Thursday, October 23, 2014

April 1, 2001, New York Times, C.I.A.; What Did the C.I.A. Do to His Father?, by Michael Ignatieff,

For a quarter of a century, a close friend of mine, a Harvard classmate, has believed that the Central Intelligence Agency murdered his father, a United States government scientist. Believing this means, in my friend's words, "leaving the known universe," the one in which it is innocently accepted that an agency of the American government would never do such a thing. My friend has left this known universe, even raising his father's body from the grave where it had lain for 40 years to test the story the C.I.A. told him about his death. The evidence on the body says that the agency may have lied. But knowing this has not healed my friend. When I ask him what he has learned from his ordeal, he says, "Never dig up your father." Then he laughs, and the look on his face is wild, bitter and full of pain.

On Nov. 28, 1953, around 2 a.m., Armand Pastore, night manager at the Statler Hotel opposite Penn Station in New York, rushed out the front door on Seventh Avenue to find a middle-aged man lying on the sidewalk in his undershirt and shorts. "He was broken up something awful," Pastore told reporters many years later, flat on his back with his legs smashed and bent at a terrible angle. Looking up, Pastore could see a blind pushed through an empty window frame high up in the Statler. The man had fallen from the 10th floor -- apparently after crashing through a closed window -- but he was alive. "He was trying to mumble something, but I couldn't make it out. It was all garbled, and I was trying to get his name." By the time the priest and the ambulance came, the stranger on the sidewalk was dead.

When Pastore went up to the stranger's room -- 1018A -- with the police, they found a man who gave his name as Robert Lashbrook sitting on the toilet with his head in his hands. Down at reception, Pastore asked the hotel telephone operator whether she had overheard any calls from 1018A. Two, she said. In one, a voice had said, "He's gone." The voice on the other end replied, "That's too bad." Lashbrook admitted making two calls but has denied saying anything of the sort.

The high trees over the family house in Frederick, Md., were still in darkness when Eric Olson was woken by his mother, Alice, and taken into the living room. Upstairs, his younger sister, Lisa, and brother, Nils, slept undisturbed. Lt. Col. Vincent Ruwet, his father's boss at the Army research establishment at Fort Detrick, told Eric something bad had happened. "Fallen or jumped" and "accident" were the words he heard as he looked across the room at his mother, frozen and empty-eyed, on the sofa opposite. "In that moment when I learned that my father had gone out a window and died," Eric later wrote, "it was as if the plug were pulled from some central basin of my mind and a vital portion of my consciousness drained out." He was 9 years old.

When I first met Eric Olson in 1974, both of us were working on doctorates at Harvard. Mine was in history, his in clinical psychology. What I liked about him was his maniacal cackle. One minute he would be laboring some abstruse point in his Southern drawl, the next his face would be alight with a snaggle-toothed grin, and his body would be electrified by the joke he had just slipped by me, deadpan. The laugh was an attractive and alarming trait, because sometimes he would laugh about things that weren't funny at all.

His Harvard research was about how to help people recover from trauma. With the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton, he had been to Man, W.Va., to interview survivors of a disaster in which 125 people had been killed and 4,000 people made homeless when a dam burst and a wall of black water containing coal waste swept down Buffalo Creek. He and Lifton wrote a paper that spoke of the way sudden, violent loss left people imprinted with death anxiety and long-term psychic numbing.

I remember Eric talking for hours in his Cambridge apartment about a technique he had been using to help the people of Buffalo Creek. It was called the "collage method," and it involved getting survivors to paste together pictures, using anything they felt like clipping out of newspapers and magazines. It seemed childish to me at first, but Eric said that for people whose lives were in pieces anyway, collage was mysteriously satisfying. They would work for hours in silence, he said, moving about the floor, sticking things down, and sometimes when they had finished, they would contemplate what they had done and start to cry.

After 75 years of psychoanalysis -- the talking cure -- here was a therapy, Eric believed, that didn't start from words but from images. It seemed to unfurl the winding processes of a person's unconscious and lay them out flat on paper. Eric had been playing around with his father's camera and making photomontages since childhood. But he didn't stumble on the power of collage until he was in his 20's. One stoned night, he and a girlfriend got down on their knees in her apartment and began cutting pictures out of magazines and gluing them down. When Eric finished, the central image of his collage was a grainy picture of a man falling head first out of a window.

On June 11, 1975, The Washington Post revealed that a commission led by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller had discovered that "a civilian employee of the Department of the Army unwittingly took LSD as part of a Central Intelligence Agency test" and "developed serious side effects." After being sent to New York with a C.I.A. escort for psychiatric treatment, the employee jumped from a hotel window and died as a result. The Rockefeller report added a footnote: "There are indications in the few remaining agency records that this individual may have had a history of emotional instability."

Back in Frederick, Lisa Olson confronted Vincent Ruwet, her father's old boss at Detrick. He had regularly visited Alice Olson, shared a drink with her, become a trusted friend of the children. Ruwet stalled at first but eventually confirmed that the man in the story was Frank Olson and that he had known the details in The Post story all along.

If Ruwet had known all along, then the family had lived for 22 years in a community of lies: families of government scientists who had kept the truth away from a family dying from the lack of it. This culture of secrecy had also contaminated the family from within. Alice Olson covered the whole subject of Frank's death with a silence that was both baffling and intimidating. Her mantra, whenever Eric would ask what really happened in Room 1018A, was, "You are never going to know what happened in that room."

Maintaining stoic silence took its toll. By the 1960's, Alice Olson was routinely drinking on the quiet, locking herself in the bathroom and then coming out mean and confused. One time, when Eric returned from a year away in India, he walked right past her in the airport. The drinking had left her so thin and wasted that he didn't recognize her. All the time, Ruwet had been there for her, keeping her company. It later turned out that he had received orders from the C.I.A.'s director, Allen Dulles, to keep in touch with her.

With their mother locked in silence, the children were left alone with their own sense of shame about their father's death. Eric told other children that his father had suffered "a fatal nervous breakdown," without knowing what that could possibly mean. Thanks to The Post's revelations, the summer of 1975 was the family's "Copernican Revolution." They gave the exclusive on their personal story to Seymour Hersh of The New York Times, and when he came through the door of the house in Frederick, his first words were: "This must be the most uncurious family in the United States. I can't believe you fell for that story for 22 years." Later, at a news conference in the backyard at Frederick, under the big trees, the family announced that they were going to sue the government for wrongful death. Their ultimate purpose, they said, was to imprint what had happened to their father in "American memory."

The news conference had immediate results. On July 21, 1975, Alice, Eric, Nils, Lisa and Lisa's husband, Greg Hayward, were invited to the White House. In the Oval Office, according to newspaper accounts, President Gerald Ford expressed ''the sympathy of the American people and apologized on behalf of the U.S. government.'' There is a photograph of Alice shaking the president's hand. Her face is glowing. Even so, catharsis was brief. The meeting with the president lasted 17 minutes.

A week or so later, Eric, Lisa, Nils and two lawyers met the C.I.A.'s director, William Colby, at the agency's headquarters in Langley, Va. In his memoirs, Colby remembered the lunch as "one of the most difficult assignments I have ever had." At the end of the lunch, Colby handed the family an inch-thick sheaf of declassified documents relating to Frank Olson's death. What Colby did not tell them -- did not reveal until he published his memoirs just three years later -- was that Frank Olson had not been a civilian employee of the Department of the Army. He had been a C.I.A. employee working at Fort Detrick.

The Colby documents were photocopies of the agency's own in-house investigation of Olson's death and like Eric's collages: a redacted jumble of fragments, full of unexplained terms like the "Artichoke" and "Bluebird" projects. These turned out to be the precursors of what became known as MK-ULTRA, a C.I.A. project, beginning in the Korean War, to explore the use of drugs like LSD as truth serums, as well as botulism and anthrax, for use in covert assassination.

The documents claimed that during a meeting between the C.I.A. and Fort Detrick scientists at Deep Creek Lodge in rural Maryland on Nov. 19,1953, Sidney Gottlieb of the C.I.A. slipped LSD into Olson's glass of Cointreau. After 20 minutes, Olson developed mild symptoms of disorientation. He was then told the drink had been spiked. The next day, Olson returned home early and spent the weekend in a mood that Alice remembered as withdrawn but not remotely psychotic. He kept saying he had made a terrible mistake, but she couldn't get him to say what it was.
Is the point of the narrative to suggest that only Olson was dosed with LSD by Gottlieb that particular evening, and not his confederates? Given Gottlieb's reputation for play, without any signs of an active "experiment" being underway (unless Olson drank Cointreau at lunch in the laboratory) I can picture a dinner scene at Deep Creek Lodge, with the stress being on the word deep. All of this would never have come to light since no one else had the same reaction to the drug. Conversely, Gottlieb may have previously targeted Olson as a backslider. A Baltimore Sun article from 2012,1 differs significantly from Ignatieff's telling, by saying it was at "the secret British military research center at Porton Down," where "Olson witnessed 'extreme interrogations' in which 'the CIA committed murder' using biological agents Olson had developed." If Olson had been dismayed by his experience in the summer of 1953, it would have been pretty stupid for him to have confided to the in-house psychiatrist William Sargant, who immediately advised British intelligence (see below) to ban Olson from Porton Down. Olson would have then been between a rock and a hard place, if he was sufficient informed as to company secrets to be a threat, yet had failed some crucial step in the "being read in" process. He may then have been a classic potential whistleblower whose disenfranchisement with the company predated any "spiritual awakening" occasioned by LSD
On Sunday night, they went to see a film about Martin Luther. It followed the young Luther to the moment of spiritual crisis -- Here I stand, I can do no other" -- when he decided to take on the might of the Catholic Church. The next day, Olson went straight to Ruwet's office and said he wanted to resign. Ruwet told him to calm down. The next morning, he returned to Ruwet's office and insisted that his resignation be accepted. While Alice's memory was of Frank being in the grip of an ethical dilemma, Ruwet told C.I.A. investigators that Olson "appeared to be greatly agitated and in his own words, 'all mixed up.'"

