Epstein is only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime.
by Whitney Webb ,
July 18th, 2019
Despite his “sweetheart” deal and having seemingly evaded justice, billionaire sex offender Jeffrey Epstein was arrested earlier this month on federal charges for sex trafficking minors. Epstein’s arrest has again brought increased media attention to many of his famous friends, the current president among them.
Many questions have since been asked about how much Epstein’s famous friends knew of his activities and exactly what Epstein was up to. The latter arguably received the most attention after it was reported that Alex Acosta — who arranged Epstein’s “sweetheart” deal in 2008 and who recently resigned as Donald Trump’s Labor Secretary following Epstein’s arrest — claimed that the mysterious billionaire had worked for “intelligence.”
Other investigations have made it increasingly clear that Epstein was running a blackmail operation, as he had bugged the venues — whether at his New York mansion or Caribbean island getaway — with microphones and cameras to record the salacious interactions that transpired between his guests and the underage girls that Epstein exploited. Epstein appeared to have stored much of that blackmail in a safe on his private island.
Claims of Epstein’s links and his involvement in a sophisticated, well-funded sexual blackmail operation have, surprisingly, spurred few media outlets to examine the history of intelligence agencies both in the U.S. and abroad conducting similar sexual blackmail operations, many of which also involved underage prostitutes.
In the U.S. alone, the CIA operated numerous sexual blackmail operations throughout the country, employing prostitutes to target foreign diplomats in what the Washington Post once nicknamed the CIA’s “love traps.” If one goes even farther back into the U.S. historical record it becomes apparent that these tactics and their use against powerful political and influential figures significantly predate the CIA and even its precursor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). In fact, they were pioneered years earlier by none other than the American Mafia.
In the course of this investigation, MintPress discovered that a handful of figures who were influential in American organized crime during and after Prohibition were directly engaged in sexual blackmail operations that they used for their own, often dark, purposes.
In Part I of this exclusive investigation, MintPress will examine how a mob-linked businessman with deep ties to notorious gangster Meyer Lansky developed close ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) while also running a sexual blackmail operation for decades, which later became a covert part of the anti-communist crusade of the 1950s led by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), himself known throughout Washington for having a habit of drunkenly groping underage teenaged girls.
Yet, it would be one of McCarthy’s closest aides who would take over the ring in later years, trafficking minors and expanding this sexual blackmail operation at the same time he expanded his own political influence, putting him in close contact with prominent figures including former President Ronald Reagan and a man who would later become president, Donald Trump.
As will be revealed in Part II, after this figure’s death, the blackmail operation continued under various successors in different cities and there is strong evidence that Jeffrey Epstein became one of them.
Samuel Bronfman and the Mob
The Prohibition Era in the United States is often used as an example of how banning recreational substances not only increases their popularity but also causes a boom in criminal activity. Indeed, it was Prohibition that greatly increased the strength of the American Mafia, as the top crime lords of the day grew rich through the clandestine trade and sale of alcohol in addition to gambling and other activities.
It is through the bootlegging trade of the 1920s and the early 1930s that this story begins, as it brought together key figures whose successors and affiliates would eventually create a series of blackmail and sex trafficking rings that would give rise to the likes of Jeffrey Epstein, the “Lolita Express” and “Orgy Island.”
Samuel Bronfman never planned to become a major producer of liquor but true to his family’s last name, which means “brandy man” in Yiddish, he eventually began distributing alcohol as an extension of his family’s hotel business. During Canada’s Prohibition period, which was briefer than and preceded that of its southern neighbor, the Bronfman family business used loopholes to skirt the law and find technically legal ways to sell alcohol in the hotels and stores the family owned. The family relied on its connections with members of the American Mafia to illegally smuggle alcohol from the United States.
Soon after Prohibition ended in Canada, it began in the United States and, by the time the flow of illegal alcohol had turned the other way, the Bronfmans – whose business ventures were then being led by Sam Bronfman and his brothers — were relatively late to an already flourishing bootlegging trade.
“We were late starters in the two most lucrative markets – on the high seas and across the Detroit River. What came out of the border trade in Saskatchewan was insignificant by comparison,” Bronfman once told Canadian journalist Terence Robertson, who was then writing a biography of Bronfman. Nonetheless, “this was when we started to make our real money,” Bronfman recounted. Robertson’s biography on Bronfman was never published, as he died under mysterious circumstances soon after warning his colleagues that he had uncovered unsavory information about the Bronfman family.
Samuel Bronfman pictured in 1937 with his sons Edgar and Charles
Key to Bronfman’s success during American Prohibition were the ties his family had cultivated with organized crime during Canada’s Prohibition, ties that led many prominent members of the mob in the United States to favor Bronfman as a business partner. Bronfman liquor was purchased in massive quantities by many crime lords who still live on in American legend, including Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Moe Dalitz, Abner “Longy” Zwillman and Meyer Lansky.
Most of Bronfman’s mob associates during Prohibition were members of what became known as the National Crime Syndicate, which a 1950s Senate investigative body known as the Kefauver Committee described as a confederation dominated by Italian-American and Jewish-American mobs. During that investigation, some of the biggest names in the American Mafia named Bronfman as a central figure in their bootlegging operations. The widow of notorious American mob boss Meyer Lansky even recounted how Bronfman had thrown lavish dinner parties for her husband.
Years later, Samuel Bronfman’s children and grandchildren, their family’s ties to the criminal underworld intact, would go on to associate closely with Leslie Wexner, allegedly the source of much of Epstein’s mysterious wealth, and other mob-linked “philanthropists,” and some would even manage their own sexual blackmail operations, including the recently busted blackmail-based “sex cult” NXIVM. The later generations of the Bronfman family, particularly Samuel Bronfman’s sons Edgar and Charles, will be discussed in greater detail in Part II of this report.
Lewis Rosenstiel’s dark secret
Crucial to Bronfman’s Prohibition-era bootlegging operations were two middlemen, one of whom was Lewis “Lew” Rosenstiel. Rosenstiel got his start working at his uncle’s distillery in Kentucky before Prohibition. Once the law banning alcohol was in force, Rosenstiel created the Schenley Products Company, which would later become one of the largest liquor companies in North America.
Though he was a high school drop-out and not particularly well-connected socially at the time, Rosenstiel happened to have a “chance” meeting with Winston Churchill in 1922 while on vacation in the French Riviera. According to the New York Times, Churchill “advised him [Rosenstiel] to prepare for the return of liquor sales in the United States.” Rosenstiel somehow managed to secure the funding of the elite and respected Wall Street firm Lehman Brothers to finance his purchase of shuttered distilleries.
Officially, Rosenstiel is said to have built his company and wealth after Prohibition, by following Churchill’s advice to prepare for Repeal. However, he was clearly involved in bootlegging operations and was even indicted for bootlegging in 1929, though he evaded conviction. Like Bronfman, Rosenstiel was close to organized crime, particularly members of the mostly Jewish-American and Italian-American mob alliance known as the National Crime Syndicate.
Subsequent New York state legislative investigations would allege that Rosenstiel “was part of a ‘consortium’ with underworld figures that bought liquor in Canada [from Samuel Bronfman]”, whose other members were “Meyer Lansky, the reputed organized crime leader; Joseph Fusco, an associate of late Chicago gangster Al Capone and Joseph Linsey, a Boston man Mr. Kelly [the congressional investigator testifying] identified as a convicted bootlegger.” Rosenstiel’s relationship with these men, particularly Lansky, would continue long after Prohibition and Samuel Bronfman, for his part, would also maintain his mob ties.
In addition to his friends in the mob, Rosenstiel also cultivated close ties with the FBI, developing a close relationship with longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and making Hoover’s right-hand man and longtime assistant at the FBI, Louis Nichols, the Vice President of his Schenley empire in 1957.
Despite their similar backgrounds as bootlegger barons turned “respectable” businessmen, Bronfman’s and Rosenstiel’s personalities were drastically different and their relationship was complicated, at best. One example of the dissimilarities between North America’s top liquor barons was how they treated their staff. Bronfman was not necessarily known for being a cruel boss, whereas Rosenstiel was known for his erratic and “monstrous” behavior towards employees as well as his unusual practice of bugging his offices in order to hear what employees said about him when he wasn’t present.
Rosenstiel was connected to both the FBI and to organized crime
Such differences between Bronfman and Rosenstiel were also reflected in their personal lives. While Bronfman married only once and was loyal to his wife, Rosenstiel was married five times and was known for his relatively closeted bisexual antics, a part of his life that was well-known to many of his close associates and employees.
Though for years there were only hints to this other side of the controversial businessman, details emerged years later during a divorce proceeding brought by Rosenstiel’s fourth wife, Susan Kaufman, that would back the claims. Kaufman alleged that Rosenstiel hosted extravagant parties that included “boy prostitutes” that her husband had hired “for the enjoyment” of certain guests, which included important government officials and prominent figures in America’s criminal underworld. Kaufman would later make the same claims under oath during the hearing of the New York’s State Joint Legislative Committee on Crime in the early 1970s.
Not only did Rosenstiel organize these parties, but he also made sure that their venues were bugged with microphones that recorded the antics of his high-profile guests. Those audio recordings, Kaufman alleged, were then kept for the purpose of blackmail. Though Kaufman’s claims are shocking, her testimony was deemed credible and held in high regard by the former chief counsel of the Crime Committee, New York Judge Edward McLaughlin, and committee investigator William Gallinaro and aspects of her testimony were later corroborated by two separate witnesses who were unknown to Kaufman.
These “blackmail parties” offer a window into an operation that would later become more sophisticated and grow dramatically in the 1950s under Rosenstiel’s “field commander” (a nickname given by Rosenstiel to an individual to be named shortly in this report). Many of the people connected to Rosenstiel’s “field commander” during the 70s and 80s have again found their names in the press following the recent arrest of Jeffrey Epstein.
The “Untouchable” Mobster
Bronfman and Rosenstiel became legendary in the North American liquor business, in part due to their fight for supremacy in the industry, which the New York Times described as often erupting “into bitter personal and corporate battles.” Despite their dueling in the corporate world, the one thing that united the two businessmen more than anything else was their close connection to American organized crime, particularly renowned mobster Meyer Lansky.
Lansky is one of the most notorious gangsters in the history of American organized crime and is notable for being the only famous mobster rising to notoriety in the 1920s who managed to die an old man and never serve a day in jail.
Lansky’s long life and ability to avoid prison time was largely the result of his close relationships to powerful businessmen like Bronfman and Rosenstiel (among many others), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. intelligence community, as well as his role in establishing several blackmail and extortion rings that helped him keep the law at arm’s length. Indeed, when Lansky was finally charged with a crime in the 1970s, it was the Internal Revenue Service that brought the charges, not the FBI, and he was charged with and acquitted of tax evasion.
Lansky was remarkably close to both Bronfman and Rosenstiel. Bronfman regularly threw “lavish dinner parties” in Lansky’s honor both during and after Prohibition. These parties were remembered fondly by Lansky’s wife, and Lansky in turn did favors for Bronfman, ranging from exclusive protection of his shipments during Prohibition to getting him tickets to coveted “fight of the century” boxing matches.
Rosenstiel also threw regular dinner parties honoring Lansky. Susan Kaufman, Rosenstiel’s ex-wife, claimed to have taken numerous pictures of her ex-husband and Lansky socializing and partying together, photos that were also seen by Mary Nichols of The Philadelphia Inquirer. In addition, Lansky, per Kaufman’s recollection, was one of the individuals that Rosenstiel sought to protect from legal scrutiny as part of his child prostitution and blackmail ring targeting high-ranking officials, and he was overheard saying that if the government “ever brings pressure against Lansky or any of us, we’ll use this [a specific recording taken at one of the ‘parties’] as blackmail.”
Lansky was known to address Rosenstiel as “Supreme Commander,” a title that would later be used to refer to Rosenstiel by another individual deeply connected to the mob and sexual blackmail operations, previously referred to in this report as Rosenstiel’s “Field Commander.”
Lansky also had close ties to the CIA and U.S. military intelligence. During World War II, Lansky — along with his associate Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel — worked with Naval intelligence in what was codenamed “Operation Underworld,” an operation the existence of which the government denied for over 40 years.
Journalist and noted chronicler of CIA covert activities, Douglas Valentine, noted in his book The CIA as Organized Crime: How Illegal Operations Corrupt America and the World that the government’s cooperation with the Mafia during World War II led to its expansion after the war and set the stage for its future collaboration with U.S. intelligence.
According to Valentine:
Top government officials were also aware that the government’s Faustian pact with the Mafia during World War II had allowed the hoods to insinuate themselves into mainstream America. In return for services rendered during the war, Mafia bosses were protected from prosecution for dozens of unsolved murders. […]
The Mafia was a huge problem in 1951 [when the Kefauver Committee was convened], equivalent to terrorism today. But it was also a protected branch of the CIA, which was co-opting criminal organizations around the world and using them in its secret war against the Soviets and Red Chinese. The Mafia had collaborated with Uncle Sam and had emerged from World War II energized and empowered. They controlled cities across the country.”
Indeed, not long after its creation, the CIA forged ties with Lansky at the behest of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton. The CIA would later turn to the Lansky-linked mob in the early 1960s as part of its consistently fruitless quest to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, showing that the CIA maintained its contacts with Lansky-controlled elements of the Mafia long after the initial meeting with Lansky took place.
The CIA also had close connections to associates of Lansky, such as Edward Moss, who did public relations work for Lansky and was said to be of “interest” to the CIA by the agency’s then-inspector general J.S. Earman. Harry “Happy” Meltzer was also another Lansky associate that was a CIA asset and the CIA asked Meltzer to join an assassination team in December 1960.
In addition to the CIA, Lansky was also connected to a foreign intelligence agency through Tibor Rosenbaum, an arms procurer and high-ranking official in Israel’s Mossad, whose bank – the International Credit Bank of Geneva – laundered much of Lansky’s ill-gotten gains and recycled them into legitimate American businesses.
Lansky outside the High Court of Israel where he sought permission to emigrate in 1972. Photo | AP
Journalist Ed Reid, author of the Virginia Hill biography The Mistress and the Mafia, wrote that Lansky was attempting to entrap powerful people through sexual blackmail as far back as 1939. Reid contends that Lansky sent Ms. Hill to Mexico, where his West Coast connections had established a drug ring that later involved the OSS, the forerunner to the CIA, to seduce numerous “top politicians, army officers, diplomats and police officials.”
Eventually, Lansky was credited with obtaining compromising photos of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sometime in the 1940s, which showed “Hoover in some kind of gay situation”, according to a former Lansky associate, who also said that Lansky had often claimed, “I fixed that sonofabitch.” The photos showed Hoover engaged in sexual activity with his long-time friend, FBI Deputy Director Clyde Tolson.
At some point, these photos fell into the hands of CIA counterintelligence chief James J. Angleton, who later showed the photos to several other CIA officials, including John Weitz and Gordon Novel. Angleton was in charge of the CIA’s relationship with the FBI and Israel’s Mossad until he left the agency in 1972 and, as was recently mentioned, he was also in contact with Lansky.
Anthony Summers, former BBC journalist and author of Official and Confidential: The Secret Life of J. Edgar Hoover, has argued that it was not Lansky, but William Donovan, the director of the OSS, who obtained the original photos of Hoover and later shared them with Lansky.
Summers also stated that “To [gangster Frank] Costello and Lansky, the ability to corrupt politicians, policemen and judges was fundamental to Mafia operations. The way they found to deal with Hoover, according to several mob sources, involved his homosexuality.” This anecdote shows that Lanksy and the CIA maintained a covert relationship, which included, among other things, the sharing of blackmail material (i.e., “intelligence”).
It is also possible that Hoover was ensnared by the mob during one of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties,” at which Hoover sometimes found himself in attendance with prominent figures of the Mafia. Hoover was said to have worn women’s clothing at the some of the events and Meyer Lansky’s wife later said that her husband had photos of the former FBI director in drag. Furthermore, Hoover is on record showing an unusual concern in the FBI’s handling of Rosenstiel’s criminal links as early as 1939, the same year that his close associate Lansky was actively orchestrating the sexual blackmail of powerful political figures.
The blackmail acquired on Hoover and the mob’s possession of the evidence has been cited as a major factor in Hoover’s decades-long denial that nationwide networks of organized crime were a serious issue. Hoover asserted that it was a decentralized, local issue and therefore outside of the bureau’s jurisdiction. By the time Hoover finally acknowledged the existence of national organized crime networks in 1963, they were so entrenched in the U.S. establishment that they were untouchable.
Congressional crime consultant Ralph Salerno told Summers in 1993 that Hoover’s willful ignorance of organized crime for most of his career as FBI director “allowed organized crime to grow very strong in economic and political terms, so that it became a much bigger threat to the wellbeing of this country than it would have been if it had been addressed much sooner.”
J. Edgar Hoover: Blackmail Victim?
Most records place the beginning of Hoover’s relationship with Rosenstiel in the 1950s, the same decade when Susan Kaufman reported that Hoover was attending Rosenstiel’s blackmail parties. Rosenstiel’s FBI file, obtained by Anthony Summers, cites the first Rosenstiel meeting as taking place in 1956, though Summers notes that there is evidence that they had met much earlier. After requesting the meeting, Rosenstiel was granted a personal face-to-face with the director in a matter of hours. The FBI file on Rosenstiel also reveals that the liquor baron heavily lobbied Hoover to aid his business interests.
During that time, the salacious details of Hoover’s sex life were already known to the U.S. intelligence community and to the mob, and Hoover was aware that they knew of his closeted sexuality and penchant for women’s clothing. Yet, Hoover apparently seemed to embrace the very type of sexual blackmail operation that had compromised his private life, given that he was seen at many of Rosenstiel’s “blackmail parties” in the 1950s and 1960s, including at venues such as Rosenstiel’s personal home and later at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel. Hoover’s penchant for dressing in drag was also described by two witnesses who were not connected to Susan Kaufman.
Hoover with Dorothy Lamour on the set of The Greatest Show on Earth in 1951
Soon after their first “official” meeting, the public relationship between the two men quickly flourished, with Hoover even sending Rosenstiel flowers when he fell ill. Summers reported that, in 1957, Rosenstiel was heard telling Hoover during a meeting, “your wish is my command.” Their relationship remained close and intimate throughout the 1960s and beyond.
Like Rosenstiel, Hoover was well-known for amassing blackmail on friend and foe alike. Hoover’s office contained “secret files” on numerous powerful people in Washington and beyond, files he used to gain favors and protect his status as FBI director for as long as he wished.
Hoover’s own propensity for blackmail suggests that he may have associated with Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation more directly, given he already knew he was compromised and his involvement in the operation would have served as a means of procuring the blackmail he coveted for his own purposes. Indeed, if Hoover was merely being blackmailed and extorted by the Lansky-Rosenstiel connected mob, it is unlikely that he would have been so friendly to Rosenstiel, Lansky and the other mobsters at these gatherings and participated in them with such regularity.
According to journalist and author Burton Hersh, Hoover was also tied to Sherman Kaminsky, who ran a sexual blackmail operation in New York involving young male prostitutes. That operation was busted and investigated in a 1966 extortion probe led by Manhattan District Attorney Frank Hogan, though the FBI quickly took over the investigation and photos of Hoover and Kaminsky together soon disappeared from the case file.
Hoover and Rosenstiel’s deep ties would continue to develop over the years, an example of which can be seen in Rosenstiel’s hiring of long-time Hoover aide Louis Nichols as the vice president of his Schenley liquor empire and Rosenstiel’s donation of over $1 million to the J. Edgar Hoover Foundation, which Nichols also ran at the time.
There is also more than one documented occasion wherein Hoover attempted to use blackmail to protect Rosenstiel and his “field commander,” none other than the infamous Roy Cohn, the other key figure in Rosenstiel’s sexual blackmail operation involving minors.
The Making of a Monster
Decades after his death, Roy Cohn remains a controversial figure in large part because of his close, personal relationship with current U.S. President Donald Trump. Yet reports on Cohn, both in recent and in past years, often miss the mark in their characterization of the man who became closely associated with the Reagan White House, the CIA, the FBI, organized crime and, incidentally, many of the figures who would later surround Jeffrey Epstein.
To understand the true nature of the man, it is essential to examine his rise to power in the early 1950s when, at just 23 years of age, he became a key figure in the high-profile trial of Soviet spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and later as the right-hand man of Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI).
Cohn’s dedication to anti-communist activities in the 1950s is allegedly what first endeared him to J. Edgar Hoover, whom he first met in 1952. During that meeting, as described by Hersh in Bobby and J. Edgar: The Historic Face-Off Between the Kennedys and J. Edgar Hoover That Transformed America, Hoover expressed admiration for Cohn’s aggressive and manipulative tactics and told Cohn to “call me directly” whenever he had information worth sharing. From that point on, Cohn and Hoover “traded favors, effusive compliments, gifts and elaborate private dinners. It quickly became ‘Roy’ and ‘Edgar.’” Hersh also describes Hoover as Cohn’s soon to be “consigliere.”
The date and circumstances around Cohn’s introduction to Rosenstiel are harder to come by. It is possible that the connection was made through Roy Cohn’s father, Albert Cohn, a prominent judge and an influential figure in the New York City Democratic Party apparatus then run by Edward Flynn. It was later revealed that the Democratic organization dominated by Flynn and based in the Bronx had long-standing connections to organized crime, including associates of Meyer Lansky.
Regardless of how or when it began, the relationship between Cohn and Rosenstiel was close and was often likened to that of a father and son. They were said to frequently salute each other in public and remained close until Rosenstiel was near death, at which point Cohn attempted to trick his then-barely conscious and senile “friend” and client into naming him the executor and trustee of the liquor magnate’s estate, valued at $75 million (more than $334 million in today’s dollars).
LIFE magazine reported in 1969 that Cohn and Rosenstiel had for years referred to one another as “Field Commander” and “Supreme Commander,” respectively. Media references to these nicknames appear in other articles from the period.
Though LIFE and other outlets had interpreted this as merely an anecdote about the nicknames shared in jest between close friends, the fact that notorious crime lord Meyer Lansky also called Rosenstiel “Supreme Commander” and the fact that Cohn and Rosenstiel would later become intimately involved in the same pedophile sex ring suggests that there may have been more to these “nicknames.” After all, the mob to which Rosenstiel was connected often used military-themed titles like “soldier” and “lieutenant” to differentiate the rank and importance of its members.
Once he had made his connection with Hoover, Cohn’s star began to rise even higher in Washington. Hoover’s recommendation of Cohn would become the deciding factor in his appointment as Sen. McCarthy’s general counsel over Robert Kennedy, a rival and bitter enemy of Cohn’s.
McCarthy covers the mic while having a whispered discussion with Cohn during a 1954 committee hearing. Photo | AP
Though Cohn was ruthless and seemingly untouchable as McCarthy’s counsel and helped the senator destroy many careers during both the red and lavender scares, his antics in relation to his work on the committee would eventually lead to his downfall after he attempted to blackmail the Army in return for preferential treatment for committee consultant and Cohn’s rumored lover, David Schine.
After he was forced to leave McCarthy’s side due to the scandal, Cohn returned to New York to live with his mother and practice law. A few years later New York Judge David Peck, a long-time associate of former CIA Director Alan Dulles, orchestrated Cohn’s hire to the New York law firm Saxe, Bacon and O’Shea — which would later become Saxe, Bacon and Bolan after Tom Bolan, a friend of Cohn’s, became a partner in the firm. Upon his hire, Cohn brought the firm a slew of Mafia-linked clients, including high-ranking members of the Gambino crime family, the Genovese crime family and, of course, Lewis Rosenstiel.
What happened in Suite 233?
The connections Roy Cohn built during the 1950s made him a well-known public figure and translated into great political influence that peaked during the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Yet, as Cohn built his public image, he was also developing a dark private life, which would come to be dominated by the same blackmail pedophile racket that appears to have first begun with Lewis Rosenstiel.
One of the “blackmail parties” Susan Kaufman attended with her then-husband Lewis Rosenstiel was hosted by Cohn in 1958 at Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, suite 233. Kaufman described Cohn’s suite as a “beautiful suite…all done in light blue.” She described being introduced to Hoover, who was in drag, by Cohn, who told her that Hoover’s name was “Mary” in a fit of barely concealed laughter. Kaufman testified that young boys were present and Kaufman claimed that Cohn, Hoover and her ex-husband engaged in sexual activity with these minors.
New York attorney John Klotz, tasked with investigating Cohn for a case well after Kaufman’s testimony, also found evidence of the “blue suite” at the Plaza Hotel and its role in a sex extortion ring after combing through local government documents and information gathered by private detectives. Klotz later told journalist and author Burton Hersh what he had learned:
Roy Cohn was providing protection. There were a bunch of pedophiles involved. That’s where Cohn got his power from — blackmail.”
Perhaps the most damning confirmation of Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 comes from statements made by Cohn himself to former NYPD detective and ex-head of the department’s Human-Trafficking and Vice-Related Crimes Division, James Rothstein. Rothstein later told John DeCamp — a former Nebraska state senator who investigated a government-connected child sex ring based in Omaha — among other investigators, that Cohn had admitted to being part of a sexual blackmail operation targeting politicians with child prostitutes during a sit-down interview with the former detective.
Flags fly over the main entrance of the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 1982. Suzanne Vlamis | AP
Rothstein told DeCamp the following about Cohn:
Cohn’s job was to run the little boys. Say you had an admiral, a general, a congressman, who did not want to go along with the program. Cohn’s job was to set them up, then they would go along. Cohn told me that himself.”
Rothstein later told Paul David Collins, a former journalist turned researcher, that Cohn had also identified this sexual blackmail operation as being part of the anti-communist crusade of the time.
