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November 21, 2005

The Spy Who Came In From The Bigtop

Just plain weird and disturbing story in the Washington Post.

Let me explain. No, there is not enough time. Let me sum up:

A magazine writer wrote a very uncharitable article about the father of a guy named Kenneth Feld, a CEO at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In anger, he hired a former CIA spymaster (somehow involved with Iran-Contra) to set up full surveillance on the writer, as well as run covert ops on her, including inserting a mole into her life-- a "false friend" who posed as a business partner, torpedoed her career, and attempted to steer her away from writing anything further about Feld's father. Including presenting her with book deals about other topics, to keep her busy with non-circus matters.

The expert spook hired a onetime journalist named Robert Eringer, whom he described as a "very close friend," to help carry out the Pottker operation. George paid him $1,500 a week.

According to Pottker's suit, Eringer's mission was to worm his way into her life, becoming her confidant, editor and book "packager." He steered her toward researching other famous and fractious families, including the Rockefellers, the Mars candy clan and the Hafts of Washington.

A Rockefeller book, Eringer predicted in an early memo, "will side-track Pottker for many months to come -- probably a couple of years -- and this will mean she must relegate any possible Ringling book project to a back burner."

Eventually Pottker published two books that Feld had a secret hand in: "Crisis in Candyland," an unauthorized look at the Mars chocolate family, in 1995; and "Celebrity Washington," a small guidebook to the homes of media and political figures, in 1996. A Feld company even paid for the $25,000 advance on "Crisis in Candyland." Both books had small publishers and limited print runs.

Well, that part doesn't sound so bad. I should let Mr. Feld know I'm at this moment researching his father's alleged homosexuality for an article I plan to call You Know What They Say About Guys With Big Floppy Red Feet, but that if he wants to toss some other projects my way, I can put it on the back-burner.

But they also collected all sorts of information on her and wrote it up in little, um, "intelligence memos" I guess:

"Pottker is driving to New York City this weekend with her husband and two daughters," one says. "She has an appointment with a top NYC hairdresser to highlight her hair (she had to book this appointment six weeks in advance -- and she is very excited.)"

Harry Reid just announced in a press conference that they'd "twisted the intelligence" about her hairstyling.

The writer and her husband are seeking $60 million, claiming invasion of privacy, fraud, and infliction of emotional distress.

Long but strange. Great reading if you're a member of the Tinfoil Hat Brigade and need some reassurance that hey, this crap really does happen.


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posted by Ace at 12:40 AM

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