Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Sex and the CIA

I've learned that to be a really good scandal, it must include sex. The Cunningham/Wilkes/Foggo scandal is about to get the sex it needs for the public to notice.

I recently received an advance copy of Seth Hettena's Feasting
on the Spoils: The Life and Times of Randy “Duke” Cunningham, History's Most
Corrupt Congressman
, which will be published this July and which I highly recommend. In addition to being a terrific piece of political reporting, the book is filled with juicy details concerning the seamier side of the Cunningham affair, otherwise known as “Hookergate.”

I was particularly interested in stories Hettena unearthed about Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, whom former CIA director Porter Goss had named as executive director, the agency's number-three official. Foggo resigned last year not long after FBI agents raided his home and office. The Feds suspected that Foggo, who was later indicted, had funneled CIA contracts to his long-time friend Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who is accused of bribing Cunningham with money and prostitutes.

Some of the more sensational stories in Hettena's book—and he has on-the-record sources—got me thinking. First, didn't Foggo's frequent indiscretions (for example, flashing his agency ID to jump the line at a strip club) raise red flags about his character? Second, wasn't Foggo's outlandish sexual behavior—like, say, publicly performing oral sex on a hooker (hired by Wilkes) at his own bachelor party—just the sort of thing that makes intelligence officials potentially vulnerable toblackmail by a hostile spy service? Third, might it be possible to cynically point to such revelations and use them as a hook for a blog item that combines sex and espionage?

You already know the answer to #3. As to #1 and #2, I spoke with a number of former CIA officers and asked them about the use of sex as a weapon of espionage and whether Foggo-scale misbehavior would typically be deemed a security risk or cause other problems.

The original scandal was pretty basic: Wilkes bribes Cunningham and Foggo, gets government contracts for millions. Cunningham gets caught, goes to jail. Page B17 story. But if we can get some sex in the story? A1 with screaming headlines.

The contract, previously reported to be worth between $2 million and $3 million, was a no-bid, unneeded deal to distribute water in Iraq. In other words, it was right up Wilkes' alley, since he specialized in selling unneeded and drastically overpriced equipment and services to the government via acquaintances like the now-incarcerated Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) .

Besides the fun of seeing someone called "Dusty" go on trial, maybe the public will start to notice the corruption that has become so pervasive in the current administration.

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