The fact that Cohn, per Rothstein’s recollection, stated that the child sex blackmail ring was part of the government-sponsored anti-communist crusade suggests that elements of the government, including Hoover’s FBI, may have been connected at a much broader level than Hoover’s own personal involvement, as the FBI closely coordinated with McCarthy and Cohn for much of the red scare.
It is also worth noting that among Hoover’s many “secret” blackmail files was a sizeable dossier on Senator McCarthy, the contents of which strongly suggested that the senator himself was interested in underage girls. According to journalist and author David Talbot, Hoover’s file on McCarthy was “filled with disturbing stories about McCarthy’s habit of drunkenly groping young girls’ breasts and buttocks. The stories were so widespread that they became ‘common knowledge’ in the capital, according to one FBI chronicler.”
Talbot, in his book The Devil’s Chessboard, also cites Walter Trohan, Washington Bureau Chief of the Chicago Tribune, as having personally witnessed McCarthy’s habit of molesting young women. “He just couldn’t keep his hands off young girls,” Trohan would later say. “Why the Communist opposition didn’t plant a minor on him and raise the cry of statutory rape, I don’t know.” Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that those “planting” minors on their political foes were McCarthy’s allies and close associates, not his enemies.
The question that necessarily arises from revelations regarding Cohn’s activities in Suite 233 is who else was Cohn “protecting” and servicing with underage prostitutes? One of them could very well have been one of Cohn’s close friends and clients, Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York, who was said to have been present at some of these parties Cohn hosted at the Plaza Hotel.
Spellman — one of the most powerful figures in the Catholic Church in North America, who was sometimes referred to as “America’s Pope” — was accused of not only condoning pedophilia in the Catholic church and ordaining known pedophiles including Cardinal Theodore “Uncle Teddy” McCarrick, but also engaging in it himself to such an extent that many New York area priests widely referred to him as “Mary.” Furthermore, J. Edgar Hoover was said to have a file detailing the cardinal’s sex life, suggesting Spellman’s involvement in the ring and pedophile protection racket in which Cohn and Hoover were personally involved.
Cardinal Francis ‘Franny’ Spellman. Photo | Museum of the City of New York
People close to Cohn often remarked that he was frequently surrounded by groups of young boys, but seemed to think nothing of it. Similar off-handed comments about Epstein’s penchant for minors were made by those close to him prior to his arrest.
Controversial Republican political operative and “dirty trickster” Roger Stone — who, like Donald Trump, was also a protégé of Cohn — said the following about Cohn’s sex life during an interview with The New Yorker in 2008:
Roy was not gay. He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access.” (emphasis added)
Compare this quote from Stone to what Donald Trump, who was also close to Cohn, would later say about Jeffrey Epstein, with whom he was also closely associated:
I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy. He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.” (emphasis added)
Though it is unknown how long the sex ring at the Plaza Hotel continued, and whether it continued after Cohn’s death from AIDS in 1986, it is worth noting that Donald Trump purchased the Plaza Hotel in 1988. It would later be reported and confirmed by then-attendees that Trump “used to host parties in suites at the Plaza Hotel when he owned it, where young women and girls were introduced to older, richer men” and “illegal drugs and young women were passed around and used.”
Andy Lucchesi, a male model who had helped organize some of these Plaza Hotel parties for Trump, said the following when asked about the age of the women present: “A lot of girls, 14, look 24. That’s as juicy as I can get. I never asked how old they were; I just partook. I did partake in activities that would be controversial, too.”
The Roy Cohn Machine
Roy Cohn was only at the beginning of his career when he waded his way into the underground sexual blackmail ring apparently led by Lewis Rosenstiel. Indeed, when Cohn first met Hoover, he was only 23 years old. Over the next three decades or so, before his death from AIDS-related complications in 1986 at the age of 56, Cohn built a well-oiled machine, largely through his close friendships with some of the country’s most influential figures.
Among Cohn’s friends were top media personalities like Barbara Walters, former CIA directors, Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy, media moguls Rupert Murdoch and Mort Zuckerman, numerous celebrities, prominent lawyers like Alan Dershowitz, top figures in the Catholic Church and leading Jewish organizations like B’nai B’rith and the World Jewish Congress. Many of the same names that surrounded Cohn until death in the late 1980s would later come to surround Jeffrey Epstein, with their names later appearing in Epstein’s now-infamous “little black book”.
Reagan meets with Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, and Roy Cohn in the Oval Office in 1983. Photo | Reagan presidential library
While President Trump is clearly connected to both Epstein and Cohn, Cohn’s network also extends to former President Bill Clinton, whose friend and longtime political advisor, Richard “Dirty Dick” Morris, was Cohn’s cousin and close associate. Morris was also close to Clinton’s former communications director, George Stephanopoulos, who is also associated with Jeffrey Epstein.
Yet, these were only Cohn’s connections to respectable members of the establishment. He was also known for his deep connections to the mob and gained prominence largely for his ability to connect key figures in the criminal underworld to respected influential figures acceptable to the public sphere. Ultimately, as New York attorney John Klotz stated, Cohn’s most powerful tool was blackmail, which he used against friend and foe, gangster or public official alike. How much of that blackmail he acquired through his sexual blackmail operation will likely never be known.
As Part II of this exclusive investigation will reveal, Cohn and Epstein, and the sexual blackmail operations they ran share many things in common, including not only many of the same famous friends and patrons, but also connections to intelligence agencies and consortiums of mob-linked businessmen, the modern-day equivalents of Samuel Bronfman and Lewis Rosenstiel who have since rebranded as “philanthropists.”
Part II will also reveal that Cohn’s operation was known to have successors, as revealed by a series of scandals in the early 1990s that have since been swept under the rug. The significant amount of overlap between Epstein’s and Cohn’s covert activities in sexual blackmail and their ties to many of the same powerful individuals and circles of influence strongly suggest that Epstein was one of Cohn’s successors.
As will be shown in the final installment of this report, Epstein is only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive and sophisticated operation that offers a frightening window into how deeply tied the U.S. government is to the modern-day equivalents of organized crime, making it a racket truly too big to fail.
Feature photo | A composite image shows from left to right, Lewis Rosenstiel, Jeffrey Epstein, and Roy Cohn. Graphic | Emma Fiala
Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the U.S. from the Prohibition Era right up through the Age of Trump.
by Whitney Webb
July 25th, 2019
By Whitney Webb Whitney Webb
Jeffrey Epstein, the billionaire who now sits in jail on federal charges for the sex trafficking of minors, has continued to draw media scrutiny in the weeks after his arrest on July 6. Part of the reason for this continued media interest is related to Epstein’s alleged relationship to the intelligence services and new information about the true extent of the sexual blackmail operation Epstein is believed to have run for decades.
As MintPress reported last week, Epstein was able to run this sordid operation for so long precisely because his was only the latest incarnation of a much older, more extensive operation that began in the 1950s and perhaps even earlier.
Starting first with mob-linked liquor baron Lewis Rosenstiel and later with Roy Cohn, Rosenstiel’s protege and future mentor to Donald Trump, Epstein’s is just one of the many sexual blackmail operations involving children that are all tied to the same network, which includes elements of organized crime, powerful Washington politicians, lobbyists and “fixers,” and clear links to intelligence as well as the FBI.
This report, Part II of this series titled “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big To Fail,” will delve into Cohn’s close ties to the Reagan administration, which was also closely tied to the same organized crime network led by the infamous mob figure Meyer Lansky, which was discussed in Part I. Of particular importance is the “Iran Contra” network, a group of Reagan officials and associates who played key roles in the Iran Contra scandal. Though it has remained relatively unknown for years, many key figures in that same network, and several fronts for the CIA that were involved in funneling money to the Central American Contra paramilitaries, were also trafficking minors for their sexual exploitation and use in sexual blackmail rings.
Several of these rings made headlines at one point or another over the years — from the “call boy ring” run by Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, to the Franklin child-sex and murder ring run by Republican operative Larry King, to the scandal that enveloped the Catholic charity Covenant House in the late 1980s.
Yet, as this report will show, all of these rings — and more — were connected to the same network that involved key figures linked to the Reagan White House and linked to Roy Cohn — revealing the true scope of the sordid sexual blackmail operations and sex rings that involved the trafficking of children within the U.S. and even in Central America for their exploitation by dangerous and powerful pedophiles in the United States.
Appalling for both the villainous abuse of children itself and the chilling implications of government by blackmail, this tangled web of unsavory alliances casts a lurid light on the political history of the United States from the Prohibition Era right up to the present day and the Age of Trump, a fact made increasingly clear as more and more information comes to light in relation to the Jeffrey Epstein case.
“Roy could fix anyone in the city”
Since Donald Trump burst onto the political scene in 2015, the legacy of his mentor, Roy Cohn – as well as Cohn’s influence on his most famous protege — have begun to garner renewed media attention. Many of the profiles on Cohn following Trump’s rise have focused solely on certain shadowy aspects of Cohn’s history, particularly his association with major figures in New York organized crime, his corrupt dealings, and his eventual disbarment. Some of these portrayals even went so far as to label Cohn as politically impotent. While Cohn was known to deal with a sizable amount of sleaze in his career, such depictions of the man fail to note that he had created an influence machine of unrivaled power that included some of the most prominent people in media and politics as well as a cadre of celebrities.
Cohn was closely associated with numerous celebrities, famous politicians and political operatives. Many of his birthday parties over the years attracted such famous figures such as artist Andy Warhol, fashion designer Calvin Klein, and comedian Joey Adams, as well as notable political figures including former Mayor of New York Abraham Beame and then-Assemblyman from Brooklyn and future Senator Chuck Schumer, among others. In 1979 Margaret Trudeau, mother of current Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, attended Cohn’s birthday party, where she famously toppled his custom birthday cake; and of course Donald Trump, who became Cohn’s protege in the mid-1970s, was a frequent fixture at social events held in Cohn’s honor.
The politicians, journalists and celebrities invited to Cohn’s exclusive parties were said to be those who “had open accounts in Cohn’s ‘favor bank,’” his nickname for his unofficial balance sheet of political favors and debts that was surely informed and influenced by his extensive involvement in sexual blackmail operations from the 1950s well into the 1980s.
Many of Cohn’s celebrity friendships were cultivated through his relationship with and frequent appearances at the famous and famously debaucherous New York nightclub Studio 54, which was described by Vanity Fair as “the giddy epicenter of 70s hedonism, a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex.” Cohn was the long-time lawyer of the club’s owners, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell and Roy Cohn, left, talk to reporters outside U.S. District Court in Manhattan on, Nov. 2, 1979. Photo | AP
Among Cohn’s closest friends were Barbara Walters, to whom Cohn often referred as his “fiancee” in public, and whom he later introduced to the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, and other high rollers in the Reagan White House. Yet, Walters was just one of Cohn’s powerful friends in the media, a group that also included Abe Rosenthal, executive editor of the New York Times; William Safire, long-time New York Times columnist and New York Magazine contributor; and George Sokolsky of The New York Herald Tribune, NBC and ABC. Sokolsky was a particularly close friend of both Cohn and former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, whose involvement in Cohn’s sexual blackmail operation is described in Part I of this investigative series. Sokolsky ran the American Jewish League Against Communism with Cohn for several years and the organization later named its Medal of Honor after Sokolsky.
Cohn was also the attorney and friend of media mogul Rupert Murdoch and, according to New York Magazine, “Whenever Roy wanted a story stopped, item put in, or story exploited, Roy called Murdoch;” and, after Murdoch bought the New York Post, Cohn “wielded the paper as his personal shiv.” According to the late journalist Robert Parry, the friendship between Murdoch and Cohn first began thanks to their mutual support for Israel.
Cohn also leaned on his life-long friend since high school, Si Newhouse Jr., to exert media influence. Newhouse oversaw the media empire that now includes Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, The New Yorker, and numerous local newspapers throughout the United States, as well as major interests in cable television. New York Magazine also noted that “Cohn used his influence in the early ’80s to secure favors for himself and his Mob clients in Newhouse publications.” In addition to Newhouse, Cohn’s other high school pals, Generoso Pope Jr. and Richard Berlin, later became the owners of the National Enquirer and the Hearst Corporation, respectively. Cohn was also a close friend of another media mogul, Mort Zuckerman, who – along with Rupert Murdoch – would go on to befriend Jeffrey Epstein.
Cohn’s media confidants, like journalist William Buckley of The National Review and Firing Line, often attacked Cohn’s political enemies – particularly long-time Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau — in their columns, using Cohn as an anonymous source. Buckley, whom historian George Nash once called “the preeminent voice of American conservatism and its first great ecumenical figure,” received the George Sokolsky medal alongside Cohn’s mob-linked client and “Supreme Commander” Lewis Rosenstiel from the Cohn-run American Jewish League Against Communism in 1966. Buckley later got a heavily discounted $65,000 loan to buy a luxury boat from a bank where Cohn held influence and whose president Cohn had hand picked, according to a 1969 article in LIFE magazine.
Buckley — along with Barbara Walters, Alan Dershowitz and Donald Trump — would later serve as character witnesses for Cohn during his 1986 disbarment hearings and all but Buckley would later draw controversy for their relationships with Jeffrey Epstein.
With connections like this, it’s no wonder that Stanley Friedman — a law partner of Cohn, who was later imprisoned over a kickback and bribery scandal while serving as New York’s deputy mayor — told journalist Marie Brenner in 1980 that “Roy could fix anyone in the city.”
Politically ubiquitous and polygamous
Roy Cohn’s “favor bank” and his unique position as a liaison between the criminal underworld, the rich and famous, and top media influencers made him a force to be reckoned with. Yet, it was his political connections to leadership figures in both the Republican and Democratic parties and his close relationship to long-time FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, among other figures, that made him and his dark secret “untouchable” for much of his life. Though most of his political influence was forged in the 1950s, Cohn became even more powerful with the rise of Ronald Reagan.
Even though he nominally maintained his affiliation with the Democratic Party throughout his life, Cohn was a well-known “fixer” for Republican candidates and this is clearly seen in his outsized roles during the 1976 and 1980 presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan. It was during the latter that Cohn would meet another of his proteges, Roger Stone, whom he infamously instructed to leave a hefty bribe tucked in a suitcase at the doorstep of the Liberal Party’s headquarters during the 1980 campaign. During this campaign, Cohn would also meet Paul Manafort — an associate of Stone and later Trump’s 2016 campaign manager — and introduce both to Donald Trump.
Cohn’s law partner, Tom Bolan, was also an influential force in the Reagan campaign and later chaired Reagan’s transition team in 1980. Reagan then named Bolan, whom he considered a friend, a director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the government’s development finance institution, and he was also the New York finance co-chairman in the Reagan campaign in both 1980 and 1984. Bolan was also close to others in Cohn’s circle, such as William F. Buckley Jr., Donald Trump and Rupert Murdoch.
Furthermore, Bolan was instrumental in securing federal judgeships for several individuals who would later become influential, including future FBI Director Louis Freeh. Cohn was also able to get friends of clients appointed as federal judges, including Donald Trump’s sister, Maryanne Trump Barry. After Barry was appointed as a federal judge, Trump called Cohn to thank him for pulling strings on his sister’s behalf.
Though Cohn was not given a public position in the Reagan administration, he was not merely a “dirty trickster” who worked in the shadows during the Reagan campaigns. In fact, he worked closely with some of the more visible faces of the campaign, including the then-communications director for Reagan’s 1980 campaign and later CIA director, William Casey. According to Christine Seymour — Cohn’s long-time switchboard operator from the late 1960s up until his death in 1986, who listened in on his calls — Casey and Cohn were close friends and, during the 1980 campaign, Casey “called Roy almost daily.”
Seymour also noted that one of Cohn’s other most frequent phone pals and closest friends was Nancy Reagan and she was also one of his clients. Reagan, whose influence over her husband was well-known, was so close to Cohn that it was largely his death from AIDS that led her to “encourage her husband to seek more funding for AIDS research.”
Prior to Cohn’s death, Nancy and her husband Ronald secured his spot in an exclusive experimental AIDS treatment program, despite the Reagan administration’s well-documented “non-response” to the AIDS crisis of the era. Ronald Reagan was also a friend of Cohn’s and, according to late journalist Robert Parry, “lavished favors on Cohn, including invitations to White House events, personal thank-you notes and friendly birthday wishes” over the course of his presidency.
Given that Reagan heavily courted the evangelical right and promoted “family values” as president, the close ties between not only himself, but his inner circle, with Cohn may seem odd. However, Reagan, like Cohn, had deep ties to the same organized-crime factions that were among Cohn’s clients and affiliates of the same Mafia figures close to Cohn’s own mentor, Lewis Rosenstiel (see Part I).
Not unlike Cohn, Reagan’s own mentor, Lew Wasserman, had close ties to the mob. Wasserman, the long-time president of MCA and the well-known Hollywood mogul, is known for not only making Reagan’s film and television career, but also supporting his successful push to become president of the Screen Actors Guild, which later launched Reagan’s political career. In addition, MCA was a major financier of Reagan’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1966 and, not long after Reagan became president, his administration controversially shut down a massive Department of Justice (DOJ) probe into MCA’s ties to organized crime.
Ronald Reagan, center, with A.C. Lyles and Lew Wasserman, right. Photo | A.C. Lyles
According to Shawn Swords, a documentary filmmaker who explored Reagan’s ties to MCA in Wages of Spin II: Bring Down That Wall:
Ronald Reagan was an opportunist. His whole career was guided by MCA — by Wasserman and [MCA founder] Jules Stein, who bragged that Reagan was malleable, that they could do what they wanted with him…That thing about Reagan being tough on [organized] crime — that’s a fallacy.”
Swords’ characterization of this relationship is supported by an unnamed Hollywood source cited in a declassified DOJ document, who called Reagan “a complete slave of MCA who would do their bidding on anything.”
What elements of organized crime were connected to Wasserman? As a young man, Lew Wasserman joined the Mayfield Road Gang, which was run by Moe Dalitz, a close friend of Meyer Lansky who, per the FBI, was a powerful figure in Lansky’s criminal enterprise, second only to Lansky himself among members of the Jewish mob.
Lew Wasserman would later marry Edith Beckerman, whose father was Dalitz’s lawyer. Wasserman’s closest friend and lawyer, Sidney Korshak, also had close ties to Dalitz and once partnered with Lansky in the Acapulco Towers Hotel. Notably, the magazine New West stated in 1976 that Korshak was the “logical successor to Meyer Lansky.” Korshak, as a lawyer, fit a niche similar to Roy Cohn and gained a reputation as the bridge between organized crime and respectable society.
In addition, the DOJ probe into MCA that the Reagan administration quashed was reportedly spurred after the Justice Department learned that an influential member of the Gambino crime family, Salvatore Pisello, was doing business with the massive entertainment company. At that time, the boss of the Gambino crime family, Paul Castellano, was a client of Roy Cohn.
Cohn, Murdoch and the Contras
Though Cohn’s influence in the Reagan administration and his friendship with the Reagan family and their inner circle has been acknowledged, less well-known is how Cohn aided the CIA’s covert propaganda efforts that were part of the larger scandal known as Iran-Contra.
Cohn, whose influence over the press has already been detailed, forged close ties with the director of the U.S. Information Agency, Chad Wick, even hosting a luncheon in Wick’s honor that was widely attended by influential figures in the conservative press, as well as senators and representatives. Soon after, then-CIA Director and Cohn friend William Casey was spearheading an extensive PR campaign aimed at shoring up public support for Reagan’s Latin American policies, including support of the Contra paramilitaries.
This domestic propaganda effort was technically illegal and required that the CIA outsource the job to the private sector to minimize the risk of fall-out. As Robert Parry reported in 2015, Wick took the lead in obtaining private funding for the effort and, just a few days after Wick promised to find private support, Cohn brought his close friend, the media mogul Rupert Murdoch, to the White House.
Reagan meets with Rupert Murdoch, U.S. Information Agency Director Charles Wick, and Roy Cohn in the Oval Office in 1983. Photo | Reagan presidential library
Parry later noted that, after this meeting, “documents released during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987 and later from the Reagan Library indicate that Murdoch was soon viewed as a source for the private funding” for the propaganda campaign.
After that initial meeting, Murdoch became the top media ally of this Casey-directed propaganda effort, and also became increasingly close to the Reagan White House. Murdoch, as a consequence, benefited greatly from Reagan’s policies and his friendship with the administration, which allowed Murdoch to increase his U.S. media holdings and to create the Fox Broadcasting Corporation in 1987.
“The man in the black tuxedo”
Roy Cohn was not the only one close to the Reagan administration who was simultaneously running sexual blackmail operations that abused and exploited children. In fact, there were several figures, all of whom shared direct connections to CIA Director William Casey and other close friends and confidants of Cohn.
One of these individuals was Robert Keith Gray, the former chairman and CEO of the powerful Washington-based public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton, which 60 Minutes once called “an unelected shadow government” due to its influence in the capitol. According to the Washington Post, Gray himself was “one of the most sought-after lobbyists in Washington” and a Post reporter once called him “a kind of legend in this town, …the man in the black tuxedo with snow-white hair and a smile like a diamond.”
Yet, Gray was much more than a powerful PR executive.
Gray, who had previously been a close adviser to both Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, was a very successful Republican fundraiser who “collects money in six-figure globs,” according to a 1974 report in the Washingtonian. He first came into close contact with what would become Ronald Reagan’s inner circle during Reagan’s unsuccessful 1976 presidential campaign and later as deputy director of communications during Reagan’s campaign in 1980. The latter position would see him work directly under William Casey, who later became CIA director.
Gray would go on to co-chair Reagan’s Inauguration Committee and afterwards would return to the PR business, taking on several clients including Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and hedge fund manager Marc Rich. Both Khashoggi and Rich will be discussed more in detail in Part III of this report — particularly Rich, who was an asset of Israeli intelligence outfit Mossad, and whose later criminal pardon by Bill Clinton was largely orchestrated by members of the Mega Group like Michael Steinhardt and Israeli politicians like Ehud Barak.
The connection between Gray and Casey is particulary telling, as it was later revealed by former Nebraska state senator-turned-investigator John DeCamp that Gray was a specialist in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Cohn and Gray were likely to have known each other well, as during Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign Casey — then Gray’s boss — was calling Roy Cohn “every day,” according to Cohn’s former switchboard operator Christine Seymour.
Gray was a known associate of CIA agent and Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Wilson, having served in the 1970s on the board of Consultants International, an organization that Wilson had founded and that the CIA used as a front company. Though Gray attempted to distance himself from Wilson after the latter was caught illegally selling weapons to Libya in 1983, a Navy review of Wilson’s intelligence career, unearthed by journalist Peter Maas, stated that Gray described Wilson as a man of “unqualified trust” and that Gray and Wilson had been in professional contact “two or three times a month” as early as 1963.
Though Wilson’s main specialty was front companies used to covertly ship and smuggle goods on behalf of U.S. intelligence, he also ran sexual blackmail operations for the CIA, particularly around the time of the Watergate scandal, according to his former partner and fellow agent at the CIA, Frank Terpil.
Terpil later told author and investigative journalist Jim Hougan:
Historically, one of Wilson’s Agency jobs was to subvert members of both houses [of Congress] by any means necessary…. Certain people could be easily coerced by living out their sexual fantasy in the flesh…. A remembrance of these occasions [was] permanently recorded via selected cameras…. The technicians in charge of filming … [were] TSD [Technical Services Division of the CIA]. The unwitting porno stars advanced in their political careers, some of [whom] may still be in office.”
According to Terpil, Wilson ran his operation out of the George Town Club, owned by lobbyist and Korean intelligence asset Tongsun Park. According to the Washington Post, Park set up the club on behalf of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency “as a primary means in an illegal effort to influence U.S. politicians and officials.” The president of the George Town Club at the time of Wilson’s alleged activities at the site was Robert Keith Gray.
DeCamp later reported that Wilson’s activities were a spin-off of the same sexual blackmail operation in which Cohn became involved during the McCarthy era with Lewis Rosenstiel and J. Edgar Hoover.
Father Ritter and his favored youths
The operation allegedly ran by Gray and Wilson was not the only sexual blackmail operation connected to Cohn’s network or to influential American politicians of the era. Another pedophile network that was connected to a close associate of former President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s was run as an affiliate of the Catholic charity Covenant House, which was founded and run by Father Bruce Ritter.
In 1968, Ritter asked his superior — Cardinal Francis Spellman of the Archdiocese of New York — for permission to take homeless teenagers, boys and girls, into his home in Manhattan. As was noted in Part I of this series, Spellman was accused of pedophilia and ordained known pedophiles while serving as the highest-ranking Catholic priest in the United States. Spellman was also a close associate, client and friend of Roy Cohn, as well as of his law partner Tom Bolan, and Spellman was alleged to have been seen at least one of Cohn’s “blackmail parties.” In addition, Spellman’s nephew, Ned Spellman, worked for Roy Cohn, according to LIFE magazine.
Ritter, like Spellman and other priests who served under Spellman, was eventually accused of having sexual relationships with many of the underaged boys he had taken in, and of spending Covenant House funds on lavish gifts and payments to the vulnerable teenagers he exploited.
One of Ritter’s victims, Darryl Bassile, wrote an open letter to him a year after the priest’s preying on teenage boys was exposed by the press: “You were wrong for inflicting your desires on a 14-year-old . . . I know that someday you will stand before the one who judges all of us and at that time there will be no more denial, just the truth.”
Notably, when Ritter’s activities at Covenant House were exposed in 1989 by the New York Post, Charles M. Sennott, the Post reporter who wrote the story, would later state that “the secular powers more than the archdiocese or the Franciscans protected him [Ritter].” Sennott’s report was attacked viciously by columnists in other New York media outlets, powerful politicians including then-Governor of New York Mario Cuomo, as well as by Cardinal Spellman’s successor, Cardinal John O’Connor.
