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Edward Jay Epstein
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Entries by Edward Jay Epstein

James Jesus Angleton, Was He Right?

(0) Comments | Posted February 27, 2014 | 2:17 PM


James Jesus Angleton was not only a master spy in the CIA, he was the most remarkable intellectual I ever knew in the U.S. government. His subject was deception. He founded the counterintelligence staff in the CIA in 1955, which raised a question: Is the U.S. government vulnerable to deception by a foreign adversary?

It is a question that is just as relevant today. It was also a question that many of his peers in the CIA did not want to hear, much less answer, as it undermined much of the intelligence they were eliciting from sources in Russia. So Angleton was fired in 1975, and, through well-placed "leaks" to the press, discredited as a paranoid man pursuing nonexistent KGB moles in the CIA and FBI, and ridiculed as a modern Captain Ahab willing to wreck his ship to hunt a figment of his imagination.

This legend soon became the stuff of fiction, and provided the basis for the obsessed spy hunter in movies such as The Good Shepherd (in which Angleton is played by Matt Damon), TV mini-series such as The Company (in which Angleton is played by Michael Keaton), and novels such as Norman Mailer's Harlot's Ghost.

All these depictions in both fact and fiction evade the central fact that, as it turns out, Angleton was right. After Angleton died, the CIA and FBI discovered that they had been penetrated by KGB moles and that, according to the CIA Inspector General, deceptive information from at least six KGB-controlled double agents made its way to the desk of three Presidents. The discrediting of Angleton provides a much-needed lesson in how the government rejects what it prefers not to hear or address when it comes to the vulnerability of its intelligence.

P.S. It is very sad news that Tennent Bagley died last week. The day before he died, he sent me his last testament to the lingering ghosts of the spy war. I will post the 35-page memo on my website next...

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Will the Diamond Cartel Survive?

(3) Comments | Posted January 24, 2014 | 11:06 AM

When I wrote my book on diamonds in 1980, the De Beers' cartel was the master of the universe of diamonds. Its invention of calibrated scarcity had succeeded in creating the brilliant illusion that diamonds were rare. It was an illusion that the Oppenheimer family was able to sustain through...

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Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?

(320) Comments | Posted November 22, 2013 | 7:00 AM

The endless tangle of questions about bullets, trajectories, wounds, time sequences and inconsistent testimony that has surrounded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and has obsessively fascinated, if not entirely blinded, a generation of assassination buffs probably never will be resolved.

Within this morass of facts, however, there is...

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The Amanda Knox Circus -- Again

(622) Comments | Posted April 28, 2013 | 1:30 PM

Amanda Knox, even while appearing on prime time television in America to promote her book Waiting to Be Heard, is facing yet another murder trial in Italy for a crime -- of which, in 2011, after spending four years in prison, she was found innocent by an Italian appeals court....

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The Skeleton in the Papal Closet

(3) Comments | Posted April 21, 2013 | 6:21 PM

On June 5, 2012, financial police in Piacenza, Italy, searched the home of Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, who was the target of a money laundering investigation. Until just a few weeks earlier, he had headed the Popes' secretive organization for dealing with the world of Mammon, called not without...

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A Decapitation Plot?

(1) Comments | Posted April 15, 2013 | 8:01 AM

Today is the 148th anniversary of the death of Abraham Lincoln. As all the world knows by now, he was assassinated by the actor John Wilkes Booth, who was shot to death by federal troops. Since then Booth has in the popular mind become the template for the crazed lone...

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The Bizarre Pursuit of Amanda Knox: Injustice Italian Style

(468) Comments | Posted March 26, 2013 | 3:07 PM

On March 25, 2013, The Court of Cassation, Italy's highest court of appeal, overturned the acquittal of Amanda Knox. The comely Knox was a 20-year-old American exchange student in Perugia when her British flat-mate Meredith Kercher was murdered in 2007. Initially, she was convicted on the basis of demonstrably flawed...

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The Death of Boris Berezovsky

(1) Comments | Posted March 25, 2013 | 10:11 AM

On March 23, 2013, Boris Berezovsky, the once powerful Russian oligarch who helped bring Vladimir Putin to power, was found dead in home in Ascot, England, an as yet "unexplained death," according to British authorities.

Some seven years earlier, on January 23, 2006, Berezovsky had been the toast...

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What John Solomon Got Wrong About DSK Scandal

(2) Comments | Posted June 5, 2012 | 12:15 PM

In his new book, DSK, John Solomon relies on a technique of channeling himself inside the head of people he has never met and rendering thoughts they have not stated. Consider, for example, his entry into DSK's mind on p. 8. He writes omnisciently that when DSK met a police...

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The DSK Affair: One Year Later

(20) Comments | Posted May 14, 2012 | 9:19 AM

When Dominique Strauss-Kahn stepped out of the shower in his $3,000 a night suite at the Sofitel Hotel in New York one year ago May 14, he was fully on track to become the next President of France. As head of the International Monetary Fund he was now on his...

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What I (Still) Don't Know About The DSK Case

(77) Comments | Posted May 3, 2012 | 8:52 AM

I have spent the last 10 months investigating the incident of May 14th 2011 involving Dominique Strauss-Kahn, which has resulted in my e-book Three Days In May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK (Melville House, $5.04).

I have had success in obtaining CCTV surveillance tapes from around the hotel,...

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Annals of Unsolved Crime: The Oswald Mystery

(283) Comments | Posted November 21, 2009 | 10:16 AM

The endless tangle of questions about bullets, trajectories, wounds, time sequences and inconsistent testimony that has surrounded the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 and has obsessively fascinated, if not entirely blinded, two generations of self-styled assassination investigators, probably never will be satisfactorily resolved. Each new release of...

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The Death of a Witness and the Silencing of the Scam

(4) Comments | Posted November 5, 2009 | 5:21 PM

On Sunday, October 25th 2009, Jeffry Picower drowned in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach mansion, the victim of an apparent heart attack. His untimely death left in limbo, if not totally silenced, crucial questions about the role he played in what may be the greatest disappearance act in...

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The Silver Linings: the Madoff Tax Credit

(1) Comments | Posted January 22, 2009 | 1:47 PM

Don't cry (yet) for investors in Bernie Madoff's grand Ponzi scheme -- or at least for those of them who pay taxes. As bad as they may have done in their calculated effort to beat the system by betting with one of the stock exchange's major market makers, thanks to...

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How Much Has Harvard Really Lost?

(15) Comments | Posted December 21, 2008 | 2:46 PM

Harvard University's admission that it lost $8 billion from its $36 billion endowment fund, as staggering as it sounds, may grossly underestimate the true magnitude of the loss between from July 1 through Oct. 31 2008. According to a source close the Harvard Management Corporation (HMC), which runs the fund...
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The Desperate Plight of Submerging Nations

(4) Comments | Posted October 26, 2008 | 5:14 PM

Countries may succeed in bailing-out their banks, but who will bail-out these countries? From tiny Iceland (population 320,000), which is still on the verge of bankruptcy, to Pakistan (population 173 million), which is on the verge of running out of money to pay for imports, over a dozen countries are...

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Does This Sad Tale Sound Familiar?

(1) Comments | Posted October 22, 2008 | 6:07 PM

Fueled by low-interest mortgages, real estate prices in Japan had risen so high by the end of the 1980s that just the land under the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was nominally worth more than all the real estate in California. Then, in late 1989, the bubble burst and real estate...
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