Tuesday, December 03, 2019

Sex scandals: Spookier than you think

Pretty soon -- perhaps before I'm finished writing these words -- everyone will be focused on the impeachment report. The only topic with the power to divert us from impeachment is sex, so let's go there. We need a diversion.

Actually, sex scandals are in today's headlines. Hilariously, Trump has denied knowing Prince Andrew, who was recently shamed into silence by his connection to l'affaire Epstein. This denial flies in the face of the fact that Trump and Andrew had a "power breakfast" in June, and the fact that we have photos of Trump and Andrew together. Andrew himself claimed that the infamous photo depicting him with Virgnia Roberts/Giuffre is a fraud. I'd be more inclined to take that claim seriously if he had issued it when the photo first came out in 2011.

(Charles Johnson, an associate of Alan Dershowitz, declared the photo to be a fake in 2015; Andrew did not speak out at that time. To the best of my knowledge, no Photoshop expert has questioned the image.)

Right now, the Andrew imbroglio is not the Epstein-related tale which has captured my attention.

A few readers asked for my thoughts about this NYT story, which tells the strange story of a "shadowy hacker" calling himself Patrick Kessler, who claimed to have accessed the much-storied Jeffrey Epstein archive. You know: The blackmail vault.
He said he had years of the financier’s communications and financial records — as well as thousands of hours of footage from hidden cameras in the bedrooms of Mr. Epstein’s properties. The videos, Kessler said, captured some of the world’s richest, most powerful men in compromising sexual situations — even in the act of rape.
Kessler tried to sell this story to two of the lawyers representing Epstein's victims, David Boies and J. Stanley Pottinger. No writer other than yours truly has noted that both of these lawyers have strange ties to the worlds of the intelligence and Republican politics; as usual, the NYT avoids talking about spy stuff unless absolutely necessary. (I discuss Pottinger's ties to both Spookworld and the GOP here.) It makes sense that spooked-up lawyers would take over the Epstein affair, given the strong likelihood that Epstein himself "belonged to intelligence" -- either CIA or Mossad or both.

The afore-linked NYT article is long and fascinating, though -- for reasons stated above -- it requires a certain amount of between-the-lines interpretation. Here's the bottom line: Kessler turned out to be a fake.

Nobody knows his true goal or who his backers were. Inadvertently, his intrusion into this case revealed that Boies and Pottinger were willing to take a pay-off to keep the secrets of the wealthy.

(Hey, I told you not to trust Pottinger.)

For present purposes, the most important aspect of this hoax involves an actual video allegedly depicting former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak having sex with one of Epstein's girls. How (you may ask) can a video be both actual and alleged? The video is real in the sense that it exists, but unreal in the sense that it probably depicts someone other than Ehud Barak.

If you've been following Spookworld for many years, you'll recognize this trick. It has a long peidgree.

Vladimir Putin has demolished enemies with sex tapes, at least one of which was a fake. In 1999, he used this strategy to get rid of Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov -- the one man who might have blocked his power grab.

In 2016, a similar production "starred" Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
A former employee of a Russian “troll factory” has said that a Hillary Clinton lookalike and black man were hired by his company to make a sex tape during the 2016 US election.

The company, according to the first former employee to go on record Alan Baskaev, ran popular Twitter accounts that would promote then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign officials and surrogates.
He said his bosses “thought they hit the “sensation” jackpot” with the video of fake pair - seemingly impersonating former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton - who looked they were having sex.
“I don’t know what happened on the day shift, but the night shift was a bacchanal. We did the most ridiculous things we could think of.”
Now let's go further back in the time.

In the 1980s, an operative used the most audacious fake sex tape of all time to worm his way into the confidence of Larry Flynt. I've told this story before. After the asterisks, I'll republish the words I wrote in 2008 -- after which, Cannon 2019 shall return.

*  *  *

My mind reaches back to -- of all people -- Vicki Morgan.

"Vicki who?" some of you may be asking -- and if you are, I feel old.