The likely reason these “secular powers” came to the aid of the embattled Ritter, who was never charged for having sexual relationships with minors and was merely forced to resign from his post, is that Covenant House and Ritter himself were deeply tied to Robert Macauley, Bush Sr.’s roommate at Yale and a long-time friend of the Bush family. Macauley was described by the New York Times as “instrumental” to Covenant House fundraising after he joined its board in 1985 and brought on several “other wealthy or well-connected people,” including former government officials and investment bankers.
George and Barbara Bush meet residents at New York’s Convent House, June 22, 1989. Father Bruce Ritter is seated in the background. Rick Bowmen | AP
Macauley’s organization, the AmeriCares Foundation, which was later accused of funneling money to the Contras in Central America, was one of the main sources of funding of Covenant House. One of the members of AmeriCares advisory board was William E. Simon, former U.S. secretary of the treasury under the Nixon and Ford administrations, who also ran the Nicaraguan Freedom Fund, which sent aid to the Contras.
AmeriCares was also known to work directly with U.S. intelligence. As the Hartford Courant noted in 1991: “Knowledgeable former federal officials, many with backgrounds in intelligence work, help AmeriCares maneuver in delicate international political environments.”
Furthermore, Ritter was known to have visited Macauley’s Connecticut estate and served as Vice President of AmeriCares until he was forced to resign from Covenant House. Notably, George H.W. Bush’s brother, Prescott, was also on the AmeriCares advisory board. After George H.W. Bush died last year, AmeriCares stated that he had been “instrumental in founding the health-focused relief and development organization.”
Years before Ritter was outed as a pedophile who preyed on the disadvantaged and vulnerable teenagers who sought refuge at his charity, Covenant House was praised heavily by President Ronald Reagan, even earning a mention in his 1984 State of the Union address, which called Ritter one of the country’s “unsung heroes.” From 1985 to 1989, Covenant House’s operating budget grew from $27 million to $90 million and its board came to include powerful individuals including top executives at IBM, Chase Manhattan Bank and Bear Stearns.
It was during this time that Covenant House grew into an international organization, opening branches in several countries, including Canada, Mexico and elsewhere in Central America. Its first branch in Central America was opened in Guatemala and was headed by Roberto Alejos Arzu, a CIA asset whose plantation was used to train the troops used in the CIA’s failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba. Alejos Arzu was also an associate of the former U.S.-backed dictator of Nicaragua, Anastasio Somoza, and a member of the Knights of Malta, a Catholic order to which former CIA Director William Casey and Roy Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan also belonged. Alejos Arzu also worked for AmeriCares and was tied to several Central American paramilitary groups.
Intelligence community sources cited by DeCamp assert that the Alejos Arzu-led branch of Covenant House procured children for a pedophile ring based in the United States. Years later, Mi Casa, another U.S.-run charity in Guatemala that George H.W. Bush had personally toured with his wife Barbara in 1994, was accused of rampant pedophilia and child abuse.
The downfall of “Washington’s Jay Gatsby”
After having left his job as an ABC News correspondent in the 1980s, Craig Spence found success as a prominent conservative Washington lobbyist. Spence would soon find his fortunes shift dramatically when, in June 1989, it was revealed that he had been pimping out children to the power elite in the nation’s capital throughout the 1980s in apartments that were bugged with video and audio recording equipment. Much like Jeffrey Epstein, who ran a similar operation, Spence was often likened to Jay Gatsby, the mysterious, wealthy figure from the well-known Fitzgerald novel The Great Gatsby.
A 1982 New York Times article written about Spence said that his “personal phone book and party guest lists constitute a ‘Who’s Who’ in Congress, Government and journalism” and stated that Spence was “hired by his clients as much for whom he knows as what he knows.” Spence was also known to throw lavish parties, which the Times described as “glitter[ed] with notables, from ambassadors to television stars, from senators to senior State Department officials.” Roy Cohn, William Casey and Roy Cohn’s journalist friend William Safire were just some of the other attendees at Spence’s festivities.
“According to Mr. Spence,” the Times article continues, “Richard Nixon is a friend. So is [former Attorney General under Nixon] John Mitchell. [CBS journalist] Eric Sevareid is termed ‘an old, dear friend.’ Senator John Glenn is ‘a good friend’ and Peter Ustinov [British actor and journalist] is ‘an old, old friend.’” Notably, Ustinov wrote for The European newspaper soon after it was founded in 1990 by Robert Maxwell, the father of Epstein’s alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell and a known Mossad agent.
It was revealed just seven years after the Times’ published its doting profile of Spence that his “glittery parties for key officials of the Reagan and Bush administrations, media stars and top military officers” had been bugged in order “to compromise guests.” According to the explosive report published by the Washington Times, Spence was linked to a “homosexual prostuition ring” whose clients included “government officials, locally based U.S. military officers, businessmen, lawyers, bankers, congressional aides, media representatives and other professionals.” Spence also offered cocaine to his guests as another means of acquiring blackmail.
According to the report, Spence’s home “was bugged and had a secret two-way mirror, and … he attempted to ensnare visitors into compromising sexual encounters that he could then use as leverage.” One man who spoke to the Washington Times said that Spence sent a limousine to his home, which took him to a party where “several young men tried to become friendly with him.” According to DeCamp, Spence was known to offer young children for sex to attendees at his blackmail parties, along with illegal drugs like cocaine.
Several other sources, including a Reagan White House official and an Air Force sergeant who had attended Spence-hosted parties, confirmed that Spence’s house was filled with recording equipment, which he regularly used to spy on and record guests, and his house also included a two-way mirror that he used for eavesdropping.
The report also documented Spence’s connections to U.S. intelligence, particularly the CIA. According to the Washington Times report, Spence “often boasted that he was working for the CIA and on one occasion said he was going to disappear for awhile ‘because he had an important CIA assignment.’” He was also quite paranoid about his alleged work for the agency, as he expressed concern “that the CIA might ‘doublecross him’ and kill him instead and then make it look like a suicide.” Not long after the Washington Times report on his activities was published, Spence was found dead in the Boston Ritz Carlton and his death was quickly ruled a suicide.
The Washington Times report also offers a clue as to what Spence may have done for the CIA, as it cited sources that had claimed that Spence had spoken of smuggling cocaine into the U.S. from El Salvador, an operation that he claimed had involved U.S. military personnel. Given the timing of these comments from Spence, Spence’s powerful connections, and the CIA’s involvement in the exchange of cocaine for weapons in the Iran Contra scandal, his comments may have been much more than just boasts intended to impress his party guests.
One of the most critical parts of the scandal surrounding Spence, however, was the fact that he had been able to enter the White House late at night during the George H.W. Bush administration with young men whom the Washington Times described as “call boys.”
Spence later stated that his contacts within the White House, which allowed him and his “call boys” access, were “top level” officials and he specifically singled out George H.W. Bush’s then-National Security Advisor Donald Gregg. Gregg had worked at the CIA since 1951 before he resigned in 1982 to become National Security Advisor to Bush, who was then vice president. Prior to resigning from his post at the CIA, Gregg had worked directly under William Casey and, in the late 1970s, alongside a young William Barr in stonewalling the congressional Pike Committee and Church Committee, which investigated the CIA beginning in 1975. Among the things that they were tasked with investigating were the CIA’s “love traps,” or sexual blackmail operations used to lure foreign diplomats to bugged apartments, complete with recording equipment and two-way mirrors.
Barr would later become Bush’s Attorney General, rising to that post yet again under Trump. Furthermore, Barr’s father worked for the precursor to the CIA, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and recruited a young Jeffrey Epstein, then a high school drop-out, to teach at the elite Dalton School, from which Epstein was later fired. A year prior to hiring Epstein, Donald Barr published a science fiction fantasy novel about sex slavery. Notably, the same year Donald Barr hired Epstein, his son was working for the CIA. Bill Barr has refused calls to recuse himself from the Epstein case, even though he worked at the same law firm that has represented Epstein in the past.
Donald Gregg is also connected to Roy Cohn’s “influence machine” through his daughter’s marriage to Christopher Buckley, the son of conservative journalist William Buckley, close confidant and friend of both Roy Cohn and Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
The Washington Times reports on Spence’s child sex ring also reveal his close ties to none other than the ubiquitous Roy Cohn. One of the Times’ sources for its first story on the scandal alleged that he had attended a birthday party for Roy Cohn that Spence had hosted at his home and that CIA Director William Casey was also in attendance. Spence was also said in the report to often brag about his social companions and regularly mentioned Cohn and claimed to have hosted Cohn at his house on occasions other than the aforementioned birthday party.
“Bodies by God”
The revelation of Craig Spence’s “call boy ring” soon led to the discovery of the infamous Franklin child sex abuse and ritual murder scandal. That sordid operation was run out of Omaha, Nebraska by Larry King, a prominent local Republican activist and lobbyist who ran the Franklin Community Federal Credit Union until it was shut down by federal authorities.
Buried in a May 1989 article in the Omaha World Herald’s probe into King’s Credit Union and sex ring, is a telling revelation: “In the 61/2 months since federal authorities closed Franklin, rumors have persisted that money from the credit union somehow found its way to the Nicaraguan contra rebels.”
The possibility that King’s fraudulent credit union was covertly funding the Contras was supported by subsequent reporting by the Houston Post’s Pete Brewton, who discovered that the CIA, in conjunction with organized crime, had secretly borrowed money from various savings and loans (S&L) institutions to fund covert operations. One of those S&Ls had Neil Bush, George H.W. Bush’s son, on its board and it had done business with King’s organization.
Another link between King and the Iran Contra team is the fact that King had co-founded and subsequently donated over $25,000 to an organization affiliated with the Reagan administration, Citizens for America, which sponsored speaking trips for Lt. Col. Oliver North and Contra leaders. The director of Citizens for America at the time was David Carmen, who simultaneously ran a public relations firm with the former head of covert operations at the Casey-led CIA, his father Gerald, who had also been appointed by Reagan to head the General Services Administration and to a subsequent ambassadorship.
One of the investigative journalists who researched the Craig Spence ring later told DeCamp that Spence’s ring was connected to King:
The way we discovered Larry King and his Nebraska-based call boy ring, was by looking through the credit card chits of Spence’s ring, where we found King’s name.”
It was later revealed that King and Spence were essentially business partners as their child trafficking rings were operated under a larger group that was nicknamed “Bodies by God.”
Exactly how many groups operated under this umbrella group, “Bodies by God,” is unknown. Yet, what is known is that the rings run by both King and Spence were connected to each other and both were also connected to prominent officials in the Reagan and subsequent George H.W. Bush administrations, including officials with ties to the CIA and Roy Cohn and his network.
Indeed Spence, just months before his alleged suicide in the Boston Ritz Carlton, had hinted to Washington Times reporters Michael Hedges and Jerry Seper, who had originally broken the story, that they had merely scratched the surface of something much darker:
All this stuff you’ve uncovered [involving call boys, bribery and the White House tours], to be honest with you, is insignificant compared to other things I’ve done. But I’m not going to tell you those things, and somehow the world will carry on.”
It is also worth noting the role of the FBI in all of this, particularly in the Franklin child sex abuse scandal. Indeed, Larry King’s child sex abuse ring was quickly and aggressively covered up by the FBI, which used a variety of under-handed tactics to bury the reality of King’s sordid operation. Here, it is important to recall the key role former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover played in similar sexual blackmail operations that abused children (See Part I) and the close relationship between Hoover, Roy Cohn and Lewis Rosenstiel, who later employed Hoover’s former right-hand man at the FBI, Louis Nichols.
Years later, documents released by the FBI would show that Epstein became an FBI informant in 2008, when Robert Mueller was the Bureau’s director, in exchange for immunity from then-pending federal charges, a deal that fell through with Epstein’s recent arrest on new federal charges. In addition, former FBI Director Louis Freeh would be hired by Alan Dershowitz, who is accused of raping girls at Epstein’s homes and was once a character witness for Roy Cohn, to intimidate Epstein’s victims. As previously mentioned, Freeh’s past appointment as a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York was orchestrated by Cohn’s law partner Tom Bolan.
Thus, the FBI’s cover-up of the Franklin case is just one example of the Bureau’s long-standing practice of protecting these pedophile rings when they involve members of the American political elite and provide the Bureau with a steady supply of blackmail. It also makes it worth questioning the impartiality of one of the main prosecutors in the Jeffrey Epstein case, Maurene Comey, who is the daughter of former FBI Director James Comey.
The rot at the top
While there were several sexual trafficking operations connected to both Roy Cohn and the halls of power under the Reagan administration, in a matter of months after Cohn’s death it appears that another individual became a central figure in the powerful network that Cohn had cultivated.
That individual, Jeffrey Epstein, would be recruited, after his firing from the Dalton School, by Alan “Ace” Greenberg, a close friend of Cohn, to work at Bear Stearns. After leaving Bear Stearns and working as an alleged financial “bounty hunter” for clients that are said to have included the Iran-Contra-linked arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, Epstein would come into contact with Leslie Wexner, a billionaire close to the Meyer Lansky-linked Bronfman family, who himself was tied to members of organized crime syndicates once represented by Cohn.
The same year that Wexner would begin his decades-long association with Epstein, another Cohn friend with ties to the Reagan White House and the Trump family, Ronald Lauder, would provide Epstein with an Austrian passport containing Epstein’s picture but a false name.
Lauder, Wexner and the Bronfmans are members of an elite organization known as the Mega Group, which also includes other Meyer Lansky-connected “philanthropists” like hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt. While Epstein shares considerable overlap with the network described in this report and Part I of this series, he is also deeply connected to the Mega Group as well as its associates, including Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, Robert Maxwell.
Part III of this series will focus on the Mega Group and its ties to the network that has been described in Parts I and II. In addition, the role of the state of Israel, the Mossad, and several global pro-Israel lobby organizations will also be discussed in relation to this network of sexual blackmail operations and Jeffrey Epstein.
It is here that the full breadth of the Epstein scandal comes into view. It is a criminal and unconscionable blackmail operation that has been run by influential figures, hidden in plain sight, for over half a century, exploiting and destroying the lives of untold numbers of children in the process. Over the years, it has grown many branches and spread well beyond the United States, as seen by the activity of Covenant House in Latin America and Epstein’s own international effort to recruit more girls to be abused and exploited.
All of this has taken place with the full knowledge and blessing of top figures in the world of “philanthropy” and in the U.S. government and intelligence communities, with great influence over several presidential administrations, particularly since the rise of Ronald Reagan and continuing through to Donald Trump.
Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist
based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets
including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st
Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television
appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for
Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
The picture painted by the evidence is not a direct Epstein tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.
by Whitney Webb
August 07th, 2019
By Whitney Webb Whitney Webb
As billionaire pedophile and alleged sex-trafficker, Jeffrey Epstein sits in prison, reports have continued to surface about his reported links to intelligence, his financial ties to several companies and “charitable” foundations, and his friendships with the rich and powerful as well as top politicians.
While Part I and Part II of this series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” have focused on the widespread nature of sexual blackmail operations in recent American history and their ties to the heights of American political power and the U.S. intelligence community, one key aspect of Epstein’s own sex-trafficking and blackmail operation that warrants examination is Epstein’s ties to Israeli intelligence and his ties to the “informal” pro-Israel philanthropist faction known as “the Mega Group.”
The Mega Group’s role in the Epstein case has garnered some attention, as Epstein’s main financial patron for decades, billionaire Leslie Wexner, was a co-founder of the group that unites several well-known businessmen with a penchant for pro-Israel and ethno-philanthropy (i.e., philanthropy benefiting a single ethnic or ethno-religious group). However, as this report will show, another uniting factor among Mega Group members is deep ties to organized crime, specifically the organized crime network discussed in Part I of this series, which was largely led by notorious American mobster Meyer Lansky.
By virtue of the role of many Mega Group members as major political donors in both the U.S. and Israel, several of its most notable members have close ties to the governments of both countries as well as their intelligence communities. As this report and a subsequent report will show, the Mega Group also had close ties to two businessmen who worked for Israel’s Mossad — Robert Maxwell and Marc Rich — as well as to top Israeli politicians, including past and present prime ministers with deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community.
One of those businessmen working for the Mossad, Robert Maxwell, will be discussed at length in this report. Maxwell, who was a business partner of Mega Group co-founder Charles Bronfman, aided the successful Mossad plot to plant a trapdoor in U.S.-created software that was then sold to governments and companies throughout the world. That plot’s success was largely due to the role of a close associate of then-President Ronald Reagan and an American politician close to Maxwell, who later helped aid Reagan in the cover-up of the Iran Contra scandal.
Years later, Maxwell’s daughter — Ghislaine Maxwell — would join Jeffrey Epstein’s “inner circle” at the same time Epstein was bankrolling a similar software program now being marketed for critical electronic infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad. That company has deep and troubling connections to Israeli military intelligence, associates of the Trump administration, and the Mega Group.
Epstein appears to have ties to Israeli intelligence and has well-documented ties to influential Israeli politicians and the Mega Group. Yet, those entities are not isolated in and of themselves, as many also connect to the organized crime network and powerful alleged pedophiles discussed in previous installments of this series.
Perhaps the best illustration of how the connections between many of these players often meld together can be seen in Ronald Lauder: a Mega Group member, former member of the Reagan administration, long-time donor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Likud Party, as well as a long-time friend of Donald Trump and Roy Cohn.
From cosmetics heir to political player
One often overlooked yet famous client and friend of Roy Cohn is the billionaire heir to the Estee Lauder cosmetics fortune, Ronald Lauder. Lauder is often described in the press as a “leading Jewish philanthropist” and is the president of the World Jewish Congress, yet his many media profiles tend to leave out his highly political past.
In a statement given by Lauder to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman in 2018, the cosmetics heir noted that he has known Trump for over 50 years, going back at least to the early 1970s. According to Lauder, his relationship with Trump began when Trump was a student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, which Lauder also attended.
President-elect Trump walks with Ronald Lauder after meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Dec. 28, 2016, in Palm Beach, Fla. Evan Vucci | AP
Though the exact nature of their early friendship is unclear, it is evident that they shared many of the same connections, including to the man who would later count them both as his clients, Roy Cohn. While much has been said of the ties between Cohn and Trump, Cohn was particularly close to Lauder’s mother, Estee Lauder (born Josephine Mentzer). Estee was even counted among Cohn’s most high-profile friends in his New York Times obituary.
A small window into the Lauder-Cohn relationship surfaced briefly in a 2016 article in Politico about a 1981 dinner party held at Cohn’s weekend home in Greenwich, Connecticut. The party was attended by Ronald Lauder’s parents, Estee and Joe, as well as Trump and his then-wife Ivana, who had a weekend home just two miles away. That party was held soon after Cohn had helped Reagan secure the presidency and had reached the height of his political influence. At the party, Cohn offered toasts to Reagan and to then-Senator for New York Alfonse D’Amato, who would later urge Ronald Lauder to run for political office.
Two years later, in 1983, Ronald Lauder — whose only professional experience at that point was working for his parent’s cosmetics company — was appointed to serve as United States Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for European and NATO Affairs. Soon after his appointment, he served on the Dinner Tribute Committee for a dinner hosted by the Jewish fraternal and strongly pro-Israel organization B’nai B’rith, the parent organization of the controversial Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in Roy Cohn’s honor. Cohn’s influential father, Albert Cohn, was the long-time president of B’nai B’rith’s powerful New England-New York chapter and Roy Cohn himself was a member of B’nai B’rith’s Banking and Finance Lodge.
The dinner specifically sought to honor Cohn for his pro-Israel advocacy and his efforts to “fortify” Israel’s economy, and its honorary chairmen included media mogul Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trump and then-head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, all of whom are connected to Jeffrey Epstein.
During his time as deputy assistant secretary of defense, Lauder was also very active in Israeli politics and had already become an ally of the then-Israeli representative to the United Nations and future prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu. Lauder would go on to be one of the most important individuals in Netanyahu’s rise to power, particularly during his upset victory in 1996, and a major financier of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party.
In 1986, the year that Roy Cohn died, Lauder left his post at the Pentagon and became the U.S. ambassador to Austria, where his tenure was shaped by his confrontations with the then-Austrian president and former Nazi collaborator, Kurt Waldheim. Lauder’s interest in Austrian politics has continued well into recent years, culminating in accusations that he sought to manipulate Austrian elections in 2012.
After leaving his ambassadorship, Lauder founded the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation in 1987 and later went on to run for Mayor of New York against Rudy Giuliani in 1989. Lauder was encouraged to run by then-Senator Alfonse D’Amato, who had close ties to Roy Cohn and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan, who was D’Amato’s adviser. At the aforementioned 1983 B’nai B’rith dinner honoring Cohn, D’Amato was the featured speaker.
The likely reason was that Giuliani, though once an ally of the “Roy Cohn machine,” was at the time deeply disliked by the late Cohn’s associates for prosecuting Cohn’s former law partner, Stanley Friedman, for racketeering, conspiracy and other charges. Giuliani also had a history of bitter disagreements with D’Amato. Lauder’s primary campaign, though unsuccessful, was noted for its viciousness and its cost, as it burned through more than $13 million.
A few years later, in the early 1990s, Lauder would join a newly formed group that has long evaded scrutiny from the media but has recently become of interest in connection with the Jeffrey Epstein scandal: the Mega Group.
Lauder, Epstein and the mysterious Austrian passport
Before getting to the Mega Group, it is worth noting one particular act apparently undertaken by Lauder while he was U.S. ambassador to Austria that has recently come to light in relation to the arrest in early July of Jeffrey Epstein, a finding first reported by journalist Edward Szall. When police recently discovered an Austrian passport with Epstein’s picture and a fake name after raiding his Manhattan residence, the source and purpose of the passport came under media scrutiny.
According to the Associated Press, Epstein’s defense lawyers specifically argued that “a friend gave it to him [Epstein] in the 1980s after some Jewish-Americans were informally advised to carry identification bearing a non-Jewish name when traveling internationally during a period when hijackings were more common.” This claim appears to be related to concerns that followed the hijacking of Air France Flight 139 in 1976 when Israeli and Jewish hostages were separated from other hostages based largely on the passports in their possession.
Given that Epstein was unable to meet the conventional qualifications for an Austrian passport — including long-term residency in Austria (the passport lists him as a resident of Saudi Arabia) and fluency in German — it appears that the only way to have acquired an Austrian passport was by unconventional means, meaning assistance from a well-connected Austrian official or foreign diplomat with clout in Austria.
Ronald Lauder, right, and Austrian Chancellor Viktor Klima pose with students from the Lauder Chabad School in Vienna, Austria in 1999. Martin Gnedt | AP
Lauder, then-ambassador to Austria for the Reagan administration, would have been well-positioned to acquire such a passport, particularly for the reason cited by Epstein’s attorneys that Jewish-Americans could be targeted during travel, and in light of Lauder’s very public concerns over threats Jews face from certain terror groups. Furthermore, the passport had been issued in 1987, when Lauder was still serving as an ambassador.
In addition, Lauder was well-connected to Epstein’s former patron — former head of Bear Stearns Alan Greenberg, who had hired Epstein in the late 1970s immediately after the latter was fired from the Dalton School — and Donald Trump, another friend of Lauder and Greenberg who began his friendship with Epstein in 1987, the same year the fake Austrian passport was issued. In 1987, Epstein also began his relationship with his principal financier, Leslie Wexner, who is also closely associated with Lauder (though some sources claim that Epstein and Wexner first met in 1985 but that their strong business relationship was not established until 1987).
Though Epstein’s defense attorney declined to reveal the identity of the “friend” who provided him with the fake Austrian passport, Lauder was both well-positioned to acquire it in Austria and also deeply connected to the Mega Group, which was co-founded by Epstein’s patron Leslie Wexner and to which Epstein has many connections. These connections to both the Austrian government and to Epstein’s mentor make Lauder the most likely person to have acquired the document on Epstein’s behalf.
Furthermore, Epstein and the Mega Group’s ties to the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, also suggest Lauder was involved in procuring the passport, in light of his close ties to the Israeli government and the fact that Mossad has a history of using ambassadors abroad to procure false, foreign passports for its operatives.
Lauder himself has been alleged to have ties to Mossad, as he is a long-time funder of IDC Herzliya, an Israeli university closely associated with Mossad and their recruiters as well as Israeli military intelligence. Lauder even founded IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy.
Furthermore, Lauder co-founded the Eastern European broadcasting network CETV with Mark Palmer, a former U.S. diplomat, Kissinger aide and Reagan speechwriter. Palmer is better known for co-founding the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), an organization often described as an accessory to U.S. intelligence, and one whose first president confessed to the Washington Post that “a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA.” A 2001 report in the Evening Standard noted that Epstein once claimed that during the 1980s he worked for the CIA, but Epstein later backed away from that assertion.
The origins of the Mega Group Mafia
The Mega Group — a secretive group of billionaires to which Lauder belongs — was formed in 1991 by Charles Bronfman and Leslie Wexner, the latter of whom has received considerable media scrutiny following the July arrest of his former protege Jeffrey Epstein. Media profiles of the group paint it as “a loosely organized club of 20 of the nation’s wealthiest and most influential Jewish businessmen” focused on “philanthropy and Jewishness,” with membership dues upwards of $30,000 per year. Yet several of its most prominent members have ties to organized crime.
Mega Group members founded and/or are closely associated with some of the most well-known pro-Israel organizations. For instance, members Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt formed Birthright Taglit with the backing of then- and current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Steinhardt, an atheist, has stated that his motivation in helping to found the group was to advance his own belief that devotion to and faith in the state of Israel should serve as “a substitute for [Jewish] theology.”
Other well-known groups associated with the Mega Group include the World Jewish Congress — whose past president, Edgar Bronfman, and current president, Ronald Lauder, are both Mega Group members — and B’nai B’rith, particularly its spin-off known as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The Bronfman brothers were major donors to the ADL, with Edgar Bronfman serving as the ADL’s honorary national vice-chair for several years.
