April 24, 2012

Recovered history: Sex and security in DC

In view of the sex brouhaha over the Secret Service in Colombia, we thought it might be useful to provide some historical context. Some years back we posted a page, Sex in DC, that dealt with the relationship between sex and politics in the capital. A number of the items also involved the police.

This page provides readers access to examples of the capital confluence of the promiscuous, prohibited, perplexing and political. This is nothing new. For example, during the Civil War there were 450 brothels in DC. Neither, however, is it insignificant. Part of the mythology of Washington is what might be called the Jim Lehrer Illusion, which is to say that all people in the capital do is sit around and rationally debate policy alternatives. In fact, Washington politics is also heavily driven by cowardice, blackmail, deceit, fear, loyalty to old buddies and even older bodies, cooptation, corruption, sex, and just plain crime. Journalists who pretend otherwise either don't understand what is going on or are covering for someone.

The public often misunderstands the importance of Washington scandals, assuming them to be a simple dalliance, individual failing, or private offense. What makes both sex and crime in DC different, at least when those in power are involved, is that there is far more opportunity for blackmail and far more skill at covering things up.

The blackmail may be used by members of one branch of government against those of another, by lobbyists against members of Congress, by the police against whomever they wish, and by foreign powers. For example, one way to keep a congress member bought is for a lobbyist to provide him with high class prostitutes. And it is noteworthy that both the Israelis and Boris Yeltsin apparently knew about Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky before the American public did. The city's ecology lends particular importance to gay sex simply because greater public antipathy makes it an even easier target for the blackmailer, witness the case a few years back when DC police officers were found to be running an extortion racket against those who visited gay bars.

Finally, the exposure of impropriety almost inevitably raises the issue of hypocrisy since the participating official often has inveighed against the discovered offense or attempted to ban, punish, or otherwise suppress the revealed practice. One of the more ironic examples was when, during the 1960s, a white southern senator was caught with a black prostitute. Said a civil rights leader, "Oh he's just one of those sunup to sundown segregationists." Washington is full of sunup to sundown moralists.

The ability to cover up scandal or crime is also much greater in Washington. This may be accomplished by relying on the social club rules of the federal city, through the aid of acquiescent journalists, by official spin or censorship, or by resort to the capital's various law enforcement agencies, each one beholden for budget and top appointments to some federal department. For example, both the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney(who handles all DC crimes) are appointed by the president. The FBI, DEA, ATF, National Park police, the Secret Service, not to mention the Aqueduct, Zoo, and Metro police, all work for the president. And the Metropolitan Police Department is under the thumb of Congress, which approves its budget and exercises behind-the-scenes authority.

In short, there is far more politically related sex and crime in Washington then is generally reported, it is less competently investigated than is generally thought, and it is far easier to cover up than is generally appreciated.

THE MAFIA AND DC


The Mafia has never been strong in DC. There have been several explanations for this. One is that DC was long too small a town to bother with. There are also unconfirmed reports that J Edgar Hoover struck some sort of deal with the Mafia to keep it out. William Garber, an attorney who represented several local crime figures, told a Washington Post reporter in the 1980s that "organized crime thought moving [into Washington] would just be pushing the FBI too far."

On the other hand an investigative reporter, who moved to Washington after learning of a mob contract on his life in the 1970s tells us a different story. He said that federal agents suggested that he move to a neutral town - one in which the mobs shared turf with none of them dominant. They suggested Las Vegas, Miami and Washington.

ODESSA MADRE

"You don't pull on Superman's cape. You don' spit into the wind. You don' tug the mask off the Lone Ranger and, baby, you don' mess with Odessa, okay? I may be old, and I may be ugly, but I ain't dumb. That's why I was the 'Queen.'" - Odessa Madre

Courtland Milloy, in a wonderful 1980 Washington Post story, describes Odessa Madre this way: "Perhaps no other person has seen so much of the District's narcotics, numbers and 'tenderloin' trade and is still alive to tell about it."

By 1980, Madre had been picked up 30 times on 57 charges over a 48 year span, seven of them spent in a federal prison. She bought a Lincoln Continental when she got out and purchased a Cadillac Seville after serving a later three year sentence.

Madre grew up in a mixed neighborhood of blacks and Irish, the latter heavily populating the DC police force and, in the end, often looking out for their childhood friend. "Negroes and Irishmen got along real well," Madre told Milloy. "They would fight amongst themselves, but we wouldn't fight each other. If somebody outside Cowtown came to fight the Irish, the Negroes would chunk bricks at them. We were like a big happy family."

