Archive for the ‘Blame a Dame’ Category

Jennifer Matthews

Posted: January 30, 2013 in Blame a Dame, CIA

ImageIn my previous post, I discussed the increase of coverage of women in Intelligence in 2012. Increased coverage is good, but improper reporting of the facts is bad, so all in all, it ends up being a mixed blessing at best. The year kicked-off with renewed coverage of slain CIA agent, Jennifer Matthews, and her family speaking out on her behest due to what they felt was a misrepresentation of the facts surrounding her death, or as we refer to it in this blog, they are calling BS on what they feel is yet another round of “Blame a Dame”.

Jennifer Matthews (1964-2009), a 22-year CIA agent, an al Qaeda specialist (before there was such a thing), wife, and mother of three, was serving as the CIA base chief in Khost, Afghanistan when an asset, Jordanian doctor and double agent, Humam Khalil al-Balawi, visited the Camp Chapman base and detonated a suicide vest, thus killing not only Matthews, but six other CIA agents and a Jordanian Intelligence operative.

This is where the righteous pointing fingers rose up in indignation en masse. Now this is very normal human behavior, the need to make sense of tragedy, however, another common trait falls under Attribution Theory, where people, in trying to make sense of tragedy, will often arrive at conclusions that may be more a matter of convenience as opposed to fact in effort to assign blame. And this is where Jennifer Matthews comes in, as Chief of Base, her family feels she is being scapegoated for the entire ordeal when there is plenty of culpability go around.

The facts of the day are fairly straightforward: the doctor was transported to the base, and due to his previous visits, he was deemed trustworthy enough not to be searched. Matthews gathered her colleagues outside to greet the doctor where he then detonated the bomb he had concealed on his person. The mistakes are also straightforward: the doctor was not searched prior to transport, not searched at entry, and Matthews, apparently, had disregarded an internal security protocol by gathering her colleagues together in that manner. Official reports seemingly agree that many error across the board were made.

Where it gets mucky is that as Chief of Base, criticism leveled at Matthews was incredibly fierce. The fall-out of the event resulted in some people digging up Matthews name in connection to a scathing post-9/11 report that named Matthews and others partially responsible for Intelligence failures by not alerting the FBI to their information about a pending al Qaeda attack. Neither Matthews or others named in the report were disciplined because, frankly, a slew of people throughout the Intelligence Community have their own proverbial cross to bear when it comes to 9/11. Matthews can hardly be blamed for 70 years of non-cooperation between the CIA and the FBI. And post-attack, with more puzzle pieces in place, Matthews was a key figure in the capture of Abu Zubaida, a top al Qaeda leader, in March 2002, a mere six months after. Further, it is key to note that the doctor was a CIA asset before Matthews took the role as Base Chief. There would have been an assumption that he was properly vetted before Matthews ever knew him.

Other accusations that were leveled at Matthews was that she was not qualified to be in her position. Naturally, this gets spun in such a way to say that she was incompetent, especially given that she made the error of bringing her colleagues outside to meet the doctor, and super-especially given that her uncle, Dan Matthews, himself a noted CIA veteran, makes the ill-advised comments that she “was in over her head”. Jerky-move and family disloyalty aside, the elder Matthews’ comments reinforce the idea that she was not capable of handling the assignment.

Now here’s where I get “fussy” about wordage. Just because someone has not worked in a position before, does not mean they are unqualified. The CIA does acknowledge that of all of the applicants for the job, Matthews was the most qualified applicant. The assumption goes that you would receive a certain amount on-the-job-training in areas where you may need instruction. A sentiment voiced by Matthews’ husband, Gary Anderson, who clarifies that his wife had not received the proper training for the post.

But let me be clear: questioning Matthews’ action as Base Chief is fair play. Questioning her entire career, and certainly not in proper context, is not fair play. That, and I somehow don’t see this becoming the story it has become if Matthews were a man.

