Editor’s note: This is the first part of a two-part series.
My first mission after being retained by Prince Albert of Monaco in June 2002 to be his intelligence adviser was to open channels of communication with the CIA and Britain’s MI6. Support from both organizations would be crucial, I determined, if we were to succeed.
Representations were made through the right channels to the right decision makers within both services.
Almost immediately, the CIA encountered an issue that needed to be overcome. They asked the FBI about me and despite — or because of — my nine-year relationship with the bureau doing undercover counterintelligence operations that took me to Moscow and Havana, they dragged their feet. This was partly because some of my activities had taken place on the CIA (foreign) turf without consultation with the CIA — a Pandora’s box of conflict the FBI did not wish to open.
It took almost a year, but a liaison relationship finally commenced in the private dining room of a Spanish restaurant in Washington, D.C. for a dinner hosted by a senior officer of MI6, which had, months earlier, sanctioned an informal relationship with us.
Prince Albert caused a hiccup that almost killed the deal by bringing along his pal Maurice Wyatt, who was discovered through standard traces to have spent a year in prison for his role as bagman to Maryland’s corrupt ex-governor, Marvin Mandel, and now owned a strip club in Baltimore, to which he and the prince decamped soon after, leaving me, over snifters of Armagnac, to seal a relationship with Tyler Drumheller, the CIA’s European Division chief.
The next step was for the prince and me to meet with CIA officials in London.
In a memo to Prince Albert, I wrote: “The purpose of these meetings is to develop a high level of trust and cooperation between the U.S. and the prince personally. In practical terms, this means that we may call upon the tremendous resources of the CIA to assist us with our ongoing enquiries. Conversely, the CIA may call upon us to discreetly assist with their own operational concerns in Monaco, an overlapping of mutual interests.
“Best of all, these meetings convey the prince’s good faith for wishing to keep Monaco clean of money laundering and organized crime activity.
CUT OUT THE MIDDLEMAN
In June 2003, the prince landed at Luton Airport late in the afternoon, and we met at the London Hilton before taxiing up Park Lane to another hotel where two very large men — Mr. Drumheller and Bill Murray — awaited us in their suite. It had been determined that all contact would be through the CIA’s Paris station chief, a position then held by Mr. Murray.
The CIA’s playbook was basic, if not so simple: “Cut out the middleman and deal directly with the prince.”
Not a bad rule, to which I would add: “If you’re the middleman, watch for the cut” (with expert advice from my mentor and the CIA’s former spymaster, Clair George).
The prince and I had other plans.
I would coordinate all intelligence/contact with the CIA. And I would manage and monitor all contact with any intelligence service, thereby ensuring that no service took advantage of the prince and its liaison partnership with us.
As stated in my memo to the prince: “It is my role to manage these relationships; not only for maximum effectiveness, but also to ensure the prince’s best interests are preserved. As such, I become a liaison between parties — understood by all — with loyalty to my client, the prince.
The CIA wrote it up differently, I learned later. The agency fancifully — and erroneously — perceived this meeting as its “recruitment” of Prince Albert.
In our minds, however, this was a “liaison-plus” relationship, which is to say a special liaison partnership, no strings attached.
The focus of our relationship with the CIA, they told us, would be counterterrorism, which was all the rage post-9/11, with scant attention paid to little else, including Vladimir Putin’s consolidation of power in Russia and his imperialist plan to reunite the old Soviet Union.
The CIA, of course, could not wait to cut around the back end. Knowing I was on vacation in California, Bill telephoned the prince and managed to pin him down for a drink without me.
Surprisingly, Albert agreed, and when I called him on it, he blamed it on mistaken identity. He said he thought he’d agreed to meet a different Bill Murray (maybe the actor?). It was a strange explanation, but commoners rarely demand further explanation from royalty, which is why the prince gets away with strange explanations.
Mr. Murray was just doing his job, and Albert, during their meeting, stuck to the protocol we had agreed.
Within a month later I settled the score, resulting in a feisty phone call from the CIA’s gruff Paris station chief. He wanted to know what I knew about a U.S. senator meeting the prince in Monaco. I knew quite a lot — and told him so. Indeed, I had instigated this visit myself. It was partly my way of demonstrating to the CIA the true nature of this relationship, while ensuring that we enjoyed congressional oversight so that the relationship would be understood for what it was: Liaison-plus, not the CIA’s recruitment of the prince.