Writes Milloy: "Thus began a long and prosperous relationship with members of the Metropolitan Police Department. When Madre's childhood friends grew up, they became captains, lieutenants and even superintendents in the police department, like their fathers. As the year passed and Madre became the notorious 'Queen,' many of her childhood buddies couldn't forget that she had once been their compatriot in the 'Great Rock Chunkin' Wars' against the Italian and German kids."

At her peak in the 1940s, Madre was earning about $100,000 a year, and had at least six bawdy houses, bookmaking operations, and a headquarters at 2204 14th Street known as the Club Madre. Among the performers there were Moms Mabley, Count Basie and Nat King Cole.

Long time residents remember Madre walking into her club followed by her girls and sitting at a table with 12 long stemmed roses. They also recall that the girls got Sunday off and could be seen observed relaxing on the porch of Madre's place.

In 1952 the Kefauver committee, targeting organized crime in DC, found a pattern of payoffs by local mobsters to the cops, funneled, it appeared, largely through Madre. Milloy notes that "Two sergeants testified they had been demoted and assigned to school-crossing duty because they had refused a payoff from Madre and had participated in the arrest of know gampblers - including her. The superior officer who demoted them was John Murphy, they testified. 'Yeah, I knew him,' Mandre said. 'Grew up with him in Cowtown.' There was also testimony from other policemen that Madre had paid police superintendent James Barrett $2,000 a month in 'ice' payments for nearly a year. 'Somebody had to give 'em the money.'"

Madre's own evalution of it all: "You say was it worth it? Child, you wonder does crime pay? I'll tell you, yes. It pays a helluva lot of money. And money is something. I don't care who you are, when you got money you can get a lot of doors open because there's always some larcenous heart who's gonna listen to you. "And when you show 'em that money . . . if you got a wad, honey, they'll suck up to ya like you was a Tootsie Roll."

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Both the Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney (who handles all serious DC crimes) are appointed by the president. The FBI, DEA, National Park police and the Secret Service, not to mention the Aqueduct police, all work for the president. And the Metropolitan Police Department and the Capitol Police are under the thumb of Congress, which approves their budgets and exercises behind-the-scenes authority. There is not a single police agency within the boundaries of Washington that does not report to the politicians of Congress or the White House.

DC MADAM

WAYNE MADSEN REPORT There was no mistake that when Deborah Jeane Palfrey's phone records were made public by order of US Judge Gladys Kessler, shortly before she asked to be reassigned from the case, that Palfrey's Pamela Martin & Associates escort agency had some very intriguing clientele. If one were to have mapped the phone numbers on Palfrey's list, McLean, Virginia would have looked like the epicenter of an earthquake. McLean is the home to the CIA, Washington's top politicians, and assorted foreign and domestic business movers and shakers who travel in and out of the CIA's shadow. . .

In fact, it is a certainty that one of the actual "corporate clients" of the PMA agency was the CIA itself. Palfrey's escorts included college professors, a naval officer, a legal secretary for one of Washington's top international law firms, essentially those who would be reliable to pick up needed intelligence from a designated target. PMA's clients included as many foreign political and business leaders as American ones. It was the potential for blackmail and seeking favors that made PMA, in business for over 13 years, a favorite for the CIA. No other escort agency in the Washington area provided the top-level credentials possessed by PMA. For that reason, PMA was the agency of choice for the CIA. . .

On September 1, 2007, WMR reported: "WMR has learned that on August 31, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the indicted Pamela Martin & Associates proprietor, filed a 'Motion for Pretrial Conference to Consider Matters Relating to classified information' under the 'Classified Information Procedures Act' with the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. The purpose of the filing alerts the government that Palfrey's defense will likely involved the disclosure of evidence and identities presently deemed 'classified" by the U.S. government.'"

The CIPA is only invoked in cases when classified national security information must be revealed. It is now clear that Palfrey, who never admitted to this editor any links between her agency and the CIA, was a contractor for the spy agency. Palfrey's citing of CIPA is an indication that she signed a non-disclosure agreement with the CIA stating that she would never reveal classified information as a result of her special relationship with the agency unless authorized to do so. Palfrey's non-disclosure agreement would have resulted in her making no comment to the press about any relationship. However, it must be stated that Palfrey always insisted to this editor that it was quite possible that some of her employees may have had a relationship with U.S. intelligence but that she would not necessarily know that to be the case.