The truth in this case is a mixed bag. Yes, the good doctor should have been more thoroughly vetted, but the doctor was also an asset prior to Matthews working with him. Should she have performed her own vetting? No, you want and need to trust those you work with in that they have competently performed their own job. Should Matthews have followed strict protocols during the doctor’s arrival to the base? Definitely, but then the doctor should also have received a pat-down prior to entrance to the base. As with all things military and para-military, as the Chief of Base, the buck stops with Matthews. However, even with a pat-down prior to base entrance, the doctor would likely have detonated his vest anyway still incurring a body count. The problem here is that by gaining entrance, the doctor killed 8 high-level operatives inside a base instead of just those nameless schmoes transporting him.

The fact is, in the end, that should not matter. Anyone who dies in conflict, no matter who or where specifically, is a great loss and it should not be qualified according to rank and location. And Matthews is hardly responsible for the whole shebang, whatever her past, whatever her qualifications. This is a case where many small mistakes spread across many people culminated into a big disaster.

In the end, who do we “attribute” to this tragedy to? We attribute this tragedy where it belongs: to the abstract concept of War. As one anonymous person commented in a Washington Post story covering the Matthews story so eloquently stated:

“As a person who has gone to war “unprepared,” and by that I mean anyone who has been in a war zone has absolutely no idea what it will be like, let me tell you the instructions I have both my parents and spouse: Do not speak to the press, do not comment on my service or what I did if I am killed; I was killed because I was in harms’ way, not for any other reason. Remember that I love all of you but you are not in a position to judge what I do every day for a living. Sometimes, in war, tragic errors are made–they might be my errors or they might be others’; it’s war and the blame lies there and not with the people who had to make split-second decisions with bad information.”

Good advice.


Marina Lee

Posted: September 1, 2010 in Abwehr, Blame a Dame, Britain, Espionage, MI5, Undercover, WWII

There’s all sort of animal, vegetable and mineral that fall under the umbrella of “Nazi”. I’ve seen Nazi clowns, Nazi dogs, Soup Nazis, and Nazi film-makers; but I’m going to be honest here, the very idea of a Nazi ballerina comes pretty close to taking the proverbial cake.

The broo-ha-ha erupted this past week upon the declassification of WWII documents from British security services and then vomited all over the Web about this Tiny Dancer being responsible for the British defeat in Norway in 1940.

HOWEVER, let’s ask the obvious question here: Fact or Fiction? Base or Baseless? Less Filling or Tastes Great?

Is the story being spread around the globe about Marina Lee the real deal or this just another episode of our favorite show Blame-A-Dame?

Here’s what we know: Lee was born in Russia during the revolution, her parents were killed by the Bolsheviks, she was a trained dancer, she fled to Norway where she married and taught at a dance school. It’s easy to see why she is targeted in this scenario. She spoke 5 languages, she was decidedly beautiful, being a dancer provided her with excellent cover, and also, back in the day a dancer was more akin to being a “loose woman” so it afforded a determined spy a little more access to those in vulnerable positions.

But none if this is what anyone would call proof. The conjecture that is being bandied about is that Lee bamboozled strategic plans by the Brits out of a General Auchenlik and then slipped them to a German agent. Presto-change-o the Brits lose Norway to the Nazis.

But here’s the rub: this is neither proven nor dis-proven, hence the term conjecture, and in the weighing of evidence, the accusation does not hold. The BBC report on this story bears the headline: Blond Nazi ballerina ’caused war set back’ which let’s admit, is spicy stuff, but the first line of the article goes on to read that: secret government paper suggestThis is a far cry from stating “that beyond a shadow of a doubt this dame ratted us out.”

Google “Nazi Ballerina” and you’ll come up with hundreds of articles, most of them supporting the “validity” of the tale. This little gem by journalist Guy Walters points out the obvious “junkiness” of the evidence. Thank.You.Guy! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have no problem calling a spade a spade but let’s make sure we’re first actually dealing with shovels and not wheelbarrows.

Is it worth examining why these tales of female agents capture the imagination so forcefully? On one hand, the conditioned response harkens back to traditional stereotypes would have you believe that women are soft and fragile, noble and righteous. While other stereotypes play off the seemingly innate fear men have over beautiful broads thus the gorgeous Spy Dame is the epitome of all that is dark and dangerous about the mysterious female form. In the end, we deal with the same gender issues that have plagued society for years and they all seem to center around women either being the Madonna or the prostitute.

