Behind the Bushes
THE REAL DONALD RUMSFELD
DOUG IRELAND, DIRELAND - No man bears greater responsibility for the tragedy of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq than Donald Rumsfeld, yet, though his face and voice are, unfortunately, all too familiar even to the most casual news consumer, most of us have only a rather sanitized conception of who Rumsfeld is, the crucial role he has played at key moments of American history for the last three decades, and what drives him.
Roger Morris has now filled the voids in our understanding of Rumsfeld with a brilliant, lengthy essay that lifts the carpet to reveal Rumsfeld's rise and role, and how he led us into an iniquitous war. Roger is one of our finest chroniclers of contemporary history, aRoger_morris masterful dissector of American politics, and a skilled portraitist of the dark side of American power. As a young man with a Ph.D from Harvard, he was a Foreign Service officer and a member of the Senior Staff of the National Security Council under Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.
Roger Morris resigned from the NSC in protest against the secret invasion of Cambodia in 1970 -- an experience which radicalized him. Since then, he has turned out a series of important, probing books that have contributed mightily to our understanding of our times. . .
Morris's brilliant Rumsfeld dissection -- with the telling title "The Undertaker's Tally" -- is being published by Tom Dispatch in two parts, the first of which has just appeared. . .
RUMSFELD TOOK PART IN INTERROGATION OF PRISONER WHO WAS TORTURED
SALON - Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was personally involved in the late 2002 interrogation of a high-value al-Qaida detainee known in intelligence circles as "the 20th hijacker." He also communicated weekly with the man in charge of the interrogation, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the controversial commander of the Guantánamo Bay detention center.
During the same period, detainee Mohammed al-Kahtani suffered from what Army investigators have called "degrading and abusive" treatment by soldiers who were following the interrogation plan Rumsfeld had approved. Kahtani was forced to stand naked in front of a female interrogator, was accused of being a homosexual, and was forced to wear women's underwear and to perform "dog tricks" on a leash. He received 18-to-20-hour interrogations during 48 of 54 days. . .
In a sworn statement to the inspector general, investigator Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt Schmidt . . . said he concluded that Rumsfeld did not specifically prescribe the more "creative" interrogation methods used on Kahtani. But he added that the open-ended policies Rumsfeld approved, and that the apparent lack of supervision of day-to-day interrogations permitted the abusive conduct to take place.
SUED IN GERMANY FOR ALLEGED WAR CRIMES
RUMSFELD'S PERSONAL SPY RING
ERIC BOEHLERT, SALON - During last fall's feverish ramp up to war with Iraq, the Pentagon created an unusual in-house shop to monitor Saddam Hussein's links with terrorists and his allegedly sprawling arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. With direct access to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's office and the White House, the influential group helped lay out, both to administration officials and to the press, an array of chilling, almost too-good-to-be-true examples of why Saddam posed an immediate threat to America.
Six months later, with controversy mounting over the administration's handling of war intelligence, the small, secretive cell inside the Pentagon is drawing closer scrutiny and may soon be the subject of a congressional inquiry to determine whether it manipulated and politicized key intelligence and botched planning for post-war Iraq.
"The concern is they were in the cherry-picking business," says U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., a member of the House Armed Services Committee. "Cherry-picking half-truths and rumors and only highlighting pieces of information that bolstered the administration's case for war."
The Pentagon's innocuously named Office of Special Plans served as a unique, hand-picked group of hawkish defense officials who worked outside regular intelligence channels. According to the Department of Defense, the group was first created in the aftermath of Sept. 11 to supplement the war on terrorism; it was designed to sift through all the intelligence on terrorist activity, and to focus particularly on various al-Qaida links. By last fall it was focusing almost exclusively on Iraq, and often leaking doomsday findings about Saddam's regime. Those controversial conclusions are now fueling the suspicion the obscure agency, propelled by ideology, manipulated key findings in order to fit the White House's desire to wage war with Iraq.
PERLE, KISSINGER SERVE ON HOLLINGER BOARD
FINANCIAL TIMES - The spectacular crisis at what remains of Lord Black's media empire could lead to an investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. . . Critics claim Lord Black filled the Hollinger board with friends such as Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, and Richard Perle, the US defense adviser with close links to the Bush administration. Tweedy Browne, a minority investor whose allegations prompted the internal investigation, on Monday called Hollinger's board "a disgrace" after it emerged that Lord Black would remain non-executive chairman and had until June to repay the group $7 million in undisclosed fees. "How much money has to leave the company before somebody calls the cops?" said Laura Jereski, a Tweedy analyst.
STEPHANIE KIRCHGAESSNER, FINANCIAL TIMES - Hollinger International is examining investments that were made by Richard Perle, a director on the publisher's board and prominent defense advisor, on behalf of the company. . . That probe, which is being lead by former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Richard Breeden, is wide-ranging and involves close scrutiny of so-called "related-party transactions," or deals in which members of Hollinger's board or executives personally benefited from deals the publisher agreed with other companies.
One transaction that caught the attention of some Hollinger investors was a $2.5 million investment earlier this year in Trireme Partners, a venture-capital company in which Mr. Perle, an independent director, is a managing partner. Mr. Perle has also played a prominent role in the late 1990's and early 2000 in directing investments in other companies through Hollinger Digital, Hollinger's investment arm. Under review is a $14 million investment the company made under Mr. Perle's direction through Hillman Capital, a venture-capital group controlled by Gerald Hillman - who has since become a partner at Trireme and is a member of the U.S. Defense Policy Board, as was Mr. Perle. . .
FORTUNE - Black set his sights on America. He chased after the New York Daily News but lost it to Montreal-born real estate developer Mort Zuckerman. Hollinger did win control of the Chicago Sun-Times for $180 million in 1994. That year Hollinger went public in the U.S. Black recruited dignitaries he'd gotten to know at the Bilderberg meeting, like Kissinger and Perle, to join the board.
NATIONAL ENQUIRER THINKS BUSH IS DRINKING AGAIN
AMERICA: GEORGE BUSH'S BATTERED WIFE
[This hit home as it has long seemed to us that GWB was not only a dry drunk but abusive in his behavior - from blowing up frogs when he was a teenager to blowing up countries as an adult. Further, the unusual scarcity of his daughters from his life suggests that they may not have had a happy childhood with this man]
As a friend of the family I can't sit back and watch you do this to yourself without saying something. Consider this a long distance intervention. Your man is no good. He treats you like crap, lies to you, abuses you, bullies you, exploits you, takes your money. As a friend I want to tell you that you deserve better. You deserve a person that treats you with respect, cares about your welfare, and your children's welfare, but that's not George and it never will be.
Do you tell yourself that he'll stop, or that it won't get worse? He won't ever stop, every insult, injury and death he has caused are a line that once crossed will never be uncrossed. Forget the dream. You will never have the American dream with George. You have to forget about what might have been, what George might have been, and realize that at the end of the day you are what you do, and look at George's track record.
Notice how he's alienated all your friends? Who can blame them, they can't understand why you stay with him when he treats you like shit and embarrasses you in front of everybody. The more his public behavior overshadows yours, The more doubt creeps over them, they wonder if they knew you as well as they thought they did. You seem to have changed - if you condone his behaviour - and your silence can create the impression that you do. . .
Do you even recognise yourself anymore America? He is a drunken, coke-addled loser and he always will be, you should kick him out of your house today before he can destroy any more members of your family, your history, your culture, before he decimates your bank account so irretrievably that China and Saudi Arabia repossess all your stuff. . .
It all comes down to you, America. I know noone likes other people passing comment on their relationships but this is an extreme situation. You are in very real danger, he is hurting you everyday and he is hurting us, your friends as well. But only you can make it stop. We are all rooting for you, although we don't get to talk to you very often anymore, because he cuts us off from you. We are on your side, we will all be over the moon the day you finally kick him out. You know he really should be thrown in jail for the things he has done to you. Him and all of his gangster friends.
Please, please, do it America, you know I am right. If not for yourself then do it for your brothers and sisters and children. Do it before he kills any more of your family or anyone else's. We are all really worried for your welfare.
KATHERINE VAN WORMER, IRISH TIMES - Brain studies reinforce what recovering alcoholics and their counselors have been saying for years; long-term alcohol and other drug use changes the chemistry of the brain These anomalies in brain patterns are associated with a rigidity in thinking. . .
"Dry drunk" is a slang term used by members and supporters of Alcoholics Anonymous and substance abuse counselors to describe the recovering alcoholic who is no longer drinking, one who is dry, but whose thinking is clouded. Such an individual is said to be dry but not truly sober; such an individual tends to go to extremes.
It was when I started noticing the extreme language that colored Mr Bush's speeches that I began t o wonder. First there were the terms - "crusade" and "infinite justice" that were later withdrawn. Next came "evildoers", "axis of evil", and "regime change", terms that have almost become cliches. Something about the polarized thinking and the obsessive repetition reminded me of many of the recovering alcoholics/addicts I had treated.
Over the months, hundreds of people, many of them in recovery from alcoholism, have written "ah-ha" letters and provided additional insights to the hypothesis: "I spotted it right away - he's a dry-drunk," or "He needs to work on his issues." Consider the most commonly delineated traits of irrational thinking known as "the dry-drunk syndrome" and how closely they match the personality characteristics of George W. Bush.
Exaggerated self-importance and grandiose behavior. . .
All or nothing thinking. . .
Obsessiveness. . .
The man who knows George W. best, the person most familiar with his rashness of thought, recently sent him a message. In a speech at Tufts University, George Bush Snr emphasized the need for the US to maintain close ties with Europe and the UN. "You've got to reach out to the other person," he advised. If only George W. would.
Katherine van Wormer Ph.D. is professor of social work at the University of Northern Iowa. She is co-author of Addiction Treatment: A Strength's Perspective
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
TERRIBLE TO ANIMALS,' recalled [Bush pal Terry] Throckmorton,
laughing. A dip behind the Bush borne turned into a small lake
after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out. `Everybody
would get BB guns and shoot them,' Throckmorton said. `Or we'd
put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.'-
Nicholas D. Kristof, Midland Life, TX
[From detonating frogs with firecrackers as a kid to torturing Afghan prisoners, George Bush has shown an interest in sadistic violence. Now David Martin sends along this from a few years back.