Palfrey was never comfortable with her court-appointed attorney Preston Burton. Burton once was a partner in the law office of Plato Cacheris in Washington. Cacheris' name is synonymous in DC circles with CIA scandals, particularly those dealing in espionage. Burton's resume of clients is a "Who's Who" of the past two decades of spy scandals: the CIA's Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, the FBI's Soviet spy Robert Hanssen, Oliver North's secretary Fawn Hall, Watergate convicted Attorney General John Mitchell, and Monica Lewinsky. Burton, himself, was involved in the defense of Ames, Hanssen, Lewinsky, as well as Ana Belen Montes, a former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst convicted of spying for Cuba.

ention the name Cacheris in Washington, DC and CIA comes instantly to mind among those who know the game. Palfrey was obviously aware of the CIA's past use of "rocket dockets" in Alexandria and Washington and the "exchange" of emails between U.S. Judge James Robertson, federal prosecutors William Cowden and Daniel Butler, and Burton on the weekend before Burton agreed to not call any defense witnesses and allow the case to be sent directly to the jury was a sure indication of outside interference in the case,,,

FEW DEATHS could cause as much relief in Washington as did the alleged suicide of DC Madam Deborah Jean Palfrey. One need only consider the rapid demise of Governor Eliot Spitzer after it was discovered he had used a similar escort service to realize that Palfrey was not welcomed by many of the capital's powerful men as a living repository of their sexual habits.

We are not speaking of a small number. Palfrey estimated her business involved some 10,000 clients - most in and around the most powerful city in America.

This is not to say that Palfrey did not commit suicide, only that her name may be reasonably added to those whose cause of death can not be - and may never be - firmly determined...

We do know that the Palfrey case was one of the strangest prosecutions the capital has ever seen. Judges, prosecutors, the media and the political elite all seemed extraordinarily determined to put a cap on how much information the case revealed. So far, they have been quite successful.

AP - "I am sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years here, because I'm shy about bringing in the deputy secretary of whatever," Palfrey told ABC last year when she released phone records that revealed some of her clients. "Not for a second. I'll bring every last one of them in if necessary."

Dan Moldea, a Washington writer who befriended Palfrey while considering writing a book about her, said she was cautiously optimistic about her trial, even when the case went before the jury. After the conviction, Moldea sent her an e-mail but didn't hear back. A week later, he said, he sent another note entitled "A Concerned Friend" asking whether she was OK. Again, he didn't hear back. After hearing of her death, he recalled a conversation over dinner last year when the subject of prison came up. "She said, 'I am not going back to prison. I will commit suicide first,'" Moldea said.

Time - Palfrey's trial, which concluded in mid-April with a conviction, is one of very few such cases prosecuted in the federal courts. Most prostitution violations are dealt with at the state or municipal level, and attract little publicity.

Progressive Review, March 2008 - One thing is clear about the so-called DC Madam aka Deborah Jeane Palfrey case: there is a stunning contrast between the lid being kept on the names of male clients in this matter and the interest of the media compared to the speed with which Eliot Spitzer name became notorious in a similar DC case.

Wayne Madson Report, 2007 - The corporate media still does not get it about the so-called "Washington Madam" case. Beyond just another titillating DC sex scandal, this affair involves the U.S. Attorneys firings, massive bribery involving military and homeland security contracts, and potential blackmail of high government officials. . . .The Washington Madam case also involves criminal conspiracy and malfeasance within the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service, and Postal Inspection Service. Palfrey's case file was not opened until June 2004 after she had been in business for over a decade without any pressure from the government.

After Baltimore Police Commissioner and later Maryland State Police Superintendent Ed Norris was charged in May 2004 with three criminal counts by US Attorney Thomas DiBiagio, the IRS opened a file on Palfrey the following month. It is clear that with Norris, a 20 year veteran of the New York Police Department, facing up to 30 years in prison, he entered into a plea bargain with DiBiagio. In return for his cooperation, which included Norris naming Pamela Martin as one of the recipients of Baltimore Police supplemental accounts money, he got six months in prison and six months home detention. Norris now hosts a radio show in Baltimore.

DiBiagio's assistant US Attorney Jonathan Luna, who once worked at the Brooklyn District Attorneys' office when a probe was being conducted of both Norris and his friend, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, was on to Norris' corruption in Baltimore. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley appointed Norris as police commissioner but soon became disenchanted with his performance. After his relection as Governor in 2002, Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich appointed Norris as Maryland State Police Superintendent. Luna was brutally murdered near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in December 2003.

DC City Desk May 2007 The judge in the Jeanne Palfrey case has issued a temporary restraining order on Palfrey and her civil attorney to keep them from releasing more information about her clients to the news media. This strengthens suspicions that the judge and ABC News - which was given Palfrey's records - may be trying to suppress some of these names, especially since one the names being circulated around town is an extremely high White House official. Basically, the problem is this: if Jean Palfrey committed a crime so did all her clients and they are not entitled to the protection they are being given. In the best of worlds, prostitution would not be a crime but under the circumstances there is only one honest choice in this matter: either drop the case or open the files. Otherwise it is fair to wonder whether there is a cover-up going on of criminal activity by prominent Washingtonians

News 8, DC, May 2007 - A lawyer for alleged Washington madam Deborah Jeane Palfrey wants ABC News to disclose the identity of a federal prosecutor identified in a recent news report as a client of Palfrey's escort service. In a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Palfrey's civil lawyer, Montgomery Blair Sibley, contends that the Justice Department should compel ABC to disclose the prosecutor's identity and whether he had any role in the Palfrey investigation. . .

