Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Epstein, Barr, the CIA -- and Marianne Williamson. (Seriously.)

Before we get to our main topic, let me ask this: Why is MSNBC's Steve Kornacki always filmed with a wide angle lens? He's the only TV news personality with his own lens. Whenever he shows up, I get the feeling that Terence Malick is directing.

Since the main topic of this post is Jeffrey Epstein, we should note that the Daily Mail claims that Ghislaine Maxwell staged the photo op in Studio City's In-N-Out Burger. Apparently, the photographer was her longtime friend Leah Saffian. I have no idea why she, they, would do such a thing.

The most intriguing aspect of the Daily Mail story is the claim that the New York Post (Trump's favorite newspaper) deliberately concocted a "quote" from Ghislaine Maxwell. Proof, once again, that we should always look to the Murdochian right if we want to see some real fake news.

Here's one last appetizer before we proceed to the entree.

Did Epstein inspire a character in Annie Hall? A reader recently sent me this comment:
We're counting on you to identify the OSS character(s) in "The Good Shepherd" who would correspond to Barr's father. It might not be as easy as, say, seeing Epstein in "Annie Hall" as the Tony Roberts character.
Let's not get into The Good Shepherd right now. For spook-watchers, that movie is a very frustrating roman à clef.  (Or should one say film à clef?) 

I've always liked Tony Roberts, who deserved better parts. And while it is true that his character in Annie Hall makes a joke about 16 year-old twins, Jeff Epstein was not the inspiration. James Patterson's Epstein bio Filthy Rich offers no evidence that Woody Allen knew Epstein at that time, and neither does any other Epstein article known to me. Annie Hall (1977) reflects Allen's affair with Diane Keaton in the early-to-mid-1970s, though he has always insisted that the film is not autobiographical. If memory serves, Roberts plays an actor who has known Allen's character since childhood. Epstein and Allen came of age at different times; near as I can tell, they traveled in different circles in the mid-1970s.

But even then, Jeffrey Epstein was a mysterious figure. And that brings us, finally, to our main course.

Epstein and Barr. In early 1974, Jeffrey Epstein was all of 20. Though often called brilliant, he lacked a college degree. Nevertheless, someone hired him to teach physics at Dalton, a famous -- and very expensive -- private school in New York.

Most sources say that this "someone" was Donald Barr, father to William Barr, our current Attorney General. At the time, Donald was the headmaster at Dalton. He lost the gig in that same year, apparently due to his overly-conservative attitudes regarding dress, hair and student substance abuse. The image to your right contains a squib about his firing, originally published in the June, 1974 issue of New York Magazine.

Not long ago, the NYT stated without qualification that the elder Barr made the hire, although the newspaper later hedged that claim. This article states that Barr left Dalton before Epstein joined the team; another site says that Epstein was chosen in 1973, while still a student at NYU. After weighing all the evidence, I feel certain that Donald Barr did indeed hire Jeffrey Epstein early in 1974. Apparently, Barr was willing to ignore academic qualifications (or the lack thereof) if he liked the cut of a young man's jib.

I want to focus on two questions:

1. What enticed the highly-conservative Barr to take a chance on a long-haired oddball like Epstein?

2. Was Donald Barr -- an OSS veteran -- then linked to the CIA?

It should always be kept in mind that the Agency hired Donald Barr's son William straight out of college. Overwhelming evidence indicates that William Barr remained a CIA man long after he left the government payroll. Intelligence tends to be a family affair.

In recent weeks, Dalton students who knew Epstein have been privately trading memories via email lists. (They've also made the inevitable cracks about the Epstein-Barr virus.) Most say that he was a compelling but eccentric teacher, reminiscent of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. He dressed freakishly. Epstein's friendliness with the students -- especially the female students -- became disconcerting. He even showed up at one students-only party.

Here's an interesting "I knew him when" tweet...
Epstein was my physics teacher in 1975 - 76 at Dalton, when I was a senior. There were rumors at the time, that he was 'involved' with an 11th grade girl, who was a student at the school.
Although it is always wrong for a teacher to date a high school student, most would agree that a dalliance between a 21 year-old guy and a 17 year-old girl does not contain a very high "ick factor." The greater the age gap, the greater the ickiness. (In other countries, age of consent laws often take the degree of gap into account. By the way: In New York at that time, 17 was legal.)