Former Israeli president Shimon Peres, second from left, listens to Edgar Bronfman during a 1995 lunch thrown in Peres’ honor. From left are: Laurence Tisch, Chairman, President and Chief executive officer of CBS; Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Itamar Rabinowitz and Bronfman. David Karp | AP
When Edgar Bronfman died in 2013, long-time ADL Director Abe Foxman said, “Edgar was for many years Chair of our Liquor Industry Division, Chair of our New York Appeal, and one of our most significant benefactors.” Other Mega Group members that are donors and major supporters of the ADL include Ronald Lauder, Michael Steinhardt and the late Max Fisher. As previously mentioned, Roy Cohn’s father was a long-time leader of B’nai B’rith’s influential New England-New York chapter and Cohn was later a celebrated member of its banking and finance lodge.
In addition, Mega Group members have also been key players in the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. For instance, Max Fisher of the Mega Group founded the National Jewish Coalition, now known as the Republican Jewish Coalition — the main pro-Israel neoconservative political lobbying group, known for its support of hawkish policies, and whose current chief patrons, Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, are among Donald Trump’s top donors.
Though the Mega Group has officially existed only since 1991, the use of “philanthropy” to provide cover for more unscrupulous lobbying or business activities was pioneered decades earlier by Sam Bronfman, the father of Mega Group members Edgar and Charles Bronfman. While other North American elites like J.D. Rockefeller had previously used philanthropic giving as a means of laundering their reputations, Bronfman’s approach to philanthropy was unique because it was focused on giving specifically to other members of his own ethno-religious background.
Sam Bronfman, as was detailed in Part I of this series, had long-standing deep ties to organized crime, specifically Meyer Lanksy’s organized crime syndicate. Yet, Bronfman’s private ambition, according to those close to him, was to become a respected member of high society. As a consequence, Bronfman worked hard to remove the stain that his mob associations had left on his public reputation in Canada and abroad. He accomplished this by becoming a leader in Canada’s Zionist movement and, by the end of the 1930s, he was head of the Canadian Jewish Congress and had begun to make a name for himself as a philanthropist for Jewish causes.
Yet even some of Bronfman’s activism and philanthropy had hints of the mobster-like reputation he tried so hard to shake. For instance, Bronfman was actively involved in the illegal shipping of arms to Zionist paramilitaries in Palestine prior to 1948, specifically as a co-founder of the National Conference for Israeli and Jewish Rehabilitation that smuggled weapons to the paramilitary group Haganah.
At the same time Bronfman was abetting the illegal smuggling of weapons to the Haganah, his associates in the criminal underworld were doing the same. After World War II, close aides of David Ben-Gurion, who would later become the first prime minister of Israel and was instrumental in the founding of Mossad, forged tight-knit relationships with Meyer Lansky, Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel, Mickey Cohen and other Jewish gangsters of the period. They used their clandestine networks to establish a vast arms smuggling network between the United States and Zionist settlements in Palestine, arming both the Haganah and the Irgun paramilitary groups. As noted in Part I of this report, at the same time these gangsters were aiding the illegal arming of ZIonsit paramilitaries, they were strengthening their ties to U.S. intelligence that had first been formally (though covertly) established in World War II.
After Israel was founded, Sam Bronfman worked with future Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres to negotiate the sale of Canadian armaments at half-price to Israel and the bargain weapons purchase was paid for entirely by a fundraising dinner hosted by Bronfman and his wife. Many years later, Peres would go on to introduce another future prime minister of Israel, Ehud Barak, to Jeffrey Epstein.
The rest of the Bronfman family’s march on “the road to respectability” was undertaken by Bronfman’s children, who married into aristocratic families such as the European Rothschilds and the Wall Street “royalty” of the Lehmans and the Loebs.
The Bronfmans’ newfound respectability did not mean that their association with the Lansky-led criminal empire had dissolved. Indeed, prominent members of the Seagrams dynasty came under fire in the 1960s and 1970s for their close association with Willie “Obie” Obront, a major figure in Canadian organized crime, whom Canadian professor Stephen Schneider has referred to as the Meyer Lansky of Canada.
However, Edgar and Charles Bronfman were hardly the only members of the Mega Group with deep and long-standing ties to the Lansky-led National Crime Syndicate. Indeed, one of the group’s prominent members, hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt, opened up about his own family ties to Lansky in his autobiography No Bull: My Life in and out the Markets, where he noted that his father, Sol “Red McGee” Steinhardt, was Lansky’s jewel fence of choice and a major player in New York’s criminal underworld. Sol Steinhardt was also his son’s first client on Wall Street and helped him jumpstart his career in finance.
The ties between the Mega Group and the National Crime Syndicate don’t stop there. Another prominent member of the Mega Group with ties to this same criminal network is Max Fisher, who has been described as Wexner’s mentor and is also alleged to have worked with Detroit’s “Purple Gang” during Prohibition and beyond. The Purple Gang were part of the network that smuggled Bronfman liquor from Canada into the United State during Prohibition, and one of its founders, Abe Bernstein, was a close associate of both Meyer Lansky and Moe Dalitz. Fisher was a key adviser to several U.S. presidents, beginning with Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as to Henry Kissinger.
Max Fisher, center, and Henry Kissinger, right, meet with leaders of Jewish organizations prior to Kissinger’s 1975 Middle East trip. Henry Burroughs | AP
In addition to Fisher, Mega Group member Ronald Lauder was connected to Roy Cohn and Tom Bolan, both of whom were closely associated with this same Lansky-led crime network (see Part I and Part II) and who regularly represented top Mafia figures in court. Furthermore, another member of the Mega Group, director Steven Spielberg, is a well-known protege of Lew Wasserman, the mob-connected media mogul and long-time backer of Ronald Reagan’s film and later political career, discussed in Part II of this series.
One surprise connection to Cohn involves Mega Group member, and former president of U.S. weapons firm General Dynamics, Lester Crown, whose brother-in-law is David Schine, Cohn’s confidant and alleged lover during the McCarthy hearings, whose relationship with Cohn helped bring about the downfall of McCarthyism.
Another member of the Mega Group worth noting is Laurence Tisch, who owned CBS News for several years and founded Loews Corporation. Tisch is notable for his work for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA, where Donald Barr, who hired Epstein at the Dalton School, also served and which forged ties with Lansky’s criminal empire during World War II.
Wexner’s mansions and the Shapiro murder
Leslie “Les” Wexner, the other Mega Group co-founder, also has ties to organized crime. Wexner’s ties to Jeffrey Epstein have come under scrutiny following the latter’s recent arrest, as Wexner was the only publicly acknowledged client of Epstein’s suspicious hedge fund, the source of much of this wealth, and the previous owner of Epstein’s $56 million Manhattan townhouse, which Wexner transferred to an Epstein-controlled entity for free.
Before Epstein received the townhouse, Wexner appears to have used the residence for some unconventional purposes, noted in a 1996 New York Times article on the then-Wexner-owned residence, which included “a bathroom reminiscent of James Bond movies: hidden beneath a stairway, lined with lead to provide shelter from attack and supplied with closed-circuit television screens and a telephone, both concealed in a cabinet beneath the sink.” The Times article does not speculate as to the purpose of this equipment, though the allusion to famous fictional superspy James Bond suggests that it may have been used to snoop on guests or conduct electronic surveillance.
The 1996 Times article also noted that, after Wexner bought the residence for $13.2 million in 1989, he spent millions more decorating and furnishing the home, including the addition of the electronic equipment in the “James Bond” bathroom, only to apparently never live in it. The Times, which interviewed Epstein for the piece, quoted him as saying that “Les never spent more than two months there.” Epstein told the Times, which identified Epstein as Wexner’s “protege and one of his financial advisers,” that the house, by that time, already belonged to him.
That same year, Epstein was commissioning artwork for Wexner’s Ohio mansion. A recent article from the Times noted that:
In the summer of 1996, Maria Farmer was working on an art project for Mr. Epstein in Mr. Wexner’s Ohio mansion. While she was there, Mr. Epstein sexually assaulted her, according to an affidavit Ms. Farmer filed earlier this year in federal court in Manhattan. She said that she fled the room and called the police, but that Mr. Wexner’s security staff refused to let her leave for 12 hours.”
Farmer’s account strongly suggests that, given the behavior of his personal security staff at his mansion following Epstein’s alleged assault on Farmer, Wexner was well aware of Epstein’s predatory behavior towards young women. This is compounded by claims made by Alan Dershowitz — a former lawyer for and friend of Epstein’s, who has also been accused of raping underage girls — that Wexner has also been accused of raping underage girls exploited by Epstein on at least seven occasions.
The presence of the electronic equipment in his home’s bathroom, other oddities related to the townhouse, and aspects of the links between Epstein and Wexner suggest there is more to Wexner, who has rather successfully developed a public image of a respectable businessman and philanthropist, much like other prominent members of the Mega Group.
Leslie Wexner and his wife Abigail tour the “Transfigurations” exhibit at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Jay LaPrete | AP
However, bits and pieces of Wexner’s private secrets have occasionally bubbled up, only to be subjected to rapid cover-ups amidst concerns of “libeling” the powerful and well-connected billionaire “philanthropist.”
In 1985, Columbus (Ohio) lawyer Arthur Shapiro was murdered in broad daylight at point-blank range in what was largely referred to as a “mob style murder.” The homicide still remains unsolved, likely due to the fact that then-Columbus Police Chief James Jackson ordered the destruction of key documents of his department’s investigation into the murder.
Jackson’s ordering of the documents’ destruction came to light years later in 1996, when he was under investigation for corruption. According to the Columbus Dispatch, Jackson justified the destruction of one “viable and valuable” report because he felt that it “was so filled with wild speculation about prominent business leaders that it was potentially libelous.” The nature of this “wild speculation” was that “millionaire businessmen in Columbus and Youngstown were linked to the ‘mob-style murder.’”
Though Jackson’s efforts were meant to keep this “libelous” report far from public view, it was eventually obtained by Bob Fitrakis — attorney, journalist, and executive director of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism — after he was “accidentally” sent a copy of the report in 1998 as part of a public records request.
The report, titled “Shapiro Homicide Investigation: Analysis and Hypothesis,” names Leslie Wexner as linked “with associates reputed to be organized crime figures” and also lists the names of businessman Jack Kessler, former Columbus City Council President and Wexner associate Jerry Hammond, and former Columbus City Council member Les Wright as also being involved in Shapiro’s murder.
The report also noted that Arthur Shapiro’s law firm — Schwartz, Shapiro, Kelm & Warren — represented Wexner’s company, The Limited, and states that “prior to his death, Arthur Shapiro managed this account [The Limited] for the law firm.” It also noted that, at the time of his death, Shapiro “was the subject of an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service because he had failed to file income tax returns for some seven years prior to his death, and he had invested in some questionable tax shelters.” It also stated that his death prevented Shapiro from his planned testimony at a grand jury hearing about these “questionable tax shelters.”
As to Wexner’s alleged links to organized crime, the report focuses on the close business relationship between Wexner’s The Limited and Francis Walsh, whose trucking company “[had] done an excess of 90 percent of the Limited’s trucking business around the time of Shapiro’s murder,” according to the report. Walsh was named in a 1988 indictment as a “co-conspirator” of Genovese crime family boss Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, whose long-time lawyer was Roy Cohn; and the Shapiro murder report stated that Walsh was “still considered associates of the Genovese/LaRocca crime family, and Walsh was still providing truck transportation for The Limited.”
Notably, the Genovese crime family has long formed a key part of the National Crime Syndicate, as its former head, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, co-created the criminal organization with his close friend Meyer Lansky. Upon Luciano’s imprisonment and subsequent deportation from the United States, Lansky took over the syndicate’s U.S. operations and his association with Luciano’s successors continued until Lansky’s death in 1983.
The “Mega” Mystery and the Mossad
In May 1997, the Washington Post broke an explosive story — long since forgotten — based on an intercepted phone call made between a Mossad official in the U.S. and his superior in Tel Aviv that discussed the Mossad’s efforts to obtain a secret U.S. government document. According to the Post, the Mossad official stated during the phone call that “Israeli Ambassador Eliahu Ben Elissar had asked him whether he could obtain a copy of the letter given to [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat by [then-Secretary of State Warren] Christopher on Jan. 16, the day after the Hebron accord was signed by Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.”
The Post article continued:
According to a source who viewed a copy of the NSA transcript of the conversation, the intelligence officer, speaking in Hebrew, said, ‘The ambassador wants me to go to Mega to get a copy of this letter.’ The source said the supervisor in Tel Aviv rejected the request, saying, ‘This is not something we use Mega for.’”
The leaked communication led to an investigation that sought to identify an individual code-named “Mega” that the Post said “may be someone in the U.S. government who has provided information to the Israelis in the past,” a concern that subsequently spawned a fruitless FBI investigation. The Mossad later claimed that “Mega” was merely a codeword for the U.S.’ CIA, but the FBI and NSA were unconvinced by that claim and believed that it was a senior U.S. government official that had potentially once been involved in working with Jonathan Pollard, the former U.S. naval intelligence analyst later convicted of spying for the Mossad.
Almost one year to the day after the “Mega” spy scandal broke, the Wall Street Journal was the first outlet to report on the existence of a little-known organization of billionaires that was “informally” called the Mega Group and had been founded years prior in 1991. The report made no mention of the spy scandal that had spread concerns of Israeli espionage in the U.S. only a year prior. However, the group’s distinctive “informal” name and the connections of its members to the Mossad and to high-ranking Israeli politicians, including prime ministers, raise the possibility that “Mega” was not an individual, as the FBI and NSA had believed, but a group.
In 1997, when the “Mega” spy scandal broke, Netanyahu had recently become prime minister of Israel after an upset victory, a victory that was largely credited to one well-connected Netanyahu backer in particular, Ronald Lauder. Beyond being a major donor, Lauder had brought Arthur Finklestein on to work for Netanyahu’s 1996 campaign, whose strategies were credited for Netanyahu’s surprise win. Netanyahu was close enough to Lauder that he personally enlisted Lauder and George Nader to serve as his peace envoys to Syria.
Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara with Ronald Lauder in 1997. Photo | Reuters
Nader, who was connected to the Trump 2016 campaign and Trump ally and Blackwater founder Erik Prince, was recently hit with federal child sex trafficking charges last month, soon after Jeffrey Epstein had been arrested on similar charges. At the time Nader was picked to work with Lauder on Netanyahu’s behalf, he had already been caught possessing large amounts of child pornography on two separate occasions, first in 1984 and later in 1990.
This strong connection between Netanyahu and Lauder during the time of the 1997 “Mega” spy scandal is important considering Mossad answers directly to Israel’s prime minister.
Another possible connection between the Mega Group and the Mossad owes to the Mega Group’s ties to Meyer Lansky’s criminal network. As was detailed in Part I, Lansky had established deep ties to U.S. intelligence after World War II and was also connected to the Mossad through Mossad official Tibor Rosenbaum, whose bank was frequently used by Lansky to launder money. In addition, Lansky collaborated on at least one occasion with notorious Mossad “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who he helped acquire sensitive electronic equipment possessed only by the CIA but coveted by Israeli intelligence. Eitan is best known in the U.S. for being the Mossad handler of Jonathan Pollard.
Notably, Eitan was the main source of claims that the code-word “Mega” used by the Mossad officials in 1997 referred to the CIA and not to a potential source in the U.S. government once linked to Pollard’s spying activities, making his claims as to the true meaning of the term somewhat dubious.
Given that the organized crime network tied to the Mega Group had ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence, the “Mega” codeword could plausibly have referred to this secretive group of billionaires. More supporting evidence for this theory comes from the fact that prominent members of the Mega Group were business partners of Mossad agents, including media mogul Robert Maxwell and commodities trader Marc Rich.
The mysterious Maxwells
The Maxwell family has become a source of renewed media interest following Jeffrey Epstein’s arrest, as Ghislaine Maxwell, long described in the media as a British “socialite,” was publicly cited as Epstein’s long-time “on and off” girlfriend, and Epstein’s victims, as well as former wives of Epstein’s friends, have claimed that she was Epstein’s “pimp” and procured underage girls for his sexual blackmail operation. Ghislaine Maxwell is also alleged to have engaged in the rape of the girls she procured for Epstein and to have used them to produce child pornography.
Ghislaine was the favorite and youngest daughter of media mogul Robert Maxwell. Maxwell, born Jan Ludvick Hoch, had joined the British Army in World War II. Afterwards, according to authors John Loftus and Mark Aarons, he greatly influenced the Czechoslovakian government’s decision to arm Zionist paramilitaries during the 1948 war that resulted in Israel’s creation as a state, and Maxwell himself was also involved in the smuggling of aircraft parts to Israel.
Around this time, Maxwell was approached by British intelligence outfit MI6 and offered a position that Maxwell ultimately declined. MI6 then classified him as “Zionist — loyal only to Israel” and made him a person of interest. He later became an agent of the Mossad, according to several books including Robert Maxwell: Israel’s Superspy by Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon. Furthermore, Seymour Hersh’s The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy alleges ties between Maxwell and Israeli intelligence.
According to Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad case officer:
Mossad was financing many of its operations in Europe from money stolen from Maxwell’s newspaper pension fund. They got their hands on the funds almost as soon as Maxwell made the purchase of the Mirror Newspaper Group with money lent to him by Mossad.”
In exchange for his services, the Mossad helped Maxwell satisfy his sexual appetite during his visits to Israel, providing him with prostitutes, “the service maintained for blackmail purposes.” It was later revealed that the hotel in which he stayed in Israel was bugged with cameras, allowing the Mossad to acquire “a small library of video footage of Maxwell in sexually compromising positions.” As with the CIA, the Mossad’s use of blackmail against both friend and foe is well-documented and known to be extensive.
Maxwell was also a close associate and friend of Israeli “superspy” Rafi Eitan, who, as previously mentioned, was Jonathan Pollard’s handler and who had previously worked directly with Meyer Lansky. Eitan had learned of a revolutionary new software being used by the U.S. government known as “Promis” from Earl Brian, a long-time associate and aide to Ronald Reagan. Promis is often considered the forerunner to the “Prism” software used by spy agencies today and was developed by William Hamilton, who leased the software to the U.S. government through his company, Inslaw, in 1982.
Ariel Sharon (right)meets with Robert Maxwell in Jerusalem on Feb. 20, 1990. Photo | AP
According to author and former BBC investigative journalist Gordon Thomas, Brian was angry that the U.S. Department of Justice was successfully using Promis to go after organized crime and money-laundering activities and Eitan felt that the program could aid Israel. At the time, Eitan was the director of the now defunct Israeli military intelligence agency Lekem, which gathered scientific and technical intelligence abroad from both public and covert sources, especially in relation to Israel’s nuclear weapons program.
A plan was hatched to install a “trapdoor” into the software and then market Promis throughout the world, providing the Mossad with invaluable intelligence on the operations of its enemies and allies while also providing Eitan and Brian with copious amounts of cash. According to the testimony of ex-Mossad official Ari Ben-Menashe, Brian provided a copy of Promis to Israel’s military intelligence, which contacted an Israeli American programmer living in California who then planted the “trapdoor” in the software. The CIA was later said to have installed its own trapdoor in the software but it is unknown if they did so with a version of the already bugged software and how widely it was adopted relative to the version bugged by Israeli intelligence.
After the trapdoor was inserted, the problem became selling the bugged version of the software to governments as well as private companies around the world, particularly in areas of interest. Brian first attempted to buy out Inslaw and Promis and then use that same company to sell the bugged version.
Unsuccessful, Brian turned to his close friend, then-Attorney General Ed Meese whose Justice Department then abruptly refused to make the payments to Inslaw that were stipulated by the contract, essentially using the software for free, which Inslaw claimed to be theft. Some have speculated that Meese’s role in that decision was shaped, not only by his friendship with Brian, but the fact that his wife was a major investor in Brian’s business ventures. Meese would later become an adviser to Donald Trump when he was president-elect.
Inslaw was forced to declare bankruptcy as a result of Meese’s actions and sued the Justice Department. The court later found that the Meese-led department “took, converted, stole” the software through “trickery, fraud and deceit.”
With Inslaw out of the way, Brian sold the software all over the world. Eitan later recruited Robert Maxwell to become another Promis salesman, which he did remarkably well, even succeeding in selling the software to Soviet intelligence and conspiring with Republican Texas Senator John Tower to have the software adopted by the U.S. government laboratory at Los Alamos. Dozens of countries used the software on their most carefully guarded computer systems, unaware that Mossad now had access to everything Promis touched.
Whereas the Mossad’s past reliance on gathering intelligence had relied on the same tactics used by its equivalents in the U.S. and elsewhere, the widespread adoption of the Promis software, largely through the actions of Earl Brian and Robert Maxwell, gave the Mossad a way to gather not just troves of counterintelligence data, but also blackmail on other intelligence agencies and powerful figures.
Indeed, Promis’ backdoor and adoption by intelligence agencies all over the world essentially provided the Mossad with access to troves of blackmail that the CIA and FBI had acquired on their friends and foes for over half a century. Strangely, in recent years, the FBI has sought to hide information related to Robert Maxwell’s connection to the Promis scandal.
According to journalist Robert Fisk, Maxwell was also involved in the Mossad abduction of Israeli nuclear weapons whistleblower Vanunu Mordechai. Mordechai had attempted to provide the media with information on the extent of Israel’s nuclear weapons program, which was eventually published by the Sunday Times of London. Yet, Mordechai had also contacted the Daily Mirror with the information, the Mirror being an outlet that was owned by Maxwell and whose foreign editor was a close Maxwell associate and alleged Mossad asset, Nicholas Davies. Journalist Seymour Hersh alleged that Davies had also been involved in Israeli arms deals.
Per Fisk, it was Maxwell who contacted the Israeli Embassy in London and told them of Mordechai’s activities. This led to Mordechai’s entrapment by a female Mossad agent who seduced him as part of a “honey trap” operation that led to his kidnapping and later imprisonment in Israel. Mordechai served an 18-year sentence, 12 years of which were in solitary confinement.
Then, there is the issue of Maxwell’s death, widely cited by mainstream and independent media alike as suspicious and a potential homicide. According to authors Gordon Thomas and Martin Dillon, Maxwell had sealed his own fate when he attempted to threaten top Mossad officials with the exposure of certain operations if they did not help him rescue his media empire from crippling debt and financial difficulties. Many of Maxwell’s creditors, who had grown increasingly displeased with the media mogul, were Israeli and several of them were alleged to be Mossad-connected themselves.
Thomas and Dillon argue in their biography of Maxwell’s life that the Mossad felt that Maxwell had become more of a liability than an asset and killed him on his yacht three months after he demanded the bailout. On the other extreme are theories that suggest Maxwell committed suicide because of the financial difficulties his empire faced.
Ghislaine Maxwell, far right, Robert Maxwell’s daughter, looks on his casket is unloaded from a plane in Jerusalem, Nov. 8, 1991. Heribert Proepper | AP
Some have taken Maxwell’s funeral held in Israel as the country’s “official” confirmation of Maxwell’s service to the Mossad, as it was likened to a state funeral and attended by no less than six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence. During his funeral service in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir eulogized him and stated: “He has done more for Israel than can today be said.” Other eulogies were given by future Prime Ministers Ehud Olmert (then Health Minister) and Shimon Peres, with the latter also praising Maxwell’s “services” on behalf of Israel.
Swimming in the same swamp
As he built his business empire — and even became a member of Parliament, Maxwell was also doing work for Israeli intelligence, as several of the Israeli companies in which he invested became fronts for the Mossad. In addition, as he became a media mogul, he developed a bitter rivalry with Rupert Murdoch, a close friend of Roy Cohn and an influential figure in American and British media.
Maxwell also partnered with the Bronfman brothers, Edgar and Charles — key figures in the Mega Group. In 1989 Maxwell and Charles Bronfman partnered up to bid on the Jerusalem Post newspaper and the Post described the two men as “two of the world’s leading Jewish financiers” and their interest in the venture as “developing The Jerusalem Post and expanding its influence among world Jewry.” A year prior, Maxwell and Bronfman had become top shareholders in the Israeli pharmaceutical company Teva.
Maxwell also worked with Charles Bronfman’s brother Edgar in the late 1980s to convince the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to immigrate to Israel. Edgar’s efforts in this regard have received more attention, as it was a defining moment of his decades-long presidency of the World Jewish Congress, of which Ronald Lauder is currently president. Yet, Maxwell had also made considerable use of his contacts in the Soviet government in this effort.
Maxwell also moved in the circles of the network previously described in Parts I and II in this series. A key example of this is the May 1989 party Maxwell hosted on his yacht, the Lady Ghislaine — named for his youngest daughter and Epstein’s future “girlfriend.” Attendees of the party included Roy Cohn’s protege Donald Trump and his long-time law partner Tom Bolan. A close friend of Nancy Reagan was also present, journalist Mike Wallace, as was literary agent Mort Janklow, who represented Ronald Reagan and two of Cohn’s closest friends: journalists William Safire and Barbara Walters.
The CEO of what would soon become Time Warner, Steve Ross, was also invited to the exclusive event. Ross’ presence is notable, as he had built his business empire largely through his association with New York crime lords Manny Kimmel and Abner “Longy” Zwillman. Zwillman was a close friend of Meyer Lansky, Michael Steinhardt’s father, and Sam Bronfman, father of Edgar and Charles Bronfman.
Another attendee of the Maxwell yacht party was former Secretary of the Navy and former Henry Kissinger staffer Jon Lehman, who would go on to associate with the controversial neoconservative think tank, Project for a New American Century. Prior to being secretary of the Navy, Lehman had been president of the Abington Corporation, which hired arch-neocon Richard Perle to manage the portfolio of Israeli arms dealers Shlomo Zabludowicz and his son Chaim, who paid Ablington $10,000 month. A scandal arose when those payments continued after both Lehman and Perle joined the Reagan Department of Defense and while Perle was working to persuade the Pentagon to buy arms from companies linked to Zabludowicz. Perle had been part of the Reagan transition team along with Roy Cohn’s long-time friend and law partner Tom Bolan (another Maxwell yacht guest).