The U.S. senator in question was Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia and ranking member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. I led him on a tour around Monaco and organized for him a 30-minute meeting with Prince Albert.
By the time I next met with Mr. Murray, he’d gotten the message: All intelligence goes through me, period. On that occasion, he provided me with a classified three-page report, which we had requested, on a Russian named Leonid Slutsky, deputy chairman of the Duma’s committee on International Relations. (Mr. Slutsky was also a delegate to the Council of Europe and had been charged by that body to determine whether Monaco was a suitable candidate for membership. He, according to Albert, had barged his way into the royal court and seemed to want something for himself in exchange for greenlighting Monaco’s acceptance into the council.)
Bill offered the prince briefings on any country he expected to visit and invited him — and me — to CIA headquarters for briefings by various experts on money laundering and terrorism finance.
As Mr. Murray’s tour was coming to an end, he brought his replacement, Pat N, to meet us. Pat would commence his duties in Paris on a bright note: Not only was Porter Goss, the new CIA director, already aware of this liaison relationship, he had taken a special interest in it after my friend, Jay Jakub, a senior member of his staff, walked in on him.
Over a tomato and mozzarella salad at Quai des Artistes, followed by salmon with spinach for three, I acquainted myself with Pat who we would soon code-name LIPS, because his strongest suit, when he wasn’t outright lying, was to pay lip service.
Within the agency, LIPS was renowned for risk averseness and for being sycophantic to the ambassadors at the embassies in which he served. How he got named to so important a post as Paris was anyone’s guess, but probably because so many senior intelligence officers had bailed from the ailing agency.
The prince was scheduled to join us at our safehouse for a 2:30 introductory meeting. At 2:45, I rang the prince’s cell phone. No answer. I rang the palace. They said he was at Roc Agel, the Grimaldi family country estate in the mountains. I asked his secretary, Madame Vialle, to please phone the prince and remind him of our meeting.
Ten minutes later, Albert phoned me.
“Is that central control?” he asked, rising to the level of his maturity. “I’ll be there in an hour.”
An hour later he phoned again. “Can you come up to Roc Agel?”
Albert could not escape a longish lunch with dad, in whose shadow he permanently resided and whom he dared not irk.
Our regular driver, Det (we called him the Det Collector), drove our threesome to Roc Agel. With its Willys Jeeps and security guards garbed in commando jumpsuits, the Grimaldi family farm had the feel of a paramilitary survivalist camp.
We were shown to the pool house and waited another 30 minutes in stillness and quiet, the occasional dog bark. At 5:45, Albert finally appeared.
Said LIPS to the prince, “Your concerns are our concerns,” and he echoed Bill Murray’s invitation to visit the CIA headquarters.
In advance of that visit, LIPS and a colleague drove down from Paris with a cryptographic phone/fax machine for communicating with us. LIPS conveyed that Director Goss had authorized the agency to assist us to the hilt and that we could plan on 15 minutes with him during our visit to CIA headquarters.
Next morning, The Det Collector drove LIPS, his technician and me up the Rock to Palais de Monaco. The CIA duo were determined to place their cryptographic phone and fax (called STE) in the prince’s office, but after 15 minutes of fumbling in Albert’s presence, could not find a way around the palace switchboard.
The cryptographic equipment was instead installed at my safehouse and the crypto-key necessary to operate the system provided to me for placement in our safe.
The prince’s Falcon jet landed at Reagan National Airport at noon.
LIPS picked me up at The Hay-Adams Hotel with two silver Lincoln Town Cars, and, after collecting Albert, we sped off to Langley, Va., not even stopping at its formidable security post.
Standing to greet us at the main entrance: European Division Chief Tyler Drumheller and my friend Jay Jakub, who had become senior adviser for Operations & Analysis to the director. We ascended in the director’s private elevator to the seventh floor, and the doors opened to Steve Kappes, deputy director for operations, and Phil R, chief of financial operations and known around Langley as “our national treasure.”
Before we knew it, Porter Goss stood among us. Mr. Director led us into his office, joking that his occupation of it might be short-lived. It was a rather prescient remark, suggesting that intelligence, indeed, was Porter’s rightful vocation, even if he should have remained in Congress rather than take this job.