RICHARD GOODING, STAR WEEKLY, July 27, 1999 - Presidential candidate George W. Bush once led a Yale fraternity that barbarically branded its new members on their backsides with a red-hot metal rod as part of a sadistic hazing practice. "I got branded and I didn't like it one bit," Professor Bradford Lee of the elite Naval War College in Newport, R.I.-an ex-football player and onetime member of Bush's Delta Epsilon Kappa fraternity-told STAR in an exclusive interview. "It did burn," he says, recalling the terrifying experience. "I think I still have the mark on me."
A Star investigation has revealed that he was president of Delta Epsilon Kappa when the hazing scandal broke in the campus newspaper in the late '60s-leading to the fraternity being fined and the branding practice halted. Amazingly, Bush, now the governor of Texas, defended the illegal torture of the young fraternity pledges at the time as a harmless prank-insisting that it was comparable to "only a cigarette burn" which left "no scarring mark physically or mentally." But others said the branding resulted in a second-degree burn that left a half-inch scab in the shape of the Greek letter Delta.
Lee-who still bears the mark 32 years later-is not sure who actually wielded the brand because the pledges were not allowed to look at their tormentors. "But I do know that George Bush was very active in all the fraternity activities then."
Lee, who was a guard on the Yale football team, recalled that the branding came after "a long initiation that went on into the early morning hours." He says the idea was to wear you out so much that you allowed your bare flesh to be singed. "I was already tired from football practice earlier that day. I was so groggy I wasn't exactly sensitive to what they were up to. I wasn't very happy about it."
. . . Bill Katz, now a community college teacher in northern New Jersey, told Star that the branding was done with "a wire coat hanger twisted into a triangle and heated up" in the fireplace. "They touched you just above the buttocks, in the small of the back," he says.
. . . And Boston lawyer Franklin Levy said that to increase the fear of the moment, the older fraternity men first brandished an actual glowing hot branding iron-to make them think that was what awaited them. "When they burned me," Levy remembers, "I jumped a mile."
Before the brandings, pledges had to endure hours of being kicked and a vicious round of tannings with wooden paddles-another practice that Yale has ruled taboo. "On that night," according to an account in the Yale Daily News in 1967, 'each pledge was forced to sit with his head between his legs, motionless, for two to five hours.
"If he coughed, raised his hand or talked, he was kicked by an older brother." After all the beatings, recalled one fraternity member, the branding was almost a relief.
In the wake of the Yale Daily News' expose of the fraternity's hazing, Bush, whose father was also a DKE at Yale, admitted the branding to the New York Times in November 1967. But Bush - whose college nickname was "Lip" for his Texas wisecracks - also ripped into Yale for being too "Haughty" to "allow this type of pledging to go on."
ALAN BISBORT, AMERICAN POLITICS JOURNAL - Alcoholics Anonymous has a name for someone who is a drunk in every way except for the actual imbibing of spirits. They call that person a "dry drunk." This is not a judgmental term, nor should this be a judgmental topic in America, where there are, by even the most conservative estimates, 10 million adult alcoholics, and very few families that have not been touched, in one way or another, by this national scourge. This same scourge has, by his own admission, also touched the life of our Commander in Chief. . . Bush's past battles with the bottle are worth pondering at a time like this, one of the most dangerous in the nation's history. When a recovering alcoholic begins to engage in what AA calls "stinking thinking," he or she begins to exhibit the old attitudes and pathologies of their drinking years. These include an increase in anxiety, mild tremors, mild depression, disturbed sleep patterns, inability to think clearly, craving for junk food, irritability, sudden bursts of anger and unpredictable mood swings. According to AA literature, "Boredom and listlessness may alternate with intense feelings of resentment against family and friends, and explosive outbursts of violence." Bush said he was a "heavy drinker." But let's not be coy here. Anyone who has ever imbibed heavily over a long period of time knows that "heavy drinker" is the rich man's (or the politician's) code for alcoholic.
How did he, at age 58, get so fumble-tongued, incapable of stringing more than two coherent sentences together, snippily irritable with anyone who dares disagree with him or even ask a question, poutily turning his back on the democratically elected president of one of our most important allies because of something one of his underlings said about him, listlessly in need of constant vacations and rest, dangerously obsessed with only one thing, to the exclusion of all other things (including an economy that is slowly sucking the life from the nation as well as the retirement savings of anyone reading these words)? Furthermore, why is Bush so eager to engage in violence and so incapable of explaining why?
KATHERINE VAN WORMER, COUNTERPUNCH - What is the dry drunk syndrome? "Dry drunk" traits consist of:
self-importance and pomposity
Clearly, George W. Bush has all these traits except exaggerated self importance. He may be pompous, especially with regard to international dealings, but his actual importance hardly can be exaggerated. His power, in fact, is such that if he collapses into paranoia, a large part of the world will collapse with him. Unfortunately, there are some indications of paranoia in statements such as the following: "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends." The trait of projection is evidenced here as well, projection of the fact that we are ready to attack onto another nation which may not be so inclined.
CAROL WOLMAN, MD, COUNTERPUNCH - Many people, inside and especially outside this country, believe that the American president is nuts, and is taking the world on a suicidal path. As a board-certified psychiatrist, I feel it's my duty to share my understanding of his psychopathology. He's a complicated man, under tremendous pressure from both his family/junta, and from the world at large. So the following is offered with humility and questioning, in the form of a differential diagnosis.
From the Freudian point of view:
Dubya may be acting out a classical Oedipal drama--overcome Daddy to get Mommy. By deposing Saddam, when his father did not, he may want to prove himself more worthy of his mother's love. His rationale that he is avenging the assassination attempt on George, Sr., may be a reaction formation - his way of hiding the true motive from himself. . .
From the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual Fourth Edition, Antisocial Personality Disorder--301.7
There is a pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others since age 15 years as indicated by at least three of the following: 1) failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2) deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 5) reckless disregard for safety of self or others; 7) lack of remorse by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated or stolen from others. . .
Another possibility: Narcissistic personality disorder 301.81
1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance- exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements;
2) in preoccupied with fantasies of unliimited success, power, brilliance, beauty or ideal love;
3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people. . .
JAMES RIDGEWAY, VILLAGE VOICE: To be an American ambassador to a foreign country, you usually have to be some rich person who contributed millions of dollars to the new president's campaign coffers. So there was nothing surprising when President Bush nominated Orange County, California, apartment landlord George Argyros as ambassador to Spain. After all, by his own account, Argyros collected $50 million for the Bush war chest. He oughta get something . . . What Dubya didn't say is that Argyros is under investigation by the California attorney general for the swindling of thousands of poor, middle-class, and immigrant tenants. According to an investigation by Anthony Pignataro of OC Weekly, a Voice sister paper, the nominee has for years systematically ripped off thousands of tenants by overcharging and shortchanging them. Argyros's lawyers and associates have strenuously denied committing any crimes.
FOR THE FIRST TIME in American history, a high government official pardoned for criminal activity by one president has been appointed to a high government position by another. President Bush has named Elliot Abrams to a senior position at the White House National Security Council. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice announced that Abrams had been appointed to the position of senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations, a position that does not require Senate confirmation.
BRASS CHECK: On January 15, 1999, in the Kosovo village of Racak, Yugoslav and Serbian police forces were accused of carrying out a horrible massacre of civilians. William Walker, a U.S. diplomat in charge of the international monitoring force in Kosovo, went to the site with Western reporters and proclaimed that 45 people had been "killed in the massacre." Pictures of 40 bodies laid out in a village Mosque were put on the front page of all the major Western newspapers. Walker called it a "crime against humanity" by the Yugoslav government led by Slobodon Milosevic . . . William Walker was presented as the consummate neutral peace keeper. Why question his word? In fact, no major U.S. media outlet did question his account. William Walker, however, is not a neutral peace keeper . . . As a special assistant to Lt. Col. Oliver North and Assistant Secretary of State Eliot Abrams, Walker was a key operator in Reagan's White House operation to overthrow the Nicaraguan government in the 1980s. According to charges filed in U.S. district court by independent council Lawrence Walsh, Walker was responsible for setting up a phony humanitarian operation at an airbase in Ilopango, El Salvador. That "humanitarian" air base was used to run guns, ammunitions, and supplies to the fascist Contra mercenaries attacking the Nicaraguan Revolution. Walker was also the U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador from 1988 to 1992 when military death squads murdered thousands of progressive workers, peasants, and young people.
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW, MARCH 1995: When members of the elite faltered -- a Kissinger, Helms, McNamara, Abrams and so forth -- their peers moved quickly to protect, rehabilitate and restore them to the pantheon of the wise. Given that more than ten percent of the Council on Foreign Relations -- a sort of Elks Club for the tenured elite -- is composed of journalists, it is not surprising to find the latter often serving as EMTs, reviving some beloved source suffering a momentary attack of imperfection. This service was not, of course, provided to all. For example, surgeons general from the lesser ethnic groups could not expect rehabilitation, nor could individuals whose misdeeds were personal rather than merely an abrogation of the Constitution. All this was carried out with a numbing smugness. Like the Cromwell described in A Man for All Seasons, the prototypical member of the old elite possesses "a self conceit that can cradle gross crimes in the name of effective action."
THOMAS A SCULLY, Bush's health care administrator wants to shove more Medicare patients into HMOs. Says Rep. Pete Stark: "In health care, as in energy policy, the philosophy of this administration seems to be that if you are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, you get assistance." Scully is a former lobbyist for corporate hospitals.
