker Dennis Hastert. He was a congressman from Illinois, and after Newt Gingrich resigned, and then his replacement Livingston, had a short-lived speakership, because of a sex scandal of his own in the South, then Hastert was this compromise candidate. He ended up as speaker for a pretty long time, I think, seven or eight years, and something surfaced in his last re-election campaign, which is, that he received large amounts of money, but in very small, individual contributions that fell below the federal threshold requiring full disclosure on who the donors were. And some investigations have shown, that those small contributions that added up to a fairly significant amount of money were linked to Turkish interests. What more can you tell us about Dennis Hastert, and his relationships with both the American Turkish Council, the Turkish Government, and with AIPAC and Israel?

GIRALDI
Well certainly I’d defer to Sibel on this issue, because she’s really the expert on it. The fact is, it seems clear that Hastert was receiving large sums of money, in small bits, as you correctly describe it, from groups that were linked to the Turks. Hastert is now working for a lobbying firm in Washington, where he represents Turkish interests. So, basically this is the revolving door in Washington, where you engage in practices that are pretty shady while you’re a congressman and then you get out of Congress, and you sign up with a lobbying group, and you work for the same interest, but it’s all up front now, and you make a lot more money.

Giraldi would also seemingly try to reconcile Edmonds’ shifting claims, even when they were in sharp contrast with each other. In Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”, we have this passage about the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Brent Scowcroft:

Sibel also recalled hearing wiretaps indicating that Turkish Embassy targets frequently spoke to staff members at the A.T.C., one of the organizations the Dickersons allegedly wanted her and her husband to join. Sibel later told the O.I.G. she assumed that the A.T.C.’s board-which is chaired by Brent Scowcroft, President George H. W. Bush’s national-security adviser-knew nothing of the use to which it was being put. But the wiretaps suggested to her that the Washington office of the A.T.C. was being used as a front for criminal activity.

“Inconvenient Patriot” was published in 2005, and here Scowcroft is portrayed as a figure untouched by this vast scandal, an unwitting cover for the ATC. In “Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”, the interview with Philip Giraldi, Edmonds now claims that Scowcroft was working together with Turkish interests to wage war with Iraq before September 11, and split the country apart:

GIRALDI: So they were doing favors for other reasons. Both Feith and Perle were lobbyists for Turkey and also were involved with Israel on defense contracts, including some for Northrop Grumman, which Feith represented in Israel.

EDMONDS: They had arrangements with various companies, some of them members of the American Turkish Council. They had arrangements with Kissinger’s group, with Northrop Grumman, with former secretary of state James Baker’s group, and also with former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft.

The monitoring of the Turks picked up contacts with Feith, Wolfowitz, and Perle in the summer of 2001, four months before 9/11. They were discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country. The UK would take the south, the rest would go to the U.S. They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil. The Turks were very supportive, but wanted a three-part division of Iraq to include their own occupation of the Kurdish region. The three Defense Department officials said that would be more than they could agree to, but they continued daily communications to the ambassador and his defense attaché in an attempt to convince them to help.

Meanwhile Scowcroft, who was also the chairman of the American Turkish Council, Baker, Richard Armitage, and Grossman began negotiating separately for a possible Turkish protectorate. Nothing was decided, and then 9/11 took place.

Scowcroft was all for invading Iraq in 2001 and even wrote a paper for the Pentagon explaining why the Turkish northern front would be essential. I know Scowcroft came off as a hero to some for saying he was against the war, but he was very much for it until his client’s conditions were not met by the Bush administration.

Giraldi is then asked about this astonishing contradiction on Peter Horton’s podcast (the following is taken from “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”), and he cannot seem to answer it, so he dodges the question:

Horton: Now when it comes to Brent Scowcroft, this ties in I think with Greg Palast’s reporting that James Baker and them had a plan for what he called “a coup disguised as an invasion,” but basically: get rid of Hussein and his sons and replace them with the next “Ba’athist Mustache in line” I think is the way that Palast said it, and that then the neocons got more prominence and did their Iraq plan instead after September 11th. But on the issue of Scowcroft being tied with Baker and that kind of thing, that seems very plausible to me, but I reread David Rose’s piece from Vanity Fair in September, 2005, about Sibel last night, and he mentions there in context of Scowcroft, at least as Rose puts it in the article, that Sibel said that she assumed that Scowcroft didn’t have anything to do with this stuff, as far as all this criminality and espionage and so forth – that he was the Chair, or on the board or something like that, but that all this stuff was going on at the American Turkish Council on a much lower level, something like that. I wonder, Phil, do you think that her opinion has changed about that or that these discussions that Scowcroft had about Iraq and Turkey didn’t necessarily have anything to do with the low-level criminality stuff?

Giraldi: Well I think that we are talking about two different things here. I’m reading a little bit into the story but the fact is that what Scowcroft and Baker – being former Secretary of State – and these people were doing, is that they were negotiating at a very high level: nation to nation essentially, they were representing in a sense the U.S., even though they had no legal authority to do so. The other stuff, the basic level criminality, yeah I would be awfully surprised if Scowcroft and people like that would get their hands dirty with that sort of thing, so I think that we are looking at two different levels. There are a lot of people in ATC that were involved in this process who were implementers and who were kind of spear carriers, the Marc Grossmans, the people at the Pentagon, and then there were people like Scowcroft who were kind of above the fray.

In “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” (paywall) by Chris Gourlay, Jonathan Calvert, and Joe Lauria, Edmonds gives us the name of one member of the nuclear secrets ring who was actually indicted and convicted:

Edmonds says packages containing nuclear secrets were delivered by Turkish operatives, using their cover as members of the diplomatic and military community, to contacts at the Pakistani embassy in Washington.

Edmonds also claims that a number of senior officials in the Pentagon had helped Israeli and Turkish agents.

“The people provided lists of potential moles from Pentagon-related institutions who had access to databases concerning this information,” she said.

“The handlers, who were part of the diplomatic community, would then try to recruit those people to become moles for the network. The lists contained all their ‘hooking points’, which could be financial or sexual pressure points, their exact job in the Pentagon and what stuff they had access to.”

One of the Pentagon figures under investigation was Lawrence Franklin, a former Pentagon analyst, who was jailed in 2006 for passing US defence information to lobbyists and sharing classified information with an Israeli diplomat.

“He was one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001,” she said.

Franklin is an interesting citation of someone who was passing nuclear secrets. Franklin was a Catholic and a slightly ridiculous man who apparently wanted the U.S. to focus on regime change in Iran, rather than Iraq, and decided to try to reach the head of the National Security Council, Elliot Abrams, via AIPAC. Franklin gave his account in Foreign Policy, with “My Secret Plan to Overthrow the Mullahs” and he would be profiled after prison in Forward, “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy, Larry Franklin Tells His Story” by Nathan Guttman. He was not working in concert with Feith, but in opposition to his policy of a war with Iraq. That Franklin was trying to shift policy away from Iraq and towards Iran is stated in two stories before Franklin’s sentencing, “Pentagon Analyst Gets 12 Years for Disclosing Data” by David Johnston and “Pentagon Analyst Admits Sharing Secret Data” by Eric Lichtblau. If Franklin were a spy, he appears to be an incredibly incompetent one, who received no lavish compensation for his troubles, instead cleaning bathrooms in Roy Rodgers and parking cars after his prison stint. When Franklin showed the secret document to the AIPAC lobbyists (they read it, spoke to others about it, but were careful enough not to actually take it), it was part of an FBI sting of these lobbyists, and the document was a synthetic one, dealing not with nuclear secrets, but “a fake classified document alleging there was clear life-threatening danger posed to Israelis secretly operating in Iraq’s Kurdish region”, according to Guttman’s “Once Labeled An AIPAC Spy”. The information which the two lobbyists, Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, were charged with disclosing had nothing to do with nuclear technology. “The indictment said,” according to “Disclosing Data”, that “the two men had disclosed classified information about a number of subjects, including American policy in Iran, terrorism in central Asia, Al Qaeda and the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers apartment in Saudi Arabia, which killed 23 Americans, mainly members of the military.” There is no issue with disagreeing with Franklin or any of this reporting, but nothing in Lauria’s “West’s deadly nuclear secrets” even attempts to reconcile this image of a powerful nuclear secrets ring with the actual incompetent leaker Larry Franklin, supposedly “one of the top people providing information and packages during 2000 and 2001″ according to Edmonds, who doesn’t even pass nuclear secrets.

When I write of a “network” which Sibel Edmonds uncovered, I do not think it does justice to the vastness of the entity that she unveiled, an entity which appeared to grow more and more vast with each year. In 2010, Edmonds would criticize Wikileaks in a post on her blog, “On Wikileaks Strategy: Too Many Hors D’oeuvres?” for not sharing their best material first: “Based on the well-established and well-known mainstream media attention curve, isn’t it self-defeating and damaging to begin the cables release with a jumble of highly inconsequential and insignificant documents with little or no implications? Why not use the peak media attention period for the most significant and highly explosive information with even greater implications?” One might ask the same question of Edmonds. Why did she not use her time on 60 Minutes – note that this was in 2002, before the Iraq war and before the re-classification order – to share the astonishing bombshell that in the summer of 2001 there were plans to invade Iraq? That Dennis Hastert was selling nuclear secrets? That Jan Schakowsky was the target of a blackmail attempt involving an affair with a female agent? Because, what, 60 Minutes would have no interest in a sex scandal?

What follows is a list of all the details of this octopus which Edmonds has so far revealed, alongside the source in which they were mentioned:

  • Mark Grossman, ambassador to Turkey (1994-1997), Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (1997-2001), Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs (2001-2002) did favors for the Turkish government and criminal groups while at the State Department, and was once paid off with $14,000 in cash for one of these favors. Grossman also helped maintain a network of moles in government labs and defense installations such as Los Alamos, in order to steal nuclear technology and nuclear material. Grossman also was a conduit for money and defense secrets between congress members and agents of foreign governments – Israel, Turkey, and Pakistan. Air Force Major Douglas Dickcerson (husband of Melek Can Dickerson) worked alongside Grossman in many of his ventures and had to leave Turkey due to the Susurluk scandal (an entry in wikipedia on the subject: “Susurluk scandal”), which had to do with government involvement in the heroin trade. Though she never gives the exact reason why, presumably Grossman and Dickerson had to leave Turkey due to their being active players in this controversy. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?” and “For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets” where the unnamed official who set up a network of moles is Grossman)
  • that Marc Grossman told Turkish diplomats that Brewster Jennings was a CIA front used to entrap those trying to buy nuclear secrets, and warned them away from any dealings with the company. Brewster Jennings was in fact used by Valerie Plame as part of her non-official cover. Though Jennings had revealed the identity of Brewster Jennings in the summer of 2001, Edmonds would make this revelation only years after Valerie Plame’s cover was broken and knowledge of Brewster Jennings was public. (Brewster Jennings and Marc Grossman are brought up on page 60 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”, the exposure of Brewtser Jennings is discussed in “Leak of Agent’s Name Causes Exposure of CIA Front Firm” by Walter Pincus and Mike Allen, in pdf format as part of the inquiry into Scooter Libby)
  • that Marc Grossman led an operation where mujahideen fighters from East Turkestan were moved into Chechnya. This was done with the help of the Saudis, the Pakistanis, and the Bin Laden family. The other half of the operation involved moving drugs from Turkey into Belgium via NATO planes. Drugs were also flown into the United States from Belgium via military planes, and some drugs were transported in through Turkish diplomats carrying suitcases full of heroin. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • “We have been funding terrorist groups like Chechens. Any kind of activities that have been carried out, major ones, between 1996 and 2001, let’s say be major Chechen terrorists, were directly under our order, our funding, our arming, and our direction.” — Sibel Edmonds, on “US government needs to keep the fear factor alive” (6:25-6:43)
  • that Marc Grossman knew a journalist at the New York Times who would publish stories exactly according to what he and Turkey wanted. He would fax over a story and he would print it. An example was given of a story published in 2000 on helicopter sales to Turkey. I have found no such story. The closest that I was able to find was “U.S. Helicopter Sale to Turkey Hits Snag” by Raymond Bonner, from 1996. Bonner is an interesting choice for such a conduit, since he is not exactly a sycophantic lackey for U.S. foreign policy, having written Weakness & Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador, which is highly critical of the savage government the U.S. supported in that country. (“Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton)
  • that the State Department blocked investigations into individuals and entities connected with Israel, Pakistan, and Turkey (“Interview with Sibel Edmonds by David Swanson”)
  • that Dennis Hastert got covert campaign funding via the American Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations, made through small donations that would not have to be itemized in public filings. In return, Hastert agreed to withdraw a resolution which designated the killing of Armenians in turkey between 1915 and 1923 as genocide. (“An Inconvenient Patriot”)
  • Tom Lantos, the late congressman from California was part of a circle in congress which passed on defense secrets, with Lantos giving away the most. Lantos would pass the information to Israeli agents, who would in turn pass it on to Turkey, which would pass on the leftovers to Pakistan. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • Dan Burton, Bob Livingston, Steve Solarz, along with Dennis Hastert, were also part of this circle. They received illegal campaign contributions from the Turkish lobby, they received bribes in return for favors, and they laundered money. (“Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that Richard Perle and Douglas Feith would pass on information about employees in the Pentagon and the state department so these individuals might be manipulated or blackmailed for classified information. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that there was a potential arrangement made in 2001 where the U.S. would invade Iraq and divide the country, with the U.K. taking the South and the U.S. getting the rest. Turkey was supportive, but wanted to be able to take over the Kurdish region. Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle had these discussions with the Turkish ambassador, while Brent Scowcroft, James Baker, Richard Armitage, and Mark Grossman negotiated the possibility of a Turkish protectorate. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that Illinois Representative Jan Schakowsky was seduced and blackmailed by a female Turkish spy. The seduction took place at the funeral for Schakowsky’s mother. (“Who’s Afraid of Sibel Edmonds?”)
  • that professor Sabri Sayari of Georgetown University has a network of recruits who provide him classified secrets. Sayari set up a similar network at the RAND Corporation. “Professor Sabri Sayari in Georgetown University who has stole[n] tens of millions of dollars worth of secrets by actually recruiting people there” (page 206 of “Deposition of: Sibel Deniz Edmonds”)
  • that the FBI received in-depth information and advance warning of the 9/11 attacks from French intelligence, but chose to do nothing9. The FBI also received a warning from a reliable Iranian source, who in turn had source in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who passed on the information that Bin Laden was planning to attack American cities very soon, and using planes as weapons. Again, the FBI ignored this information10. (Classified Woman)
  • she would eventually explicitly state that she believed that 9/11 was allowed to happen by the federal government, for their own purposes. Q: “Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?” Edmonds: “Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen.”11
  • that her supervisor at the FBI, Mike Feghali, obtained his position through bullying and litigation, and sold the identities of FBI informants for cash (Classified Woman)

My intemperate reaction to these accusations, especially after seeing all the massive inconsistencies and discrepancies in the accounts of Sibel Edmonds of her time at the FBI, was astonishment, disgust, and a cold kind of anger. Do you realize, Ms. Edmonds, that if anyone had believed you that any one of these people had given away nuclear secrets that they might have gone to jail for about a century or so? That they would have faced a criminal prosecution that would make what you dealt with look like a lazy Sunday morning? That if anyone in the mainstream media had given credence to your charges that several lives would have been destroyed? Do you have any conscience at all?

At a more analytical remove, what we are seeing here is an undiluted paranoid vision, the paranoid sensibility animating all things. I write at a time when it is reasonable to think that Jews and Muslims will despise each other for all eternity, yet they found a happy elysium of co-operation in the imagination of Sibel Edmonds. In the book Infiltration, when Muslims aren’t enthusiastically celebrating September 11th, they’re secretly taking over the government. “Is Israel the Sole Determinant of US Presidential Elections?”, Edmonds asked on April 2011, and this piece was about how the other half of the pair was secretly taking over the country, referred to, without apology, as an usurping alien other:

It is pretty straightforward: Mr. President if you do A, we won’t let you get reelected, but if you do B, we will; yes, we have that much power and influence. The condition put on this one way negotiation has nothing to do with the topic I am discussing here. Period. In this case it is about Jonathan Pollard, the convicted Israeli spy who betrayed his nation and endangered lives. It could very well be about Iran: Mr. Obama you either attack or advocate for an attack on country X, and we’ll ensure you get reelected, or, stand against it, and lose your chance of getting reelected. Why? Because ‘we‘ have that power. Because ‘we‘ perceive country X as a threat to ‘us,’, and ‘we‘ want you to put your nation at war for ‘us.’ Now you may say, ‘hey, that’s a ludicrous empty threat! Give or take two percent of the voting population can’t carry that level of influence over a United States President!‘ And, you will be wrong; flat out wrong. It is true that the population of American adherents of Judaism was around 5 million, 1.7% of the total US population in 2007, and including those who identify themselves culturally as Jewish (but not necessarily religiously), around 2.2% as of 2008. But who ever claimed that these things are all about size, and that only size matters?!!! If you don’t have the size you go about compensating for it; don’t you? Well, that’s exactly what ‘they‘ have been doing, and doing successfully.

Good for them. Terrible for us whom I am directing this article to. This is about us, the American voters. You may say, ‘hey, I ain’t got the money, and I ain’t got the position or means necessary to influence the media. So I can neither buy politicians nor use the media marketing platform!

And my response to you is:  I am not asking you to. All I am doing here is letting you see what I see, and letting you know what is out there in front of us; that is, if you haven’t already seen and don’t already know. Then, I’ll let you decide for yourself: Do I sit back, buy the things the media is marketing and selling, and let ‘them‘ shape my vote easily? Or do I treat the media’s marketing campaign as I do Nike’s super performance ads when it comes to deciding on the candidate who will be getting my vote? Do I become enamored of the candidates with the glitziest and fanciest campaigns, or, do I direct my attention to the ones’ whose pockets have been left empty by foreign and special interests?

After all, it is your vote, and I am not going to spend more words or time trying to shape it, so please don’t let ‘them‘ either.

In the world described by Sibel Edmonds, there is an all powerful, near invisible octopus, which exists behind every facade, that is god-like in its power and god-like in its connection with belief. Tom Lantos was well known for his constant work to have Congress recognize the Armenian Genocide, yet somehow he is in the pay of the Turkish government – and though this very government is supposedly bribing other members of Congress to stop the Armenian Genocide resolution, they are indifferent on this matter with Lantos. To ask why is like asking in a theocracy why the planetary orbit calculations make no sense in a geocentric universe – in a theocracy, they must be made to make sense. If our prayers do not bring about rain or stop the flooding, the issue is not that prayer has no connection with these events, but that we have not prayed in the proper fashion. If Edmonds’ description of a blackmail plot involving Jan Schakowsky gets certain details laughably wrong, the problem is not that Sibel Edmonds has no idea of what she’s talking about, but that Schakowsky refuses to admit her complicity. That Edmonds continued to have listeners and believers after these mis-steps can be likened to a cult leader whose adherents find excuses and justifications for all the miracles that fail. Ron Unz wanted an investigation into the allegations of Sibel Edmonds. Well, Mr. Unz, you now have your answer. Sibel Edmonds appears to be a sociopathic fabulist. Did you ask because it was an answer, whatever the answer might be, you wanted, or did you ask because you wanted a specific one?

Sibel Edmonds told a fascinating story where agents were constantly detecting vulnerabilities in order to hook their prey. The essential vulnerability of the mark, as any conman – or conwoman – knows, is an obvious and powerful one. The essential vulnerability is their desire to believe, and keep believing. And the best conmen – and conwomen – are those who actually believe in their own lunatic schemes.

(Header image features stills copyright CBS Corporation.)

(Originally, this post said that Edmonds worked eight hours on her last day; this was edited on July 10, 2014, to make clear that she worked six hours, from ten to four, as she states in Classified Woman. In footnote #6, a link to a Times article on the original re-classification of material related to the Edmonds case was also added on July 10, 2014. The bullet point on Marc Grossman and Raymond Bonner was added on July 10, 2014 as well. On July 11, 2014, the following changes were made: the detail on the OIG report’s limited scope was added, as was the fact that Edmonds made the allegation that Muslim translators celebrated September 11 to multiple media sources, but not to the OIG; the point was added on the significance of Edmonds remembering February 14 as the date on which her computer was examined; the mention in Infiltration of Edmonds earning her Ph.D. along with supporting footnote #7; material from “Inconvenient Patriot” was added on the vote on the Armenian Genocide resolution, along with accompanying footnote #8; the section on surveilled targets using codes, according to Edmonds from the book Infiltration, was added; various spelling fixes were made. On July 12th, the bullet point on Edmonds’ statement that 9/11 involved a government cover-up, along with the accompanying footnote, was added.)

FOOTNOTES

1 These details on the Schmidt lawsuit are taken from “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt in Politico and “Schmidt Drops Lawsuit” by Kevin Osborne in Citybeat Cincinnati.

2 This quote is taken from “Ohio’s not-so-mean Jean Schmidt” by Walter Shapiro.

3 From “Jean Schmidt defamation suit in 3rd year” by Alex Isenstadt.

4 From “Covering Up the Coverage – The American Media’s Complicit Failure to Investigate and Report on the Sibel Edmonds Case” by Daniel Ellsberg:

For the last two weeks — one could say, for years — the major American media have been guilty of ignoring entirely the allegations of the courageous and highly credible source Sibel Edmonds, quoted in the London Times on January 6, 2008 in a front-page story that was front-page news in much of the rest of the world but was not reported in a single American newspaper or network. It is up to readers to demand that this culpable silent treatment end.

5 From “Gigantic Scandal!: The Sibel Edmonds Story”, a transcript of an interview with Joe Lauria and Philip Giraldi, conducted by Scott Horton:

Lauria: Well this is obviously the biggest question in this entire story: is this believable or not? And it wasn’t easy to corroborate that, it is very difficult to corroborate this, and this is probably one of the reasons the large publications – and I applaud the American Conservative for running this piece, and I think Phil did a terrific job in the editing of it is very tight, and I’ll talk a little more about that later – but I think one of the difficulties is corroborating what she is talking about. Either Sibel Edmonds is one of the great actresses of our time, or she has her finger on a story of immense proportions that is perhaps so immense that it is scaring the hell out of a lot of people. Not only the people involved, but people who might be dependent on people who are involved, or are, in all sorts of ways, tied to this activity, and lots of things that we may not even know about, that Sibel doesn’t even know about. This is one corner of perhaps a wide… who knows?… activities, similar activities that go on in our country.

6 From Infiltration, here is the mention of a recently earned Ph.D. (page 165):

Though her tale may sound like something out of a spy thriller, there’s nothing fictional about it, U.S. officials say. Grassley, a leading member of the Judiciary Committee and noted FBI watchdog calls Edmonds, who recently earned a Ph.D. and holds degrees in both criminal justice and public policy, “very credible…And the reason I feel she’s very credible is because the people in the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story” during closed-session hearings on the Hill.

From Rose’s “Inconvenient Patriot”:

Sibel enrolled at a college in Maryland, where she studied English and hotel management; later, she received bachelor’s degrees at George Washington University in criminal justice and psychology, and worked with juvenile offenders. In 1992, at age 22, she had married Matthew Edmonds, a divorced retail-technology consultant who had lived in Virginia all his life.

From the “About” page of her Boiling Frogs website:

Ms. Edmonds has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University, and AA degree in Science from NVCC. She is certified as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and as an instructor for the Women’s Domestic Violence Program. She is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani.

7 From “Administration Blinks; Admits Retroactively Classified Information Not Harmful to National Security”, a press release from the ACLU:

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department admitted today that information it had retroactively classified could be released to the public and did not pose a threat to national security. The American Civil Liberties Union said the revelation could aid government whistleblowers in their efforts to fight unlawful dismissals.

“The Justice Department’s long-overdue admission goes to the core of the ACLU’s allegations that the government is going all out to silence whistleblowers to protect itself from political embarrassment,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is representing former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds in a lawsuit challenging her termination. “This is hardly an isolated case, as numerous national security whistleblowers can attest. The government is taking extreme steps to shield itself while gambling with our safety.”

A piece on the original re-classification of the material is “Material Given to Congress in 2002 Is Now Classified” by Eric Lichtblau.

8 If anything this understates this explicit overt pressure against this resolution. Elizabeth Kolbert conveys this pressure well in the opening paragraph of “Dead Reckoning”:

On September 14, 2000, Representatives George Radanovich, Republican of California, and David Bonior, Democrat of Michigan, introduced a House resolution-later to be known as H.R. 596-on the slaughter of the Armenians. The measure urged the President, in dealing with the matter, to demonstrate “appropriate understanding and sensitivity.” It further instructed him on how to phrase his annual message on the Armenian Day of Remembrance: the President should refer to the atrocities as “genocide.” The bill was sent to the International Relations Committee and immediately came under attack. State Department officials reminded the committee that it was U.S. policy to “respect the Turkish government’s assertions that, although many ethnic Armenians died during World War I, no genocide took place.” Expanding on this theme, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, in a letter to Dennis Hastert, the Speaker of the House, wrote that while he in no way wanted to “downplay the Armenian tragedy . . . passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region.” After committee members voted, on October 3rd, to send H.R. 596 to the floor, Turkish officials warned that negotiations with an American defense contractor, Bell Textron, over four and a half billion dollars’ worth of attack helicopters were in jeopardy. On October 5th, the leaders of all five parties in the Turkish parliament issued a joint statement threatening to deny the U.S. access to an airbase in Incirlik, which it was using to patrol northern Iraq. Finally, on October 19th, just a few hours before H.R. 596 was scheduled to be debated in the House, Hastert pulled it from the agenda. He had, he said, been informed by President Clinton that passage of the resolution could “risk the lives of Americans.”

The letters from Bill Cohen and others from the state department can be found in “106-933 Affirmation Of The United States Record On The Armenian Genocide Resolution”:

Hon. J. DENNIS HASTERT,
Speaker, House of Representatives
Washington, DC.

DEAR MR. SPEAKER: I appreciated the opportunity to speak with you on H. Res. 398, the United States Training on and Commemoration of the Armenian Genocide Resolution. As we discussed, I am concerned with the unintended harm passage of this Resolution could have on our efforts to build peace and stability in the region.

In no way do I mean to downplay the Armenian tragedy. In recognition of that suffering, the U.S. Government has a tradition of commemorating Armenian Remembrance Day each April 24, mourning the loss of innumerable Armenian lives and challenging all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such events never again happen.

However, passing judgment on this history through legislation could have a negative impact on Turkish-Armenian relations and on our security interests in the region, H. Res. 398 would complicate our efforts to protect our interests in the region and sustain our positive relationship with Turkey; a strong and strategic ally.

Again, I appreciated the opportunity to talk with you about this important issue. Please let me know if I can provide any further information to you on this manner.

Sincerely,

BILL COHEN.

The letter from Bill Clinton can be found at the Armenian National Committee of America:

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I am writing to express my deep concern about H. Res. 596, dealing with the tragic events in eastern Anatolia under Ottoman rule in the years 1915-1923.

Every year on April 24, I have commemorated Armenian Remembrance Day, mourning the deportations and massacres of innocent Armenians during that era. And every year, I have challenged all Americans to recommit themselves to ensuring that such horrors never occur again.

However, I am deeply concerned that consideration of H. Res. 596 at this time could have far-reaching negative consequences for the United States.

We have significant interests in this troubled region of the world: containing the threat posed by East and Central Asia, stabilizing the Balkans, and developing new sources of energy. Consideration of the resolution at this sensitive time will negatively affect those interests and could undermine efforts to encourage improved relations between Armenia and Turkey — the very goal the sponsors of this Resolution seek to advance.

I fully understand how strongly both Turkey and Armenia feel about this issue. Ultimately, this painful matter can only be resolved by both sides examining the past together.

I urge you in the strongest terms not to bring this Resolution to the floor at this time.

Sincerely,

[signed]

Bill Clinton

9 From Classified Woman:

About half an hour later, Sarshar, Amin, and Mariana, a French translator in her early thirties, stopped by my desk. “Mariana here also has an interesting nine eleven story, a major case,” Sarshar began. “Come on, Marie, tell Sibel.”

Mariana didn’t seem too happy to be dragged into this. She rolled her eyes. “In late June-two thousand one, that is-the French Intelligence contacted us, the FBI, with a warning of upcoming attacks. They had intercepted intelligence that showed planning for attacks in the U.S. via airplanes. They also provided us with some names: suspects.” She sighed. “The FBI took it seriously; they sent me to France with a couple of CT [counterterrorism] and CI [counterintelligence] agents … The French were sharing everything; they gave us everything they had. Trust me, this was specific information. Later, somehow, FBI HQ chose to do nothing about it. As far as I know, it went up to the White House. It made it into one of their national security advisor’s briefings, but … nothing.”

I looked at her, then to Sarshar and Amin. “So … what you are going to do about this? We need to do something!”

Mariana shrugged. “It’s none of our business. I’m sorry I even talked about this case, I shouldn’t have. Nine eleven freaked me out. I couldn’t stop thinking about this.” She turned around and mumbled, “Just leave me out of this. The bureau may have its own reasons to close this case permanently.” Then she walked away.

These two major incidents were my first experiences with the FBI’s intentional cover-up and blocking of 9/11-related information, evidence and cases. During the next four months, I would stumble on other cases that involved similar blockings and cover-ups.

One such case involved a foreign network-from a so-called allied country-in the United States that was under FBI counterintelligence surveillance. Those communications I translated involved the selling of U.S. nuclear information, obtained by extortion and bribery, to two foreign individuals from another ally country. I knew, from a previous case, that the two individuals purchasing this information and material had connections to a particular terrorist financial institution with direct ties to 9/11 and certain Saudis. As the translator in both cases, I knew something that the agents in each separate case couldn’t possibly have seen. There was a connection they didn’t know about.

Despite my attempt to notify the two FBI field offices and the agents involved in both operations, the bureau, under pressure from the Department of State, prevented this or any such notification from taking place. Furthermore, they shut down one of the two operations to protect the so-called ally country.

10 From Classified Woman:

Sarshar [Behrooz Sarshar, a Farsi translator] got up and grabbed a file from his desk drawer, then came back and sat down. “Sit tight. What you will hear and see will blow your mind.”

Sarshar then began to tell me about the Iranian informant.

The story began in the early 1990s. The bureau hired an Iranian man who had been the head of SAVAK (Iran’s main intelligence agency) as a reliable source on its criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations and investigations. The man was very good at what he did and had established a large number of sources and informants in strategically important areas within Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Notably, he managed intelligence-gathering operations in Sistan and Baluchistan, two semi-independent regions on the border with Afghanistan.

Once on the payroll, he began providing extremely useful and reliable information. The bureau was so pleased with his performance that it began using him both as an informant and as an asset. On a regular basis, almost monthly, agents from the FBI HQ and WFO would meet with him in a location outside the bureau to obtain information and intel on various ongoing operations and investigations.

The agents needed an interpreter for these regular monthly meetings, Sarshar explained, which is where he and Amin came in. “Around the end of April, two thousand one,” he told me, “I was asked to accompany two special agents from the FBI-WFO … to a meeting arranged with this informant … We met in a park and spent nearly an hour discussing the case, asking detailed questions, and of course, with me translating back and forth. Once we were finished with the session and ready to head back to the WFO, the informant urged us to stay for a few minutes and listen to something very important and alarming he had recently received from his sources.”

According to Sarshar, the informant then proceeded to tell them, “Listen, I was recently contacted by two extremely reliable and long-term sources, one in Afghanistan, the other in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan. In the past, these guys had provided me with inside information and intelligence that was extremely hard to come by, considering the tightly based networks and groups they were able to enter and penetrate. They notified me that an active mujahideen group led by Bin Laden had issued an order to attack certain targets in the United States, and were planning the attack as we spoke.” Here, Sarshar explained, the agents seemed very alarmed, since their main unit of operation was under the WFO Counterterrorism division. All of them took notes.

The informant continued, “According to my guys, Bin Laden’s group is planning a massive terrorist attack in the United States. The order has been issued. They are targeting major cities, big metropolitan cities; they think four or five cities: New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, and San Francisco; possibly Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They will use airplanes to carry out the attacks. They said that some of the individuals involved in carrying this out are already in the United States. They are here in the U.S., living among us, and I believe some in U.S. government already know about all of this.”

The informant was asked about specific dates, and whether they would use airplanes, bombs or hijacking; did he know?

“No specific dates,” came the reply, “not any that they were aware of. However, they said the general time frame was characterized as ‘very soon.’ They think within the next two or three months…. As far as how they are going to use the planes to attack, your guess is as good as mine. My bet, it will be bombs: planting bombs inside these planes, maybe the cargo, then have them blown up over the populated cities.”

Sarshar took notes in Farsi and later translated them verbatim. The informant urged them to report and act on this immediately, adding that Bin Laden had backing and experts. “If I were you guys, I’d take this extremely seriously. If I had the same position I had in SAVAK, I’d put all my men on this around the clock. I can vouch for my sources, their reliability. Make sure you put this in the hands of the top guys in Counterterrorism.”

The agents discussed the best person to whom they should submit this warning and decided on Special Agent in Charge Thomas Frields, who was in charge of the WFO Counterterrorism division.

Once back at the office, Sarshar completed his translation and the agents filled out the necessary 302 forms for their formal report. (The 302 forms are used to report information gathered from assets and informants.) Two sets of 302 forms were filed: one for the ongoing criminal case and the other on the warning, as information related to counterterrorism operations. Sarshar coordinated with the agents for the final report and kept his own set of records. They submitted the warning report to SAC Frields with a note on the top reading VERY URGENT.

Nobody heard back from Frields or the Counterterrorism division. No one asked for any follow-ups or additional information. Two months went by. Around the end of June 2001, Sarshar met with the agents and the Iranian informant again. When they had completed their business, the Iranian asked about the warning he had passed along to them, now two months old, whether it had been reported to the higher-ups. He was told it had been. The informant, now animated, explained that he’d heard back from his source, who “swore the attack was on its way; any time now, a month or two, max” and asked point-blank, “Are they going to do something about it?”

The agent’s response was, “I know, I hear what you’re saying, man, but doing something about this won’t be up to us. Plus, we don’t have enough information to take any action here. We don’t know when, how, or exactly where. The only thing we have is: Bin Laden, five cities, and airplanes. That ain’t enough.”

The informant went on, “I’ve been thinking about this, trying to make more sense out of it myself. The source mumbled something about tall buildings. Maybe they will blow up the plane over some tall buildings? I don’t know…. Maybe the FBI can get more specifics from the Pakistanis, ISI. Have they tried? After all, they are your guys; and they know all about this.”

The agents, exasperated and impatient, told him they reported it and now it would be up to those in charge. When they were leaving, the informant yelled in Farsi, “Why don’t you tell the CIA? Tell the White House! Don’t let them sit on this until it is too late …”

Sarshar asked one of the agents if he thought sharing this with other agencies might be a good idea. As Sarshar described it, the agent rolled his eyes. “Not up to us, Behrooz. As far as the White House goes, the HQ guys will include it in their briefings; I’m sure they’ve already done so. Frields is obligated to submit what he got, everything he gets under Counterterrorism, to the HQ guys in charge of White House national security briefings. He always does. So, the White House and other agencies have already heard about this. Let’s drop this, man, will ya?”

He told me, “That was the last time we ever discussed this case before the nine eleven attacks took place. The only other person I told this to and showed the 302 forms and the translation report to, before September eleven, was Amin here. Then, on that Tuesday morning on September eleven, everything came back to me and hit me on the head like several tons of bricks … we were warned about this. We were told, very specifically.”

A very different version of this source and what information he gave in “As U.S. steps up investigation, Iran denies assisting Al Qaeda” by John Crewdson, specific page three:

The interview followed the standard FBI format. The agents posed their questions in English, which were then translated into Farsi. The Asset’s replies were translated back into English as the agents took notes.

According to the law enforcement official, “there was talk about terrorists and planes,” but no mention of when or where the attacks might take place.

It was the FBI agents’ impression, the official said, that the target of the attacks could be “possibly here, but more probably overseas.” The Asset also reported having heard a rumor that a plane would be hijacked to Afghanistan, the official said.

The FBI’s translator, a former Iranian police colonel named Behrooz Sarshar, does not recall any mention of a hijacking to Afghanistan. But Sarshar, then a career FBI employee assigned to the translation section of the bureau’s Washington field office, does remember the Asset saying the attacks might take place in the U.S. or Europe, and also that the terrorist-pilots were “under training.”

After checking his notes from the interview, Sarshar said that, in addition to sources in Iran, the Asset had mentioned picking up information from Afghanistan and Hamburg.

Sarshar describes the Asset as part of an informal worldwide network of former Iranian intelligence officers who have remained in close touch after abandoning their homeland for Europe, Asia and the U.S., where many found work with Western police and intelligence services.

Some members of the network still travel back and forth to Iran, Sarshar said, or maintain contact with colleagues there via telephone and e-mail while waiting for the revolutionary Iranian government to fall.

According to Sarshar, the two FBI agents who interviewed the Asset were not visibly surprised by his report. It was his impression, Sarshar said, that the agents weren’t sure whether to believe their informant, and that even the Asset wasn’t convinced his information was true.

A few weeks after the initial interview, however, the agents and Sarshar paid a second visit to the Asset, who Sarshar said repeated essentially the same story.

11 From “Government Allowed 9/11 | Interview with Sibel Edmonds” (5:17-6:46):

INTERVIEWER
Do you think that the government purposefully ignored intelligence because they wanted 9/11 to happen?

EDMONDS
Absolutely. I would say certain elements within our government absolutely, intentionally, purposefully ignored and let it happen. And they haven’t been held accountable, and what we have had, all the shenanigans from the 9/11 Commission, or the Congressional inquiries, none of them went into these topics, in these established cases. If you look at the number of high level national security whistleblowers who were censured out of congressional, so-called, investigations or the so-called 9/11 hearings, that includes people like the FBI, retired FBI agent Colleen Rawley, you’re looking at Anthony Schaeffer, you’re looking at dozens of people, who have come forward, they came forward, they went to Congress, they went to the 9/11 Commission, they went to the media, and they were simply ignored. And a lot of these reported cases have been established over the years, in bits and pieces, and that’s exactly what the establishment, and what the media intended in the first place. Not to cover it all up, purposefully and forever, to just let it get out in little bits and pieces, so you won’t get that needed outrage from the public, to demand accountability, to demand answers.

This answer from a 2012 book tour interview was a contrast to 2009, when she was on a podcast hosted by Brad Friedman, and she was far more cautious in her analysis. From “Guest Hosting ‘Mike Malloy Show’ (Wednesday)”, Part Two (1:50-5:32):

CALLER
Knowing the criminals that we had in the Bush-Cheney administration, or we had, in the Bush-Cheney administration, and many Americans questioning 9-11, I gotta ask the question, does Sibel…what are her thoughts on 9-11 possibly being an inside job?

FRIEDMAN
Thank you, Christina, I won’t tell your bosses that you’re listening to K-TALK instead of your own station. Thanks Christine. [CHRISTINE: Thank you.] Alright Sibel, that’s a question that comes up for me the most, 9/11 was an inside job. What do you think?

EDMONDS
Well, as I have done, for the past seven, eight, years, I have basically stopped with what I know firsthand directly. My own knowledge, based on my own experience, based on what I obtained, which is not a lot, but: it’s extremely important. And to answer the question, was it an inside job?, it would be first of all preposterous for me to make that call. But what I can tell you, is based on what we know already, and these are the confirmed cases, you’re going to have Colleen Rowley on your show [FRIEDMAN: Yes, coming up tomorrow.], well exactly, you look at her, her case, and then you look at the Phoenix memo, the other FBI agent in Phoenix office, the Phoenix field office, and then you look at the FBI agent Wright, in Chicago, and you look at that case, and I don’t know if you read James Bamford’s latest book, what we obtained from Yemen, and I say “obtained” before September 11, because we were following two of these hijackers in- are you there? [FRIEDMAN: Yes.] Yemen, you put all this information that came from various agencies in one place, and you look at it, and you say, wow, you know it’s very easy to write things off when you have one or two slip-ups, you know, attribute certain things to bureaucratic bungling, but it goes beyond that. Now, what is that? Now, I wouldn’t be able to answer that question, but what I did answer is, we had that 9/11 Commission that was formed, and first we had Henry Kissinger appointed chairman of it [laughs], which tells you what they had in mind, what kind of commission they had in mind, which was going to be cosmetic, it was pretty obvious. And then we had the final commission, a bunch of people with conflict of interests, and we didn’t get anything, as you see, people have been gagged, a lot of things have been classified, and you would think, why would people go so far to cover up bureaucratic bungling? Again, this doesn’t mean, hey, this was an inside job, but what it tells you is there are a lot of things that we don’t know, there are a lot of things that they, the government, our government, the establishment, don’t want us to know. I mean, the recent thing that just came out, with the case against Saudi Arabia, with the 9/11 family members, well, today or yesterday, it made it to the front page of the New York Times, with Eric Lichtblau, okay, so now the government, our government, the justice department under Obama, is going again and saying “no, you can’t get this information,” because he wants to protect Saudi Arabia. Well, protect against what? So, those are the questions that have not been answered and those questions that have been answered, nothing has been done about it, and no explanation has been given to us, so we have all these issues, and there is no simple answer, but one simple answer is, yes, we are facing a lot of cover-up. And I want to know why, and I’m sure you want to know why too.

FRIEDMAN
Nah, I don’t really care. [they both laugh]

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Bruce Fein Interviewed by Ian Masters: A Transcript, With Interruptions

(Once again, something is written here that is far too long. What follows is missing one last insert that – how can one avoid being melodramatic? – contains the most astonishing material. It will only arrive by July 2nd – this post will no doubt have to be broken in two, as there is just so much additional material. This second, last, part will arrive only by July 4th at the earliest, due to additional accompanying research.)

What follows is the result of one of many idle moments while researching a very long piece, when one delves into banalities in an attempt to escape your work and expend as little energy as possible. I looked, as I often do, at the search terms by which people get to this site. There was the ever present question, “whatever happened to helena kallionotes?” (the post which mentions and praises her, “Nicholas Roeg’s Eureka”, provides no answer), the perennial “morgue female corpse” and its dutiful companion, “beautiful dead woman morgue” (both of which end up not at the inevitable fate of us all, but at “Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Arthur Schnitzler’s Dream Story Part Three”, which features a distorted picture of the mortal beloved), “andy kaufman wrestling orgies” (“Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers: The Future of Advertising”, those whores), the intriguing “women masturbate in the dark and scary places” most likely leads to “Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan: Traumanovelle” and the practical minded but melancholy “how to know if hymen has been broken” no doubt ends up there as well.

It was the search for “mahtaub lolavar” which incited all that happened next, as I immediately wondered what had prompted interest in this fascinating, marginal character I’d once written about. Her path had crossed with that figure of shadowy and over-rated menace, political operative and troublemaker Roger Stone. This post in the ten part series, “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless is Going Straight to Hell Part Six”, described the brief period when Stone was part of the lobby shop Ikon Public Affairs. Her name then wasn’t quite Mahtaub Lolavar, but Mattie Fein, and her consulting firm, Triumph Communications, were brought in for work on two contracts. And then she was dropped. And then she sued them: Lolavar v. de Santibañes, a lawsuit eventually dismissed on grounds of jurisdiction. The Santibañes at the heart of the suit was Fernando de Santibañes, the Secretary of Intelligence of Argentina, who was the man at the center of the second contract. Lolavar alleged that Ikon had asked that she obtain from SIDE, the Argentine intelligence agency, a list of journalists known to have taken bribes and then disseminate the information, all in order to counteract a bribery scandal involving the country’s president, Fernando de la Rua, and Santibañes. She was also supposed to make payments in order to obtain information from Israeli intelligence, which she would then alter to appear as coming from SIDE, information which would be used in some of Rua’s fights with his political rival, Dr. Carlos Menem – again, allegedly1. She would go on to start the Institute for Persian Studies, which was a think tank designed to shape the government of Iran following internal regime change. This institute was founded by Mattie Fein, but when she was interviewed by Spencer Ackerman about the project, “New Iran Regime-Change Think Tank Opens in DC”, she was now Mahtaub Hojjati. The think tank would fold, and in 2010, Mahtaub Hojjati would go on to run, and lose, against Jane Harman in California’s 36th congressional district – though she was now running under the name Mattie Fein. The race would produce this memorable ad, where she accused Harman of being the boyfriend of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, though she refrained from saying Harman had cooties:

Mattie Fein would end her appearance on this site with the kind of exit that is my weakness, the enigmatic baroque. Her ex-husband was Bruce Fein, a lawyer who would achieve his greatest prominence working on Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA – though a large chunk of this was unwanted. It came about after his wife accused Ken Cuccinelli, another lawyer in the suit, of stealing her husband’s material. “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” Mattie Fein would tell Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank. “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she’d add. And: that Rand Paul “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.” Cuccinelli was the former attorney general and hardline pro-lifer who’d just lost the governor’s race in Virginia. Cuccinelli isn’t a member of the D.C. bar, and has never even argued a case in its District Court. Milbank would cite uncanny similarities between the Fein and Cuccinelli drafts of the complaint, ones that couldn’t be explained away by coincidence, only willed migration from one text to the other. Ken Cuccinelli, Mattie Fein wrote, is “dumb as a box of rocks.”2

Mattie Fein was a mysterious figure, and Bruce Fein was as well. “GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment” by Ben Smith, about Fein’s efforts to impeach the president over the war in Libya, described him as “a prominent libertarian constitutional lawyer and civil libertarian”, a “small-government conservative”, and someone whose “work doesn’t represent the Republican Party line.” All this gave a distorted, if not utterly wrong, picture of Fein, and it was left to the fringes to correct it: “Libertarian Bum Fights (paywall)” by Mark Ames, depicted someone who often had no problem with violations of civil liberties or the big government war state. This profile helpfully pointed the reader in the direction of several past editorials by Fein. When Time magazine reporter Marc Cooper and “Meet the Press” host balked at the possibility of revealing sources to justice officials in relation to the Valerie Plame leak, Fein had no sympathy. “The free press defense to the subpoenas advanced by Messrs. Cooper and Russert was that confidential sources are indispensable to investigative journalism,” he wrote in “Losing sight of free press aims”. “But the assertion is dubious, and in any event should bow in a narrow category of cases where the sources themselves are government officials implicated in national security crimes.” In “AIDS in the workplace; The Administration’s impeccable logic”, he argued against workplace protections which would protect those suffering from AIDS and HIV from being dismissed because of their illness. When the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, he treated the revulsion as a hysterical reaction to a small and isolated instance of maltreatment. From “Abuse Hype”: “Wartime medals celebrate killing and capturing the enemy, not spotless records of compliance with the Geneva Convention or requests from the International Committee of the Red Cross,” he writes. “These contextual facts should make the microscopic number of detainee abuses a source of satisfaction with a stimulus for improvement, not a provocation for self-righteous sermonizing.” It was “Terrorism’s murky origins” in June 21, 2004 which gave his blunt force attitude towards the war on terror: “At present, little is known of the circumstances which give birth to terrorists,” he wrote. “Until this dearth of knowledge is overcome, the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks.”

“Bum Fights” would list a number of disreputable clients of Fein, including Sudan and the tobacco lobby. His firm, the Lichfield Group, once listed its work with the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security, and boasted of its high level connections with the CIA on its website. After transforming himself into a Ron Paul libertarian who worked as a consultant on his campaign in 2008 and 2012, these sections of his site would be scrubbed3. Bruce Fein was a former executive editor of “The World Intelligence Review”, an intelligence publication whose purpose was to boast the image of the CIA. In “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Nine”, I touched on the fact that political consultant Roger Stone appeared to be playing a double role, outwardly a born again libertarian, inwardly perhaps trying to use the libertarian party in 2012 to effect a vote split and thereby pull off a win for Mitt Romney, a strange episode to which “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Eight” is devoted. At the time, I thought I saw some of this same duality in Bruce Fein:

That he often appears to have no connection to any position, except his own practical interest, makes one wonder if perhaps Stone might not have been playing a true role as a consultant for the Gary Johnson campaign, but rather, attempting to achieve the very opposite, a split vote to bring about a victory for Mitt Romney. There is the equal question of Bruce Fein, who took a very hard right position with regards to war and foreign intervention, a commaless approach to capturing and killing terrorists, before suddenly changing position and demanding that Dick Cheney be brought to trial. He works as a consultant for Ron Paul, a lawyer for Lon Snowdon, Edward’s father, and works on Rand Paul’s lawsuit against the NSA – though at two crucial points, there are outbursts that seemingly sabotage the proceedings. He expresses suspicion that Glenn Greenwald and Julian Assange may be exploiting Snowden. He and his wife accuse Rand Paul of plagiarism. His wife, Mattie Fein (also known as Mattie Lolavar), has an equally strange history, heading up a think tank whose purpose was setting up a government in Iran after a regime change, and who was allegedly part of a political operation with Roger Stone’s consulting firm, IKON, which involved obtaining information from Israeli intelligence, while at the same time making sure never to attribute the information from this source. We might ask if Bruce Fein is also playing a dual role, a man who is a mole within the anti-surveillance community, attempting to cripple it from within. This question does not arise, I think, out of paranoia, but a secrecy as plentiful and ever present as oxygen, placing all characters under suspicion – is this person’s outward intent in fact obscuring the actual intent, an intent that is entirely its inverse?

“The obscurity surrounding Roger Stone is the vast force of secret money now ever present in elections,” I added. “The secrecy that surrounds Bruce Fein is that of the defense industry and the surveillance state.” These contexts rendered all characters within mysterious. So, this is what had taken place before I casually searched for “mahtaub lolavar”, wondering why someone was interested in her now, and one of the first results was Bruce Fein’s twitter feed (@BruceFeinEsq), where he brings her name up constantly, and always calls her a slut4:

The feed also features various maxims and lessons, with this one standing out a little incongruously amongst the various attacks on his wife5:

What exactly had incited all this was unknown. “What’s with all the slut shaming, Bruce?,” tweeted one of his followers. “Seems beneath you…has someone hijacked your Twitter account?”5 His account hadn’t been hijacked – these tweets went on and on, for several days. In a 2013 Washington Post profile, “In the Snowden case, Bruce Fein finds the apex of a long Washington legal career” by T.R. Goldman, Mattie Fein is referred to as his wife in name only. In another place, there was evidence that she was not even his wife in name only, that they had divorced years ago, and that he despised her then. From an October 5, 2010 post in a thread on a Ron Paul board, “Bruce Fein is awesome”, the awesome Bruce Fein’s now extinct Facebook page is quoted: “Today, I am celebrating the anniversary of my divorce from Mattie Lolavar, which lifted an incubus and removed gangrene from my daily matrimonial torture and torment.” The plagiarism scandal now looked more like it was a business partnership gone awry than anything else, the squalor of petty squabbling. Maybe Bruce Fein was willing to eat shit and take a lower rung on the ladder while his ex-wife felt they should have a place higher up in the totem pole. “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me,” Fein wrote after the scandal broke. “Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.”6 Maybe Mattie Fein wanted to spoil her husband’s big moment. If there was one tweet which evoked the humiliations of marriage and divorce, and annihilated the nimbus of secret malevolent power it was this one. There was a comfortable familiarity to this – despite a well-known phrase that is often read without irony, unhappy marriages are often startlingly alike7:

It was during these searches that I came across a recent interview with Ian Masters for his excellent program, Background Briefing. What follows is taken from the episode “April 27 – Putin’s Hidden Fortune; The 20th Anniversary of the End of Apartheid – South Africa’s Freedom Day; The Rise of Rand Paul and Libertarian Activism on American Campuses”, a transcript of Fein’s segment dealing with libertarian activism, broken by my own occasional inconvenient interruptions:

MASTERS
Welcome back. I’m Ian Masters, and this is Background Briefing. And joining me in the studio is Bruce Fein, who’s a constitutional lawyer and formerly served as associate deputy attorney general under the Reagan Administration, general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission, research director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran, and a member of the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements. He has authored several volumes on the United States Supreme Court, the United States Constitution and International Law, and helped write the articles of impeachment for President Nixon and President Clinton. Bruce Fein is the author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle of Our Constitution and Democracy, and his latest book is American Empire: Before The Fall. He has been a senior policy advisor to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign and was up to recently the lawyer for Edward Snowden’s father, Lon. Welcome to Background Briefing, Bruce Fein.

FEIN
Thank you for inviting me, Ian.

MASTERS
And let’s start with Edward Snowden. I know that you were the lawyer for his father, and the father was trying, in effect, save the son from himself. In the sense that, he wanted to work out some kind of deal to protect his son from the fact that he’s obviously something of an international pariah, and effectively wanted by the United States government, and living under the protection of Vladimir Putin, with whom he shared the stage the other day at a very staged event that Putin does every year, a phone-in show where the giddy announcer says “Vladimir! Vladimirovitch! We have a surprise guest for you!” And then it was Edward Snowden, and they had a very softball conversation-

FEIN
I don’t think there’s anything surprising that happens under Vladimir Putin’s watch. It’s all scripted. I think, Ian, it may be an overstatement to say that Edward Snowden is an international pariah, I think he’s achieved kudos in many countries, certainly Germany and the European Union, he’s received nominations even as the Nobel Prize winner. So I think the attitude is quite mixed.

MASTERS
Oh it is. I didn’t mean to suggest- I didn’t mean to suggest that he’s a pariah in the sense that he’d done something wrong. He’s just a- He’s stateless in effect. He’s wanted by the U.S.

FEIN
Yes. And I believe that’s really because only China and Russia are able with economic and military power, to resist the United States leverage that would come over every other country based on military-economic ties and even the ability to orchestrate overthrow of governments in Chili, as in Guatemala. As in Latin America, as in Iran in 1953, so…it’s a tough decision, because obviously China and Russia are testaments to the kinds of surveillance that Ed Snowden deplores in his public statements.

MASTERS
So…what happened with your attempts, or the father’s attempts, to make some kind of a deal to get Edward Snowden out of Russia and back to the United States-

FEIN
Well, there weren’t so much a deal, we did make overtures, Ian, to the Department of Justice, to try to insure if there was any return that the trial would be fair and not compromised by a frenzy of press statements by the Department, and other leaders in the Congress and the Executive branch, who have already convicted him of treason, even though he’s not charged with treason, without any trial whatsoever. And moreover, there was worry that he would receive Bradley Manning, or Chelsea Manning pre-trial treatment, those gruesome [sic] if not verging on torture. And, in substance, end up having a kangaroo court, rather than a due-process court. Those were ignored by the Department of Justice, the most the Attorney General Eric Holder was willing to say, and this was to the ministry of justice in Russia, was that Mr. Snowden would not be tortured if he was returned, because we are a signatory to the torture convention. Not convincing anyway, because despite the signatory status of the torture convention, it seems quite clear our waterboarding of detainees connected, allegedly connected with terrorism, violated our own criminal prohibitions on torture as well as the convention itself. So, I think that the department probably does not want Ed Snowden to return. I think they believe it could embarrass the government after all. After the disclosures, President Obama himself has narrowed the scope of the NSA surveillance program, we’ve got activity in Congress, and really, all of this is attributable to Edward Snowden. If he didn’t have his revelation, this program would still be secret. And it would be embarrassing, in my judgement, for the Department to actually be forced to tell a jury, “You’re looking at a defendant who’s protecting your privacy more than we were.”

I’ll note that Fein now speaks of waterboarding as criminal, a violation of the Geneva Convention, when in 2004 he had given full throated support to the idea of going to the dark side. This is Fein in 2004, the opening paragraph of “Terrorism’s murky origins”:

At present, little is known of the circumstances which give birth to terrorists. The periodic reports issued by the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (National Commission), for instance, are bereft of clues for diminishing terrorist recruits. Until this dearth of knowledge is overcome, the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks.

This might be contrasted with Fein’s statements on a radio show hosted by Rand Paul’s former aide, Jack Hunter, a man also known as the “Southern Avenger”8:

Let’s recount what happened in a New York courtroom, just about a week ago, this was Faisal Shahzad, he was a so-called New York Times Square auto bomber, who plants a bomb there and explodes, and he was saying “We’re at war. That’s why I’m entitled to do that. The United States is fighting in Iraq, and fighting in Afghanistan,” and the judge said, “What about the women and children?”, and he retorted, “Well, your drones don’t stop at our women and children, they kill them anyway, so why should we be playing by Queensberry rules when you are indiscriminate in killing us?” And he was not someone who got up and said, “I hate freedom!”- He was actually a U.S. citizen. It’s not the freedom in the United States, the fact that our women aren’t wearing burqas that caused them to undertake this act. It’s the same way we responded to the predations and some of the atrocities the British inflicted upon us, prior to the revolutionary war and during the war. We didn’t take that stand falling down and through sit-ins. We fought back with muskets. And we can’t expect just because they’re asian and have a different religion, they’re less human beings and going to feel that way.

It seems Bruce Fein had finally discovered the root causes of terrorism.

However, the most important point in Masters’ introduction is when he cites Fein’s credential as “research director for the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran”. This committee was tasked with investigating a major scandal of the Reagan administration, Iran-contra, one which may well have lead to impeachment. The administration had sold weapons to Iran, a country the president had referred to as “Murder Incorporated”, and used those funds to buy weapons for an anti-communist rebel group in Nicaragua, which congress had barred from further funding. One might assume, given the various portrayals of Fein as a passionate adherent to the constitution that he worked here against Reagan in his work on Iran-contra, where the constitution was arguably violated by keeping two arms deals secret and without approval from congress, a sale of weapons to the contras and a sale of weapons to Iran, then considered by many America’s secondmost enemy after the Soviet Union.

This would be a very serious misunderstanding. Fein worked as research director for the minority report, not the majority report. It was the latter, authored by the Democrats, which found the conduct of the Reagan behavior illegal and unconstitutional. It was the minority report which countenanced these actions – found it justified, legal, and constitutional. The minority report argued that this kind of outsize executive power was part of a tradition which began with Washington, where the executive’s foreign policy was to be given free rein from the encumbering and meddlesome legislative, and featured multiple historical precedents that are no doubt there as a result of the hard work of research consultant Bruce Fein.

I give noteworthy excerpts from the publicly available Iran Contra report, the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair, with links to the exact pages from which the excerpts are taken. These should help give a sense of the intellectual approach of the minority view.

Page 450:

The Constitution created the Presidency to be a separate branch of government whose occupant would have substantial discretionary power to act. He was not given the power of an 18th century monarch, but neither was he meant to be a creature of Congress. The country needs a President who can exercise the powers the Framers intended. As long as any President has those powers, there will be mistakes. It would be disastrous to respond to the possibility of error by further restraining and limiting the powers of the office. Then, instead of seeing occasional actions turn out to be wrong, we would be increasing the probability that future Presidents would be unable to act decisively, thus guaranteeing ourselves a perpetually paralyzed, reactive, and unclear foreign policy in which mistake by inaction would be the order of the day.

The supply of weapons to the Nicaraguan contras was not what was illegal, but the very laws by Congress prohibiting the President from doing so which violated the constitution. Pages 450 and 451:

The Constitution protects the power of the President, either acting himself or through agents of his choice, to engage in whatever diplomatic communications with other countries he may wish. It also protects the ability of the President and his agents to persuade U.S. citizens to engage voluntarily in otherwise legal activity to serve what they consider to be the national interest. That includes trying to persuade other countries to contribute their own funds for causes both countries support. To whatever extent the Boland Amendments tried to prohibit such activity, they were clearly unconstitutional.

The President can withhold notice from whatever covert actions he wants, page 452:

Similarly, the President has the constitutional and statutory authority to withhold notifying Congress of covert activities under very rare conditions. President Reagan’s decision to withhold notification was essentially equivalent to President Carter’s decisions in 1979-1980 to withhold notice for between 3 and 6 months in parallel Iran hostage operations. We do not agree with President Reagan’s decision to withhold notification for as long as he did. The decision was legal, however, and we think the Constitution mandates that it should remain so. If a President withholds notification for too long and then cannot adequately justify the decision to Congress, that President can expect to pay a stiff political price, as President Reagan has certainly found out.

Page 457, it is not the president’s actions that were unconstitutional, but those of Congress:

Judgments about the Iran-Contra Affair ultimately must rest upon one’s views about the proper roles of Congress and the President in foreign policy. There were many statements during the public hearings, for example, about the rule of law. But the fundamental law of the land is the Constitution. Unconstitutional statutes violate the rule of law every bit as much as do willful violations of constitutional statutes. It is essential, therefore, to frame any discussion of what happened with a proper analysis of the Constitutional allocation of legislative and executive power in foreign affairs.

One point stands out from the historical record: the Constitution’s Framers expected the President to be much more than a minister or clerk. The President was supposed to execute the laws, but that was only the beginning. He also was given important powers, independent of the legislature’s, and these substantively were focused on foreign policy.

Taken together, the three chapters [of the minority report on the constitutional powers of the president which justify his actions] will show that much of what President Reagan did in his actions toward Nicaragua and Iran were constitutionally protected exercises of inherent Presidential powers. However unwise some of those actions may have been, the rule of law cannot permit Congress to usurp judgments that constitutionally are not its to make. It is true that the Constitution also gives substantial foreign policy powers to Congress, including the power of the purse. But the power of the purse-which forms the core of the majority argument-is not and was never intended to be a license for Congress to usurp Presidential powers and functions.

That Congress should have any involvement or information on foreign policy matters is not something that can be traced back to the nation’s birth, but only a recent development. Pages 457 and 458:

The boundless view of Congressional power began to take hold in the 1970′s, in the wake of the Vietnam War. The 1972 Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s report recommending the War Powers Act, and the 1974 report of the Select Committee on Intelligence Activities (chaired by Senator Frank Church and known as the Church Committee), both tried to support an all but unlimited Congressional power by invoking the “Necessary and Proper” clause. That clause says Congress may “make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing [legislative] Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” The argument of these two prominent committees was that by granting Congress the power to make rules for the other departments, the Constitution meant to enshrine legislative supremacy except for those few activities explicitly reserved for the other branches.

One must ignore 200 years of constitutional history to suggest that Congress has a vast reservoir of implied power whose only limits are the powers explicitlyreserved to the other branches. It seems clear, for example, that Congress could not legislate away the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review, even though judicial review is not mentioned explicitly in Article III. The same applies to the Presidency. The Necessary and Proper clause does not permit Congress to pass a law usurping Presidential power. A law negating Presidential power cannot be treated as if it were “necessary and proper for carrying” Presidential powers “into Execution.” To suggest otherwise would smack of Orwellian Doublespeak.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis, for example, wrote that the “doctrine of separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power.” His statement has been accepted in some Congressional quarters as if it holds the force of conventional wisdom,* but it misses half of the historical truth.

The fallacy of Brandeis’ statement becomes apparent when one considers the defects of the U. S. Government before the Constitution. The Constitutional Convention, among other things, was taking the executive from being under the legislature’s thumb, not the legislature from being under the executive’s. After suffering through the Articles of Confederation (and various state constitutions) that had overcompensated for monarchy, the 1787 delegates wanted to empower a government, not enfeeble it. Brandeis was partly right to point out that the Framers did not want power to be used arbitrarily, and that checks and balances were among the means used to guard against arbitrariness. But the principles underlying separation had to do with increasing the Government’s power as much as with checking it.

Strong, unfettered executive power in foreign policy can be traced to the republic’s beginning, page 459 and 460:

The need for an effective foreign policy, it turned out, was one of the main reasons the country needs an “energetic government,” according to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist Nos. 22 and 23. Madison madethe same point in No. 37: “Energy in Government is essential to that security against external and internal danger, and to that prompt and salutary execution of the laws, which enter into the very definition of good Government.” The relevance of these observations about the government‘s power is that the Framers saw energy as being primarily an executive branch characteristic.

Energy is the main theme of Federalist No. 70(“energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government.”) It is said to be important primarily when “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch” were needed. These features are “essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks.” “In the conduct of war … the energy of the executive is the bulwark of national security.”

But war was not the only aspect of foreign policy described as being more appropriate for the executive than legislative branch. “The actual conduct of foreign negotiations, . . . the arrangement of the army and navy, the direction of the operations of war; these and other matters of a like nature constitute what seems to be most properly understood by the administration of government.” On negotiations, Hamilton went further to say that the Executive is “the most fitagent” for “foreign negotiations.”

To involve Congress in such decisions would be less democratic, not more so, page 460:

So far, our discussion has concentrated on the first: the need for energy in the Executive. No government, democratic or otherwise, could long survive unless its Executive could respond to the uncertainties of international relations. But energy in the Executive seemed frightening to some people. To them, the Federalists made two responses. The first was that the Executive could not maintain a standing army, equip a navy, or engage in a large-scale use of force, without spending appropriated funds provided and controlled by the Congress.”

The second was that an independent, single Executive-in addition to being more energetic-would also be more responsible politically. It would be much easier to hold one person accountable than a committee. In other words, giving the President some independent, inherent power was not seen as being undemocratic. The President and Congress both were considered to be representatives of the people. The Congress produced a more fitting result when the primary need was to moderate internal factional demands through discussion and deliberation before producing general rules. But foreign policy is dominated by case-by-case decisions, not general rules, and the aim is not to moderate internal pressures through deliberation, but to respond to external ones quickly and decisively. For these kinds of situations, multiple bodies-like Congress-are inherently unable to accept blame or responsibility for mistakes. Thus, despite the majority’s contentions to the contrary, putting such decisions in the hands of the Congress wasconsidered to be less democratic than giving them tothe President, because there would be no way for thepeople to hold any one person accountable for a legislative decision.

The basis for which Congress can be ignored by the Executive in foreign policy matters can be found in the precedent of Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana, page 465:

One constitutional dispute early in the Jefferson Administration was over the Louisiana Purchase. What would the party whose adherents had insisted on a Senate role in negotiating the Jay Treaty say about the President’s power to negotiate the Purchase? Jefferson’s Secretary of State Albert Gallatin supported the Louisiana Purchase by saying that the purchase eventually would have to be ratified by treaty and that its negotiation therefore belonged to the President under the Constitution. Jefferson did not embrace Gallatin’s constitutional argument. Instead, the President decided to go through with the Purchase, without abandoning his view that the Constitution severely limited the President, by asserting an inherent, extraconstitutional prerogative power for the Executive that was more sweeping than anything Hamilton had ever put forward. Jefferson justified his decision this way:

A strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself . . . absurdly sacrificing the end to the means.

One of the remarkable aspects of Jefferson’s assertion is the stark way in which it poses a fundamental constitutional issue. Chief Executives are given the responsibility for acting to respond to crises or emergencies. To the extent that the Constitution and laws are read narrowly, as Jefferson wished, the Chief Executive will on occasion feel duty bound to assert monarchical notions of prerogative that will permit him to exceed the law. Paradoxically, the broader Hamiltonian ideas about executive power-by being more attuned to the realistic dangers of foreign policy-seem more likely to produce an Executive who is able and willing to live within legal boundaries. Thus, the constitutional construction that on the surface looks more dangerous seems on reflection to be safer in the long run.

The conclusion arrived at by the research of Bruce Fein is obvious, and there in the closing of the minority report’s historical overview, page 469:

Presidents asserted their constitutional independence from Congress early. They engaged in secret diplomacy and intelligence activities, and refused to share the results with Congress if they saw fit. They unilaterally established U.S. military and diplomatic policy with respect to foreign belligerent states, in quarrels involving the United States, and in quarrels involving only third parties. They enforced this policy abroad, using force if necessary. They engaged U.S. troops abroad to serve American interests without congressional approval, and in a number of cases apparently against explicit directions from Congress. They also had agents engage in what would commonly be referred to as covert actions, again without Congressional approval. In short, Presidents exercised a broad range of foreign policy powers for which they neither sought nor received Congressional sanction through statute.

This history speaks volumes about the Constitution’s allocation of powers between the branches. It leaves little, if any, doubt that the President was expected to have the primary role of conducting the foreign policy of the United States. Congressional actions to limit the President in this area therefore should be reviewed with a considerable degree of skepticism. If they interfere with core presidential foreign policy functions, they should be struck down. Moreover, the lesson of our constitutional history is that doubtful cases should be decided in favor of the President.

I think it can be confirmed that this report was not some radical, unexpected twisting of Fein’s research because he wrote an editorial at the time of the scandal, “A Tight Plug on Intelligence Leaks”, which very much takes the position of the minority report: the problem is not executive overreach but too many people in Congress having access to information about covert foreign policy, which they then leak to the press. “A joint committee would sharply slash the number of legislators and staff members involved in overseeing intelligence agencies. The reduction would animate each overseer with a larger sense of responsibility and perhaps devotion to the tasks of preventing abuses of power while strengthening America’s intelligence capabilities.”

