Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More On the Di Spy story

This story is just too damn irresistible for anyone, including us, to wait around for the facts. Powerline just posted this cartoon from cartoonist Glenn McCoy, via one of their forum readers. Heh.

Here are just a few recent highlights on the story we've gleaned from cyberspace.

In a story posted late yesterday by CBS News national security correspondent David Martin, the network was reporting that the NSA was going to claim that the files on her were not opened because we were directly spying on her, but because her name came up in conversations about others, and that none of the transcripts recording her conversations related in any way to her death. They are essentially saying that she was not being directly spied on.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was filed with the NSA in 1998, asking for any files the agency had on her, the official tells Martin. The response acknowledged that the NSA had files on her. However, the NSA will say it had files on her not because she was being monitored, but because her name was mentioned by other people in conversations that were being monitored.

British newspaper reports say 39 classified transcripts held by an unspecified U.S. agency contain no new information about how the princess died.
An update of that CBS story further clarified that the NSA statement when released added that, as they had stated in the past, Princess Diana was "never the communicant" -- CBS quoting NSA:

"As NSA has made clear in the past, the 39 NSA-originated and NSA-controlled documents referenced in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request in 1998 only contained references to the princess and she was never the communicant," said agency spokesman Don Weber. "NSA did not target Princess Diana's communications. Furthermore, NSA has cooperated with the investigations into this news tragic incident to the full extent of the law."

And, this morning, Byron York over at the NRO has posted some intriguing speculation, which, based on his initial acknowledgement that the fact that British press accounts can be "notoriously inaccurate," he says we will likely know more about it when Lord Stevens issues the full British report on Thursday.

York notes that the Evening Standard filed a story indicating that the spying on Diana was related to her reputed relationship in the mid-90's to American billionaire, Theodore Forstmann, a New York-based Republican, who it seems gave at least some preliminary consideration to a run in 2000 for the United States Senate . . . you know, the seat that Hillary Clinton eventually came to occupy? Byron's focus is on the possible legal questions waiting in the wings for the Clinton crowd, if indeed there was any such wiretapping, given the fact that Mr. Forstmann is very much an American citizen. Per Byron York:

If the Clinton administration did engage in surveillance of Princess Diana and Theodore Forstmann, without a warrant, it would appear to run contrary to statements made by former administration officials during the Bush warrantless-wiretap controversy. After the existence of the Bush program was made public last December, some high-ranking veterans of the Clinton administration said they had not engaged in similar efforts to by-pass FISA. “Both before and after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was amended in 1995, the Clinton-Gore administration complied fully and completely with the terms of the law,” former Vice President Al Gore said.

Some more interesting scrutiny comes from the neo-larboard set, Mickey Kaus, in a "second take" posted very early this morning at Slate somewhat sarcastically links to all the varying speculation about the Forstmann connection, such as, that it might have had something to do with his views on school choice, or Daily News gossip about (link via Drudge) Diana's reputed desire to become the new Jackie Kennedy. He also links to today's WaPo column by Kevin Sullivan & Walter Pincus, detailing how she met Forstmann, and containing much of the speculation about her having been interested in renting a home in the Hamptons -- which was allegedly nixed by the British for security reasons. From that story -- which Mickey naturally set out to poke at least a few holes in:

Wall Street financier Forstmann, 66, met Diana at an October 1994 dinner at the Georgetown home of the late Washington Post Co. chairman, Katharine Graham, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

The two "really hit it off" that night and became close friends, but there was never a romantic relationship between them, the source said. They talked regularly by phone and Diana called Forstmann during her separation and divorce from Prince Charles, the source said.

In the spring of 1997, Diana called Forstmann to ask about renting a house in the Hamptons, the Long Island resort community, during the summer, and Forstmann put her in touch with a local broker, the source said.

Sometime later, Diana called back to say that British security officials would not let her bring her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, because of a "security problem." The source said Diana did not specify the nature of the problem.

Whew! What we seem to have so far from this juicy story, is what might be termed a series of intellectual stretch marks, none of which incidentally, detracts one whit from our original speculation that reference(s) or proof of this information could possibly have been one of the targets of Sandy Berger in his larcenous foray into the National Archives, and that even the Bush Administration, for the sake of a desired stability in our relationship with the British at the time, may have had an interest in keeping that part of the story on the back burner as well -- once, that is, the investigators got Berger to blurt out the truth.