MARY MCGRORY: [Elliott] Abrams was the pit bull for the [Reagan] administration's "better dead than red" policy on Central America. Despite his record, George W. Bush is giving him another chance. He has named him senior director of the National Security Council's office for democracy, human rights and international operations. The appointment signifies a step beyond Bush's in-your-face selections for Latin America. This one is in your eye, a signal to the right wing that there is nothing he will not do for it. Choosing Abrams makes laughable Bush's promise of increased civility and bipartisanship. Ditto his claims of being "a uniter, not a divider." Members of Congress remember Abrams's snarling appearances at committee hearings, defending death squads and dictators, denying massacres, lying about illegal U.S. activities in support of the Nicaraguan contras. Abrams sneered at his critics for their blindness and naiveté, or called them "vipers." His contempt for Congress was formalized in charges of withholding information from Congress brought by Iran-contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh. Abrams evaded questions about a secret mission to extract $10 million in contra funds from the sultan of Brunei, and also about the contra supply plane that was shot down. He pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts, and was pardoned by the First George Bush at Christmas 1992. Congress will get no chance to register an opinion on his qualifications . . . The Abrams appointment follows two other provocative picks from one of the uglier chapters in American foreign policy. Otto Reich, a darling of the Cuban American Foundation and another Iran-contra figure, ran the Office of Public Diplomacy, a shady operation invented to subvert the Boland Amendment, banning aid to the contras . . . A third nomination that brings back the Iran-contra scandal is that of John Negroponte as ambassador to the United Nations. He is a different type, having served with distinction in many posts. The blot on his career was his service as ambassador in Honduras at the height of the contra activity, which, of course, was supervised by Oliver North at the White House. He was accused of concealing information about the guerrilla activities.MORE
DAVID CORN, NATION: Bush the Second has tapped a number of Reagan/Bush alums who were involved in Iran/contra business for plum jobs: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Otto Reich and John Negroponte. But Abrams's appointment--should it come to pass--would mark the most generous of rehabilitations. Not only did Abrams plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress about the Reagan Administration's contra program, he was also one of the fiercest ideological pugilists of the 1980s, a bad-boy diplomat wildly out of sync with Bush's gonna-change-the-tone rhetoric. Abrams, a Democrat turned Republican who married into the cranky Podhoretz neocon clan, billed himself as a "gladiator" for the Reagan Doctrine in Central America . . . After a contra resupply plane was shot down in 1986, Abrams, one of the coordinators of Reagan's pro-contra policy (along with the NSC's Oliver North and the CIA's Alan Fiers), appeared several times before Congressional committees and withheld information on the Administration's connection to the secret and private contra-support network. He also hid from Congress the fact that he had flown to London (using the name "Mr. Kenilworth") to solicit a $10 million contribution for the contras from the Sultan of Brunei. At a subsequent closed-door hearing, Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton blasted Abrams for having misled legislators, noting that Abrams's misrepresentations could lead to "slammer time." Abrams disagreed, saying, "You've heard my testimony." Eagleton cut in: "I've heard it, and I want to puke." On another occasion, Republican Senator Dave Durenberger complained, "I wouldn't trust Elliott any further than I could throw Ollie North." Even after Abrams copped a plea with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he refused to concede that he'd done anything untoward. Abrams's Foggy Bottom services were not retained by the First Bush, but he did include Abrams in his lame-duck pardons of several Iran/contra wrongdoers. MORE
DAN EGGEN, WASHINGTON POST: The Bible study begins each day at 8 a.m. sharp, with Attorney General John D. Ashcroft presiding. A group of employees gathers at the Main Justice building in Washington, either in his personal office or a conference room, to study Scripture and join Ashcroft in prayer . . . Within the massive Justice Department, with about 135,000 employees worldwide, some who do not share Ashcroft's Pentecostal Christian beliefs are discomfited by the daily prayer sessions -- particularly because they are conducted by the nation's chief law enforcement officer, entrusted with enforcing a Constitution that calls for the separation of church and state. "
BRIAN BLOOMQUIST, NY POST - The Justice Department recently bought drapes to hide two mostly nude statues seen in the background during press conferences - but Attorney General John Ashcroft is denying he ordered the cover-up. "It's not something he thought about one way or the other. He's got better things to do," said Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock. Comstock, who insisted Ashcroft is not offended by the statues, said the $8,000 draperies make for better TV pictures.
FUN FACTS ABOUT JOHN ASHCROFT
[Found in an article by Judy Bachrach in the current issue of Vanity Fair]
Speaking at a Justice Department prayer meeting: "The law is not about forgiveness. It is oftentimes about vengeance, oftentimes about revenge."
News that the ambassador to the Netherlands had calico cats upset Ashcroft's advance team, who knew their boss considered the animals 'instruments of the Devil/'
Introducing his wife to women lawyers at Justice during Women's History Month, Ashcroft, according to one attendee, he describes her as 'the woman who taught him how to put dishes away. . . He said you should rotate your china, put your new plates on the bottom of the stack, so you don't wear them out."
Ashcroft likes to have reading matter reduced, in the words of one former staffer, to a "paragraph of background and a paragraph of talking points." Receiving a 12-page report, Ashcroft said, "Do I get extra credit for reading all this?"
Ashcroft used black prisoners at servants at the Missouri governor's mansion.
During one dinner there, Ashcroft said, 'Women in the workforce have become so prevalent that a man's role has been reduced to a sperm donor.'
From 1963 to 1969 he received seven military deferments.
In 1998 the John Birch Society ranked him second in legislative scorecard.
Governor Ashcroft told his lieutenant governor, Harriet Woods, "You have to promise you won't serve as governor in my absence." In return he might give her something more substantial to do in her job. She explained that such a deal would violate the law. "He blinked. On the other hand, he wasn't telling me or anybody when he left the state."
Interviewing a candidate for head of Missouri's social services, Governor Ashcroft asked, "Mr. Offer, let me start by asking you if have the same sexual preference as most men?"
He has supported ten additional amendments to the Constitution including one to make it easier to amend.
He received the most negative votes ever cast by the Senate in opposition to his nomination as attorney general.
In his memoirs, Ashcroft regularly compares himself to Christ, describing his campaign victories as 'resurrections' and his defeats as 'crucifixions..'
DAN EGGEN, WASHINGTON POST: The Bible study begins each day at 8 a.m. sharp, with Attorney General John D. Ashcroft presiding. A group of employees gathers at the Main Justice building in Washington, either in his personal office or a conference room, to study Scripture and join Ashcroft in prayer . . . Within the massive Justice Department, with about 135,000 employees worldwide, some who do not share Ashcroft's Pentecostal Christian beliefs are discomfited by the daily prayer sessions -- particularly because they are conducted by the nation's chief law enforcement officer, entrusted with enforcing a Constitution that calls for the separation of church and state. "The purpose of the Department of Justice is to do the business of the government, not to establish a religion," said a Justice attorney, who like other critics was unwilling to be identified by name. "It strikes me and a lot of others as offensive, disrespectful and unconstitutional. . . .
BEVERLEY LUMPKIN, ABC NEWS - The attorney general was fed up with having his picture taken during events in the Great Hall in front of semi-nude statues. He had ordered massive draperies to conceal the offending figures. But initially not only could the story not be confirmed - it was strongly denied. The Justice Department building was constructed during the 1930s as a WPA project, completed in 1934. The artwork and fittings were strongly influenced by the Art Deco movement. Much of the ornamentation in the building is made of aluminum, apparently a big Art Deco feature. The Great Hall is basically what it sounds like - a large, even grand, two-story room used for department events and ceremonies. The formal entrance up a winding stairway is adorned with murals depicting great figures in the history of law, including Moses, Hammurabi, and John Marshall. At the opposite end of the hall, on either side of the stage, are two enormous and stylized but largely naked aluminum statues. On the left, the female figure represents the Spirit of Justice; the male on the right is the Majesty of Justice. The male is clad in only a cloth draped over his essential parts; the female wears a sort of toga-style garment, but one breast is entirely exposed. She's been fondly referred to for years by at least some as "Minnie Lou." And she's the one the photographers seek out. The most famous pictures of all were shot when former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese proudly released the final report of his commission on pornography. . . last November [Ashcroft] and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson staged a major event in the Great Hall, to announce their plans for restructuring the Justice Department to address the new challenge of fighting terrorism. Many papers the next day used a photo of the attorney general with - you guessed it - Minnie Lou and that breast right over his shoulder. According to my original tipster, that was the final straw for Ashcroft, and he ordered that the statues henceforth be draped. . . Well, I guess this is a lot of background to get to the point: the draperies have in fact been ordered. Minnie Lou and her mate now can only be imagined. The draperies installed last week at a cost of just over $8,000. And it turns out that they were indeed ordered by someone in the attorney general's office, who delivered the request to the Justice Management Division and asserted it was the attorney general's desire. I'm told she was the only person in the attorney general's office who knew about it. She's his advance person, and she said it was done for "aesthetic purposes" - she just thought it would look better when staging events in the Great Hall. MORE
BRIAN BLOOMQUIST, NY POST - The Justice Department recently bought drapes to hide two mostly nude statues seen in the background during press conferences - but Attorney General John Ashcroft is denying he ordered the cover-up. "It's not something he thought about one way or the other. He's got better things to do," said Ashcroft's spokeswoman, Barbara Comstock. Comstock, who insisted Ashcroft is not offended by the statues, said the $8,000 draperies make for better TV pictures.
MISSOURI COPS SAID ASHCROFT AGREED TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY" ON FORFEITURE LAW
By Daniel Forbes
Two Missouri police officials quoted then governor John Ashcroft as having told them he'd "`look the other way'" should they ignore an upcoming Missouri State Supreme Court ruling that might direct asset forfeiture monies to be distributed to local school boards in accordance with the state constitution.
The statements were made independently and at different times by both a sheriff in uniform and a police chief at a meeting at the office of then US Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, Jean Paul Bradshaw, a decade ago, according to Don Burger, then an official with the US Department of Justice. Representing Justice, Burger attended in his role as a community affairs specialist seeking to steer to Missouri schools and treatment programs some of the drug-bust money being illegally kept by police.
John Ashcroft drapes himself in the mantle of "integrity." He used the word in reference to himself several times during his introduction by President-elect Bush as the Attorney General nominee. The repeated characterization fuels the oft-proclaimed notion that Sen. Ashcroft is a man of such moral rectitude that the nation can count on him to fully enforce all laws - no matter his personal views. During the first day of his Senate confirmation hearings, Sen. Ashcroft declared, raising his right hand for emphasis, that, "When I swear to uphold the law, I will keep my oath, so help me God." Yet, during Sen. Ashcroft's tenure as governor of Missouri, he blithely told two senior law enforcement officials he would ignore a serious matter of law, according to Burger.
Says Burger, recalling the meeting at Bradshaw's office in Kansas City, MO a decade ago, the two law enforcement officials said Gov. Ashcroft had told them he would "`look the other way'" should the police proceed to ignore a ruling about to emerge from the Missouri Supreme Court. The ruling, ultimately issued in November 1990, mid-way through Sen. Ashcroft's second term as governor, concerned a case brought by a local school board that argued that Missouri law enforcement must follow the state constitution and turn proceeds from asset forfeiture cases over to education rather than keep the money for themselves. Millions of dollars were at stake, money Missouri law enforcement agencies had used for years to buy everything from computers to radio systems to cars and guns.