Having read this, one might look now back at the profile of Fein, “In the Snowden case, Bruce Fein finds the apex of a long Washington legal career”, which describes his approach: “Fein is an originalist, a believer in a well-established though decidedly minority interpretation of American legal thought that essentially says: Let’s keep our eye on the original values and intentions of our founding fathers.” It seems what constitutes the original values and intentions of the founding fathers somehow varies between the Reagan administration and the present time. The executive is now no longer the sole organ of foreign policy, and he does not have the privilege of conducting such policy without congressional approval, as we find in the articles of impeachment quoted in Ben Smith’s “GOP lawyer drafts Obama impeachment”: “Barack Hussein Obama, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States…has usurped the exclusive power of Congress to initiate war.”

The minority view of the Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair is not an unknown, unconnected island, but something that very much has influence on us now. A congressional assistant by the name of David Addington would also work on the report, and Addington would become Dick Cheney’s lieutenant in the White House, where he was heavily involved in what executive actions were legal and why. The attitude expressed in that White House, and in the report, is that the executive has a license to do almost anything without congressional interference. From “Cheney’s Cheney”, an interview with Jane Mayer by Blake Eskin on Addington and Cheney; Mayer’s The Dark Side is the definitive account of the formation of Bush White House policy on torture and detention:

How did David Addington get to know Vice-President Cheney, and how long have they worked together?

They met on Capitol Hill in the mid-eighties, when Cheney was a Republican congressman from Wyoming and Addington was a young staff lawyer working for the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees. So they have worked together for about two decades. Their partnership was cemented when they worked together on the Minority Report on the Iran-Contra affair. Both Addington and Cheney took the idiosyncratic position that it was Congress, not President Reagan, that was in the wrong. This view reflected the opinion, held by both men, that the executive branch should run foreign policy, to a great extent unimpeded by Congress. It’s a recurring theme-pushing the limits of executive power and sidestepping Congress-in their partnership. One example is their position that the President, as Commander-in-Chief in times of war, had the inherent authority to ignore the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress passed in an effort to make sure that Presidents don’t violate citizens’ right to privacy by spying on them without warrants.

We are given an even more direct sense of the impact from this quote out of “Mr. Cheney’s Minority Report”, an excellent piece connecting the ideas of the minority report with Bush White House policy, by Sean Wilentz:

Asked by a reporter in 2005 to explain his expansive views about presidential power, Mr. Cheney replied, “If you want reference to an obscure text, go look at the minority views that were filed with the Iran-contra committee.”

“Nobody has ever read them,” he said, but they “are very good in laying out a robust view of the president’s prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters.”

We have the unusual, and completely unnoted, phenomena of Bruce Fein apparently arguing against not only principles he once agreed with, but ones for which he laid the foundation.

This interruption came in the middle of a conversation between Masters and Fein over Edward Snowden.

MASTERS
So, what’s his fate, then? I know that you were dealing with Wikileaks, right, and-

FEIN
Well, Julian Assange, and then there was also Anatoly Kucharino, who was Edward’s lawyer appointed by Vladimir Putin. I think Vladimir Putin will decide, unilaterally, what happens to Ed Snowden. The rule of law is a joke in Russia. And, if it’s convenient, internationally, for Mr. Putin to permit past the one year of his asylum, it’ll happen, and if he wants to do a trade, it’ll be a trade. And in that sense, I believe Edward Snowden’s situation there is precarious. I think Vladimir Putin wouldn’t have any reluctance at all, if the United States is willing to do a deal, over Crimea, or Russian influence over eastern Ukraine, he’d swap him in half of a second. There’s no intellectual, philosophical sympathy between Mr. Putin and Mr. Snowden.

MASTERS
So. This is a, I guess, in many ways, on a personal level, it must have been hard for the father then to-

FEIN
I think it was not just the father, Ian. I think the whole family was undergoing great stress and mortification, and what the United States officials were saying about Mr. Snowden. There was very great difficulty about having any communication whatsoever. I still think that it’s something that needs to sort itself out. Ed Snowden has stated, he would like at some time to return, but I don’t think right now, the conditions would be satisfactory for what he wants to accomplish.

MASTERS
But I’d love to get an interview with him. And it doesn’t seem like anybody who’s ever going to challenge anything will ever get an interview with him. He’s pretty much- you know, they allow softball interviews, but I don’t know if there’s- Has anybody really had any real access to him?

FEIN
I don’t know, and it probably wouldn’t be publicized anyway, Ian. I think, however, your judgement may be somewhat premature. He’s only thirty years old, time changes a lot of things. Sometimes it doesn’t change things. I wouldn’t rule out interviews in different circumstances, at an appropriate occasion. It may well be Rand Paul is elected president in 2016, there’s a different administration, and the environment changes, the tenor of communications and candor may be different.

MASTERS
So, let’s talk about Rand Paul and- He seems to be- Here he is a junior senator, freshman senator, getting more headlines than Ted Cruz, who’s basically a headline generating machine. So, what’s happening with this guy? You know the father…Rand, I take it, his name comes from Ayn Rand, right?

FEIN
Your description of Rand Paul probably fits then Senator Barack Obama like a glove, in 2008. First term senator running for president. I think that Rand Paul clearly is someone who is willing to take risks, unlike others, go into environments and audiences that you wouldn’t expect, the NAACP, Berkley California. He doesn’t shy from, I don’t know what they’d call it, confrontation? The need to engage in conversation, and to share ideas. So I think there’s no doubt that he appeals to young audiences and crowds. I was speaking yesterday at USC to the Young Americans for Liberty. There were over one hundred and sixty there.

MASTERS
That’s a libertarian campus group?

FEIN
That is correct. It’s not just a single campus group, it’s a nation-wide collection of students, probably the fastest growing in all of the United States. An enormous amount of what I would call, kinetic energy. And eagerness to support a candidate that will roll back the surveillance state, the warfare state, that encroaches on our liberty more and more every day.

Since this is where Fein reaches the crescendo in his idealistic call, one might mention here some of Fein’s past clients. Perhaps the only piece to devote extensive space to this is “Defending Dictators, Counseling Killers” by the excellent journalist Ken Silverstein, but it should be sufficient to provide some sense of a cruel and anti-democratic bunch:

After leaving government, Fein linked up with right-wing think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. He also cashed in on his government experience by lobbying for foreign clients. Though Fein was a strong critic of leftist governments, like Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, he had no qualms about taking money from peace-loving nations such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Fein hit the jackpot in 1991 when he signed on to represent Mozambique’s notorious guerrilla army, RENAMO, which was seeking to overthrow its country’s leftist government. When Fein came on board, RENAMO’s reputation has hit bottom. This was just a few years after the State Department had issued a report denouncing the guerrillas for the wholesale slaughter of civilians, using such methods as “shooting executions, knife/axe/bayonet killings, burning alive, beating to death, forced asphyxiation, forced starvation, forced drownings and random shootings.”

Even the Reagan and Bush administrations kept their distance from RENAMO, despite their anti-Communist rhetoric. So reviled was the group and its president, Afonso Dhlakama, that Reagan held several face-to-face meetings with Mozambiques’s president to demonstrate his support for his Marxist government!

Fein, however, eagerly signed up to flack for Dhlakama’s terror army. Like most foreign lobbyists, he bilked his client for huge sums of money while performing virtually no work. Fein’s chief endeavor was writing The Dhlakama Papers, a collection of the wise leader’s theoretical musings, and RENAMO’s constitution. The latter document is a loose plagiarism of the U.S. constitution with a few pet projects of Fein’s — the death penalty and privatization — thrown in for good measure.

This article, if anything, understates RENAMO’s malevolence. It began as the creation of the white regime of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), for the sole purpose of destabilizing the government of Mozambique, then went on to receive the support of another white apartheid regime, that of South Africa. RENAMO used several methods in their war: forced famines, mutilation, and recruitment of child soldiers. One of the best overviews of the civil war in Mozambique between RENAMO, the rebels, and FRELIMO, the ruling party, is Conspicuous Destruction: War, Famine and the Reform Process in Mozambique by Africa Watch (bulk of the research and writing by Karl Maier). What follows are excerpts on the use of mutilation by RENAMO to intimidate the population:

Reports of mutilations of civilians by RENAMO have been routine since the rebels began operating in Mozambique in the mid-1970s. Cases of guerrillas hacking off ears, noses, lips, and sexual organs have been common in the central and southern provinces. Evidence gathered by Africa Watch suggests that RENAMO was guilty of the majority of such mutilations, but that government forces too have been guilty of the practice.

Ken Flower, who as Director of the Rhodesian CIO played an important role in setting up the movement, said in an April 1987 interview that RENAMO fighters had used such tactics in an effort to intimidate the civilian population. “There were reports of atrocities, the intimidatory processes, especially the cutting off of ears and noses, and this did happen in the fairly early days. But I am referring here to 1975.”

However, mutilations of the dead and living have continued to occur at regular intervals up until the present.

In a 1987 interview, Fambinsani Chenje, then fifty-nine, told of attacks in 1986 by rebel gunmen on his village of Mushenge in southern Tete province.

The first time they came was in 1986. They were looking for food. It was a small group of about fifteen men. They took cattle, chickens and goats. A lot of villagers started fleeing to Tete [town] then because the war had come to Mushenge. But most of us stayed in the village. It was our home. Then, in June 1986, the Matsanga [RENAMO] came again in the early morning hours. It was still dark. This time they came right into the village. They called for everyone to come out of their houses. Then they killed ten people and mutilated ten others, including myself. Two soldiers cut off my ears with knives. They said we were working for FRELIMO. After they did that they left, without saying anything more. The next day, most of the villagers packed their things and walked to Tete [town].

RENAMO of Mozambique was one client of Bruce Fein’s, the state of Sudan was another.

Now, Fein has returned to lobbying and is working for a client that has the dubious distinction of making RENAMO look good: The Sudan. That country’s government is barred from receiving U.S. foreign aid because of its support for terrorism and because of its revolting human rights record. Amnesty International reports that the Sudanese government not only assassinates and tortures its “enemies,” but that paramilitary forces have kidnapped scores of children, who are believed to be held in domestic slavery by their abductors or taken to camps in remote rural areas, where they are trained for military service.

Another common practice of the Sudanese government is to flog “criminals.” According to Amnesty, many of the victims are women convicted of brewing alcohol and convicted by rubber stamp Public Order Courts.

Explaining away a record like that is a delicate task indeed, which is where Fein comes in. Having already billed his client $20,000 for “legal and historical research,” Fein has now begun lobbying — he plans to meet with Congress, the Executive Branch, newspaper editorial boards and think tanks — on the Sudan’s behalf for a monthly fee of $10,000.

Fein’s contract, on file at the Justice Department’s Foreign Agents Registration Unit, says he will offer the Sudan “advisory and advocacy services” with the goal of fostering “warming relations” with the U.S. He’ll also seek to have the country delisted as a supporter of terrorism and urge the U.S. government to lift all sanctions against the Sudan, including prohibitions on military aid.

Some of Fein’s latest work is for the Turkish Coalition of America, where he is a resident scholar, and for whom he writes opinion pieces denying the existence of an Armenian Genocide. These include “Tawdry genocide tale”, “Armenian crime amnesia?”, and “Lies, Damn Lies, and Armenian Deaths”. Some excerpts from this last one should provide a sense of the direction of his arguments:

When their quest for statehood shipwrecked on the Treaty of Lausanne and annexation by the Soviet Union in 1921, Armenians revised their soundtrack to endorse a contrived genocide thesis. It seeks a “pound of flesh” from the Republic of Turkey in the form of recognition, reparations, and boundary changes. To make their case more convincing, Armenians hiked the number of deaths. They also altered their story line from having died as belligerents against the Turks to having perished like unarmed helpless lambs.

Vahan Vardapet, an Armenian cleric, estimated a prewar Ottoman Armenian population of 1.26 million. At the Peace Conference, Armenian leader Nubar stated that 280,000 remained in the Empire and 700,000 had emigrated elsewhere. Accepting those Armenian figures, the number of dead would be 280,000. George Montgomery of the Armenia-American Society estimated a prewar Armenian population of 1.4-1.6 million, and a casualty figure of 500,000 or less. Armenian Van Cardashian, in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1919, placed the number of Armenian dead at 750,000, i.e., a prewar population of 1.5 million and a post-war figure of 750,000.

From 280,000-750,000, Armenians initially raised their death count to 800,000 to test the credibility waters. It passed muster with uninformed politicians easily influenced by campaign contributions and voting clout. Armenians then jumped the number to 1.5 million, and then 1.8 million by Armenian historian Kevork Aslan. For the last decades, an Armenian majority seems to have settled on the 1.5 million death plateau–which still exceeds their contemporary estimates by 200 to 500 percent. They are now testing the waters at 2.5-3 million killed as their chances for a congressional genocide resolution recede. It speaks volumes that champions of the inflated death figures have no explanation for why Armenians on the scene would have erred. Think of the absurdity of discarding the current death count of Afghan civilians in the United States-Afghan war in favor of a number deduced in the year 2109!

Fein would not confine his denials to editorial pages, but would make the same claim in courtrooms whenever the issue came up, allegedly on the dime of the Turkish government. In Mistrial: An Inside Look at How the Criminal Justice System Works…And Sometimes Doesn’t, a memoir of courtroom life by two attorneys, Mark Geragos and Pat Harris, Geragos cites Fein’s appearance in a courtroom as one of those moments where nearly lost faith in the justice system. He also refers to Fein as “one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting.” That I think the defendant, Mourad Topalian, may well have been guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted, is separate and apart from attempts to deny the Armenian genocide. I give full excerpt to this episode in the book, so there is no sense that I am attempting to distort or slant it in any way:

From the first day a young lawyer enters a courtroom until the day that lawyer’s retirement party is held, the one phrase the lawyer will hear at least one thousand times is “We may not have a perfect system, but it is still the best system in the world.” This concept is so ingrained in American lawyers that it is not even debated. The law is in many ways like a religion to attorneys, and the belief that we have the best system in the world is our chief article of faith. But like ministers who have had a crisis of faith, both of us have had seminal moments in which we have questioned whether our legal system is truly the best or even one of the best in the world.

Mark: I began to have serious doubts about the system on a snowy, wintry day in Cleveland, Ohio in 2001. We were representing a prominent member of the local community at his sentencing hearing in federal court. He had pled guilty to keeping a storage unit that contained decades-old explosives near his suburban home in Cleveland, where he had been vice president of Cuyahoga, Community College. The FBI believed that some of the explosives had been used in an attack by Armenian freedom fighters on the Turkish Mission in New York in the eighties, and that the remaining explosives were being stored for future use. The former college vice president was never implicated in any attacks, but the storage unit had his name on it, and it was asserted by the FBI that he had at least agreed to store th remaining explosives.

My client was a much admired figure in the Armenian community, a charismatic speaker and a forceful lobbyist who had spent time as the head of one of the prominent Armenian activist organizations. For his sentencing hearing, Armenian supporters from all over the country flew in to pack the courtroom, with an overflow group having to wait out in the hall. Virtually every person in that room had either been an eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide or had had a close relative who had perished at the hands of the Turks.

There was a palpable tension hanging in the air because the judge in the case was allowing a representative from the Turkish government to speak during the sentencing hearing, and the government had flown in its top lobbyist and spokesman, Bruce Fein. Fein is one of the most repulsive human beings I have ever had the mispleasure of meeting. Whenever the Turkish government wants to deny the Genocide, it sticks Fein out in front and lets him spew a bunch of denialist trash about how the Genocide was nothing more than a civil war provoked by the Armenians. I knew what was about to happen and pleaded with the judge to not let him speak. I tried to explain that this would be no different from having a Jewish person being sentenced and letting some nut job get up and deny the Holocaust ever happened. There is no way that would ever occur in today’s society. But therein lies the problem for Armenians – the Armenian Genocide has been largely ignored in this country because Turkey is supposedly an important ally. In recent years, even though forty-three states have recognized the Genocide and Congress twice passed an Armenian Genocide Resolution decades ago, the last several administrations have become tongue-tied every time the resolution is brought up. Despite almost every presidential candidate since Reagan saying he or she will recognize the Genocide, nothing happens once the president takes office.

Sure enough, Fein got up, and in front of a courtroom that included several Genocide survivors, he denied its existence. It was a hateful and mean-spirited speech, made even worse by the fact that the audience was filled with people who had never met their grandparents or aunts and uncles because of the Genocide Fein was now denying. There have been few instances in which I have been filled with such rage, and I came very close that day to doing something that would have lost me my bar card forever. I looked over at Pat [Pat Harris, Geragos' fellow attorney and co-writer of Mistrial], who hadn’t even met an Armenian until he was in his thirties, and he was shaking with anger. You could hear sobbing from all across the room, but in a testament to the dignity of the Armenian people, Fein was allowed to spread this trash without interruption.

When it was over, I gathered with the Genocide survivors at the back of the courtroom and swore to them that I would do everything I could as a lawyer to make sure they were not forgotten. But as I walked out of that courthouse, I felt unsure that I even wanted to participate in a system that would allow something like this to happen. On this trip back to Los Angeles I seriously thought about whether I wanted to continue as a lawyer.

Fein’s denial of the Armenian genocide intersects with another plot that will be dealt with later on.

That Fein was an ardent supporter of Rand Paul is obvious. We see here an aura of xenophobia that seems drawn to this senator like a magnet. There is Fein denying the Armenian genocide. There is the senator’s father who once published a newsletter that explained how to kill black men and get away with it9. After Rand Paul’s first plagiarism scandal, where he appeared to lifted material multiple times and put it down under his own name, he was dropped from the Washington Times as a columnist, and brought into the fold of the Breitbart news site. This news site’s namesake appears to have lifted material about a Jewish cabal running America from an old Lyndon Larouche publication and placed it into his own book10. One of Rand Paul’s longtime staffers was Jack Hunter, who also worked as a radio host under the nom de guerre, “Southern Avenger”, who annually toasted the birthday of Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and once declared that “a non-white majority America would simply cease to be America.”11 As noted, Fein would appear on Hunter’s radio show on July 10, 2010. This kind of inevitable nexus would be mocked by Jonathan Chait in “Libertarian Hero Cliven Bundy Shockingly Turns Out to Be Gigantic Racist”: “Why do all these people with strong antipathy toward the federal government turn out to be racists? Why do all these homosexuals keep sucking my cock?

MASTERS
So…what’s happening now on campuses? In the sixties and seventies, the activism was on the political left. How much do you detect? You were speaking at UCLA, USC, Yale-

FEIN
Yale, Harvard, Charlottesville. There’s no doubt there’s a huge intensity, that I don’t see on the left, if you will, people coming out and supporting Barack Obama. I think in part it’s because the young people are able to see the encroachments given the electronic exposure they already provide every day. The encroachments on their lives, and their personal privacy. They do, clearly, recognize, that they’re living in a post-Orwellian phase of the United States of America. And youth does have that kinetic energy, it reminds me of some words by William Wordworth about the American and French revolution: “Blissed was, to be alive at that dawn / And to be young, very heaven”. And these youth need sortof guidance, they don’t know exactly how the political process works, but they certainly have the energy and the instinct that are sympathetic to Rand Paul’s objectives.

MASTERS
Well, there’s obviously some confluence between libertarian philosophy and the left, although the democratic party is pretty centrist. There really isn’t a left-wing party, perhaps peace and freedom, the greens, but they are barely one or two percent of the electorate. The confluence, of course, is there’s an agreement to smoke marijuana, there’s agreement over objection to foreign wars, there’s agreement over the surveillance state. But there is also a divergence, is there not.

FEIN
I think there clearly is a divergence. If you want to talk about the government dependency, or the welfare dependency state, if you will, Obamacare, and government programs that seek to develop industrial policies, and put money into what many would believe be subsidizing endeavours people take with their own skill, foresight, and industry. There’s divergence on the debt, the size of the federal government, the size of the federal regulatory state. But I think those are less important, if you will, Ian, than the fundamental issues of liberty and the rule of law that are at stake with regard to the surveillance state, the warfare state. Most people don’t recognize and would be horrified if they reflected every day that at present, as we speak, the president of the United States claims authority to kill any American citizen, on his say-so alone, if he decrees they’re an imminent danger to the United States. It’s been done on four occasions, there may be a fifth in the cross-hairs. Just think about that. That’s vastly more power than was ever considered by King George the Third. His just general writs of assistance provoked the American Revolution, believing he could search our homes and businesses, without probable cause. Now, we have a president who basically claims and exercises the most awesome power in the history of mankind? The American people and Congress are rather complacent with that. And that oughta spur people to political action to try and re-gain the rule of law, and our protections under the Constitution, that basically have been eroded over the last many years, under Democrats and Republicans.

MASTERS
Right, you know, but you have some very powerful libertarians, I think the Koch brothers are fairly libertarian.

FEIN
Yes they are.

Fein speaks here of a president who has suddenly appeared, who “claims and exercises the most awesome power in the history of mankind”, the ability to sign an order and kill at a distance, as if this is a surprising or new development. That American citizens have been assassinated before Al-Awlaki is a point often forgotten, but Ames forces us to remember it: “The first American-born citizen assassinated by a targeted drone attack was Kemal Derwish, blown up by a Predator in Yemen in 2002.”12 And: “The second American targeted for assassination that we know of was Ruben Shumpert of Seattle, killed by a US missile strike in Somalia in 2008.” Note that Kemal Derwish was killed in 2002; Fein’s editorial, “Terrorism’s murky origins” where he wrote “the best way to handcuff terrorism is by killing, capturing and punishing terrorists period, with no commas, semicolons or question marks”, came out in 2004.

Fein worked in the justice department of a president whose over-reaching executive power unhindered by congress he justified in his research for the Iran-contra report, a president who also issued an executive order allowing assassinations. Both “American Assassination History for Dummies” by Mark Ames and “Holder Dances the Assassination Tango” by Scott Horton, make this point explicit. Executive Order 13222, signed off by Reagan, which supposedly banned assassinations, actually did something entirely different:

[Attorney General Eric] Holder was referring specifically to Executive Order 13222, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, which says, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” But as with so much U.S. national-security legislation, this order turns out to be far less than meets the eye. Simplified, the present law of EO 13222 could be summarized this way: “No one shall be assassinated-unless the president authorizes it, in which case we will refrain from calling it an assassination.”

That assassination was part of Reagan era foreign policy, though it could not be referred to by name, is there in George Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War:

Later, when Avrakotos [Gus Avrakotos, then acting chief of the South Asia Operations Group] took over the Afghan program, he dealt with this problem by introducing an Orwellian change in the language he directed his staff to adopt whenever describing weapons or operations in the Afghan program. “These aren’t terrorist devices or assassination techniques,” he would inform his staff. “Henceforth these are individual defensive devices.” Sniper rifles were finally shipped out to the mujahideen , but only after Gust renamed them: “long-range, night-vision devices with scopes.” Once, when the Islamabad station sent a cable describing a lethal tactic being introduced, Avrakotos shot back a return communiqué saying that the cable had been garbled and adding, “Please do not send anything more on this subject ever again.”

Another passage from Wilson’s War, on the training of the mujahideen in Pakistan:

Given what was already being done, it was a perverse twisting of reality. That fall, the mujahideen in the Pakistani training camps were not only receiving a flood of lethal weapons, they were also being trained to wage a war of urban terror, with instruction in car bombings, bicycle bombings, camel bombings, and assassination.

Just how vicious a campaign the CIA was sponsoring is suggested by the Pakistan brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, who directed the training with and distribution of CIA weapons at that time. In a matter-of-fact passage in his memoirs, he describes the range of assassination tactics and targets he was preparing the mujahideen to take on in Kabul. They ranged from your everyday “knife between the shoulder blades of a Soviet soldier shopping in the bazaar” to “the placing of a briefcase bomb in a senior official’s office.” Educational institutions were considered fair game, he explains, since they were staffed by “Communists indoctrinating their students with Marxist dogma.”

This executive order would itself be re-interpreted during the subsequent Bush administration, as reported at the time in a piece quoted in the invaluable “Dummies”. From “Administration Redefines Ban on Foreign Assassinations”:

LOS ANGELES (AP) The Bush administration, without changing an executive order banning assassinations of foreign leaders, has chosen to legally interpret ”assassination” as referring only to premeditated political murder, according to a published report.

A new legal ruling, drafted by the Office of the Army Judge Advocate General, would permit clandestine operations even if they threaten the lives of foreign figures, The Los Angeles Times reported in its Saturday editions.

Unidentified administration officials quoted by the Times said the ruling would significantly expand the scope of military operations the United States could legally launch against terrorists, drug lords or fugitives abroad, the newspaper reported.

The ruling means, for example, that the accidental death of Panamanian strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega during an extradition or future coup attempt in which U.S. forces played a direct role would not constitute assassination, the Times reported.

Noriega, who is under federal indictment in the United States on drug trafficking charges, quashed a coup attempt last week.

In 2001, “Dummies” tells us that House Bill “H.R.19 — Terrorist Elimination Act of 2001″ was introduced. The purpose of this bill was to “nullify the effect of certain provisions of various Executive orders.” Which provisions? Well, among them, “Section 2.11 of Executive Order 12333.” What is this section 2.11 of Executive Order 12333? It’s right there in the text of the bill (national archives link): “2.11 Prohibition on Assassination. No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.” Who introduced this bill? Bob Barr. And who is Bob Barr? Well, he was the subject of Spy magazine’s “D.C. Eunuchs: America’s Least Influential Politician?”, which listed a career of pandering, inconsequential, symbolic legislation. An endorsement of Siskel & Ebert’s positive review of WACO: The Rules of Engagement. A hard stand against air quality standards. May 1, 1997: “Mr. Speaker,” announced Barr, “I would like to have the following poem inserted into the Congressional Record…’What My Flag Means to Me’ was written by William Watkins, a fifth grader at Alto Park Elementary School in Rome, GA.” And not entirely inconsequential: Barr wrote and sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act, he was a firebrand who beat down cancer victims who sued tobacco companies, and he fought hard against any attempts to legalize marijuana or even research its medical benefits13.

After losing his congressional seat, he perhaps achieved his highest profile by running for president in 2008 on the libertarian party ticket; this episode is described in two very good pieces, “Freedom Freaks” by Michael Idov and “The Third Man” by Raffi Khatchadourian. Barr would then leave the Libertarian party – but not before stiffing James Bovard, his presidential ghostwriter, out of a $47,000 fee14 – and turn back to the Republican party fold. The party was now closer to where he was, ideologically. “The party has moved, though I don’t take credit for it,” he says in David Weigel’s “The Third Coming of Bob Barr”. “It has to do to some extent with Ron Paul’s runs for the presidency, with Ted Cruz raising these issues. All of these things combined have brought the Republican Party back to its Reagan roots.” The Reagan roots, as we have seen, are those of near unrestricted executive power in foreign policy and support for assassinations. Who was endorsing Bob Barr in his congressional run? A certain lawyer who denied the Armenian genocide, who had Sudan as a client, who researched how Washington and Jefferson laid the basis for said unrestricted executive power. “If you are a conservative who supports limited government and the Constitution, then join me in supporting Bob Barr for Congress,” says Fein on Barr’s campaign website, “Constitutional Leader Bruce Fein Endorses Bob Barr for Congress”. “I welcome the endorsement of my good friend, Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar with whom I have been proud to work with for many years,” says Barr in thanks15.

This is the messy background of assassination policy, one which those supposedly against the war power state, such as Barr and Fein, have happily endorsed. Fein is more intertwined with the program than he might wish to admit, and he is more intertwined with the Koch Brothers than comes through in this interview.

Fein would focus several of his Washington Times editorials against the possibility of a Hawaiian native identity, something like that of the various indian nations of the United States: “A race-based drift?”, “New racism in new bottles”, “Race separation ratified”, “Resurgent racism”. Though Fein is often presented as an enlightened, dispassionate scholar, we see an old, primal ugliness in the opening of “Race based drift”: “The nation’s mindless celebration of multiculturalism and denigration of the American creed has reached a new plateau of destructiveness.” The pros and cons of Doe v. Kamehameha and bill S.344, the subjects of these editorials, I am unfamiliar with and will not debate here. What I found fascinating was Fein’s interest in this seemingly esoteric issue, an interest that perhaps can be explained by a detail in the credit for “New racism in new bottles” (none of the other editorials feature it): “Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein and Associates and the Lichfield Group and a consultant to the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.” Fein would also write a legal analysis condemning the Alaska bill, S.344, which would be entered into the record by John Kyl (“Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii — (Senate – June 14, 2005)”, “Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii, Part II — (Senate – June 15, 2005)”, “Against Race-Based Government in Hawaii, Part III — (Senate – June 16, 2005)”), and that too would carry the imprimatur of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii – Grassroot singular, there is no s.

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii would be an entity name unknown to many; it was a think tank that was part of something called the State Policy Network (SPN), there on their website, in the directory list of SPN members 16, and again, the SPN was an entity mostly unknown to the general public. It was all easily explained in Exposed: The State Policy Network by the Center for Media and Democracy, all this information reached by the invaluable SourceWatch, and their entries on the “State Policy Network” and the “Grassroot Institute of Hawaii”. The SPN received millions from corporate donors, including corporations such as Microsoft, Comcast, Time Warner, as well as Joseph Coors, and yes, the Koch brothers17. This money was then funneled into various state based think tanks, like the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, which crafted position papers and attempted to affect legislation in ways favorable to its corporate donors – fighting against a minimum wage, ending collective bargaining, a “fair” tax system which always involves lower corporate taxes. One cannot help but think that Fein’s passion on this particular issue is motivated entirely by the interests of the SPN. For instance, in his editorial “A race based drift?”, he argues against “a race-based government for Native Hawaiians unconstrained by the restrictions of the U.S. Constitution” and that passage of the bill “would mark the beginning of the end of the United States, akin to the sack of Rome by Alaric the Great in 410 A.D.” Whether the bill warrants such a hysterical reaction, I offer no judgement, but I think we might contrast it with his attitude towards indian nations who are sovereign and apart from federal regulations on their banking. In “The Last Enclaves of Banking Freedom”, such sovereignty is praised and very much a good thing:

The sole enclaves of banking choice are Native American tribes endowed with sovereign powers pursuant to treaties or otherwise. They offer sovereign lending to the spiraling number of the unbanked or under-banked who have been priced out of services offered by traditional lenders because of heavy-handed and costly Obama regulation.

Like mercy, sovereign lending is twice-blessed. Borrowers’ needs for immediate funds are satisfied. And jobs and wealth are created for Native American tribes. Sovereign lending has the potential to create thousands of jobs, and generate millions in revenue annually for economically challenged Native Americans.

This was not a one-time caprice. The man who warned that Hawaiian sovereignty would mean the end of the United States, went back several times to the mat to preserve Indian sovereignty, exclusively from commerce regulation, in the HuffPo editorials, “Regulatory Impartiality for Native American Tribal Lenders” and “Misconceived New York Attack on Tribal Sovereignty”.

This piece began with the possibility that Fein was something mysterious, a double agent infiltrating the community of whistleblowers and dissidents, when he actually seems to be something much simpler: an opportunist. After 2004, The state war machine gravy train looks like it’s starting to run to ground. “Nobody has ever read them,” Dick Cheney said of the volumes that make up the Iran-contra minority report, but they “are very good in laying out a robust view of the president’s prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters.” At some point after 2004, the man who gave the historical foundation for that view of the president’s prerogatives instead started writing stuff like “Impeach Cheney” for Slate. Stuff like “Shaky Steps” for the Washington Times: “President George W. Bush’s sophomoric plan for Iraqi democracy and freedom announced last Monday discredits his ability to lead the nation.” Was this abrupt one hundred and eighty degree shift ever mentioned or explained in his writings? Of course not. Why should genius have to answer to mortals like we.

The man who took on clients that starved and mutilated their opponents now chastises the Obama administration for its brutality. The man who thinks Hawaiian sovereignty will be the end of the Republic praises the virtues of the sovereignty of indian tribes. The man who provided the historical research for a report backing near independence for executive foreign policy from congressional oversight now seeks to impeach a president for the same practice. The man who bemoans the possibility of an american president ordering assassinations, heartily endorses a candidate who put forward a bill making such killings legal. And he is able to take such multiple and contradictory positions without repercussion or question for the simple reason that the D.C. press is as blind and self-impressed as a masturbating mole rat.

The conversation continues on the subject of the Koch brothers.

MASTERS
And they give a lot of money. And my sense is, that you’re attributing enormous amount of powers to the president, and to this imperial presidency, and this surveillance state, et cetera. All of which I think is true, but on the other side of the coin, in many ways it feels that the president is powerless. That Wall Street is more powerful than Washington, and that one of these great promises, of course, was net neutrality, and that is about to go out the window, because of the power of Comcast, and Time Warner, and these powerful lobbyists that are getting their way. So, I don’t think this country…it seems like the industrialists have as much, if not more power than the president.

FEIN
Well, I think that’s an overstatement. The greatest power you have is to extinguish somebody else’s life…and choose between predator drones and moneyed interests, the predator drones will prevail. But I wanna make a larger observation: these interests prevail simply because there’s lack of courage, it exists not because the president doesn’t have the power, he clearly does have the power, the authority of the government to prevent the murders is there. The authority of the government to impose net neutrality, if you will, is there. It’s simply that president Obama, like most of the Republicans, have been bought off and compromised by the moneyed interests. You can go back to Sam Adams, which really expressed the heart and soul of the United States, and he was preaching similar if you will to those who wanted money and trade privileges with Britain more than independence. And he said, “If ye love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude more than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace, and may posterity forget that ye were ever out countrymen. And so I don’t believe it means there’s less actual authority in the office of the White House or in Congress. It’s simply that they’ve lost the moral and philosophical spirit to stand up and say, “No, we are not a country that bows to mammon. We believe in liberty and, no, you’re not going to get what you’re clamouring for. We want openness and fairness in competition, and you’re not going to manipulate the organs of government to enrich yourself.”

Fein here pins down the federal government as the chief cause of inequality, one that moves into supposedly free markets and plays favorites, thus entrenching our privileged hierarchy. This is the approach taken by all libertarians when dealing with the issue of pervasive inequality. After the publication of “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” which gave a basis in data for the obvious fact that legislation favored by oligarchs has a possibility of passage that laws favored by a majority of citizens in a lower economic caste never have, Tim Worstall’s solution in “New shocking research proves that rich people control American politics” was to argue for less government for the wealthy to manipulate. This was the same answer offered by fellows libertarian James Poulos in reaction to Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, “Today’s Wonky Elite Is in Love With the Wrong French Intellectual”: “Since the power of the fleeting aristocracy of wealth depends on the much greater and more durable power of the state, the key to weakening the influence of the super-rich is not by handing the government their money but by…sharply limiting the scope of centralized government.” This received a reprimand from the book’s translator, Arthur Goldhammer, “Poulos Gets Piketty—and Tocqueville—Wrong”, that was striking in its dismissal of the Poulos’s lack of knowledge and intellectual discipline: “His column is such a mishmash of assertion and non-sequitur that it’s hard to fasten on an argument.”

So, Fein’s approach in his answer is not unique or notable given his political company. What is surprising, given Fein’s history, is this phrase about why this economic inequality has come about: “It’s simply that president Obama, like most of the Republicans, have been bought off and compromised by the moneyed interests.” This really does stand out in my mind because of a letter I came across, again thanks to Ames’ “Libertarian Bum Fights”, where Fein discusses strategy for dealing with S.1883: Tobacco Product Education and Health Protection Act of 1990. Oh, yes: in addition to Sudan and RENAMO, Bruce Fein worked for the tobacco companies. S.1883 would have researched the addictiveness of tobacco products, enforced the restriction on sales to minors, and forced companies to disclose health risks of tobacco products to consumers. In this letter, Fein writes about marshalling opposition to the bill, and attempts to deflect this legislation by having a bone thrown to two private companies, Turner Cable Network and Whittle Communications, which would get health warnings paid for by Philip Morris on their in-school educational broadcasts.

The cast of charactes in this letter: Cary Sherman is a lawyer with Arnold & Porter, longtime counsel for Philip Morris. The PM is the Philip Morris company. Thurmond is Strom Thurmond, the late and unlamented Senator from South Carolina. Hatch is Orrin Hatch, the Senator still serving from Utah. Kennedy is the late Edward Kennedy, sponsor of the bill. The letter can be found at the Legacy Tobacco Documents, “Re: S.1988″ – the title is obviously wrong, and most likely the result of a scanning error, as the letter is entirely devoted to S.1883; it is transcribed here, with accompanying screenshots of the original letter should this database be lost:

To: Cary Sherman
From: Bruce Fein
Re: S. 1883

Last Tuesday, I met with Senator Thurmond’s legislative captain for S. 1883, Craig Metz. I communicated some major flaws PM perceived in the bill, with the Kennedy substitute amendment: convert government suasion of broadcasters and programmers to portray smoking as unflattering and ugsome; unequal free speech over the airwaves by forbidding promotion of smoking while subsidizing its denunciation; the specious effort to advertise the bill as a states’ rights measure when it denies states power to regulate the authority over advertising of its municipalities; the illegitimate purpose of balkanizing the advertising of cigarettes to squelch commercial speech in a national market; the unfair authorization of states to saddle tobacco producers with potential billions in tort liability for inadequate health warnings despite scrupulous compliance with warnings that Congress has found adequate; the anti-blue collar overtones of the bill because the royalty of Senator Kennedy’s ilk who engage in saturnalia on Cape Cod partake of other pleasure to gratify their sensual desires; and, the dangerous precedent S. 1883 would set for government gambits on other products that may be insalubrious like pork, sugar, or hot dogs.

Metz received all the arguments openly, but was guarded as to how Thurmond might vote. He stated the Senator desired a low profile, and, at present, was uncommitted. I deduced that Thurmond may be willing to trade his vote on S. 1883 for a Kennedy vote on a bill he champions. Tobacco farmers, however, are a significant electoral constituency in South Carolina. How Thurmond’s support for alcohol warning labels may affect his posture on S. 1883 is uncertain.

(Bob Cable sat in the meeting with Metz).

I met alone last Thursday with George Lewis, Senator Hatch’s chrieftan [sic] for S. 1883. Bob Cable was occupied on other matters.

I reiterated PM’s concerns regarding S. 1883 that I had previously elaborated to Craig Metz.

Lewis seemed more openly receptive to the arguments than Metz, and scornful of the bill. He stated that a consensus in the Labor and Human Resources Committee agreed S. 1883 needed major revamping, and that the Kennedy substitute was seriously flawed. He seemed to think only the proposals for enhanced anti-smoking campaigns directed at youth enjoyed widespread committee support. He further opined – and on this count he echoed Metz – that S. 1883 would never reach a floor vote this session because of the crowded Senate calendar. Lewis did not display enthusiasm for Hatch playing a so-called “broker” role to crown S. 1883 with at least incomplete success.

It seems to me that one option that PM might explore to demonstrate its strong devotion to shielding minors from smoking is participation in the Whittle Communications and Turner Cable Network public school daily news briefs (8-10 minutes) that now penetrate up to 8,000 school districts. Whittle and Turner deliver their programming by satellite to TVRO dishes on school sites. PM might consider sponsoring health warnings at some point in the news briefs as a public service announcement.

Fein tobacco letter p1 cropped Fein tobacco letter p2 cropped

Fein tobacco letter p3 cropped Fein tobacco letter p4 cropped

We return to the conversation, still on the subject of inequality.

MASTERS
But surely Bruce Fein, you detect, it’s in the political zeitgeist now, the issues of inequality are growing, growing inequality of wealth, it’s going to be clearly a campaign issue, the number one best seller if Thomas Piketty’s new book, I think it’s Capital in the 21st Century, that is about how the rich are getting richer, and the middle class is floundering, and the poorer are getting poorer. I just interviewed a scholar at Princeton the other day who’s done a study that indicates…he doesn’t use the word oligarchy, but the word oligarchy is out there, and that is what seems to me to be the big question. And our politics at the moment is the extent, have we become an oligarchy, or are we still a democracy? That seems to be the main question. One of the things that he discovered in his research, which was pretty thorough, going on several decades, is that the powerful special interests in this country…if they want a policy, they have a 50-50 chance of getting it enacted. The middle class have very little influence, and the poor have no influence ever at politics. But the wealthy elite, they do not refer to them in this study as oligarchs, but I think he calls them the wealthy elite…they have a 50-50 chance of getting their policies through, and conversely, if they don’t want something to happen, it’s only got an eighteen percent chance of succeeding. So, in effect, the wealthy have veto power over our government. That is a portrait of current issues. So, which is the more important, economic fairness, or-

FEIN
Well, economic fairness, I think, won’t matter if we don’t have any liberty anymore. We can have bread and circuses, and be a little complacent, but we would destroy ourselves as a free people. Cicero described freedom as participation in power, and that’s what we’ve lost. All the power that is serious, has migrated to the executive, which frequently bows, if you will, to moneyed interests, but not exclusively. It doesn’t do that. But in my judgement, if we’re looking at two concerns: one, the manipulation of government to enrich the rich. As opposed to the use of government to run an empire, where it crushes liberty and freedom. And we have surveillance everywhere, and no due process, and we kill people, even our own citizens, based on the president’s say-so alone. We will crumble as an empire, and then all the economic issues will be out of the equation, because there’ll be no country to defend. And that, in my judgement, is where we will be in thirty years. We’ve got an eighteen trillion dollar debt that’s just not sustainable. And continuing to project ourselves everywhere under the sun, now we’re going to war with Japan over five uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, with China, I mean, this is just madness. And now, we go everywhere else in the world, where anybody who says they’re a terrorist, stands up and says they don’t like the United States. Now, I don’t want at all to downplay the issue of inequality, I think that’s exactly what James Madison feared when he said, “We do not want people to profit off speculating off public measures.” And that’s what’s happened here. They’ve manipulated and changed government, from an institution to seek justice, and seek equal opportunity, to one that creates special privileges for the rich to become even richer. The bailout of the banks is a characteristic example of that. And in some sense, it has the earmarks of the eve of the French revolution. Ultimately, there was a storming of the Bastille. But surely, the economic inequality of that time was equally acute.

MASTERS
Well, my sense though, is that one of the reasons why government has these powers is that there’s an enormous amount of alienation in this country, against government. You see people on the right, the militia movements and stuff, they invent all kinds of evils of the government, and they want to arm themselves against this government, there’s a face-off now going on, down in Nevada, over a rancher who, by the way-

FEIN
But he’s not alienating- he’s pouting- he’s mooching off of government.

MASTERS
Exactly.

FEIN
He’s a sponge. He wants to graze on government land and not pay for it.

MASTERS
I know, but your candidate, Rand Paul, supported him before-

FEIN
Well, he renounced him.

MASTERS
Till this-

FEIN
Racist scumbag.

MASTERS
-the only worse racist is this Donald Sterling, which is our shame here in Los Angeles. But the point I was wanting to make, Bruce, is that, I sense even more on the left than the right, but on both the far left and the far right, in this country, an enormous alienation, a belief that the government is just a remote, malignant force that they have no control over. That leads to all kinds of weird conspiracy theories about what the government is up to. I don’t see in this country, given that only fifty percent of the people vote, a real sense, that we, the people, own this damn government, and we should make this government work for us, and not work for itself. Where is that spirit going to come from?

FEIN
No, and that’s what part of the task of leadership is, Ian. And we have, as I say, an acephalous political culture: there is no leadership. But that’s the purpose of being a political leader, to arouse and awaken the American people. We the people are sovereign, and that’s the highest office in the land, and you have a duty, not an option, but a duty to participate in government. A duty to have your eyes and ears alert to government abuses, a duty to participate in the dialogue, so your ideas can enrich the debate. And that’s unfortunately absent at present. Now, I don’t think the democracy is quite as decrepit as you’ve described. I think one example, which was quite refreshing, was the public outcry against another war in Syria. If it wasn’t for that public consensus, President Obama was ready to fire eight hundred cruise missiles into Syria, and we’d be engaged in another futile fool’s errand, making us complicit in further moral evils and stupidities. And so it showed, that the President and the Congress did wake up when the shouting was sufficiently loud. But we need to have that regularly and constant, and it has to be an unwritten rule of American life. That’s what you buy into when you’re an American citizen. And that’s gotta be preached around the dinner table, the breakfast table, the classroom, and social engagements, and otherwise. That’s what makes us Americans.

MASTERS
Well, Bruce Fein, I appreciate you joining us here today. And I thank you.

FEIN
Thank you, Ian. It’s been delightful.

(On July 1st, the following changes were made: footnote #8, listing the interview of Bruce Fein by Jack Hunter was added; footnote #15, a supplemental screenshot of the SPN list featuring the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii was added; an overall clarifying edit, without chaning any meaning, was made; spells were checked; the D.C. press were no longer referred to as a blind and lazy mole rat, but a blind masturbating mole rat. On July 2nd, some links for footnotes #11 through #14 were fixed; some additional material in the “war machine gravy train” paragraph was added, including the links to Fein’s pieces in the Washington Times and Slate. On July 3rd, a new footnote #11 was added – all footnotes following it were incremented by one – for the soure of the information on Jack Hunter’s past. On July 4, 2014, excerpts were added to footnote #2 from the Dana Milbank article, “E-mails back claim that Sen. Rand Paul ‘stole’ NSA lawsuit”, which providing additional support to the allegation that Rand Paul’s NSA lawsuit was very much plagiarized from Fein’s work.)

FOOTNOTES

1 From Lolavar v. de Santibanes:

Pursuant to this second contract, Miss Lolavar went to Argentina in August 2000 to assist de Santibañes with preparations for his testimony in Argentine congressional hearings inquiring into allegations that he and the Argentine intelligence agency, known as SIDE, were responsible for bribing various Argentine senators in exchange for political support.

Morris and Stone assigned other tasks to Miss Lolavar while she was in Argentina. Among other acts, they instructed her to contact SIDE and obtain a list of journalists who accepted bribes from that organization in order to harm the credibility of those same journalists in reporting on a bribery scandal surrounding de Santibañes and President de la Rua, as well as requiring her to spread false information to the press concerning de la Rua’s political opponent, Dr. Carlos Menem.

A request that occasioned controversy between Miss Lolavar and the defendants was Morris and Stone’s request that she serve as an intermediary in an anonymous wire transfer of funds to an official in Israel. These funds were to be paid to secure intelligence files from the Israeli government to assist de la Rua’s political domestic disputes with Menem, and to imply a corrupt relationship between Menem and George W. Bush, who was then running against Albert Gore for the United States presidency. These files were to be altered by Miss Lolavar to appear to be SIDE documents.

When the defendants became concerned that this plot would be discovered and traced back to them, they ordered Miss Lolavar to orchestrate a press response to blame Vice President Gore for the dissemination of the documents, since it was known to them that the Gore campaign had been attempting to connect Menem with the Bush campaign.

When Miss Lolavar refused to cooperate with these demands, the defendants undertook a series of reprisals. First, they refused to pay her fees under the contract until she executed the wire transfers. Additionally, they made a number of false defamatory statements concerning her, including that she was anti-Semitic, that her efforts to disclose these transactions were the result of a political bribe by Menem’s Peronist Party, and that she forged the correspondence that was evidence of the defendants’ wrongdoing.

2 From “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit” by Dana Milbank, on the similarities between the two drafts:

But a Jan. 15 draft of the complaint written by Fein has long passages that are nearly identical to those in the complaint Cuccinelli filed Wednesday. Except for some cuts and minor wording changes, they are clearly the same documents.

For example, Fein’s version said, “When the MATP was disclosed by Edward Snowden, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephony metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”

Cuccinelli’s version said, “Since the MATP was publicly disclosed, public opinion polls showed widespread opposition to the dragnet collection, storage, retention, and search of telephone metadata collected on every domestic or international phone call made or received by citizens or permanent resident aliens in the United States.”

Fein wrote: “On information and belief, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program since its commencement in May 2006 has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or has otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”

Cuccinelli’s version: “Upon information and belief, since its commencement in May 2006, Defendants’ Mass Associational Tracking Program has not stopped or been instrumental in stopping even one imminent international terrorist attack or otherwise assisted Defendants in achieving any time-sensitive objective.”

A follow-up article by Milbank (reached via “‘My marginalization was thoroughly unfair’” by Steve Benen), “E-mails back claim that Sen. Rand Paul ‘stole’ NSA lawsuit”, gives further support that Bruce Fein initiated the allegations that the NSA suit was plagiarised from his initial draft, with the first complaint being sent from Bruce Fein’s email address, not his ex-wife’s:

Here is the first email Fein wrote, which he sent to Doug Stafford, Paul’s top political advisor.

On Feb 12, 2014, at 1:56 PM, “Bruce Fein” b*****@thelichfieldgroup.com wrote:

Dear Doug,

The protocols for preparing and filing the class action complaint today were hugely suboptimal.

My name was not on the complaint despite the fact that it was predominantly my work product over several weeks and two hundred hours of research, meetings, and drafting. Ken never showed me the final complaint before submission. My name could not be on the complaint under DC Bar Rules because I could not prepare a timely engagement letter. I was never informed until yesterday by Ken of the details of the collaborative arrangement between FreedomWorks and Rand for litigating and paying for the lawsuit. I promptly revised the engagement letter when the information was received, and it has been forwarded via Ken to Rand and FreedomWorks.

I did not learn of the date for filing except by inadvertence from Ken a few days ago.

I was not included in any briefing of Rand about the complaint before filing and press conference today despite the fact that I know vastly more about the Fourth Amendment issue and the history of NSA surveillance than anyone else on the team.

My outstanding invoice for work indispensable to the lawsuit should be paid no later than Friday, February 14, an expectation which is completely justified in light of all the circumstances. Please alert me if the work description on the invoice needs alteration.

Thanks for your attention to these matters.

Bruce Fein

Cuccinelli’s limited experience in the venue, from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”:

But when Paul filed his suit at the U.S. District Court in Washington on Wednesday morning, Fein’s name had been replaced with that of Ken Cuccinelli, the failed Republican gubernatorial candidate in Virginia who until last month had been the state’s attorney general. Cuccinelli has never argued a case in that courthouse, and he isn’t even a member of the D.C. bar (he also filed a motion Wednesday seeking an exception to allow him to argue this case in D.C.). But he is, like Paul, a tea party darling.

Mattie Fein on Cuccinelli, from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”:

Fein, who has not been paid in full for his legal work by Paul’s political action committee, was furious that he had been omitted from the filing he wrote. “I am aghast and shocked by Ken Cuccinelli’s behavior and his absolute knowledge that this entire complaint was the work product, intellectual property and legal genius of Bruce Fein,” Mattie Fein, his ex-wife and spokeswoman, told me Wednesday. “Ken Cuccinelli stole the suit,” she said, adding that Paul, who “already has one plagiarism issue, now has a lawyer who just takes another lawyer’s work product.”

Again from Milbank’s “Rand Paul and Ken Cuccinelli accused of stealing NSA lawsuit”, how dumb is Ken Cuccinelli?:

When Mattie Fein responded in an e-mail to Cuccinelli calling him “dumb as a box of rocks,” Cuccinelli wrote another e-mail to Bruce Fein saying, “I think this relationship is untenable.”

3 From “Libertarian Bum Fights” by Mark Ames:

Fein runs a Washington DC lobbying outfit called The Lichfield Group. His lobby group’s website is currently “under construction,” but before it was deleted, Fein used to boast about his excellent connections to the same government agencies that he, as a Ron Paul libertarian, opposes. A scrubbed “Expertise” page on the Lichfield Group’s website boasted:

The Lichfield Group features unrivalled government, media, and business experience. Exemplary is the Group’s high level connections with the Department of Justice, the Department of State, and the Central Intelligence Agency, on the one hand, to The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and nationwide broadcast or cable networks on the other.

The Group’s unsurpassed combination of legal, business, media, political, and government savvy enables it to handle crisis management, tactical, or strategic positioning with unexcelled deftness. Whether a client is a giant corporation handcuffed by ill-conceived United States government policies or a foreign government anxious to influence the decisions of Congress, the President, agencies, the judiciary, or State governments, The Lichfield Group is armed with the skills and contacts indispensable for success.

4 Should these tweets be deleted, these screenshots will show what this page looked like when they were extant:

bruce fein tweets at ityb p1 cropped bruce fein tweets at ityb p2 cropped

bruce fein tweets at ityb p3 cropped bruce fein tweets at ityb p4 cropped

5 The tweets:

Should this tweet be deleted, this screenshot will show them when they were extant:

whats with all the slut shaming cropped

6 From “Rand Paul didn’t plagiarize his NSA lawsuit” by Adam Serwer; it seems this headline is a little too absolute and unqualified. Based on the examples given by Dana Milbank, there are uncanny similarities between the two drafts, and all that has taken place is that Fein does not make such plagiarism charges, though his ex-wife does:

A spokesperson for RANDPAC forwarded an email from Fein denying Mattie Fein’s allegations. “Mattie Lolavar was not speaking for me,” Fein said in the email. “Her quotes were her own and did not represent my views. I was working on a legal team, and have been paid for my work.” Bruce Fein confirmed to msnbc that the email was from him.

7 Should this tweet be deleted, this screenshot will show what this page looked like when they were extant:

bruce fein tweets at ityb p5 cropped

8 This interview with Jack Hunter, conducted on July 6, 2010, can be found in four parts on youtube: “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 1″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 2″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 3″, “SA@TAC – Bruce Fein on “American Empire” 7/6/10 Part 4″.

The excerpt is taken from part one.

9 This story is covered in several places, including this site: “The Ron Paul Newsletter Story That I Found The Most Disturbing: “Blast ‘Em?””.

10 This story seems to have ignored by just about every news outlet, though it is covered in-depth on this site: “Andrew Breitbart: Psychosis in a Political Mask Part One”.

11 “Rand Paul aide slammed after report” by Katie Glueck in Politico (ugh) gives a good overview of the various things Hunter has said in the past.

12 From “U.S. military teams, intelligence deeply involved in aiding Yemen on strikes” by Dana Priest, via “Bum Fights” by Mark Ames:

The Obama administration’s deepening of bilateral intelligence relations builds on ties forged during George J. Tenet’s tenure as CIA director.

Shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Tenet coaxed Saleh [Yemen president Ali Abdullah Saleh] into a partnership that would give the CIA and U.S. military units the means to attack terrorist training camps and al-Qaeda targets. Saleh agreed, in part, because he believed that his country, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, was next on the U.S. invasion list, according to an adviser to the Yemeni president.

Tenet provided Saleh’s forces with helicopters, eavesdropping equipment and 100 Army Special Forces members to train an antiterrorism unit. He also won Saleh’s approval to fly Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles over the country. In November 2002, a CIA missile strike killed six al-Qaeda operatives driving through the desert. The target was Abu Ali al-Harithi, organizer of the 2000 attack on the USS Cole. Killed with him was a U.S. citizen, Kamal Derwish, who the CIA knew was in the car.

Word that the CIA had purposefully killed Derwish drew attention to the unconventional nature of the new conflict and to the secret legal deliberations over whether killing a U.S. citizen was legal and ethical.

13 From “The Third Man”, on Barr’s involvement with DOMA:

His departure from the G.O.P. was notable because Barr didn’t just work in Congress; he often lived there, sleeping on his office couch. And when the Republican leaders wanted to be sure the far-right wing would support a measure they frequently went to him first. Barr didn’t just advocate Second Amendment rights; he held a seat on the board of the National Rifle Association. Although he voted in favor of some civil-liberties and small-government measures, he was also an ardent supporter of the war on drugs. He repeatedly sponsored legislation to undermine ballot initiatives legalizing medical marijuana-”bogus witchcraft,” he called it-in Washington, D.C. Barr vehemently opposed abortion, and once argued that even if his wife were raped he would do what he could to prevent her from having one. He wrote the Defense of Marriage Act, voted for a constitutional amendment outlawing flag desecration, and even tried to legislate against Wiccan soldiers who wanted to practice their faith while in the service. A churchgoing Methodist, Barr rarely invoked religion when discussing policy with his aides, but he told constituents that “God’s hand” was guiding his votes. In 1998, he traversed the country, trying to persuade people that President Clinton was leading America into amorality. “You can lie, cheat, steal, shoot someone,” Barr said in Iowa, at an event attended by Republican Presidential hopefuls. “You can do whatever you want and it doesn’t matter-it’s a cartoon world.” In 1999, Congressional Quarterly labelled Barr a “Conservative True Believer.”

Perhaps the best source on the passage of the destructive drug laws of the 1980s and 1990s is Eric Schlosser’s Reefer Madness, and it makes clear Barr’s full and enthusiastic involvement:

In 1981, Congressman Newt Gingrich introduced a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana. Fifteen years later, as Speaker of the House, Gingrich sponsored legislation demanding a life sentence or the death penalty for anyone who brought more than two ounces of marijuana into the United States. Although the Clinton Administration opposed that bill, it accepted the basic premises of marijuana prohibition, allowing the heirs of the Reagan revolution to set America’s policy on the drug. Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman Bob Barr emerged as two of pot’s fiercest and most outspoken critics. McConnell tried without success to make federal penalties for selling or possessing marijuana equivalent to those for selling or possessing cocaine and heroin. Barr fought hard to prevent any research into the “so-called medicinal use of marijuana” and claimed such attempts were part of a vast conspiracy. “All civilized countries in the world,” he said, “are under assault by drug proponents seeking to enslave citizens.” He called the effort to reform the nation’s marijuana laws a “subversive criminal movement.” McConnell and Barr were deeply concerned about the potential harms caused by smoking marijuana; but smoking cigarettes was a different story. Barr opposed lawsuits against tobacco companies, arguing that such efforts were reminiscent of “Soviet rule” and that the product in question was “legal, widely used, profitable, disfavored by the ruling intelligentsia…and subject to some colorable claim that it harmed someone, somehow, somewhere.” In 2002 McConnell accepted more money from tobacco lobbyists than any other member of Congress. Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, responsible for an estimated 440,000 deaths every year.

14 This episode is described in many places, including “Presidential also-rans stiff small businesses” by Dave Levinthal and Robin Bravender:

Maryland-based author James Bovard sued 2008 Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr for $47,000 he’s owed after ghostwriting a book for the former congressman. Barr, who once called [link does not go to the proper text in the original, so it's been fixed] for “a surge in federal fiscal responsibility,” this month reported still owing a dozen different vendors an aggregate $157,450.

“I suppose when you deal with politicians, you shouldn’t have high expectations,” Bovard said. “He thinks he can walk away from paying his debt, but he is mistaken.”

15 What follows is the full text from Bruce Fein’s endorsement of Barr:

June 20, 2013

Fein – “Only Bob Barr Can Protect and Advance the Constitution in Congress.”

Bruce Fein, one of the leading Constitutional experts in the United States, is proud to endorse Bob Barr for Congress.

“It is vital to all who care about the Constitution, and who seek to have a Member of Congress who not only supports limited constitutional government but understands it, that Bob Barr return to Congress in GA 11,” Fein said in a statement today.

Fein said also:

“America is at a crossroads. There is a real battle in Washington between those who support a more oppressive federal government and those who support the Constitution. This is not a time for well-meaning but inexperienced people in Congress. We need Bob Barr, who brings his experience, seniority, and constitutional expertise with him and who will, on Day One, lead the movement, at a national level, for limited constitutional governance in Washington.”

“If you are a conservative who supports limited government and the Constitution, then join me in supporting Bob Barr for Congress,” concluded Fein. Bob understands that the final end of the state is to make men and women free to develop their faculties and to be morally accountable for their destines, not to create a Leviathan regulating and scrutinizing every nook and cranny of our lives.”

“I welcome the endorsement of my good friend, Bruce Fein, a constitutional scholar with whom I have been proud to work with for many years, said Barr; who continued: “It is an honor to have Bruce on our team as we work to restore and reaffirm the concept of limited government in Washington and respect for the Constitution.”

Bruce Fein is Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda, founder of Bruce Fein & Associates, Inc., and The Lichfield Group; author of Constitutional Peril: The Life and Death Struggle for our Constitution and Democracy; and a columnist for The Washington Times. Mr. Fein graduated with honors from Harvard Law School in 1972, clerked for a prestigious federal court, served as special assistant to the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel and the Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust, Assistant Director for the Office of Legal Policy, Associate Deputy Attorney General, General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission, Counsel to the Joint Congressional Committee on Covert Arms Sales to Iran, Visiting Fellow for Constitutional Studies at the Heritage Foundation, Adjunct Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and Guest Lecturer at the Brookings Institute. Mr. Fein specializes in constitutional and international law, is a frequent witness before Congress, and is a regular guest on national television and radio.

Since everything related to a political campaign is ephemeral, I’ve uploaded screenshots of this page in the campaign website should it be down.

bruce fein campaign website p1 bruce fein campaign website p2

16 Should this site list go down, or should this entry be deleted, the following is a screenshot from the page on June 30, 2014:

grassroot instiute of hawaii on spn list

17 From Exposed: The State Policy Network, specific page 5:

While it has become an $83 million dollar right-wing empire, SPN and most of its affiliates do not post their major donors on their websites. The identities of the donors we have discovered reveal that SPN is largely funded by global corporations – such as Reynolds American, Altria, Microsoft, AT&T, Verizon, GlaxoSmithKline, Kraft Foods, Express Scripts, Comcast, Time Warner, and the Koch- and Tea Party-connected DCI Group lobbying and PR firm – that stand to benefit from SPN’s destructive agenda, as well as out-of-state special interests like the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation, and the Coors family – that are underwriting an extreme legislative agenda that undermines the traditional rights of modern Americans. Corporations like Facebook and the for-profit online education company K12 Inc., as well as the e-cigarette company NJOY, also fund SPN, as demonstrated at its most recent annual meeting.

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David Cronenberg’s Videodrome: Bad Religion

“She kissed his cheek, and the flesh against her lips felt as cold as the snowflakes at the window.”
–”Mojave” by Truman Capote, from Music for Chameleons

“And so it is “I,” the person among other persons, alone yet inseparable from the community of others, who sees as if for the first time and who reflectively comes to know the meanings that awaken in my consciousness.” – Clark Moustakas, Phenomological Research Methods, quote taken from “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomology of Fame” by Donna Rockwell and David C. Giles

(This contains spoilers for Videodrome, though it is very much written for those who have seen and are familiar with the movie. Given this, no attempt at a plot summary is made. There are spoilers for Cronenberg’s Naked Lunch as well. Script excerpts are taken from on-line transcripts at Script-o-rama, for Videodrome and Naked Lunch. I am indebted to The Rule of Metaphor by Paul Ricoeur, as a helpful, though often difficult, guide on the subject.)

One of the most unsettling movies I’ve ever seen. Some do not wish to attempt to examine the mysteries of why a certain film works, especially if it has this kind of memorable power, disturbing or otherwise; that this is like sealing beautiful flowing smoke in a glass. The hyptnotizing, electric flow ends with the entrapment, and there is perhaps something unfeeling as well – this kind of examination can sometimes be close to trapping insects in jars, and sometimes like plucking their wings off. I know all this, and I look closer anyway. What follows are my brief explorations of Videodrome. As with all explorations, they are unfinished.

The first thing to be looked at might be the quality so often remarked about this movie, its prescience. That it features a man who becomes obsessed with a virtual reality, to the point that he can no longer distinguish between the real and his hallucinations, this all is taken as an anticipation of our internet dominated lives, now. Properly placed, Videodrome is not a prediction, but simply a reiteration of past themes. Cronenberg himself would dismiss the idea of a conscious, intentional attempt at augury in many places, among them his introduction to a showing of the film in 2009, “Cronenberg Videodrome Intro” (from 1:30-3:00 in the clip):

The movie has been seen as being quite prophetic, as you mentioned, of everything from the internet to virtual reality, to interactive television and so on, I suppose you could say, “Did I anticipate all of that stuff?” and I suppose I could say, “Yeah.” But so what? Because nothing happens as a result of that. I wasn’t really trying to be prophetic. I was trying to…when you, if you’re an artist, all you’ve got, that might be unique, are the antenna that you have, that are sensitive to things that are in the air, that are around, that perhaps other people are not sensitive, as sensitive to, for whatever reason. And so I think that was what I was really doing then. Because there is a character in this movie [Brian O'Blivion] who is modeled after Marshall McLuhan, and he was certainly around the University of Toronto when I was there. And his thoughts, and his presence, and his prophecies, which were quite astonishingly accurate, I must say, so for me to…I was really trying to…to distill something of the zeitgeist of the time, I suppose, and also make something that was entertaining and sexy and perverse, I think. And you’ll let me know if I did that or not.

The director would again dismiss the possibility, as well as explain the genesis of the movie in “Cronenberg on Cronenberg” (15:55-17:42 in the clip):

CRONENBERG
Videodrome really came from the limitations of television at the time. Which was, I remember as a child, we had an antenna that would rotate, to pick up, each station needed the antenna to rotate to get the best image. So, you’d be watching your TV set, rotating the image, and seeing it come into focus in a way. And sometimes, when the major…this is something else that people don’t think of. It wasn’t twenty four hour a day television. It was…at eleven o’clock, eleven thirty, television was finished. Until the morning. You didn’t go all night. After all the television stations had shut down, you could sometimes pick up some strange signals, from…now, in Toronto it would be mostly from America, maybe Buffalo. Maybe from New York. Maybe from Detroit. And those signals were very weak, but you could pick them up late at night. And you would see things, but it would never be clear. And you wouldn’t know what you were watching. And it was very mysterious. And sometimes very disturbing. And very intriguing. And so I used that experience with Videodrome. In other words, old technology at the time. I even have scenes of a satellite dish, and so on, but of course when I was doing it, it was an antenna, not a satellite dish. There were no satellites. And it was just that idea of picking up a mysterious, forbidden signal. That somehow you had access to, via accident. And that’s really what it had to do with. Videodrome.

INTERVIEWER
This idea of a hidden channel, is something very relevant, powerful, even today. [CRONENBERG: Yes.] When you think of the internet [CRONENBERG: Yes.], this darknet, there always seems to be a place where people are hoping to find something forbidden, or…

CRONENBERG
Yes. That’s actually true, and it’s why people sometimes think Videodrome is anticipating the internet, of course I wasn’t really thinking about it, but it’s true that some of the things that I was playing with, which is to say interactive television, television that would respond directly to you, was, is, in a sense, an anticipation of something…that has become the internet. Really. So, it hasn’t changed, and yes, there are some very forbidden…imagery and videos on the internet which….I mean, it’s quite extraordinary that the police could come to your house and discover that you had downloaded some images and arrest you and put you in jail for a long time. Mostly, child pornography and so on. But…that’s an extraordinary thought. That the images condemn you, immediately. And that, even though you just sat in your room and clicked to access them. But you were condemned by doing that. That’s extraordinary.

One should note the key element in the TV signals picked up from across the border, and that is the lack of control. The TV signal is described as “mysterious, forbidden”, a transmission where “you wouldn’t know what you were watching”. We have perhaps the exact inverse of the contemporary internet, which is defined by the search engine google, along with content filters like facebook and twitter, whose orderly and authoritative results arguably disciplined a wild and unruly place. Whereas the Videodrome signal is something like an unnamed ghostland, unknown and invisible to all atlases. It exists as a result of technology, and yet it also has the qualities of a hallucinatory vision which might seize a character, and whose meaning they must decipher, whether it has an implication for the here and now, or a portent of the future. This, of course, is a near exact description of the visions of another movie, which resemble old TV transmissions, the transmitted warnings of Prince of Darkness.

Given that Videodrome is seen as a prescient vision, it might be useful to look at someone else from the very same time whose work is seen as predicting the internet, though that was not his intent, either. This would be the writer William Gibson, and his book Neuromancer, published only a year after Videodrome‘s release. I do not link the two out of any intent to make kleptic accusations; I think Gibson himself properly answers why you might have a similar focus in the movies and books of the time in “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211″:

There’s an idea in the science-fiction community called steam-engine time, which is what people call it when suddenly twenty or thirty different writers produce stories about the same idea. It’s called steam-engine time ­because nobody knows why the steam engine happened when it did. Ptolemy demonstrated the mechanics of the steam engine, and there was nothing technically stopping the Romans from building big steam engines. They had little toy steam engines, and they had enough metalworking skill to build big steam tractors. It just never occurred to them to do it. When I came up with my cyberspace idea, I thought, I bet it’s steam-engine time for this one, because I can’t be the only person noticing these various things. And I wasn’t. I was just the first person who put it together in that particular way, and I had a logo for it, I had my neologism.

The neologism, the one Gibson put together, was cyberspace, before there was anything substantial outside of his fictional world that the name could be applied to. In this same interview, Gibson mentions his strongest influences: “William Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, Thomas Pynchon.” He gives special mention to Burroughs and Naked Lunch, describing it as a kind of science fiction without being hidebound to the traditions of the genre1. Lunch has been named by Cronenberg as his favorite book, and he, of course, took on the Sissyphean task of making it into a movie. Again, however, we are not speaking of A simply leading to B. “One of the reasons Burroughs excited me when I read him was that I recognized my own imagery in his work,” says Cronenberg at the time of the Lunch movie’s release. “It sounds only defensive to say, ‘I was already thinking of a virus when I read that!’ But there is a recognition factor. That’s why I think you start to feel like you’re vibrating in harmony with someone else. It’s the recognition, not that they introduced you to something that was completely unthought of by you.”2 Our thoughts slowly congeal into a metaphor, and we see elsewhere the public expression of someone else’s thoughts in similar metaphors. Lunch‘s Interzone is the unruly mix of many peoples where fantasy is unleashed; Neuromancer separates these two worlds with the vast crowd of the Sprawl, several interconnected North American cities – and the unrestricted virtual life of its cyberspace, the Matrix (a term native to this book and not the later movie series)3; Videodrome takes place in the interethnic mix of Toronto with a hero whose business is buying and selling pornography, and where its virtual fantasyland shares the movie’s title.