In addition to Lehman, another former Kissinger staffer, Thomas Pickering was present at Maxwell’s yacht part. Pickering played a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and, at the time of the Maxwell yacht party, he was U.S. ambassador to Israel. Senator John Tower (R-TX), who allegedly conspired with Maxwell in the Mossad-bugged Promis software at the Los Alamos laboratories, was also present. Tower died just months before Maxwell in a suspicious plane crash.
Ghislaine Maxwell was also at this rather notable event. After her father’s mysterious death and alleged murder on the same yacht that bears her name in 1991, she quickly packed her bags and moved to New York City. There, she soon made the acquaintance of Jeffrey Epstein and, a few years later, developed close ties to the Clinton family, which will be discussed in the next installment of this series.
Jeffrey Epstein and the new “Promis”
After it was revealed that Epstein had evaded stricter sentencing in 2008 due to his links to “intelligence,” it was the Mossad ties of Ghislaine Maxwell’s father that have led many to speculate that Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation was sharing incriminating information with the Mossad. Former CBS executive producer and current journalist for the media outlet Narativ, Zev Shalev, has since claimed that he independently confirmed that Epstein was tied directly to the Mossad.
Donald and Melania Trump with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida in 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios
Epstein was a long-time friend of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who has long-standing and deep ties to Israel’s intelligence community. Their decades-long friendship has been the source of recent political attacks targeting Barak, who is running in the Israeli elections against current Prime Minister Netanyahu later this year.
Barak is also close to Epstein’s chief patron and Mega Group member Leslie Wexner, whose Wexner Foundation gave Barak $2 million in 2004 for a still unspecified research program. According to Barak, he was first introduced to Epstein by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who eulogized Robert Maxwell at his funeral and had decades-long ties with the Bronfman family going back to the early 1950s. Peres was also a frequent participant in programs funded by Leslie Wexner in Israel and worked closely with the Mossad for decades.
In 2015, a few years after Epstein’s release from prison following his conviction for soliciting sex from a minor in 2008, Barak formed a company with Epstein with the chief purpose of investing in an Israeli start-up then known as Reporty. That company, now called Carbyne, sells its signature software to 911 call centers and emergency service providers and is also available to consumers as an app that provides emergency services with access to a caller’s camera and location and also runs any caller’s identity through any linked government database. It has specifically been marketed by the company itself and the Israeli press as a solution to mass shootings in the United States and is already being used by at least two U.S. counties.
Israeli media reported that Epstein and Barak were among the company’s largest investors. Barak poured millions into the company and it was recently revealed by Haaretz that a significant amount of Barak’s total investments in Carbyne was funded by Epstein, making him a “de facto partner” in the company. Barak is now Carbyne’s chairman.
The company’s executive team are all former members of different branches of Israeli intelligence, including the elite military intelligence unit, Unit 8200, that is often likened to Israel’s equivalent of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). Carbyne’s current CEO, Amir Elichai, served in Unit 8200 and tapped former Unit 8200 commander Pinchas Buchris to serve as the company’s director and on its board. In addition to Elichai, another Carbyne co-founder, Lital Leshem, also served in Unit 8200 and later worked for Israeli private spy company Black Cube. Leshem now works for a subsidiary of Erik Prince’s company Frontier Services Group, according to the independent media outlet Narativ.
The company also includes several tie-ins to the Trump administration, including Palantir founder and Trump ally Peter Thiel — an investor in Carbyne. In addition, Carbyne’s board of advisers includes former Palantir employee Trae Stephens, who was a member of the Trump transition team, as well as former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. Trump donor and New York real-estate developer Eliot Tawill is also on Carbyne’s board, alongside Ehud Barak and Pinchas Buchris.
Narativ, which wrote the first expose on Carbyne after Epstein’s arrest, noted that the Chinese government uses a smartphone app very similar to Carbyne as part of its mass surveillance apparatus, even though the original purpose of the app was for improved emergency reporting. According to Narativ, the Chinese Carbyne-equivalent “monitors every aspect of a user’s life, including personal conversations, power usage, and tracks a user’s movement.”
Given the history of Robert Maxwell — the father of Epstein’s long-time “girlfriend” and young-girl-procuring madam, Ghislaine Maxwell — in promoting the sale of Carbyne’s modified Promis software, which was also marketed as a tool to improve government efficacy but was actually a tool of mass surveillance for the benefit of Israeli intelligence, the overlap between Carbyne and Promis is troubling and warrants further investigation.
It is also worth noting that Unit 8200-connected tech start-ups are being widely integrated into U.S. companies and have developed close ties to the U.S. military-industrial complex, with Carbyne being just one example of that trend.
As MintPress previously reported, Unit 8200-linked outfits like Team8 have recently hired former National Security Agency (NSA) Director Mike Rogers as a senior advisor and gained prominent Silicon Valley figures, including former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, as key investors. Many American technology companies, from Intel to Google to Microsoft, have merged with several Unit 8200-connected start-ups in recent years and have been moving many key jobs and operations to Israel with backing from key Republican donors like Paul Singer. Many of those same companies, particularly Google and Microsoft, are also major U.S. government contractors.
Who was Epstein really working for?
Even though Jeffrey Epstein appears to have had ties to the Mossad, this series has revealed that the networks to which Epstein was connected were not Mossad-exclusive, as many of the individuals close to Epstein — Lesie Wexner, for instance — were part of a mob-connected class of oligarchs with deep ties to both the U.S. and Israel. As was discussed in Part I of this series, the sharing of “intelligence” (i.e., blackmail) between intelligence agencies and the same organized crime network connected to the Mega Group goes back decades. With Leslie Wexner of the Mega Group as Epstein’s chief patron, as opposed to a financier with direct ties to the Mossad, a similar relationship is more than likely in the case of the sexual blackmail operation that Epstein ran.
Given that intelligence agencies in both the U.S. and elsewhere often conduct covert operations for the benefit of oligarchs and large corporations as opposed to “national security interest,” Epstein’s ties to the Mega Group suggest that this group holds a unique status and influence in both the governments of the U.S. and of Israel, as well as in other countries (e.g., Russia) that were not explored in this report. This is by virtue of their role as key political donors in both countries, as well as the fact that several of them own powerful companies or financial institutions in both countries. Indeed, many members of the Mega Group have deep ties to Israel’s political class, including to Netanyahu and Ehud Barak as well as to now-deceased figures like Shimon Peres, and to members of the American political class.
Ultimately, the picture painted by the evidence is not a direct tie to a single intelligence agency but a web linking key members of the Mega Group, politicians, and officials in both the U.S. and Israel, and an organized-crime network with deep business and intelligence ties in both nations.
Though this series has so far focused on the ties of this network to main Republican Party affiliates, the next and final installment will reveal the ties developed between this web and the Clintons. As will be revealed, despite the Clintons’ willingness to embrace corrupt dealings during the span of their political careers, their mostly friendly relationship with this network still saw them use the power of sexual blackmail to obtain certain policy decisions that were favorable to their personal and financial interests but not to the Clintons’ political reputation or agendas.
Editor’s note | The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Rafi Eitan was interested in repurposing the American-made Promise software to restore his standing in Israel’s intelligence community caused by the fall-out from the Pollard Affair. The Pollard Affair occurred three years after Eitan had succeeded in repurposing the software and MintPress has removed that incorrect information from the article and regrets the error.
This article also originally neglected to mention that Eitan, at the time of his collaboration with Earl Brian to repurpose the Promis software, was the director of the now-defunct Israeli military intelligence agency Lekem at the time of those events and that information has been added to the story.
Seymour Hersh’s book The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy does not call Robert Maxwell an “agent” of the Mossad, as was stated originally in this report, but does allege clear links and cooperation between Maxwell and the Mossad. This report was updated to reflect this more accurate description.
Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
From “Spook Air” to the “Lolita Express”: The Genesis and Evolution of the Jeffrey Epstein-Bill Clinton Relationship
Far from being the work of a single political party, intelligence agency or country, the power structure revealed by the network connected to Epstein is nothing less than a criminal enterprise that is willing to use and abuse children in the pursuit of ever more power, wealth and control.
by Whitney Webb
August 23rd, 2019
By Whitney Webb Whitney Webb
On August 10th, and for several days after, speculation swirled after it was announced that Jeffrey Epstein had been found dead in his cell. His cause of death has officially been ruled suicide by hanging.
Epstein, the billionaire pedophile and sex trafficker with a myriad of connections to the rich and powerful in the United States and several other countries, had told those close to him that he had feared for his life prior to his sudden “suicide,” the Washington Post reported, while his defense lawyers claimed that he had planned to cooperate with federal authorities.
Following the controversial conclusion by the New York Medical Examiner that Epstein’s death was a suicide — a conclusion contested by Epstein’s attornies as well as by independent forensic pathologists, given the apparent evidence pointing towards strangulation — corporate media coverage of the Epstein case has slowed to a trickle, save for sensationalist stories about his alleged co-conspirator Ghislaine Maxwell and new salacious details of his past. Gone from corporate media are any hints of the larger scandal, revolving around the admission that Epstein had “belonged to intelligence.”
In this four-part series, “The Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” MintPress has revealed that Epstein’s activities — a sexual blackmail operation involving minors and connected to intelligence agencies — was one of many such operations that have taken place for decades, developing from the nexus forged between the CIA, organized crime and Israeli intelligence shortly after World War II.
As Part II of this series revealed, these sexual blackmail operations proliferated during the Iran-Contra affair, which involved this same dark alliance between U.S./Israeli intelligence and organized crime. Though this series has thus far largely focused on the ties of Republican officials to those operations and associated crimes, the final installment of this series will focus on Democratic politicians, namely the Clinton family, and their ties to this same network as well as Jeffrey Epstein.
The Clintons’ own involvement in Iran-Contra revolved around the covert activities at Arkansas’ Mena Airport, which involved the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and occurred while Clinton was governor. Just a few years into the Clinton presidential administration, Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein would play a major role in Southern Air Transport’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio, leading to concerns among top Ohio officials that both men were not only working with the CIA, but that Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to use the CIA-linked airline for smuggling.
During that same period of time, Epstein had already forged close ties to important Clinton White House officials and prominent Clinton donors like Lynn Forester de Rothschild and made several personal visits to the official presidential residence.
Some of these ties appear related to Epstein’s shady financial activities, particularly involving currency markets and offshore tax havens — activities he began to perfect while working for prominent Iran-Contra figures in the early 1980s, several of whom were tied to the CIA-linked bank Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) and had known relationships with Israeli intelligence, namely the Mossad. The nature of Epstein’s work for these individuals and other evidence strongly suggests that Epstein himself had a relationship with BCCI after leaving Bear Stearns and prior to the bank’s collapse in 1991.
Of particular importance are Epstein’s relationship to the Clinton Foundation and the alleged role of Epstein’s Virgin Islands-based hedge fund and the Clinton Foundation in money laundering activity, a relationship still under investigation by MintPress.
It is this tale of intrigue that fully reveals the extent to which this decades-old alliance between organized crime, the CIA, and Israeli intelligence has corrupted and influenced politicians of both political parties, both through the use of sexual blackmail and through other means of coercion.
Far from being the work of a single intelligence agency or a single country, the power structure revealed by this network connected to Epstein is nothing less than a criminal enterprise that transcends nationality and is willing to use and abuse children in the pursuit of ever more power, wealth and control. Existing for decades and willing to use any means necessary to cover its tracks, this criminal racket has become so integrated into the levers of power, in the United States and well beyond, that it is truly too big to fail.
Iran Contra, Mena Airport and the Clintons
When one thinks back to the now-famous Iran-Contra scandal, names like Ronald Reagan, Oliver North and Barry Seal comes to mind, but former President Bill Clinton also played an outsized role in the scandal — using his home state of Arkansas, where he was then serving as governor, as a sort of rallying point for the CIA’s U.S.-side of the Central American operation.
In fact, during Clinton’s reign as governor a small town called Mena, nestled in the Ozark Mountains west of Arkansas’ capital Little Rock, would be propelled into the national spotlight as a hub for drug and arms smuggling and the training of CIA-backed far-right militias.
Under the close watch of the CIA, then led by William Casey, the Mena Intermountain Regional Airport was used to stockpile and deliver arms and ammunition to the Nicaraguan Contras. The arms were sometimes exchanged for cocaine from South American cartels, which would then be sent back to Mena and used to fund the covert CIA operation.
Though efforts have been made to dismiss Clinton’s role in the scandal, his direct intervention in the Contras’ attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government of Nicaragua suggests Clinton had some sort of personal stake in the efforts and was unlikely aloof to the major smuggling operation taking place in his state while he had been governor. In fact, while governor, Clinton split with many other state governments in sending a contingency of the Arkansas National Guard to Honduras to train the Nicaraguan Contras on how to overthrow their Sandinista government. Clinton would also discuss his first-hand knowledge of the operation with now-Trump administration Attorney General William Barr.
Much of this channeling of both weapons and drugs was carried out by notorious drug smuggler and alleged CIA/DEA operative Barry Seal. According to the book Whiteout: the CIA, Drugs and the Press by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair:
A federal investigation aided by the Arkansas State Police established that Barry Seal, a drug dealer working for the Medellin cartel as well as with the C.I.A. and the D.E.A., had his planes retrofitted at Mena for drug drops, trained pilots there and laundered his profits partly through financial institutions in Arkansas. Seal, at this time was in close contact with [Oliver] North, who acknowledged the relationship in his memoir. These were the years in which North was constructing his covert supply lines for the contras.”
Seal was known to use aircraft that belonged to the company Southern Air Transport and he also employed flight crews that worked for that same company. Southern Air Transport, formerly Air America, was once directly owned by the CIA and today is remembered for being a CIA front during Iran-Contra. Less known is the relationship between the CIA-linked airline and Leslie Wexner and his then-close associate Jeffrey Epstein, which will be discussed in detail later in this report.
Seal seemed to always operate with much less than six degrees of separation from Clinton while the latter served as governor. In his 1999 confessional expose, Cross-fire: Witness in the Clinton Investigation, former Arkansas policeman turned personal driver and security guard for Bill Clinton, L.D. Brown, recounts how Clinton encouraged him to seek out a post at the CIA. Clinton allegedly went so far as to edit the essay Brown wrote for this employment application. The essay topic was drug smuggling in Central America. Upon receiving his application, the CIA put Brown in touch with none other than Barry Seal. Seal would later be gunned down in 1986 while serving six-months probation for drug-smuggling charges.
Seal was not the only affiliate of Oliver North running a Contra-connected operation in Arkansas. Terry Reed, who had worked for North since 1983, claimed to have been put in touch with Seal by North and established a base just 10 miles north of Mena — in Nella, Arkansas — where “Nicaraguan Contras and other recruits from Latin American were trained in resupply missions, night landings, precision paradrops and similar maneuvers,“ according to Cockburn and St. Clair. Reed further asserted that drug money was being laundered through Arkansas financial institutions.
After Clinton’s half-brother Roger was busted for cocaine smuggling (Clinton would later pardon him while president) the CIA sought to move Contra operations out of Arkansas, hoping to put a damper on the increasingly public and sloppy Arkansas-based operation. According to Terry Reed in his book Compromised: Clinton, Bush and the CIA, co-written with John Cummings, a hushed meeting was held in a bunker at Camp Robinson in North Little Rock, Arkansas. During the meeting, William Barr, who represented himself as the emissary of then-CIA Director Bill Casey told Clinton:
The deal we made was to launder our money through your bond business but what we didn’t plan on was you and your n****r here start taking yourselves seriously and purposely shrinking our laundry.”
Barr chastised Clinton for his sloppy handling of the delicate operation and his half-brother’s very public fall from grace. He would later tell Clinton, according to Reed,
Bill, you are Mr. Casey’s fair-haired boy … You and your state have been our greatest asset. Mr. Casey wanted me to pass on to you that unless you fuck up and do something stupid, you’re No. 1 on the short list for a shot at the job that you’ve always wanted. You and guys like you are the fathers of the new government. We are the new covenant.”
Attempts to investigate Clinton’s role in the Mena operations and more broadly in the Iran-Contra affair were allegedly axed by Clinton’s own confidantes, who consistently denied he played a role in the scandal. According to the Wall Street Journal, former IRS investigator William Duncan teamed with Arkansas State Police Investigator Russell Welch in what became a decade-long battle to bring the matter to light. In fact, of the nine separate state and federal probes into the affair, all failed.
Duncan would later say of the investigations, “[They] were interfered with and covered up, and the justice system was subverted,” and a 1992 memo from Duncan to high-ranking members of the attorney general’s staff notes that Duncan was instructed “to remove all files concerning the Mena investigation from the attorney general’s office.” The attorney general, serving under George H. W. Bush, at that time was William Barr, who is currently attorney general under Trump.
The Bank of Crooks and Criminals International
Another Clinton connection to the CIA and the Iran-Contra affair runs through the family’s connection to Arkansas financier Jackson Stephens and the CIA-linked Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which critics nicknamed the “Bank of Crooks and Criminals International.” Stephens was among the richest people in Arkansas and was also a major donor and backer of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He also played a key role in the rise of Walmart.
Jackson Stephens and other members of the Stephens family bankrolled Bill Clinton’s rise to political prominence, contributing large sums of money to both Clinton’s gubernatorial and his later presidential campaigns. In addition, Worthen Bank, which was majority-owned by Stephens, provided Clinton’s first presidential campaign a $3.5 million line of credit. In addition, Stephens’ many businesses were frequently represented by the Rose Law Firm, where Hillary Clinton was a partner.
A redacted FBI report from 1998 describes Stephens as having “lengthy and continuing ties to the Clinton administration and associates” and also discusses allegations that Stephens has been involved in the “illegal handling of campaign contributions to the Democratic National Party.”
BCCI had originally been founded by a group of bankers from Pakistan, though Newsweek later reported that CIA officials appeared to have been involved in the bank’s founding and that BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi had been encouraged by the CIA to found the bank after “the agency realized that an international bank could provide valuable cover for intelligence operations.” CIA documents that later surfaced during congressional hearings on the bank’s activities and related scandals stated that BCCI was directly involved in “money laundering, narco-financing, gunrunning and holding large sums of money for terrorist groups.”
Evidence in the case against BCCI shows cocaine seized from a warehouse and suitcases full of cash to be laundered. Photo | FLMD District Court
Though BCCI was known for its CIA links, Catherine Austin Fitts — former Assistant Secretary for Housing–Federal Housing Commissioner at HUD during the George H. W. Bush administration, and investment banker with the firms Hamilton Securities Group and Dillon, Read & Co. — believes that those links went well beyond the CIA. Fitts — who was placed on the board of the BCCI subsidiary First American Bank following BCCI’s collapse — told MintPress that, after reading through troves of documents regarding the bank’s activities prior to its implosion, it was clear to her that there was “no way” its clandestine activities were carried on without the full knowledge of the Federal Reserve, specifically the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and the White House.
BCCI also played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair and accounts of the bank were used to send payoffs to individuals linked to the scheme. Adnan Khashoggi, a key figure and intermediary in the scandal, used one BCCI account to move more than $20 million related to illegal arms sales and BCCI created fake documentation, including checks signed by Oliver North, allowing the sale to go forward. The bank later, when its activities subsequently came under congressional scrutiny, claimed it had no records of these transactions.
In addition, BCCI appears to have been involved in the sex trafficking of underage girls, including girls that had not yet reached puberty. According to the report entitled “The BCCI Affair,” by then-U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Hank Brown (R-CO), BCCI officials were alleged to have obtained leverage with powerful individuals, including prominent members of the ruling families of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), by providing them with young virgins.
The report (page 70) specifically states:
According to one U.S. investigator with substantial knowledge of BCCI’s activities, some BCCI officials have acknowledged that some of the females provided some members of the Al-Nahyan family [one of the ruling families in the UAE] were young girls who had not yet reached puberty, and in certain cases, were physically injured by the experience. The official said that former BCCI officials had told him that BCCI also provided males to homosexual VIPs.”
BCCI was largely brought into the United States business community through the efforts of Jackson Stephens and Bert Lance, former budget director for Jimmy Carter, who assisted with BCCI’s acquisition of First American Bank. The law firm involved in this effort was Arkansas’ Rose Law Firm and it involved several of the firm’s lawyers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, Webster Hubbell and C.J. Giroir. Also involved in the effort was Clark Clifford, former Secretary of Defense under Lyndon B. Johnson, and Kamal Adham, former director general of Saudi intelligence.
One of the men added to the BCCI board after the acquisition of First American Bank was Robert Keith Gray, whom Newsweek described as often having “boasted of his close relationship with the CIA’s William Casey; Gray used to say that before taking on a foreign client, he would clear it with Casey.” As was discussed in Part II of this series, Gray was also an expert in homosexual blackmail operations for the CIA and was reported to have collaborated with Roy Cohn in those activities. Some of Gray’s clients at the powerful PR firm he led, Hill & Knowlton, included BCCI clients and Mossad-linked individuals, such as Adnan Khashoggi and Marc Rich.
While the Rose Law Firm was assisting BCCI’s entrance into the American financial system, it also represented the Stephens-owned financial services company, Stephens Inc., as well as the data-processing company Systematics Inc., which Stephens acquired in the late 1960s. According to James Norman in his book The Oil Card: Global Economic Warfare in the 21st Century, Systematics was “a primary vehicle or front company for the National Security Agency in the 1980s and early 1990s to market and implant bugged software in the world’s major money-center banks and clearinghouses as part of the Reagan/Bush ‘follow the money’ effort to break the Soviets.”
The late journalist Michael Ruppert asserted that this “bugged software” was none other than the Promis software, which both U.S. and Israeli intelligence had bugged in order to spy on intelligence and which had been marketed in part by Robert Maxwell, father of Jeffrey Epstein’s madam, Ghislaine Maxwell. Ruppert cited Systematics as “a primary developer of Promis for financial intelligence use.” Promis had originally been leased by Inslaw Inc., a small software company founded by Bill Hamilton, to the Department of Justice — which later stole it from Inslaw, forcing it to declare bankruptcy.
According to a 1995 document sent on behalf of Inslaw’s founders to then-independent Counsel Ken Starr that asked him to review Inslaw’s case, Systematics had “covertly implanted [software] into the computers of its bank customers” that allowed “allied intelligence agencies surreptitiously to track and monitor the flow of money through the banking system” and had done so at “the behest of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and its partner in Israeli intelligence.” Inslaw also stated that the software was used by these same intelligence agencies in the “laundering of money, especially drug profits.”
Systematics also had a subsidiary in Israel that, according to a former Israeli intelligence officer, was operated by contractors for the Mossad and sold software to banks and telecommunications companies. According to Richardson’s letter, that Israeli subsidiary of Systematics also had a Massachusetts-based front company, which was partially owned by a former U.S. intelligence official.
Two partners in the Rose Law Firm who would later serve in the Clinton administration, Vince Foster and Webster Hubbell, acquired significant financial interests in Systematics through ownership in Alltel, which purchased Systematics in the early 1990s. The Hamiltons also provide considerable evidence that Foster’s distress prior to his death in 1993 appears to have been related to concerns about litigation involving Systematics and the on-going litigation over Promis’ theft.
BCCI itself was known to employ the Promis software after its theft by the DOJ; and one of its subsidiaries, First American Bank, also “filtered PROMIS money” — i.e., laundered the money generated from the sale of the stolen Promis software — according to the late journalist Danny Casolaro.
Casolaro had been investigating an international crime syndicate he termed “the Octopus” at the time of his death in 1991. Casolaro believed that this “Octopus” involved powerful individuals in the private and public sectors as well as the criminal underworld and that they were collectively responsible for some of the biggest scandals of the 1980s, including Iran-Contra, BCCI and the theft of the Promis software.
Casolaro had told friends and family that he was close to concluding his investigation and several people close to him had seen documents involving money transfers involving BCCI and the World Bank to people involved in these scandals, such as Earl Brian and Adnan Khashoggi. Casolaro went to Martinsburg, Virginia to meet with some sources to get the final piece of the puzzle and “bring back the head of the Octopus.” Two days after arriving in Martinsburg, Casolaro was found dead in his hotel room and his briefcase full of his research notes and evidence was missing. His death was ruled a suicide.
Crime scene photos show deep lacerations in Casolaro’s arms
Many, including Casolaro’s family, do not believe that Casolaro committed suicide. A week before his death, Casolaro told his brother he had been receiving death threats and the manner in which he died, deep slashes in his arms, was not consistent with Casolaro’s well-known squeamishness around even minor amounts of blood. Speculation only grew following the FBI investigation, given that the FBI lied to Congress, pressured its own agents not to question whether it was a suicide and lost 90 percent of its files related to Casolaro’s death — among other glaring inconsistencies.
In a 1994 letter provided to MintPress by Inslaw Inc., Inslaw lawyer Charles Work told then-Assistant Attorney General John Dwyer that one of Inslaw’s confidential sources in government had stated that Casolaro had been injected with a substance that deadened his nerves from the neck down, explaining the apparent lack of struggle and that the substance used had come from the U.S. Army inventory. The person who had arranged Casolaro’s final meeting before his death was a U.S. military intelligence officer named Joseph Cuellar.
The same year that Casolaro died, there were several other suspicious deaths involving people directly connected to the Promis scandal or involved in Casolaro’s investigation of “the Octopus” — including Alan Standorf, one of Casolaro’s sources; Robert Maxwell, father of Ghislaine Maxwell, Mossad operative, and salesman of the bugged Promis software; and John Tower — the former Texas senator who assisted Maxwell in selling the bugged Promis software to the Los Alamos laboratories.