Now, with a ruling expected shortly, the cops were nervous that their well might run dry. But, according to Burger's recollection of statements by the two top cops, who spoke independently at different times during the meeting, police - especially the highway patrol that reports to the governor's office - need not fear interference from the same cabinet nominee who now pledges to rigorously and impartially enforce the nation's laws.
Hosted by US Attorney Bradshaw, the meeting was attended by members of what was known informally as the Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee, says Burger. Among the items on the agenda was a discussion of the "problem of state law," he says - that is, the provision in Article IX, Section 7 of Missouri's constitution that requires "the clear proceeds of all penalties, forfeitures and fines collected hereafter for any breach of the penal laws of the state â¦ shall be distributed annually to the schools of the several counties according to law."
Referring to the sheriff and the police chief, Burger told the Review, "Both men stated at different times during the meeting that - based on their conversations with Governor Ashcroft - the governor said he would 'look the other way' specifically regarding the [Missouri] Supreme Court's ruling and asset seizures going to education. That was the terminology used by both persons." Burger adds that he remembers both individuals using the specific "look the other way" terminology because, "It struck me as an unusual reference regarding the applicability of funds to be set aside for education."
In fact, says Burger, the remarks were salient enough, that he later jotted down the Ashcroft quote in the margins of a Dept. of Justice report he was reading. The governor's statement, in Burger's opinion, indicated that Missouri law enforcement agencies would continue, despite any state supreme court ruling, to "use asset forfeiture to divert money to sheriff and police department projects."
Bradshaw, now in private practice in Kansas City, recalls no such statements by any police officials at any meeting he attended. Mindy Tucker, a spokesperson for the Bush/Cheney transition team said that ignoring a court ruling "is not a position ever held by Gov. Ashcroft." She based her statement, she said, on conversations with "people familiar with his positions on this." But, consider the disclosure last May by Karen Dillon, who's written an award-winning two-year series in the Kansas City Star on asset forfeiture issues:
"In 1990, just a few days after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state forfeitures had to go to education in most cases, the US attorney for the Western District of Missouri wrote a letter to state and local law enforcement agencies. 'I know that all of you in law enforcement are in desperate need for additional financial resources,' wrote Jean Paul Bradshaw. He explained that police could bring seizures to a federal agency even if the agency had no involvement in the case. 'As most of you know, the money we share through our forfeiture program goes [directly] to the state or local law enforecment agency,' he wrote."
The fruits of Ashcroft's alleged winking and Bradshaw's exhortation were harvested richly. There have been subsequent attempts in 1992, 1993, and last year in the Missouri legislature to strengthen the law that forfeitedassets be conveyed to education. Another attempt will be made in the upcoming session. A report by the staff of the US Senate Judiciary Committee; a 1998 federal district court case and Dillon's massive and continuing series in the Kansas City Star also suggest an end-run around the state constitutional requirements.
City Councilman and Mayor Pro Tem of Kansas City, Alvin Brooks, is a former police detective and a charter board member of the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. He was also one of President Bush's "Thousand Points of Light," and, according to his bio, was recognized by William Bennett as "a front-line soldier in our war against drugs."
Back in 1990 he was running the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime in Kansas City, which fought crime and drug abuse. During that time Brooks says he had many conversations with Don Burger, representing the Dept of Justice, about the mechanics of asset forfeiture and how to steer some of those funds to local drug treatment programs. He said his discussions with Burger focused on "how could we get law enforcement to bring some money back to the neighborhoods where the forfeitures were taking place." He adds, "Don did research on this and said here's what community groups should do to try to get some of this money."
Told of Burger's allegations, Kevin Zeese, executive director of the Common Sense for Drug Policy Legislative Group opposing the Ashcroft nomination, says "Ashcroft told people to go ahead, to federalize it, I'll look the other way. That's an affirmative action, but one he tried to keep his fingerprints off." Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau, says that senators he has spoken to, including Russ Feingold (D-WI), report that Sen. Ashcroft has told his former Senate colleagues that he'll vigorously enforce the law without exception. But Shelton maintains that, "If indeed these allegations are true, it raises major, fundamental concerns about Mr. Ashcroft's ethical ability to serve as attorney general. It begs the question of how he will enforce laws that he doesn't agree with."
The concept by which state and local law enforcement agencies still circumvent the Missouri Constitution is known as "adoptive forfeiture." Basically, the cops call in federal agents, typically DEA agents, and have them "adopt" the case. Stopping a car on Interstate 70, for instance, and finding drugs and a quantity of cash, the Missouri Highway Patrol declares that it has detained the assets (often including the car itself), but has not "seized" them. It leaves that to the DEA. Then, according to federal guidelines, the feds keep 20% of the proceeds and, in effect, launder the remainder back to the local authorities; often, several jurisdictions will slice up the pie. Everyone but school kids is happy.
Quoting the Kansas City Star, the Senate Judiciary Committee report quotes one officer as saying, "We don't deal in state forfeitures at all, because law enforcement doesn't derive any revenues from that." Evidence that the tactic continues is found in a concurring opinion issued by a federal judge in the Eight Circuit in 1998, who found that the Missouri Highway Patrol and the DEA "successfully conspired to violate the Missouri Constitution."
James D. Worthington, a partner in the Lexington, MO, law firm of Aull, Sherman, Worthington, Giorza and Hamilton, represented the local school board in the 1990 case. He says the case was prompted by press reports of three separate forfeitures of approximately $1 million each in a particular county, and the school board in Odessa reasoned that surely they should have received some funds. After the court ruling, says Worthington, police agencies indicated they would comply. "But then they proceeded with a sleight of hand, a bait and switch, a calling the feds down to have the feds 'seize' the money. It's been nothing but organized blackmail, graft and corruption."
Don Burger joined Justice in 1968, recruited by Ramsey Clark to spend a career working primarily to foster improved relations among the many different shades of Americans. He served the final years of a twenty-two year career based in Kansas City. Retired from federal service, he's now a consultant on civil rights issues.
Atkins Warren is now regional director of the Dept. of Justice for the states of Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa, and he worked with Burger for many years in Washington. "He was a very good employee," said Warren. "He did a lot to resolve community conflict." Warren termed Burger "credible," then added, "He was excellent."
US Rep. Jim Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina, got to know Burger through their work with the National Association of Human Rights Workers; Rep. Clyburn is a past president and Burger served a term as national secretary. (Burger was also president of his government employees union local.) Rep. Clyburn, who opposes the Ashcroft nomination, says, "Burger was always a straight shooter with me. I never had any dealings with him that make me question whether he was a straight shooter or not."
Leonard Zeskind, formerly research director for the anti-Klan, Atlanta-based Center for Democratic Renewal, worked with Burger combating hate crimes and white supremacy organizations such as the Covenant Sword and Arm of the Lord in rural Missouri.
Currently writing a book for Farrar, Strauss, Giroux on white nationalist groups and a former McArthur Foundation "genius" award winner, Zeskind declares Burger, "a reasonable guy, a nice, smart guy."
In fact, Burger is such a straight arrow, he actually referred a potential favorable witness on Sen. Ashcroft's behalf to Missouri Senator Kit Bond. With accusations of racism hounding Sen. Ashcroft, Burger says he referred an African-American woman to Sen. Bond who was anxious to speak favorably of her experience at Evangel University in Springfield, MO, the college run by Ashcroft's father. Marlene Henderson confirms that last Friday, Burger called both Sen. Bond's Missouri and Washington offices on her behalf.
Burger says he's fairly agnostic on Ashcroft's nomination, but that he's spent a career trying to develop funding for drug treatment, among other things, and wants to call attention to where seized assets are still being directed.
York freelancer Daniel Forbes testified before
both the US. Senate and the House of Representatives regarding
his series in Salon on sub rosa White House payments to television
networks and magazines rewarding anti-drug content. A subsequent
Salon article detailed the media campaign's origins as an attempt
to influence voters on state medical marijuana initiatives.
ANN MCFEATTERS, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE - And now, for something completely different, to borrow a phrase from Monty Python. The three earnest young men burdened with plastic bags came to the office bearing food. Pretzels with seeds. A snack bar. An energy bar. Tortilla chips. Never mind the caloric sin. We're talking serious evil here.
Or so the government says. Unless you are an avid reader of the Federal Register and perused the tiny print of almost undecipherable bureaucratese on pages 51,539 through 51,544, you might have missed it - but the government has returned to normal. The Drug Enforcement Administration, under the direction of Asa Hutchinson, the former GOP congressman from Arkansas, has announced rules to ban certain brands of a wide variety of foods - "beer, cheese, coffee, corn chips, energy drink, flour, ice cream, snack bars, salad oil, soda and veggie burgers" - if they contain trace amounts of THC.
MARA LEVERITT, ARKANSAS TIMES: Some strange things happened in [Asa] Hutchinson's district while he was federal prosecutor that he doesn't mention in his speeches. Specifically, a man identified by federal agents as "a documented, major narcotics trafficker" was using facilities at an airport in Hutchinson's district for "storage, maintenance, and modification" of his drug-running aircraft, throughout most of Hutchinson's tenure. The man was Adler Berriman "Barry" Seal. For the last four years of his life - and throughout Hutchinson's term as U.S. attorney - his base of operations was Mena, Arkansas. In 1982, the year that Hutchinson took office as U.S. attorney and Seal moved to Mena, federal officials were already aware that he controlled "an international smuggling organization" that was "extremely well organized and extensive." Agents for the DEA, FBI, U.S. Customs, and IRS were watching him. They brought Hutchinson evidence that Seal was "involved in narcotics trafficking and the laundering of funds derived from such trafficking." . . . My interest in the relationship between Seal and Hutchinson was piqued as I became aware of how heavily drug prosecutions fell on street- and mid-level dealers, while smugglers like Seal, who imported drugs by the ton, rarely ended up in prison. So when rumors surfaced about Seal and his organization, and how they had managed for years to avoid prison, even though the extent of their activities was well known to drug authorities, I wanted to know more. But getting the story has not been easy. In the early 1990s, I asked Hutchinson about Barry Seal and his associates at Mena. Hutchinson provided no information, and politely dismissed the complaints that had arisen by then about his failure to prosecute Seal. He said he had already resigned as U.S. attorney by the time the matter arose . . . I believe that if this country is going to fight a long and costly war, the war's leaders have an obligation to report faithfully on its battles. The incidents that surrounded Seal constituted a major battle. But the faithful report has been missing. For more than 15 years, U.S. government officials, including Hutchinson, who were close to the events have maintained a stony silence . . LOTS MORE
ACCORDING TO POLICE SOURCES in Arkansas, Bush's reported nominee to head the DEA, Asa Hutchinson, knew about the extensive drug importation at Mena during the 1980s but looked the other way. Hutchinson was replaced by Mike Fitzhugh who was reluctant to let investigators Russell Welch of the state police and William Duncan of the IRS present evidence of money-laundry to a grand jury. According to a memo obtained later by Arkansas Times report Mara Leveritt, an FBI agent in Hot Springs notifies the agent in charge of the Little Rock office that Fitzhugh would be "withholding presentation" about the investigation at Mena from the grand jury. The memo is dated days before notorious durg trafficker Barry Seal's murder, and a month before he was to come to Arkansas to appear before that same grand jury. The agent in Hot Springs further reports that Fitzhugh "advised that he will not utilize Seal as a government prosecution witness in view of his lack of credibility in other mitigating circumstances." Wrote Leverrit, "For almost three years, a federal grand jury in the Western District of Arkansas considered questions about drug-running, money-laundering, and illegal airplane modification - all of which investigators believed were being conducted at the Mena airport. But Fitzhugh reportedly focused only on the drug-running allegations, the aspect of the case the jurors felt would be the most difficult one to prove about anyone except Seal, and he, by then, was dead. According to statements from one of the jurors, Fitzhugh refused to consider the money laundering or conspiracy charges, for both of which the jurors believed evidence was substantial. 'We asked him about it,' the juror said, "and it was like just blown off. We were never given a straight answer.' Fitzhugh has denied having stymied the grand jury, but he has never explained why, in the three years it met, Welch and Duncan, the central investigators in the case, were never called to testify."
