History Channel Podcast About CIA Spy Aldrich Ames Features My Work; New Spy Book By Friends Worth Reading

Push play to hear this 21 minute podcast. You don’t need to subscribe. It is free. 


Before I wrote, CRAZY: A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness, I authored three books about spies. The History channel recently released a podcast about the CIA traitor Aldrich Ames based, in part, on a long interview with me.

My account about Ames is unique because I was able to interview him without any government censors being present – thanks to a misstep by federal prosecutors.

Early on, prosecutors declared that no journalists would be allowed to speak to Ames without prior FBI and CIA clearance. They informed the judge hearing his case, the FBI, the CIA, and defense attorneys for Ames. But they failed to tell the jailers where he was being held. When I showed up, I was allowed inside and spent 11 days interviewing him before prosecutors discovered it.

From the jail, I traveled to Moscow where I spoke to his KGB “handlers” and then back to the states where the CIA mole hunting team, that had captured him, spoke with me. The result: Confessions of a Spy: The Real Story of Aldrich Ames, published in 1997, is considered the definitive account of the case.

A funny story about the History channel podcast.Click to continue…

Fairfax Va. Families Worried About Fate Of Small But Important Recovery Program

My Reasons I want CRSP to remain open:

It helps me regulate my emotions.

It’s structural and continuance.

Its grouping and socialization structure

improves my mental health.

Its classes help my physical health.

— written appeal from client to Fairfax Officials

Dear Pete,

For the third time in less than four years,  an excellent service here in Fairfax County called the CRSP, Community Readiness and Support Program, is being threatened with “REALIGNMENT” from public health provider, the CSB, to an outside mental health contractor.

CRSP is a day support program that offers psycho-educational, pre-vocational and group treatment methods for adults with serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. The program “focuses upon assisting the consumer to improve living skills needed for successful community living.”

The Fairfax County Falls Church Community Services Board  (CSB) is considering transferring the services that CRSP provides clients to an outside mental health service provider – PRS (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services.) 

In the past CRSP clients and their families succeeded in stopping such a move. In 2015, CRSP Clients and parents convinced the CSB to maintain CRSP, but two years later, CSB executives tried again.

CSB would not answer any questions asked by clients and family members, but stated it was a budget issue.  Upon research, the advocates for CRSP, which included the Northern Va Chapter of  NAMI, found that the program would cost more with less services at PRS.

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Seriously Ill Mother Declared “Not Restorable” By State Psychiatrist In Horrific Murder Trial. Is That Possible?

(2-20-20)  This story from the Washington Post raises questions about criminal justice and serious mental illness. Is it possible, as a state psychiatrist argues, that someone is so ill that he/she can never meet the court’s standards for restoration?  
Catherine Hoggle, Jacob Hoggle and Sarah Hoggle, before the children went missing in September 2014. (Montgomery County Police)
Catherine Hoggle, Jacob Hoggle and Sarah Hoggle, before the children went missing in September 2014. (Montgomery County Police)

For five years, as a criminal case against his former girlfriend Catherine Hoggle has held fairly steady, Troy Turner’s emotions have swung up and down.

They started with hope: He’d find the couple’s two children, Jacob, 2, and Sarah, 3, who’d gone missing after being under Hoggle’s care. That gave way to deep frustration: Hoggle wouldn’t say what happened to them, even as she was locked in a Maryland jail and then transferred to a state mental hospital. Then Turner came to a terrible conclusion: Hoggle had killed the children and wouldn’t tell anyone where their bodies were.

On Tuesday — while appearing before a judge who over the next few weeks will weigh whether to dismiss murder charges against Hoggle in the case — Turner got a chance to speak in court.

Hoggle sat just 15 feet away.

“I’ve heard people refer to it as a mystery. There is no mystery. Catherine planned, carried out a plan, and killed my children,” Turner said, his voice choking. “Right now, the person who murdered them, I’m looking at her.”

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Attorney General Barr Puts Partisan Politics Above Common Sense In Naming Crime Commission

Photo courtesy of ABC News

(2-17-20) I was surprised late last month by Attorney General William Barr‘s choices for a presidential crime commission created to study how our criminal justice system interacts with Americans who are homelessness and have a mental illness. I only recognized one name on the list. This was BEFORE the recent criticism Barr has faced because of his decision to get involved in the Roger Stone case. I decided to check out the backgrounds of his selections. Here is what I discovered.

President Donald Trump issued an executive order late last month creating the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice after repeatedly calling for a crackdown on homelessness and linking Americans with mental illnesses to violence.

