Edward Jay Epstein: Three Days in May

Edward Jay Epstein is the author of notable books including several that are derived in one way or another from his relationship with the late, legendary CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton. He is also the author of the short, new e-book on l’affaire DSK that has just been published.

In today’s New York Times, Joe Nocera devotes a good column to the book under the headline “Power, sex, and conspiracy.” Any book with those ingredients featured prominently enough to inspire a New York Times headline ought to be of interest to Power Line readers. We invited Mr. Epstein to write something that would allow us to draw the book to your attention, and he has kindly responded. Mr. Epstein writes:

What interested me in writing “Three Days In May: Sex, Surveillance and DSK” is the political implications in the new age of surveillance.

There was a time not long ago when surveillance often required a physical presence. Images of members of a surveillance team breaking into a home to plant a microphone, sitting in a parked van with earphones, climbing a telephone pole to install a tap, and following a man to a meeting place were burnished in the popular imagination by movies such as The Conversation, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and The Lives of Others.

Now, however, with the proliferation of smart phones, credit cards, EZ Passes, GPS trackers, e-mails, text messages, and closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, such surveillance can be done from a remote location. The data concerning where we are, what we are searching for, what bills we are paying and what we are texting are routed through cyberspace via a ganglia of Internet service providers, or ISPs, by global telecommunications companies.

Once an intelligence service acquires the ability to hack into the ganglia, it only needs to determine the phone number of a target to follow his or her every move, past and present, in cyberspace. Nor is it an insurmountable challenge for even a second-rate intelligence service, if it is well funded, to obtain this capacity.

In this book, I show that this surveillance allowed French intelligence to track Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), the head of the IMF and likely candidate against President Sarkozy for the French Presidency, on his fateful trip to Washington and New York last May. That data also allowed it to shape the sexual liaison that occurred at the Sofitel Hotel into a scandal that brought about his downfall.

It also allowed me to reconstruct the event itself at the Sofitel. The CCTV coverage, cell phone records, and hotel key swipe cards allowed me to fill in a great deal of what happened between 12:05-6 PM on May 14, when two people entered DSK’s room, and 1:30 pm, when the police were called in. DSK’s downfall was not merely a tragedy for him — a politician who had flown too close to the sun — but had a direct bearing on the unfolding of the Euro crises as well as French politics.

Among Mr. Epstein’s books available in digital formats are Three Days In May: Sex, Surveillance and DSK, the one he writes about above, as well as Legend: The Secret World of Lee Harvey Oswald, James Jesus Angleton: Was He Right? and Armand Hammer: The Darker Side.

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