Ruwet and Robert Lashbrook, a C.I.A. liaison at Fort Detrick, took Olson to New York -- ostensibly to seek psychiatric advice. But the doctor Olson saw, an allergist named Harold Abramson, was receiving C.I.A. financing to experiment with LSD, and his sole exercise of therapeutic attention was to prescribe Nembutal and bourbon to help Olson sleep.

Olson was also taken to see John Mulholland, a New York magician on the C.I.A. payroll, who may have tried to hypnotize him. Ruwet told C.I.A. investigators that in Mulholland's presence, Olson became highly agitated. "What's behind this?" he kept asking his friend Ruwet. "Give me the lowdown. What are they trying to do with me? Are they checking me for security?" "Everyone was in a plot to 'get' him," he told Lashbrook. He begged them to "just let me disappear."

According to the documents Colby had given the family, Olson spent an agonized night wandering the streets of New York, discarding his wallet and identification cards. He said he was too ashamed to go home to his wife and children, so he and Lashbrook ate a cheerless Thanksgiving dinner at a Horn & Hardart automat in Midtown.

Late the next day, according to the C.I.A. story, it was decided that Olson needed to be institutionalized. Yet when Olson phoned Alice that night, he said that he felt "much better" and "looked forward to seeing her the next day." That night, in Room 1018A, with Lashbrook in the bed by the door, Olson was calm: he washed out his socks and underwear and went to sleep. Four hours later, Armand Pastore found him lying on his back on Seventh Avenue.

The C.I.A.'s general counsel, called in immediately in 1953 to investigate Olson's death, noted that the official story -- that LSD "triggered" the suicide -- was "completely inconsistent" with the facts in the case. Disciplinary action was recommended against Gottlieb and Lashbrook, but the agency's director, Allen Dulles, delivered only a mild reprimand. Lashbrook left the agency, but Gottlieb remained in senior positions for 20 more years. He told the internal inquiry that Olson's death was "just one of the risks running with scientific experimentation." Far from ending with Olson's death, the LSD experiments continued for two decades.

The Colby documents left the family marooned, no longer believing that Frank's death was a simple suicide but not knowing what to believe instead. A photograph in People magazine in July 1975 shows each of them in the living room in Frederick, unsmiling and not looking at one another. In 1976, after negotiations in which they traded away their right to further civil or criminal proceedings against the government, the family received a total of $750,000, half a million less than originally recommended by the White House and even the C.I.A. itself.

If this was "closure," it was of an especially cursed kind. Shortly after receiving her portion of the money, Eric's sister, together with her husband and their 2-year-old son, Jonathan, set off by small plane from Frederick to a destination in the Adirondacks, where they were going to invest the money in a lumber mill. The plane crashed, and everyone on board was killed.
I would check into the circumstances of this plane crash. In the Hobbesian world of secret intelligence, plane crashes are a favored method of dispatching problem people. Had Lisa been the difficult family member to deal with? Or may this be just a coincidence?
In the aftermath of Lisa's death, Eric took his portion of the money and went to Sweden to escape the accursed story. In Stockholm, he read intensively, exploring the connection between his spatial, collage-based theory of the mind and linguistic accounts of mental processes. He also had a son, Stephan, by a woman he never married. If distance was supposed to heal him, however, the cure didn't work. He "smoldered" in Stockholm and in 1984 returned to the States determined, he said, to find out the truth "once and for all."

"Once and for all" meant returning to the hotel and checking into Room 1018A. He recalls this strange night now as a revelation. "It just hit you," he says. The room was simply too small for his father to have gained the speed to take a running plunge through the window. The sill was too high and too wide -- there was a radiator in front of it -- for him to have dived through a closed window and a lowered blind in the dark.

Eric, Nils and Alice, now recovered from alcoholism, tracked down Sidney Gottlieb in his ecologically correct home in Culpeper, Va., where the retired spymaster was raising goats, eating yogurt and preaching the values of peace and environmentalism. He received them pleasantly but conceded nothing. "I was outclassed," Eric remembers. "This was a world-class intelligence." They also found Lashbrook, at his vine-covered stucco house in Ojai, Calif., where they watched him twitch in his seat as he told his version of what happened in room 1018A -- that he was awakened by a crash, saw a broken window and an empty bed and concluded that Frank Olson had jumped to his death.

From these encounters, Eric realized that he was up against a brotherhood of silence and that his father had once belonged to it. It was, as one former Detrick employee called it, "a community of saints" dedicated to using the most fearful and secret science to defend the republic.

Frank Olson's specialty, it turned out, had been the development of aerosols for the delivery of anthrax. With the discovery in the 1950's that the North Koreans were brainwashing American prisoners, the Special Operations Division at Detrick became the center for the development of drugs for use in brainwashing and interrogation. LSD emerged as one of the interrogation drugs of choice. Alice Olson never knew exactly what her husband was doing -- he was, in fact, working for the C.I.A. by this time -- but she did know that whenever his lab tested chemical or biological compounds on monkeys and the monkeys died, her husband would bring a testy silence home.

One mystery -- entry and exit stamps in Frank Olson's passport, indicating that he had been to Sweden, Germany and Britain in the summer of 1953 -- seemed to offer a crucial clue to his state of mind in the months before his death. Through Gordon Thomas, a British journalist and author of numerous books on intelligence matters, Eric learned that during a trip to London his father had apparently confided in William Sargant, a consultant psychiatrist who advised British intelligence on brainwashing techniques.

According to Thomas, who was a lifelong friend of Sargant's, Olson told Sargant that he had visited secret joint American-British testing and research installations near Frankfurt. Thomas's hypothesis is that the C.I.A. was testing interrogation and truth serums there -- not on monkeys but on human subjects, "expendables," captured Russian agents and ex-Nazis. Thomas says that Olson confessed to Sargant that he had witnessed something terrible, possibly "a terminal experiment" on one or more of the expendables. Sargant heard Olson out and then reported to British intelligence that the young American scientist's misgivings were making him a security risk. He recommended that Olson be denied further access to Porton Down, the British chemical-weapons research establishment.
There is a certain naivete at work here, or else Ignatieff is deliberately misdirecting analysis of the facts. Yes, it is chilling that American and British authorities were doing human testing at secret sites on "expendables," i.e. persons outside the protection of law, but it is not surprising. This is what happens when somebody loses a war and must depend on the mercy of the victor. But it is no different than the C.I.A. "black sites" and Guantanamo prison in the present 21st century warscape. What is illogical is to think that research into truth serums would lead to "possibly ''a terminal experiment' on one or more of the expendables," when the chief protagonist in this story is a scientist who works on the aerosol delivery of anthrax---i.e. its weaponizing.) I'm sure Sidney Gottlieb tried to weaponize LSD too, but it wasn't in the nature of the compound. The drug was useful, as perhaps with Olson, to get beneath a person's veneer of conformity, even below "the lies one tells oneself," which are imperceptible as deceits told to others because they exist as truths, except at some unconscious level of the soul.
Frank Olson would never have achieved his position as a C.I.A. researcher at Fort Detrick had he ever displayed any scruples as to the nature of his work previously, which, let's face it---was the development of weapons of mass destruction. I'm sure those who exist inside this little paradigm have their stories which they use as justifications---something akin to "peacekeeping missile" that rhymes with "life-giving anthrax," maybe even a Bible verse or two. People like myself, outside this closed construct, can view anyone working with poisonous biological agents as insane, but then, it is hinted, we don't know what we don't know. The military-intelligence maw has grown so structurally self-generating that even the wives and children of those so employed are caught up within a field of disease. Their children all attend private company schools and are raised only with one another. I saw an ad recently in the Washington Post for a lifecare community in the suburbs somewhere outside the district---with retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and a nursing home ---which was only open to military and agency retirees and their families. After decades working toward enfranchising blacks, women and others into a more  level American society, most of us now find ourselves back at cracker and nigger, with Massa Homeland Security in the big house with the rich folk.
A document Eric later saw from his father's personnel file confirmed that doubts had been raised about Olson's security clearance before his death, possibly because of Sargant's warning. Alice Olson, who knew nothing about the nature of his visit, did recall that when he returned from Europe that summer, Frank was unusually withdrawn.

