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Jewish World Review July 17, 2001 / 26 Tamuz, 5761

Michael Ledeen

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Consumer Reports

Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit -- WHEN things are so complicated that no living person can unravel them, it sometimes pays to consult the dead. So, following the example of Senator Clinton, who consults Eleanor Roosevelt on the really tough issues, I decided to ask the legendary counterspy James Jesus Angleton about the Condit/Levy affair. Here are his thoughts, perhaps a bit garbled because the ouija board needed some oil (and I used the last of it for the spaghetti con aglio, olio e pepperoncino):

Why has nobody noticed that Condit sits on the House Intelligence Committee? All those guys are prime targets for foreign agents, because they know things about our sources and methods, the crown jewels of the intelligence business. The Russians, the Chinese, and all the others, need to know what we know about their operations against us, and if they can find someone on an intelligence committee that they can recruit, they will go all-out to do it.

Now consider Condit's vulnerability. It's enormous. He's carrying on multiple liaisons, he may have fathered a child or two out of wedlock, his career can be wiped out by disclosure. Let's say a foreign agent discovers this (not hard, as we have learned), and arranges a conversation with Condit in which the congressman is offered a hard-to-refuse deal: You tell me what the CIA and the FBI know about my country's operations, and I'll remain silent about Chandra and the others. If you don't give me what I need, I'll talk to the newsies.

Meanwhile, they tap his phone, both because Americans talk about sensitive information on the telephone, and because they need to keep close tabs on his problems. Let's say Chandra, besotted with the guy, heartbroken at the thought of leaving, desperate to maintain the affair, tells him on the phone that if he doesn't do the "right thing" by her, she's gonna go public.

What would you, the top agent of your country here in Washington, do? You've got this fabulous source, maybe even better than Ames or Hanssen, and he's also a terrific agent of influence, because he votes on policy, and not just intelligence policy. He's about to be ruined by this lovelorn sweet thing. You'd solve his problem for him, wouldn't you? And you would certainly not tell him about it. You'd just do it. Condit might have suspicions, but he wouldn't know anything. He could even pass a polygraph.

"Do you know what happened to Chandra?"

"Absolutely not." And it's the truth.

Do you think the D.C. cops were alert enough to ask him the tough, counterintelligence questions? Do you think FBI counterintelligence has been brought into this case? Do you think any of these investigators has considered the possibility that her computer was penetrated by a skilled espionage agent — a trained hacker — and wiped clean, shortly after she was dealt with?

I doubt it. Americans don't think this way, even though we've got tons of evidence that Washington is overrun with foreign-espionage agents, and we know that the intelligence community has been repeatedly penetrated by our enemies, and for the past many years the very idea of serious security has been laughed at by the highest officials, starting with the president himself. Clinton's White House was wide open.

All of this is speculation, of course, I don't know anything that's not in the papers, and it's hard to read the papers from here. Most of the time we read Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. But if I were conducting an investigation, I'd look very hard at the espionage angle.

That's Angleton's take. Yes, he was always very paranoid, all counterspies are very paranoid. But he was also very smart, and we sometimes need smart paranoiacs to walk us through these complicated things. Sometimes they're right.

And even when they're not, it's a great story, isn't it? He's authorized me to negotiate a movie deal.

JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of Tocqueville on American Character . Comment by clicking here.


07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen