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May 18, 2007

Larry J. Kolb learns why 'I don't know' is not only the best but the correct answer


I just finished his book "Overworld: The Life and Times of a Reluctant Spy."

It's staggeringly good, completely absorbing, and the best part is that it's all true.

The even better part is that 99% of the story didn't even make it into the book because it's classified: can you imagine what's in that material?

Anyway, the following is from pages 404-405 of the book, in which Kolb's crackerjack attorney, Frank Morris, prepares him for testimony in federal court in a case in which the government of India attempted to have him extradited to stand trial there for alleged misdeeds involving an election to determine the Prime Minister.

"You'll be sworn," Frank went on, "and you'll answer truthfully. But by that I mean truthfully according to the standards of the law, which means pursuant to the rules of evidence." This was the point at which Frank started smiling reassuringly.

"In everyday life," Frank said, "we accept things as true which aren't necessarily true," and just then, Paul Morse, Jr., Frank's blond six-year-old nephew... stuck his head against one of the panes of the closed glass door of the study Frank and I were in and made some faces at us. Frank waved at Paul, I made some faces back at him, and Frank said, "If you were his father, and he asked you if he could eat a chocolate bar that was sitting here on the desk, and you said No, and then you left the room, and when you came back ten minutes later the chocolate wrapper was on the floor, and there was chocolate all over his lips and cheeks, you'd spank his ass. Even if he said he didn't eat the chocolate, you'd spank him. Because, by the standards of everyday life, you'd know he did eat the chocolate. But, according to the standard of the law, you'd only suspect he ate the chocolate, and that is meaningless. For all you'd know, he could've fallen and smashed his mouth on the chocolate bar, knocking the wrapper onto the floor. You weren't a percipient witness to Paul eating the chocolate bar. So, if you were asked in court if Paul ate the chocolate, the only truthful answer you could give would be I don't know."

Damn if Frank wasn't right. And that was a good thing, I was just beginning to realize. I'd testified a few times before under oath, in unrelated matters and under the advice and protection of expensive and what I thought was highly competent counsel. But in light of the new standards of truth, knowledge, beauty, and human frailty Frank was imparting to me now, it was quickly coming clear to me that my previous counsel had let me ramble and speculate shamelessly about things I didn't actually know.

"For example," Frank said to me now, "if you were asked, 'Why did Adnan Khashoggi ask you to help him with this matter?', your answer would be 'I don't know.' Because you don't know. Most of us have enough trouble figuring out why we do things ourselves. There's no way we're competent to know why anybody else does anything. While testifying, don't ever let yourself be tricked into speculating about someone else's state of mind.

"If you happened to be asked, 'Why did Mr. Gandhi go to the restaurant?', your answer could not be 'Because he was hungry' or 'To eat.' Your only truthful answer would be, 'I don't know.' Because, even if Rajiv told you he was hungry, that's just hearsay, and you don't know what went on in his mind that made him go into the restaurant. But, if you were asked, 'Did Mr. Gandhi eat in the restaurant?,' ands you were in the restaurant when he was, and you saw him eat there, your answer would be?"

Finally a part for me. I said, "My answer would be 'Yes.'"

"Correct," said Frank. "Your answer would be 'Yes' and it would not be 'Yes, I saw him eating apple pie in the restaurant.' Because they didn't ask that, and it's not up to you to volunteer anything."

"So, do you understand? Don't speculate about events to which you were not a percipient witness. Don't speculate about another person's state of mind. Don't volunteer anything. Don't ramble. Answer the questions, and only the questions, truthfully. And the only truthful answer you can give to a lot more questions than it might first seem is 'I don't know.'"

The above is as perfect a summary of how to conduct yourself in court as you will ever encounter.

I might note, however, that answering "I don't know" over and over again results in all manner of head-shaking and doubtful expressions on the part of the examining attorney, so much so that you're tempted to try to make yourself look better in her or his eyes by offering more than the above-styled truth.

Oftimes there will be derisory, sarcastic remarks such as "You don't know much, do you?"

Don't take the bait.

Because those looks don't translate to paper and those remarks make the questioning attorney look small when read in context.

Trust me — in the deposition transcript "I don't know" makes perfect sense and is completely appropriate in the context of the ongoing questioning.

One last comment about "Overworld."

The cast of characters is larger than life: Muhammad Ali, Adnan Khashoggi, Presidents Bush 41 and 43, Ronald Reagan, Daniel Ortega, Dan Jenkins, Miles Copeland, William J. Casey, Jan Stephenson (Kolb's first wife), J. Edgar Hoover, Bill Talbert, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, Ben Crenshaw, Rajiv Gandhi, Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Swamiji aka Chandraswami, V.P. Singh, boldface names on and on.

Eye-opening, jaw-droppingly amazing tales of life in a world you and I will most likely never visit.

Just as well — me, I'm fine just reading about it.

I can't speak for you.

May 18, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink


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I never involve myself in these things, but after reading the above comments, I had to comment myself.
I'm not defending Kolb: all his stories could be untrue.
But Richard Hirschfeld was a convicted felon, wanted for multiple crimes, indicted in 1996 for one of them, fled the U.S., and finally killed himself in 2005 in prison while awaiting trial. On a personal level, he'd suffered falling outs with many people he'd associated with, including Muhammad Ali.
Dr. Seriani, if that's who you are, save your "delusional" yammering for someone who can't even read a newspaper. Your writing reads like another one of these lunatics who thinks laws and responsibilities are for "other" people, who throws around the word "patriot" to disguise the misgivings and treachery of your own kind.
And if for no other reason, your own logic makes no sense, considering Hirschfeld himself was the megalomaniac, and a crook of the highest order.