Olson, a scientist by training, would have known that he was working for a government that had put Nazi scientists on trial at Nuremberg for immoral experiments on human beings. Now, in the late summer of 1953, his son says he believes, a naïve American patriot faced up to the possibility that his own government was doing the same thing. If the C.I.A. was in fact experimenting with ''expendables'' in Germany, and if Olson knew about it, Eric reasoned, then it would not be enough to hospitalize him, discredit him with lies about his mental condition and allow him to slip back into civilian life. It would be better to get rid of him altogether but make it look like suicide. This was the truth, Eric came to believe, that lay hidden in the collage of the Colby documents.
"Olson, a scientist by training, would have known that he was working for a government that had put Nazi scientists on trial at Nuremberg for immoral experiments on human beings."
Here Ignatieff is feeding us Jewish rhetoric and pablum. Before there was "Artichoke" and "Bluebird," let alone MK-ULTRA, there was Operation Paperclip, the C.I.A. sponsored mass migration of the secret scientific and intelligence apparatus of Nazi Germany into the United States. Do you think they vetted the innocent from the guilty, or the useful from the expendable? The Nuremberg Tribunal (not "trial," which has a higher standard for proving fact) was the minimum necessary to construct a synthetic reality (Although the movie was terrific, Judy Garland and .Marlene Dietrich especially, which is all the public really cares about anyway.)
Eric Olson is spot on about a motive for an agency decision to eliminate his father, but even the head of the C.I.A. can be involuntarily terminated with finality if it were in the interests of the company---for instance, when facing a Congressional subpoena during some especially dicey period. Scientists at Fort Detrick have one of the highest premature death rates of any occupation in the world, but the hazard isn't biological---it's political.
If Eric is right, slipping LSD into Olson's Cointreau was not an experiment that went wrong: it was designed to get him to talk while hallucinating. The trip to New York was not to manage and contain his incipient psychosis. It was intended to assess what kind of risk he posed and then eliminate him if necessary. Housing a possibly deranged and desperate man in a hotel room high above Seventh Avenue was not a regrettable error of judgment. It was the prelude to murder. If Frank Olson had realized this, his son could now read his father's last words ("Just let me disappear") as a cry for help.
No. "Just let me disappear," is the cry of, "let me go ghost," or "let me go to castaway island with the thousands of others." (I'm convinced Michael Jackson has been living under a full burka in an upscale neighborhood of Dubai these past few years.)
In 1997, after the C.I.A. inadvertently declassified an assassination manual dating from late 1953, Eric Olson was able to read the following: ''The most efficient accident, in simple assassination, is a fall of 75 feet or more onto a hard surface. Elevator shafts, stairwells, unscreened windows and bridges will serve. . . . The act may be executed by sudden, vigorous [excised] of the ankles, tipping the subject over the edge." The manual went on to recommend a blow to the temple to stun the subject first: "In chase cases it will usually be necessary to stun or drug the subject before dropping him."
The designation "simple assassination" presupposes other, more complex kinds---like the ritualistic, occult, or those fraught with a message, or meaning to those able to decode it. Any first-degree murder, where the time has been established in advanced, takes on occult power.
Reading this passage at the kitchen table in Frederick, Eric realized that the word he had been looking for all his life was not "fallen" or "jumped" but "dropped." It was, he recalled, one of the few moments when, after nearly 50 years, he actually experienced his father's death, when the truth he had been seeking finally took hold of him.

In allowing the Olson family to receive the ultimate sacrament of American healing -- a formal apology from the president in the Oval Office -- the C.I.A. tacitly acknowledged that it had committed a sin against the order that holds citizens in allegiance to their government. Now, it seemed to Eric Olson, that apology had been a cynical lie. It enabled the C.I.A. to hide, forever, a perfect murder.
No one forced the Olson family to accept a sum of money in lieu of filing a civil case, where they might take a financial gamble, but where they also could be responsible for uncovering, at least partially, the systemic abuses inherent in a sunless region that grows darker every decade. But like the King and the Kennedy nobody ever goes to trial. The CIA and the executive branch originally did award $1.25 million to the Olsons, but criticism of the award  as excessive by Congressmen had it lowered to $750,000.
It is one thing to believe in a truth as painful as this. It is another to prove it. In 1994, Eric had his father's casket raised from the ground. At the funeral in 1953, the coffin was shut because the family had been told that the body was broken up and that there were extensive cuts and lacerations to the face caused by the fall through the glass. In fact, the body had been embalmed, and it was in nearly perfect condition.

Eric stared down at a face he had last seen 41 years before. There were no lacerations consistent with damage by glass. On further examination, the forensic team, led by James Starrs of George Washington University, discovered a blow to Olson's temple, on the left side, which caused a fist-size bleed under the otherwise unbroken skin. It could not have occurred, the pathologists agreed, after he went out the window because the velocity of his descent would have caused more extensive trauma. While one team member thought it could have occurred as the head hit the window frame on the way out, Starrs and the others were certain it had been inflicted before that. The conclusion that both Starrs and Eric drew was that someone had knocked Olson out, either while he slept or after a struggle, and then thrown him out the window.

Since the autopsy, Eric has pursued leads to find out who actually carried out "the wet work" on his father. H.P. Albarelli, a writer-researcher with contacts among retired C.I.A. agents in Florida, has found agents who say they know the identity of the men who went into Room 1018A that night in November 1953, supposedly to tip Olson through the window. They were not C.I.A. men, they say, but contract killers associated with the Trafficante mob family hired by the C.I.A. But none of the retired C.I.A. agents, men now in their 70's and 80's, are about to come forward unless they are released from their confidentiality agreements with the agency.
The term "wet work" is used exclusively as insider slang within the intelligence community; while the mob, I believe, generally uses the term "whacked" [but also clip, hit, pop, burn, or "put a contract out."] I think it is much less damaging to innocent American sensibilities for plebeians to imagine the C.I.A. has had, on occasion, been forced to eliminate or dispose of one of their own members---a rogue agent who goes over to the other side, for instance, or even those retired agents in Florida who dare not break their vow of omerta--excuse me, make that "confidentiality agreements" on pain of---what? Is an eighty-year-old afraid of losing his pension?
In the case of an agent whose mental, spiritual, or psychic allegiance to the hierarchy of secrets becomes an organizational threat, it also makes perfect sense to whack the s.o.b. What is not acceptable to American thought or moral pretension, however, is that the C.I.A. or the F.B.I. would "contract" out their dirty work to the Trafficante mob family. The incestuousness this implies is startling in the extreme. By extension, it would mean that the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. really function as the enforcers of old John D. Rockefeller's maxim, "to hell with competition," as it applies to enormously profitable crimes such as the illicit drug market and gambling. I suspect this is the case, and has been since Prohibition
In 1996, Olson approached Manhattan's district attorney, Robert Morgenthau, to see if his office would open a new investigation into the Olson case. Stephen Saracco and Daniel Bibb of Morgenthau's "cold case" unit have deposed Lashbrook in Ojai; they have followed up a few of the hundreds of leads that Eric Olson besieges them with almost daily. But the Manhattan D.A., while probably agreeable to immunity for Albarelli's sources in Florida, has not pursued the confidentiality releases. If you talk to Saracco and Bibb in the Italian restaurant in lower Manhattan where they hang out after-hours, you get the impression that they don't think there's a case to send to a grand jury. If you ask them why they don't go down to Florida to talk to Albarelli's jealously guarded sources, they look at you as if to say, "How do you know these people exist?"

If there isn't enough for the Manhattan D.A. to take to a jury, Eric and his lawyer, Harry Huge, will have to bring a civil suit of their own, claiming that the C.I.A. lied in 1976 when it secured the family's agreement to waive further legal proceedings. Eric says he knows the truth, but it is not the ''smoking gun'' kind of forensic truth that will force the agency to go to court and be put through the discovery process. And if you lack provable truth, you do not get justice. Without justice, there is no accountability, and without accountability there is no healing, no resolution.

Last autumn, after nearly 25 years of our lives going in different directions, I went to see Eric in Frederick. The family home, a ranch house, is in a decayed state of suspended animation -- seemingly the same carpets, same couches, same dusty jar of Vaseline in the bathroom cabinet that were there the night Frank Olson died. Living there is worst at Thanksgiving, the time of his death.