So far as the CIA was concerned, I was the Monaco senior intelligence adviser, a title they bestowed upon me. I otherwise did not possess a title or a business card; I was meant to be invisible.
As we exchanged chitchat in the cozy sit-down anteroom of the director’s office, tension reigned supreme. It had nothing to do with the prince and me. There was a war going on between the “Goss-lings” — including my friend Jay, whom Mr. Goss had brought over from his congressional staff to help him run the agency — and the agency careerists, including Mr. Kappes and Tyler Drumheller.
Mr. Porter’s chief of staff, another “Goss-ling,” joined our discussion. (LIPS got lost in the milieu.)
Ten minutes later, when Director Goss invited the prince to join him for a photograph, I attempted to engage, with hearty gratitude, the director’s chief-of-staff, with whom I was already acquainted.
“Don’t, don’t,” he hissed, darting his eyes at the other faction.
He did not want them to associate me too closely with himself, as he thought it might jeopardize their handling of the agency’s relationship with the prince. And maybe it did. The wily ways of Washington.
We repaired with the team, minus the director, to a conference room, where senior agency officials, led by the soft-spoken Phil, provided a detailed, substantive briefing on items of mutual concern—including, they told us, the CIA’s “biggest secret and most important endeavor.”
We had much to digest, and we were promised paperwork to reflect our briefings, which was later transmitted to our safehouse in Monaco by cryptographic fax.
I was invited to return to Washington once we had fully absorbed the material, roll up our sleeves and get to work on the problems made known to us.
THE GOSS DOCTRINE
One month later, I broke bread in Monaco with LIPS, though we might have been breaking wind.
LIPS had an annoying habit of ticking off a list of concepts, at the end of which he would invariably say, “Does that make sense?”
And even though I agreed, the follow-up on his end was always next to nothing, unless it suited his own mission, which seemed nothing more than toadying to his ambassador in Paris.
I would identify areas of operation that would benefit our mutual objectives, and LIPS would nod and smile and say, “All good ideas, I’ll get back to you on that,” leaving me to suspect that much of what I passed to LIPS for conveyance to CIA headquarters never made it beyond Paris, due to LIPS’ incompetence, duplicity or both.
The prince agreed, at LIPS’s request, to ask questions of world leaders during his travels — questions posed by the CIA — to help the agency better understand certain personalities and stances on various issues. LIPS, however, neglected to provide Albert with any such questions — on this occasion or any — so their proposed concept had no practical application whatsoever.
I returned to Washington just before Christmas to roll up my sleeves with a CIA team assembled to put into action the priorities discussed at their headquarters briefing two months earlier. I was told that Director Goss’s pledge to protect the prince, and Monaco, was now accepted as “agency doctrine” and given high priority. (When I told Clair George, the former CIA spymaster, about the Goss Doctrine, he shook his head in awe. “Your boss,” he said, “will never understand or appreciate what you’ve done for him.”)
It was a good session, everyone at CIA gung-ho, trying to please the new director. We brainstormed excellent ideas on how to proceed operationally. But protocol dictated that everything had to be channeled through Paris and approved by LIPS, the weakest link in this short — three-link — chain.
Soon after New Year, on Jan. 6, I took the EuroStar from London through the channel tunnel to Paris for lunch with LIPS. His choice — Café Lenotre, on the Champs Elysees — sucked to high heaven: large picture windows, from which we could easily be observed, and tables arranged elbow to elbow for effortless eavesdropping. (I was thereafter trailed by the French security service.)
LIPS seemed rushed and, even worse, uncomfortable with how well things had gone with my visit in Washington.
He wanted to make his points and leave, and his points were these: He wanted to “streamline,” i.e., focus solely on his relationship with the prince, meaning, block all the creative operational projects that had myself and his colleagues so enthused three weeks earlier in Langley. He also quashed our plan to bring Phil R to meet with the prince and me in Monaco.
“Does that make sense?” asked LIPS, after shooting down the whole program we’d assembled during two days at headquarters. No, it made no sense at all. It was a waste of my time and my boss’s money.
