Spies, Lies and the Drifting Grifter
The steely-eyed counterintelligence G-man with the panache of Sam Spade has been dealt a lousy hand. Last week, rumors started surfacing about sold out American spies. Now, our hero’s job is to find out if our country’s secrets are up for sale.
The CIA’s counterintelligence center reported dozens of cases in the last several years involving foreign informants who had been killed, arrested or compromised. Captured spies the agency already knew about were publicly executed, and the rest are missing. The American intelligence apparatus depends on faceless nobodies for reliable, on-the-ground intelligence. Seeing them hanging from hastily made gibbets is not good for recruiting.
The simultaneous disappearances of so many human resources in 2021 is unprecedented in peacetime. The only time that sort of thing usually happens is during payback moments after bloody coups. The occasional death or imprisonment of a solitary spy is merely problematic, but when many deep undercover operatives get snuffed simultaneously, it’s catastrophic.
The so-called “rash of deaths” teased by television reporters raised red flags with everybody in the intelligence community. The nation was already enthralled with 48 empty folders bearing classified markings that field agents discovered at Mar-a-Lago, and now this.
Agent S — the S stands for Somebody — was instructed to find out what it all means, and he and the other G-men guarding America’s secrets haven’t been so excited since since the Golden Grifter’s near coup erupted last winter.
For now, the Grifter is using his waning influence to play footsie with the courts, but the word on the street is that will soon pass. The DOJ can’t wait to hear why the Grifter secreted top secret government documents in his fancy flophouse.
On May 6, the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) e-mailed Trump to say government materials were missing and might be at Mar-a-Lago. Then on May 9, Trump boarded his private jet and flew from Palm Beach to Bedminster, N.J. Unfortunately for him, somebody videotaped his staff loading a large number of familiar looking boxes onto his private plane. The boxes are the same type the FBI discovered during their search of Mar-a-Lago two months later. A coincidence? Attorney General Merrick Garland wants to know.
The new shock has reverberated among the agency spooks looking for clues. Is a former president actually a turncoat, a modern-day Benedict Arnold craving attention more than honor? Has America’s grand, 246-year democratic experience been sold out?
The timing of the latest bombshell is exquisite. Has America’s dominance in intelligence gathering been compromised?
Agent S can’t stop wondering how our spies must have felt when their host country’s stooges pounced on them. Human intelligence sources are hard to recruit, nearly impossible to protect, and depend on the absolute integrity of their spymasters to survive. Agent S had been there and done that.
When ISIS leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi videotaped the beheading of alleged American spy Nicholas Berg in May, 2004, it started a trend. Berg’s death troubled Agent S on many levels.
Why would Al Qaeda’s executioner behead a freelance radio-tower repairman working in Iraq? The reason was need-to-know.
MSNBC host Joy Reid had implied the previous week that the Grifter’s possession of classified documents could be linked to similar deaths of America’s foreign agents.
“You know, while all of this is happening, we know that in 2021, there was a rash of deaths of American spies,” Reid told her viewers on MSNBC. “They were being caught. They were being killed. Because this is a very real and exigent circumstance. And the CIA has admitted to that now.”
One of Reid’s guests, a retired federal prosecutor, alleged that the Golden Grifter might have sold secret information before the FBI recovered the treasure trove of documents from Mar-a-Lago. While far-fetched, the possibility is not beyond reason.
Between 2001 and now, the FBI has battled dozens of Russians who arrived in the U.S., well trained in spy craft. Over time, they have become so sophisticated that they can transmit and exchange intelligence and directives by embedding hidden messages in innocent images posted on Facebook and other social media.
In 2009, a Russian calling himself Richard Murphy did a “brush past” with a Russian diplomat from the Russian mission in New York. From the clandestine observation, the FBI established there was direct contact between the alleged spy and an official of the Russian government. The FBI later followed Murphy to Brooklyn, where he met another Russian spy. Murphy passed him a package filled with $150,000 and a flash drive containing a new, covert communication system.
Another Russian spy, a real estate agent in New York City, was discovered with a creative piece of trade craft — a dedicated laptop computer specifically designed for her to load in intelligence reports she transmitted to a corresponding laptop in the possession of a Russian intelligence officer posing as a minor diplomat at the Russian mission in New York.
Then in 2017, the Russian counsel annex in New York was shuttered amid spying accusations.
Agent S pondered the unthinkable. What if the Golden Grifter really is a spy? He’s certainly in the right place, and what other reason could he possibly have to keep another country’s nuclear secrets in his desk drawer at his fancy Florida dive?
What kind of harm might the Grifter have already done?
I know what Sam Spade would say about the Grifter: “If they hang you, I’ll always remember you.”