Eric has taken a break from his work on the collage method, and the huge books of patients' collages now lie shut up in storage nearby. The house is full of drafts of books on collage, as well as books about his father's story that remain unfinished because the story itself lacks an ending. Eric lives on foundation grants, book advances and some help from his brother and others. He spends his days hounding journalists, the Manhattan D.A., anyone who will listen, with a steady stream of calls and e-mail messages from an office just feet away from the same living room, the same chair, the very spot where he was told by Ruwet that his father had "fallen or jumped." That he is convinced that the word was neither "fallen" nor "jumped," but "dropped," does not heal. Indeed, his story makes you wonder about that noble phrase "The truth shall make you free." As it happens, that phrase is inscribed in the entry hall of the C.I.A.'s headquarters.
Well it's not meant to be taken literally Ignatieff! Do you think they'd give away agency secrets inlaid on the marble lobby floor? Victor Ostrovsky in his book 2 alleges the "former" motto of Israel's secret intelligence service, the Mossad was "be-tahbūlōt ta`aseh lekhā milkhamāh," or in Hebrew: בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה, which intends an English meaning of "By Way of Deception, Thou Shalt Do War." Michael Ignatieff could be reminded of the genesis of that saying, from Proverbs 24:6, which in the King James 2000 Bible translates as "For by wise counsel you shall wage your war: and in a multitude of counselors there is safety." 
Eric knows that to charge the most secretive agency of American government with murder is to incur the suspicion that you have become deranged by anger, grief, paranoia, greed or a combination of all four. "Eric is crazy, Eric is obsessed," he says, mimicking his accusers. "Fine. I agree." A maniacal cackle. "But it's not the point. The point is" -- and here his eyes go flat and cold and relentless -- what happened in the damned room."

This article was published in the New York Times Magazine five months and ten days before the epochal event of September 11th, 2001. Eric Olson's feeling isolated from the dominant American paradigm of law and order, with the fear he is judged as crazy for standing in opposition to a failure of justice, was appropriate to the fall of 2000, but that certainly isn't true today.

Just before I left, we went to the graves of his mother, sister and brother-in-law and their child, the place where he wants his father to be buried. When I asked him when the reburial will happen, he paused to think. "When we know what to say," he said finally, looking down at the spare piece of grass beside his mother's grave. "When it is over. When we can do it right."

It takes me a while after I leave Eric to grasp one salient fact that may make resolution difficult. For seven years, his father's bones have lain in a filing cabinet in James Starrs's office. Only the bones -- and not all of them -- remain intact. To get at the truth of what happened to Frank Olson, the pathologists had to rip the skin off his limbs and tear his body apart, macerate it and send it in chunks to various labs for analysis. In the search for truth, Eric had to tear his father's body limb from limb.

The fact is, it will never be possible to bury all of Frank Olson again. Now I understand why, when I asked Eric what he had learned from his 25-year ordeal, he told me that no one should ever dig up his father's body. Now I know why my friend's wild laugh is so full of pain.

Photos: Eric Olson still lives in the family's ranch house.; Far left: The hotel where Eric (above with his father) says his father had neither "jumped" nor "fallen" from a 10th-floor window but was "dropped." Left: The summer before his death in 1953, Frank Olson may have visited secret research and testing facilities in Germany.; Clockwise from top: In July 1975, Frank Olson's family received an apology for his death from President Ford. One of the children scribbled on their father's obituary from the local paper. A family photo (Eric is the Scout) taken not long before Olson's death. (Taryn Simon from left: U.P.I.-Bettmann/Corbis; Eric Olson (2).

I'll append a final comment down here at the end of Ignatieff's article, which I must say, moved me a great deal when I first read it, especially, since I had only glanced at the author's name and assumed I was reading a piece by Michael Isikoff, but he's a different kettle of fish.

From the June 26, 2006, Baltimore Sun, Making, fighting diseases of terror, by Douglas Birch:

Biologists at Fort Detrick's newest biodefense center may be asked to make some of the world's deadliest microbes even more dangerous than they already are. One of the biologists' jobs, according to chief scientist Bernard Courtney, will be to create pathogens to match strains that terrorists are clandestinely producing and then develop vaccines and drugs to combat them. But some arms control specialists worry that the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center - now operating out of borrowed lab space at the Frederick base and elsewhere - might develop new vaccine-resistant or lethal microbes without solid evidence of a terrorist plot to unleash similar bugs.
The assertion that terrorists are clandestinely developing deadly strains of microbes puts me in mind of the scene in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, where the Taliban are exercising their terrorist skills by traversing an overhead monkey bar. We now have Ebola to deal with, and I'll take LSD over anthrax any day.

1 December 8, 2012, Baltimore Sun, Six decades later, sons seek answers on death of Detrick scientist, by Matthew Hay Brown, The Baltimore Sun,

Frank Olson had joined the Special Operations Division of the Army's Biological Laboratory at Fort Detrick at its inception in 1950. He was issued a Q clearance, the civilian equivalent of the military's top secret clearance, and worked with the CIA on MK-ULTRA.

As part of that work, he traveled in 1953 to Britain, France and West Germany. At the secret British military research center at Porton Down, the sons say, Olson witnessed "extreme interrogations" in which "the CIA committed murder" using biological agents Olson had developed.

They say a psychiatrist there, William Sargent, grew concerned that Olson "had serious misgivings related to those murders and might therefore pose a security risk," and so recommended to his superiors that Olson no longer be granted access to classified research facilities in Britain.

2By Way of Deception: The Making and Unmaking of a Mossad Officer, [1] by Victor Ostrovsky,

October 1, 1990, People Magazine, Vol. 34, No. 13, As Israel Tries to Smother His Book, a Former Mossad Spy Spills Some Dark Secrets of That Shadowy Service, by Ken Gross,

October 18, 1971, The Washington Post, The FBI Bungles Hijacking; Transcript's Tale: Pilot's Plea Ignored, 3 Die, by George Lardner Jr.,

September 30, 2006, Shelbyville Times-Gazette, Anniversary of a hijacking, by Clint Confehr, diigo,
October 11, 2014,, America's counter-terrorism lie: Waging war with secret rules, hypocrisy and worse,

January 11, 1994, New York Times, Letter, Human Guinea Pigs Are American as Apple Pie, by Samuel Chavkin,

January 11, 1994, New York Times, Letter, Human Guinea Pigs Are American as Apple Pie, by Samuel Chavkin, author of "The Mind Stealers" (Boston, 1978).

To the Editor:

My plaudits for your reports on the harrowing nuclear experiments on Americans carried out in Government laboratories and medical research centers. Subjecting people to experiments, in most instances without knowledge of the risks involved and without their consent, has been a continuing practice by Government agencies. A Jan. 5 news article discusses the difficulty the Central Intelligence Agency is having finding records of the experiments.

However, at a Senate hearing on Aug. 3, 1977, Adm. Stansfield Turner, former C.I.A. director, disclosed that the agency had been conducting brainwashing experiments on countless Americans -- prisoners, mentally ill patients, cancer patients and even unwitting patrons at bars in New York, San Francisco and other cities. Some were drugged with LSD and other psychotropic agents.

This was the cold war period, when the focus was on spying and counterspying. Thus, the main objective of this mammoth C.I.A. effort, which cost the taxpayers at least $25 million, was to program the experimental subject to do the programmer's bidding, even if it would lead to the subject's destruction. As you reported Aug. 2, 1977, a C.I.A. memorandum of Jan. 25, 1952, asked "whether it was possible to get control of an individual to the point where he will do our bidding against his will and even against such fundamental laws of nature as self-preservation."

Mind control and behavior modification experiments in this period also became the underpinnings for a "medical" approach to stem the rise of social disquiet following the murder of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hundreds of thousands of Dr. King's followers were out in the streets throughout the United States demanding that their civil rights be recognized and that Dr. King's assassins be brought to justice. Many protests led to violent confrontations with the police.

Two physicians from Harvard, Dr. Frank E. Ervin, a neuropsychiatrist, and Dr. Vernon H. Mark, a neurosurgeon, in a letter to the journal of the American Medical Association, proposed a surgical strategy to resolve such conflicts. In their view protesters who violently resisted police control were suffering from "brain dysfunction," a condition, they said, that could be remedied by psychosurgery.

They proposed implantation of very thin electrodes in the amygdala region of the brain where "bad" brain cells, presumed to be associated with violent behavior, would be burned out with an electrical charge.

Despite an angry outcry from many physicians who charged that this was in effect a return to the discredited lobotomy operations used on shell-shocked soldiers following World War II, law enforcement authorities welcomed the approach. Especially impressed with psychosurgery was Ronald Reagan, then Governor of California, who was ready to allocate $1 million to set up a "violence-reduction" center.

Without much further ado, psychosurgery got under way in the Vacaville penitentiary in California; at Atmoree State Prison in Birmingham, Ala., where 50 such operations were performed, and in other prisons. The Veterans Administration used psychosurgery in its hospitals in Durham, N.C.; Long Beach, Calif., Minneapolis and Syracuse. As a result, many prisoner guinea pigs entered into a semi-vegetable state of mind.

Psychosurgeries were finally halted when civil libertarians and the Congressional Black Caucus denounced them as racist, since most of the prison population was made up of African-Americans and other minorities.

New York, Jan. 5, 1994 The writer is the author of "The Mind Stealers" (Boston, 1978).