This is how I see Videodrome: as a partial expression of the themes of Naked Lunch, but one that is ultimately truer to the book than the actual movie adaptation. Though Lunch is often taken as surreal nonsense, with no connection to the actual, I think it is very obviously an attempt to express the author’s life experience, specifically his drug experience and his queer life, and the truest method of expression would be through often hallucinatory imagery. Burroughs had little involvement with hallucinogens, and the images of Lunch do not feel like any attempt at reproducing the experiences of such drugs, but at conveying a specific physical and emotional sense. A gay man, a drug user of the time must have felt like a hunted man, and so the protagonist of Lunch is someone literally hunted: a man wanted by cops and an undercover spy. The images are unreal, but not without purpose. The repulsive figure of the Mugwumps and Reptiles are visions of the addict himself, his flesh in a state of accelerated decay, his body deforming into something others consider monstrous, and about which he is indifferent:

On stools covered in white satin sit naked Mugwumps sucking translucent, colored syrups through alabaster straws. Mugwumps have no liver and nourish themselves exclusively on sweets. Thin, purple-blue lips cover a razor-sharp beak of black bone with which they frequently tear each other to shreds in fights over clients. These creatures secrete an addicting fluid from their erect penises which prolongs life by slowing metabolism. (In fact all longevity agents have proved addicting in exact ratio to their effectiveness in prolonging life.) Addicts of Mugwump fluid are known as Reptiles. A number of these flow over chairs with their flexible bones and black-pink flesh. A fan of green cartilage covered with hollow, erectile hairs through which the Reptiles absorb the fluid sprouts from behind each ear. The fans, which move from time to time touched by invisible currents, serve also some form of communication known only to Reptiles.

During the biennial Panics when the raw, peeled Dream Police storm the City the Mugwumps take refuge in the deepest crevices of the wall, sealing themselves in clay cubicles, and remain for weeks in biostasis. In those days of grey terror the Reptiles dart about faster and faster, scream past each other at supersonic speed, their flexible skulls flapping in black winds of insect agony.

The Dream Police disintegrate in globs of rotten ectoplasm swept away by an old junky, coughing and spitting in the sick morning. The Mugwump Man comes with alabaster jars of fluid and the Reptiles get smoothed out.

The air is once again still and clear as glycerine.

The Sailor spotted his Reptile. He drifted over and ordered a green syrup. The Reptile had a little, round disk mouth of brown gristle, expressionless green eyes almost covered by a thin membrane of eyelid. The Sailor waited an hour before the creature picked up his presence.

It is perhaps helpful to look at this imagery next to that of the excellent memoir of addiction, White Out: The Secret Life of Heroin, by Michael Clune. Though the book goes through the expected arc of such experience – introduction, addiction, descent, and many attempts at recovery of a pre-addicted life – it never falls into the monotony of detailing the endless days of addiction as if such dull accounting is charged with interest to the outsider, but effectively conveys this difficult life through often surreal images. This imagery never suggests an affect, an attempt at novelty, or simple writing games, but an honest relating of the addict’s inner life, so involved in inner twistings as to often break from reality. We have it in early description of a dealer:

In that bare front room at Dominic’s there is a trembling joy in the air. The thick sun of June gets trapped, pools, and grows cloudy. Proto-organisms form in the cloud of wood-color, heat, and sheet-light. I’m full of angels who fasten their lips and wings and hands to Dominic’s body, until he looks like a beach a thick flock of seagulls has landed on. By the time we get to the kitchen he doesn’t even look human.

We have it in this monologue about invisible spirits and creatures as a junkie injects, as intricate and solid a world as that imagined in Lunch:

He held the syringe before all of us. I could never have afforded a shot like that. It should have been in a museum. “Inducing the creature,” he said softly. He felt expertly along his neck till he found the pulsing vein. There was a black tattoo of a cross running down his neck and the vein pulsed along the cross. He slid in the needle and pressed down on the syringe.

“The creature is induced to crawl. Induced to walk. Induced to beg. To soil itself or not to soil itself. The sin is not the inducement. That’s what those old Christians in the joint never understood.”

“The sin is not the inducement,” Fathead continued. “That He may raise up the Lord casts down. Even unto the pit. This shit we think we’re doing here.” He laughed. “Another eye burns in our eye, another hand reaches through our hand. This,” he held up his thick, needle-scarred hand, “this is a glove.” He gazed thickly on it. “An abode for any spirit of the air. Every unrighteous and unclean spirit.”

“And that’s what God is,” Fathead said. “When the creature is induced to crawl out of the creature. I’ve seen it myself. The whatever leaving his eyes, ‘dying.’ Crawling into the invisible world. A thousand spirits curled up in a spoon. You should see the spirit leaving a man’s face; you can feel the room get thicker. I’ve done it myself. I’ll do it again.”

It is there in the sequence where Clune creates for himself a fictional refuge as he tries to stop using, a refuge which cannot contain the piercing cold, and this imagined sanctuary conveys better than any simple physical details the deeply frightening sense of naked vulnerability when trying to kick the drug:

That first night of kicking, I imagined I was living in a castle. A blizzard was raging outside. I’d been trudging though the blizzard, carrying my sword and shield, fleeing the enemy. I knocked on the massive oak door of the castle. I heard the slow sound of the bar being raised and the door swinging open. The friendly warmth rushed out, strong friendly hands pulled me, fainting, inside.

“You must be exhausted,” said a tall, handsome man in chain mail. “Well, everything is going to be fine. We have everything you need in this castle. The walls are strong; the enemy will never get in. And we have enough supplies to last for years in here.” I nodded and tried to smile.

They showed me to a room high in the walls. A big fire roared in the fireplace. A clean, white bed piled deep with cushions lay in the corner. I stood for several minutes gazing at it. I repeated the contents of this room in the castle over and over to myself. I was shivering terribly.

“They have hundreds of soldiers to protect me in this castle. The blizzard rages outside. It is warm and safe and deep inside the castle. I’ll fall asleep now.” But the shivering cold came through the thick castle walls. They had to move me deeper inside the castle, where I’d be warm.

They had to move me again. Deep in the castle’s heart, to a windowless room, with an ancient glowing furnace and a fire burning in the fireplace. They’d never heard of drugs. I heard hundreds of soldiers rushing in the corridors.

“They’re going to their battle stations.” I invented the name of the enemy. The history of the country. The names of the people in the castle army. “Henry Abelove, Lieutenant.” I counted their weapons. Lieutenant Abelove led me on a tour of their supplies and armaments.

But something was missing. Despite the plentiful stores of food, everyone in the castle looked starved and crazy. Despite the vast fires, the huge furnaces, the halls piled high with entire felled forests, I could not stop shivering.

“There is no sleep in this castle,” Lieutenant Abelove said sadly.

“But,” I said, “I thought that one first enters the castle, and then passes through into sleep.” He shook his head.

“This entire structure is built along the wall of sleep, but at no point does it penetrate it.” I tried to follow his words.

“Can’t we use some of these weapons, some of this fuel to break through?” He shook his head sadly. I tried to stop thinking about the castle.

Naked Lunch is a book that is unremitting in its nihilism, though at the same time full of cheerful laughter. We are lecherous, we are wicked, we are cruel; virtue and good works will not save us from suffering and painful death, both of which can be very funny to a passerby. The outlook might be that of someone fallen to the bottom of a barrel, at a dead end bar, laughing at the fellow cripples alongside him. The humor is not that of a superior type looking down, or the cheerless kind of someone pining for some lost paradise and wanting to bring it back, but of a writer deep in muck who has no inclination to leave it. The landscape is unsettling, though not a Nowhereland, but very much America. New York City is life-like, and so is the book’s Missouri, filled with American types:

He stands up screaming and black blood spurts solid from his last erection, a pale white statue standing there, as if he had stepped whole across the Great Fence, climbed it innocent and calm as a boy climbs the fence to fish in the forbidden pond-in a few seconds he catches a huge catfish-The Old Man will rush out of a little black hut cursing, with a pitchfork, and the boy runs laughing across the Missouri field-he finds a beautiful pink arrowhead and snatches it up as he runs with a flowing swoop of young bone and muscle-(his bones blend into the field, he lies dead by the wooden fence a shotgun by his side, blood on frozen red clay seeps into the winter stubble of Georgia) . . . The catfish billows out behind him . . . He comes to the fence and throws the catfish over into blood-streaked grass . . . the fish lies squirming and squawking-vaults the fence. He snatches up the catfish and disappears up a flint-studded red clay road between oaks and persimmons dropping red-brown leaves in a windy fall sunset, green and dripping in summer dawn, black against a clear winter day . . . the Old Man screams curses after him . . . his teeth fly from his mouth and whistle over the boy’s head, he strains forward, his neck-cords tight as steel hoops, black blood spurts in one solid piece over the fence and he falls a fleshless mummy by the fever grass. Thorns grow through his ribs, the windows break in his hut, dusty glass-slivers in black putty-rats run over the floor and boys jack off in the dark musty bedroom on summer afternoons and eat the berries that grow from his body and bones, mouths smeared with purple-red juices . . .

By rooting the book so solidly in the United States, rather than create a separate new universe of obscenity, it makes clear that its world – of drugs, queerness, and nihilism – is a part of America and always has been. “American humor is a really angry rube humor,” a point made by Michael O’Donoghue, insightful observer and comedy legend. “Very mean and aggressive. I’ve always liked American jokes.”4

The movie adaptation junks this nihilism, and junks the mean-spirited laughter. One example: a story about becoming consumed by one’s own asshole, which might be about the junkie’s physical sense of self-destruction, but is most definitely a nasty joke, is given in the movie a portentous setting of a dark highway, as if there were some deep meaning at its heart, and the deep meaning were its purpose. We might look at the original story in the novel, told there by Dr. Benway, and immediately hear the distinction in the lively patter which might remind one of Lenny Bruce, or other comedians of the time:

BENWAY: “Why not one all-purpose blob? Did I ever tell you about the man who taught his asshole to talk? His whole abdomen would move up and down you dig farting out the words. It was unlike anything I ever heard.

“This ass talk had a sort of gut frequency. It hit you right down there like you gotta go. You know when the old colon gives you the elbow and it feels sorta cold inside, and you know all you have to do is turn loose? Well this talking hit you right down there, a bubbly, thick stagnant sound, a sound you could smell.

“This man worked for a carnival you dig, and to start with it was like a novelty ventriloquist act. Real funny, too, at first. He had a number he called ‘The Better ‘Ole’ that was a scream, I tell you. I forget most of it but it was clever. Like, ‘Oh I say, are you still down there, old thing?’

“‘Nah! I had to go relieve myself.’

“After a while the ass started talking on its own. He would go in without anything prepared and his ass would ad-lib and toss the gags back at him every time.

“Then it developed sort of teeth-like little raspy incurving hooks and started eating. He thought this was cute at first and built an act around it, but the asshole would eat its way through his pants and start talking on the street, shouting out it wanted equal rights. It would get drunk, too, and have crying jags nobody loved it and it wanted to be kissed same as any other mouth. Finally it talked all the time day and night, you could hear him for blocks screaming at it to shut up, and beating it with his fist, and sticking candles up it, but nothing did any good and the asshole said to him: ‘It’s you who will shut up in the end. Not me. Because we don’t need you around here any more. I can talk and eat and shit.’

“After that he began waking up in the morning with a transparent jelly like a tadpole’s tail all over his mouth. This jelly was what the scientists call un-D.T., Undifferentiated Tissue, which can grow into any kind of flesh on the human body. He would tear it off his mouth and the pieces would stick to his hands like burning gasoline jelly and grow there, grow anywhere on him a glob of it fell. So finally his mouth sealed over, and the whole head would have amputated spontaneous-(did you know there is a condition occurs in parts of Africa and only among Negroes where the little toe amputates spontaneously?)-except for the eyes, you dig. That’s one thing the asshole couldn’t do was see. It needed the eyes. But nerve connections were blocked and infiltrated and atrophied so the brain couldn’t give orders any more. It was trapped in the skull, sealed off. For a while you could see the silent, helpless suffering of the brain behind the eyes, then finally the brain must have died, because the eyes went out, and there was no more feeling in them than a crab’s eye on the end of a stalk.”

The movie has a tragedy in its first act, and this tragedy is its narrative heart, a re-play of Burroughs killing his own wife when he tried to shoot a glass on top of her head, and missed. This is all played sincerely, the protagonist even shedding tears, whereas an event like this in Naked Lunch, the book, would be played as a Buster Keaton pratfall. The tragedy pushes Bill Lee (Burroughs himself, for all intents and purposes) from New York City (a very ersatz one, compared to the very real one of the book) and his fellow writers (a barely disguised Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) to the mysterious Interzone. The book’s Interzone is very obviously the Tangier that Burroughs stayed in, full of spies, thieves, and disreputable characters; the paranoid scenes of the book are an attempt at capturing the paranoid setting5. The movie’s Interzone has vague references to the middle east, but is another place entirely of the imagination, the prevalent spies a seemingly arbitrary feature. There, Bill Lee meets a couple who are Paul and Jane Bowles, but given the names Paul and Joan Frost. This Joan is somehow a reborn version of the other Joan, Joan Lee, the dead wife. There is the suggestion that somehow Bill Lee must overcome his inhibitions about his own queerness, and that this will lead to finally becoming an accomplished writer. The movie hints that Bill killing Joan was an unconscious expression of a desire to rid himself of his female mate, in a conversation with the gay Paul Frost: “They say you murdered your wife,” says Paul Frost. “It wasn’t murder. It was an accident,” replies Bill Lee. “There are no accidents. For example…I’ve been killing my own wife slowly, over a period of years,” Frost replies. “Well, not intentionally. I mean, on the level of conscious intention, it’s insane, monstrous,” Frost adds. “We appreciate,” says a typewriter agent, “that you might find the thought of engaging in, uh, homosexual acts, morally and, uh, possibly even…physically repulsive.” Bill Lee himself speaks of the dread he feels about his own identity: “I shall never forget the unspeakable horror that froze the lymph in my glands, when the baneful word seared my reeling brain. I…was a homosexual. I thought of the painted, simpering female impersonators I had seen in a Baltimore nightclub. Could it be possible I was one of those subhuman things?” This also shows up as an unfinished phrase in his typewriter, with one word made ominous through its absence: queer.

(“Hank”, also known as Jack Kerouac, and “Martin”, also known as Allen Ginsberg)

(“Paul and Joan Frost”, also known as Paul and Jane Bowles)

(from the real life adventures of William and Joan)

“Are you a faggot?”, asks a young man who wants to pick up Bill. “Not by nature, no. I’m not. I wouldn’t say…faggot. No.” The young man wears a centipede on a chain, and when Lee picks up a centipede body at the marktet, he has a slow realization of dramatic revulsion. “I’d like you to meet a friend of mine,” says the young man. “He specializes in sexual ambivalence.” Lee is introduced to the Mugwump, whose head, covered in phallic tubes that spit jism, also changes into a typewriter. Both with the various typewriters and elsewhere, we have a theme of hermaphrodite sex, Lee’s aversion to queerness ovecome as the male blends into the female. Bill carresses with powder the sensual orifice of a typewriter. Bill sits with Joan as she types away, the typewriter transforming into a mixed gendered beast turned on by the erotic story Joan is typing. Bill and Joan have sex, and this same mixed gender beast joins in. Joan’s domineering female housekeeper, Fadela, is also her lover, a woman who actually turns out to be a man underneath, Dr. Benway. Bill first accepts, and is then repulsed anew by his own sexual identity: he finally sleeps with an Interzone double of the young man who propositioned him, and right after he is given a nightmare vision of queer life, a monstrous decadent piercing the same boy like a captured animal. In this movie with such a heavy debt to Burroughs own life, that Lee ends in a state of revulsion at queer sex is perhaps supposed to explain the frightening, malevolent sex of Burroughs’ books. Bill Lee gets Joan Frost back, ransoming her with the Mugwump’s head, the creature of sexual ambivalence. Lee leaves Interzone for Annexia with this new Joan Lee, who must die again before he can cross over to the new country. Her death is unavoidable, an experience that the writer will annex for his own books, and the moment she dies, Lee is given entrance. All this – the idea of the tragic, the necessity of confronting the tragic in your writing, along with the idea of queer life as an issue – is alien to the wiseacre universe of Naked Lunch, the novel.

Videodrome lacks the humor of Lunch, the novel, but it does have the book’s nihilism. At no point does it seem that there ever was a right choice for Max Renn to make, to avoid this increasingly strange and dangerous world. The two factions of Videodrome, headed by Barry Convex and Bianca O’Blivion, seem equally unsympathetic – though Convex takes a slight lead in malice. Neither offer salvation or safety from the bleakness. Where Lunch the movie is set in a phantom New York City, Videodrome takes place in a very real, squalid, unpolished Toronto, and placing the exotic horror in a specific place makes its fearsome effects more acute: this is really happening. “Toronto. I was terrified to come to Toronto,” said Roberto Benigni to Cronenberg, several years after Videodrome‘s release. “Because all I knew of it was from your films.”6

There are several points in Videodrome where, if we’re looking, we might see similarities to Naked Lunch, the book, but these are in terms of broad concept, rather than anything borrowed for the movie’s distinct and memorable imagery. The book tells us of the Senders, who are able to practice a kind of devastating mind control comparable to the way Max is manipulated by the rival parties of Videodrome. Overusing this form of telepathic control transforms the Sender into a centipede7 and there is a brief moment in Lunch when a man’s flesh drips away as green ooze, revealing a massive centipede underneath; Barry Convex is shot, and it’s as if something primordial emerges from within his dying body8. A character pulls a black furred egg from inside a boy, an alien object taken out, just like Barry Convex inserting a videotape into Max9. Lunch‘s Interzone is a place of unrestrained sadomasochistic fantasy, just like the virtual torture chamber of Videodrome10. The book ends with Bill Lee shooting two detectives that are hunting him, and then escaping off into the unknown, somewhere outside time and space. This might bear a passing resemblance to the killing spree of Renn, which climaxes in his leaving for a different kind of unknown11.

Were I to begin to try and get at the source of this movie’s power, I would say that it lies with the movie’s visual metaphors lacking anything like a structure, didactic or otherwise, which defines them. The context of Naked Lunch, the movie, gives a strong definition to its own metaphors. The creature of mixed genitalia that entangles itself with Bill Lee and Joan Frost, the typewriters with sensual openings, the jism spitting creature of sexual ambivalence, the Mugwump, are all part of the theme of a man unwilling to admit some aspect of his sexual identity, who is unable to admit to his complicity in his wife’s death, and who must try to admit to both in order to become a great writer. The metaphors of Videodrome may well be equally didactic, but lacking anything like the rigid surrounding organization, their power and mystery is enhanced.

For example, the metaphor, “my love for you is a rose bush in flames,” whatever its many flaws, is ambiguous in meaning without setting. Is this love like a holy one, a holy love profaned, a great love destroyed, or one so intense that it must be ephemeral? If this line is placed in the context of a short story about a man discovering his wife having an affair, the line is reduced to a singular meaning: our great sacred love is now destroyed. The metaphors of Videodrome may well lend themselves to didactic readings, but the story offers no direction one way or the other. I find this sense of stepping into something etheral, uncertain, is there at the movie’s very beginning when Bridey James wakes Renn from sleep:

ANNOUNCER
Civic TV, the one you take to bed with you.

BRIDEY JAMES
Max, it’s that time again. Time to slowly, painfully ease yourself back into consciousness. No, I’m not a dream, although I’ve been told I’m a vision of loveliness. I’m your faithful girl Friday, Bridey James, here with your wake-up call of today, Wednesday the 23rd. You got that? Wednesday the 23rd.

I always hear ease yourself back into consciousness as having a slight air of menace, as if Bridey knows of the dreamworld that is soon to come, and you can wonder to what extent she’s a conspirator with the other players in what comes next. Bridey has this ambiguity because like all the other characters in the movie, there really is no character there. They do what’s necessary for the plot and provide exposition, but do not have much more substance than that. Nicki Brand is an enigma of unreconciled elements. She hosts the “Emotional Rescue Show” (“You want help. You need help.”), and she’s clear that she thinks Renn’s movies are dangerous, “We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual. And I think that’s bad” Yet her first words at Max’s are, “Got any pornos?” She always wants more as well, a needle through the ear, a cigarette burned in her breast, and finally giving it all up to live her dream: to be on Videodrome. An actual character might give an intuitive coherence to these polarities, but she does not. Brian and Bianca O’Blivion are the movie’s only guides to the hallucinatory technology, and they may be villains as well – but that is left entirely to us. There is nothing in their character that implies one thing or the other, and we might read what we want.

The metaphors of the movie, as said, could be read in the simplest terms, of movies transforming men and women into the ideals of their gender. The identification with these ideals, our approaching these ideals, gives us a sense of power, yet ultimately we are submissives, submitting to media, whose ability to reproduce and distribute images throughout the world can be thought of as a near divine power. Nicki is submissive, longs to play a role where she’s constantly submissive, and she disappears to be an image, though it’s as an image she becomes dominant. We see her choke O’Blivion to death, and we see her take over Renn’s video system, where she entices Max to bury himself within her. This last, where he sticks his head inside the tumescent screen of her lips, doesn’t suggest male penetration so much as male surrender. Max becomes the movie ideal of his own gender, a man with a gun, and yet it’s also a position without power or choice. The gun seals itself to his hand, and he becomes only one thing, an assassin, just as Nicki becomes only one thing, an image. He kills at the command of others, for their reasons, first his work associates and then Barry Convex. The gun should be a symbol of dominance, and yet he’s only submitting to the commands of someone else. Before the gun melds to his hand, it first sinks into the genital crevasse of his stomach, the same place where the tapes are inserted that give him his kill orders. “When I first got on this picture, I was an actor. Now I feel like I’m just the bearer of the slit,” James Woods would say to Debbie Harry during production. “Now you know what it feels like,” she replied12.

(The newspaper story featured in the corner of this still is its own separate epic, detailing the adventures of rogue CIA agent Ed Wilson, who would sell weapons to Qaddafi in 1981. The Times story featured here is “Records show Wilson made millions on C.I.A. Experience”, while this site early on reviewed Peter Maas’s excellent book on the subject in the post “A Libyan Footnote, The Sorry Tale of Edwin Paul Wilson, or: Manhunt – The Incredible Pursuit of a CIA Agent Turned Terrorist (Peter Maas)”.)

This, I think, is a credible reading, but one without certainty. There is nothing in the surrounding plot or characters to push us towards this reading, only our own experience and the suggestibility of the metaphors themselves. There is something of the unconscious in the movie – “the film drifts along like a dream from one disturbing episode to another,” Keith Phipps wrote in an excellent discussion of the film13. We might compare it to another movie of the unconscious, seemingly untainted by rule-making or restriction, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Here, we are also given images in which a great deal can be read, whether it’s Sandy staring at Jeffrey with newfound fear on the way to Dorothy’s, the sensual mouth of Dorothy open with pleasure and holding a chipped tooth, a crippled mute father, a woman commanding a boy for sex, an abusive man dominating a woman who call each other mommy and daddy, etc. There is something beguiling in what is unseen in Velvet, that we’re never given the full truth of the conspiracy between the Booth gang and the police department, and that there’s something to the characters of Sandy and Dorothy that remains unknown.

This makes sense as part of the movie’s perspective, of an adolescent boy who has just touched on the world’s secrets, and will only know more of them much later. The characters of Dorothy and Sandy may not be fully seen, but they are full characters, with what we do see hinting at what’s beneath. Though Blue Velvet may be dream-like, it at least gives us some context for these images, connecting them to sex and sexual roles. The father’s physical decline pushes the son into the role of an adult, at the same time that he moves into the frightening and alluring world of sex beneath happy domesticity. Sandy is drawn to Jeffrey, and she might be drawn to him because he’s a detective, because he’s a pervert, or because he’s both. He wants to play the role of a hero and help Dorothy, but he wants to play the role of Frank as well, and hurt her. He wants to be with Sandy the way he’s with Dorothy, and Sandy wants that as well. The movie gives us this context for these images, so they undulate around a specific possible meaning, without ever becoming head smackingly specific: the secret revelation of Blue Velvet is not that Jeffrey’s father abuses his mother, or anything else of tangible fact. There are no secret revelations, only endless dreams.

We are given a context, in the characters and story of Blue Velvet, through which we might see these images, where we are given nothing comparable in Videodrome. There is nothing equal to those characters, which are not hidden, but seemingly not there at all, letting us, say, read as much mystery as we want in Bridey’s opening lines. Velvet allows us to reduce its images to a possible haze of meaning, while Videodrome gives us no such net. We are left with only the limits inherent in the images themselves, a vaginal gulf erupting in a man’s stomach, a gun falling within, and the gun grafting itself to his hand. The metaphors imply ideas that are not foreign to us, though the images themselves are alien. In a book with a realistic setting, these images would be acceptable similes, with obvious meanings of longing and violence. You are like the lips on the TV screen in which I bury myself. I am like the gun from which a man extends. I feel like TV is killing me. In Videodrome, these similes become metaphors that the characters inhabit. You are the lips on the TV screen in which I bury myself. I am the gun from which a man extends. TV is killing me.

I have attempted to use Naked Lunch as a helpful prism through which to see Videodrome, as images that are not unprecedented or some discrete island, but a set of metaphors kindred to Lunch, both of which find more felicitous expression in the fantastic than the literal. The other helpful perspective, which I don’t think is mentioned often enough, is to see Videodrome through the lens of faith. Max Renn lives in a squalid, decaying city trafficing in a product that has value but no substance, and little or no utility. Capitalism is decadent, his city is in decline, like Rome’s, and here we have an interesting setting for his introduction to the mysteries of Videodrome. It is Masha who leads Renn to the O’Blivions, and in her first scene, she sells him a video of a roman orgy, Apollo And Dionysus (the gods are greek, but it looks very much like a roman bacchanal), and the second opens with a dancer and a restaurant, both clearly in a faux oriental style14. We might see here references to the two capitals of a past empire, Rome and Byzantium, before the arrival of a new creed. Where do we find the O’Blivions? At The Cathode Ray Mission, where they evangelize the poor and abandoned, just as any church might. Max: “You think TV can help them?” Bianca: “Watching TV will help patch them back into the world’s mixing board.”

A book I found very useful for looking at this movie in this light is Emile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, an attempt to find the essential underlying forms of religion by investigating the religious life of the tribes of Austrlia and North America. How much of its scholarship has been superceded by later efforts I am uncertain; I have found it a valuable source of insight whatever was published afterwards. The book’s description of how the concept of a soul may have come about is especially striking:

In order to find the elementary form of the religious life in these animistic beliefs and practices, three desiderata must be satisfied: first, since according to this hypothesis, the idea of the soul is the cardinal idea of religion, it must be shown how this is formed without taking any of its elements from an anterior religion; secondly, it must be made clear how souls become the object of a cult and are transformed into spirits; and thirdly and finally, since the cult of these spirits is not all of any religion, it remains to be explained how the cult of nature is derived from it.

According to this theory, the idea of the soul was first suggested to men by the badly understood spectacle of the double life they ordinarily lead, on the one hand, when awake, on the other, when asleep. In fact, for the savage, the mental representations which he has while awake and those of his dreams are said to be of the same value: he objectifies the second like the first, that is to say, that he sees in them the images of external objects whose appearance they more or less accurately reproduce. So when he dreams that he has visited a distant country, he believes that he really was there. But he could not have gone there, unless two beings exist within him: the one, his body, which has remained lying on the ground and which he finds in the same position on awakening; the other, during this time, has travelled through space. Similarly, if he seems to talk with one of his companions who he knows was really at a distance, he concludes that the other also is composed of two beings: one which sleeps at a distance, and another which has come to manifest himself by means of the dream. From these repeated experiences, he little by little arrives at the idea that each of us has a double, another self, which in determined conditions has the power of leaving the organism where it resides and of going roaming at a distance.

Of course, this double reproduces all the essential traits of the perceptible being which serves it as external covering; but at the same time it is distinguished from this by many characteristics. It is more active, since it can cover vast distances in an instant. It is more malleable and plastic; for, to leave the body, it must pass out by its apertures, especially the mouth and nose. It is represented as made of matter, undoubtedly, but of a matter much more subtile and etherial than any which we know empirically. This double is the soul. In fact, it cannot be doubted that in numerous societies the soul has been conceived in the image of the body; it is believed that it reproduces even the accidental deformities such as those resulting from wounds or mutilations.

This idea of a double, exactly like us but enhanced in some traits, comes to us from a century old book, and yet it describes well the avatars people have in videogames, and the proxies they seek out in movies and TV. The ability for men or women to identify with a particular actor is often considered essential to their success, for the audience to be able to see themselves as this person and live vicariously through them, on-screen and off. Hollywood is called the dream factory, and celebrity life is often thought of as dream-like, with the on-going question of how “real” it is. In one disturbing moment, Max slaps Bridey, but he’s actually slapping Nicki, but no – he’s not slapping anybody at all. Here, and elsewhere, we have something not unlike when we find ourselves in a very real-like dream, only to act, and to find ourselves awake. We also have the worry that long precedes any concerns about violence in videogames and movies, about whether the subconscious brutality and sex that emerges in our dreams is something dangerous.

We might also find something insightful in its description of the ways in which animist beliefs arose, which might apply to the imagery of the movie:

Since the first beings of which the child commences to have an idea are men, that is, himself and those around him, it is upon this model of human nature that he tends to think of everything. The toys with which he plays, or the objects of every sort which affect his senses, he regards as living beings like himself. Now the primitive thinks like a child. Consequently, he also is inclined to endow all things, even inanimate ones, with a nature analogous to his own.

The world of Max Renn is one where objects take on a kindred human sensibility; he is transformed by the Videodrome signal, and these objects are as well. He imagines himself slapping Nicki, whipping a TV carrying her image, he is moved to sexual ecstasy by the masochism of Nicki and the idea of sexual violence. The tape’s pockets stick out like teeth, eager to bite, with the same appetite for violence as Max, his TV swells with a veined tumescence, turned on by the image of Nicki. The child transposes his feelings on his toys, and Max sees his essence animating his objects as well.

Brian O’Blivion is a leader in this new faith, and his explanation of how he acquired his gift of sight suggest something like the paradox of god and the first cause. The universe requires a first cause, which is god, and that in turn brings up what was the first cause of god, where we might say the divine is its own first cause, or that cause and effect breaks down in the field of the divine, or some other solution. Brian O’Blivion, we are told, helped create Videodrome, after which he was killed by his fellow creators:

BIANCA
My father helped to create Videodrome. He saw it as part of the evolution of man as a technological animal. When he realised what his partners were going to use it for, he tried to take it away from them and they killed him, quietly.

Yet at the same time, the very hallucinations of Videodrome create it:

BRIAN
I had a brain tumour. And I had visions. I believe the visions caused the tumour, and not the reverse. I could feel the visions coalesce and become flesh, uncontrollable flesh. But when they removed the tumour, it was called Videodrome.

We have a phenomenon, that like the divine, is its own first cause, and where orderly cause and effect disappear. Brian O’Blivion is dead, but his words continue to guide the living. “This is him. This is all that’s left,” Bianca says, pointing to shelves and shelves of tapes. He is seemingly dead, but he isn’t. Max: “But he was on that panel show.” Bianca: “On tape. He made thousands of them, sometimes three or four a day. I keep him alive as best I can. He had so much to offer.” Again, this might be seen as something strange and new, when it is simply a transposition of a tradition common to any religious faith, where adherents consult the words of beings of the past, no longer on earth, but who have prescription, guidance, or wisdom for every occasion, whether they be Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, or another.

The conflict between the O’Blivions and Barry Convex might be seen as that between different schisms of the same faith, with the O’Blivions wanting to achieve transcendence through the creed, while Convex wishes to use the creed for practical ends, as a force to shape a hard nationalist ethos.

HARLAN
North America is getting soft, patrón, and the rest of the world is getting tough. Very, very tough. We’re entering savage new times and we’re going to have to be pure and direct… and strong…if we’re going to survive them. Now, you and this…cesspool you call a television station…and your people who wallow around in it and your viewers… who watch you do it…you’re rotting us away from the inside. We intend to stop that rot.

This is a movie where the villain runs Spectacular Optical, a business that sells glasses, a villain named Barry Convex, and a convex lens is one that focues light to a particular point. He wishes to use this new religion as a directed force, while the goals of the O’Blivions are separate from any state or any earthly purpose. Convex is killed during the presentation of his new Medici line, and perhaps the name is not idly chosen. The Medicis, as most know, would come into conflict with the fanatic Savonarola, who wished to reform the catholic church which had close ties to the merchant family. We might see the fight between Convex, who wishes to use the creed for secular objectives, and the O’Blivions, who see the faith as an end in itsself, as echoing this old division between the Medicis and the zealot.

The O’Blivions genuinely wish that people achieve a final stage, the new flesh, which Max attempts in the movie’s ending. We have here another similarity with religion, where the apotheosis of faith is considered the abandonment of flesh itself. Durkheim touches on this phenomenon as well, when discussing the shared trait of all religions of keeping separate the profane and sacred worlds. The most dedicated of the faith attempt to avoid the profane as much as possible, with the most extreme answer the avoidance of all profanities of the flesh by forsaking it completely through suicide:

The two worlds are not only conceived of as separate, but as even hostile and jealous rivals of each other. Since men cannot fully belong to one except on condition of leaving the other completely, they are exhorted to withdraw themselves completely from the profane world, in order to lead an exclusively religious life. Hence comes the monasticism which is artificially organized outside of and apart from the natural environment in which the ordinary man leads the life of this world, in a different one, closed to the first, and nearly its contrary. Hence comes the mystic asceticism whose object is to root out from man all the attachment for the profane world that remains in him. From that come all the forms of religious suicide, the logical working-out of this asceticism; for the only manner of fully escaping the profane life is, after all, to forsake all life.

There are many examples of this, but I turn to one of the more well-known of recent ones, when thirty nine members of the Heaven’s Gate cult peacefully committed suicide. This was not considered by them a rejection of life, but an attempt at a kind of space travel, which required them to leave their physical bodies. “We are all choosing of our own free will to go to the next level,” says one of the women who died15. The “next level” was one way they referred to it; “Evolutionary Level Above Human” was another. The process of leaving their bodies was called “exiting the vehicles” or “disengaging from the body or vehicle”. This exodus was initiated by the return of the Hale-Bopp comet, after which they were to return to their homeworld of Sirius. Before death, they recorded messages of calm happiness: “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long” or, “I couldn’t have made a better choice.”16 Ten years after the event, the L.A. Weekly piece “Heaven’s Gate: The Sequel” by Joshuah Bearman, would describe the belief system and place it as part of a long tradition: “Updating esoteric, early Christianity by way of science fiction, their millennial paradise could be found only by renouncing terrestrial attachments and shedding one’s “container” or “vehicle” to ascend into space and live eternally with the Chief of Chiefs, or God.” In the context of such events, the movie’s final moment where Max Renn says “Long live the new flesh”, then shoots himself, does not seem alien at all, but part of a larger tradition as well.

A LIQUID PRISONER PENT IN WALLS OF GLASS17

That the O’Blivions are equally malicious as the Convex faction is strongly hinted at, I think, in this final scene. Only a little while earlier, after Max’s failed attempt to kill Bianca O’Blivion, we have this dialogue:

BIANCA O’BLIVION
They killed her, Max. They killed Nicki Brand. She died on Videodrome. They used her image to seduce you but she was already dead.

Given that the image of Nicki Brand was used before to seduce and manipulate Max, and given that Barry Convex and Harlan are now dead, the only source for the movie’s closing image of Nicki must be Bianca. Since this is an image that has been used in the past to manipulate Max, it might be asked if it’s being used here for the same purpose, this time by Bianca, in order to dispose of an inconvenient leftover assassin. Even the same line said earlier, “Come to Nicki”, and the same seductive tone, is now used again:

NICKI
I want you, Max. You. Come on. Come on. Come to me now. Come to Nicki.

NICKI
Don’t be afraid to let your body die. Just come to me, Max. Come to Nicki.

So, Max Renn is perhaps being lured by another kind of illusion, the possibility of a transcendent afterlife. We might also note the non-specificity of the devastating phrase, “They used her image to seduce you but she was already dead.” What seduction is Bianca speaking of, and from when on was Nicki already dead? It’s right after Max Renn is exposed to the videodrome signal that he meets Nicki on the talk show, and I’ve always felt the dialogue in that scene to be unnatural. I try to think of what their banter reminds me of, and then I remember: the strange, uncomfortable talk in between the action of old soft-core porn.

RENA KING
What about it, Nicki? Is it socially positive?

NICKI
We live in overstimulated times. We crave stimulation. We gorge ourselves on it. We always want more, whether it’s tactile, emotional or sexual. And I think that’s bad.

MAX
Then why did you wear that dress?

NICKI
Sorry?

MAX
That dress. It’s very stimulating. And it’s red. You know what Freud would say about it?

NICKI
And he would have been right. I admit it. I live in a highly excited state of overstimulation.

MAX
Listen, I’d really like to take you out to dinner tonight.

RENA KING
Nicki…is Max Renn a menace to society?

NICKI
I’m not sure. He’s certainly a menace to me.

Is this lack of versimilitude an unintentional effect, or a very intended one, of a man who isn’t meeting a live woman at all, but only the image of a dead one? I hear “they used her image to seduce you”, and I think that there can be only one possible meaning, because Renn is first seduced by Nicki on the talk show. From which it naturally follows: Nicki is already dead, only an image, throughout the movie.

The idea of an image superceding the life that inspired it, is one more exotic idea not native to Videodrome, but a commonplace of our world, where the living are often an impediment to the power of the icon’s image. We might return briefly to the work of William Gibson, to see him touch on the idea of the supremacy of the image in Idoru, where a living singer marries another singer, one who is only a hologram. This, however, is only the use of the near future as a metaphor for the ever present. To take one of the more obvious examples, the image of Marilyn Monroe is eternally that of a woman who never reaches forty, without anything alive to grow old, anything to remind one of Monroe as anything human, anything other than an icon. One anecdote told in Goddess by Anthony Summers, is of Monroe’s interest in Juliette Récamier, who commissioned a nude statue of herself. As Récamier aged, and her figure started to go, she had the breasts of the statue smashed. When Monroe began to age, she smashed herself18. The cruelest thing that can be said of Elvis Presley’s death is: good career move. The cruelest thing that can be said of Marilyn Monroe’s death is: good timing.

This kind of image, an icon that persists and supercedes the actual performer’s existence, derives its power from being an engima whose questions are never answered – who exactly was Marilyn Monroe? – which is intertwined with its second quality, someone intimate yet always at a great distance as if we are seeing them as part of a massive crowd. There is an exact moment in Monroe’s life which captures this, when she appears before thousands of troops in South Korea, and it was this moment that made obvious how big a star she would become. From The Genius and the Goddess by Jeffrey Meyers:

Performing for the first time before a live, rapturous audience, Marilyn did ten shows in four days and entertained 100,000 troops. The soldiers were muffled up in fur hats with ear flaps, heavy winter jackets and thick combat boots, while she gamely appeared, outdoors and in the extremely cold Korean winter, in high heels and a tight, strapless, low-cut dress. She enlivened the show with some suggestive jokes, and asked, when describing sweater girls, “take away their sweaters and what have you got?”

She sang four songs: “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” “Bye Bye Baby,””Somebody Loves Me” and “Do It Again.”The refrain in the last song – “Come and get it, you won’t regret it” – was considered too provocative for the sexually starved troops and had to be dropped from the repertory. She excited the audience, who screamed with delight and craved what she was offering, and brought the shows to a frenzied climax.

This allows us to move easily into the life of another woman who became focused on the ecstasy of the crowd’s reaction, and wanted something likewise in her own life. From Sinner Takes All by adult performer Tera Patrick with Carrie Borzillo:

How bad do you want what you want? I wanted to be famous and adored so bad it nearly killed me. Well, in all honestly, I nearly killed me. But before we get to that, let me start at the beginning….

In 1986 I was ten years old and my mother had already left us. It was just me, Linda Ann Hopkins, and my dad, David Hopkins, a carefree hippie of English, Dutch, and Irish descent. I was born in Great Falls, Montana, but was living with my dad in Fresno. On a rare father-daughter day out, he took me to a thrift store in town to do some shopping. We were on a budget. As we made our way though the tiny, cramped shop, I saw her hanging on the dusty wall behind some cracked vases and rusty candelabras. It was a beautiful black-and-white photograph of Marilyn Monroe from the Korean USO tour she did in 1954. She was beaming as she posed for hundreds of handsome men in uniform, who in turn were ogling her in all her blond-haired, blueeyed glory.

Something lit up inside me when I saw that photograph. I thought, “Someday, men are going to look at me that way.”

I couldn’t stop staring at this photo, thinking how much I wanted to be that girl. The girl everyone adores. The girl whom fame made so happy (little did I know what a sad wreck she really was). All I knew about Marilyn at the time was how much I wanted to exude the power that she did. I wanted to be famous like that. I just didn’t know what for yet. I never thought it would be for porn.

That what Patrick wished for, what she wanted fulfilled, was fame more than anything else, is stressed in two other places in the memoir:

She [photographer Suze Randall] followed through. We shot that Friday for Penthouse. It was just a few days before my scheduled Monday meeting with Playboy. I couldn’t believe it was happening so fast. All I could think was, “I’m going to be in Playboy and Penthouse, make tons of money, and be famous!”

When I entered the adult industry, it was not my goal to become a mainstream actress or star. If that’s what I wanted to do, I would’ve gone the typical route of taking acting lessons, going in for auditions, and trying to get bit parts like every Hollywood hopeful does. But that wasn’t my quest. I’ll be honest, I just wanted to be famous and I liked to model and to be nude.

Patrick would eventually achieve her goal, and she gives us a scene in her memoir comparable to Monroe’s, of a crowd infatuated with her presence. She herself states that “it’s easier to perform for a larger audience than a more intimate one,” and it might be argued that this is what the fan wants, not intimacy, but intimacy combined with distance, the woman nude on-stage amongst a crowd of thousands. The meet and greet afterwards does not involve meeting a person separate and apart from the image, which the image reproduces, but rather, meeting a person who is a live reproduction of the image, and so the distance on the stage and the brief meet do not impede the wanted effect, but are necessary for it to take place.

One of the biggest conventions I ever did was the Sexpo in Sydney, Australia, in 2004. I appeared at the convention for a whopping fee of $20,000 (and first-class airfare and accommodations, no less!), but where we really made bank was when they booked me to dance at a venue that normally hosts big rock bands and seats eight thousand people. I had eight nearly sold-out shows in four days there.

Before we knew how big the venue really was and that it was sold out, Evan [Evan Seinfeld, her husband] gave me this pep talk: “Don’t worry if there’s only two hundred people there. You’re new to the market. Don’t worry.” And then we show up and there were thousands of people there. Once again there wasn’t a stripper pole on the stage because it wasn’t a strip club, so we decided to improvise a bit and use a chair in the center of the stage as a prop. But that didn’t help much. The huge stage made our tiny chair look like Stonehenge from the movie This Is Spinal Tap. We were cracking up over that. Evan decided to just treat it like a rock show and use the video monitors at the venue to show my performance. That did the trick.

The large crowd didn’t freak me out at all. In fact, it’s easier to perform for a larger audience than a more intimate one. It’s easy to be great when you have thousands of people screaming for you. The intensity of the crowd really got me going, and I killed!

The line for photos and merchandise afterward was the longest line I’d ever had in my entire career. It was so long and so slow that Evan got a megaphone and was walking down the line telling people, “Due to the large volume of fans, we are selling one thing. It’s a package with a DVD, a Polaroid with Tera, and an autographed eight-by-ten photo for fifty Australian dollars.” He was embarrassing me. He’d stand up on the table and shout out: “Cash only!”

The relationship of the audience to the famous individual here, which also transfers over to the image of the famous individual, is expressed well in dialogue from one of Patrick’s films, Tera Patrick Filthy Whore 2. Whatever happens after this dialogue is of no importance here. I bold the most important point:

BELLA DIAMOND
The fans are out there by the thousands.

RUDY PARADISE
You know I had it with those damn premieres, all those screaming people. Those great unwashed.

DIAMOND
We’re royalty to them, honey. Dollar Diamond and Ruby Paradise. The great screen lovers. They support us in grand style. The least we could do is let them worship us once in a while. What’s that?

PARADISE
Oh, honey that’s not you think, it’s-

DIAMOND
IN MY DRESSING ROOM!

PARADISE
No, no-

DIAMOND
YOU SCREWED ANOTHER WOMAN IN MY DRESSING ROOM!

PARADISE
It’s not what you think. It’s a present for the premiere. C’mon.

DIAMOND
Are you telling me the truth?

PARADISE
Would I lie?

DIAMOND
Glamour puss?

PARADISE
You’re my glamour puss, sweetie. C’mon, you’re the glamour puss of the century.

DIAMOND
It is beautiful. You have great taste, Rudy. Where did you find it?

PARADISE
Oh, from a guy down in de Vandeville. I put a little money on layaway, just for the right time.

DIAMOND
Pay her the rest, darling, because this baby has found a home.

PARADISE
Oh come on, that’s not a kiss.

DIAMOND
You can fuck me darling, but you can’t mess up my make-up.

This idea of worship is not so remarkable or noteworthy to stand out at all in this movie or anywhere. I think it’s only by looking at the connections between this kind of idolatry and the religious form that we might have a sense as to why it’s so important for Tera Patrick to be famous, that she “wanted to be famous and adored so bad it nearly killed me”, a feeling which is not some isolated pathology but considered a common desire. We might find some insight by returning to Durkheim, who pinpoints something called mana as being central to the religion of various melanesian tribes:

Now among these peoples, we find, under the name of mana, an idea which is the exact equivalent of the wakan of the Sioux19 and the orenda of the Iroquois20. The definition given by Codrington [The Melanesians : Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore by Robert Henry Codrington, link is to the full text on archive.org] is as follows: “There is a belief in a force altogether distinct from physical power, which acts in all ways for good and evil; and which it is of the greatest advantage to possess or control. This is Mana. I think I know what our people mean by it…It is a power or influence, not physical and in a way supernatural; but it shows itself in physical force, or in any kind of power or excellence which a man possesses. This mana is not fixed in anything, and can be conveyed in almost anything. . . . All Melanesian religion consists, in fact, in getting this mana for one’s self, or getting it used for one’s benefit.”

This idea of mana, and the related concepts of wakan and orenda, are not parochial concerns, but arguably underlie all the religions which follow:

This is the original matter out of which have been constructed those beings of every sort which the religions of all times have consecrated and adored. The spirits, demons, genii and gods of every sort are only the concrete forms taken by this energy, or “potentiality,” as Hewitt calls it, in individualizing itself, in fixing itself upon a certain determined object or point in space, or in centring around an ideal and legendary being, though one conceived as real by the popular imagination. A Dakota questioned by Miss Fletcher expressed this essential consubstantiability of all sacred things in language that is full of relief.” Every thing as it moves, now and then, here and there, makes stops. The bird as it flies stops in one place to make its nest, and in another to rest in its flight. A man when he goes forth stops when he wills. So the god has stopped. The sun, which is so bright and beautiful, is one place where he has stopped. The trees, the animals, are where he has stopped, and the Indian thinks of these places and sends his prayers to reach the place where the god has stopped and to win help and a blessing.” In other words, the wakan (for this is what he was talking about) comes and goes through the world, and sacred things are the points upon which it alights.

We are now in a better condition to understand why it has been impossible to define religion by the idea of mythical personalities, gods or spirits; it is because this way of representing religious things is in no way inherent in their nature. What we find at the origin and basis of religious thought are not determined and distinct objects and beings possessing a sacred character of themselves; they are indefinite powers, anonymous forces, more or less numerous in different societies, and sometimes even reduced to a unity, and whose impersonality is strictly comparable to that of the physical forces whose manifestations the sciences of nature study.

The wakan is the cause of all the movements which take place in the universe. We have even seen that the orenda of the Iroquois is “the efficient cause of all the phenomena and all the activities which are manifested around men.” It is a power “inherent in all bodies and all things.” It is the orenda which makes the wind blow, the sun lighten and heat the earth, or animals reproduce and which makes men strong, clever and intelligent. When the Iroquois says that the life of all nature is the product of the conflicts aroused between the unequally intense orenda of the different beings, he only expresses, in his own language, this modern idea that the world is a system of forces limiting and containing each other and making an equihbrium.

The Melanesian attributes this same general efficacy to his mana. It is owing to his mana that a man succeeds in hunting or fighting, that gardens give a good return or that flocks prosper. If an arrow strikes its mark, it is because it is charged with mana; it is the same cause which makes a net catch fish well, or a canoe ride well on the sea, etc. It is true that if certain phrases of Codrington [The Melanesians : Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore by Robert Henry Codrington, link is to the full text on archive.org] are taken literally, mana should be the cause to which is attributed “everything which is beyond the ordinary power of men, outside the common processes of nature.” But from the very examples which he cites, it is quite evident that the sphere of the mana is really much more extended. In reality, it serves to explain usual and everyday phenomena; there is nothing superhuman or supernatural in the fact that a ship sails or a hunter catches game, etc.

This idea of mana, a universal, ubiquitous force, is already well-known to us as an abstraction in a fictional universe, so well-known that I can quote a monologue devoted to it, and I have no need to identify the source movie as most readers will know immediately from where it comes:

Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you; between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.

We might take the divine as something like an infinitely dense cluster of a quantity like mana. At the same time, it is not something outside of society, but contained within and dependent on the society itself:

But a god is not merely an authority upon whom we depend; it’s a force upon which our strength relies. The man who has obeyed his god and who, for this reason, believes the god is with him, approaches the world with confidence and with the feeling of an increased energy. Likewise, social action does not confine itself to demanding sacrifices, privations and efforts from us. For the collective force is not entirely outside of us; it does not act upon us wholly from without; but rather, since society cannot exist except in and through individual consciousnesses, this force must also penetrate us and organize itself within us; it thus becomes an integral part of our being and by that very fact this is elevated and magnified.

That the veneration of those in society overlaps with this idea of someone having great mana, great divine power, is obvious to Durkheim as well:

Also, in the present day just as much as in the past, we see society constantly creating sacred things out of ordinary ones. If it happens to fall in love with a man and if it thinks it has found in him the principal aspirations that move it, as well as the means of satisfying them, this man will be raised above the others and, as it were, deified. Opinion will invest him with a majesty exactly analogous to that protecting the gods. This is what has happened to so many sovereigns in whom their age had faith: if they were not made gods, they were at least regarded as direct representatives of the deity. And the fact that it is society alone which is the author of these varieties of apotheosis, is evident since it frequently chances to consecrate men thus who have no right to it from their own merit. The simple deference inspired by men invested with high social functions is not different in nature from religious respect. It is expressed by the same movements: a man keeps at a distance from a high personage; he approaches him only with precautions; in conversing with him, he uses other gestures and language than those used with ordinary mortals. The sentiment felt on these occasions is so closely related to the religious sentiment that many peoples have confounded the two. In order to explain the consideration accorded to princes, nobles and political chiefs, a sacred character has been attributed to them. In Melanesia and Polynesia, for example, it is said that an influential man has mana, and that his influence is due to this mana. However, it is evident that his situation is due solely to the importance attributed to him by public opinion. Thus the moral power conferred by opinion and that with which sacred beings are invested are at bottom of a single origin and made up of the same elements. That is why a single word is able to designate the two.

Thus, we can explain the desire of Tera Patrick and others to be famous. They wish to be touched by mana, they wish to become sacred objects. The sense of a sacredness mentioned here, the necessary “distance from a high personage”, is something recognizably intertwined with celebrity, where the famous are seemingly kept excluded and away, in private planes, high class restaurants, the VIP room of the club, a secret society outside of sight. For the famous to be seen in our world, in public and without make-up, seemingly ordinary, is treated as a revelation. The only moments when the sacred and the profane are officially to meet, when the profaned might gaze on the sacred is during tightly organized ceremonies, as carefully planned and supervised as anicent religious rituals, such as red carpet events and the Oscars. Durkheim’s passage here on the prohibition of the profane touching the sacred, the negative cult as one organized around such contact, is helpful when we consider celebrities and their environs as the sacred, prohibited objects:

There are religious interdictions whose object is to separate two sacred things of different species from each other. For example, it will be remembered that among the Wakelbura the scaffold upon which the corpse is exposed must be made exclusively of materials belonging to the phratry of the dead man; this is as much as to say that all contact between the corpse, which is sacred, and the things of the other phratry, which are also sacred, but differently, is forbidden. Elsewhere, the arms which one uses to hunt an animal with cannot be made out of a kind of wood that is classed in the same social group as the animal itself. But the most important of these interdictions are the ones which we shall study in the next chapter; they are intended to prevent all communication between the purely sacred and the impurely sacred, between the sacredly auspicious and the sacredly inauspicious. All these interdictions have one common characteristic; they come, not from the fact that some things are sacred while others are not, but from the fact that there are inequalities and incompatibilities between sacred things. So they do not touch what is essential in the idea of sacredness. The observance of these prohibitions can give place only to isolated rites which are particular and almost exceptional; but it could not make a real cult, for before all, a cult is made by regular relations between the profane and the sacred as such. But there is another system of religious interdictions which is much more extended and important; this is the one which separates, not different species of sacred things, but all that is sacred from all that is profane. So it is derived immediately from the notion of sacredness itself, and it limits itself to expressing and realizing this. Thus it furnishes the material for a veritable cult, and even of a cult which is at the basis of all the others; for the attitude which it prescribes is one from which the worshipper must never depart in all his relations with the sacred. It is what we call the negative cult. We may say that its interdicts are the religious interdicts par excellence.

The sacred ultimately resides exclusively in images, with the actual encounter with the celebrity behind the image often a disappointment, not due to their own inherent failings, but simply because they are not an image. When the celebrity dies, any such impediment to the process dies, and if they die at thirty-six like Marilyn Monroe, any evidence of a life of aging, disease, or physical deterioration which might imply the limits of the image, this dies as well. The image divests itself of all connections with life, like Max Renn in Videodrome or any other devotee to a religious ideal, and becomes even more sacred. The image, even and especially the sexual image, is only that, without the element of the tactile or the tangible. Something of this is gotten at in this discussion from 1991 with Norman Mailer, on the idea of people who become objects of desire. I pay no attention to the digressions into feminism. From “Norman Mailer on Bookworm, Part Two [1991]“ (15:20-17:28 in the clip):

MICHAEL SILVERBLATT [program host]
I don’t think I’ve heard anybody say this…there’s an enormous fear…on people’s part…to be the object of desire. To cause desire.

MAILER
Well, there you may have something. Certain people, not all. [SILVERBLATT: Not all people.] You gave me an idea. I think it’s people who have set their course in life, and they’re what I would call uni-souls…that is, they do not really want to have a deep relation with anyone else. Because that’ll deter them from their objective. It’s as if the navigator in them has lined up their sights, and said to them, “You are a torpedo. And if nothing deters you, you will be a huge success. You will blow up that huge target that is the very end of your ambition, and you will be immortal. And so, don’t let anything get in your way, just be a torpedo.” Well, people like that, sexual harassment’s absolutely outrageous. And it’s interesting that women who are leading feminism very often are that way. That is, they are singleminded in their goals. Feminism is their life. They see nothing to the left or the right of feminism. It’s not like, let’s improve men and women together, or: let’s try to rise to a higher level of human relations. It’s: feminism is the most important single thing in their lives, and they work for it twenty-four hours a day. They’re devoted to it. And they too are torpoedoes. You know, they got one goal.

SILVERBLATT
I don’t know if it’s even characteristic of feminism. What I notice, living here in Los Angeles, which people call nowadays, “the least sexy city in America.” The most beautiful looking people, and the least sexually in kind people. Very low libido levels. The look is meant to create attraction, but there’s a strong “do not touch”. Because of exactly that torpedo factor you are talking about. People wanting to spring themselves into the future, and land at the center of the bullseye, and along that trajectory, attraction and dalliance can only be an interruption.

The place that Marilyn Monroe and other dead icons hold in our culture might be found in Durkheim’s distinction between ghosts and spirits, with Monroe very much a spirit:

[A] ghost is not a real spirit. In the first place, it generally has only a limited power of action; also, it does not have a definite province. It is a vagabond, upon whom no determined task is incumbent, for the effect of death has been to put it outside of all regular forms; as regards the living, it is a sort of a exile. A spirit, on the other hand, always has a power of a certain sort and it is by this that it is defined; it is set over a certain order of cosmic or social phenomena; it has a more or less precise function to fulfil in the system of the universe.

But there are some souls which satisfy this double condition and which are consequently spirits, in the proper sense of the word. These are the souls of the mythical personages whom popular imagination has placed at the beginning of time, the Altjirangamitjina or the men of the Alcheringa among the Arunta; the Mura-mura among the tribes of Lake Eyre; the Muk-Kurnai among the Kurnai, etc. In one sense, they are still souls, for they are believed to have formerly animated bodies from which they separated themselves at a certain moment. But even when they led a terrestrial life, they already had, as we have seen, exceptional powers; they had a mana superior to that of ordinary men, and they have kept it. Also, they are charged with definite functions.

That there is this kinship between ancient mana and fame, that we might speak of wanting mana when we say we want fame (and vice versa), is perhaps why there is a constant necessity to see some benevolent order in celebrityhood. Mana is divine material, god is inherently and eternally good, and therefore mana and fame are distributed according to virtue. The most famous are supposed to do good work, adopt children, and otherwise make obvious that this organization has the quality of divine sanction. This, of course, is utterly false. We might see the gulf in the life of Jenna Jameson, as described in her memoir How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale. Patrick and Jameson were engaged for a while in a not entirely friendly rivalry, and I make no attempt to weigh favor in that larger dispute when I say that Cautionary Tale is my preferred book of their memoirs, whether because of Jameson’s ghostwriter Neil Strauss (who played the same role for the memorable Long Road out of Hell by Marilyn Manson), or the raw materials of the life described. I do not elevate Jameson’s book out of any attempt to be a provocateur, only the virtue of the book itself, and only for that reason I think it serves as an honest and invaluable document in capturing what life was like now, more insightful than many books more distinguished and higher browed.

That I speak of a divine order of fame that would include pornography is perhaps unexpected, but not without basis. We might speak of a system of organization and distribution, in the manufacture and sale of products whose power is so great as to suggest the divine. This system might be called capitalism, whatever its actual qualities, a system which transmits the images of any beauty throughout the world, that produces powerful computer technology, that gives you access to affordable food and shoes. Pornography is part of this system’s god-like power, because it is through this vast system that beauty, the beauty of Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick, a beguiling surface that might be called something like a divine ideal, is exposed and unveiled for the billions. It is an order of divine power, with an underside that hints at the infernal. The disgusting conditions of the Amazon warehouses, the workers who are poisoned while making iPads, the children who make my shoes. There is the literally infernal as well, the hundreds who burned to death last year in the clothing factories of Bangladesh. The life of Jenna Jameson is the raw amoral anarchy that lies underneath, a godless world where there are only the strong above and the weak below, of contempt and control.

There is nothing here like the humble submission and divine benevolence as that between the worshipper and say, the Holy Virgin. Jameson is a picture of blonde innocence, a ruthless survivor, and a proud cash machine. “I was in control-of myself, and the men around me,” she writes of her first time dancing in a strip club. “And I loved it: I loved the attention and the confidence it gave me.”21 The strip club is a classroom, and the class is social dynamics. Once geeky and asocial, she learns how to talk. She learns how to act. She learns how to lie. While the customer mumbles on, she pretends to be open and caring. “Everything that came out of my mouth was complete bullshit. I could tell by looking at each person what he wanted to hear.” She is soon someone else. “Within weeks at the club, I began to transform from a geeky teenage girl into a money-crazed psycho. And I loved it.” Her look of innocence becomes even more innocent. “Since most of the men were into me because I looked so young and innocent, I decided to amplify that…I put my hair up in pony-tails, wore little pink shoes, and carried a plastic Barbie purse, which further contrasted me from the hardened girls.”22 She gets two lessons from another girl. Number One: “Be personable. Make him like you. Talk to him. Ask about his job. Act like you are interested.” Number Two: do shots with the customer, and make sure his are extra strong and yours complete water. “Get him as drunk as possible,” the other girl says, “and rack those songs up.”23

This is about money, but it is more about control. “It was a high to get the upper hand over a customer. They were dumb, they were drunk, and they deserved it.” The woman is naked, the woman is powerless, the woman has more power than the customer ever will. “The mentality is that if these guys are going to victimize us, we’re going to totally victimize them right back.”24 A local politician was into her and liked to be dominated. She pees in his beer and forces him to drink it. He buys her a corvette. “If you can walk into a room, lead on a bunch of guys, and then leave with thousands of dollars in cash in your pocket and no obligation to anyone…life is good.”25 She dances for celebrities, and she doesn’t care. Those assholes were Pantera? That old weirdo was Jack Nicholson? “Did you know you were just dancing for Whitesnake?” “Really, like I give a crap.”26 She moves on to photo work, and she has to contort herself into an aching pose that has nothing to do with the ecstatic state she appears to have in the picture. She looks over her shouldeer, nude, at the camera. “I had to arch so hard that my lower back cramped,” she writes. “When I see those photos now, it seems obvious that the sexy pout I thought I was giving the camera was just a poorly disguised grimace of pain.”27

She gets into porn as an act of revenge when a boyfriend cheats on her28. She stays in for the money. She starts out girl-girl, then shoots her first boy-girl scene when she’s eighteen with Randy West, who she describes as a decent guy, but a little old (forty six or forty seven), with the fashion sense of a homeless wrestler29.

Randy: So, are you interested in coming out to L.A. to shoot a video?
Me: Absolutely not. I only want to do high-end stuff.
Randy: The pay is three thousand dollars for one scene.
Me: What day you want me there?

Randy: How about doing a shoot with just me tomorrow?
Me: How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t really want to do that.
Randy: How about I pay you two thousand dollars more?
Me: Two thousand more than today?
Randy: Yes.
Me: Is tomorrow good for you?

Chris Nieratko, from a 2013 interview (“Jenna Jameson Interview”): Did you feel any of that when you were eighteen, really grossed out by these greasy men?
Jameson: Absolutely. Oh my god, you have no idea. I hate to throw him under the bus, but Randy West, god bless him, but he creeped me out so bad. I was just watching a documentary, I was on NetFlix, and they did this documentary called After Porn [After Porn Ends]…and I was, like, okay I wanna watch this. It’ll be interesting, it’s kinda my generation. So, he’s talking about this, there’s this little blonde girl, they called me and asked me if she can do a movie, and when I saw her, I saw dollar signs in my eyes, and I was like, okay, that’s creepy. I had just turned eighteen years old, and he had to have been at least fifty [the scene is from Up And Cummers 11 (link is relatively SFW, contains no pictures) which was released in 1994, and West was born in 1947, according to the same database, so he was either 46 or 47.]. And he was just so gross. And he totally lied about everything that happened that day. But I’ll just give it to him though. You know, whatever, he can have his little fantasy.
Nieratko: How do you get a girl boner to make a scene with a guy who’s fifty when you’re eighteen?
Jameson: You don’t. You’re just a good actress.

Randy West, from After Porn Ends: I used to say it’s like borrowing somebody’s body to masturbate with. “Excuse me, if you’re not busy, do you mind if I jerk off in your pussy, with my dick?” It’s kinda like that, which is not bad…you know, better than real jerking off. Right after I started producing Up And Cummers, I get this letter in the mail, I opened it up, and I see this unbelievably good looking, very young looking blonde girl…with beautiful natural boobs, little baby face, and she wants to know if I can help her get into the porn biz. The girl’s name was Jenna Jameson. I remember saying to someone, “Holy christ, if I get this girl to shoot for me, we’re going to sell some tapes.” I said, “Well, if you don’t wanna do guys, I’ll let you pick whatever girl you want to do that. She liked girls, so she picked this girl that I happened to be working with that day, who was doing her first movie, Kylie Ireland, so Kylie and Jenna were doing their thing together, and everything was going good, and they took a little break, and I said something like, “Man, Jenna, that’s a tasty looking pussy you got there.” And I believe she said, “Why don’t you come in and taste it?” And I went, *taken aback motion* “Okay!” I was doing the camera, but I handed it to my assistant, “Bob, hold on to this, start shooting.” So I get in there, and I start going down on her, and she starts squealing that squeal that she had…I’m guessing she’s kinda liking it, she seems like she’s getting off, and everything is good, I said, “Man, I am so fucking horny now, you guys mind giving me a double blow job or something?” She said, “Sure, we can do that.” *makes a prayer of thanks motion* “Oh thank you.” And they did, and it went well, and a week later, she kinda called me back, and said “You know what? You weren’t so bad, I could probably do a boy-girl scene with you,” the rest is kinda history after that.

A summary of the scene can be found in a review on an old mailing list, “Dunbar Reviews: Up and Cummers #11″:

Jenna Jameson. A sweet-looking, young little blonde. Nice natural tits, cute ass. I’ve heard told that she has since destroyed her body with fake tits (which she definitly did not need) and tattoos? Why do they do that? They do missionary and cowgirl shot from both the front and the back, and finally doggie. Randy finishes by coming inside her. It looks like he manages a decent load as she squirts it out of her cunt and it oozes into a puddle on the bed spread. Kind of gross if you ask me, but definitely out of the ordinary.

Jenna Jameson starts doing meth, then becomes entranced as she watches her boyfriend take apart a lightbulb, cook the meth in the glass, and inhale the smoke from the open base. She takes her turn, and the air comes in glassy smooth against her lungs. She lets out a three foot column of smoke from her lips. “Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and then someone pressed fast forward. My heart felt like a woodpecker was inside, hammering hard enough to burst through my chest at any moment.”30 She starts smoking every day. She organizes and re-organizes her bathroom a thousand times. She endlessly builds artwork with a gluegun. She plays so much handheld poker that her fingers bleed. In photo shoots, her bones stick out of her body and she starts clenching her jaw hard. “Jenna, relax,” the photographer says. “Let the tension out of your face.”31 The drug nearly kills her, then she comes back to life and has an even bigger career. She goes to Cannes with two other porn stars, Kaylan Nicole and Juli Ashton. “They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them,” she writes of Nicole and Ashton. “They had the attitude that they could do absolutely anything they wanted.” 32 She emerges from the plane into another world, the one she’s always wanted to be in, the one that Tera Patrick also longed to join. “It was one I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl, imagining what it would be like to be an international jet-setting model. In fact, it was wilder than my dreams. Flashbulbs went off everywhere.” The photographers have no idea who she is, only that she is a kind of sacred object, which their flashbulbs make more sacred. “The paparazzi screamed and fought to take pictures of me, even though they had no idea who I was. It was so overwhelming and disorienting being pushed through the admiring crowd toward a waiting limo. I knew, for the first time, what an actual celebrity must feel like.”33

She becomes a big star, and does some reporting for the E! Channel. “So you’re the reporter from the E! Channel,” says Wesley Snipes. “Why don’t you join us?” She accepts the invite. “So,” Wesley Snipes asks. “do you like it up the ass?” Anal sex, she writes, “is an exchange of power. And every man I’ve ever met loves the idea of dominating a woman by pushing his massive dick into her tight sphincter so that she loses control.”34 There are few people she’ll trust with anal. And she doesn’t like the closeness after sex. She sleeps with a waiter at Cannes. “When it was all over, he wrapped his naked body around mine. Instantly I stiffened. I hate cuddling.”35 She starts hooking up with the Anti-Christ Superstar, Marilyn Manson. They sleep together. “Why don’t you just stay and cuddle?” he asks. “Did you just say the c-word?!” she asks. “I don’t cuddle, but I lay with him for a little while longer and listened to him talk about religion.”36 Marilyn Manson likes to cuddle, and he’s a little too into anal. “Every time we were naked, he’d be going for my butt like a rat to cheese.”37 This is an act of power, of control, and you only do it with those you absolutely trust. “I’ve been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to do anal,” she writes, explaining why she’d only done it with three men up until then, and never on camera. “Doing it on camera would be compromising myself.”38

Anal is about control, porno is about control, though the power isn’t always where you think. “It’s time to meet the man you thought you envied,” we’re told about the boyfriends and husbands of porn stars who also act as their managers, “the suitcase pimps.” We’re given an overview of a manipulative wretch burdened by an emasculating fanny pack, which carries the porn star’s baby wipes, her lighters, and all other conveniences. These men are filled with get rich plans that never work, who buy the porn star dinner with her money while insisting she only eat salads, and is hooked on oxycontin, cocaine, steroids, or many other possibilities. The last instruction on playing this role: “Finally, when she is addicted to drugs, aged beyond her years, and can’t work anymore, help start the career of a fresh girl.”39 As Jameson’s own marriage fell apart, her director husband would wreak vengeance through the roles given. She does a scene where she gets hosed down surrounded by electric wires, one where she rides half naked on a blind horse, another where she plays a firewoman in balloon pants and a defective oxygen tank. In this last one, she has sex near a wall of actual flame while wearing a long blonde wig. “Will her flesh fry? Watch and find out!”40 A brief interlude featuring questions and answers with a male perfomer includes the most obvious query: “A lot of guys want to get into porn to get laid. What are your thoughts on that?” Answer: “Getting into porn is a death sentence. As a male performer you are doomed to be single for the rest of your life.” Why? “A guy performs seven to ten scenes per week at least. The number one performers do fifteen scenes per week. So what girl is going to go out with a guy who’s pounding fifteen other girls every week? No one. The guys don’t have any social life, because they are on set so much. And when they do go out, they are like lepers. Girls won’t touch them.”41

Jenna Jameson’s most frightening dream, the one that always recurs, is that there is someone nearby who can hurt her and she gives herself away.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the same nightmare. I am being chased through a large dilapidated house. There is someone directly behind me, but I can’t see him. I hide in the closet. I’m terrified. My heart is heaving in my chest. I know he’s right outside. I try to hold my breath so he can’t hear me. But I can’t stop gasping. It’s deafening. I know if he hears me, he’s going to open the door and get me. But there’s nothing I can do to quiet my fear. He’s coming closer. He can hear me now. It’s over. I’m going to die.

