Secretive former federal investigator Liam Channing once held a security clearance that permitted his access to the nation’s most fortified secrets. Now a consultant in high-profile federal investigations, Mr. Channing has a legitimate reason for hiding his past. He has made enemies at the upper echelons of the federal government. Kill him if they could, his enemies fear Liam for the incriminating information he holds against them—information in the form of files prepositioned to launch into the airwaves, onto the Internet, and across the pages of magazines and newspapers around the world should one hair of Liam’s head be threatened by those who have reason to worry.
But he also has powerful friends in the intelligence community and in law enforcement, having maintained connections that afford him continued access to the classified side of the federal government.
Today, Intelligence officials regularly retain him as a handsomely paid consultant. His income has become sizeable enough to provide him with beefed-up personal security, a hidden vault of government secrets, a charitable foundation, and fortress-like homes in the Ozarks and in the desert.
We caught up with Liam Channing at one of his favorite places to stay—the Kansas City Club.
TVD: “A magazine recently quoted someone who said your greatest strength has been your investigative prowess.”
CHANNING: “I have always considered it a career asset.”
TVD: “It said when you were an FBI agent your ability to sort through facts and uncover the truth became legendary.”
CHANNING: “Early on, I became involved in several quiet FBI success stories. But I also survived several not-so-successful episodes.”
TVD: “What were they?”
CHANNING: “The odious Ruby Ridge standoff for one. Then there was the abhorrent Waco conflagration. In the former, I was a reluctant participant. In the later, only an advisor—they took none of my advice. Neither did they listen the day I assured them Richard Jewell was incapable of setting off a bomb at the Atlanta Olympics. For political reasons, headquarters insisted they had their man. Sadly, it would be nine years until Eric Rudolph would plead guilty to perpetrating that notorious crime.”
TVD: “Why did you leave the Justice Department?"
CHANNING: “I was forced into early retirement from the Justice Department after I helped uncover the wiretapping scandal of 2003.”
TVD: “That sounds like a good thing. Why were you forced to retire?”
CHANNING: “The specter of politics often overshadows all that is right and truthful. As you can imagine, what followed was a mess of legal and constitutional wrangling that spilled out onto the pages of public perception. Beyond that, the matter exposed a major rift within the Department of Justice, as well as the highest levels of the intelligence community.”
TVD: “What kind of rift?”
CHANNING: “Our federal government has been torn in two. The rift continues as we speak. It is a division on principal. At the time, the lion’s share of senior, unelected bureaucrats thriving in Washington fell on the side of the presidential administration, which ardently defended its right to order the NSA to covertly intercept the calls and e-mails of US citizens. The rest of us, including my closest associates, the deputy attorney general, and the FBI director at the time, stood their ground in favor of upholding the law, in deference to the Constitution and its system of checks and balances. Although my official career at Justice has ended, I seem to have retired comfortably.”
TVD: “How did you manage that?”
CHANNING “For one, I left with the admiration and respect of the leaders of the rule-of-law faction. More importantly, I left holding information that could destroy the careers of those on the other side.”