Saturday, October 18, 2014

June 24, 1998, Brill's Content, Starr Burst: Leaks & Lies, by Robert Parry,

June 24, 1998, Brill's Content, Starr Burst: Leaks & Lies, by Robert Parry,

A veteran Associated Press reporter who covered America's early space shots was outraged when the directors of "The Right Stuff" used a troupe of acrobats in suits to portray the journalists. He felt the image of monkey-like reporters scaling trees and climbing over fences to spy on the wives and children of the astronauts exaggerated what happened. "We may have pissed on their lawn," the AP reporter growled, "but we never broke any windows."

For many years, I agreed that the movie version of obnoxious reporters jabbing microphones in the faces of people caught in the news was a bit over the top. Most reporters, I knew, were hard-working professionals. But with the melt-down over the Monica Lewinsky "scandal," I can no longer argue the point.

Washington journalism has become a scandal in its own right, worse than any movie portrayal. In combination with aggressive conservatives determined to negate the results of the last two presidential elections, the media now is threatening the very democratic system that a free press was meant to safeguard.

Driven by competition and baited to prove it's not "liberal," the Washington press corps has joined a kind of a coup d'etat for the Information Age. New evidence shows just how successful President Clinton's enemies have been in manipulating this "scandal" and turning reporters into collaborators.

In an account published on June 22, an associate editor of U.S. News & World Report reviewed two hours of previously undisclosed tapes made by Linda Tripp of her conversations with Lewinsky. The tapes revealed Tripp trying to lead Lewinsky into damaging admissions and suggesting actions that the press would later interpret as evidence of Clinton obstructing justice. Tripp, for instance, urges Lewinsky to ask Clinton for a job, the very action that rests at the center of ongoing impeachment speculation.

According to the U.S. News account, the two hours of tapes do indicate that Lewinsky was infatuated with Clinton but only support suspicions that Lewinsky engaged in suggestive phone conversations with the president. Complimenting Lewinsky on her sultry voice, Tripp declared, "No wonder the president likes to have phone sex with you." Lewinsky doesn't answer.


The U.S. News story comes on the heels of a 29-page report in the new magazine, Brill's Content, in which editor Steven Brill supplies other details on how the media was used, wittingly or not, as a political weapon. Tracing the first three weeks of the Lewinsky "scandal," sometimes hour by hour, Brill exposes how thoroughly two Clinton-hating operatives -- Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp -- stage-managed the opening acts and how conservative special prosecutor Kenneth Starr then directed the press hysteria that followed.

"What makes the media's performance a true scandal, a true example of an institution being corrupted to its core, is that the competition for scoops so bewitched almost everyone that they let the man in power [Starr] write the story -- once Tripp and Goldberg put it together for him," Brill wrote as a lead-in to the article called "Pressgate." [Brill's Content, Aug. 1998]

Brill concluded that many of the disclosures to Starr's favored reporters -- The Washington Post's Susan Schmidt, Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and ABC News' Jackie Judd -- came from a combination of the Goldberg-Tripp duo and Starr's office. Brill used tough language, calling some reporters "lap dogs" and others "stenographers."

"I have personally seen internal memos from inside three news organizations that cite Starr's office as a source," Brill wrote. "For an internal publication circulated to New York Times employees in April, Washington editor Jill Abramson is quoted in a discussion about problems covering the Lewinsky story as saying, '[T]his story was very much driven in the beginning on sensitive information that was coming out of the prosecutor's office'."

What is less clear, however, is whether Starr's office helped on some of the wildly erroneous accounts, such as the Lewinsky's semen-stained dress love trophy and the president caught-in-the-act tale. William Ginsburg, Lewinsky's lawyer, has alleged that Starr leaked some sensitive stories as a tactic to pressure Lewinsky into providing testimony that Starr wanted.

With fresh details, Brill's article explained how conservative book agent Goldberg and her wannabe book author Tripp primed the scandal pump. Both wanted to damage the Clinton administration for political and financial reasons. Goldberg also had experience in dirty tricks having worked for Richard Nixon's 1972 campaign as a spy posing as a journalist inside the McGovern campaign.

It's been known for months that Goldberg urged Tripp to begin taping her young friend, Monica Lewinsky, and that Tripp had been toying with the idea of writing a tell-all White House book. But Brill uncovered new elements of the Goldberg-Tripp manipulation.

According to Brill's article, Goldberg even arranged for her brother's courier service to handle letters and packages that Lewinsky allegedly sent to Clinton. "We told Linda [Tripp] to suggest that Monica use a courier service to send love letters to the president," Goldberg said. "And we told her what courier service to use. Then, we told Spikey [Goldberg's nickname for Newsweek's Isikoff] to call the service."

Further, Tripp and Goldberg told Isikoff that one of the packages contained a lurid sex tape. As corroboration for that claim, the Goldberg family courier service made available the courier who delivered the tape. He helpfully confirmed to Isikoff that one package appeared to contain a tape.

Keeping the Jones Up

Having gotten Newsweek's attention, the Goldberg-Tripp duo then made sure that Paula Jones's legal team knew about Lewinsky. In October 1997, the Jones's lawyers began receiving anonymous phone calls from an unidentified woman -- apparently Tripp. With that information, the Jones's lawyers knew enough to subpoena Lewinsky and Tripp.

With Lewinsky and Tripp subpoenaed -- and with a tape recorder rolling -- Tripp then drew Lewinsky into conversations about what they should say to the Jones lawyers. Tripp apparently hoped to use the conversations to create the legal basis for an obstruction of justice case against Clinton. But, as Brill reported, Lewinsky instead provided exculpatory evidence on this point.

When the Goldberg-Tripp team selected the two most incriminating tapes to play for Newsweek correspondents, the reporters heard no evidence that Clinton tried to make Lewinsky lie about the purported affair. "In fact," Isikoff said, "there is one passage where Linda, knowing the tape is going, says, 'He knows you're going to lie; you've told him, haven't you?' She seems like she's trying to get Monica to say it. But Monica says no."

So Newsweek remained skeptical about this story that was being served up on a silver platter. But Tripp forced the issue by taking her information to Starr's office, too. On Jan. 12-13, Starr's investigators debriefed Tripp and then insisted that she wear a wire for a scripted conversation with Lewinsky at the Ritz-Carlton in the Pentagon City section of Arlington, Va.

On Jan. 14, Goldberg brought Isikoff up to speed about Starr's entrance into the case. Then, on Jan. 16, Tripp lured Lewinsky to another meeting at the Ritz-Carlton. Starr's investigators surrounded the young woman and pressured her to cooperate.

Those efforts went on into the evening, when Tripp excused herself and returned home. There, she briefed Paula Jones's lawyers who were scheduled to depose the president under oath the next day. Armed with that information, Jones's lawyers surprised Clinton with detailed questions about Lewinsky. He denied a sexual relationship.

Meanwhile, Starr's office was urging Newsweek to hold its story to give the prosecutors more time to build their case. Newsweek did, but Internet gossip columnist Matt Drudge received a tip about the spiked story, again most likely from the Goldberg-Tripp duo.

On Jan. 21, the story broke with full force in a front-page Washington Post account by Susan Schmidt, Peter Baker and Toni Locy. That story quoted "sources" as saying that "in some of the conversations -- including one in recent days -- Lewinsky described Clinton and [his friend Vernon] Jordan directing her to testify falsely" in the Jones case.

Brill noted that the perjury claim, which the Post article reported that sources heard on the tapes, was exactly what "had been missing from the tapes that Newsweek heard. This is not a minor point. The charge that Lewinsky had been instructed to lie was not only the linchpin of Starr's expanded jurisdiction, but would be the nub of any impeachment action against the president -- and the premise of all of the front-page stories and hours of talk show dialogue that would follow."

Still, with the Post story setting the city abuzz and the Ginsberg-Tripp team handing out hot tips to friendly reporters, the Washington media scrambled to get in line. The reporters, who had curried favor with Starr's office during the long Whitewater investigation, had choice spots.

One sloppy story followed the next, with news outlets rushing out thinly sourced allegations which were then "matched" or simply repeated by pundits who took the dubious information to the next level by commenting on the greater meaning. The talking heads opined that Clinton likely would resign within days.

But often the stories turned out to be wrong. Goldberg later boasted about planting the infamous story about Lewinsky saving a dress stained with the president's semen. Goldberg said she had heard the bizarre tale from Tripp, though it might not have been on any tape, and Goldberg admitted that she might have embroidered the story. "I might have added the part about it being saved," Goldberg said. The FBI found no semen on Lewinsky's clothes.

Illegal Leaks?

Though Brill's story concentrated on the reckless reporting, most of the press reaction has centered on Starr's admission that he and a senior deputy, Jackie Bennett Jr., routinely briefed selected reporters about the investigation. "I have talked with reporters on background on some occasions," Starr said, "but Jackie has been the primary person involved in that. He has spent much of his time talking to individual reporters."

Brill noted that Starr's statement conflicted with the special prosecutor's own public utterances decrying leaks. On Feb. 5, for instance, Starr told an impromptu news conference that he could not comment "about the status of someone who might be a witness [because] that goes to the heart of the grand jury process."