We saw this nastiness arise earlier this summer in a subject I am loathe to mention: Anna Chapman, alleged agent in the Russian Spy Ring that was busted in the US earlier this summer. While everyone talks about the “flame-haired“, “femme fatale“, “great-in-bedness” of Chapman, does anyone stop to consider the story? Taken into consideration, she really comes off as a spoiled diplomat-brat-mail-order-bride who minored in real estate and majored in partying. During the set-up for her take-down, she was handed, by undercover Feds, a passport to deliver and Chapman called her daddy to ask what she should do (daddy’s response was to turn the passport in to the police). Hardly the acts of a trained Spy Dame! Seriously, Virginia Hall is rolling over in her grave.

But the point is this: all of that detail is lost in the flame-haired-femme-fatale-great-in-bedness of the story…well, that and the pictures of her in a tiara

So let’s get back to Blond Nazi Ballerina at hand…Marina Lee: Spy Dame or Dame Blamed?

You say “potato”, I say “po-tah-toe”, you say “Mata Hari”, I say “get your facts straight”…damn this is getting tiresome…

So history is playing yet another round of “Blame Dame” with the acts of a cowardly US Colonel towards a dame being mislabeled as “Sexpionage”. Sigh.

Here we go: Kim Soo-Im (1911-1950) was a highly educated Korean Socialite. During the post WWII years, when Korea was trying to shrug off it’s Japanese controlled, colonial, feudal shroud, the young and educated were leaning left-towards communism-as a way to modernize their society.

Kim was an orphan who was raised by missionaries and was educated at a prestigious women’s college. She supported herself by working as an office administrator and ran in a highly fashionable circle of Korean intellectuals. In 1941, Kim met Lee Gang-Kook, an older married man who was also the head of Seoul’s leftist movement. They became involved and remained so until the Korea’s crackdown on communists in 1945 forced Lee to flee to Northern Korea.

Kim was left behind and due to her fluency in English, she became a translator for American forces stationed in Korea. Enter Col. John E. Baird. His role in Korea was to monitor the black market, Korean informants, and theft of US Army property. Kim became his assistant, and more, and Baird set Kim up with housing and eventually fathered her child, a son, Wonil Kim.

This went on until m1949, when the US Army began withdrawals, Baird’s American wife came to town for a visit, and Kim’s ex-lover Lee, had risen to political heights in the North and began to pubicly trash talk the Southern Regime.

In 1950, Kim was no longer employed by the US Army and Baird was skipping town back to his family across the pond. This left Kim vulnerable and she was rounded up in a leftist witch-hunt where the South Korean government charged her with a dirty laundry list of crimes, the most serious of which claimed that Kim relayed top-secret US withdrawal plans to her ex-lover Lee in the North.

No evidence was presented. No witnesses were brought forth to corroborate the charges. But on the third day of trial, Kim broke down and confessed. I’m willing to put money that the amount of torture she suffered during her imprisonment, in the form of water boarding, electric shock, and the terrifying use of pliers, played no small part in the matter.

Col. Baird, well aware of Kim’s dire circumstances, and who could have manned-up, stepped forward, and refute the charges, did nothing for her.

Kim was sentenced to death and was swiftly executed.

The US Army, well aware of the situation, did its own follow up investigation and recently declassified reports show that the charges against Kim were a set-up. Not only that, Col. Baird was not privy to any such sensitive information, hence, Kim could have not passed it along to Lee Gang-Kook.

Kim’s son, Wonil, was adopted by a missionary family who eventually headed back to the US. Well aware of his mother’s story since there was a few TV movies aired that trumped her up as an “Asian Mata Hari” (one narrated by an actor by the name of Ronald Reagan), Wonil began a life’s quest in clearing his mother’s name.

Wonil tracked his father shortly before he died in 1980, and despite the undisputable fact that he looks exactly like dear old dad, Col. Baird rejected him outright claiming a “Mr. Smith” as Wonil’s real father. Despite this, Wonil developed a close relationship with his father’s family after his death. Wonil is now collaborating with a Korean filmmaker on his mother’s life story in efforts to dispell the myths that have surrounded her so long.

