Diners Club: Don't Dare Spy Without It
Last month, Italian judges grabbed world headlines by issuing arrest warrants for 19 alleged CIA officers suspected of kidnapping an Islamic militant from the streets of Milan and spiriting him to Egypt. Our colleagues at Italy's L'Espresso weekly gave Whispers a peek at the names, passport numbers, and other identifying data on the fugitive spies. Now, naming CIA operatives may be against the law here (though most, if not all, of the names appear to be aliases). Still, what seemed most striking about the group was not their names but their credit cards, on which they charged over $150,000 for fancy meals and rooms at some of Milan's finest ristoranti and hotels. Among them, the U.S. spies held a total of 10 Visa cards (no surprise there) but no MasterCards and, strangely, six Diners Club cards. Although Diners Club boasts of being the original charge card (its debut, with much fanfare, was way back in 1950), the ailing brand now claims less than 1 percent of the U.S. market.
So why do the CIA' s spooks prefer Diners Club? Do they get bonus points? Free eavesdropping gear? The CIA and Diners Club aren't commenting, but CIA veterans, past and present, say it's just a coincidence. "No one pushes Diners Club for official cover," discloses one former top spy. Maybe it's the company's motto: "Do you have the key that opens doors around the world?"
An Al Qaeda Man Gets His Due
The trial for Mounir el-Motassadeq, the first man convicted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, ended Friday in Hamburg with a guilty verdict and a seven-year sentence for the charge of belonging to a terrorist organization. Despite complaints that the U.S. Department of Justice did not cooperate enough to get a tougher sentence, the verdict "is quite acceptable," says coprosecutor Andreas Schulz, the Berlin-based attorney who represented the victims' families during the trial. "It's good to have Motassadeq back in jail." As police entered the courtroom to take him into custody, Motassadeq, whose first conviction was overturned last year, asked to visit the restroom. "His face was pale," Schulz tells Whispers. "It seemed as though he had to throw up."
Selling Just About Anything on eBay
What's hot on eBay? Anything from potential 2008 candidates. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's spokesman Jim Harris says that some constituents are writing the governor's office just to get return letters that they can hawk. The governor jokes, "My barber was going to sell clippings from my haircuts, but my hair is getting so thin that he decided he would just market one hair at a time."
Sorry, No Coverage For Mob Violence
Apparently membership doesn't always have its privileges at the United Nations , where U.N. contract workers in Jalalabad are complaining that they're being refused compensation for belongings that were destroyed or stolen during the city's May riots (sparked by an erroneous report of a Koran being flushed down a toilet). "Generally, in most contracts, compensation is not provided," says a Kabul-based U.N. spokesman, though some agency heads can grant discretionary compensation, like extra leave time. "It's crazy how inconsistent it all is," says one American worker.