Jeffrey Epstein and “The Dirtiest Bank of All”
While the role Arkansas played in Iran-Contra is one aspect of the scandal that is often overlooked, so to is the key role played by Israeli intelligence-linked arms dealers and smugglers who would later be connected to powerful individuals in the Mega Group and Jeffrey Epstein, such as Marc Rich and Adnan Khashoggi.
One of the key players in the Iran-Contra affair was Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, uncle of the slain Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. One lesser known fact about Adnan Khashoggi is that, at the time of his Iran-Contra dealings, he was working for the Israeli Mossad, according to former Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky.
Ostrovsky, in his #1 New York Times bestseller “By Way of Deception,” notes that Khashoggi had been recruited by the Mossad years before and that his private jet had been fitted in Israel. In relation to Iran-Contra, Ostrovsky claims that it was a $5 million bridge loan that Khashoggi provided that helped to overcome the lack of trust between Israel and Iran during the initial arms deals in the early 1980s, and thus his participation was critical to the success of the scheme.
According to journalist Vicky Ward, Adnan Khashoggi was a client of Jeffrey Epstein’s in the early 1980s, not long after Epstein’s departure from Bear Stearns in 1981. The reason Epstein left the bank remains murky. Though some former Bear Stearns employees claim he was fired, others — including Epstein himself — claimed that he resigned of his own volition.
Ward suggests that Epstein may have left the bank owing to a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into insider trading in a case that involved a tender offer placed by the Seagrams corporation for St. Joe Minerals Corp. Seagrams owner Edgar Bronfman, son of Meyer Lansky associate Samuel Bronfman and member of the Mega Group, had tipped off several investors and bankers of the coming tender offer. Epstein resigned from Bear Stearns the day after the SEC opened the case and later claimed he had left the company as a result of a relatively minor “Reg D” violation and rumors that he had an “illicit affair with a secretary.”
Yet, as Ward noted:
The SEC never brought any charges against anyone at Bear Stearns for insider trading in St. Joe, but its questioning seems to indicate that it was skeptical of Epstein’s answers. Some sources have wondered why, if he was such a big producer at Bear Stearns, he would have given it up over a mere $2,500 fine.”
Regardless of the exact reason for Epstein’s sudden departure, it was immediately after he left the bank that “the details [of Epstein’s work history] recede into shadow. A few of the handful of current friends who have known him since the early 1980s recall that he used to tell them he was a “bounty hunter,” recovering lost or stolen money for the government or for very rich people. He has a license to carry a firearm.”
Writing in Salon, a former friend of Epstein’s, Jesse Kornbluth, also stated that Epstein had claimed to be a “bounty hunter” for the rich and powerful:
When we met in 1986, Epstein’s double identity intrigued me — he said he didn’t just manage money for clients with mega-fortunes, he was also a high-level bounty hunter. Sometimes, he told me, he worked for governments to recover money looted by African dictators. Other times those dictators hired him to help them hide their stolen money.” (emphasis added)
One of Epstein’s clients after leaving Bear Stearns, per Ward’s sources, was the CIA/Mossad-linked Khashoggi at the very time that Khashoggi was involved in Iran-Contra, an operation involving both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. British journalist Nigel Rosser reported in January 2001 in the Evening Standard that Epstein had claimed that he was also working for the CIA during this same time period.
Since Epstein’s arrest, records of Rosser’s article have been scrubbed from British newspaper archives, including the Evening Standard’s own. However, MintPress independently confirmed with Bob Fitrakis, whom Rosser had interviewed for the article in question, that the article did allege that Epstein used to claim he worked for the CIA. In addition, other reports from the time period cited excerpts of Rosser’s article, including the reference to Epstein’s past claims of involvement with the CIA.
Specifically, Rosser’s article had included the following passage:
He [Epstein] has a license to carry a concealed weapon, once claimed to have worked for the CIA, although he now denies it – and owns properties all over America. Once he arrived at the London home of a British arms dealer bringing a gift – a New York police-issue pump-action riot gun. ‘God knows how he got it into the country,’ a friend said.”
Though Epstein denied past connections to the CIA at the time Rosser’s article was published, it is worth mentioning that Robert Maxwell — father of Ghislaine Maxwell and long-time Mossad operative — also vehemently denied his now well-documented links to Israeli intelligence until his death. Furthermore, as will be shown later in this article, Epstein and his only known billionaire “client,” Leslie Wexner, would later forge a business relationship with the CIA front company Southern Air Transport and play a major role in the airline’s relocation to Columbus, Ohio in the mid-1990s. During that period, two prominent Ohio officials believed that both Epstein and Wexner were working with the CIA, according to Ohio-based journalist Bob Fitrakis.
Past claims and evidence of Epstein’s involvement with the CIA, coupled with his time as a “shadowy” financial fixer for double-asset Khashoggi, strongly suggest that, whatever Epstein was doing for Khashoggi during this time, it likely involved BCCI. According to “The BCCI Affair” report, Khashoggi “acted as the middleman for five Iranian arms deals for the United States, financing a number of them through BCCI” and “served as the ‘banker’ for arms shipments as the undercover scheme developed.” The report continued:
Khashoggi and [another Iran-Contra arms dealer Manucher] Ghorbanifer performed a central role for the U.S. government in connection with the Iran-Contra affair in operations that involved the direct participation of CIA personnel [and both Khashoggi and Ghorbanifer] banked at BCCI’s offices in Monte Carlo and, for both, BCCI’s services were essential as a means of providing short-term credit for sales from the U.S. through Israel to Iran.”
Saudi arms deale Adnan Khashoggi arrives at Manhatten Federal Court, New York, April 4, 1990. Photo | AP
This connection is even more likely given the fact that Bear Stearns — Epstein’s previous employer right up until he became a financial fixer for Khashoggi and other powerful people — also worked directly with BCCI during this period. Indeed, Bear Stearns served as a broker to BCCI, a fact that remained hidden until a lengthy court battle in the U.K. concluded in 2011 and forced the government’s “Sandstorm Report” about BCCI’s activities to unredact the names of Bear Stearns and other institutions, individuals and countries that had done business with the CIA-linked bank.
Furthermore, there is the additional fact that BCCI trafficked underage girls for sex as a means of obtaining favors from and gaining leverage over powerful individuals, something in which Epstein would later become deeply involved. As was shown in Part II of this series, several individuals who were running either sexual blackmail operations involving minors or child trafficking operations were connected to CIA front companies like BCCI, other organizations connected to the Iran-Contra scandal, and several individuals close to the Reagan White House.
The CIA director at the time, Bill Casey, was a close friend of Roy Cohn, who also ran the sexual blackmail operation involving underage boys out of Manhattan’s Plaza Hotel, described in Part I of this series. According to Cohn’s long-time secretary Christine Seymour, Casey was one of Cohn’s most frequent callers.
Another fact that further suggests that Epstein had connections to BCCI is that Epstein was known to have been close to other arms dealers of the period and BCCI was frequently used specifically for covert arms deals. After the bank’s collapse in 1991, an article in Time magazine entitled “BCCI: The Dirtiest Bank of All” noted the following:
…[T]he CIA may have used B.C.C.I. as more than an undercover banker: U.S. agents collaborated with the black network in several operations, according to a B.C.C.I. black-network “officer” who is now a secret U.S. government witness. Sources have told investigators that B.C.C.I. worked closely with Israel’s spy agencies and other Western intelligence groups as well, especially in arms deals.” (emphasis added)
One of the arms dealers that Epstein apparently knew quite well was the British arms dealer Sir Douglas Leese. Leese was involved in brokering the first of a series of controversial British arms deals that involved Khashoggi, known as the Al Yamamah Deal and allegedly involving bribery of members of the Saudi royal family and top Saudi officials. In addition to Khashoggi, several of those officials and royal family members had deep ties to BCCI.
Later iterations of that arms deal were allegedly brokered with the involvement of Prince Charles of the British royal family, and corruption investigations into Al Yamamah were later shut down by the efforts of Tony Blair as well as Prince Andrew. Leese is said to have spoken of Epstein’s “genius” and lack of morals when he introduced him to Steve Hoffenberg of Tower Financial, and soon after that introduction Hoffenberg hired Epstein.
Two years after BCCI’s fraud-driven collapse, Tower Financial imploded in 1993 in what is still considered to be one of the largest Ponzi schemes in American history. Hoffenberg later asserted in court that Epstein had been intimately involved in Tower’s shady financial practices and had called Epstein the “architect of the scam.” However, by the time Tower Financial had collapsed, Epstein was no longer working for the company. Despite Hoffenberg’s testimony and abundant evidence regarding Epstein’s role in the scheme, Epstein’s name was mysteriously dropped from the case.
Given that Epstein allegedly received his “sweetheart deal” in 2008 as a result of having “belonged to intelligence,” Epstein’s activities in the 1980s and early 1990s suggest that his ability to avoid charges in relation to the Tower Financial Ponzi scheme may have been for similar reasons.
Though Hoffenberg claims that he met Epstein through Leese, Epstein himself claimed that he had met the convicted fraudster through John Mitchell, former attorney general under Richard Nixon.
As was noted in Part II of this series, Mitchell was a “friend” of disgraced Washington lobbyist Craig Spence, according to Spence before his fall from grace. Spence, for much of the 1980s, ran a sexual blackmail operation in D.C. involving underage boys and had taken some of those “call boys” on midnight tours of the White House that he said had been arranged by then-National Security Adviser Donald Gregg. Spence, after his trafficking and exploitation of minors was exposed, died under mysterious circumstances. His death was quickly labeled a suicide, not unlike Jeffrey Epstein’s.
With Epstein and Wexner’s Help, “Spook Air” Finds a New Home
While the state of Arkansas became a hub for CIA activity during the Reagan years and the Iran-Contra scandal, another state appeared to take its place in the 1990s — Ohio. Just as Arkansas oligarch Jackson Stephens helped attract the CIA to his home state during Iran-Contra, it was also an Ohio oligarch and his close associate that helped attract the CIA to the Buckeye State. Those men were Leslie Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein, respectively.
In Part III of this series, MintPress detailed Wexner’s alleged ties to organized crime and his links to the still unsolved homicide of Columbus, Ohio lawyer Arthur Shapiro. Shapiro, who was representing Wexner’s company “The Limited” at the time of his death, was set to testify before a grand jury about tax evasion and his involvement with “questionable tax shelters.” Columbus police described the Shapiro murder as “a Mafia ‘hit’” and a suppressed police report implicated Wexner and his business associates as being involved in or benefiting from Shapiro’s death, and as having links to prominent New York-based crime syndicates.
However, Wexner and The Limited also appear to have had a relationship with the CIA. In 1995, Southern Air Transport (SAT) — a well-known front company for the CIA — relocated from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio. First founded in the late 1940s, SAT from 1960 until 1973 was directly owned by the CIA, which sought to use the company as a cover for covert operations. After 1973, the company was placed in private hands, although all of its subsequent owners would have CIA ties, including James Bastian, a former lawyer for the CIA, who owned SAT at the time of its relocation to Ohio.
SAT was intimately involved in the Iran-Contra affair, having been used to funnel weapons and drugs to and from the Nicaraguan Contras under the guise of delivering “humanitarian aid,” while also sending American weapons to Israel that were then sold to Iran in violation of the U.S. arms embargo. In 1986 alone, SAT transported from Texas to Israel 90 tons of TOW anti-tank missiles, which were then sold to Iran by Israel and Mossad-linked intermediaries like Saudi arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.
Even though the airline’s CIA links were well known, Leslie Wexner’s company, The Limited, sought to coax SAT to relocate its headquarters from Miami, Florida to Columbus, Ohio, a move that was realized in 1995. When Edmund James, president of James and Donohew Development Services, told the Columbus Dispatch in March 1995 that SAT was relocating to Columbus’ Rickenbacker airfield, he stated that “Southern Air’s new presence at Rickenbacker begins in April with two regularly scheduled 747 cargo flights a week from Hong Kong,” citing SAT President William Langton. “By fall, that could increase to four a week. Negotiations are underway for flights out of Rickenbacker to the Far East…Much of the Hong Kong-to-Rickenbacker cargo will be for The Limited,” Wexner’s clothing company. “This is a big story for central Ohio. It’s huge, actually,” James said at the time.
The day following the press conference, Brian Clancy, working as a cargo analyst with MergeGlobal Inc., told the Journal of Commerce that the reason for SAT’s relocation to Ohio was largely the result of the lucrative Hong Kong-to-Columbus route that SAT would run for Wexner’s company. Clancy specifically stated that the fact that “[The] Limited Inc., the nation’s largest retailer, is based in Columbus … undoubtedly contributed in large part to Southern Air’s decision.”
According to documents obtained by journalist Bob Fitrakis from the Rickenbacker Port Authority, Ohio’s government also tried to sweeten the deal to bring SAT to Columbus in order to please powerful Ohio businessmen like Wexner. Orchestrated by Governor George Voinovich’s then-Chief of Staff Paul Mifsud, the Rickenbacker Port Authority and the Ohio Department of Development created a package of several financial incentives, funded by Ohio taxpayers, to lure the airline to relocate to Ohio. The Journal of Commerce described the “generous package of incentives from the state of Ohio” as “including a 75 percent credit against its corporate tax liability for the next 10 years, a $5 million low-interest loan, and a $400,000 job-training grant.”In 1996, then-SAT spokesman David Sweet had told Fitrakis that the CIA-linked airline had only moved to Columbus because “the deal [put together by the development department] was too good to turn down.”
Though SAT had promised Ohio’s government that it would create 300 jobs in three years, it quickly laid off numerous workers and failed to construct the maintenance facility it had promised, even though it had already accepted $3.5 million in taxpayer funds for that and other projects. As the company’s financial problems mounted, Ohio’s government declined to recoup the millions in dollars it loaned the company, even after it was alleged that $32 million in the bank account of Mary Bastian, the wife of SAT’s owner and former CIA lawyer James Bastian, were actually company funds. On October 1, 1998, SAT filed for bankruptcy. It was the very same day that the CIA’s Inspector General had published a comprehensive report on the airline’s illicit involvement in drug trafficking.
Furthermore, Fitrakis noted that in addition to Wexner the other main figures who were key in securing SAT’s relocation to Ohio were Alan D. Fiers Jr., a former chief of the CIA Central American Task Force, and retired Air Force Major General Richard Secord, head of air logistics for SAT’s covert action in Laos between 1966 and 1968, while the company was still known as Air America. Secord was also the air logistics coordinator in the illegal Contra resupply network for Oliver North during Iran-Contra. Fiers was one of the key individuals involved in Iran-Contra who was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush with the assistance of then-Attorney General Bill Barr. Barr — currently serving as attorney general in the Trump administration, and top of the chain of DOJ command in the investigation of Epstein’s death in prison — has refused to recuse himself from the investigation into Epstein’s network and his recent death.
Despite the involvement of these CIA-linked men, as well as the organized crime-linked Leslie Wexner, the then-president of SAT told the Columbus Dispatch that the airline was “no longer connected to the CIA.”
Notably, It was during this same time that Epstein exerted substantial control over Wexner’s finances; and, according to Fitrakis and his extensive reporting on Wexner from this period, it was Epstein who orchestrated logistics for Wexner’s business operations, including The Limited. As was revealed in the Arthur Shapiro murder file and in ties between SAT and The Limited, much of The Limited’s logistics involved figures and companies connected to organized crime and U.S. intelligence. It is also important to note that SAT was well-known for being a CIA front company prior to the efforts of Wexner et al. to bring the airline to Columbus, and that, a few years prior, Epstein himself had previously worked for intelligence-linked figures also involved in Iran-Contra, such as Adnan Khashoggi.
In addition, during this time period, Epstein had already begun to live in the now infamous New York penthouse that had first been purchased by Wexner in 1989. Wexner had apparently installed CCTV and recording equipment in an odd bathroom in the home after his purchase, and never lived in the home, as was noted in Part III of this series.
In an exclusive interview, Bob Fitrakis told MintPress that Epstein and Wexner’s involvement with SAT’s relocation to Ohio had caused suspicion among some prominent state and local officials that the two were working with U.S. intelligence. Fitrakis specifically stated that then-Ohio Inspector General David Strutz and then-Sheriff of Franklin County Earl Smith had personally told him that they believed that both Epstein and Wexner had ties to the CIA. These claims further corroborate what was first reported by Nigel Rosser in the Evening Standard that Epstein had claimed to have worked for the CIA in the past.
Fitrakis also told MintPress that Strutz had referred to SAT’s route between Hong Kong and Columbus on behalf of Wexner’s company The Limited as “the Meyer Lansky run,” as he believed that Wexner’s association with SAT was related to his ties to elements of organized crime that were connected to the Lansky-created National Crime Syndicate. In addition, Catherine Austin Fitts — the former investment banker and government official, who has extensively investigated the intersection of organized crime, black markets, Wall Street and the government in the U.S. economy — was told by an ex-CIA employee that Wexner was one of five key managers of organized crime cash flows in the United States.
As this series has noted in previous reports, Meyer Lansky was a pioneer of sexual blackmail operations and was deeply connected to both U.S. intelligence and Israel’s Mossad. Furthermore, many members of the so-called Mega Group, which Wexner co-founded, had direct ties to the Lansky crime syndicate.
Marc Rich’s Pardon and Israel’s “Leverage” over Clinton
Another shadowy figure with connections to the Mega Group, Mossad, U.S. intelligence and organized crime is the “fugitive financier” Marc Rich, whose pardon during the last days of the Clinton White House is both well-known and still mired in controversy years after the fact.
Marc Rich was a commodities trader and hedge fund manager best known for founding the commodity trading and mining giant Glencore and for doing business with numerous dictatorships, often in violation of sanctions. He worked particularly closely with Israel and, according to Haaretz:
In the years after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the ensuing global Arab oil embargo, a period when nobody wanted to sell oil to Israel, for almost 20 years Rich was the main source of the country’s oil and energy needs.”
It was that trading on Israel’s behalf that would ultimately lead to Rich being charged in 1983 for violating the U.S. oil embargo on Iran by selling Iranian oil to Israel. Rich was also charged with tax evasion, wire fraud, racketeering and several other crimes.
Haaretz also noted that Rich’s businesses were “a source of funding for secret financial arrangements” and that “his worldwide offices, according to several reliable sources, frequently served Mossad agents, with his consent.” Rich had more direct ties to the Mossad as well. For instance, his foundation — the Rich Foundation — was run by the former Mossad agent Avner Azulay. Rich was also friendly with prominent Israel politicians, including former Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Ehud Barak, and was a frequent provider of “services” for Israeli intelligence, services he freely volunteered.
Marc Rich, right, is pictured with Israel’s Shimon Peres in a photo from Mark Daneil Ammann’s “The King of Oil.”
According to Rich’s biographer, Daniel Ammann, Rich also fed information to U.S. intelligence but declined to give specifics. “He did not want to tell with whom he cooperated within the U.S. authorities or which branch of the U.S. government he supplied with intelligence,” Ammann said in an interview with the Daily Beast.
One clue as to the nature of Rich’s relationship to U.S. intelligence is his apparent ties to BCCI. “The BCCI Affair” report mentions Rich as a person to investigate in relation to the bank and states:
BCCI lending to Rich in the 1980s amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rich’s commodities firms were used by BCCI in connection with BCCI’s involv[ement] in U.S. guarantee programs through the Department of Agriculture. The nature and extent of Rich’s relationship with BCCI requires further investigation.”
Rich was also deeply tied to the Mega Group, as he was one of the main donors to the Birthright Israel charity along with Mega Group co-founder Charles Bronfman and Mega Group member Michael Steinhardt. Steinhardt was particularly close to Rich, first meeting the commodities trader in the 1970s and then managing $3 million for Rich, Rich’s then-wife Denise, and Rich’s father-in-law from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s through his hedge fund. In the late 1990s, Steinhardt would enlist other Mega Group members, such as Edgar Bronfman, in the effort to settle the criminal charges against Rich, which eventually came to pass with Clinton’s controversial pardon in 2001. Steinhardt claimed to have come up with the idea of a presidential pardon for Rich in late 2000.
Rich’s pardon was controversial for several reasons, and many mainstream outlets asserted that it “reeked of payoff.” As the New York Post noted in 2016, in the run-up to the presidential pardon the financier’s ex-wife Denise had donated $450,000 to the fledgling Clinton Library and “over $1 million to Democratic campaigns in the Clinton era.” In addition, Rich had hired high-powered lawyers with links to powerful individuals in both the Democratic and Republican parties as well as the Clinton White House, including Jack Quinn, who has previously served as general counsel to the Clinton administration and as former chief of staff to Vice President Al Gore.
However, per Clinton’s own words and other supporting evidence, the main reason behind the Rich pardon was the heavy lobbying from Israeli intelligence, Israeli politicians and members of the Mega Group like Steinhardt, with the donations from Denise Rich and Quinn’s access to the president likely sweetening the deal.
Among the most ardent lobbyists for Rich’s pardon were then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, then-Mayor of Jerusalem Ehud Olmert, then-former Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami and former Director of the Mossad Shabtai Shavit. According to Haaretz, Barak was so adamant that Clinton pardon Marc Rich that he was heard shouting at the president on at least one occasion. Former adviser to Barak, Eldad Yaniv, claimed that Barak had shouted that the pardon was “important … Not only from the financial aspect, but also because he helped the Mossad in more than one instance.”
The Israel lobbying effort had considerable help from Mega Group member Michael Steinhardt as well as Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which was at the time heavily funded by Mega Group members, including Ronald Lauder and Edgar Bronfman.
There has been speculation for years that Clinton’s decision to pardon Rich may have been the result of “leverage” or blackmail that Israel had acquired on the then-president’s activities. As was noted in Part III of this report, the Mossad-linked “Mega” spy scandal broke in 1997, whereby Israeli intelligence had been targeting Clinton’s effort to broker a peace agreement between Israel and Palestine and had sought to go to “Mega,” likely a reference to the Mega Group, to obtain a sensitive document.
In addition, Israel is known to have acquired phone conversations between Clinton and Monica Lewinsky before their affair was made public. Author Daniel Halper — relying on on-the-record interviews with former officials and hundreds of pages of documents compiled in the event that Lewinsky took legal action against Clinton — determined that Benjamin Netanyahu told Clinton that he had obtained recordings of the sexually-tinged phone conversations during the Wye Plantation talks between Israel and Palestine in 1998. Netanyahu attempted to use this information to get Clinton to pardon convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard. Clinton considered pardoning Pollard but decided against it after CIA Director George Tenet threatened to resign if the pardon was given.
Investigative journalist and author Gordon Thomas had made similar claims years prior and asserted that the Mossad had obtained some 30 hours of phone-sex conversations between Lewinsky and Clinton and used them as leverage. In addition, a report in Insight magazine in May 2000 claimed that Israeli intelligence had “penetrated four White House telephone lines and was able to relay real-time conversations on those lines from a remote site outside the White House directly to Israel for listening and recording.”
Those phone taps apparently went well beyond the White House, as revealed by a December 2001 investigative report by Carl Cameron for FOX News. According to Cameron’s report:
[Israeli telecommunications company Amdocs] helped Bell Atlantic install new telephone lines in the White House in 1997…[and] a senior-level employee of Amdocs had a separate T1 data phone line installed from his base outside of St. Louis that was connected directly to Israel…
[I]nvestigators are looking into whether the owner of the T1 line had a ‘real time’ capacity to intercept phone calls from both the White House and other government offices around Washington, and sustained the line for some time, sources said. Sources familiar with the investigation say FBI agents on the case sought an arrest warrant for the St. Louis employee but [Clinton] Justice Department officials quashed it.“
According to journalist Chris Ketcham:
[Both Amdocs and Verint Inc. (formerly Comverse Infosys)] are based in Israel – having arisen to prominence from that country’s cornering of the information technology market – and are heavily funded by the Israeli government, with connections to the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence…
The companies’ operations, sources suggest, have been infiltrated by freelance spies exploiting encrypted trapdoors in Verint/Amdocs technology and gathering data on Americans for transfer to Israeli intelligence and other willing customers (particularly organized crime).”
Given the extent of phone tapping of the U.S. government by Israeli intelligence-linked companies and Netanyahu’s previous use of intercepted phone calls to pressure Clinton to pardon Jonathan Pollard, it is entirely reasonable to speculate that some other trove of intercepted communications could have been used to push Clinton to pardon Rich in the final hours of his presidency.
Also notable is the fact that several figures who heavily lobbied Clinton over the Rich pardon had ties to Epstein, who also had ties to Israeli intelligence and Israeli intelligence-linked tech companies, as discussed in Part III of this series. For example, Ehud Barak, a close friend and business associate of Epstein, and Shimon Peres, who introduced Barak to Epstein, were the major players in convincing Clinton to pardon Marc Rich.
Furthermore, as will be shown in a subsequent section of this report, Jeffrey Epstein had developed ties with the Clinton administration beginning in 1993 and those ties expanded, particularly in 1996, when Epstein’s intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation was underway. Clinton would later fly on Epstein’s infamous private jet, nicknamed the “Lolita Express,” and Epstein would later donate to the Clinton Foundation and claim to have played a key role in the creation of the Clinton Global Initiative.
In addition to the role of figures close to Epstein in securing Rich’s pardon, Epstein himself appeared to share some level of connection with Rich’s former business partners. For instance, Felix Posen — who ran Rich’s London operations for years and whom Forbes described as “the architect of Rich’s immensely profitable but suddenly very controversial business with the Soviet Union” — appears in Epstein’s book of contacts. In addition, Epstein’s offshore structured investment vehicle (SIV), Liquid Funding, has the same attorney and director as several Glencore entities: Alex Erskine of the law firm Appleby.
The significance of that connection, however, is unclear, given that Erskine was connected to a total of 274 offshore entities at the time of the “Paradise Papers” leak in 2014. Catherine Austin Fitts told MintPress that it could suggest that Epstein’s Liquid Funding — 40 percent of which had been owned by Bear Stearns, and which may have received a “secret” bail-out from the Federal Reserve — is part of the same shadow economy “syndicate” as Glencore.
