Dead Drop: March 24

THERE GOES THE JUDGE: Turns out allegations that the British GCHQ had done the dirty work for the Obama administration in electronically surveilling the Trump campaign came to Fox News from Judge Andrew Napolitano.  The Judge, whose story changed from “might have happened” to “definitely happened,” apparently was relying on three anonymous sources who Fox did not find compelling. So as of Monday, Judge Napolitano emulated Judge Crater and disappeared (well, at least from Fox News at the moment).  The LA Times reports that the  Judge is not expected back on the air in the near future. Meanwhile, outgoing NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett told BBC that the claim that NSA asked GCHQ to snoop on the Trump campaign was “arrant nonsense.”  No further word from the White House – which may still be looking up “arrant.” Ledgett added that asking the Brits to conduct such an illegal act would be “epically stupid.”

RAPP UP: We previously told you about plans to turn Vince Flynn’s very popular Mitch Rapp novel American Assassin into a motion picture.  Now comes word that the Lionsgate/CBS Films flick will open in theaters on September 15.  Dylan O’Brien plays the hero Rapp – while Michael Keaton plays Rapp’s CIA mentor, Stan Hurley.

THE PLAME’s THE THING: Remember Valerie Plame Wilson, the CIA officer whose husband Joe Wilson wrote an Op-Ed in 2003 about what WMD precursors he didn’t find in Africa?   The next thing you knew Plame’s cover was blown. What followed was recrimination, leaks, finger pointing, and a trial for one of President George W. Bush’s aides. Then a book deal and a movie for Plame ensued.  Seemed like everything that could be said about the incident had been said, but apparently not everyone had said it.  So now there is a play too. The Washingtonian tells us a play called Intelligence is at the Arena State through April 9th.  The magazine says it is a fictional account of the Plame saga.  According to Roll Call, Plame, as portrayed in the play, feels responsibility for an Iraqi agent she recruited and a “promise she made to his niece, a dressmaker in Washington, to protect him.”  According to knowledgeable officials with whom we talked – this part of the story was made up out of whole cloth.

NORTH STAR: Plame is not the only DC scandal alumni getting the star treatment. According to the Washington Post, there is an Amazon TV show in the making about the 1980’s Iran-Contra scandal. Actor Colin Farrell has signed up to play Lt. Col. Oliver North.

THE FINAL BONG: On Wednesday came the sad news of the passing of game show host Chuck Barris who created such TV staples as “The Dating Game,” “The Newlywed Game,” and the infamous “Gong Show” (in which bad talent show acts were chased from the stage by the banging of a huge gong.)   In the mid-80s, Barris wrote a book called, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in which he claimed that (when not hosting cheesy TV series) he was a part-time CIA assassin.  The book inspired a 2002 movie, in turn resulted in one of the all-time-great comments from a government spokesman.  When asked about claims that Barris was on the Agency payroll giving the hammer to American enemies – then-CIA spokesman Tom Crispell said, “It sounds like he has been standing too close to the gong all those years.” Adding “Chuck Barris has never been employed by the CIA and the allegation that he was a hired assassin is absurd.”

POCKET LITTER: Bits and pieces of interesting /weird stuff we discovered:

  • A Good Walk Spoiled: A £10 MILLION painting by Thomas Gainsborough called “The Morning Walk,” which was featured in the James Bond film Skyfall, was damaged this past weekend by a man who attacked it with a screwdriver.  The painting was on display at London’s National Gallery.  The attacker claimed to have also had a bomb.  No word on a motive – but given the tool the attacker was carrying – we suspect he had a screw loose.
  • Told Ya So:  Way back in the February 3rd Dead Drop, we told you about Trump administration plans to install “liaison officers” at various administration offices to keep an eye on political purity.  We quoted a source as describing it as “political commissars” from the Soviet days. This past Sunday, March 19,  the Washington Post carried a front page story about political appointees assigned to cabinet departments to ensure loyalty.  The Post called them “commissars.”  Hmmm. Sounds familiar.
  • Berlin Station Change:  The TV network EPIX has re-upped their series Berlin Station for a second season.  According to Deadline Hollywood, “the contemporary spy drama takes a look at the activity of a CIA office on a global stage in the midst of an investigation into a now-famous whistleblower.”   Ashley Judd is being cast this year as the new Chief of Station.

NETWORK NEWS: Not a day goes by when members of The Cipher Brief Network aren’t making news.  Here are just a few examples from this week:

WHAT’S ON THEIR NIGHTSTAND? (Our contributors tell us about what they’re currently reading)

Carmen Medina, former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence:

“I am reading The Discovery of Chance: The Life and Times of Alexander Herzen by Aileen Kelly.  Alexander Herzen was the philosophical father of the Russian Revolution. The book reminds us that the political and ideological battles we are fighting today have been with us for at least 200 years.”


“I hate to put it this way, but it is possible to take a flight without working on a laptop. Either people will learn to work on their smartphones, which is a little cumbersome, but certainly for reading and some things, you can do that. Or people will shift to more paper and do work that way.”

-Michael Chertoff, former Department of Homeland Security Secretary, currently Executive Chairman and Co-founder of the Chertoff Group.

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