IN 1995, THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR magazine published an article by L.D. Brown, a former member of Clinton's Arkansas State Police security detail, in which he described participating in two secret flights from Mena in 1984, during which M-16 rifles were traded to Nicaraguan Contra rebels in exchange for cocaine. Brown also claims that Clinton knew of the activity. Writes Mara Leveritt in the Arkansas Times: "That announcement spurred Fort Smith lawyer Asa Hutchinson, chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, to request yet another congressional inquiry into long-standing allegations of money-laundering at Mena. Hutchinson was the the U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas when investigators first presented evidence supporting those allegations. In an argument disputed by police investigators, Hutchinson claims he left office before the evidence was well established. Since he harbors political ambitions, he has an interest in clearing his name."
FROM A CONGRESSIONAL DEPOSITION from IRS investigator William Duncan:
you describe the nature of your instructions and the manner in
which you carried out those instructions as they relate to activities
surrounding the Mena Airport matter?
* * * * *
did you do with the evidence of money laundering that you gathered
from your investigation?
ARI EXPLAINS IT ALL
||| RUSSELL MOKHIBER - Ari, you said the other day that the United States is "set in stone against military coups of any kind." And yet, there is a long history of the United States organizing coups against democratically elected leaders, including, Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile and Lumumba in the Congo. So, when you said we are "set in stone against military coups of any kind," were you announcing a new policy?
ARI FLEISCHER: Russell, I think the examples you use are interesting. I think when you talked about Iran, you just went back to 1954. President Bush came into office here in 2001. And one of the great prides and success stories of American politics has been that in the last 20 years, there has been a wonderful sea change in Central and South America, brought in large part, as a result of Otto Reich and Elliot Abrams and others -- Ronald Reagan, George Bush -- who worked very hard to bring democracy to the region. And as a result, there is a difference in the military in those regions.
||| TOM TURNIPSEED, COUNTER PUNCH - Reich is a right-wing Cuban-American obsessed with overthrowing Fidel Castro's regime and is also a big political supporter of President Bush's brother and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who needs strong support from Cubans in Florida in his re-election bid this year. Reich, along with fellow Reagan administration cohorts, Elliott Abrams and John Negroponte, were discredited for their covert activities and false assertions when the United States intervened in Central America in the 1980's and '90s, but have been re-instated in prominent positions in the second Bush administration. They abhor Latin-American governments that are elected by the poor and working class people, like the Chavez government in Venezuela and the deposed Sandinista government in Nicaragua.
Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra scandal, but has been remarkably rehabilitated and recycled back into the second Bush administration as head of the "Office of Democracy and Human Rights." Negroponte was appointed as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations last September in spite of being implicated as a friend of Honduran death squad leaders who committed atrocities against the people of Honduras while he was the U.S. Ambassador there. The most recent resurrection of this trio of right-wing renegades is the appointment of Otto Reich as Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs . . . On September 30, 1987 a Republican appointed comptroller general of the U.S. found that Reich had done things as director of the OPD that were "prohibited, covert propaganda activities, "beyond the range of acceptable agency public information activities...."
WASHINGTON POST: Sheriff [Ari] Fleischer was on duty Thursday and upset with Houston Chronicle reporter Bennett Roth. Bush that morning urged parents to talk more to their kids about the dangers of drugs. Roth, at Fleischer's daily briefing, asked: "Ari, the president talked about parental involvement today. How much has he talked to his own daughters about both drugs and drinking? And given the fact that his own daughter was cited for underage drinking, isn't that a sign that there's only so much effect that a parent can have on their children's behavior?" Fleischer responded brusquely: "No, I think, frankly, there are some issues where I think it's very important for you all in the press corps to recognize that he is the president of the United States; he's also a father. And the press corps has been very respectful in the past of treating family matters with privacy, and I'm certain that you're going to do so again. I hope so." Fleischer later called Roth to chastise him, telling him his question had been "noted in the building."
JOEL SKOUSEN'S WORLD AFFAIRS BRIEF: [Robert Mueller] was responsible for the prosecution of Gen. Manuel Noriega of Panama, who was the CIA's main money launderer for CIA operations in Panama. Even Congress knew of Noriega's CIA connections. Senator Kerry said that Noriega "had been on the payroll and an employee of the CIA for many, many, many years" Noriega was taken down by the CIA and prosecuted because he was found to be taking a much larger cut out of CIA drug profits than was agreed upon. During the trial, the presiding judge ruled that Noriega could not enter into evidence any documents proving his relationship to the CIA over the years. Mueller helped cover up this major issue by silencing Noriega . . . Mueller presided over the prosecution of John Gotti, the alleged Mafia head of the Gambino family group. CIA agent Richard Beneke, in response to a question of whether or not the Gotti family had ties to the CIA, testified, "Yes. As far back as 1968 and early 1969, we had begun to launder money from organized crime families in New York. At that time, Mr. Gotti was an up and coming member of one of the families. We used to wash their money out overseas and put it in Switzerland in nice, safe places for them."We do not know why the government turned on Gotti as a partner in crime. Perhaps he was also found guilty of skimming too much off the top.
<> The BNL investigation
[Mueller was a top Justice Department official as the BNL fiasco unfolded. The full story of this seedy period has yet to emerge]
GULF WEB: The focus of [Rep. Henry] Gonzalez's investigation was a massive $5.5 billion bank fraud that the Justice Department pinned on Christopher Drogoul, the lowly Atlanta branch manager of Italy's state-owned Banca Nazionale del Lavom. Benefiting from U.S. government export credit guarantees, the Atlantic bank lent the money to companies all over world that were supplying Saddam Hussein with weapons manufacturing gear and other goods. In his defense, Drogoul - backed by Gonzalez - claimed he was merely the instrument of a secret U.S. policy to aid Saddam Hussein. Rejecting that notion, the Justice Department indicted Drogoul on 347 counts of fraud and related charges in 1991. As the presidential campaign heated up, Gonzalez bombarded the White House, the State Department, and the intelligence agencies with subpoenas, obtaining reams of sensitive diplomatic cables and internal memos documenting the U.S. "tilt" toward Iraq. It was these documents (as well as Brent Scowcroft's secret trip to China only weeks after the Tianananmen massacre in June 1988) that prompted Bill Clinton to charge, during the final days of the campaign, that President Bush had been "coddling dictators."
Nearly four years and several grand juries later, however, the Clinton administration has swept its "Iraqgate" investigation under the rug. The Final Report, issued by attorney general Janet Reno on January 17, 1995, and written by Reno deputy John Hogan, amounts to little more than a whitewash of the entire affair. In every case it examined, the report concluded there had been no violation of law. And in a classified addendum, subsequently rendered public, the intelligence community and the executive branch were exonerated of having "illegally armed Iraq," despite extensive evidence of intelligence community involvement unearthed by the Gonzalez investigation and the U.S. Customs Service.
SAM SMITH, SHADOWS OF HOPE, 1994: [Clinton] appears willing to ignore the great residue of Reagan-Bush offenses, especially those growing out of the war on drugs and attempts to gag and intimidate government and defense workers. And he seems similarly disinterested in unclosed cases of political racketeering such as those involving BCCI and BNL. Said one activist lawyer who has met with Attorney General Reno: "She's closing her ears to all of that." Reno, who was clearly more interested in protecting law enforcement agencies than in finding the truth about the Waco massacre, also early bought the Bush administration line in the BNL bank case. She agreed to a plea bargain by Christopher P. Drogoul, the former Atlanta manager of the Italian bank who had claimed that US intelligence officials were aware of loans made to Iraq. Reno declared that she did not think the case had been mishandled by the Bush administration, despite a federal judge's charge that Drogoul and his Atlanta bank colleagues were "pawns and bit players" in a secret deal to provide arms for Iraq and that the Clinton administration's exoneration of its predecessors was only possible "in never-never land."
INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL LEADERSHIP, TUFTS: Despite Iraq's bad credit rating, the US administration allowed Iraq to take out loans under the Food Aid program. Christopher Drogoul, head of the BNL branch in Atlanta, borrowed billions of dollars from other banks, which was then lent to Iraq at a slightly higher interest rate. It was this money, many allege, that enabled Iraq to build its ballistic missile and nuclear weapon programs. The U.S. government reportedly agreed to act as a guarantor on these loans.