And the kicker of it all: according the Army intelligence reports, Lee Gong-Kook was employed by the CIA’s Joint Activities Commission in Korea as a secret agent. He was executed in 1953 after the Korean War ended for being an American spy.

If you’ve been keeping up on the latest news reports, no doubt you have heard that alleged terrorist and FBI’s Most Wanted Female, Aafia Siddiqui, was reportedly nabbed last month in Afghanistan. Of course, if you’ve been listening to other reports, you have also heard that Siddiqui is a dame-blamed, has been a ghost prisoner at an obviously undisclosed black site (courtesy of the CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition program), and this “arrest” in Afghanistan is just a big ruse.

So which story is true?

Beats the hell out of this agent.

Here’s what we know: Siddiqui (1972-) is a Pakistani born, American-educated neuroscientist and mother of three. Siddiqui came to the US sometime in early 1990’s to attend MIT. Upon graduation, she went on to doctoral work at Brandeis University receiving her doctorate in 2001. At some point during all of this, Siddiqui married, had three children, and along with her husband, founded the Institute of Islamic Research and Teaching.

Her troubles seem to begin around 2001 when Siddiqui is known to have made payments to various Islamic charities that are or are suspected of supporting terrorism. Also during this time, Siddiqui’s husband was purchasing quite a bit of high-tech military equipment that was supposed to have been sent back to Pakistan, but the whereabouts of the equipment are uncertain. All these activities are believed to have gone on well into 2002.

So here’s what you need to keep in mind here: banks monitor money flows for illegal purposes. Getting money out one country and into another is not as easy as packing it in a bag and getting on an airplane. This is even more difficult since the passing of the Patriot Act here in the US. Banks are trying thwart fraud, cease money laundering and stop the financing of other illegal activities. Rest assured that reputable financial institutions will report your shenanigans to the FBI faster than you can say “Guantanamo Bay” should they suspect you of something truly evil, like say, terrorism.

Also, there is a Vegas born (yes, Las Vegas, Nevada) software coming into play that allows for the agencies like the CIA to link people of nefarious activities together by means not immediately recognizable to most. NORA: Nonobvious Relationship Analysis is a program that has the potential of linking people together by things they may have in common. In Siddiqui’s case, it was she and another terrorist sharing the same building address during the same time frame and then later, another piece of evidence emerged to further link the two.

Needless to say there was a lot of smoke surrounding Siddiqui and her husband. On top of all that financial intrigue, Siddiqui’s name allegedly began popping out (or was forced out, depending on who you listen to) of captured terror suspects. She was also linked materially to yet another terror suspect when her name appeared in his belongings.

Now this is where things get fuzzy. Somehow, in the middle of all this hooplah, Siddqui manages to leave the country and head for the hills in Pakistan with her three children where an uncle says she was detained by the FBI. Around this same time the international press named Siddiqui as a “fixer”, a coordinator if you will, of terrorist activities for al’Qaeda. Whether this is true or not, no one knows. What is for certain is that after spring 2003, Siddiqui vanished.

In Spring 2004, Siddiqui was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted List. They dis not label her as a terrorist, but as person they wished to locate and question.

Flash forward 2008: In July, there surfaced reports of a mystery woman in a US Afghani Military detainment facility. Some speculate if this isn’t Siddiqui. Shortly thereafter, the US reports of Siddiqui’s arrest in Afghanistan for allegedly attempting to murder to US officers. Reports of the actual events in Siddiqui’s arrest vary. Some say it was outside the governor’s residence in Ghazni, some say it was inside, some include gun fire, others include an “orgy of evidence” that was reportedly on Siddiqui at the time.

Siddiqui has since appeared in court in the US (not in the best of health as it has been reported she was shot during her arrest). This has sparked a fury in Pakistan where it is believed she is wrongly accused. There’s also another interesting plot twist about Pakistani President Musharraf ‘s son having collected a bounty on Siddiqui and a possible link between judges in Pakistan who fired by Musharraf and this case.