This possibility merits further investigation, given that Glencore is partially owned by British financier Nathaniel Rothschild, whose father, Jacob Rothschild, is on the board of advisers of Genie Energy, which includes Michael Steinhardt as well as several alleged associates of Epstein, such as Bill Richardson and Larry Summers. In addition, Nathaniel Rothschild’s cousin by marriage, Lynn Forester de Rothschild, is a long-time associate of Jeffrey Epstein with considerable ties to the New York City “Roy Cohn machine.” Marc Rich had long-standing ties to the Rothschild family, going back to the early 1970s when he began commodity trading at Philipp Brothers.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild’s surprising interest in Epstein
After Epstein’s arrests first in 2007 and then again last month, numerous media reports emerged detailing the links between Epstein and Clinton, with most asserting that they had met not long after Clinton left office in 2001 and, as recently mentioned, issued the controversial pardon of Marc Rich.
Those reports claimed that the Epstein-Clinton relationship had been facilitated by Epstein’s long-time girlfriend and alleged madam Ghislaine Maxwell. However, documents obtained from the Clinton presidential library have revealed that the ties between Epstein and Clinton date back years earlier and were facilitated by powerful individuals who have largely evaded scrutiny in connection with the Epstein case.
One major player who has been largely overlooked in bringing Epstein and the Clintons together is Lynn Forester de Rothschild. Notably, Forester de Rothschild has long been connected to neoconservative Reagan era officials — the Lewis Rosenstiel/Roy Cohn network described in Parts 1 and 2 of this series, as well as the Mega Group, which was detailed in Part 3 of this series.
Lynn Forester de Rothschild became involved in the world of Democratic Party politics in the late 1970s when she worked on the 1976 campaign of hawkish Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) alongside now-notorious neoconservatives like Elliott Abrams, who would go on to play an important role in the Iran-Contra affair during the Reagan era and later serve in the State Department under Trump. She was also introduced to her second husband, Evelyn de Rothschild, by Henry Kissinger at a Bilderberg conference. Several of the individuals connected to the Mega Group and the Mossad-linked media mogul Robert Maxwell — including Mark Palmer, Max Fisher and John Lehman — were one-time aides or advisers to Henry Kissinger.
Before marrying into the Rothschild family in 2000, Lynn had previously been married to Andrew Stein, a major figure in New York Democratic politics, with whom she had two sons. Andrew’s brother, James Finkelstein, married Cathy Frank, the granddaughter of Lewis Rosenstiel, the mob-linked businessman who ran a sexual blackmail operation exploiting underage boys, as was discussed in Part 1 of this series. Rosenstiel’s protege Roy Cohn was the lawyer for Cathy Frank and James Finkelstein and it was at their behest that Cohn attempted to trick a nearly comatose Rosenstiel to into naming Cohn, Frank and Finkelstein the executors and trustees of his estate, valued at $75 million (more than $334 million in today’s dollars).
According to the New Yorker, Lynn Forester de Rothschild requested “financial help” from none other than Jeffrey Epstein in 1993 during her divorce from Andrew Stein.
As far as Forester de Rothschild’s ties to the Mega Group go, she is currently on the board of directors of Estee Lauder companies, which was founded and is still owned by the family of Ronald Lauder — a member of the Mega Group, a former Reagan official, a family friend of Roy Cohn, and the alleged source of Jeffrey Epstein’s now-infamous Austrian passport. In addition, Forester de Rothschild also partnered with Matthew Bronfman — son of Mega Group member Edgar Bronfman and grandson of Samuel Bronfman, who had close ties to Meyer Lansky — in creating the investment advisory firm Bronfman E.L. Rothschild LP.
It is unclear when Lynn Forester de Rothschild first met Jeffrey Epstein, but she was one of his leading advocates and had the ear of then-President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, speaking to Clinton specifically about Epstein during her “fifteen seconds of access” with the president and also introducing Epstein to lawyer Alan Dershowitz in 1996.
Living History by Hilary Clinton Book Party Hosted Lynn Forester and Evelyn De Rothschild pose with Bill and Hilary Clinton at the Kensington Palace in London. Photo | Alan Davidson
Forester de Rothschild is a long-time associate of the Clintons and has been a major donor to both Bill and Hillary Clinton since 1992. Their ties were so close that Forester de Rothschild spent the first night of her honeymoon at the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House while Clinton was president. Furthermore, a leaked email between Forester de Rothschild and Hillary Clinton saw Clinton request “penance” from Forester de Rothschild for asking Tony Blair to accompany Clinton on official business while she was secretary of state, preventing Blair from making a planned social visit to Forester de Rothschild’s home in Aspen, Colorado. Humbly requesting forgiveness is not something Hillary Clinton is known for, given that her former bodyguard once said she could “make Richard Nixon look like Mahatma Gandhi.”
In 1995, Forester de Rothschild, then a member of Clinton’s National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council, wrote the following to then-President Clinton:
Dear Mr. President: It was a pleasure to see you recently at Senator Kennedy’s house. There was too much to discuss and too little time. Using my fifteen seconds of access to discuss Jeffrey Epstein and currency stabilization, I neglected to talk to you about a topic near and dear to my heart. Namely, affirmative action and the future.”
Forester de Rothschild then states that she had been asked to prepare a memo on behalf of George Stephanopoulos, former Clinton communications director and currently a broadcast journalist with ABC News. Stephanopoulos attended a dinner party hosted by Epstein at his now infamous Manhattan townhouse in 2010 after Epstein’s release from prison for soliciting sex from a minor.
While it is unknown what Forester de Rothschild discussed with Clinton regarding Epstein and currency stabilization, a potential lead may lie in the links of both Forester de Rothschild and Epstein to Deutsche Bank. Journalist Vicky Ward reported in 2003 that Epstein boasted of “skill at playing the currency markets ‘with very large sums of money’” and he appears to have done much of this through his long-standing relationship with Deutsche Bank.
The New York Times reported last month:
[Epstein] appears to have been doing business and trading currencies through Deutsche Bank until just a few months ago, according to two people familiar with his business activities. But as the possibility of federal charges loomed, the bank ended its client relationship with Mr. Epstein. It is not clear what the value of those accounts was at the time they were closed.”
In the case of Forester de Rothschild, she served as an advisor to the Deutsche Bank Microfinance Consortium for several years and is currently a board member of the Alfred Herrhausen Society of International Dialogue of Deutsche Bank.
The same year that Forester de Rothschild made the above-noted comments to Bill Clinton about Jeffrey Epstein, Epstein attended another Clinton fundraiser, hosted by Ron Perelman at his personal home, that was very exclusive, as the guest list included only 14 people.
The evolution of the Epstein-Clinton relationship
Even before Forester de Rothschild’s 1995 meeting with Clinton, Epstein was already an established Clinton donor. Records obtained by the Daily Beast revealed that Epstein had donated $10,000 to the White House Historical Association and attended a Clinton donor reception alongside Ghislaine Maxwell as early as 1993.
The Daily Beast suggests that Bill Clinton’s long-time friend from his college days, A. Paul Prosperi, was the facilitator of that early relationship, as Prosperi had a decades-long relationship with Epstein and even visited Epstein at least 20 times while he was in jail in 2008. Prosperi was intimately involved with the 1993 fundraiser for the White House Historical Association noted above.
The relationship between Epstein and Clinton would continue well after Clinton left office in 2001, a fact well-documented by Bill Clinton’s now-infamous flights on Epstein’s (recently sold) private jet — often referred to as the “Lolita Express.” Clinton flew on the Lolita Express no less than 26 times in the early 2000s according to flight logs. On some of those flights, Clinton was accompanied by his Secret Service detail but he was unaccompanied on other flights.
Arguably the most infamous flight taken by Clinton on Epstein’s jet was a lengthy trip to Africa, where actor Kevin Spacey, who has also been accused of raping minors; Ghislaine Maxwell; and Ron Burkle, a billionaire friend of Clinton’s who has been accused of soliciting the services of “super-high-end call girls,” were also present. Clinton specifically requested that Epstein make his jet available for the trip well in advance, with Doug Band as the intermediary. President Donald Trump, also a friend of Epstein, is said to have flown on the plane but appears only once on flight logs.
In addition to flights, an Epstein-run foundation gave $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation according to the 2006 filing tax return of Epstein’s former charity, the C.O.U.Q. Foundation. Notably, Epstein’s lawyers, Alan Dershowitz among them, claimed in 2007 that Epstein had been “part of the original group that conceived the Clinton Global Initiative, which is described as a project ‘bringing together a community of global leaders to devise and implement innovative solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.’”
Before the associations between Epstein and the Clinton White House in the early 1990s were made public, Ghislaine Maxwell was thought to have been the bridge between Epstein and the Clinton family because of her close relationship to the family. However, the close relationship between Maxwell and the Clintons appears to have developed in the 2000s, with Politico reporting that it began after Bill Clinton left office. Clinton associate Doug Band was also reportedly friendly to Maxwell, appearing at an exclusive dinner party she hosted at her residence in New York in 2005. Maxwell later became particularly close to Chelsea Clinton, vacationing with Chelsea in 2009 and attending her wedding a year later. Maxwell was also associated with the Clinton Global Initiative at least up until 2013.
Other close Clinton associates and officials in the early 1990s also had notable relationships with Jeffrey Epstein, including Mark Middleton, who was a special assistant to Clinton Chief of Staff Mack McClarty beginning in 1993, and met with Epstein on at least three occasions in the White House during the early Clinton years. In addition, White House social secretary under Clinton, Ann Stock, appears in Epstein’s “little black book” as does Doug Band, once referred to by New York Magazine as “Bill Clinton’s bag carrier, body man, fixer, and all-purpose gatekeeper.” Band also appears several times in the flight logs of Epstein’s private jet.
Epstein was also associated with both Bill Richardson, former ambassador to the UN and former secretary of energy under Clinton, and Larry Summers, secretary of the treasury under Clinton. Both Richardson and Summers sit on the advisory board of controversial energy company Genie Energy, alongside CIA director under Clinton, James Woolsey; Roy Cohn associate and media mogul, Rupert Murdoch; Mega Group member Michael Steinhardt; and Lord Jacob Rothschild. Genie Energy is controversial primarily for its exclusive rights to drill in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Bill Richardson also has ties to Lynn Forester de Rothschild as she was on the Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board while Richardson was secretary of energy.
Bill Richardson appears to be among the Clinton era officials closest to Jeffrey Epstein, having personally visited Epstein’s New Mexico ranch and been the recipient of Epstein donations of $50,000 to his 2002 and 2006 gubernatorial campaigns. Richardson gave Epstein’s donation in 2006 to charity after allegations against Epstein were made public. Richardson was also accused in recently released court documents of engaging in sex with Epstein’s underage victims, an allegation that he has denied.
The Jeffrey Epstein scandal: A post-mortem
In 1990, Danny Casolaro began his fateful one-year investigation of “the Octopus,” an investigation that played no small role in his untimely death. Shortly after he was found lifeless in a hotel bathtub, Casolaro’s friend Lynn Knowles was threatened and told the following: “What Danny Casolaro was investigating is a business…Anyone who asks too many questions will end up dead.”
Nearly thirty years later, that same “Octopus” and its “business” remains with us and has become ever more wrapped around the levers of power — particularly in the worlds of government, finance and intelligence.
This MintPress investigative series has endeavored to show the nature of this network and how the world of “the Octopus” is the same world in which Jeffrey Epstein and his predecessors — Craig Spence, Edwin Wilson and Roy Cohn among them — operated and profited. It is a world where all that matters is the constant drive to accumulate ever more wealth and ever more power and to keep the racket going at all costs.
While this network has long been able to ensure its success through the use of sexual blackmail, often acquired by the unconscionable exploitation of children, it has also been a driving force behind many other ills that plague our world and it goes far beyond human and child trafficking. Indeed, many of the figures in this same sordid web have played a major role in the illicit drug and weapons trades, the expansion of for-profit prisons, and the endless wars that have claimed an untold number of lives across the world, all the while enriching many of these same individuals.
There is no denying that such a network is “too big to fail.” Yet, fail it must — otherwise this decades-long cycle of abuse, murder and fraud will continue unabated, destroying and taking even more lives in the process.
Though this report marks the end of MintPress’ series on Jeffrey Epstein and the network of which he was part, this is not the end of MintPress’ work on the case. Several spin-offs — investigating the real reasons why Epstein was arrested in July; his connections to money laundering and the intelligence “black budget;” and his network’s connections to child trafficking in other countries, particularly the U.K. — are already in the works and will appear in Mint Press over the next few weeks.
Correction | This report incorrectly stated that both Donald Trump and Bill Clinton had visited Jeffrey Epstein’s island. Victims of Epstein have reported seeing Clinton at the island, but not Donald Trump. MintPress regrets the error.
Feature photo | A composite image shows from left to right, Jeffrey Epstein, Bill Clinton, Adnan Khashoggi and Robert Maxwell. Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist
based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets
including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st
Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television
appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for
Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
A recent interview given by a former high-ranking official in Israeli military intelligence has claimed that Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual blackmail enterprise was an Israel intelligence operation run for the purpose of entrapping powerful individuals and politicians in the United States and abroad.
by Whitney Webb October 02nd, 2019
Since the apparent death by suicide of Jeffrey Epstein in a Manhattan prison, much has come to light about his depraved activities and methods used to sexually abuse underage girls and entrap the rich and powerful for the purposes of blackmail. Epstein’s ties to intelligence, described in-depth in a recent MintPress investigative series, have continued to receive minimal mainstream media coverage, which has essentially moved on from the Epstein scandal despite the fact that his many co-conspirators remain on the loose.
For those who have examined Epstein’s ties to intelligence, there are clear links to both U.S. intelligence and Israeli intelligence, leaving it somewhat open to debate as to which country’s intelligence apparatus was closest to Epstein and most involved in his blackmail/sex-trafficking activities. A recent interview given by a former high-ranking official in Israeli military intelligence has claimed that Epstein’s sexual blackmail enterprise was an Israel intelligence operation run for the purpose of entrapping powerful individuals and politicians in the United States and abroad.
In an interview with Zev Shalev, former CBS News executive producer and award-winning investigative journalist for Narativ, the former senior executive for Israel’s Directorate of Military Intelligence, Ari Ben-Menashe, claimed not only to have met Jeffrey Epstein and his alleged madam, Ghislaine Maxwell, back in the 1980s, but that both Epstein and Maxwell were already working with Israeli intelligence during that time period.
“They found a niche”
In an interview last week with the independent outlet Narativ, Ben-Menashe, who himself was involved in Iran-Contra arms deals, told his interviewer Zev Shalev that he had been introduced to Jeffrey Epstein by Robert Maxwell in the mid-1980s while Maxwell’s and Ben-Menashe’s involvement with Iran-Contra was ongoing. Ben-Menashe did not specify the year he met Epstein.
Ben-Menashe told Shalev that “he [Maxwell] wanted us to accept him [Epstein] as part of our group …. I’m not denying that we were at the time a group that it was Nick Davies [Foreign Editor of the Maxwell-Owned Daily Mirror], it was Maxwell, it was myself and our team from Israel, we were doing what we were doing.” Past reporting by Seymour Hersh and others revealed that Maxwell, Davies and Ben-Menashe were involved in the transfer and sale of military equipment and weapons from Israel to Iran on behalf of Israeli intelligence during this time period.
He then added that Maxwell had stated during the introduction that “your Israeli bosses have already approved” of Epstein. Shalev later noted that Maxwell “had an extensive network in Israel at the time, which included [the later Prime Minister] Ariel Sharon, according to Ben-Menashe.”
Ben-Menashe went on to say that he had “met him [Epstein] a few times in Maxwell’s office, that was it.” He also said he was not aware of Epstein being involved in arms deals for anyone else he knew at the time, but that Maxwell wanted to involve Epstein in the arms transfer in which he, Davies and Ben-Menashe were engaged on Israel’s behalf.
Ariel Sharon (right) meets with Robert Maxwell in Jerusalem on Feb. 20, 1990. Photo | AP
However, as MintPress reported in Part IV of the investigative series “Inside the Jeffrey Epstein Scandal: Too Big to Fail,” Epstein was involved with several arms dealers during this period of time, some of whom were directly involved in Iran-Contra arms deals between Israel and Iran. For instance, after leaving Bear Stearns in 1981, Epstein began working in the realms of shadow finance as a self-described “financial bounty hunter,” where he would both hunt down and hide money for powerful people. One of these powerful individuals was Adnan Khashoggi, a Saudi arms dealer with close ties to both Israeli and U.S. intelligence and one of the main brokers of Iran-Contra arms deals between Israel and Iran. Epstein would later forge a business relationship with a CIA front company involved in another aspect of Iran-Contra, the airline Southern Air Transport, on behalf of Leslie Wexner’s company, The Limited.
During this period, it is also known that Epstein became well acquainted with the British arms dealer Sir Douglas Leese, who collaborated with Khashoggi on at least one British-Saudi arms deal in the 1980s. Leese would later introduce Epstein to Steven Hoffenberg, calling Epstein a “genius” and describing his lack of morals during that introduction. Thus, there are indications that Epstein was involved with Middle Eastern arms deals, including some related to Iran-Contra, during this period. In addition, Epstein would later claim (and then subsequently deny) having worked for the CIA during this period.
After having been introduced to Epstein, Ben-Menashe claimed that neither he nor Davies were impressed with Epstein and considered him “not very competent.” He added that Ghislaine Maxwell had “fallen for” Epstein and that he believed that the romantic relationship between his daughter and Epstein led Robert Maxwell to work to bring the latter into the “family business” — i.e., Maxwell’s dealings with Israeli intelligence. This information is very revealing, given that the narrative, until now at least, has been that Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein did not meet and begin their relationship until after Robert Maxwell’s death in 1991, after which Ghislaine moved to New York.
Ben-Menashe says that well after the introduction, though again he does not specify what year, Ghislaine Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein began a sexual blackmail operation with the purpose of extorting U.S. political and public figures on behalf of Israeli military intelligence. He stated:
In this case what really happened, my take on it, in the later thing, is that these guys were seen as agents. They weren’t really competent to do very much. And so they found a niche for themselves — blackmailing American and other political figures.”
He then confirmed, when prompted, that they were blackmailing Americans on behalf of Israeli intelligence.
In response to his statement, Zev Shalev replied, “But, you know, for most people it’s hard for them to think of Israel as being … blackmailing their leaders in the United States, it’s a very …” at which point, Ben-Menashe interrupted and the following exchange took place:
Ari Ben-Menashe: You’re kidding? [laughs]…. It was quite their M.O. Sleeping around is not a crime, it may be embarrassing, but it’s not a crime, but sleeping with underage girls is a crime.
Shalev: It was a crime in 2000 as well, but they let him off that…
Ben-Menashe: And that it is [why] always so he [Epstein] made sure these girls were underage.
In addition, when Shalev asked Ben-Menashe about the relationship between Jeffrey Epstein and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Ben-Menashe stated “After a while, you know, what Mr. Epstein was doing was collecting intelligence on people in the United States. And so if you want to go to the U.S. if you’re a high-profile politician you want to know information about people.” Ben-Menashe subsequently stated that Barak was obtaining compromising information (i.e., blackmail) that Epstein had acquired on powerful people in the United States.
PROMIS, sex, and blackmail
If Robert Maxwell did recruit Epstein and bring him into the “family business” and the world of Israeli intelligence, as Ben-Menashe has claimed, it provides supporting evidence for information provided to MintPress by a former U.S. intelligence official, who chose to remain anonymous in light of the sensitivity of the claim.
This source, who has direct knowledge of the unauthorized use of PROMIS to support covert U.S. and Israeli intelligence projects, told MintPress that “some of the proceeds from the illicit sales of PROMIS were made available to Jeffrey Epstein for use in compromising targets of political blackmail.” As was noted in a Mintpress series on the Epstein scandal, much of Epstein’s funding also came from Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner, who has documented ties to both organized crime and U.S. and Israeli intelligence.
After the PROMIS software was stolen from its rightful owner and developer, Inslaw Inc., through the collusion of both U.S. and Israeli officials, it was marketed mainly by two men: Earl Brian, a close aide to Ronald Reagan, later U.S. envoy to Iran and close friend of Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan; and Robert Maxwell. Brian sold the bugged software through his company, Hadron Inc., while Maxwell sold it through an Israeli company he acquired called Degem. Before and following Maxwell’s acquisition of Degem, the company was a known front for Mossad operations and Mossad operatives in Latin America often posed as Degem employees.
With Maxwell — Epstein’s alleged recruiter and father of Epstein’s alleged madam — having been one of the main salespeople involved in selling PROMIS software on behalf of intelligence, he would have been in a key position to furnish Epstein’s nascent sexual blackmail operation with the proceeds from the sale of PROMIS.
This link between Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation and the PROMIS software scandal is notable given that the illicit use of PROMIS by U.S. and Israeli intelligence has been for blackmail purposes on U.S. public figures and politicians, as was described in a recent MintPress report.
Can an ex-spy be trusted?
When dealing in the world of deception and intrigue that defines intelligence operations, it is often difficult to determine whether any individual linked to an intelligence agency is telling the truth. Indeed, in the United States, there are examples of elected intelligence officials committing perjury and lying to Congress on several occasions with no consequences, and of intelligence officials feeding politically motivated and untrue information to agency assets in the media.
So, are Ari Ben-Menashe’s claims regarding Epstein and the Maxwells trustworthy? In addition to the aforementioned, corroborating information for his claims, a review of Ben-Menashe’s post-intelligence career suggests this is the case.
Ari Ben-Menashe arrives at Harare International Airport, in Zimbabwe, Feb. 22, 2002. Photo | AP
Prior to his arrest in November 1989, Ben-Menashe was a high-ranking officer in a special unit of Israeli military intelligence. He would later claim that his arrest for attempting to sell American-made weapons to Iran was politically motivated, as he had threatened to expose what the U.S. government had done with the stolen PROMIS software if the U.S. did not cease providing Saddam Hussein’s Iraq with chemical weapons. Ben-Menashe was later acquitted when a U.S. court determined that his involvement in the attempted sale of military equipment to Iran was done on behalf of the Israeli state.
After his arrest, Ben-Menashe was visited in prison by Robert Parry, the former Newsweek contributor and Associated Press reporter who would later found and run Consortium News until his recent passing last year. Parry remembered that, during that interview, “Ben-Menashe offered me startling new information about the Iran-Contra scandal, which I thought that I knew quite well.”
Israel’s government immediately began to attack Ben-Menashe’s credibility following his interview with Parry, and claimed that Ben-Menashe had never worked for Israeli intelligence. When Parry soon found evidence that Ben-Menashe had indeed served in Israeli military intelligence, Israel’s government was then forced to admit that he had worked for military intelligence, but only as a “low-level translator.” Yet, the documentation Parry had uncovered described Ben-Menashe as having served in “key positions” and performed “complex and sensitive assignments.”
A year later, Ben-Menashe would be interviewed by another journalist, Seymour Hersh. It would be Ben-Menashe who first revealed to Hersh secrets about Israel’s nuclear program and the fact that British media mogul Robert Maxwell was an Israeli spy, revelations that Hersh would not only independently corroborate but include in his book The Samson Option: Israel’s Nuclear Arsenal and American Foreign Policy. Hersh was then sued by Robert Maxwell and the Maxwell-owned Mirror Group for libel. The case was later settled in Hersh’s favor, as the claims Hersh had made were true and not libelous. As a result, the Mirror Group paid Hersh for damages, covered his legal costs, and issued him a formal apology.
After Ben-Menashe’s interviews by Hersh and Parry, Israel’s government was apparently concerned enough about what Ben-Menashe would tell congressional investigators that it attempted to kidnap him and bring him back to Israel to face state charges, much like Israeli intelligence had done to Israel’s nuclear-weapons whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. The plan was foiled largely thanks to Parry.
Parry, who broke many key stories related to the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s and beyond, was tipped off by a U.S. intelligence source about a joint U.S.-Israel plan to have Ben-Menashe first be denied entry to the United States on his planned trip to give congressional testimony. Per the plan, Ben-Menashe would be denied entry to the U.S. in Los Angeles and then be deported to Israel, where he would have stood trial for “exposing state secrets.” Parry called Ben-Menashe and convinced him to delay his flight until he secured a guarantee for safe passage from the U.S. government.
Ben-Menashe subsequently gave a sworn statement to the House Judiciary Committee that mostly focused on U.S.-Israel collusion regarding the theft and creation of a “backdoor” into the PROMIS software. Ben-Menashe offered to name names and provide corroborating evidence for several of his claims if he was offered immunity by the committee, which, for whatever reason. declined that request.
Prior to the conclusion of the Hersh “libel” trial, which would later uphold Ben-Menashe’s claims regarding Robert Maxwell’s Mossad activities as true, there was a concerted effort in the U.S. press to downplay Ben-Menashe’s credibility. For instance, Newsweek — in an article on Ben-Menashe entitled “One Man, Many Tales” — claimed that “inconsistencies may undermine Ben-Menashe’s testimony in the British courtroom proceedings,” citing inconsistencies from sources in Israel’s government and Israeli intelligence as well as Ben-Menashe’s ex-wife and Israeli journalist Shmuel (or Samuel) Segev, a former IDF colonel. It goes without saying that such sources had much to gain from any effort to discredit Ben-Menashe’s claims.
According to Parry, this media campaign, which employed American journalists with close ties to Israel’s government and intelligence agencies, was very successful “in marginalizing Ben-Menashe by 1993, at least in the eyes of the Washington Establishment.” After a years-long media campaign to discredit Ben-Menashe, “the Israelis seemed to view him as a declining threat, best left alone. He was able to pick up the pieces of his life, creating a second act as an international political consultant and businessman arranging sales of grain.” The effort to marginalize Ben-Menashe has continued well into recent years, with mainstream news outlets still referring to him as a “self-described ex-Israeli spy” — despite the well-documented fact that Ben-Menashe worked for Israeli intelligence — as a means of downplaying his claims regarding his time in Israel’s intelligence service.