PETER MANTIUS, ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, SEP 13,1992: The U.S. Justice Department for 18 months withheld the names of companies that financed exports to Iraq through an Atlanta branch bank, in order to protect the companies from being unfairly linked to Iraqi weapons programs. But one company, Matrix Churchill Ltd., used the money to ship Iraq machinery to manufacture fuses for cluster bombs, "smart" rockets and mortars, newly released documents, blueprints and interviews with congressional investigators show. A second company, called XYZ Options Inc., used $14 million from the Atlanta bank to build a machining plant at Iraq's Al-Atheer nuclear weapons complex. U.N. arms inspectors were so convinced of its military purpose that they destroyed it after the Persian Gulf War, according to Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D-Texas). A third company, Servaas Inc., used $40 million arranged through the Atlanta bank to build a plant to recycle tons of spent brass artillery shells fired by Iraqi gunners. A fourth, Associated Instruments Distributors Inc. of Norcross, used its $12.1 million to ship machine tools to the Huteen munitions complex outside Baghdad. Rep. Charlie Rose (D-N.C.) said the documents detailing Matrix Churchill's exports of arms manufacturing equipment are the clearest evidence to date linking the Atlanta branch of Italy's Banca Nazionale del Lavoro with Iraq's arms buildup before its August 1990 invasion of Kuwait. When the Atlanta branch office was raided by the FBI in August 1989, investigators uncovered $5 billion in unreported loans to Iraq and touched off an international scandal . . . From the time it indicted Drogoul on the day after the Persian Gulf War ended until this month, the Justice Department sheltered exporters who received BNL-Atlanta financing from the stigma of being associated with arms deals with Iraq. Justice Department officials in Washington would not discuss their handling of the companies, referring all questions about the case Friday to the Atlanta U.S. attorney's office. The Atlanta U.S. attorney's office did not respond to requests for comment.
CHRISTOPHER DROGOUL STATEMENT TO HOUSE BANKING COMMITTEE: My efforts at cooperation with the US Attorney's office were frustrated by their continued unwillingness to allow me to tell them the truth. They would pose a question, and when I began to tell them an answer which was inconsistent with their theory of the case, they would either say we're not interested, or you're lying. My then attorney kept pulling me out of the room and warning me to just say what they want to hear, so you can get them to write a letter seeking a downward departure in my sentence. I finally accepted this premise and limited my responses to say yes, you're right.
REP HENRY GONZALEZ, HOUSE FLOOR: In order to learn more about Mr. Kissinger's role at BNL, [House Banking Committee] investigators contacted an attorney representing BNL in the United States and asked him to contact BNL in Rome. The BNL employee in Rome told BNL's attorney the following: Mr. Kissinger has been a member of the BNL International Advisory Board since 1985. Mr. Kissinger is paid $10,000 for appearing at an Advisory Board meeting and he is paid extra for speaking at BNL functions. It is important to bring these facts out because BNL is owned by the Italian government . . . Mr. Kissinger supposedly did not resign his BNL post until over 18 months after the BNL scandal became public in August 1989. Another interesting point to note is the timing of Mr. Kissinger's supposed resignation from BNL on February 22, 1991. That date is just days before the Justice Department announced a 347 count indictment against the former employees of BNL after an exhaustive 18-month investigation. This is quite a coincidence. BNL was actually a client of Kissinger Associates at the same time BNL's former employees in Atlanta were providing Iraq with billions in unreported loans.
ROBERT MUELLER, Bush's apparent choice for head of the FBI, was involved in the shutting down of the BCCI investigation in this country. The failure to investigate the world's greatest financial scandal properly was probably the biggest dive ever taken by U.S. prosecutors and other law enforcement officials.
WASHINGTON POST, MARCH 19,2001: The U.S. Sentencing Commission is fashioning a significant increase in penalties for people who import or sell "ecstasy," a move that would elevate the party pill used by hundreds of thousands of adolescents into the upper echelons of illegal drugs. Responding to a command from Congress, the commission is considering proposals that would make trafficking in ecstasy a more serious offense than dealing powder cocaine. Medical researchers opposed the step yesterday, testifying that ecstasy -- its purest form is known as MDMA -- is not as dangerous as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine. "MDMA is less likely to cause violence than alcohol, less addictive than cocaine or tobacco and less deadly than heroin," said New York University psychiatrist Julie Holland, who works in Bellevue Hospital's psychiatric emergency room. "I see alcoholics and crack addicts every time I go to work. I do not see people whose lives have been ruined by MDMA." . . . Ecstasy is "quickly becoming one of the most abused drugs in the United States," Robert S. Mueller, acting deputy attorney general, testified yesterday. "The damage this drug can produce is significant and long-term," said Mueller, once the District's chief homicide prosecutor. "We have an opportunity to stop this growing problem before it becomes an epidemic, and the proposal put forth by the commission would very much help."
All that many reporters need to know about a law enforcement appointee is that he is an ex-marine (the journalistic equivalent of discovering that a mass murderer is a 'loner.') The word immediately goes into the headline, and the hack's work is done, witness the Washington Post: "Ex-Marine Is Praised as Tough, Skilled." Unfortunately, in the case of Bush's nominee to head the FBI, this is not quite enough. The appointment raises long dormant questions about the biggest financial scandal in world history and the biggest botched crime inquiry in American history - for Robert Mueller was at the center with those who were meant to be investigating and prosecuting the crimes of BCCI in the United States.
While many of the scandal's international aspects were pursued, the American participants got off largely scot-free. Clark Clifford and Robert Altman were indicted on charges of engaging in fraud and accepting $40 million in bribes. They spent a lot in lawyer's fees but in the end charges were dropped against Clifford because of his age and health and Altman was acquitted. As far as Mueller & Company were concerned there were no other significant targets; apparently BCCI just growed.
A journalist who followed the story closely was asked how many Washington lawyers, lobbyists, and politicians might have been criminally liable had the BCCI investigation been fully pursued. His estimate: around a 100.
The coverage of Mueller's appointment gives little sense of what was at stake and how Mueller and his colleagues - for whatever reasons - essentially let BCCI's American operations off the hook. To give you some idea of the scale here, the settlement cost $500 million and, for BCCI, that was chump change.
NPR did a puff piece worthy of Parade Magazine. The LA Times made it sound like BCCI was some paranoid conspiracy dreamed up by the American right: "[Mueller] took some flak from conservatives over what they saw as the Justice Department's lax investigation into the Bank of Credit & Commerce International corruption case a decade ago, a charge that resurfaced in recent weeks as his nomination was being considered. The NY Times made it sound like only Senator John Kerry cared about the investigation into the BCCI scandal and the Washington Post barely mentioned it at all.
The story the media didn't tell you about BCCI - and Mueller's involvement - is contained in a report to the Senate foreign relations committee by Senators John Kerry and Hank Brown in December 1992. Here are some excerpts:
THE KERRY REPORT
THE NATURE OF BCCI: BCCI's unique criminal structure -- an elaborate corporate spider-web with BCCI's founder, Agha Hasan Abedi and his assistant, Swaleh Naqvi, in the middle -- was an essential component of its spectacular growth, and a guarantee of its eventual collapse. The structure was conceived by Abedi and managed by Naqvi for the specific purpose of evading regulation or control by governments. It functioned to frustrate the full understanding of BCCI's operations by anyone. Unlike any ordinary bank, BCCI was from its earliest days made up of multiplying layers of entities, related to one another through an impenetrable series of holding companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, banks-within-banks, insider dealings and nominee relationships. By fracturing corporate structure, record keeping, regulatory review, and audits, the complex BCCI family of entities created by Abedi was able to evade ordinary legal restrictions on the movement of capital and goods as a matter of daily practice and routine. In creating BCCI as a vehicle fundamentally free of government control, Abedi developed in BCCI an ideal mechanism for facilitating illicit activity by others, including such activity by officials of many of the governments whose laws BCCI was breaking.
BCCI's criminality included fraud by BCCI and BCCI customers involving billions of dollars; money laundering in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas; BCCI's bribery of officials in most of those locations; support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and the sale of nuclear technologies; management of prostitution; the commission and facilitation of income tax evasion, smuggling, and illegal immigration; illicit purchases of banks and real estate; and a panoply of financial crimes limited only by the imagination of its officers and customers.
Among BCCI's principal mechanisms for committing crimes were its use of shell corporations and bank confidentiality and secrecy havens; layering of its corporate structure; its use of front-men and nominees, guarantees and buy-back arrangements; back-to-back financial documentation among BCCI controlled entities, kick-backs and bribes, the intimidation of witnesses, and the retention of well-placed insiders to discourage governmental action.
BCCI systematically relied on relationships with, and as necessary, payments to, prominent political figures in most of the 73 countries in which BCCI operated . . . These relationships were systematically turned to BCCI's use to generate cash needed to prop up its books. BCCI would obtain an important figure's agreement to give BCCI deposits from a country's Central Bank, exclusive handling of a country's use of U.S. commodity credits, preferential treatment on the processing of money coming in and out of the country where monetary controls were in place, the right to own a bank, secretly if necessary, in countries where foreign banks were not legal, or other questionable means of securing assets or profits. In return, BCCI would pay bribes to the figure, or otherwise give him other things he wanted in a simple quid-pro-quo. The result was that BCCI had relationships that ranged from the questionable, to the improper, to the fully corrupt with officials from countries all over the world, including Argentina, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Colombia, the Congo, Ghana, Guatemala, the Ivory Coast, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
BCCI IN THE U.S.: In 1977, BCCI developed a plan to infiltrate the U.S. market through secretly purchasing U.S. banks while opening branch offices of BCCI throughout the U.S., and eventually merging the institutions. BCCI had significant difficulties implementing this strategy due to regulatory barriers in the United States designed to insure accountability. Despite these barriers, which delayed BCCI's entry, BCCI was ultimately successful in acquiring four banks, operating in seven states and the District of Colombia, with no jurisdiction successfully preventing BCCI from infiltrating it. The techniques used by BCCI in the United States had been previously perfected by BCCI, and were used in BCCI's acquisitions of banks in a number of Third World countries and in Europe. These included purchasing banks through nominees, and arranging to have its activities shielded by prestigious lawyers, accountants, and public relations firms on the one hand, and politically-well connected agents on the other. These techniques were essential to BCCI's success in the United States, because without them, BCCI would have been stopped by regulators from gaining an interest in any U.S. bank. As it was, regulatory suspicion towards BCCI required the bank to deceive regulators in collusion with nominees including the heads of state of several foreign emirates, key political and intelligence figures from the Middle East, and entities controlled by the most important bank and banker in the Middle East.
Equally important to BCCI's successful secret acquisitions of U.S. banks in the face of regulatory suspicion was its aggressive use of a series of prominent Americans, beginning with Bert Lance, and continuing with former Defense Secretary Clark Clifford, former U.S. Senator Stuart Symington, well-connected former federal bank regulators, and former and current local, state and federal legislators. Wittingly or not, these individuals provided essential assistance to BCCI through lending their names and their reputations to BCCI at critical moments. Thus, it was not merely BCCI's deceptions that permitted it to infiltrate the United States and its banking system. Also essential were BCCI's use of political influence peddling and the revolving door in Washington.