And then I wake up. To this day, I’ve never seen that person. Knowing that someone who wants to hurt me is so close by and that I am giving myself away is the worst feeling in the world.

The book ends with Jameson at the height of her powers. She tours as a feature dancer, and each night in each city she tells the crowd it’s her birthday. Instead of celebrating it on her own, she’s decided to spend it with them. “So I’m here, happy birthday to me,” I thought. The grateful crowd always throws in extra cash. “That’s right, fuckers. Cough it up.”42 She knew who had the power:

So if I caught a guy saying something obnoxious to his friends, I’d knock his hat off or spill a drink on his pants. At one show, when a guy threw a penny at me, I kicked him in the throat with my heel. I got in constant fights with local dancers-I even hocked a loogie in one girl’s face-and had guys thrown out of the club on a nightly basis. If some asshole dared to touch me, I’d reward him with a backhand to the skull. I was out of control. It was awesome.

She goes out on another feature tour with a dancer who’s an occasional girlfriend, Nikki Tyler, and a man known as Mr. 187, after California’s code for murder, and who’s a sergeant-at-arms with the Hell’s Angels. “Mr. 187 was a badass motherfucker who was angry at the world and enjoyed nothing more than snapping a guy’s arm for looking at him wrong. So naturally, we took him on tour with us.”43 A few years later, Mr. 187 was charged with murder for killing a club patron, then acquitted, on grounds of self-defense. A few years after that, he was killed at the funeral for another member of the Hell’s Angels44. But back then he was still alive, and they were a three person wrecking crew. “They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them,” she said of Kaylan Nicole and Juli Ashton, when they were veterans and she was a newcomer. She knew now what they knew then. She and Nikki would demand $5000 a night, and they would get it. With merchandise and tips, they’d get $100,000 for a three night booking, plus limos, plus security, plus a five star hotel with room service, and a rider complicated enough to make sure that people got their shit right45. And they were an utter wrecking crew:

Nikki and I were angry at the world in our own way, and Mr. 187′s function was to justify and enable it. He’d fan the flames of our Vicodin-and-vodka-fueled rage to the point where we got so out of control that even he couldn’t handle us. I’d smash out mirrors in dressing rooms; Nikki would clamp guys in leglocks until their heads turned purple; we’d kick drinks in guys’ faces; and we’d pass out on top of each other onstage.

There may be a habit of thought which sees Jameson as the chaotic exception, the intruder into elysium, distinct in an otherwise placid landscape. One reads the account of her childhood, and she is re-seen as something else, one more point in a mass that is raw, violent, savage. The movie Naked Lunch has nothing to do with the nihilist tumult of the book, but How to Make Love Like a Porn Star very much does. We are given excerpts of Jameson’s diary, before her stage name, when she was Jenna Massoli, and the girl there is bright eyed, tender, vulnerable. She is an unhappy iterant, moving from Vegas, to Florida, then Colorado, back to Vegas, then Montana, then Vegas again.

January 1, 1983

Dear Diaree,

I’m 8 years old.

I watched funny car racing. And I took tinsel off the Christmas tree. “real exciting,” My dads off tomoro. I watched a new show “Battle of the Beat.” I have a dog named “Ming.” My Grandma came over. My brother keeps on singing “You don’t want me anymore.” We had a good Christmas. I got a canopy. And my brother got a gun.

I watched the Black stallion.

April 1, 1983

Dear Diaree,

I broke my arm about 5 weeks ago. I just got my cast off. While I’m talking about hospitals my dads getting a chin augmentation. Hes getting it tomoro at 10:00. He’s nervous. He wants it to come in two minutes. I played a joke on my mommy Marjorie. I pretended to see a giant spider. She was scared, then I said APRIL FOOLS! She said you dirty rat. I laughed so hard. She was really mad. It was funny. Then we played Lego’s. It was fun. Were going to paint easter eggs.

Its going to be fun.

Bye Diaree

tomorrow
tomorrow
tommorow

June 24, 1984

Dear Diarree Diary,

Sorry it’s been so long. I’ve had a lot on my mind. Well I’ll tell you all what’s happened. We moved in with grandma. We live on 7th & Franklin. I go to John S. Park school. I past into 5th grade. I turned 10 April 9th. My brother’s thirteen’s. Weve been having bad troubles. My mom and dad are getting separated. These last few days have been awful. Its been really hard on me a lot more than Tony cause he hates her.

I’ve had her as a mother since I was 2. My poor dad is feeling awful. She’s moving out today or tomorrow.

My heart is so broken I could just cry.

July 30, 1984

We moved to Boulder City and I’m doing fine. Today I saw my old friend beth. She does toe. She had an extra pair and let me have them. I can do toe at ballet class now.

There black. It’s about 10:07 at night. My dads home late at about 12:00. I can’t wait till then. I feel safer. We called into MTV Friday night video.

Duran Duran won. Ming’s sitting right beside me watching me write.

My Most Treasured Things

Diary
toe shoes
canopy bed
white dress
Real mothers neckless
dad
beth
Unicorn Collection

December 21, 1986

Dear Diary,

This is Jenna reporting from the cold region of Elko Nevada. I really like it down here. I have a lot of friends such as Natalie Glass, Kristine Poljak, and Ginny Richey. We got a new puppy. He’s a black Labrador. His name is Digby & he’s two months old. Welp, it’s almost Christmas & I don’t know a thing I’m getting! I’m in the bath writing this! Well I’ve finally gotten hair and I’m starting to get some boobs.

Well I better wash my hair.

Bye,

Jen

November 24, 1987

Hello. I’m in Las Vegas now. We moved back. Vivian [her father's ex-girlfriend] is history. Oh well. I will probably look back on my childhood and laugh. I laugh at it already. I have a lot of friends but I never go anywhere. It’s very depressing.

I went to State and I won young Miss Modeling Queen. And then I went to Nationals Recently and I got top ten in the country in my pageant.

I had a lot of fun.

September 20, 1989

Hi there! Well I moved to Montana and I’m not really very happy here. I miss Owen. He was my latest boyfriend in L.V. [Las Vegas] before I left.

Well here is whats been happening since I got to this place. Well, I am very popular but some fo the girls at school don’t like me.

October 1, 1990

Dear Diary,

The WORST thing in the WORLD happened today.
It’s so horrible I can’t even write it down or tell my dad or my brother anything.

I HATE Montana. I WANT to KILL MYSELF.

But that wouldn’t be fair to my dad. I am not going to write anything down anymore. I am going to get out of here and forget all about this place.

I am so sad and torn apart and confused. I don’t understand people. How could this happen to me? I don’t know what to do. Life sucks.

Goodbye Forever Diary,

Jenna

From a series of family interviews in the book, with Jenna, her father Larry Massoli, and her brother, Tony:

Larry: I’d like to know what happened in Montana.

Jenna: I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to talk about it.

Larry Massoli, Jenna’s father and easily the most interesting character in the book, worked as a police officer when they were first in Vegas, and where he got caught in a war between two rival borellos. Mobsters tried to kidnap his children, Jenna and Tony, they put out a contract on him, they come to kill his family. The Massolis move to Florida. “I guess Florida was awful,” says Larry. “Ugh, Florida was ghetto,” agrees Jenna. Her school had a barbed wire fence and the kids’ tricycles were chained down together because otherwise they’d get stolen46. Someone tries to break into their house, but it’s okay: Tony has a gun. Tony slept with guns since he was six years old47. When they are back in Vegas, Jenna and her brother act like utter hellions. They steal fire extinguishers and spray passers-by. “We would go down to cracktown and see the crack hos on the corner and we’d fog ‘em up!,” she remembers. “I remember one time we got this kid on a skateboard and there was a cop that saw us. We were in this total car chase, and we got away.”48 They would build giant sculptures in people’s yards, Jenna would light them up, and then-

Jenna: Finally, boom! Everything would explode in flames. People would be coming out of their houses freaking out. And then a couple days later on the news, “There’s been a rash of arsons across the Las Vegas valley.” And we’re all like, “Yaaaayyy!” Our dad had no clue.

Her father moves them again to Montana, to raise cattle and try to keep Jenna out of trouble. At school, the boys liked her and the other girls didn’t. They would chase her, throw her down, and punch her in the stomach. “One girl would get me by the back, and one would punch me in the stomach. They didn’t really hurt me, but Jesus Christ I got the wind knocked out of me. Or they would rip out my hair.”49 Before finally leaving Montana, Jenna saw the girl who picked on her the most getting something from her locker. She goes up and smashes the locker door so hard, it splits the girl’s head wide open50. This last act takes place after the worst thing in the world happened to her, after she’s stopped going to school because of it, after she’s decided she wants to get as far away as possible from Montana. She finally reveals in her memoir what it is, when writing about her first time on “The Howard Stern Show”:

He kept saying that something didn’t compute. He asked if I had a screwed-up childhood, and I said no. He asked if my parents had been strict, and I said no. He asked if my dad and I still talked, and I said we did. He asked if my mom minded what I was doing, and I said no. I had decided in advance that it was better not to discuss her death on the air. I didn’t think I could handle it.

But then Howard asked me if I’d ever been molested or abused. It was the one question I wasn’t prepared for.

This is the moment on the show, “Jenna Jameson first appearance on Howard Stern (1995) Part 1″:

STERN
You know what, sometimes I look at porno movies, and I go, man, that girl is so good looking. How could she be in porno movies? And I can’t figure it out. You know what I mean?

JAMESON
Right.

STERN
Listen. I have a lot of porno stars in here, but a lot of them I reject, because it’s like, how many times can you have a porno star? But then when I saw your pictures, you were such a piece of ass, I mean, look at this, is that a modeling ad, or what?

QUIVERS
I thought that was some Sports Illustrated model.

STERN
Look at that. So then I said, she’s gotta have a screwed up story, she’s so damned beautiful. I see beautiful women in these pornos, and I go: how the hell do they get them to have-

QUIVERS
Why are they in there.

STERN
-wild monkey sex in these pornos. You have to have had a screwed up childhood, right?

JAMESON
No. Actually-

STERN
Oh, come on. Something happened-

JAMESON
My dad was a cop.

STERN
And he never molested you?

JAMESON
Maybe it’s a rebellious thing.

QUIVERS
Were they strict or what?

JAMESON
No. Not at all. I ran wild.

STERN
What happened? You just ran wild.

QUIVERS
You had no supervision whatsoever.

JAMESON
Not really.

QUIVERS
There you go.

STERN
They weren’t strict at all?

JAMESON
No.

STERN
They let you do whatever you want?

JAMESON
I was out of control.

What happened was simple: she was beaten and gang raped by four boys after a football game. We are not allowed the comfort that these boys were something alien or obviously monstrous: she describes them as funny, good-looking guys. They raped her anyway. The family moved back to Las Vegas, and there, she was raped by her boyfriend’s uncle, a man named Preacher. “I’ve never told anyone about either the Montana experience or the one with Preacher because I don’t want to be thought of as a victim,” she writes. “I want to be judged by who I am as a person, not by what happened to me.”

This is someone who appears to live in a society without the protection of laws or social codes. Gangsters try to kidnap her, attempt to kill her family, indifferent to her father being a policeman. No taboo, restriction, or moral perimeter keeps women from punching her in the stomach, men from misusing her, men from raping her. The only guaranteed protection against home invasion are your own guns, the only thing that keeps other people from hurting you is your own spine. That the image of this woman is known to billions is a result of the most advanced technology, and yet the world she lives in appears to be lawless, modern America and pre-modern America, the west described in Orwell’s “Mark Twain: The Licensed Jester”: “The State hardly existed, the churches were weak and spoke with many voices, and land was to be had for the taking.” However, the law that Orwell emphasizes as absent, economic pressure, is overwhelming in Massoli’s life, is the only law that seemingly exists. It is because of money that she is able to act with fuller freedom than ever before – “I was out of control. It was awesome” – she has the license to be out of control because she’s pulling down five grand in three nights. This might be one of the few books where a woman speaks of sleeping with other women without any mention of it being a perceived transgression, a rebellion, or a violation of society’s rules. “As I was talking, she suddenly reached across the table, put her hand under my chin, pulled my face into hers, and kissed me,” she writes of another stripper she’s tutoring in necessary work skills, when the student makes a move on her.

It wasn’t a peck on the lips, or one of those fake sexy kisses that girls do with other girls to turn men on. It was a full-on tongue-exploring-mouth soul kiss. My breath quickened, and my mind raced. I was in shock. But, at the same time, I wasn’t. This was why I had really come up to her. I didn’t want to help her become a better stripper at all. I wanted to run my hands through her hair, feel her cheek against mine, and hold her in my arms. I had to make a split-second decision. And that decision was yes. Yes, I wanted to throw down with this girl.

She released my mouth and looked softly into my eyes. I wrapped my right hand behind her head, and she pressed her lips once more against mine. She kissed with the confidence and passion of a man.

Scenes such as this are not written for the appetites of men, but only as a blunt description of events that took place. From an account of times with another girl: “She could come fifteen times in a single session, and always wanted to eat me out when I was on my period. She called it war paint.” There is no mention of a contrast with what other women do, or what society expects of a woman to act, or any larger gay culture. These women and this society doesn’t exist in her life, and may as well be on a distant planet. If society does not exist to protect you from rape, robbery, and kidnapping, why should it even be acknowledged for such humble acts as this? In the review of the book by Charles Taylor, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson”, this often insightful critic writes of Massoli as part of a larger group of sex workers in opposition and outside the values of the middle class:

What could seem a better way to flout middle-class values than going into stripping or nude modeling or adult movies (even though, for some of the people who go into them, they are the quickest route to middle-class stability)? But though sex workers have often been looked down on in the name of middle-class propriety, it’s interesting to think about what they share with the middle class.

Taylor re-assures us that these people are finally us as well: “Often those people wind up living traditional middle-class lives — they get married, have kids, buy a home.” This overlooks that Massoli was never middle class at her most successful, she was a multi-millionaire and part of the one percent, and it makes the mistake of placing Massoli as part of a larger group. Her life is the most extreme expression of unrestrained independence that might be found, without reliance on the government or solidarity with anyone, her career born in the ruthless desert state whose lack of gambling laws allowed its foremost industry to exist. “Fuck Gloria Steinem,” she writes51. You are alone in this world, so you’d better figure out how to handle it quick. There is no ethos or philosophy that can be connected to this life, except for one thing: Jenna Massoli has been able to survive a great deal.

That there is something lost in existing like this, in having to live like this, is suggested in one of Jenna Massoli’s longer diary entries. She expresses something that might be called innocence, and to find it appealing might seem like a longing for a pristine state that cannot exist in harsh life, like orchids that cannot survive outside the hothouse, but I think it is only for a person who can allow themselves to be vulnerable, for the possibility of giving themselves away, without feeling unsafe. Those who’ve read this book will find one sentence especially striking: “The next day I found myself alone in his room, him holding my body close to him.” Jenna Massoli had no issue with snuggling then.

June 9, 1988

Victor,

A boy or should I say a man moved into our apartment yesterday or the day before. Amy and I were walking & we encountered one of her classmates. We talked awhile out at the swimming pool. He spoak to me about an attractive friend of his named Victor. He described him as blonde buff & tan. And of course he sounded attractive to me. I secretly inside wanted to meet this mystery man. But I was very timid about meeting strange men. But Amy said to just come and sit in the grass in front of his so called apartment. So I did.

We sat and had a few meaningless conversations, until I saw 2 dark figures moving at a somewhat fast pace. All at once they sat down in our huddle in the grass. One was dark haired and very old looking, sitting on his motorcycle helmet. The other, he was hard to take my eyes off. He struck me as the wild type, someoe who could release my secret desire to be wanted in a seductive manner & to be treated & looked at as an attractive woman. And to throw away peoples tendency to look at me as a cute pretty but young girl. As time went on, he became more and more sexy. But I couldn’t show my secret desire to touch him. I think he realized how much I wanted him & he came and made himself comfortable unusually close to my warm body. He made me feel like no other boy or man ever made me feel. It was getting quite late so I got up and started to leave-thinking to myself it was silly of me to even think of being able to satisfy his needs.

But as soon as the thought ended and I was within two arms lengths away from him, a phrase I was secretly wishing he would say left his mouth, “When will I see you again.” My heart filled with joy and passion. “Tomorrow,” I said. The next day I couldn’t see him at all. But at about 11:30 p.m. I peered through my window and there he was. No, he wasn’t a figment of my imagination. He was real. He was standing beneath my open window, staring up at me. We greeted each other and I yearned to hold him close to me, like I so often thought about. He gave me his telephone number and he disappeared into the darkness. The next day I found myself alone in his room, him holding my body close to him.

He gave me a few playful pecks on my arms and my face. Then he gave me the most passionate and deep kiss I have ever even assumed there could be. My god. I wanted to stay here in his arms and make love to him over and over again until my body was so tired it had to stop. But I had to leave. He is the one that I want to be with day & night. But I don’t think you know that. Try to understand how much I want & need to be with you. Sorry for making it so long but I couldn’t tell you in any other way.

I will never ever stop wanting you.

There is the interesting contrast that Jenna Jameson has said in several places that she’s submissive when having sex with men (she is dominant with women), so the mass of images is of herself submitting to men, when she has a very different attitude in actual life, outside the bedroom: of being very strong, of someone giving orders, someone who never wishes to be vulnerable52. We have something similar with Tera Patrick, who gives her sexual likes as “rough sex, hair pulling, mild choking, getting tied up, playing the submissive, strong, tough, tattooed men”, yet this also is not to be taken for emotional fragility. Her attitude when she first entered this industry, and one that fit so well with it: “I was enjoying life. I was free. And I was horny. My motto was: ‘Get it up. Get it in. Get it off. Get it out.’” The obvious question is to what extent we are in control of this role. Are we playing at dominating, or are we actually dominating? Are we playing at submitting, or are we actually submitting? At various points in Patrick’s Sinner Take All, her then husband Evan Seinfeld, takes over the narrative and gives his perspective:

Tera and I went back at it. We did everything. We were being silly, taking these photos of each other. We were having a lot of fun. I was trying to take a P.O.V. picture of myself peeing on her. Some people don’t understand what peeing is all about. Peeing on each other isn’t about the pee. It’s about domination and submission. It’s when she lays down on the floor of the shower and gives herself fully and says, “Go ahead do whatever you want. I’m yours.” We are a perfect match because I am so overdominant and she is super-submissive All of her friends’ worst fears came true: I made her my cock puppet. But she loved it.

Tera agrees: “I never let a man pee on me, but I let Evan. It’s about submission, trust, and giving yourself freely to someone, and that’s a turn-on.” Patrick’s memoir, which appears to be reaching the crescendo of a happy marriage to Seinfeld, a man she deeply loves, instead twists to an unexpected halt. We are put abruptly in an entirely different space in the book’s last chapter, with Patrick fallen out of love with Seinfeld and the two divorced. Patrick suspects that her husband always wanted to be in porn, and used her to achieve this fantasy:

Evan achieved his goal, but in the end I suffered. He was the dominating male who ran my life, and in that I lost a lot of myself. He was living the dream–he was going to bed with Tera Patrick at night and going to work in the morning and fucking another girl. I wanted a husband for life who only loved and wanted me. I wasn’t living my dream.

Again: are we just playing a role when we submit, or are we actually submitting?

This is all there in Nicki Brand, who is a submissive throughout the movie, yet who gives the orders to Max Renn, commands which he always obeys, including the final one to destroy himself. Again, we have the question of whether the power is truly our own. The image of Nicki Brand gives these orders, yet this image is manipulated first by Barry Convex, and later, presumably, by Bianca O’Blivion. Bianca is the other powerful woman in the story, yet she sees herself as only exercising her father’s will – “I am my father’s screen.”

If we might see Jenna Massoli’s life as part of a broken symmetry, the unsheltered life in the wake of a collapsed universe, then her own father’s life might be its mirroring arc. As said, Larry Massoli, Jenna’s father, is easily the most interesting character in the book. Where she lives seemingly outside of any state, he worked as its servant, a military advisor in Vietnam before the United States had officially entered the war53. Later, his job is to organize and train fighters to suppress the Simba rebellion in the Congo. Something there changes him. “It’s interesting because when you first go over you try to be so righteous,” he says in one of the book’s interviews with the Massoli family. “I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and they never shot anybody in the back. It was the white hats against the black hats. You have to do everything fair.” I’m very sympathetic to this man, and I’m not sure what I would see if I were to look closely at what took place where he was in Vietnam, or more importantly, what he says took place in Simba in response to his own side suffering massacres: “I would come up to a village and, instead of going house to house, I would level the whole place…We went from village to village killing them all. We just didn’t care. We didn’t care.” One is struck by this entire passage, gone somehow unnoticed, perhaps since this is a book about pornography and therefore nothing it says about war or America is to be given thoughtful consideration. This phrase, especially: “When I got to Africa I still had some humanity left.”54 When Larry Massoli returns, it takes him a decade to fit back into society. Like Freddie Quell in The Master, he turns to Scientology for structure and comfort; they get him a job at a Las Vegas TV station55. His dear wife dies of cancer when Jenna is two, the woman Jenna’s memoirs is dedicated to, and who continued to dominate their lives, in memory. Afterwards, Larry Massoli decides to do “what I had always wanted to do. I became this big crusader asshole. Because I couldn’t save your mother, I was going to save the world.” It’s when he refuses to look the other way or take a bribe during a war between two bordellos in Vegas that there are the kidnapping threats and a contract is put out on his life. Most important business in Jameson’s book is handled unofficially, and Larry Massoli settles this unofficially as well. He goes out to the brothel owned by those who threatened his family and put out a hit on his life, drives his patrol car through the front door, and empties two clips of a Thompson submachine gun into their bar. “I want you fuckers to stop fucking with my family.” Problem solved56.

After this, he enters a descent, a dark mirrored image of his previous life. He ends up on the run with his son, Tony, and out of contact with Jenna after another contract is put out on their lives, having to do with some other Vegas business that goes awry. He does acid with his kids. He does coke with Jenna and Tony. When they all do coke together, Jenna looks over at Tony and says, “Go, Dad.” Larry: “I completely reversed myself from being the self-righteous stupid ass that I was to a psycho.” Jenna: “Get down with your bad self, Dad.”57 He ends up dating a stripper, running a strip club with his brother where his daughter is a feature dancer, and smoking meth. Larry: “You know what? I don’t miss any drug. But the only drug I ever liked was crank. It’s the best drug on the planet, but smoking it. Not sniffing it.”58 He had left the world of heroic duty, whatever might be underneath, for his daughter’s world, a place of raw anarchy.

Tony: …it’s always been us against the world…

Jenna: That’s right.

Larry: …and it always will be.

That I write of these women, Tera Patrick and Jenna Jameson, as being something like sacred objects to be kept away from the profane, when they are in an inherently profane medium, pornography, is not a contradiction. There remains an elevation, a creation of distance, an abstract image to be worshipped, though the profaning of these sacred objects is different than it might be for other celebrities. What profanes the sacred for this kind of performer is anything that erases the distance between themselves and the general population, and these are tied almost entirely to their beauty: age, bad surgery, drugs, desperation, humilation. These all affect other celebrities as well, though they can be humiliated, or profaned, in ways that Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick cannot, through nabbed nude selfies and sex tapes.

That we might liken fame to this religious phenomenon of mana, and that it should be so prevalent in a secular society, perhaps explains why there are the constant countervailing impulses of making people famous, creating these sacred objects, and profaning these same sacred objects, humiliating the famous. An example of this might be seen in the career of Britney Spears, who was especially suited for the kind of sacred image making that resembles Marilyn Monroe’s. She was seemingly innocent, by which we mean sexually innocent, somehow unconscious of the electric sexuality of her poses, and so we have, literally, the sacred vessel unprofaned, as well as the cryptic quality of her image. This is perhaps best expressed in Chuck Klosterman’s “Bending Spoons with Britney Spears”:

Over the next ninety minutes, I will sit next to a purportedly fully clothed Britney and ask her questions. She will not really answer any of them. Interviewing Britney Spears is like deposing Bill Clinton: Regardless of the evidence, she does not waver. “Why do you dress so provocatively?” I ask. She says she doesn’t dress provocatively. “But look what you’re wearing right now,” I say, while looking at three inches of her inner thigh, her entire abdomen, and enough cleavage to choke a musk ox. “This is just a skirt and a top,” she responds. It is not that Britney Spears denies that she is a sexual icon, or that she disputes that American men are fascinated with the concept of the wet-hot virgin, or that she feels her success says nothing about what our society fantasizes about. She doesn’t disagree with any of that stuff, because she swears she has never even thought about it. Not even once.

“That’s just a weird question,” she says. “I don’t even want to think about that. That’s strange, and I don’t think about things like that, and I don’t want to think about things like that. Why should I? I don’t have to deal with those people. I’m concerned with the kids out there. I’m concerned with the next generation of people. I’m not worried about some guy who’s a perv and wants to meet a freaking virgin.”

And suddenly, something becomes painfully clear: Either Britney Spears is the least self-aware person I’ve ever met, or she’s way, way savvier than any of us realize.

Or maybe both.

A blunt contrast to this attitude can be found in Tera Patrick’s Sinner Take All:

Is it weird to think that people you know and people you meet have seen your porn and masturbate to you?
–MIKE, 23, VAN NUYS

Yeah, it’s a little weird to know that someone talking to me has seen my innermost parts and I haven’t seen theirs. But it’s not weird that they masturbate to me. They also masturbate to Cameron Diaz and Carmen Electra and Jessica Alba and the girl at the grocery store. Men are just visual. I’m no different, except they have a little bit more to masturbate to, they see a little bit more of me. It’s just humbling.

When we speak of this unprofaned innocence, we end up speaking almost exclusively about her image, one that allows the viewer to project a multiplicity of things that may not be there. Such a phenomenon takes place in a recent article on her Vegas show, “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. It is a very good article, one where the author never actually interviews Spears, but discusses her image alone, in the preparation time up to this premiere. She speaks to one woman who became a fan when Spears shaved her head. “She was just saying fuck you to the world over and over. This was who I knew she was,” says the fan. “In the early 2000s, she was a phony. This was really her.”59 The obvious question is: are you sure? Is it not possible that she simply had a nervous breakdown? That perhaps whatever we see of her, the public, is always phony, always false out of emotional necessity. “Being a Celebrity: A Phenomology of Fame” by Donna Rockwell and David C. Giles (I came across this study via the Alice Robb piece, “The Four Stages of Fame: How Celebrities Learn to Accept — and Regret — Their Popularity”), describes one survival strategy: “The celebrity copes with intense public scrutiny through character-splitting. He or she divides into two identities by contriving a celebrity entity, a new self presentation in the “public sphere.” Arguably, there are people whose private personality works extraordinarily well as a public one, an enigma never to be resolved, a riddle that cannot be answered, under which there is nothing. Spears is asked over and over again, “What do people not know about you?”, and “Miss American Dream” treats the answer, “Really that I’m pretty boring,” as a defensive gesture when it perhaps is not60. The image alone implies that this cannot be the full answer, that the enigma cannot be unending, when it may well be61.

The metaphors of Videodrome have such a variety of meanings because there is so little to restrict any and almost all interpretations. The character of Nicki Brand is a blank, and that’s what makes her image so beguiling, and the public character of Britney Spears is a blank as well, making her image equally powerful. We are left to guess at whether shaving her head is a nervous breakdown or an expression of strength, whether the song “Work, Bitch” embodies the sadistic grinding of life now, or it’s a subtle rebellion against all these forces. The video of “Work, Bitch” features Britney dominating a group of dancers in leather and gimp masks, holding them fast in leashes, whipping one like Max Renn whipped a TV. We might read whatever we wish into either image, with nothing in the characters to guide us. This image might be provocation for laughs, it might be ironic, it might be sincere. Britney Spears was a sacred object and everything was done to try to profane her, to humiliate her, yet she has remained sacred anyway. She has kept her power, and now she’ll exercise it. She’s in control. It’s awesome.

The fan in “Miss American Dream” who loved her post-breakdown is the only one who ends up not liking the Vegas show. The fan, a dominatrix, compared it to the time she threw a party where she had to hire a prostitute who clearly didn’t want to be there. She had a vacant look in her eyes that killed the whole vibe, and Britney had the same look62. Again, I wonder: what is the difference between Britney’s enigmatic look and her vacant one? We might see whatever we wish, just as we might read life or death in the eyes of Nicki Brand. The apotheosis of being able to read whatever we wish is when anything human no longer exists, and the image remains as a riddle to be puzzled over infinitely, something like Marilyn Monroe. One tradition described in Durkheim is the use of tattoos to mark someone as being affiliated with a totem worshipped by their clan; another is the idea of a mythic ancestor who is a protecting genius, a protecting spirit63. Megan Fox used to carry a tattoo of what might be thought of a mythic ancestor, giving an explanation in “The Self-Manufacture of Megan Fox” by Lynn Hirschberg, which coheres well with these ideas:

On her right forearm, Fox has an intricate tattoo of Marilyn Monroe. Although she has read biographies of Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor and other movie-star icons, Fox is particularly fascinated by Monroe. While Gardner led a wild life, her work is forgotten. Monroe created a legacy: her persona is instantly recognizable. It’s not a character she played in a particular movie like, say, Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” Monroe was her own brand before branding existed.

One might note that word which perfectly matches a character’s last name, suggesting it’s not arbitrary: Nicki Brand. Yet Fox does not keep this tattoo, perhaps because this spirit does not protect at all, it’s an image whose eternality is connected with its own creator’s early self-annihilation. It’s almost entirely gone in the infamous piece, “Megan Fox Saves Herself” by Steve Marche: “All that remains of Marilyn is a few drops of black against skin that is the color the moon possesses in the thin air of northern winters,” and [Fox] says why: “I started reading about her and realized that her life was incredibly difficult. It’s like when you visualize something for your future. I didn’t want to visualize something so negative.” Marche took a great deal of flack for invoking the idea of Aztec sacrifices in connection with celebrity (say, “Esquire’s Interview with Megan Fox Is the Worst Thing Ever Written” by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete), yet I don’t think there’s anything flawed or foolish in finding connections between our idol worship and that of the past, that the similarities compel you to look in such areas.

After she erased the tattoo, Fox would compare Monroe to one of her contemporaries. “She wasn’t powerful at the time. She was sort of like Lindsay. She was an actress who wasn’t reliable, who almost wasn’t insurable…. She had all the potential in the world, and it was squandered.” Despite being a sound assessment, in a conflict averse industry, even this mild claim required self-censure64. In a recent story, “Bungalow 89″ by James Franco, describes an actress who very much resembles Lindsay Lohan, and even carries the name “Lindsay Lohan”. The same countervailing factors mentioned earlier took place in this woman’s life. We want you famous. We want you sacred. We want you wasted. We want you naked. We want you humiliated. We want you destroyed. The sacred is profaned, it ceases to be sacred, and the interest ends. That this “Lindsay Lohan” has none of the magnetism of the central character of the well-known piece, “Here Is What Happens When You Cast Lindsay Lohan in Your Movie” by Stephen Rodrick, is because it’s not enough for fiction to evoke the real-life character, but must re-create the essence of their potent beguiling qualities. In this case, it is the th mixture of the actress’s incredible talents and her self-destructiveness, and this, the story does not convey, giving only a few squalid details that would make the story go completely unnoted if the author and his subject were untouched by our modern mana. There is one line, however, that contains great insight, of especial value here, a piece of direction given by Nicolas Winding Refn to Franco. “Less is more; nothing is everything.”

(Images from Videodrome and Prince of Darkness copyright Universal Pictures, images from Naked Lunch copyright 20th Century Fox, images from Blue Velvet copyright De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. Artwork from How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Bernard Chang.)

(On July 15th, some small edits were made: the section about Tera Patrick and submission, and moving the Chuck Klosterman excerpt from a footnote to the main text. On July 16th, some further very small clarifying edits were made, mainly to the paragraph dealing with control and Nicki Brand.)

FOOTNOTES

1 From “William Gibson, The Art of Fiction No. 211″:

INTERVIEWER
When did you encounter the Beats?

GIBSON
More or less the same time I found science fiction, because I found the Beats when the idea of them had been made sufficiently mainstream that there were paperback anthologies on the same wire rack at the bus station. I remember being totally baffled by one Beat paperback, an anthology of short bits and excerpts from novels. I sort of understood what little bits of Kerouac were in this thing-I could read him-but then there was William S. Burroughs and excerpts from Naked Lunch I thought, What the heck is that? I could tell that there was science fiction, somehow, in Naked Lunch. Burroughs had cut up a lot of pulp-noir detective fiction, and he got part of his tonality from science fiction of the forties and the fifties. I could tell it was kind of like science fiction, but that I didn’t understand it.

2 From “Which Is the Fly and Which Is the Human?” by Lynn Snowden, hosted on Reality Studio: A William S. Burroughs Community:

“It’s a limited kingdom,” Cronenberg says with a proud smile, “but it’s mine. One of the reasons Burroughs excited me when I read him was that I recognized my own imagery in his work,” he says. “It sounds only defensive to say, ‘I was already thinking of a virus when I read that!’ But there is a recognition factor. That’s why I think you start to feel like you’re vibrating in harmony with someone else. It’s the recognition, not that they introduced you to something that was completely unthought of by you.

3 From Neuromancer, the witty point made in the description of the Sprawl is to liken this physical entity to an electronic one, so that even though the Sprawl and the Matrix are separate, they merge in their likenesses.

The Matrix:

A year here and he still dreamed of cyberspace, hope fading nightly. All the speed he took, all the turns he’d taken and the corners he’d cut in Night City, and still he’d see the matrix in his sleep, bright lattices of logic unfolding across that colorless void … The Sprawl was a long strange way home over the Pacific now, and he was no console man, no cyberspace cowboy.

The Sprawl:

Home was BAMA, the Sprawl, the Boston-Atlanta Metropolitan Axis.

Program a map to display frequency of data exchange, every thousand megabytes a single pixel on a very large screen. Manhattan and Atlanta burn solid white. Then they start to pulse, the rate of traffic threatening to overload your simulation. Your map is about to go nova. Cool it down. Up your scale. Each pixel a million megabytes. At a hundred million megabytes per second, you begin to make out certain blocks in midtown Manhattan, outlines of hundred-year-old industrial parks ringing the old core of Atlanta . . .

4 From “Mr. Mike’s America: A Comic’s Trek with SNL’s First Head Writer” by Paul Slansky:

O’Donoghue counters with one that Belushi used to tell about Adam and Eve. He doesn’t remember the setup, but the punch line has Eve washing her private parts in the river and God shouting down, “You asshole! Now all the fish are gonna smell like that!”

“American humor is a really angry rube humor,” O’Donoghue says. “Very mean and aggressive. I’ve always liked American jokes.”

5 Some sense of the place can be found in the very good biography of the author, Literary Outlaw: The Life and Times of William S. Burroughs by Ted Morgan:

Tangier being by definition a place where everything was freely bought and sold, it gained a reputation for wickedness. In his widely syndicated column, “As I Was Saying,” Robert Ruark wrote in 1950 that “Sodom was a church picnic and Gomorrah a convention of Girl Scouts” compared to Tangier, which “contained more thieves, black marketeers, spies, thugs, phonies, beachcombers, expatriates, degenerates, characters, operators, bandits, bums, tramps, politicians, and charlatans” than any place he’d ever visited.

In 1955, Burroughs began to see that Tangier could serve as a model for the setting of his novel, which he called “Interzone.” Tangier was as much an imaginative construct as a geographical location, a metaphor for limbo, for a dead-end place, a place where everyone could act out his most extreme fantasies. On one level, Tangier was a reconstruction of the world in a small place.

6 From “Cronenberg Videodrome Intro” (from 3:23-4:00 in the clip):

Speaking of Toronto, by the way, Roberto Benigni, who did the movie Life is Beautiful, italian film-maker…when he came to Toronto, and I met him…of course, this is when he won his Oscar for Life is Beautiful…he immediately got on his knees and started to kiss my feet, my shoes. “Great, Roberto.” Then he got up, and he said: “Toronto. I was terrified to come to Toronto. Because all I knew of it was from your films.”

7 From Naked Lunch:

Techniques of Sending were crude at first. Fadeout to the National Electronic Conference in Chicago. The Conferents are putting on their overcoats . . . The speaker talks in a flat shopgirl voice:

“In closing I want to sound a word of warning . . . The logical extension of encephalographic research is biocontrol; that is, control of physical movement, mental processes, emotional reactions and apparent sensory impressions by means of bioelectric signals injected into the nervous system of the subject.”

“Louder and funnier!” The Conferents are trooping out in clouds of dust.

“Shortly after birth a surgeon could install connections in the brain. A miniature radio receiver could be plugged in and the subject controlled from State-controlled transmitters.”

Dust settles through the windless air of a vast empty hall-smell of hot iron and steam; a radiator sings in the distance . . . The Speaker shuffles his notes and blows dust off them . . .

“The biocontrol apparatus is prototype of one-way telepathic control. The subject could be rendered susceptible to the transmitter by drugs or other processing without installing any apparatus. Ultimately the Senders will use telepathic transmitting exclusively . . . Ever dig the Mayan codices? I figure it like this: the priests-about one percent of population-made with one-way telepathic broadcasts instructing the workers what to feel and when . . . A telepathic sender has to send all the time. He can never receive, because if he receives that means someone else has feelings of his own could louse up his continuity. The Sender has to send all the time, but he can’t ever recharge himself by contact. Sooner or later he’s got no feelings to send. You can’t have feelings alone. Not alone like the Sender is alone-and you dig there can only be one Sender at one place-time . . . Finally the screen goes dead . . . The Sender has turned into a huge centipede . . . So the workers come in on the beam and burn the centipede and elect a new Sender by consensus of the general will . . . The Mayans were limited by isolation . . . Now one Sender could control the planet . . . You see control can never be a means to any practical end . . . It can never be a means to anything but more control . . . Like junk . . .”

8 From Naked Lunch:

Blast of trumpets: The Man is carried in naked by two Negro Bearers who drop him on the platform with bestial, sneering brutality . . . The Man wriggles . . . His flesh turns to viscid, transparent jelly that drifts away in green mist, unveiling a monster black centipede. Waves of unknown stench fill the room, searing the lungs, grabbing the stomach . . .

The death of Barry Convex in Videodrome:

9 From Naked Lunch:

The boy felt a silent black clunk fall through his flesh. The Sailor put a hand to the boy’s eyes and pulled out a pink scrotal egg with one closed, pulsing eye. Black fur boiled inside translucent flesh of the egg.

The Sailor caressed the egg with nakedly inhuman hands-black-pink, thick, fibrous, long white tendrils sprouting from abbreviated finger tips.

Death fear and Death weakness hit the boy, shutting off his breath, stopping his blood. He leaned against a wall that seemed to give slightly. He clicked back into junk focus.

10 An excerpt from Naked Lunch, when a woman has sex with a character who’s just been killed in a hanging:

She locks her hands behind Johnny’s buttocks, puts her forehead against him, smiling into his eyes she moves back, pulling him off the platform into space . . . His face swells with blood . . . Mark reaches up with one lithe movement and snaps Johnny’s neck . . . sound like a stick broken in wet towels. A shudder runs down Johnny’s body . . . one foot flutters like a trapped bird . . . Mark has draped himself over a swing and mimics Johnny’s twitches, closes his eyes and sticks his tongue out . . . Johnny’s cock springs up and Mary guides it up her cunt, writhing against him in a fluid belly dance, groaning and shrieking with delight . . . sweat pours down her body, hair hangs over her face in wet strands. “Cut him down, Mark,” she screams. Mark reaches over with a snap knife and cuts the rope, catching Johnny as he falls, easing him onto his back with Mary still impaled and writhing . . . She bites away Johnny’s lips and nose and sucks out his eyes with a pop . . . She tears off great hunks of cheek . . . Now she lunches on his prick . . . Mark walks over to her and she looks up from Johnny’s half-eaten genitals, her face covered with blood, eyes phosphorescent . . . Mark puts his foot on her shoulder and kicks her over on her back . . . He leaps on her, fucking her insanely . . . they roll from one end of the room to the other, pinwheel end-over-end and leap high in the air like great hooked fish.

“Let me hang you, Mark . . . Let me hang you . . . Please, Mark, let me hang you!”

11 From Naked Lunch, Bill Lee killing Hauser and O’Brien:

I squirted a thin jet of alcohol, whipping it across his eyes with a sideways shake of the syringe. He let out a bellow of pain. I could see him pawing at his eyes with the left hand like he was tearing off an invisible bandage as I dropped to the floor on one knee, reaching for my suitcase. I pushed the suitcase open, and my left hand closed over the gun butt-I am right-handed but I shoot with my left hand. I felt the concussion of Hauser’s shot before I heard it. His slug slammed into the wall behind me. Shooting from the floor, I snapped two quick shots into Hauser’s belly where his vest had pulled up showing an inch of white shirt. He grunted in a way I could feel and doubled forward. Stiff with panic, O’Brien’s hand was tearing at the gun in his shoulder holster. I clamped my other hand around my gun wrist to steady it for the long pull-this gun has the hammer filed off round so you can only use it double action-and shot him in the middle of his red forehead about two inches below the silver hairline. His hair had been grey the last time I saw him. That was about 15 years ago. My first arrest. His eyes went out. He fell off the chair onto his face. My hands were already reaching for what I needed, sweeping my notebooks into a briefcase with my works, junk, and a box of shells. I stuck the gun into my belt, and stepped out into the corridor putting on my coat.

The narrator’s exit:

I hung up and took a taxi out of the area . . . In the cab I realized what had happened . . . I had been occluded from space-time like an eel’s ass occludes when he stops eating on the way to Sargasso . . . Locked out . . . Never again would I have a Key, a Point of Intersection . . . The Heat was off me from here on out . . . relegated with Hauser and O’Brien to a landlocked junk past where heroin is always twenty-eight dollars an ounce and you can score for yen pox in the Chink laundry of Sioux Falls . . . Far side of the world’s mirror, moving into the past with Hauser and O’Brien . . . clawing at a not-yet of Telepathic Bureaucracies, Time Monopolies, Control Drugs, Heavy Fluid Addicts:

“I thought of that three hundred years ago.”

12 From “Which Is the Fly and Which Is the Human?” by Lynn Snowden, hosted on Reality Studio: A William S. Burroughs Community:

And in which scene, Cronenberg wants to know, does he actually show a horror of female genitalia? I point to Videodrome when James Woods looks on in fear as he grows an enormous vaginalike slit in his abdomen. “He seems to like it!” Cronenberg laughs. “It’s almost like he’s proud of it and happy to have it!” Yeah, and then he loses a gun in it? Isn’t that highly symbolic of a well-known male fear? “Well, I’ve known some women who thought they lost their Tampax and were just as freaked out as anybody else.”

He tells a story from the making of Videodrome, when Woods is forced to spend days with rubber appliances glued to his chest to attain the previously mentioned orifice. “And he turns to Debbie Harry and says, ‘When I first got on this picture, I was an actor. Now I feel like I’m just the bearer of the slit.’ And she said, ‘Now you know what it feels like.’ So I’m forcing him to be the bearer of the slit! Reality is what he perceives it to be.”

13 From “The sex, violence, and new flesh of Videodrome by Noel Murray, Keith Phipps, Nathan Rabin, and Scott Tobias:

Keith: Videodrome fits snugly between the films Cronenberg made before and the films he made later, but it still feels like a leap forward. I think his early films are terrific, and value them in part because of their crude directness, like the way Shivers literalizes every sexual anxiety drifting around in the midst of the sexual revolution. There’s an elegance to Videodrome that’s absent in the earlier films, though, which I know is a weird thing to say about a movie most famous for putting a sexualized, videotape-hungry orifice in its protagonist’s belly. Yet the film drifts along like a dream from one disturbing episode to another.

The note of unconscious creation is souned in an earlier post from a series on The Dissolve (other than the two listed here, there is the third in the series, “Kill your television (before it kills you)” by Keith Phipps) devoted to this movie, “The prescient analog nightmare of Videodrome” by Scott Tobias:

But the key to Videodrome‘s prescience is that Cronenberg isn’t interested in being prescient at all. He’s simply turning the present into a nightmare, and that nightmare is what the dark side of progress looks like. At the height of the VHS era, when the illicit pleasures of the movies-and the outlands of cable television-could be indulged, without shame, from the privacy of one’s own home, Cronenberg starts with that desire and watches it grow. Here, that means following one man’s quest to find the limits of what’s possible and go beyond it, to where the television isn’t just transmitting a signal, but is an active partner and biological component, “the retina of the mind’s eye.” As brainy as Videodrome is-like Cronenberg’s work in general-the film has an intuitive, id-driven quality, one that transcends logic by creating its own.

14 Although the sentence refers to it as a “roman orgy”, I now think its fairer to say that both meetings with Masha have references to the cultures which would influence the separate capitals of the Roman empire. So, we have the eastern “oriental” restaurant, and all the greek elements of the movie – the togas, the laurels, the columns – that would end up in Roman culture. Of course, there is the well known allegation that the roman empire simply took greek culture (art, philosophy, mathematics, etc.), and gave it practical application without any further intellectual development.

15 From “Families Learning of 39 Cultists Who Died Willingly” by B. Drummond Ayres Jr.:

The farewell tape, broadcast by ABC television, was especially strikingly for its upbeat tone, considering what lay ahead for those speaking and peering into the camera. On it, one cult member — none identified themselves — said his death would bring him “just the happiest day of my life.” and added, “I’ve been looking forward for this for so long.”

A woman who appeared to be in her 20′s looked intently into the camera and said, grinning broadly, “We are all choosing of our own free will to go to the next level.”

16 From “Heaven’s Gate: The Sequel” by Joshuah Bearman:

A secretive, itinerant group of self-described monks following the teachings of their leader, who was known simply as DO, they’d recently moved into a 9,000-square-foot mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, which they called “the Monastery” and “the Craft,” and was paid for by members doing Web design and other technical services. The group had many names over the years but by that time had settled on Heaven’s Gate. They’d waited patiently for a sign, and DO thought the sky was now speaking. When another amateur astronomer announced on Art Bell’s conspiracy-minded radio show that he’d taken a picture of Hale-Bopp showing an elongated fuzzy brightness lurking in the tail, word quickly spread in UFO circles that there was an alien spacecraft accompanying the comet. Remote-sensing practitioner Courtney Brown collected clairvoyant “data” that also suggested an extraterrestrial presence. DO’s followers went out and bought a telescope. They couldn’t see the ship themselves, but that wasn’t important. When Hale-Bopp passed too close to Jupiter, and the giant planet’s gravitational pull altered the comet’s orbit so that it would return every 2,000 years, DO became certain: This was their long-awaited “indicator,” perhaps even the star Wormwood described in The Revelation. The group updated its Web site. “RED ALERT” flashed across the top; below came the announcement “HALE-BOPP BRINGS CLOSURE TO HEAVEN’S GATE.”

For years, they’d been hoping to return to the Kingdom of Heaven, which they called “Evolutionary Level Above Human,” or the “Next Level.” Day in, day out, the group – which they always said was not a cult but a “classroom for growing a soul” – had learned to transcend human existence through rigorous discipline. In preparation for the final step of leaving their human bodies, or “exiting their vehicles,” the group assembled uniforms: matching black Nikes and homemade black pants and shirts, each adorned with a custom-made triangular patch that said “HEAVEN’S GATE AWAY TEAM.”

The Exit Videos are so important to Rio that he includes full transcripts in his book. The videos are short; each of the 38 statements (one member chose to say nothing) is less than five minutes long. I watched them all. Instantly noticeable was how similar everyone looks. In preparation for their future lives as immortal, androgynous beings in space, the men and women of Heaven’s Gate were all required to wear matching bowl cuts and baggy, unflattering jump suits.

Equally striking is their uniform serenity. Seated outside, with San Diego’s pleasant spring dawning in the background, every single member calmly explained their enthusiasm for the wondrous existence awaiting them: “I’ve been looking forward to this for so long”; “I couldn’t have made a better choice”; “Thirty-nine to beam up!” Thomas Nichols, who had been a member since 1976 (and was the brother of Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura on Star Trek), said: “I’m the happiest person in the world.”

17 This subhead is taken from How to Make Love Like a Porn Star: A Cautionary Tale by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, which in turn gets it from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet #5″:

Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel;
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
Sap checked with frost, and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’er-snowed and bareness every where:
Then were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

18 From Goddess by Anthony Summers:

The Greenes watched bemused as Marilyn plunged into their library. She started reading about Napoelon, discovered Josephine, and scooped up every book she could find about her. Supper conversation in the Greene household was dominated for a while by Marilyn enthusing about Josephine and her entourage.

“She was fascinated,” says Amy Greene, “by women who had made it.” Marilyn especially enjoyed learning how Josephine’s friend, Juliette Récamier, who was renowned for her figure, treated a specially commissioned nude statue of herself. As she aged, and her breasts started to droop, she had the marble breasts smashed.

19 This concept is explained earlier in Durkheim:

Now among these peoples, above all the particular deities to whom men render a cult, there is a pre-eminent power to which all the others have the relation of derived forms, and which is called wakan. Owing to the preponderating place thus assigned to this principle in the Siouan pantheon, it is sometimes regarded as a sort of sovereign god, or a Jupiter or Jahveh, and travellers have frequently translated wakan by ” great spirit.” This is misrepresenting its real nature gravely. The wakan is in no way a personal being ; the natives do not represent it in a determined form. According to an observer cited by Dorsey, ” they say that they have never seen the wakanda, so they cannot pretend to personify it.” It is not even possible to define it by determined attributes and characteristics. ” No word,” says Riggs,” can explain the meaning of this term among the Dakota. It embraces all mystery, all secret power, all divinity.” All the beings which the Dakota reveres,” the earth, the four winds, the sun, the moon and the stars, are manifestations of this mysterious life and power” which enters into all. Sometimes it is represented in the form of a wind, as a breath having its seat in the four cardinal points and moving everything : sometimes it is a voice heard in the crashing of the thunder, the sun, moon and stars are wakan. But no enumeration could exhaust this infinitely complex idea.

20 This concept is explained earlier in Durkheim:

Among the Iroquois, whose social organization has an even more pronouncedly totemic character, this, same idea is found again; the word orenda which expresses it is the exact equivalent of the wakan of the Sioux. “The savage man,” says Hewitt, “conceived the diverse bodies collectively constituting his environment to possess inherently mystic potence . . . (whether they be) the rocks, the waters, the tides, the plants and the trees, the animals and man, the wind and the storms, the clouds and the thunders and the lightnings,” etc. “This potence is held to be the property of all things . . . and by the inchoate mentation of man is regarded as the efficient cause of all phenomena, all the activities of his environment.”

21 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

I was in control-of myself, and the men around me. And I loved it: I loved the attention and the confidence it gave me. Even though I had no idea how to hustle guys for lap dances, I was the new girl, and they all wanted me.

By my last dance of the night, men were crowding around the stage and throwing money at me. It was then that I knew not only could I make it as a stripper, but I could get each and every one of those other girls back for laughing at me.

22 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The Crazy Horse Too was the best high-school class I ever took. The subject was social dynamics. It was amazing how the incentive of cash made it so easy to talk to people; before, I’d had no motivation to learn to be polite or carry on a conversation with a guy. They all wanted the same thing anyway. Within weeks at the club, I began to transform from a geeky teenage girl into a money-crazed psycho. And I loved it.

It wasn’t that I discovered some dormant ability to be a natural conversationalist. Instead, I learned to be an actress, because I was still not outgoing naturally. My job was simply to put up with the poor conversational skills of the customers, to seem open and caring while they talked about themselves. When my turn came to talk, I learned to lie. Everything that came out of my mouth was complete bullshit. I could tell by looking at each person what he wanted to hear. I’d tell him I was studying to be a real-estate agent, a lifeguard, a construction worker. Anything to steer them away from what was really going on in my life.

Since most of the men were into me because I looked so young and innocent, I decided to amplify that. As my grandmother always said, “What you can’t fix, you feature.” So one night I put my hair up in pony-tails, wore little pink shoes, and carried a plastic Barbie purse, which further contrasted me from the hardened girls.

23 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“When a guy comes into a club, most girls come up to him and say, ‘Do you want a dance?’” she told me. “That’s the last thing you should do. Be personable. Make him like you. Talk to him. Ask about his job. Act like you are interested.”

That was lesson one-the basics. Lesson two was to prearrange a deal with the waitress to put water in my shot and extra alcohol in the guy’s, and then order a round of drinks as soon as I sat with him.

“Get him as drunk as possible,” she said, “and rack those songs up.”

24 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

For us, these schemes weren’t only about the money; they were also for the adrenaline rush. It was a high to get the upper hand over a customer. They were dumb, they were drunk, and they deserved it. At least that’s what I thought at the time. Strippers can be vicious. The mentality is that if these guys are going to victimize us, we’re going to totally victimize them right back. It seemed like a fair exchange. And it was character building: I was finally learning to take control of people instead of being so passive in social situations.

25 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

They say that money can’t buy happiness, but that is an oversimplification. It actually depends on how you earn your money. If you’re juggling high-stress investments or managing scores of employees or deluged with phone calls or hiding something from the authorities, life is no fun. But if you can walk into a room, lead on a bunch of guys, and then leave with thousands of dollars in cash in your pocket and no obligation to anyone-not even an obligation to show up to work the next day-life is good. If I wanted to I would splurge on six bottles of Cristal champagne for my friends without a second thought. I wasn’t concerned about the future. My main objective was making money, and I met that objective night after night.

One local politician liked to be dominated and, although I had such a submissive personality naturally, one night I took his beer into the bathroom, peed into it, and then made him drink it. He loved it. The next night, he tipped me with a pink slip: for a brand-new Corvette.

26 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“Did you know you were just dancing for Pantera?”

“Really, those assholes were Pantera?”

“Did you know you were just dancing for Jack Nicholson?”

“Really, that old weirdo was Jack Nicholson?”

“Did you know you were just dancing for Whitesnake?”

“Really, like I give a crap.”

“Did you know you were just dancing for David Lee Roth?”

“Yeah, what a letdown. I used to have wet dreams over him. But he was rude, irritating, and babbled incoherently the whole time. And my friend Carrie just left the club with him. I’ve lost all respect for both of them.”

27 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Next, she put me on all fours for a butt shot and asked me to turn my head back to look at the camera. But since my head looked teeny in comparison to my ass in that position, she asked me to bend my body so that my face and my ass were the same distance from the camera and both in focus. I had no idea what she was talking about.

It was such a challenge to look sexy and relaxed while manipulating my body into the various uncomfortable contortions Julia was running me through. Even for what Julia considered the simplest pose, like looking over my shoulder with my back to the camera, I had to arch so hard that my lower back cramped. When I see those photos now, it seems obvious that the sexy pout I thought I was giving the camera was just a poorly disguised grimace of pain.

28 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

STEP THREE

Teenager becomes a stripper.

REASON

Work, money, and approval of boyfriend.

STEP FIVE

Teenager starts acting in soft-core all-female adult movies.

REASON

Revenge.

29 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Randy, who of course volunteered to be the man in the shoot, was a decent guy. He was a little old and had the fashion sense of a homeless wrestler, but I didn’t have to touch him if I didn’t want to.

30 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Usually, he just ripped a strip of foil off a cigarette pack, and inhaled the smoke through a sliced-up straw. But one night around 4 A.M., Jack and some of his friends came over and none of them had any cigarettes. So someone came up with the bright idea of unscrewing a lightbulb in the kitchen. They heated the base of the lightbulb until the glue on it melted, then they pulled off the metal base. After emptying the bulb, they drilled a hole in the top and stuffed a little meth inside. They heated the side of the bulb with a lighter and smoked out of the hole where the metal used to be. I just stood and watched the whole thing. It was a beautiful process, and the smoke smelled so sweet. When Jack offered me a hit, I decided to try it. It couldn’t hurt to do it just one time.

I inhaled a little, and the smoke filled my lungs. Unlike pot or even cigarettes, it was so smooth I could hardly feel it. When I exhaled, a thin three-foot-long column of smoke escaped from my lips. Everything seemed to move in slow motion, and then someone pressed fast forward. My heart felt like a woodpecker was inside, hammering hard enough to burst through my chest at any moment.

After that, I never wanted to snort meth again. Smoking it was amazing. At first, I only smoked it when Jack was around because he was the only one who knew the mechanics of the whole foil and straw contraption. But since I had no other challenges in my life at the moment, I set my mind to figuring out how to do it for myself. And once I did, smoking meth became a daily pastime. The high was more dreamy and intense, but it didn’t last as long. Every ten minutes I wanted another hit, so I constantly asked Jack for more.

31 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, two of the steps in her career:

Throughout the photo shoot, they told me, “Jenna, relax. Let the tension out of your face.” I was clenching my teeth so hard from the crystal. Even more embarrassing, in certain poses my bones were sticking out so badly that they had to artfully drape my clothes over them so that I wouldn’t repulse readers. There were no magazines for guys with fetishes for anorexic meth freaks at the time.

I vacuumed so much that the carpets were actually disintegrating. The house looked perfect, but if it seemed too perfect, then I had to rearrange all the furniture to make the place seem more natural. I must have organized the frigging bathroom cupboards a thousand times, sorting each item according to size or function or owner or frequency of use-all in the same night.

Some girls who get high pick at their skin all night. I was not a picker. I was a maker. I was constantly amazed by the innovative and profound avant-garde artwork I could bring to life with a glue gun. My pieces should have been hanging somewhere, like a mental institution. Though I was infamous amongst Jack’s friends for making papier-mâché dragons in the closet all night, my greatest creations were my self-collages. I would go through adult magazines and cut my pictures from the phone-sex ads in the back. Then I’d glue them to a piece of paper and stick funny little phrases from Cosmopolitan below them, like, “Is it a do or a don’t?” “What procedures have you had done?” or “7 ways to make him beg for more.” Then I’d pick up my little handheld poker video game and play it all night, until my hands literally bled.

32 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Afterward, I spent twenty-four hours packing ten suitcases, because I knew Cannes was a big deal and I wanted to be prepared for anything. They were bringing over two other girls, Juli Ashton (a former high school Spanish teacher) and Kaylan Nicole (the reigning queen of anal at the time), both of whom were more experienced and popular than I was. As catty as it sounds, I wanted nothing more than to prove myself over these chicks. But it was going to be hard, because I was trying to learn from them at the same time. They had realized that with their beauty, boobs, and status, the rules that applied to the rest of the world didn’t apply to them. They had the attitude that they could do absolutely anything they wanted.

33 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The minute we got off the plane, we were in another world. It was one I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl, imagining what it would be like to be an international jet-setting model. In fact, it was wilder than my dreams. Flashbulbs went off everywhere. The paparazzi screamed and fought to take pictures of me, even though they had no idea who I was. It was so overwhelming and disorienting being pushed through the admiring crowd toward a waiting limo. I knew, for the first time, what an actual celebrity must feel like. I had only been playing at being one, but I now felt it was within my grasp.

34 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

I walked past a table full of beautiful girls, with Wesley Snipes sitting smack in the middle of them all. He waved me over.

“So you’re the reporter from the E! Channel.” He smiled. “Why don’t you join us?”

Hesitantly, I sat down next to him, and all the other girls at the table shot me dagger looks. He was trying to get in their pants; they were trying to get in his pants; and I was confused. “So,” he leaned over and whispered in my ear, “do you like it up the ass?”

Being a porn star, I was used to such questions. But Wesley had no idea I was a porn star. Either way, I was offended.

Anal sex is an exchange of power. And every man I’ve ever met loves the idea of dominating a woman by pushing his massive dick into her tight sphincter so that she loses control.

For me to allow a man to have anal sex with me, I must have trust first. Because to be on the receiving end of anal sex is to give yourself completely to your partner. And that’s why, despite the fact that it is practically an industry standard to have anal sex in every sex scene, I’ve never done it in a film.

35 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

When it was all over, he wrapped his naked body around mine. Instantly I stiffened. I hate cuddling. When I’m hot and sweaty and sticky, the last thing I want to do is be pressed up against something else that’s hot and sweaty and sticky. I pulled away, and he looked hurt.

36 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

“Why don’t you just stay and cuddle?” he asked.

“Did you just say the c-word?!”

I don’t cuddle, but I lay with him for a little while longer and listened to him talk about religion. Then I made my escape. Rod was still waiting in my room for me.

37 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

And he wanted to fuck me in the ass a little too often for my comfort. Every time we were naked, he’d be going for my butt like a rat to cheese.

38 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

It has become a constant issue for me. I’ve been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars to do anal. But even if I walked away with $300,000 for having done it, I would also be taking away the feeling that I gave up something that was really important to me. This is almost embarrassing for a porn star to admit, but I’ve only given that up to three men, all of whom I really loved. Doing it on camera would be compromising myself. Sex, on the other hand, is something I’m comfortable giving up-albeit not often-to a stranger in a one-night stand. The fact is, I’ve only had about fifteen different male partners on camera.

39 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, artwork by Bernard Chang:

40 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, artwork by Bernard Chang:

41 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

A lot of guys want to get into porn to get laid. What are your thoughts on that?

Getting into porn is a death sentence. As a male performer you are doomed to be single for the rest of your life. A contract girl does eight to ten scenes per year. A guy performs seven to ten scenes per week at least. The number one performers do fifteen scenes per week. So what girl is going to go out with a guy who’s pounding fifteen other girls every week? No one. The guys don’t have any social life, because they are on set so much. And when they do go out, they are like lepers. Girls won’t touch them. Even girls in the industry avoid them, because it’s bad for their career to get stuck having sex with just one guy on camera.

42 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Every night became my birthday. I realized I could pull in more money if I told them that I blew off the chance to celebrate my birthday because it was so important to me to be there dancing for them instead. “So I’m here, happy birthday to me,” I thought. “That’s right, fuckers. Cough it up.”

43 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The Pink Poodle was a wild place, an all-nude strip theater that was always at the epicenter of some major scandal. The girls there were among the raunchiest performers I’ve seen onstage in this country. Nikki and I weren’t willing to do much more than get fucked-up and fall all over each other onstage, so our tips suffered accordingly.

The only thing that redeemed the night was meeting Mr. 187-a former marine, an erstwhile middleweight boxer, and the sergeant-at-arms for the West Coast chapter of the Hell’s Angels. Mr. 187 was a badass motherfucker who was angry at the world and enjoyed nothing more than snapping a guy’s arm for looking at him wrong. So naturally, we took him on tour with us.

44 “Anatomy of a Murder” by Will Harper, describes the killing at The Pink Poodle. “Hells Angels member gunned down at San Jose funeral” by Sam Webby and Tracey Kaplan is about the killing of Steve Tausan aka Mr. 187 at a funeral.

45 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

We were as destructive-and self-destructive-as a rock band. With both of us at the top of our game as porn stars, it was our greatest-hits tour. Most guys will watch a favorite porn clip more than they watch Star Wars or Zoolander, so when they saw us standing three inches from their faces, they went insane. Hundreds of people would chant our names before each show and fight to get close to the stage.

We brought feature dancing to a new level: Where some girls were getting $250 a show, we were getting $5,000, simply because we had the balls to demand it. Add to that Polaroids, tips, and merchandise, and we were pulling in over $100,000 for a three-night engagement. We insisted on five-star hotels with room service, limos to and from the club, and at least two security guards accompanying us at all times.

46 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: You always lived in great houses. You always had swimming pools. You always had great cars. You always dressed the best.

Jenna: I don’t know about that, Dad.

Larry: To me you did. At least, as much as a $40,000 a year policeman could give you. I guess Florida was awful.

Jenna: Ugh, Florida was ghetto.

Tony: I remember going to school and it was so bad. There was a barbed-wire fence around the courtyard. All the tricycles were chained to a pole in the middle so the kids wouldn’t steal them. So the only way you could play with them was if everyone got on their tricycles in unison because they were all tied together. I was in shock. I sat back and went, “Oh my God.”

47 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: Remember that guy who tried to burglarize our place? Me and Jenna were at home. I think he knew we were latchkey kids. We thought someone had come onto our little porch area. Then we heard the doorknob wiggle.

Jenna: And Dad and Marjorie didn’t believe us. They thought we were insane.

Jenna: Tony started sleeping with guns under his pillows when he was about six years old. It was insane. Dad would never give him bullets but he gave him little Derringers and shit.

Tony: Yeah, but every time Dad dropped a bullet in the house, I picked it up and kept it in a box. So I was pretty well armed.

48 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: It all started when we were younger and would egg people. Then we decided to take it to a different level.

Jenna: I came up with the idea of the fire extinguisher. I was like, “They’re readily available at every apartment complex. We just gotta go break the glass and take the fire extinguisher, which sets off the fire alarm. But if we get out of there fast enough, we’re fine, right?” So we had a collection of them. And we would go “fog people up,” as we called it.

Tony: I’d call someone over to the car to get directions …

Jenna: … and I’d psssssshhht out of the window. It was great because it’s like a cloud of death. And the people afterward are just coated in white. We would go down to cracktown and see the crack hos on the corner and we’d fog ‘em up! I remember one time we got this kid on a skateboard and there was a cop that saw us. We were in this total car chase, and we got away.

49 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Jenna: Yeah, the way I dressed worked in Las Vegas; it didn’t work in Montana. But I was popular with the boys, and I wasn’t going to give that up for these jealous girls in school. So it just got more violent because their boyfriends would leave them for me. There was this one corner that I had to pass on my way to school, and the girls would wait for me there and chase me. They were corn-fed, so they were pretty tough. One girl would get me by the back, and one would punch me in the stomach. They didn’t really hurt me, but Jesus Christ I got the wind knocked out of me. Or they would rip out my hair. During school, they would draw on the back of my shirt with markers, put gum in my hair, stuff like that.

50 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: One day they called me and said, “We are going to put your child in a foster home if you don’t get her to go to school.”

Jenna: Oh, Dad. The worst thing happened in Montana. I never told you but I just can’t talk about it. It was so bad. And that’s why I stopped going to school. So when you told me that, I slipped a gear. I was like, “Okay, these people are threatening my life and trying to send me to a foster home? They want to play a game? Fine! We’ll play a game!” I wasn’t going to take this shit anymore. So I marched into school, and the girl who picked on me the most was leaning into her locker to get a book or something. I walked up full force and, boom, I slammed the locker door so hard and busted her head wide open.

51 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

The job of porn star is not a calling—or even an option—for most women. However, if you make the right decisions and set the right boundaries for yourself, it can be a great living, because you’ll make a lot of money while doing very little work. And you’ll get more experience in front of the camera than any Hollywood actress. Though watching porn may seem degrading to some women, the fact is that it’s one of the few jobs for women where you can get to a certain level, look around, and feel so powerful, not just in the work environment but as a sexual being. So, fuck Gloria Steinem.

52 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

One local politician liked to be dominated and, although I had such a submissive personality naturally, one night I took his beer into the bathroom, peed into it, and then made him drink it. He loved it. The next night, he tipped me with a pink slip: for a brand-new Corvette.

From “Jenna Jameson: The Interview”:

Q: I was preparing for the interview and noticed that you have been in movies with both men and women. Do you have a preference to do a scene with a gentleman or a female?

They are very different. With men, I am very submissive. With women, I am very dominant. Which is weird. I try not to be dominant, and it would be nice to do a scene where I get my butt kicked. But I always end up being the man in the relationship (laughs). I get to be two different people.

Q: That is ironic, given your personality, I would expect you to be dominant with men as well.

Actually, I am very submissive. I think that has to do with my business, when I get home, it is nice to be a different self.