After the conclusion of the Hersh libel trial, Ben-Menashe became an international political consultant who “surrounded his far-flung business activities in secrecy and got involved with some controversial international figures, such as Zimbabwe’s leader Robert Mugabe,” and
“conducted his international consulting business … in a wide variety of global hotspots, including conflict zones,” according to Parry. In addition to Mugabe, Ben-Menashe has also recently come under fire for his consulting work on behalf of Sudan’s military junta and Venezuelan opposition politician Henri Falcón.
Ben-Menashe has also maintained ties to several different intelligence services and eventually became a controversial whistleblower whose information led to the arrest of the former head of Canada’s Security Intelligence Review Committee, Arthur Porter.
As far as his character is concerned, Parry noted that Ben-Menashe could often be “his own worst enemy” and that, even though Parry considered his information regarding Iran-Contra and PROMIS reliable and noted that much of it was later corroborated, he “often compound[ed] his media problem by treating journalists in a high-handed manner, either due to his suspicions of them or his arrogance.”
Bill Hamilton, the original developer of the PROMIS software and head of Inslaw Inc., also found Ben-Menashe’s claims regarding the illicit use of PROMIS by U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies to be credible, though he expressed doubts about Ben-Menashe’s character.
Hamilton told MintPress the following about Ben-Menashe:
Ari Ben Menashe was the first source to tell us reliable information about the role of Rafi Eitan and Israeli intelligence vis-a-vis PROMIS but, in the end, of course, he was a clandestine services-type guy whose official duties include the ability and willingness to lie, cheat, and steal.”
A threat revived
While Ben-Menashe may have been viewed as a “declining threat” after the early 1990s, his plans to meet with Robert Parry of Consortium News years later in 2012 to discuss Iran-Contra and other covert dealings of the 1980s appeared to change that. Right before he planned to travel from Canada to the United States to meet with Parry and “finally prove” the truthfulness of his past claims, a fire-bomb was thrown into his Montreal home, destroying it.
Ari Ben-Menashe surveys the damage to his home after it was mysteriously firebombed. Photos | Robert Parry
Though Canadian media referred to the incendiary device as a “molotov cocktail,” Consortium News reported that “the arson squad’s initial assessment is said to be that the flammable agent was beyond the sort of accelerant used by common criminals,” leading to speculation that the accelerant was military-grade.
Had it not been for the bomb, the origins of which Canadian police failed to determine, Ben-Menashe would have traveled to the U.S. alongside a “senior Israeli intelligence figure” to be interviewed by Parry. The other intelligence-linked individual, according to Parry, “concluded that the attack was meant as a message from Israeli authorities to stay silent about the historical events that he was expected to discuss.”
Though neither Ben-Menashe nor Parry directly blamed Israel’s government for the destruction of Ben-Menashe’s home, Parry noted that the bombing did succeed in “intimidating Ben-Menashe, shutting down possible new disclosures of Israeli misconduct from the other intelligence veteran, and destroying records that would have helped Ben-Menashe prove whatever statements he might make.”
While Ben-Menashe’s post-intelligence associations with controversial governments and individuals have given plenty of fodder to the still thriving media campaign to discredit his claims about covert U.S.-Israel operations in the 1980s, there remain troubling indications that the Israeli government sees his information on decades-old events as a threat.
Now, with the major efforts by powerful Americans and Israelis to distance themselves from Jeffrey Epstein and other figures associated with his depraved sex trafficking operation, Ben-Menashe may soon again find his reputation — and perhaps more — under fire.
Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
Several now-censored reports from the 1990s and early 2000s reveal that Prince Andrew’s involvement with the minors exploited by Jeffrey Epstein is greater than previously believed.
October 14th, 2019 By Whitney Webb
While the Jeffrey Epstein scandal has largely faded from media coverage in the United States, it has continued to attract attention abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom in connection with Epstein’s long-standing association with Prince Andrew, the Duke of York and the Queen’s son.
The Epstein-Prince Andrew relationship has long been a fascination of the U.K. press, with numerous articles dating back to the early 2000s detailing the most outrageous aspects of their relationship. Prior to that, Epstein had also garnered attention from U.K. newspapers regarding his association with Ghislaine Maxwell, whose reputation in the U.K. is rather notorious, as was that of her father, Robert Maxwell.
Yet, since Epstein’s arrest in July, many of these older articles on Epstein and Maxwell, as well as those focusing on the Epstein-Prince Andrew relationship, have disappeared from the archives of several prominent U.K. media outlets that reported on these relationships years ago.
Several of these articles, though largely scrubbed from the internet, were recently obtained by MintPress and a review of their contents makes the likely motive behind their disappearance clear: several articles not only reference Epstein’s connection to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence years before the first investigation into Epstein’s exploitation of minors had even begun, but also reveal surprising aspects of Prince Andrew’s involvement with Epstein that strongly suggest that the Prince partook in illicit sexual activities with minors to a much greater extent than has previously been reported.
New, disturbing details of Prince Andrew’s early links to Epstein
Since Epstein was arrested the first time in 2006 and even more so after he was arrested again this past July, those named in press reports as his associates have made every effort to distance themselves from the accused pedophile and sex trafficker. For this reason, press reports that discuss Epstein long before there was any hint of the larger scandal are particularly important for understanding the true nature of Epstein’s past associations with the rich and powerful.
In light of what is now known about Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation and sex trafficking activities, several reports from the late 1990s and early 2000s contain details long since forgotten regarding Epstein’s relationship with Prince Andrew.
One particularly censored article that appeared in London’s Evening Standard in January 2001, for instance, gives several indications regarding the apparent entrapment of Prince Andrew as part of Epstein’s sexual blackmail operation, which is now known to have been connected to intelligence — specifically Israeli military intelligence, according to recent revelations in the case.
The article, written by Evening Standard journalist Nigel Rosser, quotes a personal friend of both Ghislaine Maxwell and Epstein as saying the following about their friendship with Prince Andrew:
A screenshot from a now-deleted 2001 Evening Standard article
Another friend of Maxwell and Epstein made similar claims that appear in the same article:
A screenshot from the same Evening Standard article
The article further describes Epstein and Prince Andrew as having a “curious symbiotic relationship,” adding that “wherever Ghislaine is seen with Prince Andrew, Epstein isn’t far behind.”
These quotes are particularly telling now that it is a matter of record that Epstein was seeking out rich and powerful individuals and entrapping them with minors for the purpose of blackmail. The fact that personal friends of Epstein and Maxwell at the time openly stated that their “manipulative” relationship with Prince Andrew was “very premeditated” and “probably being done for Epstein” strongly suggests that not only was the Prince entrapped, but that this type of entrapment activity was known to occur among those who were close to Epstein and Maxwell at the time.
Prince Andrew — as a member of the Royal Family, which is very protective of its social reputation, as well as the U.K. envoy for investment and trade — certainly fits into the category of people that Epstein entrapped on behalf of intelligence: rich, politically powerful, wary of damaging their social reputation, and thus susceptible to blackmail.
Notably, the year this article was published (2001), is the same year that Epstein’s most well-known accuser and victim, Virginia Giuffre (then Virginia Roberts), claims that she was introduced to Prince Andrew by Maxwell and Epstein and forced to have sex with the Prince on at least three occasions. She has also claimed that Epstein would subsequently instruct her to describe the encounters in order to learn compromising information about the Prince’s sexual habits and preferences. Her claims regarding Epstein’s trafficking of her, specifically to Prince Andrew, have since been largely corroborated by photographic evidence, flight logs, and public records.
This undated photo released by Virginia Giuffre shows Prince Andrew posing with a young Giuffre, Ghislaine Maxwell is shown standing in the background
While it appears that Prince Andrew was deliberately entrapped as part of Epstein’s intelligence-linked sexual blackmail operation, the article further suggests that Andrew’s involvement with the minors exploited by Epstein went far beyond his alleged three encounters with Giuffre.
Rosser quotes a friend of Prince Andrew’s ex-wife Sara Ferguson as saying that Andrew “used to be smart when he came back from abroad…He’s started having a girl massage him…He even travels abroad with his own massage mattress.”
During this same time period, Epstein and Maxwell also introduced Prince Andrew to “sex aid entrepreneur” Christine Drangsholt during a trip to Mar-a-Lago and describes Andrew traveling to Los Angeles, where he was seen “flirting…with a group of young girls,” and to Phuket, Thailand where he “wandered around the sex bars in the area’s red light district.” The Los Angeles trip saw Andrew accompanied by artist and close friend of Michael Jackson, Brett Livingstone Strong, and Ghislaine Maxwell accompanied Andrew to Thailand.
The mentions of massages from a “girl” and Andrew traveling around with Maxwell and Epstein while bringing along “his own massage mattress,” are particularly striking given what is now known about Epstein’s sex trafficking and sexual blackmail operation. Court documents, police reports, and other evidence have since made it clear that “massage” was the code word Epstein and his co-conspirators used for sex with the minors he exploited and massage tables and sex toys were frequently present together in the rooms of his various residences where he forced underage girls to engage in sexual acts with him and others.
Most notable of all is the fact that claims of Prince Andrew receiving “massages” from girls during his trips with Epstein and Maxwell were published in January 2001, at least two months before Virginia Giuffre states that she was first introduced to and forced to have sex with the Prince in March of 2001. This means that the claims of Epstein- and Maxwell-brokered “massages” refer to at least one other girl, strongly suggesting that Andrew’s involvement with minors exploited by Epstein is greater than has been recently acknowledged.
Other recently reported information has added to the likelihood that Prince Andrew engaged in illicit activities with more minors than Virginia Giuffre. For instance, the FBI recently expanded its probe into Epstein’s sex trafficking network to include a specific focus on the Prince’s role. The FBI has claimed that they are reviewing claims regarding Prince Andrew made by other Epstein victims aside from Giuffre, but did not specify the nature of those claims.
Ghislaine Maxwell’s open secret
Media reports cite Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell as having developed a close relationship at least by February 2000, when Andrew had spent a week at Epstein’s controversial New York penthouse at 9 East 71st Street. One report published in 2000 by London’s Sunday Times claimed that the two were introduced by Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, often referred to as “Fergie” in the press, and further claims that this introduction had taken place several years prior. Epstein is alleged to have first been introduced to Andrew via Maxwell in 1999.
A screenshot from a now-deleted 2000 Sunday Times article
Years after this introduction was made, Jeffrey Epstein would provide financial assistance to Ferguson at Prince Andrew’s behest by paying Ferguson’s former personal assistant £15,000, allegedly in order to allow for “a wider restructuring of Sarah’s £5 million debts to take place,” according to The Telegraph.
Oddly, by April of that year, Maxwell and Prince Andrew were spotted by their fellow diners at a posh New York restaurant holding hands, prompting both the Prince and Maxwell to claim that their relationship was merely “platonic.” However, a separate report from 2007 in the Evening Standard refers to Maxwell as one of Prince Andrew’s former girlfriends.
Within a year of their close relationship having become public, Andrew and Ghislaine were reported to have gone on eight different vacations together, of which Epstein accompanied them for five. Andrew also brought Maxwell and Epstein to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 2000 as his personal guests.
Several reports from this period also provide interesting insight into Maxwell’s business activities and private life. One article from 2000, published in London’s Sunday Times, states that “for all her high-profile appearances on Manhattan’s A-List merry-go-round, she [Maxwell] is secretive to the point of paranoia and her business affairs are deeply mysterious.” It goes on to say that Maxwell “has been building a business empire as opaque as father’s” — referencing Robert Maxwell’s business empire, which included multiple front companies for Israeli intelligence — and adds that “her office in Manhattan refuses to confirm even the nature or the name of her business.”
On her relationship with Epstein, it states that “he’s always kept her secrets, no one knows what their relationship is really about.” An article from 2001 claims that Maxwell’s Manhattan lifestyle, her New York residence and her vehicles were all purchased by Epstein and that she was employed as his “consultant” while also acting as his social organizer and interior designer.
One report on Maxwell — which was published by the Evening Standard in 2003, years before Epstein was first publicly revealed to be exploiting minors — contains very telling information about Maxwell’s work for Epstein. It states “Ghislaine has risen, largely thanks to property developer Epstein bankrolling her, to become queen of the billionaires’ social circuit,” adding that “Jeffrey only likes billionaires or very young women and uses Ghislaine as his social pimp.” It then discusses “rumors” that Maxwell was hosting “bizarre parties at her house to which she invites a dozen or so young girls, then brandishes a whip and teaches them how to improve their sexual techniques.”
Given what is now known about Maxwell’s role as Epstein’s procurer of underage girls and her role in “training” them in sexual techniques, this passage — again from 2003 — reveals that Epstein’s and Maxwell’s dark acts were pretty much an open secret for years prior to Epstein’s first arrest in 2007.
Jeffrey Epstein, spy and property mogul?
One recurring theme in many of these older reports from the U.K. is their mention of Epstein’s alleged ties to both U.S. and Israeli intelligence. For instance, Nigel Rosser’s 2001 article contains the following passage:
A screenshot from a now-deleted 2001 Evening Standard article
Another article, published in 1992 in the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday, describes “rumors” that linked Epstein to the CIA and the Mossad and claimed that he had worked as “a corporate spy hired by big businesses to uncover money that had been embezzled.” In addition, an article published in 2000 in London’s Sunday Times also states of Epstein that “nobody knows whether he’s a concert pianist, property developer, CIA agent, a math teacher or a member of Mossad.”
A screenshot from a now-deleted 2000 Sunday Times article
Notably, these rumors of Epstein’s links to intelligence have since been confirmed. The CIA-Mossad links to Epstein were detailed in a recent MintPress investigative series and several mainstream media reports have corroborated Epstein’s time as a self-described “financial bounty hunter” who hunted down embezzled funds and also hid stolen money for powerful people and governments.
Another odd commonality among these now-scrubbed articles on Epstein from the 1990s and early 2000s is that the majority of them refer to Epstein not as a “financier” or “hedge fund manager,” as has become common in more recent reports, but as a “New York property developer” and even as a “property mogul.”
For instance, the 2001 Evening Standard article introduces Epstein as an “immensely powerful New York property developer and financier” with an “intensively secret business life” who “owns properties all over the country [the U.S.].” It also states that Epstein had made millions from “his business links with the likes of Bill Gates, Donald Trump and Ohio billionaire Leslie Wexner” during the 1990s and beyond.
A screenshot from a now-deleted 2001 Evening Standard article
Wexner, in addition to his other close financial ties to Epstein, was involved in several Manhattan real estate deals with Epstein and Epstein’s brother Mark while Donald Trump was then best known for his career as a New York property developer and real estate mogul. Trump is also cited in a separate article from January 2001 as being good friends with both Prince Andrew and his ex-wife. In addition, this article’s claim regarding Epstein’s most notable “business links” in 2001 contradicts Bill Gates’ recent assertions that he never had any business relationship with Epstein and did not meet with him until 2013. Notably, Gates’ former chief scientific adviser was recently named as an alternate executor for Epstein’s will and Gates appears on the flight logs of Epstein’s now-infamous private plane. Gates, one of the world’s richest men, has since claimed that he only had met with Epstein in order to meet other wealthy people and to discuss “philanthropy.”
Donald and Melania Trump with Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell at the Mar-a-Lago club, Palm Beach, Florida in 2000. Photo | Davidoff Studios
Another article in the Evening Standard refers to Epstein as a “property mogul.” Several other articles — such as a 2000 article from Australia’s Sunday Mail, a 1995 article from Australia’s Sun Herald, and a 1995 article from the U.K.’s Mail on Sunday — also refer to Epstein as chiefly a “property developer.” Interestingly, references to Epstein as a property developer continued to occur (though less frequently) after his first arrest in 2007 and then again after his recent arrest this past July, yet oddly only in non-U.S. newspapers. Another article states that Ghislaine Maxwell had sold property on Epstein’s behalf and was also involved in the New York real estate market.
While several articles in the early 2000s describe Epstein as both “property developer” and “financier,” even earlier articles about Epstein refer to him exclusively as a “property developer.” For instance, the 1992 article in the Mail on Sunday cited above referred to Epstein as “a shadowy, almost maverick New York property developer” and noted that, even then, Epstein appeared “to have an inexhaustible supply of money and yet no one seems able to answer the question of precisely what the source.”
As will be revealed in an upcoming MintPress investigative series, these references allude to Epstein’s shady business activities in the New York and Palm Beach real estate markets from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s that were used to launder massive amounts of money for organized crime and intelligence. It is likely for this reason that Epstein’s real estate activities during this period have been so deliberately ignored by the U.S. press, even though other aspects of his financial activities were heavily scrutinized in recent months.
Indeed, in examining Epstein’s involvement in real estate markets, particularly in New York, it becomes clear that those activities have no shortage of controversial tie-ins to the current U.S. presidential administration as well as major New York power players involved in suspect financial activity immediately prior to the September 11 attacks as well as the 2008 financial crisis. All of those connections and more will be explored in MintPress’ upcoming investigative series on the financial crimes of Jeffrey Epstein and their broader implications.
Correction | An earlier version of this report incorrectly stated the name of the artist that accompanied Prince Andrew to Los Angeles in 2000 as Bruce, as opposed to Brett, Livingstone Strong.
Feature photo | Graphic by Claudio Cabrera
MintPress speaks with Ari Ben-Menashe, a former Israeli spy who worked closely with Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, as part of their work with Israeli military intelligence and had frequent encounters with Jeffrey Epstein.
December 13th, 2019 By Whitney Webb
MONTREAL — In recent weeks, renewed attention has been brought to the allegations that Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell’s sex trafficking and sexual blackmail operation was run on behalf of Israeli military intelligence. Those claims revolve around statements made by a former Israeli military intelligence official turned public relations consultant Ari Ben-Menashe, whose allegations regarding the Epstein scandal were reported by MintPress this past October.
Ben-Menashe’s claims related to Epstein first surfaced in an interview between Ben-Menashe and Zev Shalev of the independent news outlet, Narativ. As detailed in a MintPress summary and commentary of that interview, Ben-Menashe claimed to have seen Jeffrey Epstein in the office of Robert Maxwell, Ghislaine Maxwell’s father, several times in the 1980s.
At the time, Ben-Menashe was in close contact with Robert Maxwell regarding their work mutual work with Israeli military intelligence. Maxwell, in addition to heading a media empire and being a one-time member of U.K. parliament, was a longtime operative for Israeli intelligence, so much so that his 1991 funeral was attended by no less than six serving and former heads of Israeli intelligence as well as several high-ranking Israeli politicians and prime ministers.
Maxwell is alleged to have recruited Jeffrey Epstein for Israeli intelligence and later introduced Epstein to Ben-Menashe and another operative, Nicholas Davies. Epstein was introduced to Ben-Menashe as having been pre-approved by leading figures in Israel’s military intelligence directorate, known as Aman.
MintPress recently conducted its own interview with Mr. Ben-Menashe as part of an ongoing investigation on the life and connections of the now-infamous Jeffrey Epstein.
Part of that interview is provided below with relevant commentary, particularly regarding claims related to the relationship between Epstein and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Epstein’s trip to Tel Aviv immediately prior to his first arrest, and the reasons for Israeli military intelligence’s interest in orchestrating and financing a major sexual blackmail operation targeting top U.S. politicians.
“Israel Requested that Epstein Target Clinton”
MintPress News first asked Ben-Menashe about Robert Maxwell, a known asset and operative for Israeli intelligence, having recruited Jeffrey Epstein. Ben-Menashe =confirmed this to MintPress and also noted that, after their initial meeting, Epstein was frequently present in Maxwell’s office in London.
During the 1980s, as MintPress previously reported, Epstein claimed to have been an intelligence operative and so-called “bounty hunter” in the world of shadow finance. During this time, he was known to have developed close relationships with several British arms dealers, particularly Sir Douglas Leese. Thus, Epstein appeared to frequently be traveling between the Middle East and London, which is also supported by Epstein’s now-infamous Austrian passport which he was believed to have carried during this period of time.
Ben-Menashe told MintPress that he had not only met Epstein after Epstein had been recently recruited by Israeli military intelligence, but had seen him on several occasions thereafter as Epstein “used to be in [Robert Maxwell’s] office
quite often” and would arrive there between trips to and from Israel.
In addition, Ben-Menashe revealed his understanding of why Epstein was eventually shepherded into acting as a professional sexual blackmailer on behalf of Israeli military intelligence. Per Ben-Menashe, there were concerns among Israeli intelligence figures that, following the Reagan Era, a new president would push for Israel to make peace with the Palestinians, something those officials sought to avoid by any means necessary.
ABM | Here’s the thing… Mr. Carter… as in President Carter… the Israelis feared that Mr. Clinton, when he was campaigning for President, will be a repeat of Mr. Carter. He wanted to press them for peace with the Palestinians and all that stuff. They feared… Clinton wasn’t that… but they feared he was that… And I think Mr. Epstein was sent early on to catch up with President Clinton.
MintPress News (MPN) | Well, that’s interesting because the first year Clinton was in office, Epstein was already attending donor dinners at the White House and making White House visits as well.
ABM | Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. I believe his biggest client was Mr. Clinton catch, or catch, or whatever, and he had a few other congressmen and what not but Clinton was, was his biggest catch.
Thus, Ben-Menashe argues, when Bill Clinton’s candidacy in the 1992 U.S. Presidential election became clear, efforts were made to target him via sexual blackmail and Jeffrey Epstein was chosen for that purpose. Bill Clinton was eventually blackmailed by the state of Israel and his administration was also targeted by Israeli espionage as part of the “Mega” spy scandal. Epstein’s involvement in the Clinton administration and his visits to the White House date back to Clinton’s first year in office. More information on the Epstein-Clinton relationship can be found in this MintPress report.
In addition, MintPress also asked Ben-Menashe if he was aware of Ghislaine Maxwell being directly involved with her father’s intelligence-related activities prior to his death in 1991. Ben-Menashe noted that Ghislaine accompanied her father so frequently, including on a now-infamous 1989 party on Maxwell’s yacht where Donald Trump and several key figures in the PROMIS software scandal were in attendance, that she was involved in his intelligence-related activities to some extent. However, he stopped short of saying how involved she was or what she has specifically been involved in prior to her father’s death.
When did Epstein really meet Ehud Barak?
One of the more controversial ties between Epstein and powerful politicians is that between Epstein and former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Barak has claimed to have only met Epstein in 2002 and, from that point on, their relationship was very public, with Barak frequently visiting and even spending the night at residences owned by Epstein, including apartments where he housed the underage girls that he exploited. Barak also visited Epstein’s now-infamous island and recruited him to help fund the Israeli intelligence-connected company, Carbyne911.
However, there appear to be indications that Epstein and Barak may have met much earlier than Barak has since claimed. Given that Ben-Menashe claimed to have learned of Epstein’s recruitment by Israeli military intelligence in the 1980s, MintPress asked if one of the people involved in his recruitment was Ehud Barak. Barak served as head of Israel’s military intelligence directorate, Aman, from April 1983 to January 1986.
Ben-Menashe could not recall the exact year when he first became aware of Epstein’s recruitment by Israeli military intelligence but stated that it was “most likely” during Ehud Barak’s tenure as the head of Aman. Yet, even if Epstein’s recruitment did not take place while Barak headed Aman, it is highly likely — per Ben-Menashe — that Epstein had met Barak during this time because “Robert Maxwell became buddies with Ehud Barak…and he [Robert Maxwell] probably introduced them, the young man [Epstein] to Mr. Barak” if the two were not already acquainted.
Since the Epstein scandal broke, Ehud Barak has insisted that he did not meet Epstein until the year 2002 and claimed that the two had been introduced by former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres. Ben-Menashe dismissed the possibility that this claim was true, emphatically stating that he was “sure they had met before” and that he did not believe that their first meeting was in 2002.
Epstein’s 2008 Trip to Tel Aviv
Just a few months before he was sentenced to prison for the first time in June 2008, Jeffrey Epstein had made a sudden visit to the Israeli capital of Tel Aviv. In April of that year, the Palm Beach Daily News reported that Epstein was staying at the Tel Aviv Hilton and quoted an Epstein spokesman as saying that he was “spending Passover, meeting with Israeli research scientists, and taking a tour of military bases.”
Sometime prior to Epstein’s sentencing on June 30 of that year, Alexander Acosta –then-U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida– signed off on a lenient sentence for Epstein who was charged with soliciting sex from a minor. That legal arrangement has since been nicknamed the “sweetheart deal.” Acosta later told Trump transition officials prior to his nomination for Secretary of Labor that his decision to approve the “sweetheart deal” came after he had been told to back off in the Epstein case because Epstein “belonged to intelligence.”
Though Acosta did not specify from whom he had received this information, former CIA agent Phil Giraldi has made a convincing case that they originated from Epstein’s then-lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a close associate of Epstein with ties to high-ranking Israeli politicians, and Barry Krischer, then-Florida State Attorney for Palm Beach who recently received an award from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for his “outstanding contribution to the legal profession and to the community at large.”
As detailed in a previous MintPress report on Epstein’s ties to Israel published this past August, the ADL’s long-time top funders have close ties to Epstein and his sexual blackmail network, particularly the Bronfman family of Seagrams fame.
Ben-Menashe told MintPress that Epstein’s 2008 Tel Aviv visit was likely “blowing smoke” and involved Epstein “trying to make himself important maybe not to get arrested” and “hoping that the Israelis would help him.” He then added that “At the time they probably did” help Epstein, but added that “the second time around [i.e. 2019], well…it would be a harder sell.”
Feature photo | A graphic shows Ari Ben-Menashe, left, and Jeffery Epstein, right. Credit | Claudio Cabrera