BCCI AND LAW ENFORCEMENT: While the Justice Department's handling of BCCI has received substantial criticism, the office of Robert Morgenthau, District Attorney of New York, has generally received credit for breaking open the BCCI investigation. It did so not on the basis of having any witnesses or information available to it which were not available to other investigators, including the Justice Department, and the Federal Reserve. Rather, District Attorney Morgenthau broke the case because he recognized BCCI's importance and significance as a case of global international organized crime, and devoted sufficient attention and resources to force out the truth . . . [J]ust as illegal drugs are smuggled into this country, illegal profits must be smuggled out. The sums involved are truly staggering . . . the simple truth is that the wire transfer and the bank book are as much the tools of the drug trade as the scale and the gun. . . the nexus between drugs and money means that if we are to succeed in the war against drugs, we must be as vigorous in our prosecution of corrupt bankers as we are of street dealers.
In going after BCCI, Morgenthau's office quickly found that in addition to fighting off the bank, it would receive resistance from almost every other institution or entity connected to BCCI, including at various times, BCCI's multitude of prominent and politically well-connected lawyers, BCCI's accountants, BCCI's shareholders, the Bank of England, the British Serious Fraud Office, and the U.S. Department of Justice. Each, while professing to cooperate with the District Attorney, in fact withheld information from the District Attorney and in some cases, impede, delay, or obstruct his inquiry for months. Ultimately, Morgenthau proved BCCI's criminality, not because of information or cooperation provided by other government agencies -- with the key exception of the Federal Reserve, there was almost none -- but because BCCI had left a trail of evidence of wrongdoing there for anyone with the tenacity to pursue it.
attempts to obtain documents concerning BCCI's money laundering
and other crimes from Panama met similar resistance. Finally,
when the District Attorney of New York turned to the Justice
Department for assistance, it too refused to cooperate. As Morgenthau
testified on May 23, 1991: "We've had a number of meetings
with senior people in the fraud section of the Justice Department,
and I think their position has been that they'd rather go it
The Justice Department, along with the U.S. Customs Service and Treasury Departments, failed to provide adequate support and assistance to investigators and prosecutors working on the case against BCCI in 1988 and 1989, contributing to conditions that ultimately caused the chief undercover agent who handled the sting against BCCI to quit Customs entirely . . .
The January 1990 plea agreement between BCCI and the U.S. Attorney in Tampa kept BCCI alive, and had the effect of discouraging BCCI's officials from telling the U.S. what they knew about BCCI's larger criminality, including its ownership of First American and other U.S. banks. The Justice Department essentially stopped investigating BCCI following the plea agreement, until press accounts, Federal Reserve action, and the New York District Attorney's investigation in New York forced them into action in mid-1991 . . .
Justice Department personnel in Washington, Miami, and Tampa actively obstructed and impeded Congressional attempts to investigate BCCI in 1990, and this practice continued to some extent until William P. Barr became Attorney General in late October, 1991 . . .
Over the past two years, the Justice Department's handling of BCCI has been criticized in numerous editorials in major newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times . . . Typical editorials criticized Justice's prosecution of BCCI as "sluggish," "conspicuously slow," "inattentive," and "lethargic." Several editorials noted that there had been "poor cooperation" by Justice with other agencies. One stated that "the Justice Department seems to have been holding up information that should have been passed on" to regulators and others. Another that "the Justice Department's secretive conduct in dealing with BCCI requires a better explanation than any so far offered."
EARLY WARNINGS: Although the Justice Department did not indict BCCI until 1988, there were rumors about the bank virtually since its inception. BCCI officially first came to the United States as a branch in New York during the 1970's. New York state banking officials subsequently denied BCCI's takeover of a small bank. Furthermore, bank regulators and law enforcement agencies in other countries, such as the United Kingdom, had reservations about the bank. The British, in fact, refused to grant BCCI full banking status. According to U.S. banking regulators, they routinely make inquiries to the Justice Department about BCCI.
In September 1991, the House Subcommittee on Crime and Criminal Justice, issued a report detailing federal law enforcement's handling of allegations involving BCCI. According to the report, "[F]ederal authorities had scores of contacts concerning BCCI as far back as 1983," and "the government had enough information on BCCI by the mid-1980's to have put BCCI on the most wanted list."
Among the findings of the House Subcommittee:
- The DEA had a plethora of case information which, taken in totality, led to the inevitable conclusion that "BCCI is the place to launder money." The report stated that: [a] review of the files has, so far, revealed 125 cases that have been identified "as having something to do with BCCI." . . .
- Senior IRS officials refused to begin an undercover investigation of BCCI despite the fact that the criminal division had developed important information about the bank.
- The Customs Service had information as far back as 1983 concerning the illegal smuggling operations of one of BCCI biggest customers.
- Representatives of the Government of India provided the IRS with evidence of a money laundering scheme involving BCCI . . .
Following the plea agreement, some Justice Department officials adopted an inexplicably benign attitude towards the bank, taking at least two separate actions to help BCCI. First, Justice Department officials asked another U.S. Attorney's office not involved in the negotiations to join in the plea agreement, and thereby be utterly barred from taking any further action against BCCI. Second, another Justice Department official asked state regulators in Florida, New York and California to keep BCCI open when they were considering closing it, and a few days later, on being asked to explain this request, denied having made it. Each of these requests were made by the Justice Department officials involved at the explicit behest of BCCI's lawyers, who themselves were former prominent federal prosecutors. They raise the question of whether the revolving door, and personal relationships among prosecutors, may have influenced certain Justice Department officials to assist BCCI in contravention of sound public policies . . .
Assistant Attorney General Mueller told the Subcommittee that while the CIA may have known about BCCI's criminality and illegal ownership of First American dating as far back as 1985, "regrettably, the Justice Department was not on the CIA's dissemination list until 1990 and therefore the Department never received this 1986 report at the time it was disseminated." Mueller is correct that no component of DOJ ever received the 1986 report, but the May 1989 report, which contained many of the same facts, including BCCI's ownership of First American -- in some cases with more detail provided -- was provided to both the DEA and the FBI . . .
The Justice Department, along with the U.S. Customs Service and Treasury Departments, failed to provide adequate support and assistance to investigators and prosecutors working on the case against BCCI in 1988 and 1989, contributing to conditions that ultimately caused the chief undercover agent who handled the sting against BCCI to quit Customs entirely.
Justice Department personnel in Washington lobbied state regulators to keep BCCI open after the January 1990 plea agreement, following lobbying of them by former Justice Department personnel now representing BCCI . . .
Some public statements by the Justice Department concerning its handling of matters pertaining to BCCI were more cleverly crafted than true . . .
"The strange thing is that after that effort to put this all in the hands of the Justice Department -- and I might add that at the time I went to Miami, at the instruction of the chairman [Senator Kerry], I shared with the agents working the case materials we had gathered, memos I had written, and other materials we had gathered, so that they would have a complete picture of what we knew. I waited for something to happen, and what happened was, I started getting calls from the two guys I took to Tampa who said, they're not following up. Then I talked to the agents, and the agents said well we're very busy. We're working on preparations for the trial. No follow up, and I began to worry that something was very wrong with this case." - Committee investigator Jack Blum . . .
After [Blum] met with Morgenthau, he was introduced to other prosecutors in the New York DA's office, and debriefed them. He told them he believed BCCI had engaged in money-laundering in New York, and described the evidence that BCCI owned First American. Morgenthau's prosecutors found his information to be startling, and viewed it with skepticism. As Michael Cherkasky, Morgenthau's chief of investigations later stated: "Blum's story was ridiculous. [He said] the entire Third World was involved and that they had bought and sold entire governments and maybe some United States officials. It was a fascinating tale -- this guy was telling us the world was corrupt!" Morgenthau decided to move forward, and assigned the investigation of the case to John Moscow, an experienced fraud prosecutor. Moscow in turn interviewed Blum's witnesses, looked at documents, investigated the case Blum brought to them, and, in Cherkasky's words, Blum's "'story' was proven to be true."(6) While the Justice Department prosecutors who had the most information about BCCI regarded Blum as a "wacko," and his information as worth little, the New York District Attorney's office took it seriously, investigated it, and proved it out.
MATTERS FOR FURTHER INVESTIGATION: The extent of BCCI's involvement in Pakistan's nuclear program . . . BCCI's manipulation of commodities and securities markets in Europe and Canada . . . BCCI's relationships with convicted Iraqi arms dealer Sarkis Soghanalian, Syrian drug trafficker, terrorist, and arms trafficker Monzer Al-Kassar, and other major arms dealers . . . The use of BCCI by central figures in arms sales to Iran during the 1980's . . . BCCI's involvement with foreign intelligence agencies. A British source has told the Bank of England and British investigators that BCCI was used by numerous foreign intelligence agencies in the United Kingdom. The British intelligence service, the MI-5, has sealed documents from BCCI's records in the UK which could shed light on this allegation . . . BCCI's financing of commodities and other business dealings of international criminal financier Marc Rich. Marc Rich remains the most important figure in the international commodities markets, and remains a fugitive from the United States following his indictment on securities fraud. BCCI lending to Rich in the 1980's amounted to tens of millions of dollars. Moreover, Rich's commodities firms were used by BCCI in connection with BCCI's involving in U.S. guarantee programs through the Department of Agriculture. The nature and extent of Rich's relationship with BCCI requires further investigation . . . The nature, extent and meaning of the ownership of shares of other U.S. financial institutions by Middle Eastern political figures . . . The nature, extent, and meaning of real estate and financial investments in the United States by major shareholders of BCCI. BCCI's shareholders and front-men have made substantial investments in real estate throughout the United States, owning major office buildings in such key cities as New York and Washington, D.C. Given BCCI's pervasiveness criminality, and the role of these shareholders and front-men in the BCCI affair, a complete review of their holdings in the United States is warranted . . . BCCI's collusion in Savings & Loan fraud in the U.S . . . BCCI's activities in Atlanta and its acquisition of the National Bank of Georgia through First American . . . The alleged relationship between the late CIA director William Casey and BCCI . . . Money laundering by other major international banks
MUELLER AND DEFENDANTS
[From the Jim Lehrer News Hour]
TIMOTHY LYNCH, CATO INSTITUTE: One thing that concerns me greatly is one of the ongoing problems that we have had with the FBI has been the failure of that agency to turn over evidence that it has in its possession over to the trial court and over to people accused of crimes and to their defense teams. We saw it in the Waco case, we saw it in the Ruby Ridge case, and we saw it most dramatically just a few weeks ago in the Timothy McVeigh case where we have thousands of documents suddenly discovered on the eve of an execution . . . There is a landmark case called "United States versus Brady," which basically said that if the government has evidence in its possession that tends to show that the person being prosecuted is innocent, then it violates the due process guarantee in the Constitution for the government to have that evidence, but then to conceal it and not turn it over to the trial court or to the defense team . . . [Mueller] has instituted a policy in the northern district of California that we don't see in many other prosecutorial offices around the country. It's called Brady waivers. He has basically asked all the prosecutors on his staff when they enter into plea bargain negotiations, to make sure that the defendants sign what is called or come to be known as a Brady waiver, which means if he pleads guilty, he agrees that he is not going to come forward with a Brady claim later on. As a practical matter, what this means is a person could enter into a plea bargain, plead guilty; he could be sitting in jail, and evidence could be disclosed later on, evidence that tends to show that he is innocent; evidence that should have been turned over by the prosecutors, but because he signed the Brady waiver, he is not going to have a legal remedy to get a new trial. MORE
REPORTER: HALLIBURTON FIRM ABUSING UNDOCUMENTED WORKERS IN KATRINA CLEANUP
HALLIBURTON WATCH - Halliburton's KBR subsidiary and its subcontractors illegally abuse immigrants and undocumented workers in hurricane-damaged areas of the Gulf Coast, Roberto Lovato of Salon.com reported today.