Early on, Starr also engaged in a testy exchange with Clinton's lawyers over their complaints about leaks from his office. Calling "leaks utterly intolerable," Starr declared that "I have made the prohibition of leaks a principal priority of this office. It is a firing offense, as well as one that leads to criminal prosecution."

But even before publication of Starr's admission, investigator reporter Dan Moldea had disclosed that another Starr deputy, Hickman Ewing, had acknowledged that "despite [Starr's] statements to the contrary, [Starr] is the person who is actually approving which reporters receive what information." [CNN's Burden of Proof, May 27, 1998]

Faced with the leak revelations, Starr did not deny that he had talked to favored reporters on "background" -- that is, on a not-for-attribution basis. But he mounted a spirited defense of the legality of his actions.

On June 16, in a 19-page rebuttal to Brill's article, Starr insisted that he scrupulously abided by a criminal statute, known as Rule 6(e), which prohibits disclosure of testimony given before a grand jury. Starr added further that his office "does not and has not released information provided by witnesses during witness interviews, except as authorized by law." (Italics added.)

The key part of that second sentence is the phrase "except as authorized by law." In effect, the wording acknowledges that Starr had released confidential witness information to the press but that he considers his disclosures "authorized by law."

Starr argued that the leak guidelines have big loopholes that allow wide-ranging briefings of reporters. "We should discuss the causes of delay in our investigation," Starr wrote. "We should correct public misinformation about the legal views, strategy and tactics of this office to the extent we can without interfering with the investigation or violating Rule 6(e) -- lest the public, courts, witnesses and jurors receive misimpressions about the integrity of the office. Our dealings with other public and government agencies are proper topics of discussion with reporters."

Yet, given that the Lewinsky investigation has dominated Washington debate for months, has been filled with "misinformation," and involves the White House as well as other government agencies, Starr's loopholes would seem to give him a virtual carte blanche for leaking.

Other legal experts simply don't agree with Starr's reading of the law. They note that recent court rulings suggest that Rule 6(e) extends to pre-interviews that are done with witnesses who may be called before a grand jury or to other evidence that might affect the grand jury deliberations. Justice Department guidelines also prohibit unofficial release of information that might prejudice a case or infringe on the privacy rights of a prospective defendant.

Former Reagan-Bush lawyer Ronald K. Noble noted that Starr's "denials beg the question of what Mr. Starr considers grand jury material, what he believes is authorized by law and what he and Mr. Bennett actually said to reporters." Noting that Starr promised a leak inquiry last February (whose results have never been divulged), Noble added that the inquiry must now be put in the hands of an independent investigator. [NYT, June 19, 1998]

Zeal or Prejudice?

Whatever the outcome of the leak dispute, Brill's article contributes to a growing body of evidence that Starr's investigation has never been a dispassionate, even-handed pursuit of wrongdoing. From his controversial appointment by a conservative-dominated three-judge panel in August 1994, Starr has approached his job with an apparent determination to pin some crime on Clinton, even if one needed to be contrived.

After nearly four years of that quest, Starr has gone down numerous dead ends, finding no case against Clinton on Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Vincent Foster's suicide and Mena drug trafficking. Yet, Starr has cleared Clinton of suspicion only on the false rumors about Foster's death. The rest are still in play despite a lack of evidence.

Now, Starr appears determined to build a report urging Clinton's impeachment around an alleged cover-up of a sexual relationship with Lewinsky. Starr is threatening the young woman with a criminal indictment if she will not testify as he wants. The Washington pundits are already arguing that the stories about apparent abuses of power by the prosecutor should not distract from the grander issue of Clinton's guilt.

Copyright (c) 1998

May/June 1999, Columbia Journalism Review, Active Reporter or Passive Conspirator? by Anthony Marro,


May/June 1999, Columbia Journalism Review, Active Reporter or Passive Conspirator? by Anthony Marro,

Anthony Marro is the editor of Newsday. He was a reporter for the Rutland (Vermont) Herald, Newsday, Newsweek, and The New York Times

It wasn't until right at the end, right as Lucianne Goldberg and Linda Tripp were starting the triple play intended to push the story of the president and the intern into the Paula Jones civil suit, the Kenneth Starr criminal probe, and the pages of Newsweek all on the same weekend, that Tripp told Michael Isikoff, the Newsweek reporter working the story, that she was trying to negotiate a book deal as well.

This shouldn't have come as a surprise. Goldberg was a book agent, and Tripp had been planning a White House scandal book as far back as 1996. But it sent Isikoff into high dudgeon, angry that it might compromise her credibility and jeopardize the story he was still trying to write, causing him to think: "You're . . . going to muck up my story, you idiot."

And so he set out to persuade them not to do this, later coming to realize that two important things had been happening.

The first was that he had crossed the line from reporter to participant. "I was trying to influence the actions of the players," he writes. "As a reporter, that's not my job. But I didn't realize something else: I was at this point too involved to avoid influencing the players."

The second was that while the book plan shouldn't have been any surprise, it had been "well off my radar screen." He had been too focused on Clinton and Lewinsky to pay full attention to Goldberg and Tripp. ìI could not have cared less about their motives or their ultimate goal,î he now says. "My interest in them was quite simple and fairly well focused: Was the stuff they were telling me true? Could it be corroborated? Would it make a story for Newsweek?"

If information is accurate it probably doesnít matter where it comes from. Reporters everywhere and forever have been passing along information without sharing the enthusiasms or goals of their sources. But not understanding goals can backfire dangerously. Not warning readers about motives can make stories seriously incomplete. And one of the lessons in Isikoffís book is that sometimes reporters can focus so intensely on the core of the story that they can miss some of the radar warnings blinking off to the side.

What was on his radar right from the start, from back when he was covering the Justice Department for The Washington Post, was the belief that Paula Jones had a story that deserved serious reporting, not something to be discounted just because the anti-Clinton far right was peddling it. Some of his editors were nervous and some were openly scornful of the whole project. In the end he blew up in anger, was suspended for insubordination, resigned in a huff and in May 1994, moved on to Newsweek.

The subtitle is "A Reporter's Story" and it's pretty much that. It's not to any large degree the story of the broader Starr investigation or the impeachment process or the performance of the press in covering the scandal. Isikoff gives more attention to the supposedly distinguishing characteristics of the presidential penis than to a serious examination of Starr's many probes. Henry Hyde doesn't appear in the index at all. Those looking for an assessment of Steven Brill's complaint that reporters were co-opted and corrupted by leaks from Starr's office will merely get eyestrain from trying to read between the lines.

Uncovering Clinton is the story of Isikoff's own attempts to document a pattern of sexual recklessness on the part of the president, and of the "culture of concealment" that he says inevitably flowed from it. This began when he came across Clinton aides in the 1992 presidential campaign who were trying to squash the reports of adulterous liaisons that they called "bimbo eruptions." His reporting there later made him think that Paula Jones might be credible. A tip from a Jones lawyer eventually led him to Kathleen Willey, who in turn pointed him towards Linda Tripp. And it was Tripp, along with Goldberg, who put him onto the story of Monica Lewinsky.

This was not a quick journey. It was six years from the "bimbo eruptions" to oral sex in the White House, and along the way he built up an extensive network of sources among people who were working in many different ways and through many different means towards the common goal of hurting, embarrassing, or actually ousting the president. He worked these stories for so long and became so well-connected with so many of the people involved that there are places in this book where it's not clear whether he was an outsider looking in, and insider looking out, or both at once.

Isikoff says that he was never interested in writing about sex for its own sake, and one tends to believe him. He says he kept at it because the allegations against Clinton suggested a recklessness and arrogance that was dangerous when combined with great power, and that required so many lies and so much deceit to keep hidden that it corrupted his presidency.

The president's private weaknesses had led to public wrongs, he now writes, including "lies to the public and to a court, the smearing of innocents, the deployment of an army of hardball litigators, private investigators, and spin doctors whose primary purpose was to smash the accusers and destroy the presidentís enemies."

This may be a bit overstated. There's little evidence here of enemies destroyed, and no strong evidence of behavior outside the bounds of well-funded civil suits, which even in the routine of things can become very nasty. And Isikoff acknowledges right up front that many of the Clinton enemies were themselves not pleasant people and not playing softball, but were "mean-spirited and mercenary" as well as zealous.

Isikoff tells his story in a smooth narrative style, with apparent candor and self-deprecating humor. (At one point, having accompanied two sources into a strip club in Dallas and placed a $20 bill inside the panties of one of the dancers, he confesses having started the night imagining himself Seymour Hersh and ending it feeling more like Geraldo.) He also manages to build a certain amount of suspense, which is no mean feat given that virtually every adult American outside of cloistered convents already knows not only the ending but also most of the details.

It will make a good movie.