In the meantime, the US Intelligence Community is holding firm that they have been unaware of Siddiqui’s whereabouts for the last 5 years. What is claimed however, is that Siddiqui had information regarding US target sites and information regarding potential assassination plots of former US presidents.

ABC News has been airing many reports on the story, and has gone so far as to label Siddiqui (incorrectly of course) as a “Mata Hari”. Someone at ABC News needs to brush up on their history.

Siddiqui’s estranged husband is currently residing in Pakistan where he is a doctor. The location and fate of Siddiqui’s three children are unknown.

Ethel Rosenberg (1915-1953) and her husband, Julius, were executed for espionage in the early days of the Cold War. As documents related to the case are now becoming declassified, one has to ask: Ethel Rosenberg, Spy-Dame or Dame Blamed?

Ethel Greenglass was born to New York City Jewish immigrants in 1915. She dreamed of being an entertainer, but became instead a secretary. She showed her chutzpah by becoming involved in labor movements and joining the Young Communist League, where she met Julius Rosenberg and eventually married.

Julius, who worked as a radio operator for the US Army Signal Corps, spied for the Soviet Union as early as 1942 and passed along classified radio reports. This is not under dispute. What is under dispute is whether nuclear secrets were in fact involved and the extent to which his wife, Ethel, was complicit.

The main case against Ethel rests on Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, a worker at the Los Alamos facility where the Manhattan Project was underway. David was involved in the spying operation with Julius and when David was arrested and had the screws put to him, David gave up the Rosenbergs. Initially he stated that his sister, Ethel, was not involved and that he had been recruited by his brother-in-law Julius. He changed his tune however and later provided incriminating testimony that Ethel was in up to her ears and had employed her typing skills in translating notes to be passed along to the KGB.

We all know how the story ends in that Rosenbergs were convicted and sentenced to death. A world-wide media circus ensued and did nothing to prevent the inevitable which was the Rosenberg’s execution by the electric chair in 1953.

Ethel Rosenberg was executed June 19, 1953. Because of this skirt’s diminutive stature, the components of the electric chair did not fit her properly and resulted in this poor broad being electrocuted not one but three times! Witnesses claim to have seen smoke rising for Ethel’s head. How lovely that must have been for her. The Rosenberg’s ostracized children were adopted by the amazingly altruistic songwriter Abel Meeropol and his wife.

So flash forward 50+ years and here’s what’s going down: David Greenglass has recanted his testimony. How fabulous…for him. Fearing for the safety of his wife and children, David claims he was pressured by prosecutors to implicate his sister Ethel. It is speculated that with Ethel in their sights, the prosecution could use her as leverage against Julius to give up the whole kit and caboodle, which, as we know, never came to be. Newly released documents are showing that the prosecution never really had a case against Ethel.

Ethel’s dear brother, David Greenglass, however, is alive and well. Having only served 10 years in prison for his involvement, David went back to wife and children living under an assumed identity.

Here’s hoping the chap continues to have a wonderfully long life ahead of him-like the one he denied his sister.

Benedict Arnold, the most infamous traitor in American history, has been undergoing a bit of transformation as late: one from being a nefarious turn-coat to that of being an under-appreciated, brilliant leader who was duped by love.

Now I’m all for calling spade a spade, if nothing else, this blogs shows the wily and wonderful acts women are truly capable of, but I’m not at all for playing “Blame A Dame” as what appears to be happening with Arnold. Serious scholarship does need to apply, thank you.

Peggy Shippen Arnold (1760-1836) was Arnold’s second wife and and fully half her husband’s age. She belonged to a prominent Philadelphia family of the law which remained staunchly neutral during the American Revolution. Prior to meeting Arnold, young Peggy had a bit of a flirtation with British spy, Major John Andre, who was later hung, reportedly, in retaliation for the execution of Nathan “I regret I only have one life to give for my country” Hale.

But Peggy married Arnold who was notoriously thin-skinned, self-righteous, and incapable of living within his means. The new theory on Arnold is that Peggy was herself a spy for the British and was employed to “turn” Arnold on behalf of Peggy’s “lover”, Major Andre.