In an article titled "Gulf Coast slaves," Lovato writes of his travels throughout the storm-ravaged region where KBR's cleanup contracts currently amount to $124.9 million. He observed "squalid trailer parks where up to 19 unpaid, unfed and undocumented KBR site workers inhabited a single trailer for $70 per person, per week." Many suffer from work-related health problems, including diarrhea, sprained ankles, cuts and bruises acquired while working for KBR.
At one point, many undocumented workers were thrown off the job and forced to live in the streets of New Orleans after Halliburton refused for two months to pay a subcontractor. Seventy-four workers filed a complaint with the Department of Labor seeking $56,000 in back pay.
A Halliburton subcontractor even threatened several Latino workers with deportation if they left the Belle Chasse military base in Louisiana, where an estimated 500 immigrants are employed.
Halliburton denies violating labor laws, but immigration enforcement officials discovered undocumented workers at the Belle Chasse facility in October. "Visits to the naval bases and dozens of interviews by Salon confirm that undocumented workers are in the facilities," wrote Lovato.
As in Iraq, workers from poor countries are lured to the Gulf Coast by KBR's shady job brokers peddling exaggerated wages and benefits that rarely materialize after immigrants arrive for work. "They were going to pay seven dollars an hour, and the food was going to be free, and rent, but they gave us nothing," a teenage worker from Mexico told Lovato. "They weren't feeding us. We ate cookies for five days. Cookies, nothing else," he said. . .
"A shadowy labyrinth of contractors, subcontractors and job brokers, overseen by no single agency, have created a no man's land where nobody seems to be accountable for the hiring -- and abuse -- of these workers," reported Lovato. The lack of accountability is an "open invitation for exploitation, fraud and abuse," said James Hale, vice president of the Laborers' International Union of North America.
HALIBURTON ADMITS POSSIBLE BRIBES TO NIGERIANS DURING CHENEY ERA
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - US oil service firm Halliburton has acknowledged that improper payments "may have been made" to Nigerian officials through a consortium of which it was a member. In a document dated Friday and filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton said the US Justice Department had expanded its investigation into potential bribes through the TSKJ consortium, a matter also under review in France and Nigeria. "We understand from the ongoing governmental and other investigations that payments may have been made to Nigerian officials," the company said in the SEC filing. It noted that investigators were scrutinizing the role by British lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who has been reported to have funneled as much as 132 million dollars from the consortium, and from Halliburton's former consultant A. Jack Stanley, fired in June. . . TSKJ is a private limited liability company registered in Portugal comprising Technip of France, Snamprogetti Netherlands, an affiliate of the Italian group ENI, JGC Corporation of Japan, and Kellogg Brown and Root, which was acquired by Halliburton in 1998. . . The alleged payments, many of which occurred when Halliburton was being run by Dick Cheney, now the US vice president, helped a consortium including the US group to win a 12 billion dollar contract to build a gas terminal.
MIKE ALLEN AND GREG SCHNEIDER WASHINGTON POST - Industry officials said yesterday that they see a huge boon to business in Bush's "renewed spirit of discovery," which set a mission to Mars as a long-range goal after astronauts build a science base on the moon. Among the companies that could profit from the plan are Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp., Boeing Co. and Halliburton Co., which Vice President Cheney headed before he joined Bush's ticket. . .
As an example of private industry's hunger for a Mars mission, Steve Streich, a veteran Halliburton scientific adviser, was among the authors of an article in Oil & Gas Journal in 2000 titled "Drilling Technology for Mars Research Useful for Oil, Gas Industries." The article called a Mars exploration program "an unprecedented opportunity for both investigating the possibility of life on Mars and for improving our abilities to support oil and gas demands on Earth," because technology developed for the mission could be used on this planet. . .
Administration officials scoffed at the idea that Halliburton had anything to do with the development of the space policy, which was headed by Bush's domestic policy adviser, Margaret Spellings, and Stephen Hadley, the deputy national security adviser. Another administration official said Cheney did not take a lead role in the interagency work on the space policy but gauged support on Capitol Hill and served in an advisory capacity. An industry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the oil and gas industry, including Halliburton, would benefit considerably from technology that was developed for drilling on Mars, including the tools, the miniaturization, the drilling mechanism, the robotic systems and the control systems.
KRISTEN NELSON, PETROLEUM NEWS - If there is life on Mars, it would probably be microorganisms in water deep below the surface of the planet. Dr. Geoffrey Briggs, director, Center for Mars Exploration at the NASA Ames Center, told "Meet Alaska" that NASA is looking at ways to drill on Mars to look for water and the life it might contain. Briggs said NASA has been working with Halliburton, Shell, Baker-Hughes and the Los Alamos National Laboratory to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars . .
The earliest drilling opportunity would be 2007, and one of the problems will be power. A very power-efficient system might cut out cores a meter at a time, Briggs said, perhaps grinding away at material needed to get the core at a rate of one core a day for hundreds of days. Deeper drilling, into the multi-kilometer range, might occur as part of a 2014 Mars mission which would put astronauts on the planet to assist. . . Halliburton and Baker-Hughes are working on some very advanced systems, Briggs said, some so advanced they aren't willing to talk much about them.
DON VAN NATTA JR, NY TIMES - The United States government is paying the Halliburton Company an average of $2.64 a gallon to import gasoline and other fuel to Iraq from Kuwait, more than twice what others are paying to truck in Kuwaiti fuel, government documents show. Halliburton, which has the exclusive United States contract to import fuel into Iraq, subcontracts the work to a Kuwaiti firm, government officials said. But Halliburton gets 26 cents a gallon for its overhead and fee, according to documents from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The cost of the imported fuel first came to public attention in October when two senior Democrats in Congress criticized Halliburton, the huge Houston-based oil-field services company, for "inflating gasoline prices at a great cost to American taxpayers." At the time, it was estimated that Halliburton was charging the United States government and Iraq's oil-for-food program an average of about $1.60 a gallon for fuel available for 71 cents wholesale. . .
A spokeswoman for Halliburton, Wendy Hall, defended the company's pricing. "It is expensive to purchase, ship, and deliver fuel into a wartime situation, especially when you are limited by short-duration contracting," she said. She said the company's Kellogg Brown & Root unit, which administers the contract, must work in a "hazardous" and "hostile environment," and that its profit on the contract is small.
AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE - The Pentagon repeatedly warned contractor Halliburton-KBR that the food it served to US troops in Iraq was "dirty," as were as the kitchens it was served in, NBC News reported on Friday. Halliburton-Kellogg Brown and Root's promises to improve "have not been followed through," according to a Pentagon report that warned "serious repercussions may result" if the contractor did not clean up.
The Pentagon reported finding "blood all over the floor," "dirty pans," "dirty grills," "dirty salad bars" and "rotting meats ... and vegetables" in four of the military messes the company operates in Iraq, NBC said, citing Pentagon documents. The company feeds 110,000 US and coalition troops daily at a cost of $28 per troop per day, NBC said.
The Pentagon found unclean conditions at four locations in Iraq, including one in Baghdad and two in Tikrit. Even the mess hall where Bush served troops their Thanksgiving dinner was dirty in August, September and October, according to NBC.
When L. Paul Bremer III sets down in Iraq as the U.S.'s new overseer of reconstruction, he'll be bringing a lot of baggage along with him. Chosen by President Bush for his expertise in counter-terrorism, crisis management and diplomacy, Bremer has a resume that includes extended service in the Reagan Administration, an eleven-year stint at Kissinger & Associates, and the co-chairmanship of the Heritage Foundation's Homeland Security Task Force. . .
Bremer's bread and butter issue is terrorism. According to the World Socialist Web Site, in 1981, President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State Alexander Haig appointed him as his special assistant in charge of the department's "crisis management" center. From there he became Reagan's ambassador-at-large for counter-terrorism - a tenure that coincided with Reagan Administration-sponsored "low intensity" wars in Central America and Africa. Although Bremer co-chaired the Operations Sub-Group at the National Security Council along with Oliver North, according to Malcolm Byrne of the National Security Archive, Bremer was on the "periphery" of the Iran/Contra Scandal. - ALTERNET
WORKING FOR CHANGE - A month after 9/11, Jeffrey W. Greenberg, Marsh & McLennan Companies' chairman and chief executive, recognized that the terrorist attacks, which killed 295 of its employees, was also a new business opportunity. "Within days of the twin towers' destruction," the Wall Street Journal reported, Greenberg and top company officials "began planning to form a new subsidiary to sell insurance to corporate customers at sharply higher rates than were common before Sept. 11." The company also "accelerated plans to launch a new consulting unit to capitalize on heightened corporate fears of terrorism." On October 11, Marsh Crisis Consulting was launched with Bremer at its head. Bremer told the Journal that the unit would concentrate on catastrophic risks, those that in some cases could put a company out of business.