Dalton fired Epstein in 1976, ostensibly due to poor job performance, even though most sources describe him as an effective teacher. It is fair to suspect that an affair with a student was the real reason for his dismissal. (In high school, I once overheard one teacher talking to another. "That's really the only thing they can get you on," he said, referring to sexual impropriety.) In 2008, Epstein took the Fifth when asked if he had had sex with any Dalton students.

The ever-fortunate Mr. Epstein failed upward, as we used to say.

He had tutored the son of Ace Greenberg, chairman of Bear Stearns, and apparently did such a good job that he was asked to work for the firm. (It is said that he also dated Greenburg's daughter.) Before four years had passed, he had become a limited partner at Bear Stearns. This, despite his youth, his working class background, his unpolished ways, and his lack of a degree.

We should always be suspicious of these brilliant young men who have the world handed to them. I've known a few math geniuses. My dad was one; he worked on the space program. Bright as he was -- and I'm quite sure that he was brighter than Jeff Epstein -- he was never granted the kind of extraordinary opportunities that Epstein enjoyed.

And so we return to our key question. Was Donald Barr linked in any way to the Agency in the 1970s?

Many OSS veterans returned to private life after the war, while many others found careers with CIA or the military. But the two worlds were not so very distant: Throughout the Cold War, the ones who left government service tended to hobnob with people in the covert world. Most of them belonged to the eastern elite; most of them were members of a club in which everyone knew everyone else. A common joke held that OSS stood for "Oh, so social." Using these oh-so-social contacts, the Agency managed to advance the careers of academics and scientists who proved useful to American intelligence.

With that in mind, let's look at Barr's NYT obituary:
Returning to Columbia, he taught in the English department while getting his master's degree in 1951 and completing course requirements for a Ph.D. But by then he was teaching courses with field work in sociology and political science at the School of Engineering and writing science and mathematics texts for elementary and junior high school students.

In 1955 the engineering school asked him to oversee its efforts to spot promising elementary and secondary science students, including girls, and enlist them for advanced training at the school to help them rise to the college level. Joining the engineering dean's office, he then developed the Science Honors Program, which got the attention and support of the National Science Foundation.

Mr. Barr became assistant dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science in 1959, and the foundation eventually asked him to administer its entire Cooperative College-School Program. He did so beginning in 1963, continuing until he became headmaster at Dalton the following year.
So: At Columbia, he segued from English to Political Science to the hard sciences. That's unusual. Hardly impossible, but...unusual.

As you've probably guessed by now, CIA has always had a presence at Columbia. Courtesy of the Agency's own library -- thank you, CIA! -- we have this 1980 Daily News story (which continues here):
The Central Intelligence Agency apparently conducted research. projects at Columbia University in the 1950s and 1960s, employing the services of university faculty and students and sometimes using supposedly independent organizations as fronts for CIA funding. In most cases the faculty and students were unaware that they were working for the intelligence agency, and that a CIA employee served as director of one of the projects.
Issuance of the guidelines followed the CIA disclosure in 1977 that Columbia was' one of 86 institutions where secret research in mind control techniques was conducted between 1953 and 1964.
The documents reportedly reveal that from 1956 to 1969, Thad Alton, a ClA employee, directed the National Incomes Project on Eastern Europe in Columbia's School of International Affairs. Financed by a $535,000 grant from the CIA, the project involved doctoral and post-doctoral students in a study of the economic development of Eastern European countries after World War II.

"In 1967, university officials publicly revealed the CIA's sponsorship of the project, but even then university officials may not have known that the project was "under agency control and headed by an agency employee," as one recently acquired CIA document indicates.

