I've had many strange experiences in my decades of covering intelligence affairs. These run from being invited to KGB HQ in Moscow, Chinese intelligence in Beijing, US intelligence in Virginia, Libyan intelligence in Tripoli, South African intelligence, and even Albanian intelligence in Tirana.
But none was odder than the day I was invited to lunch in New York City with the by now notorious figure Jeffrey Epstein. The golden boy of Manhattan and Palm Beach society now sits in a grim jail cell accused of having sex with underage girls. He's been doing this in plain view since the early 1990's but, until recently, he seemed bullet-proof.
Soon after I walked into the entrance of Epstein's mansion on E 71st Street, said to be the city's largest private home, a butler asked me, 'would you like an intimate massage, sir, by a pretty young girl?' This offer seemed so out of place and weird to me that I swiftly declined.
More important than indelicacy, as an old observer of intelligence affairs, to me this offer reeked of ye old honey trap, a tactic to ensnare and blackmail people that was old when Babylon was young. A discreet room with massage table, lubricants and, no doubt, cameras stood ready off the main lobby.