Vicki Morgan, who died in 1983 at the age of 31, was the beauty at the center of one of the great sex and murder scandals.

Vicki was the mistress of Alfred Bloomingdale, friend to and funder of Ronald and Nancy Reagan. By many accounts, including her own, she sexually serviced (with her patron's approval) a number of high-ranking Reagan officials.

(Around 1990, I talked with a very gay writer of Hollywood biographies who claimed to have known Vicki well. "Her specialty was seducing homosexuals," he said -- with a wistful smile that told much and hid little.)

Now is not the time to go into the mystery of her murder, which occurred shortly after the death of Bloomingdale. Let's focus on the post-mortem controversy.

After the murder, Vicki's lawyer said that she had stockpiled video tapes of herself performing various sexual acts with Reagan's top men. Publisher Larry Flynt -- acting in his usual Flyntian fashion -- offered a million bucks for the tapes. The lawyer then reported that the tapes were stolen. Many assumed that the lawyer had concocted the whole story, although his motive for doing so was never made clear.

At that point, a certain man approached Larry Flynt. I'll call him Gordo. Some of you will know the full name. I won't reveal it here, since I've already had one mildly unpleasant run-in with this gentleman. Gordo has connections (as they say) to the American intelligence community, although the CIA will quickly tell you that they never officially hired him.

Gordo claimed to possess the stolen Vicki Morgan sex tapes. He offered them for sale to Larry Flynt.

More than that: Gordo's tapes showed Vicki boffing not just Reagan's aides, but Reagan himself.

To be specific: The tape showed Reagan receiving a "message from the rear" which Vicki delivered, using a certain plastic appendage. (An unlikely fetish, given what I know of Nancy Davis' specialty. But I digress.)

Flynt made somewhat oblique reference to these events in The Rebel, a non-porno magazine he once published. I have no idea how much, if anything, Gordo received for the tapes. But I do know that Gordo wormed his way into Flynt's entourage, becoming the man's "minister of everything," as one glossy magazine profile put it. As I recall, the old Los Angeles Herald Examiner carried a front-page story connecting Gordo to the hiring of Bill Mintzer for Flynt's security staff. (Mintzer was a hit man later convicted in the "Cotton Club" killings.)

As you may recall, Flynt seemed to go wacky during this period, wearing diapers to court and such.

Flynt showed the Vicki-and-Reagan tape to a number of people. I've read at least one first-hand account of the tape and have received several second-hand accounts. Frank Zappa, of all people, attended a private showing, which he later described during a radio interview. He had a difficult time trying to think of a polite way to give the details.

Bottom line: The tape was a fake.

That's why you can't find the thing on YouTube today.

Gordo later admitted to its fraudulent nature. He said that the tape used spot-on lookalikes for Ronald and Vicki, and that it was produced by the intelligence service of an East-bloc country. (Not the KGB.)

I don't know when or how Flynt became aware that he had been gulled.

I do know that faked video tapes of famous people have fooled some onlookers who were by no means stupid.

*  *  *

End Cannon 2008. Cannon 2019 resumes. 

Now it can be told: Because the man himself has gone to his infernal reward, I can reveal that "Gordo" was the infamous Gordon Novel, a name well-known to students of parapolitics. Novel did indeed hire Mintzer, a murderous thug who played a role in both the "Cotton Club" killing and (if you can believe The Ultimate Evil, a book toward which I've grown wary) the Son of Sam murders.

Novel was freakin' everywhere, worming his way into everything from the Bay of Pigs to the Jim Garrison investigation to Watergate and to the controversy surrounding the Branch Davidian tragedy in Waco. In the 1990s, Novel skulked around the edges of ufology, even though he clearly did not believe in flying saucers. God only knows what he was up to. After his passing, family members constructed an elaborate narrative about his adventures -- but I won't link to those web pages (presuming they are still up) because they were just just too damned ludicrous.

(It can be convenient to bury an old spook in a graveyard of bullshit, because the bullshit dissuades mainstream investigators from digging up what really happened. See: E. Howard Hunt.)

