Nicholas Sarkozy must be kicking himself. Sometimes a bird in the bush is worth more than a bird in the hand. If only I’d waited… He struck too soon. If only he’d waited until Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) became his main opponent and then created a DSK scandal. The opposition would not have had time to regroup. DSK was careless, creating opportunities for his opponents. Edward Jay Epstein’s new book, Three Days in May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK , makes clear that DSK was being monitored, presumably via his cell phones. A first-rate intelligence organization, says Epstein, can turn on your cell phone and listen to you. At one point a French journalist is given a transcript of a call that DSK made. How was this possible? the journalist asked. The answer given is that by freakish coincidence “DSK’s speaker phone was accidentally left on while his line was somehow connected to a French phone that was legally under surveillance.” Why the speaker phone should matter is not explained.
Such means of surveillance — available to those in power, but not to the rest of us — make those in power more powerful, harder to unseat. However, Epstein’s book also shows the effect of lower-tech new recording devices, especially CCTV recordings, cell phone records, and key-entry logs. They make it harder to lie. DSK’s accuser, Nafissatou Diallo, was lying, no doubt. The district attorney’s office got to “Version 3” of her story before giving up. The discrepancies between what she said happened and the key-entry records reveal her lies beyond doubt. The new recording devices also pull two people into the story who otherwise might have remained out of it: a security guard and the head engineer at the hotel, who went into a private loading-dock area and did a kind of victory dance shortly after 911 was called. The 911 call made the matter public, which effectively destroyed DSK’s chance of elective office. They claim to not remember what they were celebrating. If it had nothing to do with the 911 call, it is exceedingly strange — another freakish coincidence — that it happened at exactly the same time.
Three Days in May is a new kind of investigative journalism in the sense that it is based on detailed electronic records (such as CCTV tapes and key-entry records) that weren’t available until recent years. Stories and movies are often set in remote locations or times to give the story a kind of freshness. Here freshness derives from the information being used. Epstein assembles hundreds or thousands of facts from these records into his story. I was interested to see a kind of power-law distribution of information value, the same thing I see in my self-experimentation: almost all of the facts tell us just a little, a very tiny fraction of them tell us a lot. Although electronic surveillance is usually considered a government tool (“Big Brother is Watching”) Epstein’s book makes a more subtle point. These records make false accusations more difficult to sustain and conspiracies more difficult to carry out without detection — and who does that help? In any case, Three Days in May is a fascinating true crime story — and the criminal is not DSK.
6 Replies to “Three Days in May: Sex, Surveillance, and DSK”
DSK was a key threat to the austerity regime currently ruling (and decimating) Europe. I suspect the order to take him out came from higher up than Sarkozy.
Every couple of months, there’s a story about how police pulled over a car for a burned-out taillight and “happened” to find millions in drugs in the car.
I’ve always assumed those are actually illegal cellphone wiretap/warrantless search cases.
BTW, look for many more of these cases shortly, as the FAA is about to be forced to give all police depts the right to fly quiet, unmanned surveillance drones everywhere, 24/7, without a warrant. Yep, only a few days before your local Chief Billy Bob has his own swarm of the things.
At yesterday’s debate between the French Presidential contenders, Sarkozy was trying to squeeze as much out from the DSK situation for political advantage…
From the Times’ liveblog:
But that high-minded discussion quickly descended into crosstalk and a return to accusations of guilt-by-association that marked the debate’s beginning.
“No lessons from the political party that united behind Dominique Strauss-Kahn,” Mr. Sarkozy said.
Mr. Hollande responded by observing that Mr. Sarkozy had appointed Mr. Strauss-Kahn to the International Monetary Fund.
All the best to set you up, my dear…
Unless you have strong evidence from the book or elsewhere that Sarkozy’s people were surveilling DSK, the first few sentences appear quite careless.
I have not read the book, but I am pretty sure no such evidence is presented in it, having read an in-depth interview with Epstein on the occasion of its publication.
Seth: A transcript of a phone call is not evidence of surveillance?
was the transcript found in Sarkozy’s pockets? His home? His office?
Seth: Feel free to ignore my Sarkozy speculation.
This thread seems long dead but I just read the blog entry. You say ‘At one point a French journalist is given a transcript of a call that DSK made. How was this possible? the journalist asked. The answer given is that by freakish coincidence “DSK’s speaker phone was accidentally left on while his line was somehow connected to a French phone that was legally under surveillance.” Why the speaker phone should matter is not explained.’
Maybe I’m missing something but the possible explanation that jumps immediately to mind is that DSK left his speakerphone on, connected to a phone under surveillance, while he made a call on his cell phone or on another phone. This would of course let the surveillers (if that’s a word) hear DSK’s end of the conversation, or, if his other phone was also on speaker, would let them hear the whole thing.
That part seems easy enough and quite plausible; for instance, I use my office phone for some calls and my cell phone for others (even when I’m in my office) so if I somehow were to leave my speakerphone on, this could happen to me.
Or at least, it could happen to me if my speakerphone were connected to another phone that was under surveillance. But that’s the part that seems wildly improbable. For this to have happened, DSK _and_ the party on the other line would have to have _both_ failed to hang up. Or at least I think that’s the case. Maybe it isn’t; maybe if the person on the other end hung up, but DSK didn’t the connection would still exist? If so then this is at least plausible: if DSK fails to hang up his phone 1% of the time, and the person on the other end is the same, then this is the difference between a 1% chance and a 0.01% chance.
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