The joys of wire-tapping
MAY 17, 2002
John Gotti served just under 10 years of his life sentence in the super-maximum-security US Penitentiary at Marion, Illinois. This is the highest security prison in the United States of America and for the former boss of the Gambino crime family, once known as "The Teflon Don", it was the least that the government could do. A lesser prison would have been an insult.
Gotti used his only available means of escape and died last week of cancer. If there is a Hell he will by now be running a (very hot) numbers game in it.
The Mole sent flowers.
Gotti was not a nice man but The Mole remembers him fondly for it was not for The Teflon Don he would never have learned the intricacies of electronic surveillance. A few years ago The Mole was doing a little "holiday work" for the Federal Bureau of Investigation's C-16 department. This involved eavesdropping Gotti in the apartment above the Ravenite Social Club on Mulberry Street in Manhattan.
C-16 was so keen to put Gotti and his goombata behind bars that they tried everything they could think of in terms of bugging. They bugged cars; they bugged streets; they bugged air conditioning vents and even sofas but in the end they got him by getting a microphone inside a video recorder in the hideout that Gotti thought was secure.
He was damned by his own utterances.
Last week The Mole was in conference about how best to bug the Formula 1 team principals meeting at the Heathrow Hilton when news of Gotti's demise came through from the United States.
Suddenly The Mole knew the answer to the problem of how to be a bug on the wall in the team principals' meeting.
The Mole is a big football fan. The World Cup is being played at most inconvenient hours and The Mole realised that the precarious position of Italy meant that one or two of the Formula 1 team bosses would be very unhappy as the meeting clashed with the Italy-Mexico game. People are very passionate about football and The Mole identified this as the weakness he needed. Surely, he argued, they would demand a television set to be placed somewhere in the immediate vicinity so that they could keep an eye on what was happening when one of their colleagues was engaged in a lengthy (and overly-complicated) sermon on some subject or another, as several of them are prone to do.
A "TV repairman" was sent to the Hilton to look at the TVs they keep for use in the conference rooms.
It is a well-established fact that one can watch TV but did you know that a TV can also watch you? And it is rather easier than having a team boss wearing a wire tap, which one wellknown motor racing magazine used to do in the 1970s.
The Mole's hunch proved to be correct but the transcripts were of such little interest that The Mole has since decided that listening in to the meetings is becoming a waste of time. If he had thought about it, The Mole would have realised that the need for a TV would have given him that answer.
The Mole is a great believer in democracy (despite the occasional wire tap) but the problem is that whenever unanimity is needed to pass a new law it is inevitable that those with extreme opinions end up holding the majority to ransom.
It is no secret in F1 circles that one of the biggest problems of the sport at the moment is that the team bosses are completely unable to agree on anything. They do what they think is right for their own organisation but it is rare that anyone takes an altruistic approach and does something for the good of the sport.
The Mole believes that without Bernie Ecclestone the sport would not have got very far. For the last 15 years he has been the schoolmaster who keeps the children behaving well with the occasional rap of a ruler across their knuckles, the tweak of an ear and, in extreme moments, the banging together of heads. Once or twice Bernard has caned individuals who have stepped too far out of line.
What is clearly needed now is a structure which allows the person running the sport to operate independently of the board of directors. He or she should have to go before the board every now and then to justify their actions but trying to run the whole business with a board of directors is impossible if none of them will agree with one another.
In order to be successful in the future Formula 1 needs a proper chief executive who has the power to do as he pleases and only has to answer to the board of directors from time to time. The Mole thinks that Bernie Ecclestone should be chairman and chief executive for as long as he wishes to stay in the job.
The problem, of course, is that none of the current team bosses are going to agree to give up the power they have enshrined in the Concorde Agreement, which ironically is what they need to do. If the sport was run along proper business lines, things would get done. Problems would be solved. Team bosses could run racing teams which is what some of them are good at doing. The businessmen could run the business and the concentration could be on making profit rather than getting nowhere and being frustrated.
The Mole is a humble man. He is not a multimillionaire and so has no answer when the team bosses say: "Who are you? And why should we listen?"
Indeed so. Why should they listen?
The only answer that The Mole can think of is that when team bosses are watching football during important meetings, they might as well be listening to the band playing on the SS Titanic or the fiddles going as Rome is burning.
The Mole has decided to give up wire-tapping because of lack of interest in the intercepts.
But he thinks that there is a lesson in that somewhere.
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