The 46-year-old reporter at the center of A Reporter's Story comes across as aggressive, persistent, admirable in many ways, difficult to manage and very proud of it, admittedly not above overstating evidence while pitching a story to his bosses, cautious at important points and quick on the trigger at others, careful in documenting his stories and yet capable of playing down things that might undercut his basic reporting. After building his case that Paula Jones should be taken seriously, for example, he then takes the fact that she later changed her story in order to strengthen her lawsuit and relegates it to merely a footnote.

Many reporters who read this will applaud his tenacity, his talents, his feisty manner, and his drive. Many editors will applaud all these same things and then indulge themselves in thinking that editors will always be in demand. Non-journalists might come away understanding that reporting stories isn't as easy as it looks, and that in some of the most intense newsroom debates no one is clearly wrong and everyone has a good point.

This last was true of the debate within Newsweek over whether to print Isikoff's initial story about Clinton, Lewinsky, and Starr. Ann McDaniel, the Washington bureau chief, was concerned publication would disrupt an ongoing criminal investigation, something news organizations generally try not to do. Richard Smith, the editor-in-chief, was worried that they still had no real evidence that Vernon Jordan had done the things Tripp claimed, and that Lewinsky---who they hadn't yet interviewed---might be wandering around in some sort of fantasy world. Mark Whitaker, the then managing editor, later said he felt that he had a "fiduciary responsibility" to insure the credibility of the magazine, and he surely did. Even a magazine as strong as Newsweek would have a hard time explaining two "Hitler's Diaries" in one generation. Holding the story probably was the right call.

But Isikoff also was right. The independent counsel had expanded his investigation from land deals in Arkansas to sex and lies in the White House. His agents were trying to wire Lewinsky to run a sting on the president. By any definition this was serious and legitimate news. "Washington will go nuts," he warned his editors. And very quickly, thanks not only to Matt Drudge's Internet alarm system but also to The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, and some others, the story was everywhere, and Newsweek was scrambling to put out its own version via the Internet.

Looking back, that initial Isikoff report holds up fairly well, although it may have given too much weight to Tripp's account of Jordan's involvement and raised almost no questions at all about whether the expansion of Starr's investigation was warranted to begin with. Nor was there any hint of Tripp's role as puppeteer, pulling Lewinsky's strings and virtually writing the script for much of what later would be the obstruction of justice charges.

This brings us back to the question Isikoff raises of himself: Had he become too much of an active player and strayed too far over the line?

On November 21, 1997, Tripp had called him and said that Lewinsky had sent another package to the White House, addressed to presidential secretary Betty Currie but intended for Clinton. By this point Tripp and Goldberg had arranged for Isikoff to get receipts of these deliveries from a messenger service Tripp had persuaded Lewinsky to use and that just happened to be owned by a relative of Goldberg. The package, Tripp said, contained a tape "for phone sex."

It was at this point, he writes, that he realized with more clarity than he had in the past that he "was in the middle of a plot to get the president."

"I was only covering it, of course," he now writes. "Or so I told myself. But I was covering it from the inside, while it was unfolding, talking nearly every week with the conspirators as they schemed to make it happen." Some of these were the kinds of conversations reporters have with sources routinely, he says, but in this kind of situation "the lines between aggressive reporter and passive conspirator can get awfully blurry."

It's true that Tripp and Goldberg saw him as their vehicle for exposing the president. But reporters find themselves in these situations all the time, albeit on much smaller stages and for much lower stakes. It's true that he had forced Starr to move quickly by threatening to interview Jordan and Lewinsky before they even knew they were being investigated. But this isn't unusual either. It happens quite often. And it's true that he was chagrined to discover that he had been relying on anti-Clinton lawyers as sources "even while they concealed from me their role in bringing the Lewinsky allegations to the Jones lawyers and later to Ken Starr." But a reporter who hasn't been misled by sources hasn't worked many stories, and the important issue for himself and his editors is whether the journalism he produced was accurate and fair or whether he had become so beholden to his sources that things ended up tilted their way.

In the end, Isikoff's own book doesn't entirely answer Isikoff's own question, but it suggests that if he had done more aggressive reporting on the active "conspirators" as he now calls them, the question of passive conspiracy probably wouldn't be an issue. This leads to the question of just what, to use his own phrase, was and was not on his radar screen.

The story about Clinton and Lewinsky was potentially so explosive that it's hard to fault him for not focusing on other matters that may have seemed peripheral at the time. But he may have jammed his own radar concerning the work of the "elves," which is the term he now uses for the network of conservative lawyers that worked secretly to help keep the Jones case alive and eventually steered Tripp to both the Jones lawyers and to Starr. The network included George Conway, a New York lawyer active in the conservative Federalist Society; Jerome Marcus, a Philadelphia attorney who had done legal work in Ronald Reaganís State Department; Richard Porter, a former aide to Dan Quayle and an associate in the Chicago office of Kenneth Starr's law firm; Ann Coulter, the lawyer and Human Events columnist; and others. It was Coulter who first suggested the term to Isikoff, hinting to him that she had great inside knowledge of the strategies being developed by the Jones legal team, and then adding: "There are many of us busy elves working away in Santa's workshop."

A good deal has been written in recent months about these lawyers and their ties to (a) anti-Clinton conservatives, (b) Starr and his investigators, and (c) the Paula Jones legal team. It's now clear that they were major players in helping set the trap that Clinton walked into. But almost nothing was known about them at the time the scandal erupted.

Isikoff says that he now can report on the "elves" and their work, but that interviews back in 1997 and 1998 were obtained with the promise that he not only wouldn't quote them but "wouldn't even refer to them" in his stories. He now describes their activities with great specificity and great detail. But what's not clear is just how much he knew and just when he knew it, and the degree to which he might have handcuffed himself by his early agreement.

This is a question worth noting because back when Hillary Rodham Clinton was charging that there was a right-wing conspiracy out to destroy the president, Newsweek was suggesting something quite different. While it presented a large chart listing many of the known conservatives involved in anti-Clinton activities, it said in the same issue (February 9, 1998) that White House attempts to pull together these connections "strained to make the coincidental seem conspiratorial, the mundane seem sinister." And it went on to compare her charges to those made by Senator Joseph McCarthy back in the '50s, a rather harsh comparison given that McCarthy is widely regarded as having made charges that were reckless and malicious, as well as false.

But in Uncovering Clinton Isikoff tells about a single day, in November 1997, in which Lucianne Goldberg contacted Porter to urge him to arrange for Linda Tripp to be subpoenaed by the Paula Jones lawyers to testify about Clinton's alleged fondling of Kathleen Willey. Porter then phoned Conway and left on his answering machine the astonishing news that a woman named Lewinsky and "a certain Lothario in the Casa Blancaî had been having oral sex in the pantry. Conway quickly relayed that message back to one of the Paula Jones lawyers with the admonition, surely unnecessary, "Listen, you've really got to focus on this."

In describing this flurry of activity and the events that flowed out of it, Isikoff now says: "The conspiracy, thoroughly right wing, may not have been that vast. But it had done its job."

Public knowledge about this network and the depth of its involvement might not have changed anything at all back in February 1998. Clinton did what he did, and the fact that there was a well-laid trap that had been set by Tripp and Goldberg and the various elves doesn't change the fact that he walked into it. But it might have helped broaden the focus of some of the early reporting, causing the press to concentrate not only on the sex and the lies but also on just what forces had been at work and just how all of this had come into play. This, in turn, might have caused more attention to be focused more quickly than it was and more intensely than it was on the Starr investigation itself.

Any high-powered federal investigation has at least two questions for reporters to try to answer. The first is what has the target actually done and how serious is it? The second is what has the government been doing in building its case? The second often doesn't get as much attention as the first, despite the fact that there's a history of prosecutors running out of control. Even colleagues in the Justice Department considered some of Bobby Kennedy's "Get Hoffa" squad, for example, to be torpedoes who paid scant attention to constitutional rights. Parts of the FBI's "ABSCAM" operation, in which operatives disguised as Arab sheiks paid bribes to congressmen, were widely criticized for having crossed the line from sting operations to entrapments. But in the early days of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal so much of the reporting was focused so heavily on what Clinton allegedly had done that little attention was paid to what the government, in the form of Ken Starr, had been doing.

Eventually the criticisms began to build--that Starr had been hauling women and state troopers before an Arkansas grand jury to ask about Clinton's sex life, that his agents had tried to intimidate Lewinsky into not contacting her lawyer by threatening to send her to jail for twenty-seven years and to indict her mother as well, that he had allowed massive leaks to news organizations in an effort to poison public opinion against Clinton, that he had spent four years and $40 million drilling dry wells and then ended up with a charge that, in the words of Jimmy Breslin, "wouldn't hold up in night court."

There is little serious and sustained reporting about this in Isikoff's book, although he concludes in the epilogue that by grabbing Lewinsky and holding her in the way that they did, Starr's agents had used "the awesome powers of the prosecutor in ways that looked disproportionate and even frightening," causing the investigation to be "flawed from the start." One would have liked more. Having reported the Paula Jones story from the beginning, having become intimately familiar with the Starr operation from its Whitewater days, having covered the Justice Department for a good many years, and having had the access he did to Tripp and Goldberg and many of the conservative lawyers in the confederacy of elves, he was better positioned than most---perhaps uniquely positioned---to tell this whole broader story, to do definitive reporting on whether Starr had been running a normal investigation using just the "traditional and appropriate" techniques that he's claimed, or whether he was an obsessed prosecutor with a staff run amuck.