During the heyday of Watergate, Novel gave an extraordinary interview to Jack Anderson, in which he claimed that Nixon henchman Charles Colson wanted Novel to erase the Watergate tapes -- stored in CIA headquarters. You can hear Gordo himself discuss the matter here. Many have misunderstood that Anderson column: Novel referred not to the tapes that Nixon eventually released -- the tapes that everyone knows about -- but to another set of recordings clandestinely made by the CIA's Jim Angleton, for whom Novel worked.

Now you know why Nixon couldn't simply destroy the tapes. He knew that the Agency had copies of everything, kept secure in a vault on the second floor. I've even toyed with the idea that historians were misled; perhaps the CIA tapes were the only tapes made of Nixon's White House conversations. (Tricky Dick himself couldn't operate a tape recorder to save his life.)

In the same interview with Anderson, Novel outlined his own plan to save Nixon:
Footnote: Colson and Novel also discussed a caper to patch H.R. Haldeman's voice onto a tape along with an actor who would imitate President Nixon and make false confessions. The fake tape would he sent with a phony authenticating note from an allegedly disgruntled Secret Service man to the Senate Watergate Committee which, Colson surmised, would leak it. Then he and Novel would reveal the tape was fraudulent and the hoax would tend to discredit the whole case against Nixon.

Colson said it was "true" he discussed this idea. "Wouldn't that be a great gag?"
(Emphasis added.) Whatever you may think of Jack Anderson, he knew better than to ascribe a false quote to a guy like Chuck Colson. Colson never denied saying those words.

In short and in sum: Colson wanted to reduce the Watergate scandal -- which had become insanely complicated -- down to just one bombshell, or pseudo-bombshell. The entire controversy would rest on one spectacular piece of evidence. Once he revealed that evidence to be fake, the entire controversy would wither. Theoretically.

I can guess what you're thinking: "This is all very droll, Cannon. But you said you were going to talk about sex scandals. Haven't you wandered far from your subject?"

In fact, the "great gag" to which Colson confessed is of central importance. I told you that story in order to make the concept clear to you.

Think back to the strange tale of "Patrick Kessler," who was obviously no mere "hacker." You'd have to be very naive indeed to read about him in the NYT without thinking spook. (Trust me, those three NYT writers know the score. Who do think they're fooling?)

Who was "Kessler" working for, and what was his objective?

The fake sex tape depicted Ehud Barak, a political opponent of Bibi Netanyahu. There is no denying that Netanyahu used the Epstein connection as a cudgel against Barak, although as far as I can tell, the Netanyahu forces never referenced the video made available to "Kessler." In real life, we have evidence of troubling financial ties between Epstein and Barak, but we do not have evidence of sexual impropriety.

However, there is another possible rational for the "Kessler" video. Suppose the tape had been made public, and suppose that Barak was able to prove it fraudulent. What would be the result?

The credibility of all other Epstein accusers would have suffered.

The entire controversy would have devolved onto one spectacular piece of evidence. Once that evidence was unveiled as a fake, the entire controversy would wither. Theoretically.

When you think about it, a powerful figure who really is guilty of a serious sin may no other choice but to use some variant of this "great gag." Let's call it the Colson Strategy -- though I'm quite sure Chuck Colson was not the first to come up with the idea.

I had planned to write about other sex scandals, but this post has turned out to be much longer than expected. Looks like I'll have to leave the rest for another occasion (though if I had any sense, I'd write a book about this stuff and make a few dollars).

Here's a preview of coming attractions: I've done some further research into the "Katie Johnson" Complaint against Trump and Epstein, which I've long suspected to be yet another example of the Colson Strategy. I've dug into a little-known aspect of Roger Stone's sordid history and found an uncanny parallel: He had previously used a "Katie Johnson" maneuver to protect a client.

We'll also discuss the possibility that ersatz versions of the Trump "pee tape" may actually be variants of the Colson Strategy. And we may even get in a few words about Anthony Wiener.

All of that is a tale for another time. Right now...

...well, admit it: Aren't you glad you spent this time reading about something other than impeachment?

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