From “Jenna Jameson – Hotter Than Ever” (NSFW) by Bryan Keith:

Xtreme: I don’t know man, you’d have to tie a tourniquet around me for it not to end. But what do ya think your husband Jay’s biggest turn-on is?

Jenna: Wow, there’s so many. He likes, doggy style, he likes to be the dominant force in sex, which is great because I’m submissive when it comes to having sex with men, so I like a man who can show me who’s boss. And he’s one of those guys, that’s what turns him on…seeing a girl whimper, and I’m a good whimperer.

53 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Jenna: Dad’s had an amazing life. He went into the service right after he graduated high school.

Larry: That was in 1957. I was an, um, advisor for 729 days 16 hours and 27 minutes in Vietnam in the seventh armored division. But who’s counting?

Jenna: It’s hard to believe that you witnessed and participated in such violent scenes.

Larry: I’ll give you an example. I took twenty nuns and some orphans out of a little village sixty clicks southwest of Nha Trang and was waiting for helicopters to pick them up. But we were being followed by North Vietnamese regulars and some Viet Cong. So I placed myself halfway between the helicopters and the tree line. I had my Thompson machine gun on my back and my M14 rifle in my hands. When they came out of the tree line, I just started picking them off. The next day, they found sixty-one bodies that I had killed lying there. And that doesn’t include the bodies the North Vietnamese hauled off into the tree line.

Jenna: He killed all those guys without batting an eyelash, but he was scared of bugs.

54 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Tony: Later, he was sent to Africa to fight against a communist revolution over there.

Larry: The government came to me and said I could finish out my time if I’d organize and train soldiers in the Congo to fight the Simba communist revolution. It’s interesting because when you first go over you try to be so righteous. I grew up with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, and they never shot anybody in the back. It was the white hats against the black hats. You have to do everything fair.

Well, I found out in war the best way to come home alive is to sneak up on people and shoot them. When I got to Africa I still had some humanity left. When we captured the rebels, we would have a trial and then we would pass judgment: we would imprison them, execute them, or send them back to their village. But after four months of walking in the bloody wake of Simba massacres, we flew the black flag. If you ran, you were a Simba rebel. If you stood still, you were a well-disciplined Simba rebel. So we shot everyone. I would come up to a village and, instead of going house to house, I would level the whole place. I would call in the P51 Mustangs. We used Napalm. I had a contingent of howitzers. We went from village to village killing them all. We just didn’t care. We didn’t care.

55 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss, from a letter Larry Massoli sends his daughter when she’s writing the book:

And you don’t know this either, but we became Scientologists for a while. Judy’s brother, Dennis, was always a spiritual seeker. He gave me a job at the TV station and then turned us on to Scientology. He had been on L. Ron Hubbard’s boat with him.

Dennis [his late wife's brother] found Scientology a little expensive, but it did us a lot of good and made me a little more compassionate and empathetic.

56 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: It was very scary at that time. They had put a contract out on me. I was so worried about the kids. What happened was that a guy named Walter Plankinton had opened a place called the Chicken Ranch, and a couple of cronies from a rival bordello came and burned the place down. So my lieutenant told me, “You are going to get a call to go to the other side of the valley. When you get that call just do what you’re told and wait it out, no matter what happens.”

And I said, “Not on my watch.” So I kept them from getting revenge. I refused to take bribes or turn a blind eye to anything illegal, so everybody wanted to chase me out of town. It was like the Old West out there, and they didn’t want anyone trying to tackle the corruption.

Tony: Remember when we had to go hide out in Johnny Whitmore’s attic?

Jenna: I forgot about that.

Tony: I was sleeping in the dining room at the time, on a day bed. And I heard a crunching on the rocks, so I knew someone was out there. I looked outside and I saw a shadow. So I went to dad’s room. He was married to Marjorie then.

Larry: Oh, Christ, Marjorie. I needed someone to help me with the kids. That was a mistake.

Tony: So I knocked on their door, and Marjorie was like, “Shut the fuck up. Go back to bed.” I looked out the window and saw this guy in a bandanna, and he was wearing gloves and had a brick in his hand. I was so scared I couldn’t breathe. Then the brick came right through the window. And you came running out buck naked and grabbed a Thompson submachine gun and ran through the front door shooting. The gun lit up the night, and all I could hear was the brrrraaaaappp brrrraaaaappp from the machine gun.

Larry: He got away, so I put my uniform on and code three’d it over to the Shamrock, which was one of the brothels that had fire-bombed the Chicken Ranch. I drove the patrol car through the front door and unloaded two clips into the bar with that Thompson submachine gun. Then I said, “I want you fuckers to stop fucking with my family.” And we never had a problem after that.

57 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

Larry: You know, the incident that sticks with me is when we were at the corporate apartment and we did coke. I did it with you, and you looked at Tony and said, “Go, Dad.”

Jenna: Get down with your bad self, Dad.

Larry: That’s exactly what you said. I will never forget that. I completely reversed myself from being the self-righteous stupid ass that I was to a psycho.

58 From How to Make Love Like a Porn Star by Jenna Jameson and Neil Strauss:

My dad, a former cop, whose sense of righteousness was so strong when I was growing up that he neglected his own children and risked his job to fight corruption on the police force, was now living this squalid life on the margins of society—running away from some sort of trouble in Vegas, dating a stripper, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, smoking the exact same drug he had seen nearly kill his daughter.

Larry: You know what? I don’t miss any drug. But the only drug I ever liked was crank. It’s the best drug on the planet, but smoking it. Not sniffing it.

Jenna: When did you smoke crank?

Larry: When I was managing the strip club. I did just enough to stay high all day.

59 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

Andrea is not the real first name of a New York-based dominatrix who is a Britney obsessive. She is very skinny, with long hair, a pointy nose, smiley eyes, and perpetual excitement. We met on BreatheHeavy and I’d asked if we could meet the day of the show. She had texted me to look for her — “I’m in a cowgirl look” — and she was, boots and hat included.

She’s been a Stan (an obsessive fan, a term plucked from Eminem liturgy) since 2003; that was when Britney, to Andrea, became Authenticney, less Bubblegumney and dropping that bullshit wide-eyed Virginey act. It was Meltdowney circa 2008 that sealed the deal for her, though. “Oh, I loved it,” Andrea said. “She was just saying fuck you to the world over and over. This was who I knew she was. In the early 2000s, she was a phony. This was really her.”

60 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

[Britney Spears] was sitting in a room in the semi-dark, slightly hunched over, a little bored, at the tail end of a daylong junket in which TV journalists asked her questions like “What do people not know about you?” (“Really that I’m pretty boring.”) and “What was the craziest rumor you ever heard about yourself?” (“That I died.”) and who her secret famous crush is, a question that she’s been asked for years and years and that she’s been giving the same answer to for years and years (“Brad Pitt”).

Everyone wants her most personal album and her most personal interview ever—we are a nation riveted by Britney’s personhood—and no matter how many times she answers our questions, still she is a whore and a liar and an idiot and a fraud.

Instead she answers the same questions she’s always answered: The crazy rumor, the favorite city to visit, the secret crush (that she died, for Christ’s sake; London, but she’s not sure why; Brad Pitt! Brad Pitt! For the love of god, it’s always Brad Pitt!). They’re gonna try to try you but they can’t deny you.

So now we get nothing, either because she’s wary of us or because she knows that if you’re reading this, your decision has already been made. Now she’s a mystery wrapped in a riddle bound together by a hair extension. Now, the weatherman gets to interview her.

61 I don’t know if I necessarily agree with the tone of this review, and I’ve often been hostile to this writer’s work in the past, but this very point is made in Jody Rosen’s review of the album Britney Jean, “Britney Jean is DOA”:

People who dislike pop music will sometimes point to Spears as Exhibit A — as evidence that pop is soulless industrial product, assembled by committee and performed by singing mannequins. Of all the major pop divas, Spears is the only one who resembles a singing (in her case, “singing”) mannequin. But her body of work is conclusive evidence that great pop — forsooth, art — can result from industrial production. Consider: “…Baby, One More Time,” “Oops!…I Did It Again,” “Toxic,” “Piece of Me,” “Til the World Ends,” “How I Roll.”

These songs are amazing, and they’re amazing not despite but because of Spears’s limitations. Spears has been one of the most reliable record-makers in music by playing to her strengths: by accentuating the synthetic, by making herself a vessel for songwriters’ ideas about celebrity and sex and other juicy topics, and by letting some of the world’s most talented producers treat her voice like sonic Laffy Taffy, a thing to be coated with sugar, dyed garish hues, and stretched into all kinds of preposterous shapes. It should be noted that credit for this aesthetic must go to Spears herself. Whatever she lacks in other areas, Britney has shown exceptional taste and judgment when it comes to what songs to record and release.

Unfortunately, on her eighth album, Spears had a wacky idea: to try to impersonate a sentient she-human. Britney Jean is, per Britney, “my most personal album ever.” The thing about personal albums is that they call for a personality, and a voice to project it. Britney Jean is dead on arrival.

“Miss American Dream” slightly mis-states what the review is reacting against, the nasty quality of the first single, “Work, Bitch”:

On the surface, “Work Bitch” is a bizarre dance song with depressing lyrics.

Vulture published a disgusted review, calling her not just the most boring singer on the planet but “the most boring person,” and “anti-matter in a belly shirt.”

Rosen’s review is not disgusted with the song, but actually likes it:

It has a couple of moments. I happen to like the stentorian career-counseling session “Work, Bitch,” in which Britney affects a bizarre “Euro” accent to bark out boasts and warmed-over RuPaul commands: “Go call the governor / I bring the trouble … You better work, bitch.

62 From “Miss American Dream”, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner:

The only fan I met who didn’t like the show—and I did meet so many fans—was, if you can believe it, poor Andrea. A few days later we talked on the phone and she told me that Britney had seemed so unhappy to be there that Andrea, in her catsuit and still with her cowgirl hat, almost wanted to leave. Andrea had once thrown a sex party where she’d had to hire prostitutes to have sex with a group of people while she stood over them with a whip. There was this one prostitute who technically did a good job—“She got fucked and sucked, which is all I asked her to do, right?”—but there was something so vacant in the prostitute’s eyes, something so unwilling that it kind of killed the whole thing for Andrea. That’s what this felt like.

63 From Durkheim:

Collective sentiments can just as well become incarnate in persons or formulae: some formulae are flags, while there are persons, either real or niythical, who are symbols. But there is one sort of emblem which should make an early appearance without reflection or calculation: this is tattooing. Indeed, well-known facts demonstrate that it is produced almost automatically in certain conditions. When men of an inferior culture are associated in a common life, they are frequently led, by an instinctive tendency, as it were, to paint or cut upon the body, images that bear witness to their common existence. According to a text of Procopius, the early Christians printed on their skin the name of Christ or the sign of the cross; for a long time, the groups of pilgrims going to Palestine were also tattooed on the arm or wrist with designs representing the cross or the monogram of Christ. This same usage is also reported among the pilgrims going to certain holy places in Italy. A curious case of spontaneous tattooing is given by Lombroso: twenty young men in an Italian college, when on the point of separating, decorated themselves with tattoos recording, in various ways, the years they had spent together. The same fact has frequently been observed among the soldiers in the same barracks, the sailors in the same boat, or the prisoners in the same jail. It will be understood that especially where methods are still rudimentary, tattooing should be the most direct and expressive means by which the communion of minds can be affirmed. The best way of proving to one’s self and to others that one is a member of a certain group is to place a distinctive mark on the body.

For the same reason, the personages who for centuries have been the subject of myths respectfully passed on from mouth to mouth, and periodically put into action by the rites, could not fail to take a very especial place in the popular imagination.

But how does it happen that, instead of remaining outside of the organized society, they have become regular members of it?

This is because each individual is the double of an ancestor. Now when two beings are related as closely as this, they are naturally conceived as incorporated together; since they participate in the same nature, it seems as though that which affects one ought to affect the other as well. Thus the group of mythical ancestors became attached to the society of thé living; the same interests and the same passions were attributed to each; they were regarded as associates. However, as the former had a higher dignity than the latter, this association takes, in the public mind, the form of an agreement between superiors and inferiors, between patrons and clients, benefactors and recipients. Thus comes this curious idea of a protecting genius who is attached to each individual.

64 From “Megan Fox Clarifies Lindsay Lohan-Marilyn Monroe Comparison in Esquire” by Bruna Nessif:

“In the newly released article that I did for Esquire, there is a reference that is made to Lindsay Lohan that I would like to clarify before it snowballs into something silly,” Fox wrote.

“The journalist and I were discussing why I was removing my Marilyn Monroe tattoo, especially since in his opinion, Marilyn was such a powerful and iconic figure for women. I attempted to draw parallels between Lindsay and Marilyn in order to illustrate my point that while Marilyn may be an icon now, sadly she was not respected and taken seriously while she was still living,” she added.

Fox continued, “Both women were gifted actresses, whose natural talent was lost amongst the chaos and incessant media scrutiny surrounding their lifestyles and their difficulties adhering to studio schedules etc. I intended for this to be a factual comparison of two women with similar experiences in Hollywood. Unfortunately it turned into me offering up what is really much more of an uneducated opinion. It was most definitely not my intention to criticize or degrade Lindsay. I would never want her to feel bullied, as she does not deserve that. I was not always speaking eloquently during this interview and this miscommunication is my fault.”

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My Pending Comment at The Atlantic

What follows is a comment to the piece, “The Media Can Prevent Mass Murderers From Becoming Famous” by Conor Friedersdorf that remains pending eight hours later. It displays the characteristics of incoherence whenever I jot out something in-between work. It attempted to contrast the free speech allowed those who might give unlimited funds to groups that seek to destroy any gun safety laws and the limits on speech we are encouraged to have in the wake of such massacres. Such limits, I attempt to argue, are impossible; we do not discuss at length these massacres out of tabloid hunger but because it is the only feeble action we might take to anticipate or prevent another such massacre. We research these massacres and their perpetrators, inevitably making the murderers famous, in order to do what little we can, because the government could prevent mass murder…but doesn’t – or rather, is prevented from doing so through vast private lobbying. The ending note is perhaps what caused this post to be pending – I wished to point out the ubiquitousness of misogynistic thinking, and so I quoted what Roger Stone had tweeted about Jill Abramson after she was fired: “DIE BITCH!” This, I thought, had some immediate relevance to this post, since Stone was the manager of the 2012 Gary Johnson campaign on the Libertarian Party ticket and Fridersdorf had endorsed Johnson as the best, most moral choice in that election. We have the further irony that Stone might express such sentiments, those fighting gun control might speak freely i.e. spend vast amounts freely, and yet re-quoting Stone’s statements to show the prevalence of such misogyny is apparently verboten in polite society, a free speech that ultimately must be politely tempered.

The pending comment follows:

Here’s an astonishing contrast – since the Supreme Court ruled that money equals speech, and you cannot restrict speech, you now have nearly no limits that can be spent against those in favor of gun control. We can avoid the “But Soros!” rebuke, because the asymmetry will always favor those against gun control, because those against such controls tend to also be against any regulations on business and for lower or no taxes, so a disproportionate amount of big money donors will always favor those who will bring about fewer laws for guns, and less tax money for mental health. An obvious result is more killings by people who shouldn’t be anywhere near guns in the first place. So, this is the contrast: more free speech for them before the fact, less free speech about the aftereffects.

That there is so much writing about these massacres is not sensationalism. I’m currently making it through this shooter’s manifesto, as many are, because right now attempting to understand what was behind this killer and what small measures can be taken to avoid it the next time – this is our only recourse, since simple personal safety is a luxury not permitted us. We’re going to have to read this killer’s manifesto, and the next one’s, and the next one’s, and the next one’s, and the next one’s, and the next one’s… and study it, and discuss it at length, because when people die for such heinous, disgusting reasons, you are compelled to action: and the most obvious action is not allowed us. It is not allowed us, and Conor Friedersdorf ultimately thinks it righteous that it not be allowed us, because the gun debate is over, no matter how many die: “The U.S. Already Had a Conversation About Guns—and the Pro Side Won”.

We might also offer here a contrast of what’s allowed and what isn’t: access to guns is okay, access to birth control isn’t. For birth control to be part of your insurance plan has nothing to do with having a woman’s body, but liberal intolerance: “A Real Commitment to Minority Rights Needs a Real Commitment to Freedom”. This is what real freedom looks like – you paying extra for your pills because of the vague religious beliefs of your boss (or maybe their cheapness using it as a cover), you cowering in fear under your desk as a man kills your co-workers one by one, because his freedom could not be denied, and the speech that fought for the gun in his hand could not be denied either.

I’ll just end on one note: in the 2012 election, Friedersdorf chastised those who voted for Barack Obama, and explained why he felt the only moral choice was to vote for Gary Johnson in the well-known piece “Why I Refuse To Vote For Barack Obama”. There was no distinction between the policies women might face between Romney and Obama: “The Bipartisan Interest in Making Women Feel Bad”. The man who managed the Johnson campaign was a Nixon administration alumnus, a man named Roger Stone (“Roger Stone’s Steakhouse Politics” by Gabriel Sherman). Never mind that the Johnson campaign might have been an elaborate ploy to split liberal votes (yes, liberal votes on the issues of drug legalization and drones) and that many Johnson supporters had questions about campaign spending (this is dealt with in a long blog post I was heavily involved in, “Roger Stone: Pretty Reckless Is Going Straight To Hell Part Eight”, part of a series on this operative); I will point to a recent tweet by Stone, very much in character: “Jill Abramson reviewed all JFK anniversary book for NY Times she never mentioned mine– which outsold every one she did review- DIE BITCH!” (should it be deleted, here is a screenshot). This was the man who was going to lead us all to a better, more peaceful world. We have to mention these things, we have to bring up all these ugly things, because our chattering class never will, our chattering class doesn’t give a damn about us.

The cited tweet is the following:

As said, this is not the sole example of Stone’s intemperance. In a series of tweets, Stone would allege that former President Bill Clinton was a serial rapist: “Bill Clinton is a serial rapists [sic] and Hillary knew all and directed cover-up. Sell that to woman voters.” A writer named Rebecca Jaramillo (@RebeccazWriting) would question the sincerity of this allegation: “It’s YOUR job; you’re the demagoue. EA time you blather, another Warren Dem [Warren Democrat] moves into HRC’s corner. Idiot.” Stone: “Ignorant bitch!” He would follow this up with “Can’t wait for @rebeccawriting to finish her novel which NO ONE will buy. I will buy- to wipe my ass with it. #kunt” And: “You should stop tweeting about politics- you only betray you stupidity- YOU started the name calling- bitch.” Andrew Miller, the stepson of Stone associate Dianne Thorne would tweet out the same message: “You should stop tweeting about politics- you only betray you stupidity- YOU started the name calling- bitch.” Followed by: “@RebeccazWriting is one mouthy, loud-mouthed ignorant cunt”.

The tweet about Jaramillo’s book was deleted by Stone. The following is taken from a screenshot (link):

The Andrew Miller tweets are now deleted. The following are taken from a screenshot (link):

Stone, the man who supposedly ran a 2012 campaign that was touted as a reformist third party initiative which should draw bipartisan support, also had an interesting statement to make about Senator Bernie Sanders, a man known for his passionate criticisms of the national security state and Wall Street cronyism: “Soviet Agent Bernie Saunders, Should be arrested for treason and shot.”

I’m not sure if threatening a sitting senator with death warrants an investigation by treasury agents. Can’t remember*. Anyway: if the previous tweet is deleted, I’ve made a screenshot (link).

This post is, of course, a brief return to the subject of Roger Stone, who was covered here in a ten-part series: One (devoted to his beginnings in the Nixon administration), Two (the contrast of his libertine life and the hardline social politics of the Reagan administration), Three (the goings-on of his lobby shop Manafort, Black, Stone, and Kelly, including their involvement in Angola and the appearance of their alumni in the fiasco of Iraq, as well as working with a firm that was a front for Pakistan’s intelligence service), Four (voter suppression in 1980 New Jersey and 2000 Florida), Five (the Indian Bureau and gambling licenses), Six (ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and the 2010 New York election), Seven (fake Tea Partys and the goings-on of Stone associates Dianne Thorne and Timothy Suereth), Eight (the ex-wife Ann Stone and the 2012 election), Nine (the inconsistencies of Stone’s book, The Man Who Killed Kennedy and the unusual on-line persons who share an enthusiasm for this book and a hatred for Eliot Spitzer), Ten (Stone’s work in the Ukrainian election of Volydymr Lytvyn, who may have ordered the killing of the journalist Gyorgy Gongadze).

For the paltry few wondering what has happened to the new content for this site, rather than this small in-betweener, I’m currently working on one post devoted to a movie which I hope to have ready by tomorrow, and another involving a great deal of research that grows vaster and vaster in scope, and which now encompasses the events of four decades. As do many who look into the past of the United States, I am astonished at how many major stories go untold, and how the country’s history is one which is vivid, strange, and seemingly forgotten the next day, leaving it to a few maverick zealots to pick among the bones and find occasional stunning patterns.

ADDENDUM: This comment is no longer pending. It has now been deleted.

* After writing this piece, I remembered that the FBI handles such things for members of congress.

(Some small edits were made to this post on the day after publication, solely for the purposes of clarification. Nothing in terms of its ideas or essential content was changed.)

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The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility To Certainty Part Two

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

THE AFTERMATH PART II

I did not begin this piece with the expectation that I would reach a point of firm conviction. I thought that the more I read on the subject, more and more uncertainty would pervade about what actually took place and what effect it had on the peace talks. Instead, I found only confirmation, and this was a conclusion that I reached with dread, and no doubt this is why this particulae episode is so assiduously avoided or why there is such an overwhelming momentum towards it having no consequence, that the horrors of Vietnam and Cambodia would have happened anyway – because this episode displays vividly how untransparent a democracy can be, and how much inhumanity you can get away with, just as long as you are a little deft at hiding it. That your transgression is so grievous may perhaps make it easier to hide, as there will be a concerted desire to deny that such a crime could take place – it couldn’t happen here. But it did!

Those looking for exculpatory evidence will have to settle for the possibility that the peace talks would have failed even without Nixon’s interference. I quote once again from Beverly Deepe Keever’s Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting for one such moment:

After the election, [Pham Xuan] An [a stringer hired to help with oral and written translations] and I gleaned a play-by-play of the final confrontations between Thieu and U.S. ambassador Ellsworth Bunker that revealed why the Vietnamese had backed out of going to Paris. A Vietnamese source close to the palace conversations shared with An an –d me his notes detailing what I described as “one of the most bizarre – if not scandalous – American diplomatic maneuvers in war-time history.”

In a nutshell the U.S. chief negotiator in Paris, Averell Harriman, made a proposal that Hanoi accepted on October 27 to begin peace negotiations starting November 6 – the day after the presidential election – for a four-power conference that would give the National Liberation Front equal status and legitimacy with the Saigon government. In Saigon, however, Ambassador Bunker had secured Thieu’s agreement to go to a three-power conference, with separate delegations representing Hanoi, Saigon and Washington, but with the NLF sitting as part of North Vietnam’s delegation. “Here is Bunker getting Thieu’s agreement to a three-way peace conference in Paris,” a stunned diplomat told me. “But Harriman had already sold out Saigon by giving away to Hanoi the most important thing of all – representation of the National Liberation Front.”

The only obstacle to finding such misdeeds as the major impediment to the peace talks, rather than Nixon’s machinations, is that Nixon would bring the NLF into the talks as well. As already pointed out, both Anna Chennault and Nguyen Thieu thought they would get a better deal with Nixon, and both felt they were ultimately betrayed. The possible reason for why there was no earlier withdrawal, why the war continued for another four years, resulting in a settlement on the same terms that would have been achieved in 1968, but now paid for with the dead of Laos, Cambodia, the collapse of the Cambodian government, which would lead to the genocide of Pol Pot – as well as more American and Vietnamese life thrown away – had nothing to do with realpolitik, or domino theories, or balance of power, but the domestic coalition necessary to win re-election. This cynical take was given, of course, by Henry Kissinger, and can be found in The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers:

There was something else, as grave a betrayal-if it is true-as the undermining of the peace effort. Henry Kissinger, soon to find fame as national security adviser and secretary of state, offered a cynical assessment of the administration’s position a few months after meeting Nixon. “I agree that the war is a mistake,” he reportedly told a visitor. “I think it is clear now that we should never have gone in there, and I don’t see how any good can come of it. But we can’t do what you recommend and just pull out, because the boss’s whole constituency would just fall apart; those are his people who support the war effort: the South; the blue-collar Democrats in the North. The Nixon constituency is behind the war effort. If we were to pull out of Vietnam, there would be a disaster, politically, for us here, at home.”

In looking for someone or something to contradict the narrative I’ve so far presented, I turned to Conrad Black’s Richard Nixon: A Life in Full, a near hagiography written by a fan and fellow conservative. Black is a man with some ability in research, who often writes with unrestrained venom, often directing it against his eternal enemy: the pious, weak, bleating liberal. I expected to find an entirely different story here, one that might deny entirely what others claim took place; instead, I found little or no dispute on the essential form of what happened, only disputes over its effects, implications, and a few of its smaller details. I wish to do justice to his argument, and do not want the reader to feel they are being manipulated into any agreement, as sometimes happens when a conspiracy theory is sold through a selective and myopic use of research, so I now give full excerpt of Black’s account. I have also left the book’s footnotes in, so readers might easily see which sources have been used for this history:

By October 20, his lead over Humphrey had shrunk in some polls to just 5 percent. Wallace’s vote had shrunk in some polls to just 5 percent. Wallace’s vote was evaporating outside his strongholds of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas, as disgruntled supporters of the main parties drifted back to their natural political abodes. A profoundly regional vote might give Wallace those five states in the South, but the northern Wallace voters were fading, not wishing to waste ballots in what was starting to seem like a possibly tight election.

In these circumstances, there was a real danger of a hung election, with the Electoral College not recording a majority, and the presidential election going to the House of Representatives and the vice presidency to the Senate where almost certain Democratic majorities would presumably elect Humphrey and Muskie. Nixon began challenging Humphrey to agree that in the event of such a development, both sides would support the candidate with the larger popular vote. Humphrey piously uttered and tiresomely repeated the humbug that he would abide by the Constitution; i.e., logrolling in the Congress, no matter what he had to give away to southern committee chairmen to get to the White House.

There was an inevitability of drama throughout Richard Nixon’s career. His second try for the presidency was shaping up to a gripping climax. The North Vietnamese presumably preferred Humphrey to Nixon, and in any case knew that any de-escalation by the United States would be almost irreversible in domestic political terms. The South Vietnamese, for the same reasons in reverse, preferred Nixon to Humphrey. For Johnson and Humphrey to have any chance of claiming progress toward a satisfactory settlement of the war, both Vietnamese sides had to be roped into the talks in Paris.

Most of the journalists who have written on the next phases of this minuet are not reliable, and there is no documentation, and interviews did not yield much, so the story must be pieced together cautiously. The co-chairwoman, with Mamie Eisenhower, of Republican Women for Nixon, was Anna Chennault, widow of Second World War Far East volunteer air force commander (of The Flying Tigers) General Claire Chennault. She was a friend of Thieu’s and served as a contact between Thieu and the Nixon campaign.

Anna Chennault and the South Vietnamese ambassador to Washington, Bui Diem, had gone to the New York to meet with Nixon and Mitchell in early 1968. The Chennault conduit to Thieu was established and Nixon impressed upon the ambassador that he would be a more reliable friend of Saigon than his Democratic opponent (who hadn’t been nominated, but the choice was Humphrey or McCarthy).

From here, it becomes very tangled. Anna Chennault was a strenuous admirer of Nixon, but was romantically involved with the former chief fixer in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first two terms, Thomas G. Corcoran. Corcoran was a longtime friend of Lyndon Johnson, and Corcoran’s law partner, James Rowe, was the co-manager of Hubert Humphrey’s election campaign. Corcoran listened on an extension to one of Mitchell’s telephone calls with Chennault, and cautioned her against any violation of the Logan Act, which forbids U.S. private citizens from conducting negotiations with foreign governments. Chennault spoke to Diem and to Mitchell very frequently29. Diem was a very educated and urbane man whose family owned the Saigon Post.

Some combination of phone taps on Chennault and Mitchell, cable interceptions and decoding on the South Vietnamese embassy (despite the status of Saigon as an ally now being defended by 565,000 American draftees), and possible advice from Corcoran to Johnson or Clifford apprised the administration of the Nixon effort to restrain Thieu from becoming an agent in Humphrey’s election campaign by being overly credulous or cooperative in an election-eve Johnson peace plan30. Mitchell changed his telephone number every couple of days and Diem complained to all sides about telephone and cable intercepts on his embassy31. At one point Chennault was overhead [sic] in a telephone call to a Saigon government official, urging against an early agreement to a peace plan. When asked if Nixon was aware of her call, she said the [sic] he was not, “but our friend in New Mexico” is. Agnew happened to be in New Mexico, so it was mistakenly assumed to be him, and Johnson ordered personal wiretaps on Agnew (who had dusted off the old claim that Humphrey was “soft on communism”). Agnew knew nothing of this and New Mexico was code for something else.

Thus, Hanoi had an incentive to agree to conditions, and Saigon to oppose conditions, that would lead to a bombing pause. Chennault went to Saigon in the midst of the campaign and was in frequent contact with Ambassador Diem. There is no doubt that Johnson was trying to give himself plausible cover for a peace move and deliver the election to Humphrey, and that Nixon was determined not to be robbed of the presidency by the Democrats again. To this end, Nixon, with no illegal dealings by him or his entourage, assisted Thieu in detecting his own self-interest. The allegations have been made, but not substantiated, that Kissinger played a role in this process in Paris. In the absence of any evidence or any need for what was already being otherwise accomplished, Kissinger deserves the benefit of the doubt his enemies have created about his behavior.

The Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable. Nixon’s desire not to be the victim again of Democratic electoral trickery is understandable, and there is no evidence that Thieu, a wily and tenacious Vietnamese political general, needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election. Kissinger was playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion, and there was nothing very controversial, at this early stage, in his international contacts.

On October 26, sensing that it was time to interrupt Johnson’s inexorable progress toward a peace move, Nixon, who had used the Paris discussions as an excuse not to comment on Vietnam for seven months, decided to reveal a likely bombing halt. His source was a contact of Bryce Harlow’s, who was reporting from inside the White House that Johnson was about to make a supreme effort to pull the election out for Humphrey. Nixon asked Mitchell to check with Kissinger, but Kissinger had not heard of anything imminent. Nixon purported in his last statement to be confident that was afoot was not “a cynical, last-minute attempt by President Johnson to salvage the candidacy of Mr. Humphrey.” As was often the case with Nixon, what he claimed to disbelieve was what he believed. His suspicions were rarely unfounded and were not misplaced in this case.

The next day, October 27, at a luncheon speech in New York, Johnson denied that any such thing as Nixon had alleged had been agreed, and attacked Nixon as someone “who distorts history” and had made “ugly and unfair charges.”32 That evening, Nixon warned in a nationwide radio address against the evils of a coalition government in Saigon. He was firing blind, because there was no discussion of any such thing at this point, but it was a way of muddying the waters for Johnson and investigating Thieu’s always verdant suspicions.

The same day, Hanoi accepted Harriman’s conditions, provided the Viet Cong could also attend the Paris talks. Despite all the jockeying, nearly seven months had passed in Paris with nothing substantive discussed, and nothing, not even participants, agreed, except the shape of the table. It is indicative of American war-weariness and the jumpy nerves of the election candidates and campaign organizers that anyone imagined Vietnam negotiations would proceed quickly.

The American commander in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams, who had replaced Westmoreland a few months before, as Westmoreland became chief of staff, was summoned home and met with the president at 2:30 A.M., October 29, in the cabinet room. He supported a bombing halt. However, by this time, Thieu was balking. He said he would not join negotiations with the Viet Cong. Johnson and Clifford blamed Nixon, via Chennault, but did not want to acknowledge recourse to illegal telephone intercepts or diplomatic cable cracking of the South Vietnamese, which would have been, to say the least, an unseemly admission a week before the election. Johnson told his ambassador in Saigon, Ellsworth Bunker, to put all the pressure he could on Thieu. Thieu would not move, but Johnson, when he felt he could wait no longer before trying to influence the election, made his big play. On October 31, he told the nation in a television address that Hanoi had promised to respect the DMZ and refrain from attacking South Vietnamese cities, and that both the South Vietnamese government and the Viet Cong were, as he delicately put it, “free” to attend the Paris peace conference as participants. This generated great euphoria, and according to some polls, Humphrey pulled ahead of Nixon. Showing iron nerves, fortified by his intelligence about Thieu’s likely lack of enthusiasm, Nixon briefly returned to his former policy of saying nothing that would compromise the peace process.

On November 2, three days before the election, Thieu publicly announced that he would not join the talks. Nixon had Finch issue a statement to the press expressing “surprise” that the players were not all in place prior to Johnson’s announcement, by which, of course, they meant that the bombing halt was a pre-emptive concession to the enemy to try to salvage the election for Humphrey.

There was great anger in the Johnson and Nixon camps at the skullduggery of the other side. But Johnson and Nixon themselves, two of the most worldly and cynical political operators in American history, were relatively philosophical. Unedifying though this great poker game seems, it was not completely discreditable. Richard Nixon and Lyndon Johnson, though no sane person would ever accuse either of them of taking political ethics to fault, were patriotic Americans. But their methods were unusually open to question at times.

Johnson had lost confidence in the military advice he had received, and as politically exhausted. He felt intensely the sorrow of bereaved armed forces families and could not sleep at night worrying about casualties. He sincerely wanted to move the war toward a solution before leaving office. That such a move would suit his political preferences was desirable and convenient, but to what extent domestic politics predominated in the president’s thoughts will never be known. It was nonsense for Thieu to claim that he would not sit at the same table as the Viet Cong. Most South Vietnamese disliked communism, but were more fearful of the VC and its North Vietnamese sponsors than of the Saigon government, which was still in place only because of the exertions of the United States. They needed reassurance that the anti-communists were likely to be the winning side.

On the other hand, Nixon, unlike Humphrey, Kissinger, McNamara, Clifford, and even, to a point, the beleaguered Johnson himself, still thought there was a possibility to salvage a durable non-communist regime in Saigon, and was prepared to try. Thieu could not be blamed for not wishing to facilitate the victory of those who were going to hand his country over to the communists, with or without an interval that might be perceived as decent from the comfortable perspective of Washington. There is no reason to believe that Nixon did more to motivate Thieu than to ensure that he was aware of what was obvious to anyone who carefully followed the 1968 U.S. election campaign.

On November 3, Nixon, after two days’ silence, ended his second “personal Vietnam moratorium” and responded to Johnson’s maneuver with escalated dissembling. Having approved Finch’s [Robert Finch, lieutenant governor of California, Nixon campaign manager, and a friend of Nixon's] insinuation that Johnson had made a misleading and overblown announcement about progress in peace talks for partisan reasons, he said on NBC’s Meet the Press two days before the election that he and Finch did not agree on the subject, that Nixon gave Johnson the benefit of the doubt but Finch thought the bombing pause was a political trumpery.

Finch had not issued his statement as lieutenant governor of California but as Nixon’s joint campaign manager, and this was egregious flimflam by Nixon. Nixon took it a step further, by telling the interviewer that if elected two days later, he would be happy, if President Johnson wished to go to Saigon or Paris “in order to try to get the negotiations off dead center.” Though outrageous, this was magnificent effrontery, to offer to go to Saigon, once elected, and tell Thieu to accept what he now implicitly urged him to reject. Nixon carried it off with the expressionless sincerity of a consummate actor and poker player.

It was too much for Johnson, who telephoned Nixon and demanded to know who “Fink” was and what he was up to, and asked about Chennault’s antics also. Nixon said that Finch had the same freedom of self-expression as any other American, and whatever Chennault did was on her own account and not Nixon’s. Johnson persisted in referring to “Fink” – like the father of the narrator in Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, refusing to accede to facts – but he had little option but to accept Nixon’s version of his role. He knew it was bunk, but he knew the vulnerabilities in his own official line too, and there was no gain to him in insisting publicly that it was really Nixon who was accusing him of cynical political manipulations. This would do more harm to the Democrats than the Republicans. Nixon had deftly claimed to believe in Johnson’s virtue while his aides did not, and stuck to this charade with perfectly confected earnestness.

In the last full day of the campaign, Nixon continually expressed confidence in Johnson’s motives but disappointment that the hopes for peace had proved chimerical. With a doleful expression, he lamented that Johnson had, with good but over-eager intentions, sold the country a false prospectus. Given that Johnson had set out to steal the election, it must be said that Nixon’s reply, labored though it was, was a political masterpiece, upon which he embellished to the last moments before the polls opened. In his memoirs, published in 1978, Nixon maintains the same air of simple and impenetrable innocence. Johnson, in his own memoirs, professes complete political disinterest, and adds, of the opposition, “People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking.”33

This is a book that was published in 2008, after The Arrogance of Power by Summers (published in 2000), after the opening of the ‘X’ envelope of Walt Rostow and the declassifying of its materials by researchers. Black, a one-time publishing mogul, was in prison for corporate fraud when he wrote the book, and this no doubt may have impeded his research efforts; however, neither the Summers book or the ‘X’ envelope are obscure sources, but are in fact very well known and easily available. The lack of any reference to either, that Arrogance is not even listed in the bibliography, gives this portion of the history the strange quality of a massive free floating castle, barely supported by a few haphazardly placed struts of the thinnest and weakest wood. Black, who has no difficulty using blunt language against his enemies, now uses a lexicon as soft as cottonballs and ice cream to describe this bit of sabotage; it was an “effort to restrain Thieu from becoming an agent in Humphrey’s election campaign by being overly credulous or cooperative”. We are also told that the basis for this story lies in some hypotherical haze, “some combination of phone taps on Chennault and Mitchell, cable interceptions and decoding on the South Vietnamese embassy” is how the White House learned of Nixon’s attempts to undermine the peace talks. Yet we’ve known very well for some time how the White House learned of this betrayal: the tip of Alexander Sachs to Eugene Rostow, who passed it on to his brother Walt, Johnson’s National Security Adviser. After this, a tap was placed on Chennault. Black footnotes his information with Nixon’s memoir, which is a slightly unusual choice of source, since Nixon makes no admission of the attempt, and makes no mention of the plot or Anna Chennault.

Black opens his writing of the episode as if it were still mostly ether: “Most of the journalists who have written on the next phases of this minuet are not reliable, and there is no documentation, and interviews did not yield much, so the story must be pieced together cautiously.” With this rather haughty dismissal, Black suggests a man who is used to effortlessly waving his hand to summon food, and has mistaken this gift with the ability to cook. He considers Anna Chennault a reliable enough source to cite her memoir for this chapter, so presumably, her interview with Anthony Summers is equally reliable. In Arrogance of Power, a book whose research appears vastly more thorough than Black’s work, Chennault is emphatic that she was employed by Nixon and Mitchell to foil the peace talks:

In the weeks that followed Chennault had several more meetings with Nixon and Mitchell in New York. They told her to inform Saigon that were Nixon to become president, South Vietnam would get “a better deal.” “The message,” she told the author, “was relayed.”

Asked if Nixon and Mitchell were trying to cut a deal to help win the election, Chennault nodded. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” she said. “Power overpowers all reason.”

Black also informs us, “Agnew happened to be in New Mexico, so it was mistakenly assumed to be him, and Johnson ordered personal wiretaps on Agnew…Agnew knew nothing of this and New Mexico was code for something else.” I find this to be a fascinating point, one which directly contradicts a major element of the Nixon-Chennault story. However, since Black provides no footnote, I have no idea what’s his basis for believing this. We know for certain that Agnew was in Albuquerque at the time Chennault called there, and that there were several outgoing calls from the plane at this time: two to New York City, where Chennault was expected to be, one to campaign headquarters, and one to Texas, where Nixon was holding a rally that night. Agnew’s phone on the plane was not bugged; Johnson was given the records of the locations Agnew called in this time period. From “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 212″:

The next day, DeLoach called the President with a report on these calls. One of the phones on the plane had been used five times. The first call was made at 11:59 a.m., a personal call from Agnew to Rusk that lasted 3 minutes. The next call was made to Texas and another two calls were made by Agnew staffer Kent Crane to New York City. A fifth call was made to the Nixon/Agnew campaign headquarters at the Willard Hotel in Washington at 1:02 p.m.

The President verified that Rusk had talked with Agnew. He added: “We think somebody on the plane talked to the woman. We think pretty well that they talked to her and talked to Rusk, and talked on the same thing. And we think that they told Rusk-that they wanted to know what was happening in these relations. And Rusk made notes of it, he didn’t exactly know what time, but he estimated that it was about 2 o’clock. And hers, it was immediately followed by a call to her, we think. And what we want to know is what time that was and when it was.”

This was supplemented by the work of National Security Adviser Rostow, as discussed in Arrogance:

The most important discovery, though, was relayed to the president by National Security Assistant Rostow when all the facts were in, ten days after the Albuquerque stopover. In a brief memo, referring to Chennault as “the Lady” and to Agnew as “the gentleman in Albuquerque,” Rostow reported that there had been a call placed to Chennault.26

We are further assured in Life in Full that “allegations have been made, but not substantiated, that Kissinger played a role in this process in Paris,” and this, again, is flatly wrong given the available evidence. “There had to be secret communications between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen,” writes Christopher Hitchens in The Trial of Henry Kissinger. “But there also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration’s camp – a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official intentions.” Nixon reveals in his memoir who this source of information was, and from whom he learned of the bombing halt: Henry Kissinger. “Henry was the only person outside of the government we were authorized to discuss the negotiations with,” says the late Richard Holbrooke, a member of the negotiating team, in Trial. “We trusted him. It is not stretching the truth to say that the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the US negotiating team.” Though he makes a few polite noises about Johnson’s desire for peace, he ultimately presents Johnson’s fight for the peace talks as exclusively a political tactic: “Johnson had set out to steal the election” with this ploy. No mention is made of Johnson’s fight for the peace talks after the election, asking that he cease interference in the negotiations, so there might be a meeting of the two sides. Nor is it written anywhere that Johnson was upset with Humphrey as well for his speeches arguing for a bombing halt without demands, as that was also making it difficult to get the sides to the table.

Similarly, the only reason cited for not releasing the information is the illegality of the wiretaps. The major evidence against Nixon, however, was very much legal, an FBI tap begun after a reliable source had alleged Anna Chennault was sticking herself in a matter of national security. The problem wasn’t that their evidence was illegal, but that there wasn’t enough by the day of the election to credibly and ethically make a case. Johnson is upset about what’s taking place, but he’s also worried about what might happen if word got out: “This is treason.” This leads to the major reason why the information was not released then: it would have destroyed the future president, and possibly triggered impeachment proceedings while the country was in the midst of a war. It also suggests why the secret was held tight for decades; such a revelation would annihilate the trust of the public in their institutions and their servants. This was not a sexual affair, or a small piece of graft, but a presidential candidate tossing lives away so he might ascend the throne. Just as Black leaves out the phone calls after the election as Johnson continues to press for peace negotiations, he leaves out the Johnson inner circle keeping all these secrets under tight wrap, even though they could easily destroy their former opponent. Of Black’s argument that Nixon was somehow justified in his actions simply because he felt he was wronged in 1960 and deserved to win then, I will only say I think it carries a stronger reek of amorality than Black might imagine.

It is true that Johnson was relatively kind about Nixon in his memoirs, writing “I never shared the intense dislike of Richard Nixon felt by many of my fellow Democrats…I considered him a much-maligned and misunderstood man.” Though there’s also a very pertinent fact left out in Black’s mention of these memoirs: that Johnson believed Humphrey would have won the election had it not been for the interference of “people who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp” in the peace negotiations1. It also fails to convey the bitterness of many about what took place, not just over a lost election but that someone had so flippantly played with lives in order to pull off an election win. Some of this ill feeling is conveyed in the book, Indomitable Will: LBJ in the Presidency by Mark Updegrove, an account of the Johnson administration through the words of associates. “I thought the actions by those associated with the Nixon campaign,” says Tom Johnson (no relation), an adviser, “to convince the South Vietnamese government to wait until Nixon was in office were reprehensible.” Larry O’Brien, the head of the Democratic National Committee whose Watergate office was broken into by the Nixon burglars, quotes Johnson as saying, “What kind of a guy could engage in something like this?” I give full excerpt of Updegrove’s account of the scandal. Those quoted are Tom Johnson, O’Brien, Bryce Harlow, and Arthur Krim; Harlow and Krim were, respectively, advisers for Nixon and Johnson:

In mid-October, Johnson began setting the stage for a total bombing halt on the condition that the North Vietnamese de-escalate military operations, an action made as a Hail Mary to catalyze the fruitless Paris peace talks. Both sides also dropped objections to dealing directly with the Vietcong and South Vietnamese respectively. In Saigon, President Thieu gave every indication that he was willing to negotiate on those terms. Then, just before Johnson announced the halt in bombing, Thieu backed off unexpectedly. Despite pressure exerted on Thieu by the administration, he stood his ground, prompting Johnson to go ahead with the bombing halt anyway, a move he announced on October 31. By then, days before Americans went to the polls to determine their next president, the White House got a bead on Thieu’s sudden change of heart – and it pointed to the Nixon campaign.

Intelligence reports showed that Madame Anna Chennault, co-chair of Republican Women for Nixon and the wealthy widow of General Claire Chennault, the famed World War II aviator who attained hero status by leading the Flying Tigers squadron, had urged Nixon to reach out to the South Vietnamese to assure them that they would get more favorable terms from him than those Johnson was proposing. Though no evidence linked Nixon directly to Chennault, Nixon and she had broached the subject of Vietnam at a meeting in his New York apartment in which he asked her to be his “channel to Mr. Thieu.”

An October 27 wiretap revealed that Chennault had forwarded a message from “apparently authoritative Republican” sources urging “Mr. Thieu to abort or cripple the [Paris] deal by refusing to participate.” Johnson strongly suspected that Nixon had sanctioned the communication, which, in effect, hedged the Republican candidate’s bets against the probability of a galvanized peace process having a positive rub-off effect on Humphrey in the neck-and-neck presidential race.

Nixon, campaigning under the slogan “Nixon’s the One,” dangled the notion of his “secret plan for peace” in Vietnam compellingly before the American people on the hustings, with the candidate pledging to unveil its details after his election. As the contest wound down to its final days, the Johnson White House wrestled with what to do with potentially explosive implications that the Nixon campaign had, in fact, derailed the peace process.

ARTHUR KRIM: Nixon, on the record, was saying, “I have a plan [for peace] but I won’t announce it until after I’m president.” Now, as far as Nixon’s connection with that is concerned, I do not know how far it went. LBJ, of course, suspected it and probably knew more about it than he would tell me, but I’m referring to those famous cables.

Just before the weekend of the election, there was a lot of movement in Paris about their finally sitting down for serious negotiations with the South Vietnamese, at a time when the momentum was moving tremendously toward Hubert. The fact that they were going to have a real peace conference was a big factor in the momentum. The president told me very much off the record that they had this cable that Madame Chennault had sent to, I guess it was Thieu or somebody in South Vietnam saying, “Don’t cooperate in Paris. It will be helpful to Humphrey.”

* * *

In a direct exchange with Johnson, Nixon denied any part in the Chennault affair. Johnson upon getting wind of the Chennault cables, called Everett Dirksen demanding to know whether Nixon was at fault. In turn, Dirksen phoned Bryce Harlow, a Washington power broker and adviser to Nixon, who placed an early morning call to Nixon while he was campaigning in California.

BRYCE HARLOW, senior adviser and counselor to Richard Nixon, 1968-71, 1973-74: I told [Nixon], “You’ve got to talk to LBJ. Someone has told him that you’re all over the South Vietnamese to keep them from doing something about peace and he’s just about to believe it. If you don’t let him know quickly that it’s not so, then he’s going to dump. At least he says so. Ev is just beside himself. He says that Lyndon is simply enraged and we ought to do something…you’ve got to do it.” And so he did. He called him. He got him on the phone and said there was absolutely no truth to it as far as he knew.

I’m not convinced it was not true. It was too tempting a target…

But at any rate, Nixon told him no and Johnson put down his pistol, except probably Johnson didn’t believe it. But he probably couldn’t prove it, I suppose.

ARTHUR KRIM: [Johnson] said at that time that he had no evidence of how much Nixon had to do with this but rather suspected that he had. And he said he was going to call Hubert and at least give him the information, let him decide what to do with it.

LARRY O’BRIEN: [W]hen this information finally developed into something assumed meaningful with the Anna Chennault situation, it was very late in the campaign. Should you go or not go? You don’t have the documentation, but it’s clearly beyond the point of thinking wishfully of being suspicious. There is clearly something there. We were convinced of that. But I didn’t focus on that until, I’ll have to say probably 48, 72 hours before the election.

What happened was I went to California. I had our close-out meetings with our California people, trying to utilize my time over those last couple of days as effectively as I could. Humphrey came into Los Angeles very upbeat. I’ll have to say I was upbeat because the reports I received on the Texas venture were upbeat. Humphrey was the old Humphrey with all his enthusiasm. This campaign was coming to a great upbeat climax. Now, in that atmosphere, there was a brief discussion on [the Chennault] matter. I recall it was hasty. He’s going somewhere, I’m going somewhere. It probably didn’t last more than a few minutes, and I must say that my focus wasn’t total. But it did penetrate enough for me to realize that Humphrey had sufficient evidence to consider going public. But it was clear that he really didn’t want to discuss it in detail with me. Not that he was keeping me out of the circle, but he was wavering and leaning toward leaving it alone.

He expressed deep concern, made a couple of references to Nixon personally: “What kind of a guy could engage in something like this?” He was, I guess you’d have to say, shocked.

But now, in the context of what knowledge he had, I think what came across to me was his concern about utilizing it – whether it was justified, whether there was enough evidence so he could hold his head high and not be accused of playing cheap politics at the end of a desperation effort to win an election.

* * *

In the late 1970s, after Humphrey’s death in 1978, Abe Fortas and Clark Clifford informed Mrs. Johnson about the Chennault affair, asserting that Humphrey sat on the information because he believed that the country had suffered enough throughout the course of the last several years, and that going forward would only divide it further. Mrs. Johnson’s only response was “Poor Hubert.”

TOM JOHNSON: I thought the actions by those associated with the Nixon campaign to convince the South Vietnamese government to wait until Nixon was in office were reprehensible. I remain amazed that LBJ and Humphrey did not publicize the actions taken by the Nixon side in this ultra-sensitive matter. It is my belief that Nixon would not have been elected if the public had learned of the efforts to sabotage, or at least to delay, the peace talks until Nixon was president. This was kept as a closely guarded secret.

* * *

Regardless of Nixon’s denials, Johnson remained convinced that he had been complicit in sabotaging the peace process toward his own political ends and the betrayal of his country. Chennault herself put the question to rest nearly three decades later, revealing in a 1997 interview with Nixon biographer Anthony Summers that Nixon had been in the loop on all of her exchanges with the South Vietnamese leadership. Nixon had been “conspiratorial” since asking Chennault for advice on Vietnam as he geared up for the campaign in 1967. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” Chennault said of the assurances she gave the South Vietnamese on Nixon’s behalf. “Power overpowers reason. It was all very, very confidential.”

I do not give this lengthy excerpt simply to convey the intensity of feeling about what took place, an anger over something much larger than who won or lost the election, and which Black does his best to downplay. I do so to give the reader a proper sense of the scandal, that this is no conspiracy theory kept alive like a weak fire by a few fringe dwellers and those with an animus for Nixon, but an event that a wide range of writers and researchers can confirm did indeed took place. It is a casual belief that no historical event of any magnitude can be concealed or become invisible by forgetting, and I think this belief false in general, and false in this specific case. This incident has remained largely unknown, thanks to the self-interest of Richard Nixon and his promoters, as well as those in Johnson’s circle who feared that it might have a devastating impact beyond the president who defeated them, and perhaps most importantly, the inertia of what might be called “the system”, which cannot imagine that such a great betrayal could take place and in plain sight.

As a casual example, I give the “Claimed sabotage of negotiations by Nixon campaign” section for the wikipedia entry “Paris Peace Accords” on April 9th, 2014:

Bryce Harlow, former Eisenhower White House staff member, claimed to have “a double agent working in the White House….I kept Nixon informed.” Harlow and Henry Kissinger (who was friendly with both campaigns and guaranteed a job in either a Humphrey or Nixon administration) separately predicted Johnson’s “bombing halt”: “The word is out that we are making an effort to throw the election to Humphrey. Nixon has been told of it,” Democratic senator George Smathers informed Johnson. According to Robert Dallek, Kissinger’s advice “rested not on special knowledge of decision making at the White House but on an astute analyst’s insight into what was happening.” William Bundy stated that Kissinger obtained “no useful inside information” from his trip to Paris, and “almost any experienced Hanoi watcher might have come to the same conclusion”. While Kissinger may have “hinted that his advice was based on contacts with the Paris delegation,” this sort of “self-promotion….is at worst a minor and not uncommon practice, quite different from getting and reporting real secrets.”2 Nixon asked Anna Chennault to be his “channel to Mr. Thieu“; Chennault agreed and periodically reported to John Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference. On November 2, Chennault informed the South Vietnamese ambassador: “I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque who says his boss [Nixon] is going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer.”3 In response, Johnson ordered wire-tapping members of the Nixon campaign.4 Dallek wrote that Nixon’s efforts “probably made no difference” because Thieu was unwilling to attend the talks and there was little chance of an agreement being reached before the election; however, his use of information provided by Harlow and Kissinger was morally questionable, and Humphrey’s decision not to make Nixon’s actions public was “an uncommon act of political decency.”5 Conrad Black agreed that there is “no evidence” connecting Kissinger, who was “playing a fairly innocuous double game of self-promotion”, with attempts to undermine the peace talks. Black further commented that “the Democrats were outraged at Nixon, but what Johnson was doing was equally questionable”, and there is “no evidence” that Thieu “needed much prompting to discern which side he favored in the U.S. election.”6

I admire this entry as I might someone who is able to carve the most elegant shapes out of the most meagre and cheap scraps of paper. It is not simply that it is very dishonest and wrong. Not simply that it is dishonest and wrong on the crucial element of the case, presenting Chennault as someone who was simply passing information from Thieu to Nixon, when the truth was more sinister, that Nixon was telling Thieu to delay participating in the peace talks until Nixon was president, at which point Thieu would get a better deal. It is that every footnote for this section, save one for Black’s book, is sourced to Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, and this book presents us the same narrative as we’ve seen in other books, very much consistent with the other surrounding evidence, with Nixon and Chennault playing an active role to derail the peace talks. The only qualifier is the same piece of comfort mentioned earlier, that these peace talks might have failed anyway. Christopher Hitchens would review Dallek’s book in Slate, where he scolded it for often taking the most lenient and forgiving attitude of each abominable incident in what he considered an abominable presidency. It is also, however, a kind of virtue, Hitchens believes, a point with which I agree, and for the same reason: that the lack of ideological fire, animus, or passion of the true believer, solidifies the events in the reader’s mind as indisputable.

From “Partners in Crime”, the review by Hitchens of Dallek’s book:

The effect of Dallek’s book is somewhat enhanced by the extreme mildness with which he presents his findings. Indeed, wherever he can do so, he awards the benefit of the doubt. For example, in one of the most appalling instances-the Nixon camp’s attempt to sabotage the Johnson-Humphrey Paris peace talks on Vietnam in 1968-he takes the most exculpatory line that it is possible for a historian to adopt.

I excerpt this book’s description of the act of sabotage, and the reader might contrast it with the wikipedia account now written, citing this very book as its near exclusive source:

How did Nixon use the information provided by Kissinger and Harlow? And more important, did Nixon’s response to Johnson’s peace campaign break any laws and bend accepted political practices? Convinced that Johnson’s bombing halt was politically motivated, Nixon had no hesitation in exerting pressure on the South Vietnamese government of Nguyen Van Thieu to reject Washington demands to begin participating in the Paris talks on November 2, three days before the U.S. elections. Everyone involved in the negotiations believed that progress in the talks partly depended on Saigon’s presence in Paris, and most everyone inside the Nixon and Humphrey campaigns, as well as outside political observers, thought that surging hopes of peace could affect the outcome of an increasingly close presidential election.

From early in his campaign, Nixon had seen a peace settlement or even substantial movement in that direction as crucial to Humphrey’s chances in November. Consequently, in July 1968, Nixon had begun discouraging Saigon from accepting a possible invitation to join the ongoing Paris discussions. During that month, he and Mitchell met in Nixon’s New York apartment with South Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, Bui Diem, and Anna Chennault, a co-chair of Republican Women for Nixon and the widow of General Claire Chennault of China’s World War II Flying Tigers. Nixon asked Chennault to be “his channel to Mr. Thieu via Bui Diem.” She agreed and periodically reported to Mitchell that Thieu had no intention of attending a peace conference before Nixon, hopefully became president.

On October 31, after Johnson announced the bombing halt, Mitchell phoned Chennault to say, “Anna, I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that very clear to them.” Despite Chennault’s assurances that Thieu would not agree to send a South Vietnamese delegation to the talks in early November, Mitchell said, “They really have decided not to go to Paris?” Chennault answered: “I don’t think they’ll go. Thieu has told me over and over again that going to Paris would be walking into a smoke screen that has nothing to do with reality.”

When Thieu continued to resist U.S. embassy pleas that he join the Paris talks, and Johnson heard that someone “very close to Nixon” believed he was encouraging “Saigon to be difficult,” Johnson blamed Nixon for Thieu’s uncooperativeness. At a White House meeting with diplomatic and military advisers on October 29, Johnson said, “It would rock the world if it were said [that] he [Thieu] was conniving with the Republicans. Can you imagine what people would say if it were to be known that Hanoi has met all these conditions and then Nixon’s conniving with them [the South Vietnamese] kept us from getting [a peace agreement]?”

Because he believed that Thieu might still be persuaded to join the peace talks and because he wanted to learn precisely what the Nixon camp was telling Saigon, Johnson instructed the FBI to wiretap Chennault and keep her under surveillance. He also ordered U.S. intelligence agencies to intercept cables between the South Vietnamese embassy in Washington and Saigon. Since the White House believed that violations of national security might be involved, it saw the bugging and surveillance as legal. But there were other risks: National Security Adviser Walt Rostow warned Johnson that the taps posed “real difficulties. She lives at Water Gate – a huge apartment. She is constantly seeing Republicans – the risk of discovery is high.” It was a warning that surely could have been useful to Nixon and John Mitchell in the future.

The intercepts and wiretaps, including taps on “the telephone connection in vice-presidential candidate [Spiro] Agnew’s chartered campaign plane,” confirmed that the Nixon campaign was discouraging Thieu from a part in the Paris talks. As Johnson described it later to Cartha DeLoach, the deputy director of the FBI, Chennault told the South Vietnamese ambassador on November 2, “‘I have just heard from my boss in Albuquerque [Agnew, who was campaigning in New Mexico that day] who says his boss [Nixon] says we’re going to win. And you tell your boss [Thieu] to hold on a while longer.’”

With only four days left in the campaign, Humphrey, who learned about Nixon’s activities from Johnson, wrestled with questions about whether to leak the information to the press or openly accuse Nixon of undermining the peace talks. Johnson was furious at Nixon. Aides recalled that Johnson described Nixon as guilty of “treason”: American boys were losing their lives in the service of Nixon’s political ambitions, Johnson said. The fact that Nixon frustrated Johnson’s hopes of getting a settlement before he left office also incensed Johnson, who wanted the historical record to show that he had made peace as well as war in Vietnam. Because they knew that they would have to disclose how they obtained their information if they revealed it and because they feared it might provoke a constitutional crisis and make it nearly impossible for a Nixon administration to govern, Johnson and Humphrey decided against revealing Nixon’s secret intrusion into the Paris discussions.

Nixon knew that Johnson was “mad as all get-out” over what he was doing to impede the talks. After Illinois Republican Senator Everett Dirksen told Harlow that Johnson had called in a rage, Harlow urged Nixon to speak to Johnson. “Someone has told him that you’re dumping all over the South Vietnamese to keep them from doing something about peace…If you don’t let him know quickly that it’s not so, then he’s going to dump” on you. Nixon denied any involvement, but Harlow never believed him. Stopping the peace talks “was too tempting a target. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some shenanigans going on,” Harlow said later.

On November 3, Nixon called Johnson and categorically denied that he was doing anything to disrupt the peace negotiations. Nixon’s call strengthened Johnson’s decision not to publicize the allegations, and according to a later story in the Sunday Times of London, “Nixon and his friends collapsed in laughter” after he and Johnson hung up. “It was partly in sheer relief that their victory had not been taken from them at the eleventh hour.” William Bundy says that Nixon’s “barefaced lie was his only tenable line of defense.” In 1997, Chennault revealed that Nixon and Mitchell knew everything: “I was constantly in touch with Mitchell and Nixon,” she said.

Did Nixon’s pressure on Thieu have an impact on the 1968 election? The popular vote favored Nixon by only .7 percent, 43.4 percent to Humphrey’s 42.7 percent; 13.5 percent of the votes went to Wallace. The Electoral College was a different story: Nixon had a decisive edge of 301 to 191. If Wallace had not been in the race, it seems almost certain that a majority of his votes would have gone to Nixon.

It is doubtful that successful peace talks or the likelihood of an early peace settlement would have changed the outcome. Humphrey was too clearly identified with Johnson’s unpopular administration. And though some voters might have concluded that Humphrey would steer the country on a new course, the majority saw Humphrey as likely to continue much of what Johnson had been doing in domestic affairs, where many Americans now felt he had overreached himself. And even if Humphrey ended the war, he would remain tainted with his earlier support of Johnson’s activities in Vietnam1.

Whatever my issues with this piece, we have here, indisputably, Nixon actively interfering with the peace talks via Chennault. “From early in his campaign,” Dallek writes, “Nixon had seen a peace settlement or even substantial movement in that direction as crucial to Humphrey’s chances in November. Consequently, in July 1968, Nixon had begun discouraging Saigon from accepting a possible invitation to join the ongoing Paris discussions.” I again take issue with the idea that Agnew’s place was tapped in this sentence, but the conclusion remains the same: “The intercepts and wiretaps, including taps on “the telephone connection in vice-presidential candidate [Spiro] Agnew’s chartered campaign plane,” confirmed that the Nixon campaign was discouraging Thieu from a part in the Paris talks.” John Mitchell, Nixon campaign manager, makes sure that a clear message is sent: “On October 31, after Johnson announced the bombing halt, Mitchell phoned Chennault to say, “Anna, I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made that very clear to them.””

I do not focus on the small space of this wikipedia entry because it is the final authority on this matter (though for too many people, it will be), and I am not surprised that a contentious incident from the life of a controversial president would be edited in a way to cast him in the most favorable light. I place focus here because for other contentious areas, the event would be well enough known that you could imagine both sides firing back and forth salvos of edits and re-edits. In this case, this historical moment remains sufficiently unknown that many readers would not know why it was in dispute, let alone what the elements of the dispute were.

This post might be ended in a contrast with the obsessiveness given over to the conspiracy theories dealing with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. There is the obvious distinction that here we were dealing with the actual killing of a beloved figure, and that of course this is going to take up more press space. What is astonishing, however, is that so many of these theories involve the military industrial complex or its representatives as the culprits in the assassination. This is an astonishing, incredibly disturbing claim, and were sufficient numbers to passionately and sincerely believe in such theories, I think it would be dangerous, even revolutionary. That the press gives such theories broad play is that ultimately there is no such danger, they are casually discussed as fantastic hypotheticals, where a few overimaginatives might throw out their ideas and the weight of evidence clearly points to the traditional solution, a disaffected rootless loner who sought fame through the great deed of killing a great man, followed by another rootless individual seeking heroic fame by killing the first assassin. To write of the Chennault-Nixon backchannel, on the other hand, we deal with something that is very real, and for which millions paid a price. If one insists that there was a very real possibility of another path in 1968, with a bombing halt a Humphrey election, and the two sides of Vietnam sitting down for talks, then one might imagine a massive drop in casualties, and afterwards, no Laos, no Cambodia bombing, no Cambodia genocide. Millions who are dead now might well be alive. That possibility is tangible enough that one can understand the avoidance of the subject, and one might even understand the long silence on the part of those who lost only an election.

POSTSCRIPT (13/07/2014): Yesterday, I glanced through Pat Buchanan’s account of the 1968 election, The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority, where he gives a firsthand look of the campaign for which he worked as a speechwriter, a role he would hold on to for the two terms (or one and a half) of the Nixon presidency. His account of the Chennault incident affair is instructive in how insistently blind it is more than forty years later, adhering to a false vision without any acknowledgement of the massive trail of facts which annihilate this illusion. This insistence is educational as it is only possible through the astonishing lack of acknowledgement or discussion in the press of these very obvious, very substantial, and very discomfiting facts. From The Greatest Comeback:

Johnson had changed the debate five days before the election and shoved his whole stack in for Humphrey. If the country believed what appeared to be true—a deal to end the war might be at hand—this could swing it. But the White House did not have all its ducks in a row. Twenty-four hours later, headlines about a bombing halt had been replaced. In the New York Times, the new headline read, “Saigon Opposes Paris Talk Plans, Says It Cannot Attend Next Week.” If Saigon was not aboard, peace was not at hand. Suddenly new questions arose: Have we been had? Who fouled this up? Are we being played one last time by Lyndon Johnson?

Reports that Anna Chennault, widow of the Flying Tigers General Claire Chennault, had contacted Saigon and told Marshal Nguyen Van Thieu to sabotage the talks, as he would get a better deal from Nixon, and that our staff knew and condoned this if we did not orchestrate it, I did not believe then and do not believe now. Humphrey did not believe it. Nixon would never have taken the insane risk of opening a back channel through Mrs. Chennault to Saigon to torpedo a peace agreement negotiated to end the war in Vietnam. Such a revelation would not only have been ruinous to Nixon’s reputation, the revelation of it would have killed his candidacy or poisoned his presidency should he win.

The simplest explanation is often the right one. Saigon had to have concluded that Nixon, with his reputation as an anti-Communist since the 1940s, would be tougher on their Communist enemy than a Democratic candidate who, a month before, had promised an unconditional halt to all bombing of North Vietnam. Why would Saigon want Humphrey, when it was apparent Humphrey had given up on victory? On Saturday, November 2, my thirtieth birthday, I memoed Nixon, “LBJ has committed a major diplomatic blunder.”

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

(On April 10th, the citations for Robert Dallek’s Nixon and Kissinger were added. On July 2, 2014, this post received a long needed edit, which clarified far too many sentences that were made obscure through lousy grammer and lousy writing. Though I have long thought of adding a second conclusion to this piece, that material may end up instead in another post. On this same date I changed the header image to a composition made from stills of Hunter Thompson wearing a mask of Richard Nixon, taken from “Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision”, which can be found on youtube under the title, “Hunter S. Thompson Omnibus 1978″.)

FOOTNOTES FOR RICHARD NIXON: A LIFE IN FULL BY CONRAD BLACK

29 Anna Chennault, The Education of Anna, pp. 173-177

30 Nixon, Memoirs, pp. 326-27.

31 Chennault, p. 175.

32 New York Times, 10/28/68.

33 Johnson, p. 548.

THE ARROGANCE OF POWER BY ANTHONY SUMMERS

26 Chennault told both this author and another researcher that she did not remember having received a call from New Mexico. She speculated that if she had been overheard referring to New Mexico, she was probably meaning to refer to New Hampshire, home state of Robert Hill, one of those she had nominated to Nixon as go-betweens. The documentary record, however, seems to be more reliable on this matter than Chennault’s memory. (Other researcher: conv. Catherine Forslund.)

FOOTNOTES FOR THE WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE “PARIS PEACE ACCORDS”

2 Robert Dallek (2007), Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, HarperCollins, pp. 73-74.

3 Dallek, pp. 74-75. In 1997, Chennault admitted that “I was constantly in touch with Nixon and Mitchell.”

4 Dallek, p. 75.

5 Dallek, pp. 77-78.

6 Conrad Black (2007), Richard Nixon: A Life in Full , PublicAffairs, p. 553.

NIXON AND KISSINGER: PARTNERS IN POWER BY ROBERT DALLEK

1 This book does not feature citations by footnote, but via page number and the relevant text. The excerpt is taken from the pp. 74-77, and I list the relevant citations here:

PAGE 74 How did Nixon: Dallek, Flawed Giant, 584-87; Bundy, 40-41.
PAGE 75 When Thieu continued: Dallek, Flawed Giant, 585-86.
PAGE 75 Because he believed: Ibid., 586.
PAGE 75 The intercepts: FRUS: Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, 615-16.
PAGE 75 With only four days: Ibid., 687; Dallek, Flawed Giant, 588, 591-92.
PAGE 76 Nixon knew: Ibid., 590-91; Bundy, 43.
PAGE 76 Did Nixon’s pressure: For the vote and RN’s appeal, see Ambrose, Nixon: Triumph of a Politician, 220-22. The quote about “the Silent Majority” is on 222.