That doesn't make it true, but there is something very, very curious about that Berger story -- it's not every day that someone can walk into the National archives, get caught intentionally pilfering national security documents, and walk away with a $50,000.00 fine and community service.

Byron York undoubtedly has it right -- we'll certainly know more on Thursday when the full Stevens report is issued.

But more is not all.

In fact, when you're talking about the world of intelligence, more might well be a move away from the truth. At least for now, however, our "theory" is still in the running.

UPDATE: Dean Barnett has sent us an interesting e-mail query, to wit:

"Is there any way they can blame this one on the then-governor of Texas?"


To which we replied:


Thanks for the note. The answer is . . . by implication. It is certainly not aimed at the Clinton Administration, where it truly belongs. You know as well as I do how people read newspapers, or even stories on line.

For example, if you carefully read yesterday's CBS story (including the header) here, or the later version issued after the actual issuance of the NSA statement, here, (both of which I posted) you will quickly note that there is not one single reference at all about this having occurred during the Clinton Administration. Not one single one. Not even a hint!

All references -- and there were many -- whether about the spying itself, the potential diplomatic embarassment, or the speculation as to the reasons why, or any other subject, were made variously by CBS News to:

a U.S. intelligence agency . . the U.S. . . the U.S. government . . U.S. Authorities . . U.S. officials . . the United States . . the National Security agency . . the NSA . . the Pentagon . . an agency . . U.S. agencies . . which U.S. agency . . an unspecified U.S. agency . . the American intelligence apparatus . . the CIA . . the Americans . . .

I think I got them all.

So, even if your average astute reader poured through both stories, he or she would not pick up any reference whatsoever to Clinton, and he or she might be inclined to gloss over the dates and blame everything on you-know-who.

It's a beautiful thing, no?


Dean replies,
"Indeed it is!"


UPDATE: Well, It looks like, according to the Lord Stevens Report, the whole angle breathlessly awaited which, according to recent British press reports was supposed to have detailed eavesdropping on the Princess with respect to American Republican billionaire, businessman Theodore Forstmann, was pretty much a non-starter. As Byron York puts it, the Report contains nothing on allegations of such spying targeting Diana and the man who once gave consideration to a Senate run from New York. Says he in the National Review:
"the Lord Stevens report contains no mention of Forstmann and no description of anyone like him, nor does it have any evidence that anything like the Forstmann scenario took place."

Mickey Kaus at Slate calls it the "Di Bug Bust," at least as related to the possible spying on Ted Forstmann by the Clinton Administration.

The inquiry results concurred with earlier findings that driver Henri Paul was drunk and the car was travelling about twice the speed limit when it crashed, also concluded that the Princess was not murdered and not pregnant at the time. and it also indicated and that there was no evidence that she was or about to become engaged to Dodi Fayed. Hopefully, this will finally put a fork in any credible basis for the insistent and continuing conspiracy allegations by Fayed's father, Mohamed Fayed. He, of course, will not stop. From the Washington Post:

Prince William and his younger brother, Prince Harry, released a statement Thursday saying they "trust that these conclusive findings will end the speculation surrounding the death of their mother." Mohamed Fayed told reporters that the report was "garbage" and a "coverup" and that Stevens was a "tool for the establishment and the royal family."

The NSA has refused to release any of the 39 tapes of intercepts that they had previously indicated either contain referesnces about the Princess, or caught portion of conversations of her with others. Again from the Post:

The report also states that the U.S. National Security Agency acknowledged that it had 39 files from "intelligence gathering of international communications" that contain "short references" to Diana. Gerald Posner, an American investigative journalist and author, told the British investigators that a source of his within the NSA had played him a recording of a telephone conversation between Diana and Lucia Flecha de Lima, wife of the former Brazilian ambassador to the United States and a friend of Diana's, in which the two discussed hairstyles. Posner said the call originated at the embassy in Washington. The investigators concluded that if the NSA had recorded the conversation, the subject of their interest was the embassy, not Diana. Both the NSA and CIA have denied targeting Diana.

So, it's back to the back burner for our speculative Sandy Burger scenario. It looks like we still do not fully know what motivated his baggy pants job at the National archives. Hmmm . . .

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