If you’ll remember the little chat we had about Bond Girl, Vesper Lynd, and the MICE theory, Arnold is 2 for 4 on the Richter Scale of treason. He needed Money, and his Ego was bruised by lack of promotion. Whether this makes him an easy mark for 19 year old Peggy to convert, we don’t know.

So was the Shippen family secretly Loyalists? Was Peggy tasked by her spy-love, Major Andre, to target Arnold? Was Arnold just a pawn in Peggy’s game of espionage?

Or is all of this just another case of Eve getting the rap for the expulsion from Eden?

Important fact to note: talking trash may equal treason but does not necessarily equal spying.

“Tokyo Rose” was an umbrella term referring to any one of a dozen English speaking ladies on Japanese radio. However, the most famous rose in the garden was Iva Toguri D’Aquino (1916-2006). An American born Girl Scout of Japanese descent, Iva was convicted of treason for allegedly talking smack to the boys at war.

There seems to be a distinct failure on the part of men to understand that sometimes, one must do what one must do to survive. In this case it was when Iva was stranded in Japan in 1941 while visiting an ailing relative. Once tensions in the country became rather overt, Iva, an native-born, US Citizen, petitioned for an American passport (which the government would not issue to her) and the Japanese government would not let her leave the country.

So the world went kablooey after Pearl Harbor and Iva, trapped in a hostile country, found odd jobs to support herself while also smuggling food to Americans in POW camps. One such job was at a radio station where it was requested she air propaganda to which Iva refused. She was denied war rations as a result. No propaganda was ever found in her broadcasts and part of her meager wages were continued to be used to smuggle food into POW camps.

After the war, Iva was arrested for treason for her alleged role in airing propoganda on Japanese radio. Years of legal missteps ensued primarily due to lack of evidence against Iva and the simple fact that she never called herself “Tokyo Rose”, but “Orphan Ann” in her broadcasts. It was well documented that Orphan Ann never talked smack. Of course, the fact that she risked life and limb to feed American POW’s who were being starved in camps apparently held for nothing. I’m sure no small amount of racism played into the matter either, but Iva was convicted of a sole count of treason in 1949.

Iva was paroled in 1956 and pardoned by President Ford in 1977 after it was discovered that aside from having no evidence against her, the two most damaging witnesses in her trial had lied. She died in Chicago in 2006, after a WWII veterans committee honored her with a citizenship award for her bravery.

So there.

You’ve heard it, admit it, you have. Any dame involved in anything the least bit manipulative in nature or related to espionage and she instantly and incorrectly merits the name a “Mata Hari”.

Double Agent or naive floozy? The world may never know the true story of Margarethe Zelle (1876-1917), a Dutch exotic dancer and courtesan, that has captured popular imagination as an international woman of mystery during WWI.

Not a great dancer nor a great beauty, divorcee “Mata Hari”, took great advantage of being a first: an Asian Exotic Dancer. This was something new and novel to taunt the European public. All fine and good when the world is at peace and you are viewed as “seductive” and “erotic”, not so good when war comes to town and people get religion because then you become “promiscuous” and a “trollop”.

Mata Hari’s legion of high ranking, military lovers took her back and forth across country lines and kept in her the lavish lifestyle to which she was accustomed. It also garnered some unfortunate attention when Mata Hari claimed she was working for the French government, a claim that could not be verified. Was she the real deal or just reinventing her image ala Madonna?

Mata Hari’s shenanigans eventually caught up to her when French authorities intercepted a German radio massage regarding the activities of spy H-21. The French decoded the message, attributed it to Mata Hari, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The rumors fly that she was a spy, not a spy, a scapegoat, and/or a victim of a set-up and/or unfortunate circumstance. If she was duped, then who did it? It could have been the French or it could have been the Germans, no one really knows, but the general thought amongst scholars leans towards her being a pawn and nothing more.

Margarethe Zelle was tried, convicted and executed in 1917 for treason. And in the grand tradition of outrageous executioner tales, Mata Hari may, or may not, have blown a kiss to the firing squad, flashed her naked bod and claimed “Harlot, yes, but traitor, never!”

I guess we’ll know in another 9 years when the 100 seal on French records is finally broken.