FOOTNOTES

1 From “LBJ Charges Pro-Nixon Move Beat Humphrey” by Jack Anderson, a column from October 2 1971, highlighting excerpts from Johnson’s memoir:

WASHINGTON – Lyndon Johnson charges in his forthcoming memoirs that Richard Nixon’s allies insured Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential defeat by secretly persuading the Saigon government to stay away from the Paris peace talks.

The former President’s memoirs entitled “The Vantage Point,” are being kept under tight wraps. But we can quote the highlights.

Here, for example, how Johnson describes the GOP-Saigon skulduggery:

“People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking. “Those efforts paid off.

“On November 1, after previously indicating that they would have made him the talks [sic], the South Vietnamese leaders decided not to participate. That I am convinced, cost Hubert Humphrey the presidency, especially since a shift of only a few hundred thousand votes would have made him the winner.

“I am certain the outcome would have been different if the Paris peace talks had been in progress on Election day.”

Despite this, Johnson is surprisingly kind in his appraisal of Richard Nixon. “I never shared the intense dislike of Richard Nixon felt by many of my fellow Democrats…I considered him a much-maligned and misunderstood man. I looked upon Nixon as a tough, unyielding partisan and a shrewd politician, but always a man trying to do the best for his country…”

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The Treason of Richard Nixon: From Possibility To Certainty Part One

THE TREASON OF RICHARD NIXON: FROM POSSIBILITY TO CERTAINTY

PART ONE PART TWO

The title is not an attempt at cheap provocation, but an attempt to capture the raw truth of an event almost entirely forgotten and rarely spoken of, perhaps out of conscious avoidance of the disturbing qualities of the event itself. What follows contains no new revelations, and is an attempt at arranging all available materials to craft a substantial narrative around the event, and make a thorough case of what took place, rather than to score a simple ideological point. Those who wish a more succinct piece on the same event might prefer “The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’” by David Taylor, or “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’” by Robert Parry. All of the documents cited in this piece are via Parry’s article, and the full outlines of the plot given below is thanks to Parry’s work and The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Anthony Summers. I do not agree with all of Parry’s conclusions on all issues, but that someone is doing such solid, vital journalism while relying solely on the individual donations of readers, is one more shameful mark of the established press now, which is happy to subsidize so many banal and unnecessary voices.

I first came across this scandal, as did many others, in 2002, when I read The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. Though the future Secretary of State was indicted for many acts, stunning, depraved, and unknown to me, this piece of election subterfuge stood out – had it failed, most if not all of the other acts he would be involved in could not have taken place. Hitchens would, in turn, obtain the substantial proof of the allegation from The Arrogance of Power: The Secret World of Richard Nixon by Summers, a thorough devastation of the ex-president’s life and career. Hitchens would give a positive review of the book in the Times, “Let Me Say This About That”, and he would appear alongside Summers to promote the book, on the Australian radio program, “Late Night Live” with Philip Adams, on Wednesday, November 15, 2000. In the following excerpt from the interview, Hitchens would single out the book’s reporting and confirmation of the relevant scandal, the spoiling of the 1968 Paris Peace Talks to end the Vietnam war, as its most vital point:

PHILIP ADAMS
Christopher, Kissinger pointed out in his memoirs that Nixon rather liked people to fear his madness. Of course, in ’69, he tells Kissinger to warn the Soviet ambassador that he was out of control on Indochina and capable of anything. Is there any evidence that he behaved this way with his staff and aides, or did he just direct this terrifying prospect at the Russians?

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS
Oh no, there’s every kind of evidence that his staff and aides grew to recognize the symptoms. I think the locus classicus would be the Haldeman diaries, where you have an almost weary assumption by Haldeman that the president’s at it again. “The P.” as he calls it, in his diaries. And very often, Haldeman will not act on some bizarre instruction or order. Because he thinks that probably when the president either sobers up, because there was a tremendous tendency for one scotch to make a gigantic difference…or just shakes off the mood. Wait twenty four hours, and he’ll have forgotten he told me to do this, or countermand it on second thought. That’s true of what I think is the most salient chapter of Mr. Summers’s book, namely, the conspiracy, because there is no other word for it…to try and sabotage the Paris Peace Talks in 1968.

ADAMS
I’d like you to talk to that, Christopher, because it is the blockbuster revelation, isn’t it?

HITCHENS
It is-

ADAMS
Or the confirmation of it.

HITCHENS
The confirmation. You have the skeleton, and quite a lot of the flesh of the story by inference, and by induction, in the Haldeman diaries, ’cause Haldeman discusses quite freely the fact that Nixon tried, contemplated trying, using, the fact he himself had been bugged. In 1968. As a weapon against the democrats in 1972. Okay, if you think bugging is a scandal, this is Watergate obviously, what if I bring out you bugging me? And then realizing he can’t do that, without revealing why he’s being bugged. Now, that’s all in the memoirs and diaries of his closest associate. And you can also context that it was about Viet Nam he was being bugged in 1968. Now, why would they be doing this? Why would they have- Why would’ve President Johnson wanted to tap candidate Nixon, and the answer is now very plain from the book we’re discussing. That he had opened an illegal backchannel to the South Vietnamese junta and said to them, “Look, if you don’t gratify the democratic administration by consenting to the Paris peace talks, if you don’t do them that favor, and discredit their re-election campaign, you will get a better deal in the incoming Republican administration.”

ANTHONY SUMMERS
Can I break in?

ADAMS
Yes, of course Anthony.

SUMMERS
The breakthrough for me, journalistically, was to be able to obtain the FBI surveillance file. As Christopher Hitchens has said, Johnson, who was given human information, indicating human intelligence, indicating what Nixon and his people were up to in terms of trying to sabotage the peace initiative, he ordered FBI surveillance to try and establish it. In fact, he didn’t establish it fully, because the reports didn’t come in till after the election. Not least because J. Edgar Hoover was less than keen to obey the president’s order in truly expeditious fashion. But the result that we have today is the FBI surveillance file which shows quite clearly that Nixon’s intermediary, Anna Chennault, who I also interviewed extensively, many times, was in constant touch, in those days before the election, carrying messages to the South Vietnamese ambassador in Washington, talking about “her boss”. And it’s complex, and you can’t explain it in a hurry on radio, but it becomes completely clear in context, that when she talks about “her boss”, she’s talking about Richard Nixon.

The FBI surveillance file is now easily available, a document I came across on Robert Parry’s “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’”, and the text which Summers cites is as follows1:

The most succinct, and acerbic, overview of the scandal can be found in The Trial of Henry Kissinger, where Hitchens sums it up in one acrid paragraph:

Here is the secret in plain words. In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon and some of his emissaries and underlings set out to sabotage the Paris peace negotiations on Vietnam. The means they chose were simple: they privately assured the South Vietnamese military rulers that an incoming Republican regime would offer them a better deal than would a Democratic one. In this way, they undercut both the talks themselves and the electoral strategy of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey. The tactic “worked,” in that the South Vietnamese junta withdrew from the talks on the eve of the election, thereby destroying the “peace plank” on which the Democrats had contested it. In another way, it did not “work,” because four years later the Nixon administration concluded the war on the same terms that had been on offer in Paris. The reason for the dead silence that still surrounds the question is that, in those intervening four years, some twenty thousand Americans and an uncalculated number of Vietnamese, Cambodians and Laotians lost their lives. Lost them, that is to say, even more pointlessly than had those slain up to that point. The impact of those four years on Indochinese society, and on American democracy, is beyond computation. The chief beneficiary of the covert action, and of the subsequent slaughter, was Henry Kissinger.

A more detailed overview of the conspiracy was given by a man who was within its near radius, Clark Clifford, Secretary of Defense for President Lyndon Johnson when the peace talks were thwarted, and who gave extensive space to it in his 1991 memoir, Counsel to the President, co-written by Richard Holbrooke, a member of the United States negotiating team at the Vietnam peace talks in Paris. For some lengthy book excerpts I include their footnotes, separate from this post’s footnotes, so that readers may have a solid idea on the sources of their information, and this approach is taken here:

BUI DIEM AND THE “LITTLE FLOWER”

At about this time, a new and potentially explosive factor entered the picture our discovery, through intelligence channels, of a plot – there is no other word for it – to help Nixon win the election by a flagrant interference in the negotiations.

History is filled with characters who emerge for a moment, play a critical, sometimes even decisive, role in a historic event, and then recede again into their normal lives. Such was the function of two people who played key roles in electing Richard Nixon in 1968: Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s Ambassador in Washington, and Anna Chennault, the Chinese-born widow of General Claire Chennault, the commander of the famed Flying Tigers in Burma and China during World War II.

Mrs. Chennault, a small, intense, and energetic woman who was often seen in the company of her close friend Tommy Corcoran, was chairwoman of Republican Women for Nixon in 1968. Early in the year, she took Bui Diem to New York to meet Nixon. When Diem alerted his closest friend in the Administration, Bill Bundy, to the meeting, Bundy raised no objections; it was quite appropriate for an Ambassador to meet with a former Vice President. But Bui Diem neglected to mention to Bundy that, at Nixon’s request, he had opened a secret personal channel to John Mitchell and other senior members of the Nixon team through Chennault and John Tower, the Republican Senator from Texas.10

There was almost no one in Washington as well informed as the popular and affable Bui Diem. The State Department kept him informed of the negotiations in Paris, his own government sent him reports on the Bunker-Thieu [Bunker is Ellsworth Bunker, the U.S. ambassador to South Vietnam] talks in Saigon, and he maintained close relations with many prominent Americans, especially Republican conservatives such as Senator Tower and Everett Dirksen, the Senate Minority Leader. It was not difficult for Ambassador Diem to pass information to Anna Chennault, who was in contact with John Mitchell, she said later, “at least once a day.”11 Even more important, Diem could convey advice from the Nixon camp to Thieu.

In his memoirs, Diem claims he sent only two “relevant messages” to Saigon during October. While they “constituted circumstantial evidence for anybody ready to assume the worst,” he wrote, “they certainly did not mean that I had arranged a deal with the Republicans.” Some of Diem’s messages to Saigon later became public. On October 23, he cabled Thieu: “Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm. They were alarmed by press reports to the effect that you had already softened your position.” October 27: “The longer the present situation continues, the more we are favored…I am regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”12 Despite his disclaimer, I believe there were other messages, delivered through other channels; Diem correctly suspected he was under surveillance by American intelligence, and tried to fool his watchers by using more secure channels.

Diem was not Anna Chennault’s only channel to Saigon. As he wrote in his own memoirs, “My impression was that she may have played her own game in encouraging both the South Vietnamese and the Republicans.” She took seriously Nixon’s request that she act as “the sole representative between the Vietnamese government and the Nixon campaign headquarters,”13 and she certainly found other routes of communicating with President Thieu [Nguyen Thieu], including the South Vietnamese Ambassador to Taiwan, who happened to be Thieu’s brother.

What was conveyed to Thieu through the Chennault channel may never be fully known, but there was no doubt that she conveyed a simple and authoritative message from the Nixon camp that was probably decisive in convincing President Thieu to defy President Johnson – then delaying the negotiations and prolonging the war. Rather proudly, she recounted one specific message she received from John Mitchell in the last few days of the campaign. “Anna,” she quotes him as saying, “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon, It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you have made clear to them.”14

The activities of the Nixon team went far beyond the bounds of justifiable political combat. It constituted direct interference in the activities of the executive branch and the responsibilities of the Chief Executive, the only people with authority to negotiate on behalf of the nation. The activities of the Nixon campaign constituted a gross, even potentially illegal, interference in the security of the nation by private individuals.

We first became aware of these activities through the normal operations of the intelligence community in the weeks prior to the election. Gradually we realized that President Thieu’s growing resistance to the agreement in Paris was being encouraged, indeed stimulated, by the Republicans, and especially by Anna Chennault, whom we referred to as the “Little Flower.” In total privacy – and, at the President’s direction, without consulting Humphrey [Vice President Hubert Humphrey] – the President, Rusk [Secretary of State Dean Rusk], Rostow [National Security Adviser Walt Rostow], and I discussed what to do about this attempt to thwart the negotiations.

It was an extraordinary dilemma. On one hand, we had positive evidence that the Little Flower and other people speaking for the Republican candidate were encouraging President Thieu to delay the negotiations for political reasons. On the other, the information had been derived from extremely sensitive intelligence operations of the FBI, the CIA, and the National Security Agency; these included surveillance of the Ambassador of our ally, and an American citizen with strong political ties to the Republicans.*

*It should be remembered that the public was considerably more innocent in such matters in the days before the Watergate hearings and the 1974 Senate investigation of the CIA.

In a decision filled with consequences for the election and for history, President Johnson, although furious at Mrs. Chennault, decided not to use the information or make it public in any way. There were several contributing factors to his decision:

  • Underestimation of the damage. Bunker [U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker] continued to predict that Thieu would accept our position within a few days. As a result, the President and Rusk seriously underestimated the harm the Chennault channel caused to the negotiating efforts
  • Weakening of support for Saigon. Johnson and Rusk still worried about losing American support for Thieu if information about his behavior and motives became public. For those who liked irony, there was plenty in Thieu’s defiance of Johnson while the Administration continued to shield him from the wrath of American public opinion. President Johnson had sacrificed his political career as a result of his efforts to save South Vietnam, but as far as Thieu was concerned, Johnson was just a lame duck – the choice was between Humphrey and Nixon.
  • Effect on the negotiations. Rusk was concerned that revealing the Chennault channel would reveal to Hanoi the strains between Saigon and Washington, stiffen Hanoi’s position, and disrupt the negotiations
  • Ambivalence about Hubert Humphrey. Finally, and most important, there was the question of President Johnson’s feelings about Hubert Humphrey. Throughout the campaign, the President treated his Vice President badly, excluding him from National Security Council meetings, and threatening to break with him over the platform plank on Vietnam.15 What mattered to President Johnson at that moment was not who would succeed him, but what his place in history would be.

Characteristically, the generous Humphrey does not even mention the incident in his memoirs,16 even though one of his staff told him about Bui Diem’s efforts on Nixon’s behalf, and he could reasonably have claimed that these events cost him the Presidency.

***

Perhaps in the wake of a decade of post-Watergate revelations about intelligence activities, the decision not to go public may seem fussy and old-fashioned; but whether the President was right or wrong, it was an exceedingly tough call. Had the decision been mine alone to make, I would either have had a private discussion with Nixon, making clear to him that if he did not sent a countervailing signal to Thieu immediately he would face public criticism from the President for interference in the negotiations; or I would have allowed the incident to become public, so that the American public might take it into account in deciding how to vote. Had he been the candidate himself, this is what I believed Lyndon Johnson would have done.

All this raises a critical question: what did Richard Nixon know, and when did he know it? No proof – in the terminology of the Watergate era, no “smoking gun” – has ever turned up linking Nixon directly to the secret messages to Thieu. There are no self-incriminating tapes from the campaign, and the whole incident has been relegated to the status of an unsolved mystery. On the other hand, this chain of events undeniably began in Richard Nixon’s apartment in New York, and his closest adviser, John Mitchell, ran the Chennault channel personally, with full understanding of its sensitivity. Given the importance of these events, I have always thought it was reasonable to assume that Mitchell told Nixon about them, and that Nixon knew, and approved, of what was going on in his name.

(Picture of Anna Chennault, from the Papers of Anna Chennault, at the Schlesinger Library.)

The FBI intercept of a conversation between Chennault and an associate in the Nixon campaign, known to Johnson along with a select few others, was a possible smoking gun but one of only many that would be unveiled decades later. The vote in 1968 would take place on November 5th, and though some reporting at the time spoke of the bombing halt and the Peace Talks as a last minute maneuver crafted to swing the election in the favor of Humphrey, the work to implement the talks was on-going for a long time. Nor were the intrigues of Nixon to interfere in the talks a last minute move either, but begun a year before, with Anna Chennault, the woman who would serve as Nixon’s weapon for spoiling the talks, already brought into the fold. Despite its occasional reliance on stereotypes, perhaps the most vivid description of Chennault that I’ve come across is from Theodore White’s The Making of the President 1968, and one of the few contemporary books to devote some investigative space to the episode, which was then only unsubstantiated rumor for those outside the circles of Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and their closest intimates, though which White ultimately considers to be only a deadly rumor without proof, and deciding the matter in Nixon’s favor:

There is no way of getting at the dilemma of both parties except by introducing, at this point, the completely extraneous name of a beautiful Oriental lady, Anna Chan Chennault, the Chinese widow of war-time hero General Claire Chennault. Mrs. Chennault, an American citizen since 1950, comes of a line that begins with Mei-ling Soong (Madame Chiang K’ai-shek) and runs through Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam) – a line of Oriental ladies of high purpose and authoritarian manners whose pieties and iron righteousness have frequently outrun their brains and acknowledged beauty. In the campaign of 1968, Mrs. Chennault, a lady of charm, energy and great name, had become chairman or co-chairman of several Nixon citizen committees, wearing honorific titles which were borne by many but which she took more seriously than most. In that circle of Oriental diplomacy in Washington once known as the China Lobby, Anna Chennault was hostess-queen. Having raised (by her statement later) some $250 000 for the Nixon campaign, she felt entitled to authority by her achievement. And, having learned of the October negotiations by gossip and rumor and press speculation, as did most Americans, she had undertaken most energetically to sabotage them. In contact with the Formosan, the South Korean and the South Vietnamese governments, she had begun early, by cable and telephone, to mobilize their resistance to the agreement – apparently implying, as she went, that she spoke for the Nixon campaign.

Summers, who would interview Chennault for his book, would give a more in-depth account of the background between the intertwining of Chennault and Nixon in the year before the election:

The intrigues of 1968 really began the previous year. While Chennault was traveling in Asia, she received a spate of telegrams asking her to visit Nixon in New York. Robert Hill, a Republican foreign policy specialist, met her at the airport and escorted her to Nixon’s Fifth Avenue apartment. While Hill waited in another room, Nixon introduced her to John Mitchell.

Chennault agreed that day to provide Nixon with advice on Vietnam in the coming months, working through Hill and Texas Senator John Tower. “When we do things,” Nixon told her as the meeting ended, “it’ll be better to keep it secret.” He seemed even then, Chennault recalled, “conspiratorial.”

In July the following year, as the election drew nearer, Chennault went to the Nixon apartment with South Vietnam’s ambassador Bui Diem-a visit documented by both their diaries. A surviving internal staff memo addressed to “DC,” Nixon’s campaign pseudonym, pointed out that it “would have to be absolute [sic] top secret.” “Should be,” Nixon replied in a scrawled notation, “but I don’t see how-with the S.S. [Secret Service] If it can be [secret] RN would like to see. . . .”

Nixon had told Chennault he wanted to “end this war with victory,” a sentiment he now always repeated at the meeting with her and Bui Diem. “If I should be elected the next President,” Chennault recalled his telling Bui Diem, “you can rest assured I will have a meeting with your leader and find a solution to winning this war.” Nixon had met with Thieu in Saigon the previous year. Now, he told Thieu’s ambassador that Chennault was to be “the only contact between myself and your government. If you have any message for me, please give it to Anna, and she will relay it to me, and I will do the same. . . .”

According to Chennault, she met more than once that year with President Thieu in Saigon. He complained about the pressure the Johnson administration was putting on him to attend peace talks and told her: “I would much prefer to have the peace talks after your elections.” He asked her to “convey this message to your candidate.” She did. From time to time President Thieu also sent her word through Ambassador Diem. He also used other messengers, including a colonel on his military staff, apparently because he did not entirely trust his own ambassador.22

In the weeks that followed Chennault had several more meetings with Nixon and Mitchell in New York. They told her to inform Saigon that were Nixon to become president, South Vietnam would get “a better deal.” “The message,” she told the author, “was relayed.”

Asked if Nixon and Mitchell were trying to cut a deal to help win the election, Chennault nodded. “They worked out this deal to win the campaign,” she said. “Power overpowers all reason.”

“It was all very, very confidential,” in Chennault’s description. The air of intrigue was pervasive. At the July meeting Bui Diem remembered, Mitchell had been “silent, didn’t say a word.” Chennault noted that he worried constantly about wiretapping and kept changing his private telephone number. Chennault meanwhile told Nixon she could always be reached through Robert Hill, the party official who had arranged the first meeting, Rose Woods, or another prominent Republican, Patricia Hitt.

This allegation was related by Chennault to Summers, but as well to veteran political correspondent Jules Witcover, which he describes in his memoir, The Making of an Ink-Stained Wretch: Half a Century Pounding the Political Beat. The relevant fragment2:

Much later also, I tracked down Anna Chennault at a small office she kept in Georgetown, and while saying she could not talk because she was writing a book of her own (yet to appear), she insisted she had acted under instructions from the Nixon campaign in contacting the Saigon regime. “The only people who knew about the whole operation,” she told me, “were Nixon, John Mitchell [Nixon's campaign manager] and John Tower [senator from Texas and Nixon campaign figure], and they’re all dead. But they knew what I was doing. Anyone who knows about these things knows I was getting orders to do these things. I couldn’t do anything without instructions.”

The introduction of Chennault to ambassador Bui Diem is described in another book, The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, which devotes a chapter titled “This is Treason!” to the backchannel:

Nixon was not a man to take chances. He knew how much he stood to lose if Johnson succeeded in the Paris peace talks. “If there’s war, people will vote for me to end it,” he told his aides. “If there’s peace, they’ll vote their pocketbooks – Democratic prosperity.”

And so he took out some insurance. He needed to know what Johnson was offering Hanoi, how he was selling it to Saigon, and whether, after all this time, all this trouble, the way out of this benighted war might open up just in time for election day.

Anna Chennault was the cochair of Republican Women for Nixon. The Chinese-born widow of General Claire Chennault, who commanded the Flying Tigers in China in World War II, she was petite, striking, and at forty-three nicknamed the “Little Flower” or, alternatively, the “Dragon Lady.” She and Nixon had met in 1954, when he made a vice presidential trip to Taiwan. She was close to Presient Thieu’s brother, Nguyen Van Kieu. On July 12, Chennault and South Vietnamese ambassador Bui Diem, a popular, affable, and extremely well-connected diplomat, met with Nixon and his campaign manager, John Mitchell, in Nixon’s New York apartment. According to Diem’s account, the purpose was to open a secret back channel between the Nixon campaign and Saigon.

“Anna is my good friend,” Nixon told the Diem. “She knows all about Asia. I know you also consider her a friend, so please rely on her from now on as the only contact between myself and your government.” If you have a message, send it through her, and he would do the same, Nixon said. “We know Anna is a good American and a dedicated Republican. We can all rely on her loyalty.” He promised to make Vietnam a top priority if he won, “and to see that Vietnam gets better treatment from me than under the Democrats.”

Thus had Nixon put in place a way for him to send his own messages, apply his own pressure, make his own promises to Saigon, while staying on top of Johnson’s moves.

There is the possibility that even at this early point, Chennault’s interference may have been discovered, without it necessarily being connected to Nixon. The possibility exists, accompanied by all these uncertainties, because at a later date many of the documents that resulted from the surveillance of Chennault were collected, declassified, and made public. One document, however, commissioned in August 3rd, 1968, by Bromley Smith, a national security aide in the Johnson administration, remains entirely redacted. It no doubt has something to do with the Paris peace talks and Chennault, but anything else can only be guessed at. Here is all of the text that is public at this time3:

RECEIVED WASHINGTON COMCENTER
5:33 P.M. SATURDAY AUG 68

RECEIVED: LBJ RANCH COMCENTER
5:05 P.M. SATURDAY 3 AUG 68

TOP SECRET

SENSITIVE

SANITIZED

Z E V
EEA973
00 WTE10
DE WTE 2975

FROM BROMLEY SMITH
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP81797

T O P S E C R E T SENSITIVE

[REDACTED]

SANITIZED
E.O. 13526 Sec. 3.5
NLJ 10-96
By isl NARA, Date 1-10-11

At the same time that Nixon was using Chennault as an active intermediary with Ambassador Bui Diem and the South Vietnamese, he was being given top secret briefings on the diplomatic negotiations taking place between the Administration and both sides of the civil war. We have a quote from a Nixon ad man when Gloria Steinem profiled the 1968 Nixon campaign, made on September 20th of that year. Had Nixon’s attitude toward Communism changed over the years?, asked Steinem. “Oh no, absolutely not,” replies the ad man. “He understands those people. He knows you have to be tough or they’ll take us over. You see, I have some special knowledge – though, of course, Mr. Nixon has more. I happen to know he’s had top secret briefings – but I have some knowledge from old friends in the military. They come back and tell me the way it really is. If we don’t stop the Chinese here, they’ll keep right on going. Of course, he can’t say anything about Vietnam because it might interfere with the talks in Paris. Mr. Nixon’s a man of real integrity-he won’t take advantage of his special knowledge if it would help Ho Chi Minh, But he knows the enemy, and he knows they hope to win because of all these misguided sympathizers pressuring us here. I’m for him because he won’t let that happen.”4

This would lead up to a conference call between Johnson and the candidates on October 16th, a little more than two weeks before the election, where he would brief them on the negotiations taking place. Thanks to the declassification of these recordings, we now know what was said on the call. From here on, I divide the narrative of this crucial narrative of 1968 by date.

OCTOBER 16, 1968

The audio from the following call, along with its transcript, is available at the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, record “WH6810-04-13547-13548″. The call took place between 11:41am and 11:57am, between Johnson, Republican candidate Richard Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey, and George Wallace, former Democrat, segregationist, and candidate for the American Independent Party. The following are excerpts where Johnson makes clear the importance of maintaining secrecy over the negotiations, and the candidates not making any counter-offers in public speeches, as this would jeopardize negotiations5:

(A clip on youtube of the audio of this phone call in its entirety, with accompanying transcript.)

JOHNSON
This is in absolute confidence because any statement or any speeches or any comments at this time referring to the substance of these matters will be injurious to your country. I don’t think there’s any question about that.

First, I want to say this: That our position, the government position, today is exactly what it was the last time all three of you were briefed. That position namely is this: We are anxious to stop the bombing [of North Vietnam] and would be willing to stop the bombing if they would sit down with us with the Government of [South] Vietnam present and have productive discussions. We have told them that we did not think we could have discussions if, while we were talking, they were shelling the cities or if they were abusing the DMZ [Demilitarized Zone]. From time to time, beginning back late last Spring, they have nibbled back and forth at these various items. Each time they do, there is a great flurry of excitement. Now, we have been hopeful one day that they would understand this. We don’t want to call it “reciprocity”; we don’t want to call it “conditions,” because they object to using those words, and that just knocks us out of an agreement. But we know that you join us in wanting peace the earliest day we can and to save lives as quickly as we can and as many as we can. So, one day we’re hopeful, and the next day we’re very disillusioned.

Now, as of today they have not signed on and agreed to the proposition which I have outlined to you, nor have they indicated that this would be a satisfactory situation to them in its entirety. Our negotiators are back and forth talking to them, and they have just finished their meeting in Paris this morning. But, yesterday in Saigon, because there are exchanges constantly going on, there came out a report that there was an agreement that would be announced at a specific hour. This morning in Paris the same thing happened, and [Averell] Harriman had to knock that down. We posted a notice here at the White House that said the same thing.

Now, very frankly, we would hope that we could have a minimum of discussion in the newspapers about these conferences, because we’re not going to get peace with public speeches, and we’re not going to get peace through the newspapers. We can get it only when they understand that our position is a firm one, and we’re going to stay by it. And what you all’s position will be when you get to be President, I would hope you could announce then. Because we have really this kind of a situation. If I’ve got a house to sell, and I put a rock bottom price of $40,000 on it, and the prospective purchaser says, “Well, that’s a little high, but let me see.” And he goes–starts to leave to talk to his wife about it, and [First Lady] Lady Bird [Johnson] whispers that, “I would let you have it for $35,000.” And then he gets downstairs, and Lynda Bird [Johnson] says, “We don’t like the old house anyway, and we get it $30,000.” Well, he’s not likely to sign up.

The three things that Johnson is demanding as necessary from North Vietnam is that there be no shelling of the cities of South Vietnam, no crossing of the DMZ separating the two sides of the country, and that the elected government of South Vietnam, the GVN, be at the table. These are the three things he refers to in the next excerpt, where all three candidates affirm their agreement on the need for secrecy and non-interference with the diplomatic negotiations.

JOHNSON
Now, we do not have to get a firm contract on all these three things. But I do have to have good reason to believe that it won’t be on-again-off-again Flanagan; that I won’t have to stop the bombing one day and start it the next. Now, obviously, they can deceive me, and we know that in dealing with the Communists that they frequently do that. We have had a good many experiences of that right in these negotiations.

But what I called you for was to say in substance this: our position has not changed. I do not plan to see a change. I have not issued any such orders. I will con–I will talk to each of you before I do, and all of you on an equal basis. I know you don’t want to play politics with your country. I’m trying to tell you what my judgment is about how not to play politics with it. And I know all of you want peace at the earliest possible moment. And I would just express the hope that you be awfully sure what you’re talking about before you get into the intricacies of these negotiations. Over. Now, I’ll be glad to have any comment any of you want to make or answer any questions.

HUMPHREY
No comment, Mr. President. Thank you very much.

NIXON
Yep. Well, as you know, my–this is consistent with what my position has been all along. I’ve made it very clear that I will make no statement that would undercut the negotiations. So we’ll just stay right on there and hope that this thing works out.

JOHNSON
George, are you on?

WALLACE
Yes, sir, Mr. President, and of course, that’s my position all along, too–is the position you stated, yes, sir. And I agree with you that we shouldn’t play any politics with this matter so that it might foul up the negotiations in any manner.

Though he gave his assent in the phone call, Nixon actually had a very different attitude which he was fully open about a few years later. He would also reveal that he knew in advance of the eventual bombing halt on October 31st, through a mole in the negotiating team: Henry Kissinger. It was his involvement which brought this scandal into the purview of Hitchens’ book, and it is in The Trial of Henry Kissinger that the reader can find out where this source is revealed: from the memoirs of the capo di tutti capi himself, Richard Nixon. From Trial:

There had to be secret communications between Nixon and the South Vietnamese, as we have seen. But there also had to be an informant inside the incumbent administration’s camp – a source of hints and tips and early warnings of official intentions. That informant was Henry Kissinger. In Nixon’s own account, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, the disgraced elder statesman tells us that, in mid-September 1968, he received private word of a planned “bombing halt.” In other words, the Johnson administration would, for the sake of the negotiations, consider suspending its aerial bombardment of North Vietnam. This most useful advance intelligence, Nixon tells us, came “through a highly unusual channel.” It was more unusual even than he acknowledged. Kissinger had until then been a devoted partisan of Nelson Rockefeller, the matchlessly wealthy prince of liberal Republicanism. His contempt for the person and the policies of Richard Nixon was undisguised. Indeed, President Johnson’s Paris negotiators, led by Averell Harriman, considered Kissinger to be almost one of themselves. He had made himself helpful, as Rockefeller’s chief foreign policy advisor, by supplying French intermediaries with their own contacts in Hanoi. “Henry was the only person outside of the government we were authorized to discuss the negotiations with,” says Richard Holbrooke. “We trusted him. It is not stretching the truth to say that the Nixon campaign had a secret source within the US negotiating team.”

Though Nixon is very opaque if not rankly dishonest about many parts of this episode in his memoir, never mentioning Chennault or his successful attempt to spoil the peace talks, he is explicit and up front over the use of Kissinger to hand over information. He is equally explicit in his true reaction to the eventual halt: “anger and frustration” at what must be an attempt by Johnson to win the election for Humphrey. Nixon describes the secret diplomatic channel from the starting point of Johnson calling him on October 31st to let him know of the announcement that night of the bombing halt, then moves back to September when he first began using Kissinger to get information on the peace talks, and I follow the excerpt up until the conference call of October 16th:

More than anything else, Humphrey had Lyndon Johnson to thank for the eleventh-hour masterstroke that almost won him the election.

On October 31 I was to address a nationally televised rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. I set aside a couple of quiet hours in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my study at home making notes for the speech later that evening when the telephone rang. It was a White House operator: the President was placing a conference call to Humphrey, Wallace, and me. A moment later Lyndon Johnson was on the line.

He got right to the point. There had been a breakthrough in Paris, he said, and after wide consultations among his advisers, he had decided to call a total bombing halt over North Vietnam. He would make the announcement on television in two hours. As Johnson went one, I thought to myself that whatever this meant to North Vietnam, he had just dropped a pretty good bomb in the middle of my campaign.

Johnson said, rather defensively, “I’m not concerned with an election. You all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way, and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts.”

Johnson explained that he had not been able to persuade Saigon to agree to the provisions of the bombing halt, so that South Vietnam would not be joining in the announcement.

When Johnson finished, and we had asked some perfunctory questions, George Wallace said, “I’m praying for you.”

Humphrey said, “I’m backing you up, Mr. President.”

I thanked Johnson for making the call and seconded Humphrey’s pledge of support.

The telephone call over, I could feel my anger and frustration welling up. Johnson was making the one move that I thought could determine the outcome of the election. Had I done all this work and come all this way only to be undermined by the powers of an incumbent who had decided against seeking re-election?

I remembered how categorical Johnson had been at our briefing earlier that summer. Then he had been contemptuous of those who wanted a bombing halt, and his arms had sliced the air as he insisted that he was not going to let one ammunition truck pass freely into South Vietnam carrying the weapons to kill American boys.

In fact, the bombing halt came as no real surprise to me. I had known for several weeks that plans were being made for such an action; the announcement was the other shoe that I had been waiting for Johnson to drop. What I found difficult to accept was the timing. Announcing the halt so close to the election was utterly callous if politically calculated, and utterly naive if sincere.

I had learned of the plan through a highly unusual channel. It began on September 12, when Haldeman brought me a report from John Mitchell that Rockefeller’s foreign policy adviser, Henry Kissinger, was available to assist us with advice. In 1967 Kissinger had served Johnson as a secret emissary, passing Johnson’s offers for a bombing halt to the North Vietnamese via French intermediaries. At one point Johnson even recommended a direct meeting, but the North Vietnamese were recalcitrant, and the “Kissinger channel” came to an end in October 1967. Kissinger, however, retained the respect of Johnson and his national security advisers, and he continued to have entr&eaute;e into the administration’s foreign policy circles.

I knew that Rockefeller had been offering Kissinger’s assistance and urging that I make use of it ever since the convention. I told Haldeman that Mitchell should continue as liaison with Kissinger and that we should honor his desire to keep his role completely confidential.

Two weeks after his first meeting with Mitchell, Kissinger called again. He said that he had just returned from Paris, where he had packed up word that something big was afoot regarding Vietnam. He advised that if I had to say anything about Vietnam during the following week, I should avoid any new ideas or proposals. Kissinger was completely circumspect in the advice he gave us during the campaign. If he was privy to the details of negotiations, he did not reveal them to us. He considered it proper and responsible, however, to warn me against making any statements that might be undercut by negotiations I was not aware of.

I asked Haldeman to have Bryce Harlow call the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen. “Have Ev tell Lyndon that I have a message from Paris,” I suggested. “Leave the hint that I know what’s going on, and tell Ev to nail Lyndon hard to find out what’s happening.”

I also told Haldeman to have Agnew ask Dean Rusk whether there was anything to “rumors” we had heard.

That same day I sent a memo to my key staffers and writers ordering them to put the Vietnam monkey on Humphrey’s back, not Johnson’s. I wanted to make it clear that I thought it was Humphrey rather than the President who was playing politics with the war.

A few days later Haldeman sent me a memorandum with more information from Kissinger to Mitchell.

Our source feels that there is a better than even chance that Johnson will order a bombing halt at approximately mid-October. This will be tied in with a big flurry of diplomatic activity in Paris which will have no meaning but will be made to look important.

After covering other diplomatic matters, the memo continued:

Our source does not believe that it is practical to oppose a bombing halt but does feel thought should be given to the fact that it may happen – that we may want to anticipate it – and that we certainly will want to be ready at the time it does happen…

Our source is extremely concerned about the moves Johnson may take and expects that he will take some action before the election.

That same day I learned that Dean Rusk had reassured Agnew that there were no new developments and that the administration would not “cut our legs off” with an announcement in October. If there were any change, he said, Johnson would call me right away. Rusk did say, however, that although there was nothing currently planned, the situation was “fast-changing.”

On October 9, the North Vietnamese in Paris publicly called on Johnson to stop the bombing while he still had the power to do so. Johnson, of course, knew what the public did not know: secret negotiations for a bombing halt were already taking place.

Three days later we received another secret report from Kissinger saying that there was a strong possibility that the administration would move before October 23. Kissinger strongly recommended that I avoid making any statements about Humphrey’s hurting the prospects of peace. Rather cryptically, Kissinger strongly reported that there was “more to this than meets the eye.” I thought that this report from Kissinger was uncomfortably vague. Why was he trying to get me to avoid making statements about Vietnam and why was he so insistent about laying off Humphrey? One factor that had most convinced me of Kissinger’s credibility was the length to which he went to protect his secrecy. But what if Johnson’s people knew that he was passing information to me and were feeding him phony stories? In such a tense political and diplomatic atmosphere, I was no longer sure of anything.

Over the next few days rumors became rampant that something big was about to happen in Paris. Reporters demanded to know what was happening, and in response to their questions, the White House press office released a statement that there were no breakthroughs in Paris and no change in the situation.

I was campaigning in Missouri on October 16 when word arrived from the White House that Johnson wanted to clarify matters with a conference call to all three candidates. When the call came, I was in Kansas City’s Union Station, about to address a large rally in the main waiting room. I took his call in a tiny room behind the platform. The “room” was like a telephone booth with a glass door. Throughout our conversation people wandered by, staring quizzically at me jammed into this closet.

We had a bad connection, so that I had to strain to make out Johnson’s words. He told us to read his Press Secretary’s statement. There was no breakthrough in Paris. The rumors were wrong. He urged us not to say anything. He said that there had in fact been some movement by Hanoi, but that anything might jeopardize it. I asked for some assurance that he was still insisting on reciprocity from the Communists for any concessions on our part, and Johnson replied that he was maintaining that three points had to be met: (1) Prompt and serious talks must follow any bombing halt; (2) Hanoi must not violate the Demilitarized Zone; and (3) the Vietcong or the North Vietnamese would not carry out large-scale rocket or artillery attacks against South Vietnam’s major cities. If these conditions were fulfilled, of course, I would support whatever arrangements Johnson could work out.

When I saw Johnson that night at the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York, he gave me further assurances that he would not accept any arrangement without reciprocity, and again requested that I be careful about what I had to say on Vietnam. After the dinner, I instructed Haldeman to pass the word that, in view of Johnson’s request, I would not be making any major speeches criticizing the conduct of the war.

Nixon had Kissinger, but he also had other sources to let him know about negotiation developments, channeled through Bryce Harlow, a Nixon campaign aide who would later serve as counselor to the president. Harlow would tell Nixon’s top aide, H. R. Haldeman, that developments were still too confused to know whether there was to be a bombing halt on the morning of October 16th, with no sources named6, along with two notes that expected a bombing halt based on information passed along from Texas Senator John Tower, one of which is the following7:

Agnew thinks something coming – (large?) day
Rusk leaked normal ease
didn’t want it known they talked =
Ottenad has told people
McW [Charlie McWhorter] heard from someone

Bryce thinks this is all smog

McWhorter was another Nixon aide; Ottenad was Tom Ottenad, a reporter for the St-Louis Dispatch who, as we’ll see later, was one of the few journalists of the time to look into the possibility that the peace talks had been deliberately sabotaged; Agnew was Spiro Agnew, Nixon’s vice presidential candidate who also, again as we’ll soon see, was the man through whom Anna Chennault would pass information on her attempts to stop the negotiations.

There was also a note from Bryce Harlow on the October 17th, citing a specific source, Rusk’s deputy, Harry W. Shlaudeman8:

October 17, 1968

TO: DC
FROM: Ellsworth

Called Rusk but he had his assistant, Shlaudeman [Harry W. Shlaudeman, Special Assistant to United States Secretary of State], talk to me. Said Rusk had already talked to Agnew. Said Rusk told Agnew the White House statement spoke for itself. Said Rusk emphasized to Agnew that there are a number of essential matters still under negotiation and discussion at Paris, that it is still up to Hanoi, that they are still working at it, that it is hard to predict, and especially emphasized that the President will be in touch with Mr. Nixon if anything important develops.

The “DC” mentioned here and in all other notes was a codename for Richard Nixon9.

That Nixon had another secret source for information about the on-going talks, someone other than Kissinger, someone high up and deep within the Johnson circle – we know this because he refers to him as such in his memoirs. Whether this man was Shlaudeman, Rusk, or someone else is unknown to me. He remains unnamed and I have come across no revelation of his identity in any other source. From RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, nearly a week after Johnson’s October 16 conference call:

On October 22, Bryce Harlow received information from a source whose credibility was beyond question. It was from someone in Johnson’s innermost circle, and, as events turned out, it was entirely accurate. I read Harlow’s memorandum several times, and with each reading I became angrier and more frustrated:

The President is driving exceedingly hard for a deal with North Vietnam. Expectation is that he is becoming almost pathologically eager for an excuse to order a bombing halt and will accept almost any arrangement…

Clark Clifford, [Joseph] Califano, and Llewellyn Thompson are the main participants in this effort. [George] Ball is in also, though somewhat on the fringe.

Careful plans are being made to help HHH exploit whatever happens. White House staff liasion with HHH is close. Plan is for LBJ to make a nationwide TV announcement as quickly as possible after agreement; the object is to get this done as long before November 5 as they can…

White Housers still think they can pull the election out for HHH with this ploy; that’s what is being attempted.

I fired off a battery of orders: have Mitchell check with Kissinger; have Dirksen and Tower blast the moves by the White House; have Dirksen call Johnson and let him know we were on to his plans. I even considered having Harlow fly to Vietnam to talk to General Andrew Goodpaster to get a firsthand military view of the situation there. But I was simply venting my frustration; no matter what I did, Johnson continued to hold the whip hand.

The initial results of my orders raised some doubts about Harlow’s secret source. Kissinger had not heard anything about Johnson’s plan, and when Ev Dirksen confronted Johnson with the rumor, he denied it with a vehemence that convinced even his skeptical old friend. He said that there was nothing new to report from Paris, and he chided Dirksen for being taken in by such obvious rumors at this stage of his life.

During this period, Nixon was not simply receiving information from various sources on the peace talks. From The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers, we know from his interviews with Chennault that on the very day that Nixon was pledging fealty to Johnson, he was meeting with Chennault to undermine them:

In the weeks before the election, with growing signs of an impending bombing halt and the acceptance of peace talks, Nixon publicly voiced support for President Johnson. Privately, he admitted years later, he seethed with resentment. Today any objective reading of the notes and minutes of Johnson’s meetings that fall reveals a president sometimes too hesitant in going forward for the taste of his own aides but genuinely devoted to the cause of peace. Nixon, however, was convinced the peace initiative was at least in part a political ploy, designed to swing the election to Humphrey.

Chennault stoked this resentment, apparently flying to Kansas City to meet with Nixon on October 16, the very day that Johnson briefed Nixon and the other candidates on his Vietnam plans, urging discretion in their public statements.23 She bore with her a long written presentation that deplored the rumored bombing halt and recommended a long-term approach to the conflict. The same day Agnew received a briefing on the coming halt, originating with unnamed sources. Two days later Chennault saw the South Vietnamese ambassador again. A few days after that there was another meeting with Mitchell.

She and Mitchell were now in touch by phone almost daily. “Call me from a pay phone. Don’t talk in your office,” he would urge her. When she joked about possible wiretaps, he was not amused. Mitchell’s message, she said, was always the same: If peace talks were announced, it was vital to persuade President Thieu not to take part.

OCTOBER 28, 1968

A reporter for the Christian Science Monitor, Beverly Deepe Keever, who had arrived in Vietnam in 1962 and would stay for the next seven years, would hear of a possible story related to the Peace Talks and notified her editor. She would write of the event thirty five years later in her memoir, Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam War Reporting (excerpt is taken from a chapter excerpt dealing with the bombing halt, “The Unexploded Election-Eve Bombshell”), and I bold the most important part:

During October 1968, I was busier than usual covering the impact of a talked-about permanent bombing halt, which was Hanoi’s precondition for entering into peace talks with the allies. Most of my dispatches were published on page 1, often leading the Monitor. I interviewed senior military commanders along the DMZ and in Saigon, secured comments from Western diplomats, including one who had recently visited Hanoi, and sought input from other sources who assessed troop movements in Laos. At the same time I was synthesizing reports that Pham Xuan An [a stringer hired to help with oral and written translations] had gleaned from sources inside and outside the palace and the Vietnamese High Command.

Then, out of the blue, I learned of such outlandish rumblings that on October 28 I sent an advisory to the Monitor‘s overseas editor, [Henry S.] “Hank” Hayward: “There’s a report here that Vietnamese Ambassador to Washington Bui Diem has notified the Foreign Ministry that Nixon aides have approached him and told him the Saigon government should hold to a firm position now regarding negotiations and that once Nixon is elected, he’ll back the Thieu government in their demands. If you could track it down with the Nixon camp, it would probably be a very good story.” I was so busy I had no chance to remember my assist eight years earlier in the NBC studios when my boss, Sam Lubell [with whom she had polled voters in key precincts about the 1960 presidential election], had predicted Nixon would lose the presidency to John Kennedy. Now, Nixon was facing Democrat Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was saddled with President Lyndon Johnson’s increasingly controversial Vietnam policy. I received no response to my cable from Boston.

The National Security Agency (NSA), would make the following summary of Thieu’s public remarks on that day10:

THIEU’S VIEWS ON PEACE TALKS AND BOMBING HALT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 28 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

SECRET.
((THIS IS)) A SUPPLEMENTARY REPORT ON MR. THIEU’S SPEECH [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]
1. Since the Vietnamese government is ardently laboring [REDACTED] together with the U.S. side to put into practice the items that were naturally agreed upon at the U.S.-Vietnamese Honolulu Summit Conference (19 July), President Thieu emphasized the point that President Johnson must also keep his promises.

((Thieu)) said that it appears that Mr. Nixon will be elected as the next president, and he thinks it would be good to try to solve the important question of the political talks with the next president (no matter who is elected. ((Thieu)) believes that our standpoint should be prepared and strengthened now rather than in the future.

OCTOBER 29, 1968

It’s on this date that we have the event which would trigger the surveillance of Anna Chennault, which would in turn reveal her connection to the Nixon campaign. On the night of October 28th, Eugene Rostow would contact his brother, Walt Rostow, Lyndon Johnson’s National Security Adviser, about a startling piece of information he’d come across. Walt Rostow would ask that his brother dictate what he’d just relayed, so that he might pass on this important information to the president the next day. The following are the related papers, the two documents dictated by Eugene about a stunning discovery and the memo by Walt to the president introducing his brother’s findings, and identifying the source11:

October 29, 1968

Last night I received a telephone call from an old friend in New York, a man of experience and a careful and even exact reporter. He said he had attended a working lunch that day with colleagues in Wall Street. Two were men closely involved with Nixon. One of them explained to the group that Nixon was handling the Vietnam peace problem “like another Fortas case.” He was trying to frustrate the President, by inciting Saigon to step up its demands, and by letting Hanoi know that when he took office “he could accept anything and blame it on his predecessor.”

E. V. Rostow

The “Fortas case” refers to Supreme Court justice Abe Fortas, who was nominated to be chief justice in 1968, but whose confirmation was filibustered to prevent the confirmation, with Fortas eventually withdrawing his nomination. Nixon would appoint Warren Burger as Chief Justice after his election in 1968.

Oct. 29, 1968

Walt:

I had a further talk with my informant about the luncheon conversation he attended yesterday.

The man who spoke was a member of the banking community, a colleague, a man he has known for many years, and one in whose honesty he has absolute confidence. The speaker is reputed to be very close to Nixon — as close as Gabriel Hauge (it was not Hauge). (He feels he cannot give me his name.)

The conversation was in the context of a professional discussion about the future of the financial markets in the near term.

The speaker said he thought the prospects for a bombing halt or a cease-fire were dim, because Nixon was playing the problem as he did the Fortas affair — to block. He was taking public positions intended to achieve that end. They would incite Saigon to be difficult, and Hanoi to wait.

Part of his strategy was an expectation that an offensive would break out soon, that we would have to spend a great deal more (and incur more casualties) — a fact which would adversely affect the stock market and the bond market. NVN [North Vietnamese] offensive action was a definite element in their thinking about the future.

These difficulties would make it easier for Nixon to settle after January. Like Ike in 1953, he would be able to settle on terms which the President could not accept, blaming the deterioration of the situation between now and January or February on his predecessor.

Gene

In this cover letter, Walt Rostow reveals the name of the source: Alexander Sachs.

Tuesday, October 29, 1968
6:00 a.m.

Mr. President:

I just called Gene and asked him to dictate to Miss Nivens what he told me last night. Here it is.

I asked him to go back to Alexander Sachs and see how much further detail he can get on the people involved and how close, in fact, they are to Nixon.

W.W. Rostow

After the election, in a report he compiled on the scandal, Walt Rostow would relate the surrounding events of these revelations12:

From October 17 to October 29 we received diplomatic intelligence of Saigon’s uneasiness with the apparent break in Hanoi’s position on a total bombing cessation and with the Johnson Administration’s apparent willingness to go forward. This was an interval, however, when Hanoi backed away from the diplomatic breakthrough of the second week of October. Only towards the end of the month was the agreement with Hanoi re-established. As late as October 28, Thieu, despite the uneasiness of which we were aware, told Amb. Bunker [U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ellsworth Bunker] he would proceed, as he had agreed about two weeks earlier. [REDACTED]

In the early morning hours of October 29 the President and his advisers met with Abrams [The American commander in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams]. Before going to that meeting, I was telephoned at home by my brother, Eugene Rostow. He reported the first of his messages from New York on Republican strategy — from Alexander Sachs.

During the meeting with Abrams word came from Bunker of Thieu’s sudden intransigence. The diplomatic information previously received plus the information from New York took on new and serious significance.

President Johnson, in the course of October 29, instructed Bromley Smith, Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, to get in touch with the Deputy Director of the FBI, Deke DeLoach and arrange that contacts by Americans with the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington be monitored.

OCTOBER 30, 1968

Deputy Director of the FBI, Cartha “Deke” DeLoach would send the following report to Johnson, a result of surveillance of the Vietnamese embassy13:

SECRET/SENSITIVE

October 30, 1968

Following from Deke DeLoach:

Early this morning, approximately 7:45 A.M., Ambassador Bui Diem of the Vietnamese Embassy was contacted by a woman who did not identify herself but whom he seemed to recognize by voice. The FBI believes this woman to be possibly Anna Chenault [sic], widow of General Clare [sic] Chenault [sic]. The woman commented that she did not have an opportunity to talk with the Ambassador on 10/29/68 inasmuch as there were so many people around. However, she thought that perhaps the Ambassador would have some more information this morning. The woman then asked what the situation is. The Ambassador responded that “just among us” that he could not go into specifics on the telephone but something “is cooking.” The woman then asked if Thailand is going to be the representative of both South Vietnam and the Viet Cong to which the Ambassador responded “no, nothing of this sort yet.” The Ambassador then suggested that if the woman had time today she should drop by and talk with him as time is running short. She replied that she would drop by after the luncheon for Mrs. Agnew today.

After receiving this, Johnson would contact his friend Georgia Senator Richard Russell at 10:25 A.M., and explain the problem14:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

JOHNSON
How are you, my friend?

RUSSELL
Good. I’m sorry about the phone being off the hook upstairs. Everybody’s running around trying to fix it, and yesterday the phone was (inaudible) somebody’s listening.

JOHNSON
Got some kids. I understand you got some children in the house.

RUSSELL
No no.

JOHNSON
Every phone’s off the hook at my place when I got that sixteen month grandson. He’s a mechanic. He works on it all the time.

RUSSELL
He’s got an inquiring mind. Goes into things. See what it’s about.

JOHNSON
Well, I’ve got one this morning that’s pretty rough for you.

We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee-our California friend-has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends, both-our allies and the others. He’s been doing it through rather subterranean sources here.

And he has been saying to the allies that “you’re going to get sold out. Watch Yalta, and Potsdam, and two Berlins, and everything. And they’re [the Johnson administration] going to recognize the NLF. I [Nixon] don’t have to do that. You better not give away your liberty just a few hours before I can preserve it for you.”

One or two of his business friends divulged it first a couple of days ago, about the time he [Nixon] made the statement that he had rumors that the staff was selling out, but he did not include me in it. You saw that, didn’t you?

The “California friend” is, of course, Richard Nixon.

JOHNSON
The next thing that we got our teeth in was one of his associates-a fellow named [John] Mitchell, who is running his campaign, who’s the real Sherman Adams [Eisenhower's chief of staff] of the operation, in effect said to a businessman that “we’re going to handle this like we handled the Fortas matter, unquote. We’re going to frustrate the President by saying to the South Vietnamese, and the Koreans, and the Thailanders [sic], ‘Beware of Johnson.’”

“At the same time, we’re going to say to Hanoi, ‘I [Nixon] can make a better deal than he [Johnson] has, because I’m fresh and new, and I don’t have to demand as much as he does in the light of past positions.”

Now, when we got that, pure by accident, as a result of some of our Wall Street connections, that caused me to look a little deeper.

RUSSELL
I guess so.

JOHNSON
And I have means of doing that, as you may well imagine.

RUSSELL
Yes.

JOHNSON
And…Mrs. [Anna] Chennault is contacting their [South Vietnamese] ambassador from time to time-seems to be kind of the go-between, the Chiang Kai-Shek deal. In addition, their ambassador is saying to ‘em that “Johnson is desperate and is just moving heaven and earth to elect Humphrey, so don’t you get sucked in on that.” He is kind of these folks’ agent here, this little South Vietnamese ambassador.

Now, this is not guesswork.

The “means of doing that” are, obviously, the various intelligence agencies.

JOHNSON
Mrs. Chennault, you know, of the Flying Tigers.

RUSSELL
I know Mrs. Chennault.

JOHNSON
She’s young and attractive. I mean, she’s a pretty good-looking girl.

RUSSELL
She certainly is.

JOHNSON
And she’s around town. And she is warning them to not get pulled in on this Johnson move.

Then he [the ambassador], in turn, is warning his government. Then we, in turn, know pretty well what he [Thieu] is saying out there. So he is saying that well, he’s got to play it for time, and get it by the next few days. Now, the Soviets are climbing the wall, and Hanoi is, and of course our people in Paris are, because they have agreed that they will let the GVN come to the table. That has been the thing we have insisted on. They have met our demands. The Soviets have said that we understand that we’re gonna resume if they violate the DMZ and we can see that immediately after we make the announcement whether they are or not. We have reserved the right for reconnaissance and we have made it clear it’s an act of force, and not an act of war, in our announcement. And we got South Vietnam, and all the allies aboard on a one day. We announce it one day and we meet the next. But Hanoi wanted more time, so they demanded a couple of weeks, and then ten days, and then a week, and we wouldn’t do it, because we thought that Saigon couldn’t stand to wait that long between the time of the announcement and the time of the meeting. So we have insisted on one day because Hanoi had said productive discussions could begin the next day. So, we took them at their word. About that time, Humphrey made a fool speech in which he said that he would stop the bombing without a comma or a semicolon, he’d just make it period.

RUSSELL
Well, that’d kill the whole thing.

JOHNSON
Well, it did for ten days, and then Bundy made a fool speech. And they all of them had to dissect that and take it- (inaudible) Yes yes, the Adlai Stevenson group and they just get the tail of the dashboard right at the right time, they do the wrong thing, every time. But we wore that out, we got it back on the track. And in getting it back on the track, meantime, Nixon gets scared to death, so he gets into the thing. And it gets off the track at the other place. Now, everybody had approved the one day thing. Then they came along and approved the three day thing, and they actually got down to the wording of the announcement, a joint announcement to be made by the two of us. And it was all agreed upon, all satisfactory, and then Nixon gets on and says no use selling out now, just wait a few days. And you can’t trust Johnson, may want to, really he’s gonna pet the North Vietnamese, NLF, on the back, just like Roosevelt did to Russia. And that scares them.

OCTOBER 31, 1968

On 4:10 pm, Johnson would call Everett Dirksen, Republican Senator for Illinois, and explain to him that he’d uncovered Anna Chennault attempting to spoil the peace talk negotiations through the promise that the South Vietnamese would get a better deal with Nixon. The language is colorful, and though the transcript is my own and there may be errors, the sense is still very clear that Johnson is very upset and deeply disturbed by what is taking place. I give the most relevant excerpts15:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

JOHNSON
Everett, we have said to the…first of all, I cannot tell you this, that’s gonna be quoted. Because I can’t tell the candidates, and I can’t tell anybody else. I haven’t talked to a human. I want to comply with it, trust, but I sure don’t want it told to a human.

DIRKSEN
I give you my solemn word.

JOHNSON
Alright. The situation is this: since September of last year, we have told Hanoi that we would stop the bombing. We’re anxious to stop it. When they would engage in, these are the keywords, prompt, productive discussions that they would not take advantage of. That is September. March 31st I came to the conclusion that no living man can run for office and be a candidate, and have them all shooting at him, and keep this war out of politics, and get peace. So I concluded, that I should not run because I’d just prolong the war by doing it. So I said then, we’re stopping the bombing in ninety percent, we will stop it in the rest. If there can be any indication that’ll not cost us additional lives. We got, just a lot of procrastination, up until October. During October, they started asking questions what did I mean by prompt, and what did I mean by productive. Now, the facts of life are, they tried two offensives in May and August and they got very severe setbacks. The facts are that they’ve had thirty thousand forty thousand leave the country to re-fit. The facts are that they’re not doing at all well. But they can continue to supply what they need for a very long time. But in October we started getting these nibbles. What did the president mean? What did he say when he said he had to have prompt and productive, not take advantage. We said, that we would consider productive if the GVN had to be present. They said they were just generals and stooges, and satellites, and Johnson put them in, always saying they would never sit down with those traitors. We said, you’ve got to sit down with them, before we can ever work out the future. We can’t settle the future of South Vietnam without them being present. We’re not going to pull a Hitler-Chamberlin deal. They said they would never do it. So, on October 7th or the 11th, I’ve forgotten, they said, “Well now, what else, is that all the president wants? If we would sit down with the GVN, what would he do?”

Now, they made no commitment, they didn’t indicate they accepted, they just asked the question. But, you know, in trading, when a fellow says how much would you take for that horse, you kinda think that means something. So, we followed it up, and we said, “No, we don’t want to limit ourselves. The GVN’s got to be present, and we’ve got to have productive discussions, and we think they could be productive, if they were present. But we can’t have a (pamajon?) and say we’ll do that, and say we’ll meet a year from now. It’s got to be a prompt meeting, a week, two weeks, three weeks, something like that. So, they said, “Well, if we could work everything out, we could meet the next day.” So, we came back the next day, and said, if you let the GVN come in, and we’ll meet the next day, we would like to take that up with our government. (coughs) They said, “Well, what else do you want? Is that all?” Right off that, [Averell] Harriman said, “No, these are facts of life. We know you’re not going to sell out, and engage in reciprocity, and you’re not going to accept conditions, and your pride, and your asiatic face will not let you do that. You’ve got to save face, we understand that. But we could not sit at a conference table if you were shelling the cities.” In other words, if I were talking to Dirksen in my living room, and my son was raping his wife, he’d have to get up and leave, quit trading, and run and protect her. So, we just could not sit there, if you were shelling the cities. Nor could we sit there, and have a productive discussion if you were abusing the DMZ.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And we told them all that. Told the Russians, if that gets into the paper, the deal’s off. That’s why you cannot say this to anybody, it’s gonna get in the paper. Because these folks are the most sensitive people in the world. But, we have said this, and about that time, some of Mr. Nixon’s people come in and tell both sides, “I have information about who you had a glass of beer with last night, you don’t know it, but I do.” And we have ways and means, you get my point, don’t you? You have ways and means of knowing what’s going on in the country. We know what Thieu says, when he talks out in Vietnam, we know what happens here. And some of Mr. Nixon’s people are getting a little unbalanced, and unfrightened, like Hubert did, when he said, no comma, no period. Like Bundy did. About the time you called me last week, they started going into the South Vietnamese embassy and also, sending some word to Hanoi. Which has prolonged this thing, a good deal. The net of it is despicable and if it were made public, I think it would rock the nation. But the net of it was, that if they just hold out a little bit longer, that he’s [Nixon] a lot more sympathetic and he could kinda, do better business with him than they can with their present President. And, in Hanoi, they’ve been saying that, well, if you won’t settle this thing, I’m not bound by all these things. So, I haven’t had this record, and I could make a little better deal with you. There. I rather doubt Nixon has done any of this. But there’s no question what folks for him are doing it. And very frankly, we’re reading some of the things that are happening. So, as a consequence, while Thieu and all of our allies are ready to go on a bombing ceasefire, cessation, it just may be temporary, we might be back on it in the next day, if they don’t follow these two things, if they violate the DMZ, or if they shell the cities. We could stop the killing out there, we could get everything we asked for, the GVN in there, but: they got this question, this new formula put in there. Namely: wait on Nixon. And they’re killing four, five hundred every day, waiting on Nixon.

Now, these folks I doubt are authorized to speak for Nixon, but they’re going in there, and they range all the way from attractive women to old line China lobbyists. And some people, pretty close to him in the business world. I was shocked when I looked at the reports. And I’ve got them. And so forth.

Now, I’ve been at this five years, and if I don’t wanna sell my country out, I’d have sold it out five months ago and gone on, run for president and got this war behind us, then got me re-elected. But I am a conscientious, earnest fella trying to do a job. And I’m gonna do it. I get peace at four o’clock Saturday noon, I’m damn sure gonna get it, come hell or high water, and woebe onto the guy who says you oughta keep on killing. But I really think it’s a little dirty pool for Dick’s people to be messing with the South Vietnamese ambassador and carrying messages around for both of them. And I don’t think people would approve of it if it were known. So, that’s why I’m afraid to talk.

I don’t see it making any difference in the political campaign ’cause first of all, conference won’t happen till it’s over with, I think I’d be glad to say that all the candidates have a, co-operate with me and we oughta have one voice in foreign affairs. And while they criticize my conduct of the war, they have never told the enemy that he’d get a better deal. But this last few days, Dick is getting just a little bit shakey, and he’s pissing on the fire a little. Now, you oughta guide him just a little bit, because they’re not running against me, I’m not gonna be here, you’re gonna be my senator, and you’re gonna represent me, and whatever I want done, I’m gonna be down at Purnell. But he oughta go back to that old (inaudible), say…as a matter of fact, we have a transcript where one of his partners said he’s gonna play this one just like Fortas. He’s gonna take the Republicans and the Southerners and he’s gonna frustrate the President by telling South Vietnamese, just wait a few more days and he’s not connected to this war, he can make a better peace for them. And by telling Hanoi, that he isn’t running this war, didn’t get them into it, be a lot more considerate of them than I can, because I’m pretty inflexible, calling them sonsofbitches. Now, that’s not very easy to work under those conditions. Anymore than it is, when Hubert says he’ll stop the bombing without a comma semicolon but period. They neither one of them got a damn thing to do with it between now and January the 20th. And I’m gonna stop the earliest second I can. And I can stop it for nothing if I want to, I have five times before. But I’m not gonna stop it unless they agree the GVN will be at that table. I’m not gonna stop it unless they agree the GVN are gonna be at that table.

What is crucial to see here is the focus on the negotiations themselves. He takes issue with what Nixon or Nixon’s people are doing, but he also criticizes Humphrey for making declaring that he’ll end the bombing without conditions. Both of these things are making it more difficult to set up a peace conference, a conference which he emphasizes will take place after the election. If he’d simply wished to win another term, Johnson says he would have ended the bombing a long time ago: “Now, I’ve been at this five years, and if I don’t wanna sell my country out, I’d have sold it out five months ago and gone on, run for president and got this war behind us, then got me re-elected. But I am a conscientious, earnest fella trying to do a job. And I’m gonna do it. I get peace at four o’clock Saturday noon, I’m damn sure gonna get it, come hell or high water, and woebe onto the guy who says you oughta keep on killing.”

Two hours later, Johnson would again speak to all three candidates via conference call16. During the call, Johnson would once again emphasize the conditions that he’d required to halt the bombing, discreetly chastise Humphrey and Nixon for their interference, and make clear that he was soon going to announce a halt to the bombing:

JOHNSON
Do you hear me all right?

HUMPHREY
Yes, sir.

NIXON
Yes, sir.

WALLACE
Yes, sir.

JOHNSON
I have with me Secretary Rusk and Clifford and General Wheeler and Mr. Helms of the CIA and Mr. Rostow. I’m reading from – I want to read a brief background to you from my conference call to you of October 16 so you can get a predicate to what I’m about to say. I said then-this is in absolute confidence, any statement or any speeches or any comment at this time referring to the substance of this conversation will be injurious. I don’t think there’s any question about that and I know you would not want that to happen.

First, our position-the government’s position today-is exactly what it was the last time all three of you were briefed. That position mainly is this. We’re anxious to stop the bombing and would be willing to stop the bombing if they – Hanoi – would sit down with us, with the Government of South Vietnam present, and have productive discussions. We have told them that we did not think that we could have productive discussions if, while we were talking, they were shelling the cities, or if they were abusing the DMZ. That was on October 16th, when I talked to you. The next sentence said, “From time to time they have nibbled back and forth at these various items.” Each time they do, there is a flurry of excitement, and so on and so forth.

Since that time, they have sent their man back to Hanoi. We have continued to have our regular weekly meetings and other meetings. We have been in touch with a good many Governments in the world, from Eastern Europe to India to the Soviet Union, all these people working every hour to try to (a) get them to accept the Government of South Vietnam – that they’re all puppets and that they’d never sit down in a room with, and (b) trying to inform them that we would be glad to stop the bombing, but that the bombing could not continue stopped if they (a) shelled the cities or (b) if they abused the DMZ.

On Sunday night, I was informed by Paris that there were very good indications that they would let the Government of Vietnam come and be present at the conference and that they fully understood what would happen if we stop the bombing and they shell the cities or abuse the DMZ. When I got back to Washington from New York, I went back to the Soviet Union and pointed out that I did not want to deceive anybody and didn’t want them to be deceived, didn’t want to stop the bombing and have to start it again, but I wanted to make it abundantly clear that if they would let the Government of Vietnam come to the meetings and if they thoroughly understood what would happen, then I wanted to seriously consider this matter. But I had doubts – repeat doubts – that the North Vietnamese would stop shelling the cities or would stop abusing the DMZ. The Soviet Union came back to me on Tuesday or Wednesday and said that my doubts were not justified. Ambassador Harriman came back to me and said, “We have repeated to you at least 12 times-we’ve repeated to North Vietnam at least 12 times-in 12 meetings, and some meetings we repeated it several times-that we could not have a productive discussion in an atmosphere of shelling the cities or abusing the DMZ. Therefore, you may be sure we understand it.” While this was going on, we’d gone out and talked to all of our allied countries, and at that time they all tentatively agreed that this was a wise move.

Now, since that time with our campaign on, we have had some minor problems develop. First, there have been some speeches that we ought to withdraw troops, or that we’d stop the bombing without any-obtaining anything in return, or some of our folks are-even including some of the old China lobbyists, they are going around and implying to some of the embassies and some of the others that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this. Now that’s made it difficult and it’s held up things a little bit. And I know that none of you candidates are aware of it or responsible for it, because I’m looking in my transcript here, when we talked before, and I asked for your comments. The Vice President said he had no comment, but thanks very much. Vice President Nixon said, “Well, as you know, this is consistent with what my position has been all along and I made it very clear. I’ll make no statements that will undercut the negotiations. So we’ll just stay right on that and hope that this thing works out.” And then Mr. Wallace said, “Yes, sir, Mr. President, that’s been my position all along, too, the position you stated, and I agree with you that we shouldn’t play any politics in this matter, so it might foul up the negotiations.”

Now, I concluded last March that I couldn’t as a candidate stop this war. And I concluded that I ought to stop it the first day I can. I’m going to try to stop it as soon as I can. Therefore, I am planning to issue an order-I’m meeting with the [National] Security Council tonight -I’m planning to issue an order that will stop the bombing that will set a date for a meeting where the Government of Vietnam will appear, and I’m making it very clear to the intermediaries. I can’t do it in public because they’ll say it’s a condition and reciprocal and we’ll never get an agreement-and you must not make that statement either, but I think you ought to know it. And we’re going to have to wait for 24/48/72 hours to see what happens at the DMZ and see what happens at the cities, and we may have to start the bombing just as fast as we stopped it. But I have considered this matter day and night since March 31st at least.

Johnson would again declare that his primary purpose for the bombing halt was not political: “I’m not concerned with an election. Y’all are concerned with an election.” He would state clearly that any reneging on the conditions would mean a resumption of the bombing, and all three candidates offered their support:

JOHNSON
Now, I would hope, and I’m going to say so in my statement tonight, that this would not be to anyone’s advantage, except to the countries, to peace and to the men in Vietnam.

