- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Heart of a soldier

It’s the hope of those who knew and worked alongside Rick Rescorla that the former security chief of Morgan Stanley be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Come to think of it, it’s difficult to imagine where Morgan Stanley might be today had Mr. Rescorla not safely evacuated the financial giant’s 2,700 men and women from the South Tower of the World Trade Center — only to perish himself when, heading in one last time, the New York skyscraper came crashing down.

Tomorrow evening, at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, top officials of Morgan Stanley will join Mr. Rescorla’s widow, Susan, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James B. Stewart — who recounts Mr. Rescorla’s heroism from the Vietnam War to September 11 in the book “Heart of a Soldier” — in recognizing the Rick Rescorla Foundation, which promotes everything from patriotism to a scholarship fund for children of fallen members of the armed forces.

Sean Patrick Kemple, a financial adviser in Morgan Stanley’s Alexandria office, had worked in the South Tower from 1996 to 2000. During those years, he tells Inside the Beltway, Mr. Rescorla “was drilling the heck out of us.”

“The fire alarms seemed to be going off day after day, month after month,” he says. “I vividly remember yelling for someone to shut the darn thing off, as we were trading in the midst of the stock market bubble. Rescorla timed the drills and was very insistent that everyone participate.”

And for good reason. Mr. Rescorla had issued a report just prior to the 1993 terrorist bombing at the World Trade Center that the building complex was vulnerable. Then came the morning of September 11, when Mr. Rescorla let it be known that he wasn’t conducting another one of his drills.

“He caught everyone’s attention by threatening to pull his pants down,” Mr. Kemple was told by colleagues working in the doomed building. “Then he said please exit the building at a slow and calm pace …

“At one point, he was on the 10th floor and [Morgan Stanley] Executive Vice President John Olson Sr. said, ‘Rick, you need to get out, too.’ Rescorla’s reply was, ‘I will leave once everyone else has exited the building,’ and then proceeded to walk back up the stairs, never to be seen again.”

Mr. Olson will be among those in attendance tomorrow.

Mr. Kemple said Morgan Stanley lost 13 employees September 11, out of the firm’s 3,400 who worked in the World Trade Center complex.

Spooky town

Next time you see a suspicious person standing at a mailbox without any mail in his or her hand, you might consider notifying the FBI.

You’re living in the spy capital of the world, after all.

In her new book out this summer, Washington author and espionage connoisseur Pamela Kessler identifies more than 70 drop sites, rendezvous sites, safe houses and secure government meeting places in and around the nation’s capital where the spy game is played.

She considers George Washington the country’s “original spymaster,” given all the false information he planted in British pouches and the disappearing ink he used to instruct his agents. Since then, as a summary of “Undercover Washington” describes, diplomats, politicians, generals, scholars, secretaries, clerks, mistresses and wives have lied, contrived, connived, denied, cheated, blackmailed, seduced and betrayed — and right under our noses.

Consider these everyday landmarks and neighborhoods:

• The Willard Hotel: It was here that Lafayette C. Baker, the infamous counterespionage officer in the Civil War, was recruited.

• Hotel George: The only Soviet general to survive Stalin’s bloody purge of Red Army officers died a mysterious death here.

• The Exchange: The restaurant where KGB mole Karl Koecher and his wife, Hana, met with a swinging-couples group for exchange of wives and government secrets.

• Au Pied de Cochon: The Georgetown cafe where Soviet defector Vitaly Yurchenko had his last meal before redefecting.

• Mailbox at the corner of 37th and R Streets NW: It was here that Aldrich Ames, who worked for the KGB while serving as the CIA’s chief of Soviet counterintelligence, signaled his handler he was ready to make a drop.

• Foxstone Park: “Doctor Death” Robert Hanssen dropped his last documents here, just before his fellow FBI agents arrested him.

Mrs. Kessler, you might have guessed, is the wife of New York Times best-selling author Ronald Kessler, who has written about the FBI, CIA, Watergate and George W. Bush. Mrs. Kessler lectures frequently on espionage at the National Archives, as well as before such groups as the Association of Former Intelligence Officers, the Old Crows (National Security Agency) and the American Political Science Association.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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