Well, I was wrong about nobody caring about yesterday’s post about defense contractor Mitch Wade. The Washington Post ran a story today on the sentencing memo, highlighting the congressional corruption angle.
Wade is being sentenced next month for paying $1.8 million in bribes to former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham in return for government contracts. He’s one of the more interesting, but least known characters in the whole sordid saga.
Wade was once at the top of D.C.’s social strata. As outwardly successful as he seemed, Wade was inwardly troubled. He had classic symptoms of mania — he was equally smart, gracious, and charming as well as ruthless, relentlessly ambitious and control-obssessed.
At MZM Inc., his defense contracting firm, Wade opened mail addressed to his employees, screened employee e-mails and railed about those who received personal messages in their MZM accounts. No detail was too small for him to obsess about and nothing got done without his say-so. As I wrote in my book:
It occurred to more than one employee that Wade had deep psychological problems. His paranoia, his compartmentalization, and his secrecy were all traits that many of his employees recognized from their experience in the intelligence world. Suspicion and paranoia were a job hazard, particularly in the spy-vs-spy of counterintelligence that was MZM’s specialty. Too many much time spent wondering if your colleagues were really your enemies did tend to make people a bit loony.
In a wonderful essay in The New Yorker, writer John Le Carre, a former spy himself, says that madness is endemic to the intelligence world “hard to detect and harder still to eradicate.” The most famous case was James Jesus Angleton, a “deranged CIA inpatient,” in Le Carre’s words, who nearly destroyed the spy agency in his quest for a Soviet mole that he could never find.
There were rumors that Wade was connected to some sort of covert intelligence network, which might explain all the paranoia. I heard stories of secret passageways, safehouses and nasty covert ops, but it was never clear to me that this was anything more than a product of Wade’s massive ego, a fantasy that he was playing at the spy world’s “great game” and not just acting like a shabby huckster.
At the same time, I’ve been thinking about the glowing fitness reports (here and here) Wade received from John McConnell, the director of national intelligence. And I can’t help but wonder whether the attributes in Wade that I think might earn him time on the psychiatrist’s couch might actually be viewed as useful traits in certain corners of the intelligence world.