First of all, the conference won’t be held until after the election, probably, we would hope, the 6th or 7th of November, or sometime in that period. We would hope that the Government of Vietnam would have time to get their men there and, of course, the other governments have got to get the NLF there. I would hope that all of you could say – like you said here the other day – that you felt that you didn’t want to do anything to undercut the negotiations; that you recommended peace at the earliest possible date; this is not peace, this is not a settlement, this is just one step that indicates that if they do not shell the cities, and if they do not abuse the DMZ – both of those would be great military advantages for us at a time when we’re giving up bombing that we can’t do for the next 90 days anyway on account of the weather in North Vietnam. We can use that very effectively in other places.

I told General [Creighton] Abrams to return, to give them all he’s got in South Vietnam and Laos, but be prepared for this order. The order will not go into effect for several hours after it’s issued. It’s got to go all over the Pacific, put out some 12 hours. I would think that when I get through with the Security Council sometime this evening from 8 [p.m.] on, I’ll make a statement to the public. I have confidence enough in y’all that I’ve called you even before I’ve called my own legislative leaders. I’ve told you every bit of the information I have. Every diplomatic and military adviser I have recommends this course.

I would not want it on my conscience that I had left the Presidential arena and refused to run to try to get peace, and then when they agreed, that I – the thing – the thing that I insisted on most, bringing the GVN into the table – that I said, “No, I’ve got to put it off because I’m concerned with an election.” I’m not concerned with an election. Y’all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts. I’ll be glad to give you any of the written recommendations. All the files are open to you-be glad to show you what happened. Nobody will know whether it’ll be a success or not until we really get into these discussions and these talks with the GVN present. If they shell the cities or if they abuse the DMZ, General Abrams already has his orders, and he is directed to respond immediately without even coming to Washington.

JOHNSON
Now, my position is this. I can’t wait. I have got every adviser, military/civilian/CIA/Ambassadors-Bunker, Goodpaster [General Andrew Goodpaster], Abrams – every one of them recommend this course. So, I am going to recommend it to the nation. I am going to issue the order. I would just hope you all would do likewise.

NIXON
Okay. Thank you.

HUMPHREY
Thank you.

WALLACE
Mr. President, I just pray that everything you do works out fine, and I am praying for you.

JOHNSON
Well, I need it. Any other comments?

NIXON
We’ll back you up. Thank you, Mr. President.

HUMPHREY
We’ll back you up, Mr. President.

WALLACE
We’ll back you, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
Thank you very much.

I quote again Nixon’s perspective on this discussion from his memoir:

More than anything else, Humphrey had Lyndon Johnson to thank for the eleventh-hour masterstroke that almost won him the election.

On October 31 I was to address a nationally televised rally at Madison Square Garden in New York. I set aside a couple of quiet hours in the afternoon, and I was sitting in my study at home making notes for the speech later that evening when the telephone rang. It was a White House operator: the President was placing a conference call to Humphrey, Wallace, and me. A moment later Lyndon Johnson was on the line.

He got right to the point. There had been a breakthrough in Paris, he said, and after wide consultations among his advisers, he had decided to call a total bombing halt over North Vietnam. He would make the announcement on television in two hours. As Johnson went one, I thought to myself that whatever this meant to North Vietnam, he had just dropped a pretty good bomb in the middle of my campaign.

Johnson said, rather defensively, “I’m not concerned with an election. You all are concerned with an election. I don’t think this concerns an election. I think all of you want the same thing. So I thought if I laid it on the line that way, and presented it to you, you would at least have a complete, full understanding of all the facts.”

Johnson explained that he had not been able to persuade Saigon to agree to the provisions of the bombing halt, so that South Vietnam would not be joining in the announcement.

When Johnson finished, and we had asked some perfunctory questions, George Wallace said, “I’m praying for you.”

Humphrey said, “I’m backing you up, Mr. President.”

I thanked Johnson for making the call and seconded Humphrey’s pledge of support.

The telephone call over, I could feel my anger and frustration welling up. Johnson was making the one move that I thought could determine the outcome of the election. Had I done all this work and come all this way only to be undermined by the powers of an incumbent who had decided against seeking re-election?

Johnson would announce the bombing halt on TV at 8pm that night. A partial excerpt17:

Good evening, my fellow Americans:

I speak to you this evening about very important developments in our search for peace in Vietnam.

We have been engaged in discussions with the North Vietnamese in Paris since last May. The discussions began after I announced on the evening of March 31st in a television speech to the Nation that the United States – in an effort to get talks started on a settlement of the Vietnam war-had stopped the bombing of North Vietnam in the area where 90 percent of the people live.

When our representatives-Ambassador Harriman and Ambassador Vance-were sent to Paris, they were instructed to insist throughout the discussions that the legitimate elected Government of South Vietnam must take its place in any serious negotiations affecting the future of South Vietnam.

Therefore, our Ambassadors Harriman and Vance made it abundantly clear to the representatives of North Vietnam in the beginning that-as I had indicated on the evening of March 31st-we would stop the bombing of North Vietnamese territory entirely when that would lead to prompt and productive talks, meaning by that talks in which the Government of Vietnam was free to participate.

Last Sunday evening, and throughout Monday, we began to get confirmation of the essential understanding that we had been seeking with the North Vietnamese on the critical issues between us for some time. I spent most of all day Tuesday reviewing every single detail of this matter with our field commander, General Abrams, whom I had ordered home, and who arrived here at the White House at 2:30 in the morning and went into immediate conference with the President and the appropriate members of his Cabinet. We received General Abrams’ judgment and we heard his recommendations at some length.

Now, as a result of all of these developments, I have now ordered that all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam cease as of 8 a.m., Washington time, Friday morning.

I have reached this decision on the basis of the developments in the Paris talks.

And I have reached it in the belief that this action can lead to progress toward a peaceful settlement of the Vietnamese war.

Nixon would give a speech that same night at Madison Square Garden. Again, from RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

While I believed that Johnson would not go out of his way to help Humphrey unless he were forced to meet a clear-cut partisan challenge, the last thing I wanted to do was to give the President an excuse to get angry with me in public. I hoped to avoid Johnson’s going all out for Humphrey with every resource at the command of the White House.

There was nothing more I could do. Even though I knew what was coming – had known about it for weeks – the timing and impact were completely in Johnson’s hands.

At the Madison Square Garden rally on October 31 I responded to the bombing halt announcement in what I considered the only responsible way: “I will say that as a presidential candidate, and my vice presidential candidate joins me in this, that neither he nor I will say anything that might destroy the chance to have peace.” One reporter wrote: “President Johnson gave Richard M. Nixon a trick and Vice President Humphrey a treat for Halloween when he announced a complete halt to the bombing of North Vietnam last night.” The bombing halt unquestionably resulted in a last-minute surge of support for Humphrey. The militant liberals came back to the fold. Even those McCarthy zealots who had pledged never to support Humphrey now had an excuse to vote for him. The bombing halt also undercut one of my most effective issues – the inability of the Democratic leadership to win a permanent peace. Studies made after the election showed that public opinion had been particularly volatile during this period, and the hope that the halt might lead to a peace settlement resulted in massive voter shifts to Humphrey.

I isolate one part of the last for emphasis, and I italicize the ending for further emphasis: “At the Madison Square Garden rally on October 31 I responded to the bombing halt announcement in what I considered the only responsible way: ‘I will say that as a presidential candidate, and my vice presidential candidate joins me in this, that neither he nor I will say anything that might destroy the chance to have peace.’”

NOVEMBER 1, 1968

Due to time differences, Johnson’s speech would be broadcast in Vietnam the next day. We might return to the memoir of foreign correspondent Beverly Deepe Keever, as she describes the speech, Thieu’s rejection, and her report to her editors on what might have prompted the reversal. This transmission, dealing with possible involvement by the Nixon campaign to foil the talks, was a major scoop, but one that was in vain. All details implying such involvement were eliminated from her reporting, because this involvement did not appear to be just politics, or diplomacy, but outright treason.

[On] October 31, Johnson announced that he had ordered a complete end to the bombing of North Vietnam within 12 hours and that the date for the first negotiation session with Hanoi was set for November 6, the day after the U.S. presidential election. Johnson’s speech was received in Saigon on November 1, which, as I reported, many Vietnamese viewed as an ill-timed insult because it was made on Vietnam’s National Day and the anniversary of the Kennedy administration’s support for the overthrow of President [Ngo Dinh] Diem. Then, just four days before the U.S. election, President Thieu surprisingly rejected Johnson’s peace initiative. In a bombshell televised speech before the National Assembly on Vietnam’s National Day, Thieu announced that South Vietnam would not send delegates to negotiate in Paris by November 6; he feared the Viet Cong’s National Liberation Front would be seated as a legitimate coequal of his government. I reported that his speech was a direct rebuke to President Johnson. “In effect, Mr. Thieu said LBJ double-crossed him,” one longtime Asia observer told me. “And Mr. Thieu is pretty nearly right.”

To explain Thieu’s stunning announcement, I cabled Hayward on November 4: “Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Nguyen Van Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks – at least until the American Presidential election is over.” I relied mostly on “informed sources” for my scoop – an eye-opening exclusive news report – and added that “the only written report about the alleged Nixon support for the Thieu government was a cable from Bui Diem, Vietnamese ambassador to Washington,” confirming what I had asked Hayward to check out days earlier. But my momentous scoop was not published. Hayward cabled back that the Monitor had deleted all my references to Bui Diem and to the “purported political encouragement from the Nixon camp,” which, he wrote, “seems virtual equivalent of treason.”

On the morning of November 1st, all this still lay in the future. The fraying, however, had already begun when Johnson would take a call at 8:30 am from one of the architects of the war, Robert McNamara, congratulating him on the bombing halt speech, after which the President would bring up Nixon’s interference18:

JOHNSON
Bob?

MCNAMARA
Good morning, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
How’re you doing?

MCNAMARA
I knew you’d be the only other person in town working this morning.

JOHNSON
No, no, but we have been working, you know.

MCNAMARA
I know it. I know it. I just wanted to call–I won’t take a second, but I just wanted to call and say–

JOHNSON
Please do.

MCNAMARA
Congratulations. I think it was terrific, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
What we are in trouble about, you see, are these candidates. They have been playing with them. One said he would stop the bombing–no comma, no semi-colon–period.

MCNAMARA
Yeah.

JOHNSON
So they get that and they think that if they’ll wait 10 days he’ll stop the bombing everything will be over with–that’s what Hanoi thinks. Then Nixon comes along and his people tell them that I’m not stopping the bombing and I’m not selling you out and I’m not for letting them take you over and this crowd will sell you out just like they did China, and you better wait until I get in. Now you’ve got all the South Vietnamese and maybe the Koreans thinking that. The damned trouble we’re going to have. We had this thing wrapped up, signed, sealed, ready to go two weeks ago, and we got this speech of stopping the bombing, period. So [Le Duc] Tho took off for Hanoi, and we couldn’t get him back. Then we got this ready, and we found out that they’ve been playing with the South Vietnamese, and we started watching their messages. It’s the damndest mess you ever saw. It’s just almost–well, it’s just heresy. It’s just unbelievable. So we tried to get them aboard. We had a joint announcement that they agreed on with us. But then they all got to fighting and they wouldn’t do it. So today, the last thing I heard, I was up late, was that Thieu said that this was entirely unilateral.

That the South Vietnamese had abruptly changed their demands, and that this might have been caused by interference on the part of Nixon’s intermediaries, was brought up in a phone call later that morning to Senator Richard Russell19:

RUSSELL
Yes?

JOHNSON
Lyndon Johnson. How are you, Senator? Dick, how are you?

RUSSELL
Pretty good, Mr. President. How are you?

JOHNSON
Fine. I just wanted to figure out what you thought over night and what bases you thought were untouched, what your reaction was, to the statement, and what we should have said, we didn’t.

RUSSELL
Well, I thought you made a fine statement, Mr. President.

JOHNSON
Now, the damn fools in Saigon, we don’t know what they’re going to do. Last night, they came back and made three demands on me. One was, we set no date for the conference. Well, I can’t do that, because the main thing I’m getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That’s what I’ve been demanding all these years, and now they’ve agreed to it. So I’ve got to have a date. And we so told–no date for the conference. Well, I can’t do that, because the main thing I’m getting out of this is they let GVN come to the table. That’s what I’ve been demanding all these years, and now they’ve agreed to it. So I’ve got to have a date. And we so told–

RUSSELL
I thought that they already agreed they’re we going to meet and talk on Wednesday [November 6 1968].

PRESIDENT
They all agreed 2 weeks ago. And then they agreed to one day a week ago. But after Nixon’s operatives got busy with them, they started playing for January. And the first statement that South Vietnam put out was that this was a unilateral action by the President. And old man Bunker stayed with them all night. They put out another one this morning that said that they hoped it would lead to peace, that you couldn’t tell what if it was good, that he really didn’t know whether any good would come from it or not, just wouldn’t predict.

According to encrypted messages sent by South Vietnam’s ambassador in the United States, Bui Diem, there was never any possibility of any agreement to a peace talk which might result in Humphrey being elected instead of Nixon. If an impasse went against Johnson and brought Nixon to power, then so be it: the diplomatic impasse would continue. From Arrogance by Summers:

In the last week of October Thieu’s ambassador, Bui Diem, sent two encrypted radio messages from Washington to Saigon. The first, he wrote in his memoirs, noted: “Many Republican friends have contacted me and encouraged us to stand firm….” The second – again, this is Bui Diem’s account – mentioned that he was “regularly in touch with the Nixon entourage.”

The former ambassador repeatedly told the author he would let him see the full text of those messages, but never produced them. His published version of the second cable, it seems, was almost certainly an exercise in damage limitation. The actual message was more troubling, according to the former State Department executive secretary, the late Benjamin Read.

Read’s notes cite Saigon’s ambassador as reporting that he had “explained discreetly to our partisan friends our firm attitude” and “plan to adhere to that position.” “The longer the impasse continues,” Bui Diem told Saigon, “the more we are favored,” and Johnson would “probably have difficulties in forcing our hand.”

This same view is expressed in a formerly top secret intercept made by the National Security Agency (NSA) of comments made by President Thieu on October 18, 1968, obtained presumably through surveillance20:

TRANSMITTED HEREWITH IS A [REDACTED] MESSAGE.
PLEASE ADVISE IF ANY LIMITATIONS ON DISTRIBUTION ARE REQUIRED.
THIS MESSAGE WAS TRANSMITTED TO THE WHITE HOUSE ONLY.
[REDACTED]
XXMMENP01FTB23108
3/0/[REDACTED] -68
[REDACTED]

THIEU’S VIEWS ON NLF PARTICIPATION IN VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT

XXCC
[REDACTED] 19 OCT 68 [REDACTED]
[REDACTED]

[REDACTED] OF WHAT PRESIDENT THIEU SAID
[REDACTED] ON 18 OCTOBER.

[REDACTED] as to whether or not the Vietnamese are opposing the U.S. in this and concerning the possibility ((of the U.S.)) making a decisive move to halt the bombing alone; the following [REDACTED]

He said the U.S. can, of course, cease bombing, but is unable to block Vietnam ((from bombing)). Concerning the enforcement of the bombing halt, this will help candidate Humphrey and this is the purpose of it; but the situation which would occur as the result of a bombing halt, without the agreement of Vietnamese government, rather than being a disadvantage to candidate Humphrey, would be to the advantage of candidate Nixon. Accordingly, he said that the possibility of President Johnson enforcing a bombing halt without Vietnam’s agreement appears to be weak; [REDACTED] just how effective can it be within the short time before the election, even though it is effectively enforced?

Though Nixon had again pledged his loyalty in the conference call, his manner was entirely different off the phone. He and his campaign manager, John Mitchell, were in a panic over the effects of the bombing halt on the election, of the possibility that their meddling had been found out, and yet they were still determined to make sure that Thieu would toe the line and the Peace Talks would not take place. From Arrogance by Summers:

On the evening of the thirty-first, during a conference call to the presidential candidates to brief them on the bombing halt, Johnson dropped a heavy hint that he was aware of the machinations to undermine his efforts. Nixon merely joined the opponents in promising the president his full support.

Behind the scenes, however, panic and pantomime gripped the Nixon camp. Mitchell [campaign manager and later Attorney General John Mitchell] went through the motions of interrogating campaign staffers-none of whom was in the know-asking if they had been “in touch with any embassies.” Then he “reassured” administration contacts that his people had not been talking to the South Vietnamese.

Chennault suddenly found she could no longer get through to Mitchell. Certain now of the wiretapping he had always feared, Nixon’s closest aide was avoiding direct contact with her. That night, however, as she was finishing dinner at the Sheraton Park Hotel, Chennault was called to the phone.

It was Mitchell, tension in his voice, asking her to call back on a safer line. When she did, he picked up on the first ring. “Anna,” he said, “I’m speaking on behalf of Mr. Nixon. It’s very important that our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position, and I hope you made that clear to them…Do you think they really have decided not to go to Paris?”

Realizing that the administration was working around the clock to change Thieu’s mind, Nixon’s man wanted to make sure he remained firm in his refusal.24 Thieu duly obliged. On November 2, only three days before the election, he announced publicly that his country would not take part in peace talks under present conditions.

NOVEMBER 2, 1968

The withdrawal of Thieu and South Vietnam from the peace talks on this date is described as follows in Richard Nixon’s RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon. As said already, Anna Chennault goes entirely unmentioned in this book, and is absent in this excerpt:

The Democrats’ euphoria was dampened on November 2, when President Thieu announced that his government would not participate in the negotiations Johnson was proposing.

Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable. He watched American politics no less carefully than did the leaders in Hanoi. Given his disapproval of any bombing halt, and the fact that Humphrey was now talking like a dove, it was scarcely in Thieu’s interest to acquiesce in a bad bargain. By holding back his support, Thieu fostered the impression that Johnson’s plan had been too quickly conceived and shakily executed.

Lyndon Johnson would again speak with Senator Everett Dirksen, and more so than in his other conversations, he was obviously very upset. In this excerpt, he describes the slow development of the peace talks, and their interference through Nixon. Though Clifford would write of there being no smoking gun linking the work of agents like Chennault and the Nixon campaign, and though in the past Johnson had expressed uncertainty in his phone calls about whether there was a connection between the candidate and the “old China crowd”, he obviously now believes the two elements to be linked21:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

DIRKSEN
Hello?

JOHNSON
Everett, how are you?

DIRKSEN
All right.

JOHNSON
I want to talk to you as a friend, and very confidentially, because I think that we’re skirting on dangerous ground. I thought I ought to give you the facts, and you ought to pass them on if you choose. If you don’t, why, then I will a little later.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
We have, on October the 13th, an agreement where Thieu [Nguyen Thieu, president of South Vietnam] and Ky [Nguyen Cao Ky, prime minister of South Vietnam], considering the bombing halt. At that time, President Thieu stressed, quote There must not be a long delay.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
That is, a delay between the halt and the conference.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
On October the 15th, Thieu agreed to a proposal that we worked out of 36 hours.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
On October the 23rd, after the North Vietnamese demanded two or three weeks, Thieu reluctantly agreed to three days delay. On October the 28th, we agreed on the joint announcement.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Bunker and Abrams [U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam, Ellsworth Bunker and Creighton Abrams, General in the U.S. Army] reached an explicit agreement with Thieu that the gap between the bombing and the talks would be two or three days. With three days the outer limit. Both Thieu and Ky stressed on us the importance of a minimum delay.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Then we got some of our friends involved. Some of it’s your old China crowd…

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And…here’s the latest information we’ve got: the agent says that she’s- they’ve just talked to the boss [Nixon] in New Mexico, and that he says that you must hold out, that . . . Just hold on until after the election.

Now, we know what Thieu is saying to ‘em out there. We’re pretty well informed on both ends. Now Nixon’s man travelling with him today, said quote He did not understand that Thieu was not aboard. Did you see that?

This spokesperson was one of Nixon’s aides, Bob Finch, whose name Johnson insisted on getting wrong. We return to RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

On the heels of Thieu’s recalcitrance, I asked Bob Finch to put the word out to newsmen that the prospects for peace were not as advanced as Johnson’s announcement might have made them seem. Providing background in his capacity as “an aide to Richard Nixon,” Finch explained, “We had the impression that all the diplomatic ducks were in position.” Then for the record he said, “I think this will boomerang. It was hastily contrived.”

Johnson saw the news story with Finch’s comments. He was furious, and he made his displeasure known. Bryce Harlow urged me to call Johnson to calm him down – and I did so Sunday morning, November 3.

“Who’s this guy Fink?” Johnson asked. “Why is he taking out after me?”

I said, “Mr. President, that’s Finch, not Fink.”

He ignored my correction and continued to refer to Finch as “Fink.”

It was on this day that Johnson would receive information that would be published in an FBI intercept two days later, the intercept that Summers considered so vital in confirming a link between Chennault’s efforts and the Nixon campaign, “And…here’s the latest information we’ve got: the agent says that she’s- they’ve just talked to the boss [Nixon] in New Mexico, and that he says that you must hold out, that . . . Just hold on until after the election.”22:

Received Washington CommCen
9:08 P.M. EDT Monday 4 Nov 68

Received LBJ Ranch CommCen
8:34 P.M. CDT Monday 4 Nov 68

EEA659
00 WTE10
DE WTE 4183

FROM WALT ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82650

S E C R E T

THE NEW MEXICO REFERENCE MAY INDICATE AGNEW IS ACTING.

TWO REPORTS FOLLOW.

REPORT ONE:

On November Two Instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, reported that Mrs. Anna Chennault contacted Vietnamese Ambassador, Bui Diem, and advised him that she had received a message from her boss (not further identified), which her boss wanted her to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that the ambassador is to “hold on, we are gonna win” and that her boss also said “hold on, he understands all of it”. She repeated that this is the only message “he said please tell your boss to hold on.” She advised that her boss had just called from New Mexico.

Was Richard Nixon in New Mexico on that day? No, he was in Texas. His nominee vice president, however, was in his plane on a campaign stop in Albuquerque when this call was made.

“Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968 Volume VII, Vietnam, September 1968-January 1969, Document 212″ deals with a report of the phone calls from Vice Presidential nominee Spiro Agnew’s plane on that day, one conducted by the FBI and initiated by Johnson a week after the election. The following is from the accompanying summary:

In a telephone conversation on November 12, 1968, President Johnson discussed the Anna Chennault affair with FBI Deputy Director Cartha Dekle “Deke” DeLoach. Johnson told DeLoach that he had “some pretty good information” and “hard” evidence that the most significant directive from the Republican campaign to the South Vietnamese Government occurred by way of a November 2 communication between Vice Presidential candidate Spiro Agnew and Anna Chennault. The President therefore requested that DeLoach check all of the telephone calls originating from the telephone connection in Agnew’s chartered campaign plane at the Albuquerque airport.

The next day, DeLoach called the President with a report on these calls. One of the phones on the plane had been used five times. The first call was made at 11:59 a.m., a personal call from Agnew to Rusk that lasted 3 minutes. The next call was made to Texas and another two calls were made by Agnew staffer Kent Crane to New York City. A fifth call was made to the Nixon/Agnew campaign headquarters at the Willard Hotel in Washington at 1:02 p.m.

The President verified that Rusk had talked with Agnew. He added: “We think somebody on the plane talked to the woman. We think pretty well that they talked to her and talked to Rusk, and talked on the same thing. And we think that they told Rusk-that they wanted to know what was happening in these relations. And Rusk made notes of it, he didn’t exactly know what time, but he estimated that it was about 2 o’clock. And hers, it was immediately followed by a call to her, we think. And what we want to know is what time that was and when it was.”

There were five phone calls from the plane, one to Rusk, one to campaign headquarters, one to Texas, and two to New York City. Nixon, as said, was in Texas that day for a rally. Who was in New York City? Anna Chennault was in New York City. Item one of the “her boss” FBI cable deals with the tap revealing that Chennault had said those words. Item two in the cable dealt with her location on November 2nd23:

REPORT TWO:

The November One, last, edition of the “Washington Post,” a daily newspaper in the Washington, D.C. area, carried an article concerning Mrs. Anna Chennault. The article indicated that Mrs. Chennault intended to proceed to New York City where she would await the election results on November Five, next, with presidential nominee Richard M. Nixon.

On November Two, Instant, at Seven Ten A.M., Mrs. Chennault’s car was observed in the parking garage at Two Five One Zero [2510] Virginia Avenue, N. W.

At One Forty Five P.M., she departed her residence and entered the automobile. It was being driven by her chauffeur and proceeded to the Baltimore-Washington parkway where it was last observed heading north at Two Fifteen P.M.

Arrangements have been made with the New York office of the FBI for them to observe the car en route and to undertake discreet surveillance with reference to her activities while in New York.

The Arrogance of Power by Summers gives this episode thorough examination:

Spiro Agnew had made a campaign stop at Albuquerque, New Mexico, that day-and within the time frame that corresponded to Anna Chennault’s movements.25

Days later, when things quieted down, Johnson would order the FBI to check all calls made by the Agnew party. He was unfortunately ill served. Director Hoover, a long-term Nixon supporter on cordial terms with Chennault, had already warned her she was being surveilled. As much as possible, he told her, the bureau was merely “making a show” of obeying Johnson’s orders.

When it came to the Albuquerque calls, Hoover and his aide Cartha DeLoach ensured investigation was cursory and incomplete. Eventually, realizing he was being stalled, the president himself called to tell DeLoach: “Get me the information, and make it damned fast.”

Out of the mess, and the still partially censored files, come two salient facts. The first is that phone records show that an Agnew aide in Albuquerque, the very aide responsible for briefing Agnew on Vietnam, had made a call during the stopover to a “Mr. Hitt” at Nixon-Agnew headquarters.

Robert Hitt, an official of the Republican National Committee, was paymaster to the wireman Nixon used during the campaign to sweep for bugs and who conducted offensive bugging during the presidency. Hitt would also be named during the Watergate probe in connection with questionable cash transactions. His wife Patricia, cochairman of the campaign committee and a trusted Nixon friend from Whittier days, was as noted earlier one of the people Chennault earlier named as a potential go-between should Nixon wish to pass her messages.

The most important discovery, though, was relayed to the president by National Security Assistant Rostow when all the facts were in, ten days after the Albuquerque stopover. In a brief memo, referring to Chennault as “the Lady” and to Agnew as “the gentleman in Albuquerque,” Rostow reported that there had been a call placed to Chennault.26 Moreover, contrary to an earlier analysis, Agnew himself had had ample time to make the call.

The new information suggests a logical sequence to the events of those days. Following Thieu’s announcement that he would not join the peace talks, as the Nixon side had hoped, he faced renewed pressure from the outraged Johnson administration. In the wake of the announcement, word came to Chennault from Agnew in Albuquerque that she should urge the South Vietnamese to remain resolute.

As revealed by the wiretap on the South Vietnamese Embassy, she duly relayed the message to President Thieu that he should “Hold on,” because “we’re gonna win”: Nixon was going to win the election and would, as promised, give the South Vietnamese a better deal.

With whom did the message originate? Early on Rostow surmised in a report to the president that Agnew was “acting” on behalf of another party. While the report is still partially censored, the security assistant’s supposition is clear enough. Agnew and Chennault barely knew each other; Nixon’s running mate acted for no one but Nixon.27

(Puppets by Rick Meyerowitz, for a parody ad in an issue of National Lampoon in 1970. A description of the puppets and the shoot is described by Meyerowitz on his site, in “The Nixon & Agnew Puppets”)

From the same phone call with Dirksen quoted earlier24:

JOHNSON
I said, now, there has been speeches that some we oughta withdraw troops, and including some of the old China crowd, going in and implying to the embassies.

JOHNSON
Now, Everett, I know what happens there. You see what I mean?

DIRKSEN
I do.

JOHNSON
And I’m looking at his hole card.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Now, I don’t want to get in a fight with him there. I think Nixon’s gonna to be elected.

DIRKSEN
Yeah.

JOHNSON
And I think we ought to have peace, and I’m going to work with him.

Johnson would cut even further to the quick in another part of the call25:

JOHNSON
Well, I don’t know who it is that’s with Nixon. It may be Laird [Melvin Laird, a Nixon campaign aide]. It may be [Bryce] Harlow. It may be [John] Mitchell. I don’t know who it is.

I know this: that they’re contacting a foreign power in the middle of a war.

DIRKSEN
That’s a mistake!

JOHNSON
And it’s a damn bad mistake.

He would cut even further to the bone, and say the unsayable in another fragment of the phone call26:

JOHNSON
Now, I’m reading their hand, Everett. I don’t want to get this in the campaign.

DIRKSEN
That’s right.

JOHNSON
And they oughtn’t to be doing this. This is treason.

Richard Nixon would end the day with a rally in Texas, as described in his memoir:

On the day of Thieu’s announcement, I told a Texas rally: “In view of the early reports that we’ve had this morning, the prospects for peace are not as bright as they looked only a few days ago.” It was Saturday, November 2, less than three days before the election. Bombing halt or no, the campaign had to continue. I decided to treat Johnson’s announcement as a potentially beneficial diplomatic move botched by lack of planning rather than as a straight political ploy. I told my staff to get our spokesmen asking why we didn’t have the agreement worked out with our allies.

Of course, this we did have an agreement with their allies, the South Vietnamese, a very secret one and very much for the benefit of Richard Nixon.

NOVEMBER 3, 1968

During his furious call with Senator Everett Dirksen, Johnson made clear that he wanted Dirksen to contact Nixon on what was taking place27:

JOHNSON
Well, now, what do you think we ought to do about it?

DIRKSEN
Well, I better get in touch with him, I think, and tell him about it.

JOHNSON
I think you better tell him that his people are saying to these folks that they oughtn’t to go through with this meeting [in Paris]. Now, if they don’t go through with the meeting, it’s not going to be me that’s hurt. I think it’s going to be whoever’s elected.

DIRKSEN
That’s right.

We can return to Nixon’s memoir on what he says of the events of November 2nd, where he mentions Dirksen contacting him about Johnson’s anger with him. What’s significant in this excerpt is that he mentions the statements by his aide, Bob Finch, critiquing Johnson for his failure to bring about the peace talks, but never brings up the primary thing that has Johnson furious, does not even bring it up to deny it: that he is conducting back channel diplomacy to foil these peace talks. From RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

The Democrats’ euphoria was dampened on November 2, when President Thieu announced that his government would not participate in the negotiations Johnson was proposing.

Thieu’s reaction was totally predictable. He watched American politics no less carefully than did the leaders in Hanoi. Given his disapproval of any bombing halt, and the fact that Humphrey was now talking like a dove, it was scarcely in Thieu’s interest to acquiesce in a bad bargain. By holding back his support, Thieu fostered the impression that Johnson’s plan had been too quickly conceived and shakily executed.

On the heels of Thieu’s recalcitrance, I asked Bob Finch to put the word out to newsmen that the prospects for peace were not as advanced as Johnson’s announcement might have made them seem. Providing background in his capacity as “an aide to Richard Nixon,” Finch explained, “We had the impression that all the diplomatic ducks were in position.” Then for the record he said, “I think this will boomerang. It was hastily contrived.”

Johnson saw the news story with Finch’s comments. He was furious, and he made his displeasure known. Bryce Harlow urged me to call Johnson to calm him down – and I did so Sunday morning, November 3.

An excerpt from the phone call at 1:54 P.M., where Johnson speaks of the three necessary preconditions of the talks – no shelling of the cities, no crossing the DMZ, the government of South Vietnam (GVN) at the table – and the failure of the talks, possibly due to Nixon offering a better deal to the South Vietnamese28:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

JOHNSON
Now, the other day, we had talked to Thieu on October the 13th, and stressed that we had to have these points, and he agreed. On October the 15th, we reviewed it with him again, and he bought a 36 hour period between stopping the bombing and the conference. On October the 23rd, he agreed to a three day delay, on October the 28th, we agreed to the communique, that we both make a joint announcement. When and if, we could clear it with them. Get them signed on. Then the traffic goes out, that Nixon will do better by ya. Now, that goes to Thieu. I didn’t say, as I said the other day, I didn’t say with your knowledge, I hope it wasn’t.

NIXON
As a matter of fact, I’m not privy to what you were doing- The whole point is this, I think one thing we have to understand here is that you know, and I know, that with the hawk/dove complex out there, as there is here. And that everybody’s been saying, “Well, now, after the election, what will happen?” And, of course, there is some thought that Hanoi would rather deal now than deal later.

JOHNSON
Oh, yes-

NIXON
They think Nixon will be tougher.

JOHNSON
Ye-

NIXON
And I understand that. And I think that’s one of the reasons you felt you had to go forward with the [bombing] pause.

But my point that I’m making is this: that, my God, I would never do anything to encourage Hanoi, I mean Saigon not to come to the table, because basically, that was what you got out of your bombing pause. That good God, we want them over at Paris. We’ve got to get them to Paris, or you can’t have a peace.

Note that Nixon affects an innocence of the peace negotiations which he himself would later refute. “As a matter of fact, I’m not privy to what you were doing,” he says, though as we’ve already seen, he admits in his memoir that Henry Kissinger, among others, is passing his campaign information, and it is through these sources that he expects there to be a bombing halt.

A little later in the conversation:

NIXON
Now, getting to the one, the key point: is there anything I could do before that on this business of South Vietnam? If you want me to do something, you know I’ll do anything, because we’re not going to let these people stop these peace things, if you think I can do something.

JOHNSON
Dick, I told [Senate Minority Leader Everett M.] Dirksen [R-Illinois] last night I thought it’d be better to do it that way than to be calling on the trips. I think this: These people are proceeding on the assumption that folks close to you tell them to do nothing until January 20.

NIXON
[Unclear.]

JOHNSON
Now, we think–

NIXON
I know who they’re talking about, too. Is it [Senator] John Tower? [R-Texas]?

JOHNSON
Well, he’s one of several. Mrs. [Anna] Chennault is very much in there.

NIXON
Well, she’s very close to John.

JOHNSON
And the Embassy is telling the [South Vietnamese] President [Nguyen Van Thieu] and the President is acting on this advice. He started doing it back about October 18, following our talk on the conversation on October 16. I had two bad breaks in the month of October. The first one came from the other side. Hanoi felt that because of what Bundy had said–Mac Bundy—

NIXON
Yeah.

JOHNSON
–that to withdraw troops, and what Humphrey had said that he wouldn’t–7

NIXON
They could wait.

JOHNSON
Well, he just said, “I don’t–I will stop the bombing, period, I don’t mean comma or semi-colon.” So, Hanoi picked up the next day and went home for two weeks. We had it all wrapped up there and then for the meeting. Now, I don’t know what’ll come out of the conference. But that was the way it was. They went off. In the meantime, these messages started coming out from here that Johnson was going to have a bombing pause to try to elect Humphrey and that they ought to hold out because Nixon will not sell you out like the Democrats sold out China.8 And we have talked to different ones. I think they’ve been talking to [Vice President-elect Spiro] Agnew. I think they think that they’ve been quoting you indirectly, that the thing they ought to do is to just not show up at any conference and wait until you come into office.

Don Fulsom’s Nixon’s Darkest Secrets, a profile of the seamiest elements of the president, has a number of hypotheses that I don’t agree with, but it does have this interesting insight into this last part of the conversation that I think is worth passing on:

In this discussion, Nixon not only threw loyal Texas Republican senator John Tower under the bus, but he also stressed the words “very close.” What Nixon was apparently alluding to was a not-so-secret affair Senator Tower was having with the fabled Dragon Lady.

The supposed lovers were both right-wingers and heavy partiers on the Washington cocktail circuit. Tower had replaced Lyndon Johnson in the Senate. The two men were bitter enemies. So Nixon probably had that in mind when he ratted out Tower to LBJ.

A former Tower associate says the senator, long after his second failed marriage, freely admitted having a long-term liaison with Chennault. Tower was very fond of Anna, and, the source added, after they broke up, Tower claimed Chennault went on to “a torrid fling” with Thomas McIntyre, a left-wing Democratic Senator from new Hampshire and a “heavy foreign policy hitter.”

What happened next on Nixon’s side after he put the phone down is described in The President’s Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy:

Then it was Nixon’s turn to call LBJ. Johnson was angry, accusing; Nixon poured it on thick. He’d gotten a report from Dirksen, he said, and in case Johnson ha missed it, he went over his message on Meet the Press. “My God, I would never do anything to encourage Saigon not to come to the table, because basically, that was what you got out of your bombing pause. That, good God, we want them over at Paris. We’ve got to get them to Paris, or you can’t have a peace.”

It all seemed to be enough. He hung up – and “Nixon and his friends collapsed with laughter,” reported the Sunday Times of London in an account of the episode months later. “It was partly in sheer relief that their victory had not been taken from them at the eleventh hour.”

Almost immediately after getting off the phone with Nixon, Johnson would speak with his Secretary of State, Dean Rusk, where Johnson says that he thinks those agents acting to foil the peace talks are acting on behalf of Nixon. The conversation conveys the inability of Johnson and his aides to do anything with the information they have, and the proximity of a deal with the Vietnamese parties29:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of the recording of this phone call in its entirety.)

JOHNSON
I told Nixon today, and I think I’m right, I said we thought that Thieu would come to this conference. He had signed on two or three times, even agreed to a joint communiqué.

RUSK
Yeah.

JOHNSON
But we knew we had problems, and I stated to you that we had problems. And I read him the paragraph where I said even the old China Lobby’s operating again and causing us some problems out there. And he said—

RUSK
On “Meet the Press,” he absolved you personally of any motives of this sort. He managed to get in some of what some of his advisors had said, and he said he dissociated himself from them. And then he said he would go—he thought that Saigon ought to go to the table in Paris; that he was willing to go to Paris or to Saigon, or to do anything else that you wanted him to after the elections; that he thought you were doing the right thing, and he was supporting you on it. So, he managed to get in these other wrinkles.

JOHNSON
Yes. I don’t think they say these things without his knowledge.

RUSK
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Of course—

RUSK
Well, certainly not without Agnew’s knowledge, there’s a cut out there somewhere.

JOHNSON
Ah—was Agnew doing the telephoning from New Mexico?

RUSK
Walt—Walt said he was the only top man in New Mexico that he could find—that Agnew was in New Mexico. And if he did do this, just after my telephone call with him, then he and I have got a problem.

JOHNSON
Did he call you from New Mexico?

RUSK
I don’t know where he called me from, because I didn’t have to check that with him. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I had so little information.

JOHNSON
See if your operator hadn’t got that tomorrow.

RUSK
All right, I’ll see if I can.

JOHNSON
Ah, well, what do we do now—just say nothing?

Two hours before his phone call with Nixon, Johnson had a phone call with Florida Senator George Smathers where he spoke of the “her boss” FBI intercept, and where he appears to make clear that he does not trust Nixon at all30:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of a large section of this phone call.)

JOHNSON
His folks get into it. And they say that they know how to deal with these communists, and they’re not going to be soft on ‘em. And if they’re elected, they’ll see it right on through with ‘em, and that they’ll get a whole lot better deal with Nixon than they will with Johnson.

Now, first, that comes out of one of his associates, one of his top businesspersons. That was communicated to us by means that we have of knowing it. And it was rather shocking, in the light of what he said. So I started personally watching the traffic myself, and the next day, the traffic shows that that is going in and out of Saigon.

Do you follow me?

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
I’m not guessing, George. I know what I’m doing, you see. [They said] that Nixon is going to win; therefore, they ought to wait on Nixon.

So what he’s doing-my judgment is, on the surface, he was playing that he didn’t want to undercut me.

SMATHERS
Yeah.

JOHNSON
Under the table, his people-and this, I think, you can tell him for sure; there’s no doubt about it-his people (a) business-wise, and (b) political-wise were saying that you ought to wait on Dick.

Now, that’s got it pretty well screwed up.

SMATHERS
Yeah, it does.

JOHNSON
That’s a hell of a note, and it’s a sad thing for people that got boys out here [in Vietnam], to have folks leaving these impressions.

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
They’re going around and implying to some of the embassies that they might get a better deal out of somebody that was not involved in this-the “somebody not involved” is what they refer to as “their boss.”

SMATHERS
Right.

JOHNSON
“Their boss” is the code word for Mr. Nixon.

Clark Clifford would make the following diary entry on this day, published in Counsel to the President:

Sunday, November 3. In growing fury, Johnson told Senator Dirksen that he knew all about Anna Chennault’s activities. Dirksen, the man who probably came closest to being a true friend of both Johnson and Nixon (and who also knew Chennault well), immediately alerted Nixon to Johnson’s fury, warning that Johnson might make it public. Nixon called the President, who was at the LBJ Ranch awaiting the arrival of the Humphreys. (Ironically, hours later, the Johnsons and the Humphreys would make their only joint appearance of the campaign, in the Houston Astrodome.) Sensitive to Johnson’s mood, Nixon realized the danger to his floundering campaign if he could not placate Johnson, and the secret channel to Saigon became public. Anna Chennault and Bui Diem, at John Mitchell’s suggestion, had convinced Thieu to boycott the November 6 meeting in Paris; Nixon now persuaded Johnson that he had had nothing to do with these activities. President Johnson again decided not to go public.

NOVEMBER 4, 1968

We have already mentioned the discovery by Saigon correspondent Beverly Deepe Keever of the interference in the Paris Peace Talks on the part of Nixon, begun on October 28: “There’s a report here that Vietnamese Ambassador to Washington Bui Diem has notified the Foreign Ministry that Nixon aides have approached him and told him the Saigon government should hold to a firm position now regarding negotiations,” she would cable her editor, “and that once Nixon is elected, he’ll back the Thieu government in their demands. If you could track it down with the Nixon camp, it would probably be a very good story.” Her investigation would continue on into November 4, two days after Thieu publicly declared that he would not participate in the talks:

To explain Thieu’s stunning announcement, I cabled Hayward on November 4: “Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Nguyen Van Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks – at least until the American Presidential election is over.” I relied mostly on “informed sources” for my scoop – an eye-opening exclusive news report – and added that “the only written report about the alleged Nixon support for the Thieu government was a cable from Bui Diem, Vietnamese ambassador to Washington,” confirming what I had asked Hayward to check out days earlier. But my momentous scoop was not published. Hayward cabled back that the Monitor had deleted all my references to Bui Diem and to the “purported political encouragement from the Nixon camp,” which, he wrote, “seems virtual equivalent of treason.”

What was taking place on the other side of that conversation, in the United States, would only be learned forty years later. Again, from Keever’s Death Zones and Darling Spies:

Hayward could not have known then, but his description of Nixon’s “virtual equivalent of treason” was being privately echoed at the time by Johnson when he sputtered: “It would rock the world if it were known that Thieu was conniving with the Republicans. Can you imagine what people would say if it Hayward told me within a day or so: “The alleged Nixon involvement was interesting but needed confirmation from this end-which was not forthcoming-before we could print such sweeping charges on election day. It was a good story nonetheless, and you get major credit for digging it out.” Knowing the time-honored journalistic tradition of fairness, I understood when Hayward told me that without such confirmation, the Monitor had “trimmed and softened” my lead. The Monitor’s substitute lead simply implied that Thieu had acted on his own. Upon receiving the Monitor‘s Western edition days later, however, I saw my supposed-to-be scoop relegated to page 2, with no mention of Nixon, under a one-column headline. I could hardly recognize it. Yet 44 years later I was stunned to learn that President Johnson had indeed read and agonized over my lead with his top aides. Just as this book was being readied for publication, I was queried about my scoop’s Nixon-Thieu connection by veteran investigative reporter Robert Parry. On March 3, 2012, Parry published an amazing exposé on his online investigative news service headlined: “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason.’” Parry also included links to the telltale documents he had uncovered.

Forty years later, we would learn that Saville Davis, the Monitor‘s Washington correspondent, had visited both the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. and the White House for comment on this story.

This is the memo from Walt Rostow to Johnson, informing him of Saville Davis’s visit to the Vietnamese embassy31:

FROM WALT ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82675

S E C R E T SENSITIVE EYES ONLY

LITERALLY EYES ONLY FOR THE PRESIDENT
HEREWITH FULL ACCOUNT SAVILLE DAVIS – BUI DIEM CONVERSATION.

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

A source who has furnished reliable information in the past advised that on the late morning of November Four, Nineteen SixtyEight Saville Davis, Washington Bureau. Christian Science Monitor Newspaper, contacted a representative of the Vietnamese embassy, Washington D.C., and asked for an appointment with ambassador Bui Diem. When informed that the ambassador was busy, Davis stated he wanted to check out a story received from a correspondent in Saigon and that Davis plans to come to the embassy and wait for the ambassador to see him.

Davis said that the dispatch from Saigon contains the elements of a major scandal which also involves the Vietnam ambassador and which will affect presidential candidate Richard Nixon if the Monitor publishes it. Time is of the essence inasmuch as Davis has a deadline to meet if he publishes it. He speculated that should the story be published, it will create a great deal of excitement.

DTG: 041800Z NOV 68

This is the memo informing Rostow that Saville Davis is at the White House32:

11/4/68

Saville Davis of the Christian Science Monitor is upstairs: 347-4953

He said they are holding out of the paper a sensational dispatch from Saigon (from their Saigon correspondent) the 1st para of which reads:

“Purported political encouragement from the Richard Nixon camp was a significant factor in the last-minute decision of President Thieu’s refusal to send a delegation to the Paris peace talks — at least until the American Presidential election is over.”

He said he will await WWR’s comments.

Johnson was sufficiently excited by Davis’s questions to hold a conference call with two of his senior advisers, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and National Security Adviser Walt Rostow on how to deal with it. Though Nixon accuses Johnson of playing politics with the bombing halt, this conversation heavily stresses that politics must not be played with this, not even through off the record leaks to the press. The conversation would take place on 12:27 P.M. of that day33:

(A clip on youtube of the audio with accompanying transcript of this phone call in its entirety.)

JOHNSON
Hello, Dean? I think you and Clark and Walt ought to meet on this Saville Davis thing.

RUSK
Yes sir.

JOHNSON
It concerns me a great deal. I don’t want to be in the position of me being a McCarthy. I don’t know much more than I told the candidates themselves the other day, which my notes will reflect there. Namely, these folks had tentatively agreed out there to go along and then they started having doubts because we had reports of some folks-the old China Lobby-contacting embassies, et cetera. Now, I can’t get much more specific than that, A, because of the sensitivity of the source-

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
-and B, because of the limited nature of the information. I told Smathers that, Senator Smathers, who called saying that he understood from what I told Dirksen that I was likely to make public this information if it were confirmed and if they kept interfering with it. I also told Dirksen that I believed that the friends of one of the candidates was reporting to the folks out there that they ought to wait.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
I did that on the basis of two things-one, the intercept from the Ambassador-

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
-saying that he had had a call and the boss said wait and so forth, and second, this China Lobby operation, the Madame involved.

RUSK
Yeah, that’s-

JOHNSON
Now, I don’t want to have information that ought to be public and not make it so. At the-on the other hand, we have a lot of-I don’t know how much we can do there and I know we’ll be charged with trying to interfere with the election. And I think this is something that’s going to require the best judgments that we have. I’m rather concerned by this Saville Davis conversation with the Embassy this morning.

RUSK
Now, which conversation?

JOHNSON
The Christian Science Monitor man called the Embassy this morning and wanted to see the Ambassador and he was unavailable. He told the party answering that he wanted to check out a story received from his correspondent in Saigon; that he planned to come to the Embassy and wait until he could see him; that the dispatch from Saigon contained the elements of a major scandal which involves the Vietnamese Ambassador and which will affect Presidential candidate Nixon if the Monitor publishes it. Time is of the essence inasmuch as Davis has a deadline to meet if he publishes it.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
He speculated that should the story be published it will create a great deal of excitement.

RUSK
Right.

JOHNSON
Now, what he gets from Saigon is well and good and fine. But if he gets it from us, I want to be sure that A, we try to do it in such a way that our motives are not questioned and that if the public interest requires it, and two-and that’s the only thing I want to operate under, I’m not interested in the politics of it-the second thing is I want to be sure that what we say can be confirmed.

RUSK
Well, Mr. President, I have a very definite view on this, for what it’s worth. I do not believe that any President can make any use of interceptions or telephone taps in any way that would involve politics. The moment we cross over that divide we are in a different kind of society.

JOHNSON
Yeah.

Rostow would summarize the conclusions reached in a later report34:

FROM WALT W ROSTOW
TO THE PRESIDENT
CITE CAP82683

S E C R E T SENSITIVE EYES ONLY

DELIVER DIRECT TO THE PRESIDENT

FROM WALT ROSTOW

NOVEMBER 4, 1968

I have just returned from a meeting of over an hour with Sec. Rusk and Sec. Clifford on the China matter.

Saville Davis volunteered that his newspaper would certainly not print the story in the form in which it was filed; but they might print a story which said Thieu, on his own, decided to hold out until after the election.

Incidentally, the story as filed is stated to be based on Vietnamese sources, and not U.S., in Saigon

With respect to the body of information that we now have available, all three of us agreed to the following propositions:

–the information sources must be protected and not introduced into domestic politics.

–even with these sources, the case is not open and shut. On the question of the “public’s right to know,” Sec. Rusk was very strong on the following position: we get information like this every day, some of it very damaging to american political figures. We have always taken the view that with respect to such sources there is no public “right to know.” Such information is collected simply for the purposes of national security.

–so far as the information based on such sources is concerned, all three of us agreed: (A) even if the story breaks, it was judged too late to have a significant impact on the election. (B) the viability of the man elected as president was involved as well as subsequent relations between him and President Johnson. (C) therefore, the common recommendation was that we should not encourage such stories and hold tight the data we have.

Robert Parry’s “The Almost Scoop on Nixon’s ‘Treason’” was a follow-up to his “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’”, devoted exclusively to Keever’s explosive scoop, which might well have shifted an election and had consequences an ocean away. Keever would write of the aftermath in Death Zones and Darling Spies; this excerpt begins with quotes from Parry’s “The Almost Scoop”:

“The Christian Science Monitor‘s inquiry gave President Johnson one more opportunity to bring to light the Nixon campaign gambit before Election Day,” Parry recounts. Before deciding what to do, Johnson consulted in a conference call with Rostow, Defense Secretary Clifford, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. “Those three pillars of the Washington Establishment were unanimous in advising Johnson against going public, mostly out of fear that the scandalous information might reflect badly on the U.S. government,” Parry explains in summing up their extended answers. Johnson agreed with his advisers. An administration spokesman told Davis: “Obviously I’m not going to get into this kind of thing in any way, shape or form.” Based on these evasive responses to Davis, the Monitor decided against publishing my lead.

My lead gave Johnson a last-minute choice of remaining silent or going public with Nixon’s ploy on the eve of the election. The scoop also crystallized a unique split-screen moment: The most decisive period of the Vietnam War, settling the conditions for ending it, was moving in parallel with a most indecisive period in the American democratic process, the U.S. presidential election.

The White House joined the Monitor in keeping vital information secret from Americans about to cast their ballots for president while GIs and Vietnamese were dying in a faraway war. My incriminating lead provided a hinge-of-history moment- for the American election, the future of South Vietnam, and the thousands of Americans and Vietnamese dying and about to die in Southeast Asia as the war dragged on for four more bloody years. In what Parry describes in another context, my lead zeroing in on Nixon’s “treason” faded away into the United States’ “lost history”-history that in this case would be written with more blood and tears.

Vice President Humphrey was also alerted by his chief speechwriter, Ted Van Dyk, that Thieu was going to hold off sending a delegation to the Paris peace talks, and that “in 1968 the old China Lobby is still alive.” Humphrey fumed, “I’ll be God-damned if the China Lobby can decide this government.” Yet that is what happened. Thieu’s explosive address made national headlines and cast doubts on Johnson’s ability to get the peace talks going and end the war. Nixon’s speechwriter, William Safire, voicing the sentiments of numerous pundits and a reputable polling firm, observed, “Nixon would probably not be president were it not for Thieu.”

NOVEMBER 5, 1968

The election was extraordinarily tight down to the day of the vote, when counting went into late evening and early morning as Nixon and Humphrey held even in the tally of electoral votes, until finally the winner broke out a lead. For those final deciding hours which bled into the sixth day, we take the perspective of the man who won, who worked so hard for this victory and for which others would pay so much; from RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

I placed calls to Ted Agnew and Nelson Rockefeller. They agreed that victory was just a matter of time. Then I called in my senior staff. We sat and talked for almost two hours while we waited for the reported results to confirm our predictions. Several times I asked Mitchell or Haldeman to call our people in the key states to break loose better information than the TV commentators seemed able to supply. They always came back with the same message: Don’t worry – things are going well – we’re almost there. Almost. I had been almost there in 1960. Finally, around five o’clock, Mitchell and Haldeman persuaded me to try to nap. It was clear that the outcome would not be definite until the morning and at this point I had been up for almost twenty-two hours. I couldn’t get to sleep, and after half an hour I got up again.

Just before 8 A.M. [H.R.] Haldeman brought in word that both NBC and ABC had declared me the winner in California and Ohio. But there was still no movement in Illinois, and that was what I needed to confirm victory. One more state. At 8:30 the door burst open and Dwight Chapin rushed in. “ABC just declared you the winner!” he shouted. “They’ve projected Illinois. You got it. You’ve won.”

We hurried into the sitting room where the television set was on and we watched as ABC continued to survey the electoral vote count. After we had watched for a few moments, I put a hand on John Mitchell’s shoulder and said, “Well, John, we had better get down to Florida and get this thing planned out.” Before Mitchell could respond, tears welled up in his eyes. He said very quietly, “Mr. President, I think I’d better go up to be with Martha.” This was a doubly moving moment for us both. It was the first time that anyone addressed me by the title I had just won. It was also the first time that Mitchell had directly referred to his wife’s problems, which I knew had been an immense emotional strain on him. Martha had been in a rest home during the last weeks of the campaign, and I fully understood his desire to be with her now.

I went down the hall to the suite where Pat and the girls were waiting. They were so physically and emotionally exhausted that there wasn’t the elation one would normally expect. We all kissed and embraced. Julie went to her room and then called me in. She opened her briefcase and pulled out a piece of crewelwork she had done during campaign flights around the country. It was the Great Seal of the United States, with the inscription “To RN-JN” stitched at the bottom. “Daddy, I never had any doubt you would win,” she said as she hugged me. “I just wanted something to be ready right away to prove it.”

Of those mentioned in this excerpt, Agnew would leave the vice presidency over tax evasion, Martha Mitchell would become a comical figure during the Watergate scandal for her inappropriate blurtings, eventually confined against her will because of her leaks to the press, while H.R. Haldeman and John Mitchell would serve, respectively, as a senior adviser to the president and his attorney general, before both ending up in prison for obstruction of justice in the course of the episode of breaking in and cover-up which would force Nixon from office, Watergate.

The entry from Clark Clifford’s diary on this day, published in Counsel to the President:

Tuesday, November 5. Election Day at last – I spent the day in the Pentagon, lunching with Nitze and Westmoreland, meeting with Air Force Secretary Harold Brown, and carrying out routine business. I was disgusted with the campaign – with Thieu’s treachery, with Humphrey’s vacillation, with Johnson’s failure to give Humphrey enough support, with Nixon’s clever deviousness, with Chennault’s interference. I assumed Nixon would win, but still hoped for a miracle.

The day dragged on without shape or focus. We went about our work almost numb from fatigue and suspense. In the evening I went home to await the results with a few friends, thinking back to narrow victories in 1948 and 1960. But this time, the victory would go to Richard Nixon. With it came the beginning of a generation of Republican domination of the executive branch and the end of the great Democratic tradition that had begun with FDR in 1932 and run for thirty-six years.

NOVEMBER 7, 1968

Two days after the election, Walt Rostow would send the following report with the accompanying cover letter to president Johnson35:

SECRET-EYES ONLY

Thursday, November 7, 1968
5:00 p.m.

Mr. President:

If you wish to get the story raw, read the last paragraph, marked.

Walt Rostow

DETERMINED TO BE AN ADMISTRATIVE MARKING
E.O. 12856, SEC. 1.1(a)

BY JOW ON 8/2/94

SECRET–EYES ONLY

The report:

SECRET-NOFORN

’68 NOV 7 PM 3:51

1968 NOV 7 20 43

3:39PM RNK
PRIORITY 11-7-68 RNK
TO: WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 09
ROM: DIRECTOR, FBI

(SECRET – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

On November Seven, Instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

On instant date, an unidentified male was in contact with Major Bui Cong Minh, Assistant Armed Forces Attache, Embassy of Vietnam, Washington, D.C. (WDC). The unidentified individual advised Major Minh that he had just received a call from General Westmoreland’s office, and General Westmoreland desired to see the unidentified man during the evening of November Seven, instant. In view of this appointment, the unidentified man desired to delay his visit to see Major Minh until Saturday, November Nine,

PAGE TWO (SECRET – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

next. Major Minh agreed and the unidentified man and his wife will visit Major and Mrs. Minh on Saturday November Nine, next, (possibly at Major Minh’s residence One Zero Eight Zero Five [10805] Georgia Avenue, Apartment Two Zero One [201], Wheaton, Maryland).

The unidentified man inquired as to how the peace talks were coming, and Major Minh expressed the opinion that the move by Saigon was to help presidential candidate Nixon, and that had Saigon gone to the conference table, presidential candidate Humphrey would probably have won.

GP-1

“If you wish to get the story raw, read the last paragraph, marked,” is the note on the cover letter, and the notable point in the last paragraph is: “Major Minh expressed the opinion that the move by Saigon [the refusal to participate in the Peace Talks] was to help presidential candidate Nixon, and that had Saigon gone to the conference table, presidential candidate Humphrey would probably have won.”

NOVEMBER 8, 1968

A conversation between Johnson and Everett Dirksen, where the president stresses that the message must be sent to Nixon that it remains urgent for Thieu to be at the peace talks. This remains Johnson’s priority, even after the election has been decided36:

DIRKSEN
I talked to Dick this morning.

JOHNSON
Yes Edward.

DIRKSEN
He’s coming to see you about this, at 1:30 is my understanding.

JOHNSON
Yes?

DIRKSEN
And, he has your background. Now, I hated the words. I said, it seems they sent some of their boys out to spy, and tell them to wait. So you’ll know that he knows the story.

JOHNSON
Well, what was his reaction?

DIRKSEN
Well. He said he didn’t send anybody. Well, maybe not. But maybe somebody else sent somebody. But-

JOHNSON
What was his reaction to the request that he tell somebody to go on and get that Paris meeting?

DIRKSEN
He didn’t give me very much reaction. He just cindered a little by saying “We didn’t do anything.” Well, that may well be, but there a lot of those people in (inaudible). You’ll know the kind of background that you have to talk to him to.

JOHNSON
Well, now the point is this’ll not going to wait till Monday. No no. Hell no. This’ll go right now. Because if they don’t go in there this week, we’re just gonna have all kinds of problems.

DIRKSEN
I thought from the arrangement that was made, coming up here on Monday, that’d be satisfactory.

JOHNSON
No, I told you last night, I oughta, I thought I’d hear early this morning, cuz we want Thieu to get a message so he can get a delegation Saigon to Paris next week. We think we’ve held up just every day, we’re killing men. We’re killing men.

On this same day, a secret intelligence report was sent to the President on a meeting between a trusted source and South Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, Bui Diem. What is of interest is that the counter-proposal is so minutely different from the original U.S. one, and that what is most wanted is not a resolution of the war, but a slowing down of the peace process 37:

8 November 1968

The following is a report by a reliable and trustworthy American of his breakfast meeting with the Government of Vietnam (GVN) Ambassador Bui Diem on 8 November 1968, at the residence.

1. On the way to this meeting, the news had come over the radio that President Thieu had proposed that, under the “our side, your side”, formula, South Vietnam be designated head of the Allies delegation while North Vietnam be head of the Communist one. Bui Diem had the full text of Thieu’s statement. He commented that the GVN position represented only a small change in the original U.S. proposal – rather than a totally new and different formula – but that it satisfied a number of Vietnamese concerns: it gave the GVN a more prominent status than the NLF, it would put negotiations on a Vietnamese-to-Vietnamese basis rather than a U.S.-to-Vietnamese basis, and it would clearly represent a new stage of negotiations rather than a continuation of the previous phase. Asked if he thought there was much chance of Hanoi’s acceptance, he replied “no,” but he added that it put the GVN on the offensive rather than in the position of appearing to scuttle negotiations.

2. Asked if he thought that, under one formula or another, the negotiations would be able to resume soon, Bui Diem said that he thought it would take some time. He said that he thought the fact that the U.S. now had a President-elect would slow down the planning process on the U.S. side, since President Johnson would wish to inform and seek the opinions of the President-elect’s term, and it would also take some time to repair the damage to GVN-U.S. relations. Regarding the latter point, Bui Diem said that, while there was a minor substantiative difference in the U.S. and GVN positions – such as the U.S. willingness to leave GVN and NLF status at the peace talks ambiguous while the GVN wanted more precision – much of the difficulty

DECLASSIFIED
E.O. 12958, Sec. 3.6
NLJ 00-231
By com, NARA Date 12-19-00

SECRET/SENSITIVE

Rostow would also pass on another report on Anna Chennault’s activities, accompanied by a cover letter which urged that they act on the information. Had they done so, Nixon’s political career would have been destroyed four years before Watergate38.

Literally Eyes Only

THE WHITE HOUSE

WASHINGTON

Friday, Nov. 8, 1968
7:35 am

Mr. President:

First reactions may well be wrong.

But with this information I think it’s time to blow the whistle on these folks.

W. W. Rostow

Literally Eyes Only

The report:

245 AM 11-08-68 RDR
PRIORITY
TO: WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 02

FROM: DIRECTOR, FBI

S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM

On November Seven, last, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

In late evening on November Seven, last, Mrs. Anna Chennault contacted Vietnamese ambassador Bui Diem and advised that the message on that date from South Vietnamese president Thieu “which our boss” was alright. She advised she had given “them” everything when she finally got back to her office to call, that “they” got the whole message.

Chennault stated the person she had mentioned to Diem who might be thinking about “the trip” went on vacation this afternoon and will be returning Monday morning at which time she will be in touch again and will have more news for Diem.

Chennault continued that “they” are still planning things but are not letting people know too much because they want to be careful to avoid embarrassing “you”, themselves, or the present

END PAGE ONE

NOVEMBER 11-12, 1968

On November 11, Nixon would visit the White House after a five day vacation in Key Biscayne, where he would meet with Johnson and his cabinet for the first time since the election. The moment is described in RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon:

On November 6 we flew aboard an Air Force jet to Key Biscayne for a postelection rest. On the way we stopped in Washington so that I could visit Eisenhower at Walter Reed Hospital. Few moments in my life have been more satisfying than entering his room as the President-elect. When he saw me, his face brightened and he said, “Congratulations, Mr. President!”

After a five-day rest in Key Biscayne we returned to New York to begin putting together an administration. Once again we stopped in Washington, this time for luncheon at the White House with President and Mrs. Johnson

When we entered the Cabinet Room, the briefers were already waiting for us: Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler, Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms, and National Security Adviser Walt Rostow.

The main subject was Vietnam. The travail of the long war was etched on the faces around me. These were all able and intelligent men. They had wanted desperately to end the war before leaving office, but they had not succeeded. They seemed very nearly worn out. They had no new approaches to recommend to me. I sensed that, despite the disappointment of defeat, they were relieved to be able to turn this morass over to someone else.

When Johnson and I returned to the Oval Office after the briefing, he talked with a sense of urgency. “There may be times when we disagree, and, if such time comes, I will let you know privately,” he said. “But you can be sure that I won’t criticize you publicly. Eisenhower did the same for me. I know what an enormous burden you will be carrying.” He said that he wanted to do everything he could to help me succeed. “The problems at home and abroad are probably greater than any President has ever confronted since the time of Lincoln,” he said. Johnson and I had been adversaries for many years, but on that day our political and personal differences melted away. As we stood together in the Oval Office, he welcomed me into a club of very exclusive membership, and he made a promise to adhere to the cardinal rule of that membership: stand behind those who succeed you.

Johnson would comply with this ideal in the remaining years in which he lived, demonstrating once again that the priority was not Humphrey’s election or victory over Nixon, but an end to the war in Vietnam. If he simply wished for victory over Nixon, he had enough to annihilate his career. However, just as Nixon did not show his true face to Johnson, the president did not turn up all his cards on the table either. The same day that he counseled Nixon on what lay ahead, he demanded from Deke DeLoach the information already cited, the phone calls made from Spiro Agnew’s plane on the day of the “her boss” intercept39.

A CIA intelligence cable on two private parties attended by Thieu on November 11 and 12 would report that Thieu explicitly stated that he’d sent secret emissaries to Nixon’s election campaign40:

CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
INTELLIGENCE CABLE

COUNTRY SOUTH VIETNAM

DOI 11-12 NOVEMBER 1968

SUBJECT

PRESIDENT THIEU’S COMMENTS ON PEACE TALKS IMPASSE AT PRIVATE DINNER PARTIES ON 11 AND 12 NOVEMBER 1968

ACQ VIETNAM, SAIGON [REDACTED]

SOURCE

[REDACTED]

SANITIZED
Authority NLJ 10-99
By cbm NARA, Date 1-28-2011

2. During the course of a dinner on 11 November 1968, at which he presided as a relaxed and genial host and self-assured strong man, president Nguyen Van Thieu spoke critically of the unprecedented pressure to which the U.S. government had subjected him during the pre-bombing halt discussions. According to Thieu, the americans had cited the size of the U.S. commitment in blood and money as justification for insisting that U.S. interests prevail and had cited the presence in South Vietnam (SVN) of a half million U.S. troops. Thieu said he had had to remind the Americans that the government of Vietnam (GVN) contribution to the war was in fact, larger than the U.S. commitment.

Thieu characterized the U.S. government action as a “betrayal” comparable to the U.S. abandonment of Chiang Kai-Shek as a result of the Yalta, Teheran and Casablanca conferences. He complained that the Americans had sent the Australian and Korean ambassadors to badger him into accepting the U.S. point of view. Thieu observed that vice president Nguyen Cao Ky, who was not present, was fully in accord with his policy on the Paris talks question, including his recently enunciated “our side-your side” formula.

4. Thieu told his quests that during the U.S. election campaign he had sent two secret emissaries to the U.S. to contact Richard Nixon. He indicated he might reshuffle the cabinet in an effort to please the new U.S. administration, mentioning specifically the posts of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister.

9. Thieu said that there had been no reaction from Washington to his two-delegation proposal since the recent meeting between President Johnson and President-elect Nixon. He expects Nixon to let Johnson try to solve the talks crisis and to go as far as possible toward reaching a settlement. This would make Nixon’s own job easier after inauguration and would leave for the Nixon administration the obvious measures to be taken to disengage the U.S. from SVN, thus allowing Nixon to be the “hero” who de-americanized the war.

Nixon would detail the November 11 meeting for his memoir, and Clark Clifford would recall it for his own:

I was impressed with the controlled manner in which Nixon conducted himself: always polite and deferential to President Johnson, careful not to reveal his private thoughts on any issue that still lay within the responsibility of the President. Where Johnson liked to obscure his strategy with a stream of Texas stories and rhetoric, Nixon was self controlled, and conveyed the impression of a man weighing every word. But one could easily overlook Nixon’s skill with words, because he left such a strong impression of physical awkwardness.

Rather opaquely, Nixon said he found no significant differences between his own views on Vietnam and those of the Johnson Administration: “I will do nothing until the Inauguration unless it is seen to be helpful by you. We must present a united front” – this from the man whose agents had sung the song of dissension to Saigon only a few days earlier.

“You can be very helpful in the next sixty-five days, especially with Saigon,” I said to Nixon. “I know you want to wind this up as much as we do.”

“The quicker the better,” the President-elect replied.

THE AFTERMATH PART I

The silence of Johnson and his closest aides would be kept after the election, and after Nixon’s inauguration, until their deaths. In my research on this episode, I came across various hypotheses on why Johnson kept their silence on Nixon’s backchannel diplomacy, with the major reason given that the information had been obtained illegally, without a warrant, and that therefore it would somehow damage the Johnson White House as much, if not more, than the Nixon campaign. This misunderstands the nature of the evidence against Nixon, which was prompted first by the tip of Alexander Sachs, which led to the FBI taps on Anna Chennault. This was a major national security issue which Chennault was sticking her fingers into, meddling into secret high level diplomatic talks, and it’s to be expected that a suspect would have their phone tapped, just as they would if they sold weapons or secrets. The tapping of the Vietnamese embassy in the U.S. and the NSA intelligence from Vietnam were incidental to the case, only confirming that for the South Vietnamese leadership, Nixon was the one. Even granting that their silence during the 1968 race was tactical, it does not explain their stone silence afterwards, which was closely kept for a specific reason, given by Clark Clifford in the conference call of November 2nd: “I think that some elements of the story are so shocking in their nature that I’m wondering whether it would be good for the country to disclose the story, and then possibly to have a certain individual elected. It could cast his whole administration under such doubts that I would think it would be inimical to our country’s interests.” As Johnson said in his phone call with Everett Dirksen, “This is treason.”41

Two major stories would touch on the machinations of the South Vietnamese government to influence the 1968 election by sabotaging the peace talks. On November 15, The Chicago Daily News would published an article by Georgie Anne Geyer headlined “Saigon boast: ‘We helped elect Nixon’” which quoted Saigon generals gleeful over scoring Nixon’s victory, but without mentioning the Nixon-Chennault connection42:

CHICAGO DAILY NEWS, Friday, November 15, 1968

Saigon boast: “We helped elect Nixon”

By Georgie Anne Geyer
Daily News Foreign Service

SAIGON – Top Saigon officials are boasting privately they helped assure the election of Richard M. Nixon.

