DC DISPATCH - A few months ago, a close confidante told me about a rumor originating from a high-profile Washington lawyer who does business in the Middle East. We’ll call the lawyer “Dershowitz.” As a former counsel to DOD, he had been telling folks that I was, uh, a spy for the People's Republic of China.
For reasons I’ll spell out in a bit, I’ve heard these rumors before. I was not flattered, nor did I find them funny. In fact, I was insulted and infuriated. So, I’ll now set the record straight and blow my cover so that no nation, “cut out,” or asset will ever have a shred of interest about approaching me with any new Mission Impossible. Maybe this will deter a series of perplexing events possibly related -- the odd requests for random meetings by anonymous people I haven't met, a random telex about my maternal grandfather (a former International Pharmeceutical Execuitve) recently sent as part of the Wikileaks dump of diplomatic cables. I'm stoic, yet cautiously optimistic.
These days, my phone is full of court documents; indictments, show cause orders, and motions to exclude evidence – the types of things that lawyers loathe the most. These are accompanied by loads of snaps of my family, flowers, plants, and cats. My “killer instinct” is directed at vermicomposting, weeding, and pruning. If by chance my communications were to be breached, the perp would be disappointed by their dull content.
As a native Washingtonian, I know our town is heavily populated with trolls, troglodytes, and arthropods. Working in the media, as I do, a thick skin is in order. When in 2018 I took a public stand against Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court, I knew blowback and waves of insults surely would follow. And follow they did.
In fact, a high school friend of Brett -- Mark Judge -- went so far as to post on the web a screed styled “The Bizarre Afterlife of a Christine Blasey Ford Booster.” As if it would impact my credibility or scare me. It didn't. When stupidity is considered patriotic, it is unsafe to be intelligent. I celebrate Mr. Judge’s right to be critical of me as long as it doesn’t involve committing a tort. And how very DC it is to ratchet up discourse to the land of ad hominem. Along with other high school classmates from Holton Arms, I can safely report your efforts had zero impact on our feelings about Brett Kavanaugh’s own misconduct. It was alarming then, and we think no differently today.
That said, Judge, I’ve never met you. Even in the circus world of spycraft, there can come a time when bygones are bygones. Looking at it today, I'd welcome an opportunity to meet and discuss our differences. We might just learn something from each other. After all, post destruction there’s an opportunity for new knowledge and rebirth.
Where Judge was correct was in observing that my husband Tony, a top intelligence officer for the CIA, took his own life in 2020. This lurid tragedy led to a brief firestorm of coverage in a few British tabloids.
I loved the Tony I thought I knew, a patriotic genius motivated by a duty to keep his country safe while at the same time leaving me wonderful love letters. A public servant who by bloodline had connections to Chang Kai Shek seemed perfect for me, a lady whose family of prominent executives in international affairs and business vs diplomats had political connections to Chang Kai Shek as well. And anyone can admire an academic virtuoso whose legacy lives on in Boston for the famous prank of somehow placing a cop car atop the Dome at MIT.
It has taken a lot of therapy to come to terms with his passing. I realized that I didn't know him at all. This was Tony’s choice, his alone. I hope his soul is at peace and I have moved on with my life with gratitude.
Since the suicide, I’ve come to realize why spies should only marry each other, not us normies. Not only can they discuss the dark side of their profession, but they can do so knowing their spouse has clearance. They can share classified info while talking freely about all the people they regularly deceive to keep our country safe.
But that wasn’t our relationship. I was a civilian. And there is an inherent conflict whenever a journalist marries a spy. It’s a precarious position for any spook. For good reasons, the “agency” frowns upon it. Pillow talk between journalist and spy has led to serious criminal espionage cases. And though Tony and I had my share of such talk, I never spread one iota of it publicly. We spoke to each other via books and recommendations to one another about why we should read them. It was our love language.
Members of the media are often accused of being assets for the CIA. The senseless murder of Daniel Pearl comes to mind. And if, say, writing an article about signals intelligence based on public info suffices, I am guilty. But I love my country, and everything for which it stands: freedom of religion, freedom of the press, the Bill of Rights, and limitations on government power when it comes to both criminal and civil rights.
Not only did I win the lottery by being born here, but every American who reads this did so as well. It has never crossed my mind ever to betray the United States.
Simply put: I am not a ninja, secret double, nor triple agent. I am not, nor have I ever been, a spy for the People's Republic of China. At no time have I ever received a penny from any Chinese national, company, cut out, or entity. I loathe most everything about Xi Jinping, from his Hong Kong crackdowns to his mishandling of the coronavirus, his saber rattling, his artificial devaluation of the RMB, his modernizing the PLA into a formidable force, his threatening of Taiwan to the point it must live in constant fear, his siding with Putin in sponsoring Iran and the invasion of Ukraine, and even his addiction to sending autonomous devices over our air space.
Yes, I attended university in China. I did so partly due to the influence of DC power broker Anna Chennault, a close family friend, and my desire to learn about business. Living in an emerging market, one where I could witness an industrial economy evolve, represented the opportunity of a lifetime. It was a long time ago, from 2007 to 2009. And I have always enjoyed other countries, cultures, and people.
Unfortunately, “Dershowitz” didn’t know any of this and has told others that my phone was tapped by the NSA. I might venture that the NSA did so in the first 30 days after Tony’s suicide, courtesy of a FISA warrant. Fortunately, I am the type of person who can take a blow and not have it become a permanent deformity.
If by some miracle a court would extend a warrant to monitor my communications another 30 days due to the high rank of my husband, I’d have no problem with that. But without inculpatory evidence, no FISA Court would extend a warrant any further. Doing so would violate my civil rights — one of the many things that I love about this country. And if for some reason I ever mentioned any theories about what prompted my Tony's suicide based on any pillow talk we had, that info has aged out of any value. I haven’t been to China since 2009, and I will never return again.
Dersh, keep your spooky actions at a distance, please. I normally avoid blowhards, but you’ve crossed the line into defamation. As a lawyer, you know the consequences. Still, it is my hope that even if I were an asset you’d know me well enough to know the states – the UK and Israel – that in any universe I would consider assisting in diplomacy. Tying me to China demonstrates the malicious nature of your banter, a key element in proving defamation of a public figure. Watch it, buddy.
(Sara Corcoran is publisher of the National Courts Monitor and writes for CityWatch, Daily Koz, and other news outlets.)