But it may be that his ties to Starr's investigators are simply too many and too close. It may be that he feels bound by confidentiality pledges made in the past. Or it may be that he considers all of this merely a sideshow, and not essential to the "reporter's story" about Clinton's sexual compulsions and cover-ups he's trying to tell. His book is called Uncovering Clinton, not Uncovering Starr, and his position seems to be the perfectly legitimate one that any journalists interested in the latter can go write their own.


Changing Jacqui Srouji Into Jackie Stubble

And she still gets the journalism wrong, warranting a correction to the article.

Wasn't her maiden name supposed to be Von Stubble?

A photo and caption with an Aug. 31 article on proposed air pollution rules incorrectly suggested that the Mount Storm power plant in West Virginia would be affected by the new rules, which would allow more pollution from some plants. Under a 2003 settlement with environmental regulators, Dominion agreed to install two scrubbers at Mount Storm to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.

Power plants such as Mount Storm in West Virginia could produce more emissions under the proposed rules.

Photo credit: By Jackie Stubble---Mineral Daily News-Tribune [Keyser, WV]

This is some truly juicy gossip here! The internet is entering its late, flamboyant Gothic, mature phase. Apparently the good little Catholic girl is a divorcee passing herself off as a widow, but reading between the lines, it sounds as if her husband had to go officially ghost, so maybe it isn't really her fault. But robbing the church crosses a line, or maybe it lines a cross.

It's interesting to hear she had to do a little jail time. I bet a county bullet would do her some good. She always pinged my gaydar.

What kind of small town governmental resolution, secretly secured behind the commissioner's backs, could she benefit by? An unlimited fishing license? A barber license?

She clearly remains a complicated girl who gets around, and even a little Elmer Gantry-ish. Fund her ministry! My God!


AnonymousAnonymous said...

I am a single man. I voted for Judge Damron. But in all the light of the gossip I had to do a little research on the past few blog responses. I found out that he did date Claudia, It ended. Judge then became friends with a woman who married into Claudia's family. She is now his treasurer. Then I found out that the woman is still married. No luck there. So now he is dating Claudia's friend. Still has the other woman as Treausrer. What a triangle. I am only telling this because he is the man. I hope when I am your age I still have it too. You go Judge! Since everyone is so interested! Here's a little advice Judge from a younger generation "Treasuer your Treasurer. She is HOT! You have my families vote!

Friday, July 21, 2006 9:12:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must be Jackie Stubble who worked with Claudia. Jackie the exconvict who spent time in jail in texas for stealing computer equipment from the catholic newspaper where she worked. the same one who Janet Vanzant had a resolution done for when she became some writer at Martin College. a resolution none of the commissioners knew about until Janet gave it to her friend. the same Jackie who... well ask the people at the herald, the citizen, buffalo valley the mcminnville newspaper... ask them about janets friend. hey ask her dead husband who lives in nashville.
I agree Claudia should stay in Cookeville. glad she got a way out of town. maybe jackie stubble can get her job back at the citzen. that may be what giles county people want.
Friday, July 21, 2006 9:22:00 PM

Anonymous Tom said...

Anonymous Friday at 9-22 PM said
"ask her dead husband who lives in nashville."

Holy Crapola Batman !! We are now advised to communicate with the dead . Where is the seance being held ...and when ??
"Speak to us Nashville Man . We await your advice and guidance"
Giles County needs more believers like this !!
Friday, July 21, 2006 9:53:00 PM

Anonymous aint it the truth said...

To Tom
just ask Janet Vanzant's friend Jackie Stubble if her husband is dead. she'll answer that she's a widow. but HE LIVES AND BREATHES in nashville. no need for a medium to conjur this one up.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 2:19:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey someone out to warn the people who are trying to fund her ministry. what church is she scamming now.
Tuesday, July 25, 2006 8:42:00 PM

August 31, 2005, Washington Post, page A1, New Rules Could Allow Power Plants to Pollute More, by Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post Staff Writer,

The Bush administration has drafted regulations that would ease pollution controls on older, dirtier power plants and could allow those that modernize to emit more pollution, rather than less.

The language could undercut dozens of pending state and federal lawsuits aimed at forcing coal-fired plants to cut back emissions of harmful pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, said lawyers who worked on the cases.

The draft rules, obtained by The Washington Post from the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group, contradict the position taken by federal lawyers who have prosecuted polluting facilities in the past, and parallel the industry's line of defense against those suits. The utilities, and the proposed new rules, take the position that decisions on whether a plant complies with the regulations after modernization should be based on how much pollution it could potentially emit per hour, rather than the current standard of how much it pollutes annually.

Under the new standard, a modernized plant's total emissions could rise if the upgrade allowed it to operate longer hours. In court filings, the EPA estimated in 2002 that an hourly standard would allow eight plants in five states -- including Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia -- to generate legally as much as 100,000 tons a year of pollutants that would be illegal under the existing New Source Review rule. That equals about a third of their total emissions.

EPA spokeswoman Eryn Witcher said the administration believes the existing power plant rule is no longer necessary because of other regulatory initiatives. She said a newer and different regulation designed to cut pollution from eastern power plants, the Clean Air Interstate Rule, would achieve greater pollution reductions than the New Source Review modernization guidelines.

"We are committed to permanent significant emissions reductions from power plants because what matters is environmental results, and we get far better results under the Bush administration's Clean Air Interstate Rule, which cuts emissions by 70 percent," she said. That rule sets a long-term cap that would cut industry-wide emissions over the next decade and allow less-polluting plants to sell credits to dirtier facilities to reach the overall goal.

But John Walke, NRDC's clean-air director, said: "This radical proposal is a 180-degree flip-flop from what the administration has been arguing in court. Instead of protecting public health, now EPA wants to protect the polluters. The proposal would completely sabotage clean-air law enforcement, and it would be open season for power plants to pollute even more than they do now."

The administration's new version of New Source Review marks the latest salvo in a regulatory and legal tug of war over how best to regulate aging plants that are major contributors to air pollution, producing much of the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions, especially in the East. Those two pollutants cause more than 20,000 premature deaths a year, studies show.

Power plants account for two-thirds of the country's sulfur dioxide emissions and 22 percent of its nitrogen oxide pollution. Both have been shown to cause respiratory and heart disease.

Under the Clean Air Act, utilities must install new pollution controls when they engage in "major modifications," a requirement whose interpretation has sparked heated debate. Clinton administration officials began prosecuting utility companies in the mid-1990s for failing to comply, but Bush argued that this approach was too punitive. The administration sought to revise the rule so that new pollution controls would be required only when the cost of a plant upgrade amounted to 20 percent of its total value.

A federal court blocked Bush's proposal from taking effect nearly two years ago, prompting the EPA to come up with another approach. Now, the agency wants to use the amount of pollution a plant emits, rather than cost of an upgrade, to determine whether scrubbers are required.

The EPA proposal calls for the government to judge aging power plants by comparing "the maximum hourly emissions achievable at that unit during the last five years to the maximum hourly emissions achievable at that unit after the change" to determine if the company is required to install anti-pollution scrubbers.

New York state Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer, who has taken legal action against six New York plants and 22 out-of-state plants for violating the Clean Air Act, said in an interview that the new rule "would be devastating to all New Source Review prosecutions, and reflects a fundamental, and what we consider an improper, new interpretation of the statute. . . . It would make our enforcement efforts much more difficult, if not impossible."

Eric Schaeffer, who headed the EPA's Office of Regulatory Enforcement before resigning in protest in February 2002, said the new rule undermines the original aim of the law, which was to slowly bring older plants into compliance with stricter air laws.

"Under this proposal, it would never happen," Schaeffer said.

In documents justifying its proposal, the EPA cites a June decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, which sided with utilities in finding that it made more sense to judge them by hourly pollution levels. The agency is appealing that decision, with its lawyers calling the ruling "wrongly decided" and "fundamentally flawed in its analysis" of the Clean Air Act. Yesterday the 4th Circuit rejected that appeal, so the EPA must decide whether to take the case before the Supreme Court.

In another case, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected the hourly test in a June ruling, saying the government should evaluate polluters by their annual emissions. And on Monday, a federal trial court in Indianapolis sided with the D.C. Circuit.

Spitzer, who said he would challenge the rules in court if the administration presses ahead, said the bulk of recent legal decisions buttress the argument that regulators should scrutinize plants' annual emissions. "We think the overwhelming weight of the law is on our side," he said.

But utilities lobbyist Scott Segal defended the hourly standard, saying that in light of recent court rulings "there is an emerging consensus that is hostile to the simplistic annual standard as the basis for triggering New Source Review."