They are pleased about it. “We did it,” one of them said. “We helped elect an American President.”

Their reasoning is that by sabotaging President Johnson’s attempt to call a bombing halt two weeks before the elections they eliminated the support this would have brought for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

“FIFTEEN DAYS would have done it,” one cabinet minister said, obviously pleased, “but four days wasn’t enough, and we saw to that.”

The same minister charged, privately, that since last spring, when the United States began meetings with Hanoi in Paris, Washington has been “working for Hanoi.” The Saigon government characterizes any negotiation with its enemy as tantamount to treason.

But with Nixon as President, they believe they will have not only a more understanding fellow hard-liner but also will have time. “Johnson was under pressures to get this thing over,” the minister said, “but Nixon will have at least six months or a year.”

THE GOVERNMENT has long said it does not want peace now, that it wants it only when it controls more of the country and can make better use of it. The reasoning is: “We are winning now. Why should we give up anything?”

To many American officials here it is offensive that the government for which Mr. Johnson literally gave up the Presidency and sacrificed his political career should treat him in this way.

Two days later, columnist Drew Pearson would publish “Saigon Generals Played Politics With Election”, and this would briefly mention that Bui Diem had been secretly in contact with Nixon, and may have even passed money to some of his associates 43:

Washington-Saigon Feud

Details Leak Out of Backstage Fight Between U.S. and South Vietnam

By Drew Pearson and Jack Anderson

THE EXPLOSIVE details have now leaked out about the backstage blowup between the United States and South Vietnam, which threatened to wreck the Paris peace negotiations before they start.

All along the South Vietnamese had agreed, in principle, to a bombing halt, provided they were given a place at the truce table. As the delicate negotiations were about to bear fruit, however, they suddenly began throwing up procedural objections. In both Paris and Saigon, the Americans and South Vietnamese wound up shouting angry insults at each other.

The South Vietnamese leaders become convinced that President Johnson was trying to rush through an agreement on a bombing halt just before the election in order to win votes for Hubert Humphrey. They felt strongly that LBJ was selling them out, that he was more concerned about winning the election than winning the war.

The President, meanwhile, learned that Saigon’s Ambassador Bui Diem had been in touch secretly with Richard Nixon’s people. There were unconfirmed reports that South Vietnamese leaders had even slipped campaign cash to Nixon representatives. These reports made Mr. Johnson suspicious that the South Vietnamese were trying to sabotage the peace negotiations in the hope that Nixon would win the election and take a harder line.

In the early part of the new year, another reporter came much closer to the frightening truth, though it remained without the later substantiation of the various intelligence intercepts and the explicit admission of Anna Chennault in her role. This was the journalist Tom Ottenad, mentioned briefly earlier in a Bryce Harlow note as one of those who believed a bombing halt would soon take place. His inquiries at the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. got near enough to what had taken place to set off a warning note by the FBI, passed on to Johnson in the days before Nixon’s inauguration44:

4:45PM 1-3-69 JDR
PRIORITY
TO WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM, ATT.: MR. BROMLEY SMITH 004

WHITE HOUSE SITUATION ROOM
’69 JAN 3 PM 5:11

S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION

EMBASSY OF VIETNAM; INTERNAL SECURITY – VIETNAM.

On January Three, instant, a confidential source, who has furnished reliable information in the past, furnished the following information:

On the same date, Vietnamese Ambassador Bui Diem, Washington, D.C. (WDC), was in contact with Richard Dudman of the WDC bureau of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, this bureau having previously attempted to contact Ambassador Diem on instant date. Dudman made reference to an article which has been written for the St. Louis Dispatch, about Anna Chennault, concerning reports that Chennault had frequently been in touch with Vietnamese officials in WDC, encouraging Vietnamese officials to go slow with respect to expanded peace talks in Paris. Ambassador Diem denied these reports, stating that Vietnamese decisions are based

END PAGE ONE

PAGE TWO (S E C R E T – NO FOREIGN DISSEMINATION)

on a lot of factors, mainly the problems at home (Vietnam), and not on internal politics in the United States.

Dudman questioned as to whether there had not been some concern by the White House, or by Vice President Humphrey about Chennault’s activities, further that the St. Louis Post Dispatch had information to this effect and that there had been some kind of inquiry or complaint to the Vietnamese embassy, WDC, in this regard. Ambassador Diem denied this information, commenting that he (Diem) had been in touch with many friends in WDC, both Democrats and Republicans, and again denied knowledge of an inquiry or complaint in such a matter.

Ottenad would attempt to interview Walt Rostow for this piece, and would later attempt to speak to Lyndon Johnson and his aide, Tom Johnson, on the same subject. These later inquiries were turned down, just as Rostow would refuse to answer any such questions for the January 6, 1969 article45. Rostow may have wished to blow the whistle on the backchannel diplomacy of Nixon-Chennault, but now that the choice had been made to stay silent, he would abide by it46:

1/3/69 11:40 am

Phone conversation, Tom Ottenad of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and W. W. Rostow

Ottenad: I have been working on a story that I wondered if I might talk to you about. It’s on background basis, or however you want to talk about it. It has to do with the last period of the Presidential campaign about the time of the President’s announcement of the bombing halt and steps to broaden the Paris talks. I’ve been told that during that period some Republican contacts were made with South Vietnamese officials urging them to go slow in the hope that from their standpoint, they might get a better shake under Nixon than they would otherwise, and that these contacts–contacts of this type–were made by Mrs. Chennault. We have established this from a number of sources, and it’s not really about that as such that I was inquiring, but rather about another aspect of it. I was told also that this activity had come to the attention of the Administration, and I wondered–I wanted to ask you–if that is in fact correct.

WWR: I have not one word to say about that matter.

Ottenad: Not even on background or completely non-attributable basis?

WWR: On no basis whatsoever.

Ottenad: There is no point about my asking other questions related to it.

WWR: That is correct.

Ottenad: That would be just a waste of your time.

WWR: I’m afraid that’s right.

Ottenad: May I ask about a different but somewhat related matter — because I don’t know whether you will say the same thing to that or not; if it is, of course, I’ll drop the business right there. The other matter I’ve been told of is about this same time. Contacts were made indirectly by South Vietnamese officials with the Nixon camp asking — unsuccessfully, as it turned out — asking for an opportunity to meet with Nixon or one of his aides and hinting that South Vietnamese would not take action on the question of going to Paris until after the election. My question: Did that ever come to your attention.

WWR: I have nothing whatsoever to say about it.

Ottenad’s article, published on January 6 1969, would detail the Nixon-Chennault attempt to sabotage the Paris Peace Talks. Though it would identify Chennault’s role, that she was specifically acting on behalf of Nixon was left an open question, and vigorously denied by off-the-record sources of his campaign47:

Was Saigon’s peace talk delay due to Republican promises?

TOM OTTENAD

January 6, 1969

WASHINGTON – A well-known top official of committees working for the election of Richard M. Nixon secretly got in touch with representatives of South Vietnam shortly before the presidential election.

It was in connection with an apparent effort to encourage them to delay in joining the Paris peace talks in hopes of getting a better deal if the Republicans won the White House.

The government of South Vietnam had been expected to join the Paris discussions soon after President Lyndon B. Johnson announced plans on Oct. 31 to bring both it and the Communist National Liberation Front into the peace talks and to halt all American bombing of North Vietnam. However, it delayed doing so for four weeks.

Its action is credited by some political experts, including some of Nixon’s staff, with cutting the loss of votes that his aides believe he suffered in the election from the last-minute peace move. In this view, the Vietnamese delay lent credence to Republican charges that Mr. Johnson’s action was a political maneuver to help the Democratic candidate, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey.

Informed diplomats as well as administration sources and a number of Republicans, including some within Nixon’s own organization, have said that Republican contact with South Vietnamese representatives was made by Mrs. Anna Chennault. The initial contact was reported to have been made a few days before Mr. Johnson’s Oct. 31 announcement.

A high ranking official at the South Vietnamese Embassy here said it was “entirely untrue” that Mrs. Chennault had urged officials of his government to go slow in joining the Paris peace talks.

Mrs. Chennault, who was born in Peking is of Chinese descent, but became an American citizen in 1950. She is a vice chairman of one of the committees planning Nixon’s inauguration Jan. 20. The attractive 45-year-old woman, who claims many friends in high government and Republican circles, is to be escorted to the inaugural ball by Gov. Warren P. Knowles of Wisconsin, it was announced recently. Her name figures in speculation for possible appointment to a key position in the Nixon administration.

In a recent interview, she declined to confirm or deny reports that she had been in frequent touch with representatives of the South Vietnamese Embassy shortly before the Nov. 5 election. “Who told you that?” she asked with a half smile.

In response to further questions the petite, vivacious woman, who rates Bui Diem, South Vietnam’s ambassador to the U.S., and other diplomats and world leaders among her friends, refused to give much information.

“You’re going to get me in a lot of trouble,” she remarked. Toying with the high collar of her Chinese-style dress, a personal fashion trademark, she continued with a laugh:

“I can’t say anything…come back and ask me that after the inauguration. We’re at a very sensitive time…I know so much and can say so little.”

Asked whether others had made contact with the South Vietnamese she replied enigmatically, “I certainly was not alone at that time.”

Friends of Mrs. Chennault have said that she was in sympathy with high South Vietnamese officials, including some of the country’s embassy here, who favored awaiting the outcome of the American presidential election before making any move toward joining the Paris peace negotiations.

High administration sources here say that key South Vietnamese officials generally favored the election of Nixon over Humphrey. They say also that they received information from Saigon indicating that many believe South Vietnamese officials there believed Mrs. Chennault was acting on Nixon’s behalf in contacts with representatives of that country. They termed this belief understandable in view of South Vietnam’s reputation for political intrigue.

When told that the Nixon forces disclaimed any connection with her reported actions, Mrs. Chennault remarked with a laugh: “You’ve covered politics. What would you expect? In politics nothing is fair.”

Although Nixon advisers say they learned of Mrs. Chennault’s activities several days before the Nov. 5 election, they apparently took no steps to halt her or remove her from her connection with the campaign. Explaining why, one G.O.P. official said, “She wasn’t our baby. She wasn’t really part of the campaign.”

Another Nixon adviser also emphasized this thought, stressing that Mrs. Chennault was not part of Nixon’s personal campaign staff.

“She was co-chairman of a volunteer organization,” he said. “She wasn’t a foreign policy adviser. We were faced with all kinds of people who claimed to speak for Nixon on various issues but really didn’t.”

Another Republican aide said, “The difficulty is she is pretty free-wheeling. She took a number of independent actions in the campaign. We had to pull her back several times.”

Some sources who are friendly to Mrs. Chennault have said privately that the Nixon camp was aware of her actions. They did not make clear, however, at what point this reported awareness developed.

Sources in the Nixon camp insisted strongly that Nixon was adamant in his refusal to make political capital out of the Vietnamese conflict or of the peace negotiations. “I saw him explode one time and say he was not going to make the war a political issue even if it cost him the election,” said one aide.

In contrast, Theodore White’s The Making of the President 1968 presented the Nixon-Chennault backchannel diplomacy as an unsubstantiated rumor that may well have blown up in the face of the Democratic party, and therefore it was best that it had been left alone and unpublicized. I give lengthy excerpt of the section of White’s book devoted to the episode:

When the American administration announced the bombing halt of Thursday night, it did so believing that it had the full assent of the South Vietnamese government. It had, however, only the assent of its president Nguyen van Thieu. And so solemnly had Thieu been admonished by the American government to keep the secrecy of the preceding weeks of negotiation that he had kept the details of agreement secret even from his cabinet, his national assembly, and his vice-president and rival, Nguyen Cao Ky. Faced with a revolt of his assembly as the news leaked, menaced by a coup d’état of his vice-president, Thieu reneged. On Friday, Saigon time (Saturday, American time) came his shattering statement, “The Government of South Vietnam deeply regrets not to be able to participate in the present exploratory talks.”

There could be no doubt that someone had blundered; of such blunders great issues in politics can be made. But over the weekend of November 1st and 2nd, with the Presidency of the United States apparently at stake, both sides approached the blunder as if it were a political explosive. Given the proper twist, it could explode either way, and one must see the temptation of the Democrats to exploit hidden opportunity, the temptation of the Republicans to exploit public confusion.

There is no way of getting at the dilemma of both parties except by introducing, at this point, the completely extraneous name of a beautiful Oriental lady, Anna Chan Chennault, the Chinese widow of war-time hero General Claire Chennault. Mrs. Chennault, an American citizen since 1950, comes of a line that begins with Mei-ling Soong (Madame Chiang K’ai-shek) and runs through Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady of South Vietnam) – a line of Oriental ladies of high purpose and authoritarian manners whose pieties and iron righteousness have frequently outrun their brains and acknowledged beauty. In the campaign of 1968, Mrs. Chennault, a lady of charm, energy and great name, had become chairman or co-chairman of several Nixon citizen committees, wearing honorific titles which were borne by many but which she took more seriously than most. In that circle of Oriental diplomacy in Washington once known as the China Lobby, Anna Chennault was hostess-queen. Having raised (by her statement later) some $250 000 for the Nixon campaign, she felt entitled to authority by her achievement. And, having learned of the October negotiations by gossip and rumor and press speculation, as did most Americans, she had undertaken most energetically to sabotage them. In contact with the Formosan, the South Korean and the South Vietnamese governments, she had begun early, by cable and telephone, to mobilize their resistance to the agreement – apparently implying, as she went, that she spoke for the Nixon campaign.

She had, however, neglected to take the most elementary precautions of an intriguer, and her communications with Asia had been tapped by the American government and brought directly to the perusal of President Johnson.

Although Johnson had been made aware of Mrs. Chennault’s messages even before his announcement of the bombing halt, he had not taken them seriously. It was not until Saturday, with the announcement of eleven South Vietnamese senators in Saigon of their support for Richard M. Nixon(!) and the repudiation of the Paris agreement by President Thieu, that the President’s wrath was lit. By Saturday he had accused Senator Everett Dirksen of a Republican plot to sabotage peace (which Dirksen, presumably hastened to relay to Nixon headquarters); and by Sunday, Johnson was in direct and bitter telephonic contact with Richard Nixon in Los Angeles (see footnote, page 383)*.

What could have been made of an open charge that the Nixon leaders were saboteurs of the peace one cannot guess; how quickly it might, if aired have brought the last forty-eight hours of the American campaign to squalor is a matter of speculation. But the good instinct of that small-town boy Hubert Humphrey prevailed. Fully informed of the sabotage of the negotiations and the recalcitrance of the Saigon government, Humphrey might have won the Presidency of the United States by making it the prime story of the last four days of the campaign. He was urged by several members of his staff to do so. And I know of no more essentially decent story in American politics than Humphrey’s refusal to do so; his instinct was that Richard Nixon, personally, had no knowledge of Mrs. Chennault’s activities; had no hand in them; and would have forbidden them had he known. Humphrey would not air the story.

For the sake of the record, I must add that in probing this episode during the weekend of its happening, this reporter’s judgement was that Humphrey’s decision was morally, if not tactically, correct. At the first report of Republican sabotage in Saigon, Nixon’s headquarters had begun to investigate the story; had discovered Mrs. Chennault’s activities; and was appalled. The fury and dismay at Nixon’s headquarters when his aides discovered the report were so intense that they could not have been feigned simply for the benefit of this reporter. Their feeling on Monday morning before the election was, simply, that if they lost the election, Mrs. Chennault might have lost it for them. She had taken their name and authority in vain; if the Democrats now chose to air the story, no rebuttal of the Nixon camp would be convincing; and they were at the mercy of Humphrey’s good-will.

This incredible story would afterwards stay in the realm of intangible, unconfirmed mist, occasionally brought to the fore by memoirs of those involved in that election. In his own memoir, The Vantage Point, Johnson would allege that pro-Nixon forces had promised the South Vietnamese leadership a better deal, but would not claim that they were acting on the orders of Nixon himself, the allegations described in “LBJ Charges Pro-Nixon Move Beat Humphrey” by Jack Anderson, a column touting salient excerpts from Johnson’s forthcoming book:

WASHINGTON – Lyndon Johnson charges in his forthcoming memoirs that Richard Nixon’s allies insured Hubert Humphrey’s 1968 presidential defeat by secretly persuading the Saigon government to stay away from the Paris peace talks.

The former President’s memoirs entitled “The Vantage Point,” are being kept under tight wraps. But we can quote the highlights.

Here, for example, how Johnson describes the GOP-Saigon skulduggery:

“People who claimed to speak for the Nixon camp began encouraging Saigon to stay away from Paris and promising that Nixon, if elected, would inaugurate a policy more to Saigon’s liking. “Those efforts paid off.

“On November 1, after previously indicating that they would have made him the talks [sic], the South Vietnamese leaders decided not to participate. That I am convinced, cost Hubert Humphrey the presidency, especially since a shift of only a few hundred thousand votes would have made him the winner.

“I am certain the outcome would have been different if the Paris peace talks had been in progress on Election day.”

When Clark Clifford would bluntly state what he knew of the affair in Counsel to the President, it received a strange rebuke from former Nixon speechwriter William Safire, then a columnist for the New York Times who did not see the episode as an example of Nixon’s duplicity, paid for with American and Vietnamese blood, but as a precedent for the wiretapping of Watergate. The piece was “Clark Clifford’s Confession”, and here is its crux:

WASHINGTON- Do you remember what Watergate was all about? It was about the intrusion by the party in power into the rights of political challengers — the Ins using their power unfairly to block the Outs.

In his eye-popping memoirs, “Counsel to the President,” Clark Clifford shows in exquisite detail how Lyndon Johnson colluded with Moscow — and abused the power of our intelligence agencies — to try to block Richard Nixon’s challenge and swing the 1968 election to the Democrats’ Hubert Humphrey.

That revelation was not Mr. Clifford’s intent, of course; on the contrary, this Democrat, whose civilized partisanship I have long admired, charges the Nixon campaign with “gross, even potentially illegal, interference with the security affairs of the nation” by encouraging South Vietnam to avoid participating in a Paris meeting central to a 1968 election-weekend stunt.

In castigating Mrs. Chennault for foiling the scheme, Mr. Clifford is forced to reveal the basis of his suspicion of her: “the information had been derived from extremely sensitive intelligence-gathering operations of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and the National Security Agency; these included surveillance of the Ambassador of our ally, and an American citizen with strong political ties to the Republicans.”

Recognizing that this was a startling admission of the abuse of government power to defeat a political opponent, Mr. Clifford footnotes: “It should be remembered that the public was considerably more innocent in such matters in the days before the Watergate hearings . . .”

John Mitchell, Nixon’s 1968 campaign manager, knew what Mrs. Chennault — who needed no guidance — was doing. Later, as Attorney General, he learned from the F.B.I. and C.I.A. exactly how the White House orchestrated N.S.A.’s eavesdropping on Nixon’s “Dragon Lady” and C.I.A.’s illegal surveillance of national-security aide Richard Allen. Returning to manage the 1972 Nixon campaign, Mitchell entrusted such unlawful intrusions to amateurs, for which he was jailed.

Clark Clifford’s memoirs confirm that. Watergate’s crimes grew from seeds planted in the power abuses of the Johnson Administration’s “October surprise.”

The piece is so brazen in its dishonesty that I’m sorry Safire is no longer alive so I might yell at him on twitter. As already stated, the wiretapping of Chennault began with the revelations of Alexander Sachs to Eugene Rostow, that high level diplomacy was being messed with. When Clifford writes “we first became aware of these activities through the normal operations of the intelligence community in the weeks prior to the election,” it is this that he is referring to. That it was an inquiry into a matter of national security whose thread appeared to lead to one of the candidates of the 1968 election, and nothing like the free ranging persecution campaign against all enemies of the Nixon White House, is a subtlety missed by Safire, but exactly the sort of dishonesty you might expect to shield against a dart that falls on a tender and vulnerable point. I was not the only one incensed by this column, which would provoke a letter from a former member of Johnson’s cabinet, “The Real Story of ’68 Vietnam Bombing Halt”, written by William Bundy, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs:

To the Editor:

William Safire’s May 23 column (“Clark Clifford’s Confession”) turns history on its head about the covert operation mounted in October 1968 by Richard M. Nixon, John Mitchell and Anna Chennault to ditch President Lyndon Johnson’s agreement with Hanoi for serious peace negotiations to end the Vietnam War. I participated in the events of that month and have recently done extensive research on the period for my own historical purposes.

Mr. Safire states that Mr. Johnson’s bombing halt announcement on Oct. 31, 1968, looking to immediate negotiations, was an “election-weekend stunt.” On the contrary, “Counsel to the President,” Mr. Clifford’s memoir, shows that Mr. Johnson’s terms for a bombing halt, worked out in late June 1968, never changed. As Mr. Clifford relates with feeling, Mr. Johnson resisted many attempts to soften or shade these terms, forcing a platform confrontation that played a big part in the disastrous Democratic National Convention in August. Some election stunt!

About Oct. 29, as Mr. Clifford recounts in more general terms, Mr. Johnson and his inner circle (of which I was not part) learned through intercepted South Vietnam Embassy cables, particularly one of Oct. 27, that Anna Chennault was conveying via Bui Diem apparently authoritative “Republican” messages urging Mr. Thieu to abort or cripple the deal by refusing to participate.

That “smoking gun” cable included promises of later favor from Mr. Nixon, including a possible visit to Saigon before inauguration if he were elected. (As Mr. Nixon well knew, “reading the mail” of allied governments of importance to United States foreign policy was not an exceptional practice in the postwar period.) Thus alerted, Mr. Johnson requested Federal Bureau of Investigation surveillance of Mrs. Chennault and the embassy, and the results amply confirmed her activity.

No Clifford “confession” was needed about these actions. The surveillance was disclosed fully in Senate Committee hearings in 1975, the F.B.I. testifying that it accepted Mr. Johnson’s request based on possible violations of the Neutrality Act and the Foreign Agents Registration Act, both concerning dealings by United States private citizens with the governments of other countries. Interference such as Mrs. Chennault’s is certainly something the United States Government is entitled to know about as a matter of national security, in a situation such as prevailed in late October 1968.

On Nov. 3, two days before the election, Mr. Johnson taxed Mr. Nixon with Mrs. Chennault’s activities, and Mr. Nixon categorically denied any connection or knowledge — almost certainly a lie in light of later disclosures. In the circumstances, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Humphrey decided, separately, not to raise what would surely have been a highly divisive issue so late in a campaign. A year later, Theodore White, describing the episode in his book on the 1968 campaign, rightly called Mr. Humphrey’s decision one of the most decent actions ever taken by an American political figure.

Mr. Safire has badly distorted what was indeed a black page in American political history. Clark Clifford’s honest and unflinching account nails down the conclusion that President Johnson acted throughout in the national interest as he perceived it. We still lack an honest account of what Richard Nixon did and knew, or in what interest, other than his own political gain.

The scandal remained in the netherworld of a few tangible facts – that Chennault had contacts with the Nixon campaign, that there were allegations of Chennault contacting the South Vietnamese, that the leadership of South Vietnam had wanted Nixon to win the election – until evidence began to come into place, giving what was ghostly a solid, disturbing form. There was Anna Chennault’s open admission of her role in The Arrogance of Power by Anthony Summers, and the FBI intercept reporting her phone calls to a representative of the Nixon campaign. In 2013, the Lyndon Baines Johnson presidential library would release the recordings of the calls between Johnson, the candidates, and his advisers, making obvious and clear that this was no cheap political stunt, but a serious attempt at ending the war, that was ultimately foiled by one man’s own desires. Finally, and most importantly, was the unsealing of the contents of what would be referred to as the “X Envelope”, one of the few times that history provides us a melodramatic Rosetta stone of the kind that are commonplace in thrillers. This was a collection of relevant documents in the possession of Walt Rostow, Johnson’s former National Security Adviser, including the FBI intercept, important transcripts, and other investigative materials, some of which have been cited here, and all of which can be found in the post by Robert Parry devoted to the envelope, “LBJ’s ‘X’ File on Nixon’s ‘Treason’”. Parry would describe what took place with the envelope in 1973, a few months after the death of Lyndon Johnson from a heart attack, as the Watergate scandal which would eventually destroy the Nixon presidency unfolded:

As Johnson’s presidency ended in 1969 – and at Johnson’s instruction – Rostow had taken with him the White House file chronicling Nixon’s Vietnam gambit, consisting of scores of “secret” and “top secret” documents. Rostow had labeled the file “The ‘X’ Envelope.”

Also, by May 1973, Rostow had been out of government for more than four years and had no legal standing to possess this classified material. Johnson, who had ordered the file removed from the White House, had died. And, now, a major political crisis was unfolding about which Rostow felt he possessed an important missing link for understanding the history and the context. So what to do?

Rostow apparently struggled with this question for the next month as the Watergate scandal continued to expand. On June 25, 1973, John Dean delivered his blockbuster Senate testimony, claiming that Nixon got involved in the cover-up within days of the June 1972 burglary at the Democratic National Committee. Dean also asserted that Watergate was just part of a years-long program of political espionage directed by Nixon’s White House.

The very next day, as headlines of Dean’s testimony filled the nation’s newspapers, Rostow reached his conclusion about what to do with “The ‘X’ Envelope.” In longhand, he wrote a “Top Secret” note which read, “To be opened by the Director, Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, not earlier than fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.”

The man who had refused to answer the questions of Tom Ottenad, who would keep his silence about a sordid nasty affair till his very death, would leave behind the answers for the far, far future48.

TOP SECRET

To be opened by the Director,

Lyndon Baines Johnson
Library not earlier than
fifty (50) years from this date June 26, 1973.

Those who wanted to know what took place would finally be given a brief mercy; though the envelope was only to be opened fifty years later, in 2023, “ultimately, however, the LBJ Library didn’t wait that long,” writes Parry in “‘X’ File.” “After a little more than two decades, on July 22, 1994, the envelope was opened and the archivists began the process of declassifying the contents.”

The end result of the duplicity in 1968 was the eventual betrayal of everyone. The soldiers, the civilians of Vietnam who would suffer the Christmas bombing, even those who thought they’d benefit from the deal, Anna Chennault and Nguyen Thieu. Anthony Summers, again in his invaluable Arrogance of Power would describe what happened after Nixon’s win:

As late as election eve the word from the White House was that the Chennault matter might “very well blow the roof off the political race yet.” In the end, though, Johnson’s advisers decided it was too late and too potentially damaging to U.S. interests to uncover what had been going on. If Nixon should emerge as the victor, what would the Chennault outrage do to his viability as an incoming president? And what effect would it have on American opinion about the war? “You couldn’t surface it,” recalled Johnson’s assistant Harry McPherson. “The country would be in terrible trouble.”

There was another reason the lid stayed on. Three days after the election Johnson was still considering whether to “blow the whistle” on Nixon. Instead, Rostow recalled, the president “actively sought and obtained Nixon’s cooperation . . . in delivering the word that the President-elect wished the South Vietnamese to proceed in moving towards a negotiation with Hanoi.”

As so often in his career, Nixon’s desperate need was to avoid exposure. Therefore, as both Johnson and Humphrey had predicted he would, Nixon now double-crossed President Thieu. He sent “strong word” to Saigon that it should reverse course and attend peace talks after all.

Anna Chennault was “flabbergasted” to find herself asked to accept Nixon’s new line. “What makes you change your mind all of a sudden?” she asked John Mitchell.

“Anna, you’re no newcomer to politics,” Mitchell responded. “This, whether you like it or not, is politics.”

Chennault stormed out in disgust, only to be harried with phone calls from other Nixon aides. At first she was urged again to send the changed signal to Saigon. When it became clear she would never agree, Nixon’s people began to fear that she might disclose the true story.29 A string of emissaries was sent to beg her not to talk to the press.

Chennault fended off reporters’ inquiries for a long time thereafter, in part, she claimed, because she feared for her safety.30 Later, at a White House function, Nixon thanked her effusively for her help in the election. “I’ve certainly paid dearly for it,” she replied curtly. “Yes, I appreciate that,” he responded. “I know you’re a good soldier.”

The best that could be said of Nixon’s duplicity is that the outcome in Vietnam would have remained the same. This, to my mind, does not make his actions any less vile. If one sells weapons or secrets to an enemy, no excuse can be made from the fact that they were not put to use, and no defense can be made from the claim that those who died as the result of the actions would have died in the war anyway, with other bullets or other weapons, they just happened to use yours. I do not see why there should be a distinction made, in this context, that Nixon’s priorities lay, after himself, with an ally rather than an enemy – it is still considered a treasonable offense when one sells classified secrets to an ally. What is most upsetting is that the will of the American people was subverted, only for the vain desires of one man. They wanted an end to the war as soon as possible, and so Humphrey, against Johnson’s wishes, argued for an unconditional bombing halt, while Nixon promised that he had a plan to end the war, though he had none, all while working backstage to delay any end that might inconvenience him. That this moment of American history is so seldom looked at is due to the very obvious reason that here we have democracy made into a sick joke, where American citizens cannot be given what they want on a simple vital issue affecting their children and their families, thanks to the collusion of a sociopath and a foreign government. While avoiding any blind or naive hopes about the peace process of 1968, Beverly Deepe Keever would speak of what might have been in an email to Robert Parry published in “The Almost Scoop on Nixon’s ‘Treason’”:

“If Johnson had confirmed my story or the Monitor had run it as filed, it’s hard for me to say what the impact would have been on the election…However, given how narrow Nixon’s margin of victory was, certainly Johnson’s confirmation might have swayed enough votes to be decisive.

“Hard for me to say without doing my own legwork, but polls I’ve come across indicate that might have been the case. Bui Diem quotes William Safire saying that Thieu made Nixon president…

“Tho[ugh] I can’t judge the impact of pre-election news about the Nixon camp’s liaison with Thieu, I think the more interesting question for me is: What would the U.S. and Vietnam be like if Humphrey had won?

“I think the final outcome would ultimately be the same for Vietnam, with the Communists seizing control of the South, perhaps via a coalition government to permit the U.S. to save face.

“And the war would have been shorter and less bloody without the incursions and bombing in Laos and Cambodia. Far fewer casualties and less cost to the treasuries on all sides.”

A lot of people would have to learn to be good soldiers. This, whether you like it or not, was politics.

WATERGATE AND THE FIREBOMBING OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE

When putting together the ‘X’ Envelope, former National Security Adviser Walt Rostow would include the following note49:

I am inclined to believe the Republican operation in 1968 relates in two ways to the Watergate affair of 1972.

First, the election of 1968 proved to be close and there was some reason for those involved on the Republican side to believe their enterprise with the South Vietnamese and Thieu’s recalcitrance may have sufficiently blunted the impact on U.S. politics of the total bombing halt and agreement to negotiate to constitute the margin of victory.

Second, they got away with it. Despite considerable press commentary after the election, the matter was never investigated fully.

Thus, as the same men faced the election of 1972, there was nothing in their previous experience with an operation of doubtful propriety (or, even, legality) to warn them off; and there were memories of how close an election could get and the possible utility of pressing to the limit — or beyond.

The two scandals were connected not simply through the callous arrogance of the central player in each, but a tangent which would remain below the surface for decades, waiting for the Chennault-Nixon episode to gather the substance of the hard proof of the ‘X’ envelope and the release of recordings and documents related to Watergate. Where I first learned of the link was, like many, in The Trial of Henry Kissinger by Christopher Hitchens. We might begin with Hitchens’ excerpt from Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman’s Diaries, an entry on January 12, 1973, when the Watergate scandal had already begun to rage full force:

The P [President Nixon] also got back on the Watergate thing today, making the point that I should talk to Connelly about the Johnson bugging process to get his judgement as to how to handle it. He wonders if we shouldn’t just have Andreas [Dwayne Andreas, a businessman and heavy political contributor who gave heavily to Hubert Humphrey; his wikipedia entry is "Dwayne Andreas" and a Mother Jones article devoted to the man is: "Dwayne's World" by Dan Carney] go in and scare Hubert. The problem in going at LBJ is how he’d react, and we need to find out from De Loach who did it, and then run a lie detector on him. I talked to Mitchell on the phone on this subject and he said De Loach had told him he was up to date on the thing because he had a call from Texas. A Star reporter was making an inquiry in the last week or so, and LBJ got very hot and called Deke [De Loach] and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release [deleted material - national security], saying that our side was asking that certain things be done. By our side, I assume he means the Nixon campaign organization. De Loach took this as a direct threat from Johnson … As he recalls it, bugging was requested on the planes, but was turned down, and all they did was check the phone calls, and put a tap on the Dragon Lady [Mrs. Anna Chennault].

Hitchens would go on to explain this cryptic post:

This bureaucratic prose may be hard to read, but it needs no cypher to decode itself. Under intense pressure about the bugging of the Watergate building, Nixon instructed his chief of staff Haldeman, and his FBI contact Deke De Loach, to unmask the bugging to which his own campaign had been subjected in 1968. He also sounded out former President Johnson, through former senior Democrats like Governor John Connally, to gauge what his reaction to the disclosure might be. The aim was to show that “everybody does it.” (By another bipartisan paradox, in Washington the slogan “they all do it” is used as a slogan for the defense rather than, as one might hope, for the prosecution.)

However, a problem presented itself at once. How to reveal the 1968 bugging without at the same time revealing what that bugging had been about? Hence the second thoughts (“that wasn’t such a good idea …”). In his excellent introduction to The Haldeman Diaries, Nixon’s biographer Professor Stephen Ambrose characterizes the 1973 approach to Lyndon Johnson as “prospective blackmail,” designed to exert backstairs pressure to close down a congressional inquiry. But he also suggests that Johnson, himself no pushover, had some blackmail ammunition of his own. As Professor Ambrose phrases it, the Haldeman Diaries had been vetted by the National Security Council (NSC), and the bracketed deletion cited above is “the only place in the book where an example is given of a deletion by the NSC during the Carter administration. Eight days later Nixon was inaugurated for his second term. Ten days later Johnson died of a heart attack. What Johnson had on Nixon I suppose we’ll never know.”

Hitchens would then go on to call Ambrose’s conclusions a little too tentative, and we can well see why, because it’s very obvious exactly what Johnson had against Nixon. The sentence from H. R. Haldeman’s entry for January 12, which begins so dramatically, “LBJ got very hot and called Deke [De Loach] and said to him that if the Nixon people are going to play with this, that he would release [deleted material - national security],” ends with the cliffhanger of a national security redaction, but this redaction is no mystery to us, we can light up the information darkness ourselves: “…that he would release everything related to the sabotage of the 1968 Paris Peace Talks by Anna Chennault under the orders of Richard Nixon, that disgusting, blood stained rat fuck cheat.”

Those familiar with Abuse of Power by Stanley Kutler, a fascinating and valuable collection of transcripts of the audio recordings from the Nixon White House, will know well that Haldeman’s diary entry was no isolated instance of focus during the Watergate scandal. The theme sounded in the diary entry, of using Johnson’s tapes as leverage, plays several times in the confidential meetings of Nixon and his intimates as they plan defenses.

A full excerpt of the entry in Abuse of Power on the conversation on July 1, 1972; Nixon with his top aide and major legbreaker, Charles Colson:

JULY 1, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND COLSON, 11:28-11:36 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

Nixon continues his fascination with wiretapping – of himself and others.

NIXON
…I don’t want an impression of the big brother thing, the White House and the President ordering buggings and snooping. But Goddamn Kennedy did it all the time. Bobby Kennedy had a record number of these bugs.

COLSON
Well, you saw Kevin Phillips? Did you see Kevin Phillips’ column this week?

NIXON
No. What did he say?

COLSON
How they bugged [Anna] Chennault’s telephones in ’68.

NIXON
Oh, in ’68 they bugged our phones, too.

COLSON
And this was ordered by Johnson.

NIXON
That’s right.

COLSON
And done through the FBI. My God, if we ever did anything like that you’d have the-

NIXON
Yes. For example, why didn’t we bug McGovern, because, after all, he’s affecting the peace negotiations?

COLSON
Sure.

NIXON
That would be exactly the same thing.

COLSON
That’s right. Well, Kevin [Phillips] did – of course, no one else will pick it up. He’s unfortunately considered our guy. But it’s very devastating point, that they should not be using that-

One on October 17, 1972, between Nixon and Democrat turned Republican John Connally, former governor of Texas50:

NIXON
Incidentally, you know the situation with regard to our own. I told you about it…That’s all it was. We are never, we are never going to put that out, you know.

CONNALLY
Well, this morning-

NIXON
There’s no reason to embarrass you. But I think that you will know what the situation is. Edgar Hoover told Mitchell that our plane was bugged for the last two weeks of the campaign. Now, the reason for bugging it, Johnson had it bugged. He ordered it bugged. And so was Humphrey’s. I think. I’m not sure about Humphrey’s. I know about ours. But the reason he says he had it bugged is because he was talking about – he had his Vietnam plans in there and he had to have information as to what we were going to say about Vietnam. But the plane was bugged, John, and that whole-

HALDEMAN
Two weeks.

NIXON
-by J. Edgar Hoover, and Johnson knew every conversation. And you know where it was bugged? In my compartment. So every conversation I had, for two weeks Johnson had it. Now, we’re not happy with it. We’re not going to say anything. It would look like hell.

A month later, we might be the most fascinating exchange on the subject, between Nixon and his close aide Haldeman. Kutler prefaces it with the note that this “is a rather cryptic exchange”, and “apparently, the two men have an agreement of mutual convenience.” The reader who has come this far, or dipped into enough of this post to get a general idea, will not find it cryptic at all, and know exactly what they’re speaking about. I give full excerpt of this session as it appears in Kutler’s book:

NOVEMBER 3, 1972: THE PRESIDENT AND HALDEMAN, 10:46-10:54 A.M., OVAL OFFICE

This is a rather cryptic exchange involving Lyndon Johnson’s bugging of Nixon in 1968. Apparently, the two men have an agreement of mutual convenience; Johnson acknowledges his wiretapping of Nixon, Nixon makes no public complaints, and LBJ recognizes that Nixon did no wrong.

HALDEMAN
I talked to [former Johnson press secretary] George [Christian]. He talked to President Johnson again this morning. Johnson had his staff working all night reviewing his files and everything. Last night Johnson had his staff working all night reviewing his files and everything. Last night Johnson had said to George, you know, they’re going to deny this, and all. This morning Johnson – first of all, after reviewing the files, he’s not going to say anything. He was going to deny it. Now he’s not going to. He’ just going to slough it off.

NIXON
Good.

(Withdrawn item. National security.)

HALDEMAN
…Johnson told George, “I have no idea whether that was right or not.” He said, “I did call Nixon [in 1968] and go through the problem with him, and we agreed to have [Senator Everett] Dirksen…get it straightened out, and Dirksen met with [South Vietnam Ambassador Nguyen Van Bui] Diem on November 9 and went through all that, smoothed it over…

NIXON
You’re citing Johnson?

HALDEMAN
Johnson said that he decided at the time to interpret this as something foolish that someone did without Nixon’s knowledge, and that he and Nixon agreed to do nothing to slow the talks down, and we should look at the way he handled it in his books. That’s his position, which was that Nixon cooperated fully in proceeding with the peace talks and all that stuff. Then he said no to Christian, he said – here’s the lead-in line. He said, “It is conceivable that somebody here may have asked the FBI to follow on up this.” See, last night he said it was absolutely not true. And he said, “So maybe it’s possible that Hoover did tell the President that he was asked to do this.”

Christian then said, “You better handle this thing straight…That is true, Hoover did tell the President that; you should know that.” And he said Johnson wasn’t surprised and didn’t try to deny it at all…Now it’s clear, Johnson knows the position we’re in; he knows that you know that Hoover did the bugging and that we did nothing about it. Johnson was very grateful for that…Christian also went into great detail with him about our concern about the FBI leak and our concern that, if we try to move on this story or anything like this, it could be a trap. In other words, the FBI may be prepared to leak on this.

NIXON
That’s right.

HALDEMAN
Johnson understood that immediately. He didn’t have to spell that out at all.

NIXON
Good.

A conversation between Haldeman and Nixon begins on the tangent of preventing the Watergate burglary team from testifying against anyone in the White House by immunizing them, which leads into the recording conducted by Hoover’s deputy, Cartha “Deke” DeLoach:

NIXON
Can the Congress bring them up and immunize them? Can the court immunize them?

EHRLICHMAN
Grand jury.

NIXON
What?

EHRLICHMAN
A grand jury proceeding. The court immunizes them. And the procedure would be after they are sentenced to bring them back in – the grand jury or the Congress, either one.

HALDEMAN
But they intend – the Cubans intend not to talk, and it’s not clear what the defense is going to be with the Cubans at this point. The one thing Dean raises in the congressional thing is whether we have in any way any hard evidence that the plane [in the 1968 campaign] was bugged. The reason he asked is that he sent me a strategy on the Hill of going for an attempt to force the Congress to investigate hanky-panky in both ’68 and ’72, rather than letting them just go do an investigation of ’72 activities. And he can intercede, but we can also start moving on individual Senators and some of the problems they wouldn’t like known as to what they’ve done and not done, but also the question of whether – see, that plane bug thing was logged out. Who had the story? Somebody had it – the [Washington] Star had the story.

NIXON
Johnson admitted it, I understand.

HALDEMAN
Well, sort of.

NIXON
Did you talk to him?

HALDEMAN
No, George Christian did. He finally admitted it to George. But the question is whether there will be hard evidence on it. The only input we have on it is J. Edgar Hoover, who is dead, I presume.

EHRLICHMAN
Well, [Cartha] DeLoach is around. He’s never admitted it, to my knowledge.

HALDEMAN
Was DeLoach the one who did it?

EHRLICHMAN
Yep. Johnson called DeLoach and had him do it.

HALDEMAN
Well, maybe you do have hard evidence…

NIXON
Well, we have nothing now as far as Johnson is concerned, and we have nothing to worry about. Johnson did not support us…, and at the present time I wouldn’t [give] any damn, I’d play that right up to the hilt. What does it do to the Bureau? It’s a nasty story. It’s just too damn bad. They should not have bugged the candidate’s plane!

Nixon’s obsession that his plane was bugged during the ’68 campaign will be briefly discussed in the next section, “Oliver Stone’s Nixon”, but it appears to have been a misunderstanding on his part of what took place. Anna Chennault’s phones were bugged, because of her frequent contacts with the Bui Diem, the ambassador for South Vietnam and the rumors of her attempts to derail the peace talks. After the election, DeLoach appears only to have been able to pass on the area codes of the numbers which were called from Agnew’s plane – Texas, New York City, and so on. Nothing more specific about the numbers, and certainly not the content of the calls was conveyed. It is for this reason that it was so important that the FBI intercept establish that Anna Chennault was in New York City at the time of the calls. Nixon discovered that they had identified the contact between himself and Chennault, or come very close to it, and he’d misunderstood what methods they’d used and what they’d obtained, that the FBI had wiretapped the planes of the candidates.

The nature of the bugging was discussed by DeLoach himself, during an interrogation that was part of the Church Committee’s congressional investigation of the recent history of the intelligence agencies. From Volume 6 of the Church Committee Report, “Testimony of Courtney Evans and Cartha DeLoach, Former FBI Officials Accompanied By Charles A. McNelis, Counsel”. Here, DeLoach is asked about the retrieval of Agnew’s phone records by Senator Phil Hart of Michigan. Unfortunately, no context is given for this records request (specific page in the document is 193, page 29 of 34 in the pdf):

SENATOR HART of Michigan.
Now, the incident I had in mind bore on another public figure, Spiro Agnew. A request was made to get telephone records of candidate Agnew. What happened on that request?

Mr. DELOACH.
I received a call from Mr. James Jones, who was the top assistant to the President at the time. Senator, to the best of my recollection, late one evening, and he indicated the President wanted information concerning either Mr. Nixon or Mr. Agnew insofar as toll calls made from Albuquerque, N.Mex. were concerned. I told Mr. Jones I felt this was not a correct thing to do, particularly at this time of night, and while we would try to comply with the President’s specific request, we would not do it that night. The President then called me personally in my office late that night and indicated that did he understand my refusal to Mr. Jones correctly, and I said, yes, he did. I said, I thought that it would be wrong for us to try to obtain such information that late at night. The President then proceeded to tell me that he was the Commander in Chief and that when he needed information of that nature, he should get it. However, the conversation ensued that I reiterated my objections to it, and the President indicated all right, try to get it the following day. The Domestic Intelligence Division did get in touch with Albuquerque, and did obtain toll call slips. Now, this was no electronic surveillance, Senator. This was merely a matter of going to the telephone company and getting the results of toll calls made from a certain number several days prior to that to Washington, D.C. I believe there were five all total and this has been a matter of public record in FBI files.

Surveillance of Anna Chennault is brought up again a little while later, this time by Senator John Tower. There is, of course, the undercurrent here that has already been mentioned but goes unsaid in this hearing: Tower and Chennault were lovers. A part of this undercurrent, no doubt, is whether Tower was recorded as part of any surveillance of Chennault. Emphasis is placed on October 30th, 1968, and this is when surveillance began on all American visitors to the Vietnamese embassy in D.C. The following is from DeLoach’s first report, filed on October 30th; we have already seen this, but I quote it again for its importance here:

Early this morning, approximately 7:45 A.M., Ambassador Bui Diem of the Vietnamese Embassy was contacted by a woman who did not identify herself but whom he seemed to recognize by voice. The FBI believes this woman to be possibly Anna Chenault [sic], widow of General Clare [sic] Chenault [sic]. The woman commented that she did not have an opportunity to talk with the Ambassador on 10/29/68 inasmuch as there were so many people around. However, she thought that perhaps the Ambassador would have some more information this morning. The woman then asked what the situation is. The Ambassador responded that “just among us” that he could not go into specifics on the telephone but something “is cooking.” The woman then asked if Thailand is going to be the representative of both South Vietnam and the Viet Cong to which the Ambassador responded “no, nothing of this sort yet.” The Ambassador then suggested that if the woman had time today she should drop by and talk with him as time is running short. She replied that she would drop by after the luncheon for Mrs. Agnew today.

On October 31st, Johnson declared a bombing halt, and the next day, Thieu pulled out from the peace talks. Again in this questioming, no context is given for the reasons for DeLoach’s surveillance of Chennault. From “Testimony of Courtney Evans and Cartha DeLoach, Former FBI Officials Accompanied By Charles A. McNelis, Counsel” (specific page 195 in the document, 31 of 34 in the pdf):

Senator TOWER.
Mr. DeLoach, did the FBI institute physical surveillance of Mrs. Claire Chennault on October 30, 1968, at the direction of the President of the United States?

Mr. DELOACH.
Senator, to the best of my recollection on that specific case, the Executive Diretor, I believe the Executive Secretary of the National Security Council, Mr. J. Bromley Smith, called me on one occasion and indicated the President of the United States wanted this done. I told Mr. Smith that I thought what he should do is call the Attorney General concerning this matter, and I believe either Mr. Hoover or I later received a call from the Attorney General indicating that this should be done.

Senator TOWER.
Was it done?

Mr. DELOACH
There was a physical surveillance on Mrs. Chennault, yes, sir.

Senator TOWER.
What did it include?

Mr. DELOACH.
The usual physical surveillance, as I recall, Senator, following her to places where she went in the city of Washington and as I recall a statement made this morning, also a trip that she made to New York.

Senator TOWER.
Did it involve the constant monitoring of any and all of her incoming and outgoing telephone calls?

Mr.DELOACH.
I believe the instructions of the President and the specific instruction and approval of the Attorney General, that a wiretap was placed on her telephone, sir.

Senator TOWER.
So, during the period of time between October 30, and November 7, all of her telephonic communications were monitored by the Bureau?

Mr. DELOACH.
I don’t recall the specific dates, Senator, but I do know that such surveillance was established.

Senator TOWER.
Who was the Attorney General at the time?

Mr. DELOACH
In 1968, sir?

Senator TOWER.
Yes, sir.

Mr. DELOACH.
I believe that would have been Mr. Clark.

Senator TOWER.
Would the FBI have undertaken this surveillance on its own initiative had they not been directed by the Attorney General to do so?

Mr. DELOACH.
That was the reason I referred Mr. Smith to the Attorney General. I felt that we should have the Attorney General’s concurrence, and as I testified earlier, to my knowledge the FBI did not place wiretaps on individuals unless it had the approval of the Attorney General. The answer therefore would be “no.”

We return to Nixon’s obsession with this wiretapping. Here is a conversation between Haldeman and Nixon on January 11, 1973, a day before Haldeman’s cited diary entry. The men discuss approaching Cartha DeLoach and getting the information on Johnson’s taping, and that it must be in a form of tangible, irrefutable evidence that’s usable, rather than a case of a series of people claiming knowledge of the event51:

NIXON
Have you had any further development, Bob, with regard to the bugging at – I mean in regard to Mitchell and his talks with DeLoach? If he had?

HALDEMAN
Yes.

NIXON
Did he see DeLoach?

HALDEMAN
Yes. He talked to DeLoach.

NIXON
DeLoach denies?

HALDEMAN
No. DeLoach says it’s true and that he has hard – he thinks – he has some hard evidence or some specifics that will lock the thing up.

NIXON
Will he say so?

HALDEMAN
I don’t know whether he’ll say so, but he’ll give us the information so that we can say so, and that’s all we need.

NIXON
Well, what I want is this from DeLoach. We know he knows who is in charge of that, probably is still in the Bureau, a bugger. Do you know what I mean? The point on that is that Gray gives him a lie detector test, calls him in,, or asks him – do you see what I mean…? That’s what I’d like him to do. I’d like to get it so it’s nailed down in terms of evidence, rather than that DeLoach told Mitchell or that Hoover, a dead man, told Mitchell, because Johnson will lie about this, if necessary, if we have to use it. My only view is that I would not want to use this story at all. This is something that I would use only for purposes of-

This approach ends on the next day with Haldeman’s diary entry, and the report that if this is brought up, Johnson will most certainly hit back with you-know-what.

The back channel diplomacy looms over Watergate in these conversations, but it also overhangs perhaps the most flagrant criminal act planned in the White House during that administration. This involved what is often referred to as “the firebombing of the Brookings Institute,” a shorthand phrase which misrepresents the primary intent of the act. The firebombing was not an attempt at vandalism, intimidation, or a false flag operation to be blamed on leftist radicals, but a cover for the actual achievement that Nixon wanted to pull off, a theft of papers from the Brookings vault.

The best description of this theft I have found which was planned, but never pulled off, can be found in Will, a memoir by G. Gordon Liddy, one of the leaders of the Watergate burglary team who also performed various intelligence and sabotage operations on behalf of the White House:

I continued my close association with Howard Hunt [a former CIA agent and the other leader of the Watergate burglars], often lunching with him at his club in Georgetown, and it was again through Hunt that ODESSA [a group put together by Liddy for intelligence and sabotage operations in the service of the White House] received its next assignment. Daniel Ellsberg had been associated in the past with Morton Halperin and the Brookings Institution and, according to Colson as relayed by Hunt, either or both of them were believed to be using Brookings for storage of substantial additional amounts of classified documents at least as sensitive, if not more so, than the Pentagon Papers. Further, the Brookings security vault might have evidence shedding light on the identity of any of Ellsberg’s criminal associates in the purloining of Top Secret Defense files; whether Paul Warnke and Leslie Gelb were among them; and whoever delivered the classified documents to the Soviet Embassy. Could we get into the vault, say, by using a fire as a diversion, and retrieve the materials?

The problem appealed to me because I recognized it as one turned down earlier by Jack Caulfield [a private detective used by the White House for investigations of their enemies]. He had mentioned it to me, with much rolling of eyes and nodding of the head in the direction of Colson’s office, as something too “far out” for his imagination and too risky for his nerve. I thought it could be done and so did Hunt. The problem was that the cover under which out men went in there had to be first-rate, and that meant costly. We devised a plan that entailed buying a used but late-model fire engine of the kind used by the District of Columbia fire department and marking it appropriately; uniforms for a squad of Cubans and their training so their performance would be believable. Thereafter, Brookings would be firebombed by use of a delay mechanism timed to go off at night so as not to endanger lives needlessly. The Cubans in the authentic-looking fire engine would “respond” minutes after the timer went off, enter, get anybody in there out, hit the vault, and get themselves out in the confusion of other fire apparatus arriving, calmly loading “rescued” material into a van. The bogus engine would be abandoned at the scene. The taking of the material from the vault would be discovered and the fire engine traced to a cut-out buyer. There would be a lot of who-struck-John in the liberal press, but because nothing could be proved the matter would lapse into the unsolved-mystery category.

Hunt submitted the plan for approval, but this time the decision was swift. “No.” Too expensive. The White House wouldn’t spring for a fire engine.

The task given to Liddy by his superiors was to retrieve the documents in the safe at Brookings because these were part of the national security papers which Daniel Ellsberg had taken, photocopied, and leaked to New York Times. We know that this was not an entirely honest assessment of what was expected to be found in the safe, because in his memoir, RN: The Memoirs of Richard Nixon, the former president provides a slight variation on why he wants this mad burglary to take place:

Ellsberg was not our only worry. From the first there had been rumors and reports of a conspiracy. The earliest report later discounted, centered on a friend of Ellsberg, a former Defense Department employee who was then a Fellow at the Brookings Institution. I remembered him from the early days of the administration when I had asked Haldeman to get me a copy of the Pentagon file on the events leading up to Johnson’s announcement of the bombing halt at the end of the 1968 campaign. I wanted to know what had actually happened; I also wanted the information as potential leverage against those in Johnson’s administration who were now trying to undercut my war policy. I was told that a copy of the bombing halt material and other secret documents had been taken from the Pentagon to Brookings by the same man. I wanted the documents back, but I was told that one copy of the bombing halt report had already “disappeared”; I was sure that if word got out that we wanted it, the copy at Brookings might disappear as well.

We might take Nixon at his word here, that he still genuinely thought the bombing halt was a political act, and he wished to know of the secret planning used to launch it as an attack against the campaign during the ’68 election, or that “the events leading up to Johnson’s announcement of the bombing halt” don’t refer to what took place on Johnson’s side, but on Nixon’s. That the “one copy of the bombing halt report had already ‘disappeared’” refers to some of the papers which Rostow took with him. Nixon, whatever his paranoia, whatever his delusions, knew that the backchannel work he orchestrated in ’68 was devastating enough that he made no mention or reference to it in his own memoir, leaving our entirely the name of Anna Chennault. Johnson may well have the restraint and code of honor to stay silent about the file against Nixon – but if something like the Rostow papers fell into the hands of other Democrats, would they show anything like the same discretion? Again, the obsession with the Brookings institute safe is not a single instance in Nixon’s memoir, but surfaces several times, often in his angriest, most frightening moments in the recordings of the White House. From Kutler’s Abuse of Power:

JUNE 17, 1971, THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, EHRLICHMAN, AND KISSINGER, 5:17-6:13 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

A few days after the publication of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon discusses how to exploit the situation to his advantage. He is interested in embarrassing the Johnson Administration on the bombing halt, for example. Here, he wants a break-in at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington think tank, to find classified documents that might be in the Brookings safe.

HALDEMAN
You maybe can blackmail [Lyndon B.] Johnson on this stuff [Pentagon Papers].

NIXON
What?

HALDEMAN
You can blackmail Johnson on this stuff and it might be worth doing…The bombing halt stuff is all in that same file or in some of the same hands…

NIXON
Do we have it? I’ve asked for it. You said you didn’t have it.

HALDEMAN
We can’t find it.

KISSINGER
We have nothing here, Mr. President.

NIXON
Well, damnit, I asked for that because I need it.

KISSINGER
But Bob and I have been trying to put the damn thing together.

HALDEMAN
We have a basic history in constructing our own, but there is a file on it.

NIXON
Where?

HALDEMAN
[Presidential aide Tom Charles] Huston swears to God there’s a file on it and it’s at Brookings [Institution, a centrist Washington "think tank"].

NIXON
…Bob? Bob? Now do you remember Huston’s plan [for White House-sponsored break-ins as part of domestic counter-intelligence operations]? Implement it.

KISSINGER
…Now Brookings has no right to have classified documents.

PRESIDENT NIXON
…I want it implemented…Goddamnit, get in and get those files. Blow the safe and get it.

HALDEMAN
They may well have cleaned them by now, but this thing, you need to-

KISSINGER
I wouldn’t be surprised if Brookings had the files.

HALDEMAN
My point is Johnson knows that those files are around. He doesn’t know for sure that we don’t have them around.

JUNE 30, 1971: THE PRESIDENT, HALDEMAN, MITCHELL, KISSINGER, ZIEGLER, AND MELVIN LAIRD, 5:17-6:23 P.M., OVAL OFFICE

E. Howard Hunt, of later fame with the “Plumbers” and the Watergate break-in, was no stranger to Nixon. Here, the President wants to use Hunt’s talents for breaking into the Brookings.

NIXON
…They [the Brookings Institution] have a lot of material…I want Brookings, I want them just to break in and take it out. Do you understand?

HALDEMAN
Yeah. But you have to have somebody to do it.

NIXON
That’s what I’m talking about. Don’t discuss it here. You talk to [E. Howard Hunt]. I want the break-in. Hell, they do that. You’re to break into the place, rifle the files, and bring them in.

HALDEMAN
I don’t have any problem with breaking in. It’s a Defense Department approved security-

NIXON
Just go in and take it. Go in around 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock.

HALDEMAN
Make an inspection of the safe.

NIXON
That’s right. You go in to inspect the sae. I mean, clean it up.

JULY 1, 1971 8:45-9:52 A.M.

NIXON
When you get to [John] Ehrlichman now, will you please get – I want you to find me a man by noon. I won’t be ready until 12:30 – a recommendation of the man to work directly with me on this whole situation. Do you know what I mean? I’ve got to have – I’ve got to have one – I mean, I can’t have a high minded lawyer like John Ehrlichman or, you know, Dean [John Dean, White House chief of staff] or somebody like that. I want somebody just as tough as I am for a change…These Goddamn lawyers, you know, all fighting around about, you know – I’ll never forget. They were all too worried about the [Charles] Manson case. I knew exactly what we were doing on Manson. You’ve got to win some things in the press.

These kids don’t understand. They have no understanding of politics. They have no understanding of public relations. John Mitchell is that way. John is always worried about is it technically correct? Do you think, for Christ sakes, that the New York Times is worried about all the legal niceties. Those sons of bitches are killing me. I mean, thank God, I leaked to the press [during the Hiss controversy]. This is what we’ve got to get – I want you to shake these (unintelligible) up around here. Now you do it. Shake them up. Get them off their Goddamn dead asses and say now that isn’t what you should be talking about. We’re up against an enemy, a conspiracy. They’re using any means. We are going to use any means. Is that clear?

Did they get the Brookings Institute raided last night? No. Get it done. I want it done. I want the Brookings Institute’s safe cleaned out and have it cleaned out in a way that it makes somebody else [responsible?].

The audio of this last is on youtube, “Nixon: raw watergate tape: Orders Brookings Institute’s safe ‘Cleaned Out’”.

OLIVER STONE’S NIXON

This episode remained dormant in the three decades after Watergate, and afterwards I look at how, despite the influx of confirming information, it remained on the fringes, an incident perhaps too disturbing, too potentially disruptive, to be given public exposure. For this was a political moment where a presidential candidate did not simply act in a way which people might disagree with, but made sure to betray the people’s will. The voters of 1968 wanted an end to the war, and Richard Nixon, who claimed to speak for the common man, who claimed to write for the silent majority worked to prevent this taking place, so that a few thousand more common men might know the sweet cold dirt.

Before reaching that point, we might stop briefly in 1995, the year after the disgraced president’s death, when Oliver Stone’s Nixon was released. One might expect this man celebrated and vilified for his conspiracies, who prides himself on exposing the underside of American history to give space to this little known moment of collusion between a U.S. presidential candidate and the leadership of a foreign power, but Stone does not, and I think I know why: this conspiracy would interfere with the overarching conspiracy theory which Nixon presents. Nixon is a strange movie, in that I’m uncertain who it was made for; those ignorant of the president and his administration will be utterly lost as to what is taking place and even who many of the characters are, while those with knowledge of the events will be astonished at the dull superficiality with which it treats some of the most fascinating and squalid moments in White House history. In an otherwise perceptive review, “Poor Richard” by David Denby, has this sections contrasting this movie’s imaginative speculations with that of Stone’s JFK:

In all, Nixon sticks much closer to ascertainable fact than did JFK (which was, I admit, entirely reckless on the subject of Lyndon Johnson and the assassination of John F. Kennedy). Stone offers only one major speculative line – Nixon’s alleged involvement as vice-president in CIA plots to assassinate Castro. The plots failed, and the plotters, including Mafia gangsters and Cuban émigrés who became furious at Kennedy after the Bay of Pigs, connived in JFK’s assassination. (Or so Stone’s Nixon thinks.) Years later, even though he had nothing personally to do with Kennedy’s death, Nixon muses incoherently over the old conspiracies and secrets.

What this misses is that the movie’s entire conception is that Nixon inhabits a vast superstructure of conspiracy, by which he becomes president, who he eventually goes against, a betrayal that results in his eventual ouster from office. Nixon is played by Anthony Hopkins as a bewildered child, a middle aged man who still resembles a boy dressed in a business suit, an idiot savant with no sense for people but a genius for diplomacy. The movie makes its conception obvious in a sequence that takes place on the day before the assassination of John Kennedy. Visually, it is very well thought out. Kennedy will be killed while in his motorcade, and we start out in darkness with the corner title “1963 DALLAS” before bright lights switch on and we discover we are at a car show. The movie gives us its most striking image, one that has a power too often lacking in Oliver Stone’s movies, that of ambiguity: beautiful women in red, white, and blue walk about the car holding whips. They are chaste, yet very erotic, an eroticism in the service of industry, and the whips are either idle fun, sexual props, or symbols of menace. This points to the primary appeal for me of Nixon, the contrast of the staid square man, self-appointed representative of the silent majority, wandering among the discordant psychedelic imagery associated with the youth culture then revolting against him.

Nixon is at this car show, and he is not the villain in what follows – he wears a white hat. The true villain is the wealthy oilman named Jack Jones, and Jones invites Nixon to his mansion where a shadowy council of unnamed men meet. They despise Kennedy, want Nixon to run for president again, and they have a foreshadowing of what will take place the next day. Dialogue is taken from the script, available here:

JONES
Dick, these boys want you to run. They’re serious. They can deliver the South and they can put Texas in your column. That would’ve done it in ’60.

NIXON
Only if Kennedy dumps Johnson.

JONES
That sonofabitch Kennedy is coming back down here tomorrow. Dick, we’re willing to put up a shitpot fulla money to get rid of him — more money’n you ever dreamed of.

NIXON
Nobody’s gonna beat Kennedy in ’64 with all the money in the world.

CUBAN
Suppose Kennedy don’t run in ’64?

NIXON
Not a chance.

CUBAN
These are dangerous times, Mr. Nixon. Anything can happen.

Nixon leaves Dallas on the day of the assassination, and we have shots of him and those eagerly awaiting Kennedy looking expectantly up at the sky. The cabal that will make Nixon president controls their world like a god of the sky.

After the assassination, there’s a scene with J. Edgar Hoover and his top lieutenant, Clyde Tolson.

TOLSON
It’s between Nixon and a Kennedy again, Edgar … Who do you want?

HOOVER
Kennedy — never. He’ll fry in hell for what he did to me. But Nixon doesn’t know that, which is why I’m gonna have to remind him he needs us a helluva lot more’n we need him.

Nixon meets Hoover and Colson at the Del Mar racetrack. A race is just finishing when the horse in the lead, Olly’s Boy, crashes to the ground, the script describing it as such, “Then, Olly Boy’s right foreleg snaps. It sounds like a rifle shot.” The horse falls just as the leading horse in the ’68 election, Bobby Kennedy fell. “Who do you want?” asks Tolson. Hoover: “Kennedy — never. He’ll fry in hell for what he did to me.” Hoover and the shadowy oilmen have arranged for Nixon to be president, expecting that he’ll do their bidding. Hoover: “I’m gonna have to remind him he needs us a helluva lot more’n we need him.”

We are given no details of the ’68 election, nothing of the advertising campaign and racial manipulation depicted in vital books like The Selling of the President by Joe McGinniss and Nixon Agonistes by Garry Wills, as these would go against the movie’s thesis of a conspiratorial theory of history, a “beast” as the script calls it, that is a military industrial complex which remains an eternal power behind the throne, occasionally shuffling its figureheads. There can be no room for the Nixon-Chennault back channel either, because this would annihilate the movie’s universe and its conception of Nixon’s character. We would then have a man apart from the beast, from the security state, demonstrating full agency outside of this colossus, and working to prolong a war for his own selfish ends. If a shabby mediocrity like Nixon can act on his own against the wishes of the security state, then the colossus can’t be as all-powerful as this movie imagines it. In the service of a questionable idea, Nixon buries a substantial truth.

The only reference to the Nixon-Chennault episode anywhere this movie isn’t to be found in the film itself, but in the published screenplay, Nixon: An Oliver Stone Film, which is accompanied by a group of essays by veterans of the Watergate affair, such as John Dean and E. Howard Hunt, as well as journalists who covered the scandal. One of these is “Nixon’s Secrets” by the late newsman Daniel Schorr, a short essay that is more interesting than the accompanying film. The piece relates four of Nixon’s paranoid obsessions, what fueled those obsessions, and the lack of substantial basis for any of them. Three of the obsessions are the Bay of Pigs “Secret”, the Diem Assassination “Plot”, and the Hughes-O’Brien Threat. These involve, respectively, that beyond the seamy facts of the Cuban invasion and Castro assassination attempts there was an additional dark secret, that Kennedy had directly ordered the killing of the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, and that Larry O’Brien, head of the Democratic National Committee, had knowledge of a secret loan made by Howard Hughes to the 1972 Nixon election campaign, which led to the break-in attempt of the DNC headquarters at the Watergate. The fourth obsession was the previously mentioned idée fixe that Lyndon Johnson had wiretapped Nixon’s campaign plane in ’68.

The two fragments from Schorr’s essay which follow are an introductory excerpt and the full segment devoted to the bugging of the campaign plane:

It is with no sense of vindictiveness that I examine what made this talented and tormented politician go off the rails. I conclude that his paranoia, whatever its origin, led him to imagine conspiracies that he came to believe and which served as premises for action. The line between deception and self-deception seemed often blurred, leading his subordinates to act on premises that sometimes mystified them. My research leads me to conclude that Nixon nourished at least four grand delusions.

3. The “Bugged” Campaign Plane

It was an article of faith for Nixon that all the dirty tricks, surveillance, and wiretaps he sponsored were simply getting back at Democrats who had done the same things. As his favorite example he often said that in 1968 the FBI had bugged his campaign plane on orders from President Lyndon Johnson. The FBI had, in fact, wiretapped a Nixon supporter, Mrs. Anna Chennault, who served as a contact with the Saigon government. But there had been no eavesdropping on Nixon or his campaign plane. Nevertheless, Nixon told Haldeman he thought the “Johnson bugging process” could be “cranked up” to get the former President to use his influence with congressional Democrats to call off the Watergate investigation.

The message was conveyed to the LBJ ranch and Johnson countered with the threat that “if the Nixon people are going to play with this,” he would release something about Nixon. That something was deleted from Haldeman’s published diary as a national security secret. However, the secret was revealed in the book, Hoover’s FBI by Cartha D. (Deke) DeLoach, who was number 3 in the FBI and liaison with the White House in both the Johnson and Nixon Administrations. Not only did the FBI wiretap Anna Chennault but the National Security Agency intercepted and decoded cablegrams from the South Vietnamese Embassy to Saigon, urging that President Thieu hold off on peace negotiations to get a better deal from Nixon after the election.

What the FBI did not do, DeLoach says, is bug the Nixon campaign plane. For one thing, DeLoach told me, it would have been unfeasible to get a bug on a plane guarded by the Secret Service. But, soon after the election, says DeLoach, Director J. Edgar Hoover, currying favor with the new President-elect, visited him and told him his campaign plane had been bugged on President Johnson’s orders. It was a myth that Nixon believed, probably until his dying day.

The conspiratorial perspective of the movie is very close to that found in a paper by entrepreneur and investor Mark Gorton, that I came across in “The Astounding Conspiracy Theories of Wall Street Genius Mark Gorton” by Hamilton Nolan.