While the President has an opportunity to use the commission to make much needed reforms, none of the 18 officials whom Barr selected work in cities with the largest homeless populations – San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York City. Together those five account for more than 150,000 of the 564,708 homeless Americans. At least forty-five percent are believed to have a mental illness.

Instead, Barr chose police chiefs, sheriffs, and others in law enforcement from smaller jurisdictions with fewer homeless, such as Wichita, Kansas; Pinellas County, Florida; McKinney, Texas; and Shelby County, Alabama. While many of Barr’s choices have impressive law enforcement backgrounds, they come from communities that account for a combined total of less than 23,000 homeless residents. Los Angeles alone has 59,000. South Dakota counted about one thousand homeless residents in the entire state, yet its secretary of public safety was chosen by Barr.

Even more troubling, Barr’s handpicked appointees are overwhelmingly from red states and counties that voted for Trump in 2016, while the snubbed West Coast cities and New York City lean Democratic and have been frequently lambasted as “liberal” by Trump.

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Speaker Was Suicidal But Found Healing, Hope, and Love At A Clubhouse

A two minute testimonial from a recent Hope Clubhouse member (not the woman mentioned in this blog.)

(1-14-20) From My Files Friday: I’m a big fan of clubhouses and when I gave a keynote nine years ago at a fundraiser for Hope House in Fort Myers, Florida,  I heard an inspiring message worth re- retelling. (I will be speaking March 8th at the Key Clubhouse in Miami.)

 How A Clubhouse Changed My Life

First posted 10-24-11

The young woman giving her testimony had excelled in high school and gone to college with high expectations – only to have a mental break.  Diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, she became so ill that she was forced to drop out. At one point, she felt suicidal.

When she called the local police during a manic episode, rather than getting help, she got into an argument and ended up being arrested. She was jailed overnight, as an officer told her, “to be taught a lesson.”

That experience — at the hands of unsympathetic and poorly trained sheriff’s deputies — resulted in her developing PTSD. She was in such anguish that she simply wanted to give up —  until her parents got her to visit the HOPE CLUBHOUSE in Fort Myers, Florida.

“The HOPE CLUBHOUSE,” she said. “Saved my life.”

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Trump’s Budget And Vision For Mental Health Clearly Influenced By Treatment Advocacy Center

(2-11-20) President Donald J. Trump has proposed a record $4.8 trillion budget for the 2021 fiscal year and the Washington Post has published an Op Ed by Joe Grogan, assistant to the president and director of the Domestic Policy Council, outlining the administration’s mental health agenda.

I don’t like writing about politics on this blog because my interest is solely in mental health, not partisanship. But I found this editorial interesting, in part, because it reflects the thinking of D. J. Jaffe, Dr. E. Fuller Torrey, John Snook, executive director of the Treatment Advocacy Center,  and HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, as enumerated at a recent White House summit.  You can watch presentations at the summit by Jaffe, Snook, and McCance-Katz by clicking on their name. Once the Democrats choose a final candidate, I will post that individual’s mental health platform.

A community garden grows outside a homeless encampment in Oakland, Calif., last month. (Philip Pacheco/AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump is exceptionally focused on fighting for Americans who can’t fight for themselves and confronting problems other administrations, Democratic and Republican, have ignored. This is particularly true for Americans who suffer from addiction and serious mental disorders. In this year’s budget, President Trump is proposing the boldest reform in decades for the millions of Americans who live with serious mental illness.

This administration has already led the way on combating the drug addiction crisis. President Trump directed the declaration of an opioid public health emergency in 2017 and took action to confront the driving forces behind the crisis. Last week, the National Center for Health Statistics reported a decline in drug overdose deaths for the first time in 28 years. Life expectancy rose for the first time in four years.

Now, we must end the disgraceful way Americans with serious mental illness are treated. They are not receiving the care they desperately need. In 2018, 47 million people experienced some form of mental illness. More than 11 million of these Americans lived with mental illness of such severity that it impaired their ability to carry out normal life functions. And nearly 4 million Americans received no treatment at all. This is unacceptable.

In the 1950s, there were more than 550,000 state psychiatric hospital beds in the United States. By 2016, this number had dropped to 37,679. Instead of receiving care, the sick are locked behind bars, often after encounters with police officers ill equipped to manage these encounters effectively. There are more than 392,000 incarcerated individuals with serious mental illness. That means there are 10 times more individuals with serious mental illnesses in prison beds than in state psychiatric hospital beds.

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