Henry K Lee, San Francisco Chronicle, April 2007 - Palfrey's business records include 46 pounds of phone bills of some 15,000 clients of her business, Pamela Martin and Associates, Sibley said. Palfrey originally threatened to sell those records to pay for her defense, but a judge barred her from doing so. Authorities said Palfrey's alleged prostitution ring involved 132 college-educated women and generated more than $2 million.

Smoking Gun, March 2007 -Before closing her business, Palfrey operated a web site touting Pamela Martin & Associates as "the best adult agency around," claiming that it had an "ongoing repeat clientele rate of 65-75%." Palfrey's site also advertised for escorts. Prospective hookers, she noted, had to be at least 23 years old with two or more years of college. And her $275-an-appointment employees had to be "weight proportionate to height."

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WASHINGTON POST: November 30, 1997; A type of extortion scheme known crudely as "fairy shaking" led to the arrest of a D.C. police lieutenant and toppled the police chief of the nation's capital. It's quite simple as extortion goes: Trail a married man out of a gay sex club. Take his license plate number. And later threaten to expose him unless he pays hush money. The term "fairy shaking" needs no definition within certain circles of the D.C. police department: A few rogue cops have been doing it for years and getting away with it, several law enforcement sources said. And it stands at the center of the case against Lt. Jeffery S. Stowe, until recently the roommate of D.C. Police Chief Larry D. Soulsby . . . It's common knowledge that men go to the clubs that line a secluded block in Southeast Washington -- clubs such as the Follies Theater and La Cage -- to relax, listen to music and have sex . . . In September, someone was watching for the most vulnerable among them. The observer noted which parked cars had baby seats and bore other evidence of the straight, married life. And he wrote down the license plate numbers. In the days that followed, three men who were married with children received anonymous letters saying they had been photographed at the gay sex clubs. The letters demanded $10,000 cash from each in exchange for keeping their secrets. This wasn't your typical, everyday extortionist, authorities say. He knew the extortion game better than almost anyone in town. He was, according to an arrest affidavit, Lt. Jeffery S. Stowe, commander of a D.C. police unit that investigates extortion and other crimes. Within two hours of Stowe's arrest last Tuesday, his best friend on the force resigned: Chief Soulsby.

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Izzy Einstein, the famous prohibition agent, keeps a record of how long it takes to get a drink in various cities. DC comes out badly. Not only does it take an hour (as opposed to 11 minutes in Pittsburgh and 17 in Atlanta) but he has to ask directions from a cop.

In 1863 General Meade replaced General Hooker three days before the Battle of Gettysburg. Meade will only have a fort named after him, while Hooker lends his name to a whole synonym. The following is from a report by the Smithsonian Institution on archeological work done near the site of the National Museum of the American Indian:

"With the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the sleepy town of Washington was dramatically transformed as its population swelled with newcomers. The new arrivals included many men who had signed up to fight for the Union. Throughout the war, thousands of soldiers were encamped throughout the city, either awaiting orders to fight, manning forts to protect the Union capital from Rebel attack, or languishing from disease or wounds in hospitals throughout the city. Along with the soldiers came government bureaucrats, freed and escaped slaves, businessmen, salesmen, and con men, as well as the camp followers and prostitutes who sought to profit from the increased demand for their services. The Army's provost marshal, who kept a list of the city's bawdy houses during the war ostensibly to keep them under surveillance, concluded that there were 450 registered houses in Washington in 1862. While some prostitutes worked in brothels, the majority probably plied their trade as streetwalkers. By 1863, the Evening Star newspaper estimated that Washington had about 5,000 prostitutes . . . When the war came to a close, Washington remained overcrowded, and its roads, parks, and the canal were in shambles as a result of four years of overuse and neglect. The area between Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall, which is presently occupied by the Federal Triangle complex, had become an infamous crime-ridden neighborhood rife with the stench of the nearby canal, which had become little more than an open sewer. Known for its rampant prostitution, the area was widely referred to as Hooker's Division, a wry double entendre. Indeed many of its occupants were "hookers," a term for prostitutes used since the early nineteenth century. Furthermore, the region was reported to have been visited frequently by the troops in Union General Joseph Hooker's division, which was encamped nearby." MORE

In the Capitol Rotunda is a fresco called "The Apotheosis of Washington," painted by Constantine Brumidi. It features 13 angels welcoming George Washington into heaven. The angels were alleged modeled on 13 local prostitutes.

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