‘MY COUNTRY IS DOOMED’
In early April, I flew to Washington and sat down with Clair George at Martin’s Tavern in Georgetown for clam chowder, oysters Rockefeller and a bottle of Beringer cabernet. Clair told me that the Washington establishment was determined to finish Porter Goss and his Goss-lings “and,” he said, “D.C. always wins.” (Spoken like a true D.C. insider, though some refer to permanent Washington as “Deep State.”)
Next evening, CIA’s best and brightest wined and dined me in a private room at Morton’s Steakhouse in Tyson’s Corner.
Later, beneath the journal entry of this occasion, I wrote: “It’s very simple: My country (the U.S.A.) is doomed.”
For a start, LIPS had conveyed none of our reporting to Phil R at headquarters, and though we in Monaco awaited data from Phil (supposedly requested of him by LIPS), Phil was truly unaware of what we needed.
What’s more, “Phil’s focus targets,” as conveyed to us by LIPS, turned out to be LIPS’s own ideas and had not come from Phil at all.
Four weeks later, I was back in Monaco with LIPS, who still had no data from headquarters — a full five months after we’d rolled up our sleeves in Langley. I noted in my journal: “Usual generic lip service.” All LIPS wanted was to write a report to headquarters saying he had met the prince, and all was well.
After LIPS departed, leaving us un-enlightened by anything, Prince Albert concurred with me that this CIA station chief’s song-and-dance was getting old. Thus, we would scale back his time with the prince; he’d see only me in Monaco.
Perhaps to make up for a lack of any substance, the CIA delivered some sizzle to our safehouse in the form of an industrial-strength shredder, with a request that we shred all briefing papers sent through the STE after Prince Albert read them.
Soon after, LIPS dropped down to Monaco. In accordance with our new policy, he did not see the prince.
To me alone, LIPS repeated a bunch of old mantras and did not provide the data we’d been awaiting near six months. It was a pleasure to see him… leave.
In June, I returned to Washington for, among other things, dinner at Dante’s in Great Falls, Va., with five CIA bigwigs. The air chilled noticeably when I mentioned a liaison partnership I had created in Monaco with a representative of the Russian FSB.
“They’re dangerous,” said Phil R, physically shaken by this development.
The bigwigs immediately began asking questions about this new relationship. I reminded them of the Third-Party Rule to which they not only subscribed but insisted upon: One does not share what one has heard from one service with another, and vice-versa.
Phil ventured that the French or Russians would eventually attempt to discredit me in the media without leaving fingerprints.
I mentioned my plan to meet the DST chief in Paris with a view to creating a liaison relationship with the French.
\Did their station chief, Pat N, know about this?
No, I replied, I do not clear what I do, nor whom I meet, with LIPS.
The CIA offered to arrange a briefing on Russian organized crime, perhaps to frighten me off having anything more to do with the Russian FSB. (Later I learned there was “great consternation” at Langley over our new relationship with the FSB — though I think my source meant constipation.)
On July 12, 2005) — the day of Prince Albert’s investiture — I received a call from LIPS on the hotline, our cryptographic phone. He’d heard from Washington that I planned to meet the DST chief in Paris.
“A good idea,” he said, as if it were his own.
“But others are a bad idea,” he added, doubtless alluding to FSB. “The French know who you are and what you’re doing and they’re very happy about it — an American, with expertise.”
I doubted that they were very happy. And it turned out they did not even know about me, because the agency had not told the French, preferring to continue its fantasy that Albert was the CIA’s recruit.
Later in July, I returned to Washington for the briefing CIA had promised on Russian organized crime and its relationship with President Vladimir Putin’s regime. It was a good, thorough briefing, the substance of which I cannot write about as I signed a non-disclosure agreement still in effect stating that such intelligence is secret and releasable to Monaco for the prince and my eyes only.
Suffice to say, it helped me to better understand the problems Monaco would encounter if it allowed corrupt Russians to conduct business within its borders (as it was eventually allowed to do under Prince Albert’s stewardship).
As soon as I returned to Monaco, LIPS phoned on the hotline to proudly announce that the CIA would henceforth provide a “worldwide intelligence brief “for the prince, which they would cryptographically fax to me.
Apparently, the prince’s new status as sovereign cut muster for such service, though I daresay, as these briefs piled up in our safehouse Albert rarely took an interest in reading any of them.
Coming up: Part Two.
Robert Eringer is a longtime Montecito author with vast experience in investigative journalism. He welcomes questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Sundays in the News-Press.