James Bond Wannabe Part of Right-Wing Plot to Tamper with Senator's Phones
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Earlier this week, four young men were arrested for allegedly scamming their way into the New Orleans offices of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and trying to tamper with the office telephones. All four were criminally charged with entering a federal building under false pretenses to commit a felony.
Their defenders hypothesize they were just "checking" on the senator's phone lines to make sure that constituent calls weren't being blocked. Some conservative groups have complained bitterly in recent weeks that they couldn't get through to Landrieu. Certain paranoid elements of the right speculated that Landrieu had "done something" to her phones to make it easier to ignore their calls. (A rather pervasive and simpler technology for that does exist; it's called voicemail.)
James O'Keefe, one of those arrested, is a videographer who became famous for dressing like a pimp in a purported sting in which he quizzed low-level ACORN employees about how to exploit underage girls. In his latest caper, perhaps O'Keefe was interested in exposing Landrieu's allegedly scandalous telephone system. But if that's all he and his comrades were after, why did they recruit Stan Dai, a "freelance consultant" with ties to the intelligence community, to aid in their quest?
The circumstances of Dai's arrest are difficult to square any theory that the men were just checking the protocols of Landrieu's phone system. A federal law enforcement official told the Associated Press that one of the four suspects was arrested a few blocks away in a car with "a listening device that could pick up transmissions." Another anonymous official told MSNBC that the man in the car was Stan Dai. It's unclear why the listening device wasn't mentioned in the affidavit. The U.S. Attorney's office for the Eastern District of Louisiana declined my request for further comment.
In 2008, Dai served as associate director of the Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence at Trinity Washington University. The ICCAE is funded by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and charged with recruiting the next generation of spooks. A university official assured Laura Rozen of Politico that Dai was a civilian whose job with the university ended in 2008 when the grant money ran out.
Last June, Dai was a featured speaker on torture and terrorism at a "CIA Day" for students in the Junior Statesmen of America's summer school. The mission of the Junior Statesmen, according to the organization's Web site, "is to strengthen American democracy by educating and preparing high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society." The students visited Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Langley, Va., and then returned to Georgetown for a series of lectures.
According to program notes for the CIA-a-Palooza, Dai also served as an operations officer for a Department of Defense irregular warfare fellowship program before he joined the ICCAE program at Trinity. I called the Pentagon to confirm that Dai had worked in this capacity, but the spokesman told me there was no way to answer that question without knowing which irregular warfare fellowship program Dai purportedly worked for. (Who knew there were so many?)
Irregular warfare is an umbrella term that encompasses everything from counterinsurgency and counterterrorism to military intelligence. If conventional warfare is violence between uniformed armies on the battlefield, irregular warfare is almost a catchall term for everything else. Potential adversaries include guerrilla fighters, as well as international criminal and terrorist organizations. (A classic example of irregular warfare was when CIA operatives recruited Hmong tribesmen to fight alongside Americans in the Vietnam War.) In recent years, there has been an uptick in interest in irregular warfare in various branches of the U.S. military. The CIA's Special Operations Division (SAD) is often regarded as the preeminent practitioner of irregular warfare.