In 1957 and 1958, the CIA financed research into trends in modern scientific breakthroughs at Teachers College, an affiliate of Columbia. The agency gave $4,000 fellowships to each of five doctoral students, who were told that the grants were from the Office of Naval Research. But the documents show that the Teachers College professor who solicited the grants knew they were from the CIA.
Was Barr witting or unwitting? At Columbia, Barr was an important figure in both the political science department and in the hard sciences, so it seems probable that the former OSS man facilitated the above-mentioned programs. Due to his political conservatism and his OSS background, the Agency would certainly have considered him trustworthy.

In particular, the MKULTRA experimentation at Columbia -- which was extensive -- would have benefited from an Agency "friend" on the faculty. It's telling that Barr became involved with the sciences at this time.

The Marianne Williamson connection. Are you ready for a real jaw-dropper? Try this.
William N. Thetford, professor of medical psychology, carried on several CIA-funded research projects in the early 1960's at Columbia, President McGill revealed Friday. McGill, in a letter to Professor Charles Thurston, chairman of the university senate executive committee, said he strongly suspected Thetford "knew the ultimate source of his support."
What's that? You say your jaw did not drop? That's because you don't know the rest of the story.

William Theford and his wife, Helen Schucman, later created -- or channeled -- a new Bible, offering an "improved" Christianity. The name of this book: A Course in Miracles. Thetford is a frequently-encountered character in that text, where he is called "Bill."

(I'm speaking of the original text; apparently, his role was minimized in the rewrite.)

For a while now, I've been planning to write a lengthy post about this ultra-strange bit of lore. In short and in sum: Marianne Williamson -- currently a Democratic presidential candidate -- is the leader of a religious movement originated by a husband-wife team of MKULTRA scientists.

Columbia University -- where Donald Barr was an administrator -- employed Helen Schucman as a professor of Medical Psychology at the time of her Agency involvement. Both Thetford and Schucman received funding directly from the Agency. This is not open to question; I have the documentation and will place it online, if readers are interested.

Not long after their work for the CIA's mind control program, Schucman began receiving the text now known as A Course in Miracles, which supposedly represents the exact words of none other than Jesus Christ. (Oddly enough, the text kept getting rewritten.) An official website for A Course in Miracles has published apologetic commentary about the research done by MKULTRA scientists.

I should have more on the CIA-ACIM linkage soon. It's a very strange story -- one of the strangest I know. And that's coming from someone who has been collecting strange stories for half a century.

Back to Barr. Can I prove that Donald Barr, formerly of the OSS, arranged the CIA's funding of Thetford and Schucman? No. Can I prove that Donald Barr, father of a CIA lawyer, "tapped" Jeff Epstein for entry into the covert world? No.

All I can do, at this point, is to draw your attention once again to this quote from a piece by the remarkable Vicky Ward:
Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta.
If I had the chance to ask Woody Allen about his former friend Jeff Epstein, I wouldn't bring up girls. Yeah, yeah: I know you would -- everyone fixates on below-the-waist issues -- but not me. I would ask Woody if Epstein ever said anything about spies.

In all likelihood, Woody really did know a guy for whom death and danger were his various breads and various butters.


Olifan said...

It is such a pleasure to have you writing again. It sounds to me like a good article about A Course In Miracles might be just what I need to transport me away.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Joseph.

More to come, I hope.

The photo of Madam Ghislaine brings to mind the word: impunity.

In re Epstein’s Mathematics talents. From what we know, they were minimal, perhaps nonexistent. In my view, he hung out in some math classes at NYU, good school. Picked up a bit of jargon, a bit of attitude. Honed those High School level skills.

Yet as you point out, those with real, as opposed to fake, talent in Math, well, they do Math. Engineering, Physics, a PhD in Math. In other words, a lot of talent and lots of hard work. Then a lot of them go to work in finance.

Epstein went through a series of sheep-dippings. Dropout to Math teacher. To private tutor for the Bear Stearns guy. To Mathematical genius in finance. To hedge fund genius. All fake. Somewhere in there was the time with Steven Hoffenberg, the Ponzi scheme guy. That was probably real.

Kind of pathetic how those scientists hung out with him. Guess it was the aroma of money. In one of the photos of that “conference” he held in the Caribbean (the one Hawking attended), there is to be seen a baleful Lisa Randall. She wasn’t fooled.