Posted by: Elusive | Apr 12, 2008 9:09:07 PM

Kolb is a wanna-be spy who never was. A megalomaniac who exaggerates beyond the reader's sensibilities. If Kolb meets someone famous in passing, once-- he's one of their best friends for decades; if he gets to speak to someone famous, he's part of their family forever. He plants rumors that Elvis is alive and shows a photo of himself that somewhat resembles Elvis with Muhammad Ali; then performs in Vegas with Elvis acts to make the press release: He's Larry Kolb, not Elvis Presley.
Kolb obviously knows some people who know some people who work for intelligence agencies, but he is not nor ever was an agent. Nor is Muhammad Ali an agent as he suggests. Kolb takes the liberty to besmirch people who likely were good patriots-who have a conscience for the greater good of democratic societies. It is Kolb who is a selfish, money grubbing, star-struck rogue fighting the demons that haunt him from his suppressed childhood years by abusive alcoholic and, as Kolb describes, mostly dysfunctional parents. Kolb who throughout his life says could never be as perfect or as successful or as pleasing to his parents as his preacher brother, the Reverent Jerry Kolb of Kansas City, Missouri.

Never in his life has Kolb held an actual job where you have job responsibilities, an employer or manager/boss holding you accountable, a consistent paycheck. Kolb became a frustrated writer at age 55. He was a dreamer, a wanna-be jet-setter, who tried and did for a short time, live a life of lies, deception, and betrayal, so he says. He admits he embarked on his James Bond adventure limited means, living way over his head, but finally got his cut of shady deals-- diamonds, jewels, arms and jet deals with a bogus swami and a host of known organized crime figures, including white collar money launderers like the Marcoses, Khashoggi, and Bin Laden's money funders, and somehow visited "Danny"-- Sandanista rebel and enemy of the U.S., ousted Nicaraguan dictator Daniel Ortega.

It is indeed ironic. Kolb claims Richard Hirschfeld and Robert Sensi, who he admits are a CIA Agent and CIA Officer (Sensi recruited Hirschfeld) and their close friends, General Wayne Jackson and Dr. Joe Seriani (myself--founder of LensExpress/800CONTACT) are tied to plots involving terroristic groups contributions. He even falsely claims that I testified against Mr. Hirschfeld in federal court, and that Mr. Sensi posed as a priest to tamper with evidence and witnesses in a RICO action prosecuted against Engin Yesil and Yali Golan.)

Yet, Kolb claims to be part of the Adnan Khashoggi family, a personal and business confidant to Adnan. No one in this century or the last has been tied to more shady conspiracies, allegations and indictments for fraud, racketeering, money laundering, including funds for terroristic organizations, Bin Laden and Al Quaeda, than Khashoggi himself whom Kolb calls his step-father-in-law.

A fairly superficial research into Kolb allegations and story-plot uncovers: 1) Hirschfeld and friends are the patriots, recognized and thanked by the U.S. Congressional Foreign Intelligence Committee for exposing the criminal plots to terrorize the Phillipines, steal, hide, and launder illicit money of Imelda and Ferdinan Marcos with their conspirator, Adnan Khashoggi.
2) Kolb is consistently prone to exaggeration or otherwise hallucination; claims Muslim Turk, Engin Yesil, is a billionaire married to "the most beautiful woman on earth and an Indian princess," and that Yesil is not the serious criminal and multiple felon, corrupt drug trafficker that Hirschfeld and friends claim that Yesil isin their suits against Yesil.
3) Kolb was never Muhammad Ali's agent for anything. However, for years, having met each other at John Wayne's house, Richard Hirschfeld was Muhammad's friend, confidant, and agent. Kolb has been resentful, jealous, and injuriously slanderous of Hirschfeld et al., ever since.

Kolb claims he's had to hide from Indian secret service agents for twelve years that he worked for a former President of India and was wrongly accused of treason and sabatage to the Government of India who has extradition warrants out for him. So, for twelve years, he's been locked up in a beach safe-house in South Florida.

Kolb is apparently ready to come out of hiding and latch on to Yesil in South Florida for a few bucks and bones as Yesil's PR guy and trash Hirschfeld and Sensi, Kolb makes up one fictional scenario after another about Hirschfeld et al. to dismiss discredit them and their allegations about Yesil to the authorities and courts.

For example, Kolb claims Hirschfeld et al., arranged for the Ayatollah to keep the 56 American hostages a little while longer so Carter wouldn't get re-elected. This, of course, is delusional.

However, and I must admit the following deeds he attributes to us are true: crediting us for releasing several hostages throughout the years after that, as well as the capture of the Marcoses, and even the capture of Saddam Hussein through hundreds of millions swindled from us by Yesil at LensExpress, then from Yesil by us at Nterra Holdings. Ho Hum. If anyone there is serious about scripting a movie about these subject matters, I think I could convince Bob Sensi who does and always has worked for the United States Government, and General Wayne Jackson, a tremendous patriot, retired from many very important posts for the United States Government, and myself-- just a proud friend of Sensi and Jackson and former associate and friend of the now deceased Richard Hirschfeld--- would be happy to help you to get the facts straight, a very intriguing story indeed, but just keep Kolb at a distance from us otherwise we might be tempted to pull out one of our James Bond spy weapons and neutralize him on the set. he he

Joe Seriani

Posted by: Dr. Joe Seriani | Nov 24, 2007 1:24:12 PM

Presidents Bush 41 and 43 and Ronald Reagan.....but not Bill Clinton? How odd.

Posted by: Peggy | May 18, 2007 8:15:18 PM

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