Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sibel Edmonds' Redacted IG Report Released

I've got a few items today.

Firstly, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds and I were interviewed by Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio last week. The interview went live on Monday. From the blurb:
"Sibel Edmonds and Luke Ryland discuss the London Times series on her case and the international nuclear black-market network surrounding A.Q. Kahn, the U.S. government’s total clamp-down by gag orders even against Congress, the American foreign policy hypocrisy of demonizing certain nuclear ambitions and supporting others, the military-industrial-congressional complex revolving door, the bipartisan lack of enthusiasm in pursuing whistleblower cases, the movie about Sibel’s case “Kill The Messenger,” and how it only takes one congressman to call her to testify to blow the case wide open."
You can listen (50 mins) to it here, and read the transcript here. The youtube version is here

For the first time, the redacted version of the Department of Justice's Inspector General's report into Sibel's case has been released - parts 1, 2, & 3 (pdfs)

The DoJ has previously released a 35 page unclassified summary of the report, but this is the first time that the 100 page redacted version has been released publicly. You won't learn much from trying to read the report but it is striking to see how much of the report is redacted. Here is the 'Introduction':
redacted oig

In the interview with Antiwar Radio, we discussed Hastert's new job lobbying for a company that lobbies for Turkey. I wrote about that here and here.

Sibel highlighted the fact that people like Hastert and others who have been involved like former #3 at the State Dept, Marc Grossman, have become 'untouchable.' From the interview:
"Horton: Even though for years now your story has somehow implicated [Hastert] in basically criminal interaction with these groups, and now he still goes right to them for employment when he quits [government]!

Edmonds: Absolutely – they all do. Because they have become… we have these people who have become untouchable.
So what I'm trying to say here is that you have this root problem in our country, you have this pattern, so when you say "Nothing happens to Marc Grossman," I'm telling you that these people are untouchable. They are the untouchables because you see this with many, many people, and it's not raising any flags, the mainstream media is not reporting on it, the congress is not doing anything about it, so what does Marc Grossman have to worry about? They have really thick skin, they are really, really bold about their moves, because they are saying "I'm doing all this despite all this stuff out there. Come and touch me. Catch me if you can." And there is no one out there for us to go and ask to catch these guys."
On the other hand, Sibel reiterated that although these people rightly feel untouchable, it only takes one honest congressperson to have the courage to stand up and invite Sibel to testify under oath in congress to bring down the house of cards and send some of the 'untouchables' to prison. Sibel has repeatedly said that the FBI counterintelligence officials that she worked with are also willing, and eager, to testify if called.

We also discussed the nuclear black market in the interview:
"Edmonds: You have to focus on one aspect, and that is that right now we are talking about a black market, the nuclear black market, and you're looking at international players within this nuclear black market activity, and this involves to a certain degree the Russians, Israelis, South Africa, Turkey, Iran, North Korea, so you're looking at many, many players...

The big deal is our hypocrisy-ridden foreign policy, and the fact that on one hand, we're talking about the danger of these weapons of mass destruction in the hands of whoever at the time we declare to be in the "Axis of Evil," and using this as a technique, and as a tactic, to invoke fear here in our country...

On the other hand, when it comes to these really serious issues and cases, a lot of them involving weapons of mass destruction, we cherry-pick the intelligence, and we cherry-pick on what we are going to take action.

As you know, right now, we are talking about possibly attacking Iran because they may have the nuclear capabilities and technology. On the other hand, we are looking the other way when it comes to this global scale nuclear black market activities, in some of which we have U.S. players, participation, and their role. But yet, we go out of our way – and this is our government – to quash this information, to gag this information, to let these people off the hook, and we can't do that!

That is the importance of it, it's not that "Okay, fine, Pakistan got it, and who played what role?" It is the fact that there is this nuclear black market, and we have many, many players, and some of these players happen to be our allies, some of these players happen to be U.S. persons, and yet, we only get partial stories, and whenever it is convenient for our government to say "Oh, okay if it is Syria, or if it is Iran…" and yet looking the other way when it happens to be people who we call our allies."
Some of those 'allies' who participate in this nuclear black market include officials from Israel and Turkey and the US. As reported in the UK's Times in January's "For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets":
"A backlog of tapes had built up, dating back to 1997, which were needed for an FBI investigation into links between the Turks and Pakistani, Israeli and US targets. ... (Sibel) heard evidence that pointed to money laundering, drug imports and attempts to acquire nuclear and conventional weapons technology.

“What I found was damning,” she said. “While the FBI was investigating, several arms of the government were shielding what was going on.”

The Turks and Israelis had planted “moles” in military and academic institutions which handled nuclear technology. Edmonds says there were several transactions of nuclear material every month, with the Pakistanis being among the eventual buyers. “The network appeared to be obtaining information from every nuclear agency in the United States,” she said."
This part of the interview was in response to the news last month that the CIA had helped orchestrate the destruction of evidence in a Swiss case involving some key suppliers to the proliferation network. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. Please note that this interview was conducted late last week, prior to the news in the US media in the last few days, scaremongering about the possibility that Iran and others might have received blueprints for a new compact nuclear weapon. As I mentioned in my previous post, the US media was silent about this story for weeks, before finding a way to spin it onto the front page of the Washington Post on Sunday ("Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Warhead")

The apparent trigger for this latest round of reporting in the US was a new report (pdf) by former weapons inspector David Albright which was released on Monday (and leaked in draft form over the weekend).

It will be interesting to watch how the spin on this story plays out. Albright's report notes that the defendants in the Swiss case, the Tinner family, had one full page, in a three page report, dedicated to the fact that the Tinners were working for the CIA, and notes that they received 'a large sum of money' from the CIA, but I suspect that part of his report will go largely unmentioned in the US media, even while credible outlets in the rest of the world have argued for the past month that the Swiss government destroyed the evidence in the case at the behest of the CIA.

Back in May the Guardian reported:
While the Swiss government maintains the treasure trove of nuclear intelligence was destroyed for reasons of national security, the Americans may have been involved because Tinner is believed to have also been working for the CIA. Albright said Tinner was recruited by the American agency from 1999-2000.

"The Swiss were doing other people's dirty work," said an international official familiar with the investigation into the Khan network. "The allegation is that Urs was on the CIA payroll for a very large sum of money."

Olli Heinonen, deputy director general at the IAEA, has led the investigation into the Khan network for years. Last year his office sought and gained access to the Tinner files and some of his officials were also summoned to witness their destruction.

The Americans were also present, according to the international official. "The Americans were involved in the destruction. They were calling the shots," he said. The IAEA refused to comment publicly on the case. A former senior IAEA official said: "I am quite astonished. It's very unusual to see people destroying documents like this."
Yesterday the Guardian stated flatly that:
"Officials from the Vienna agency and Washington supervised the recent destruction of the Swiss files"
The reporting in the US media has not been quite so forthcoming about the US role. Washington Post merely reported that the evidence in the case was "recently destroyed by Swiss authorities under the supervision of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency." The New York Times timidly reported that "the Tinners had provided information to the C.I.A"

According to Albright's latest report, the CIA promised to keep the Tinners, key suppliers of the network, out of prison but that the "CIA was unable to keep its promise on jail time." In fact, by destroying the evidence in the case, the CIA might be able to keep the promise after all, as the Tinners are now likely to go free because the destruction of the evidence means that they are now unable to get a fair trial.

Of course, the US government isn't necessarily concerned about keeping their promise to the Tinner family; it may very well be that they don't want their involvement, and the involvement of their allies, reaching the light of day. What is missing from the current reporting is that while the Swiss were trying to build a case against the Tinners in 2005 and 2006, the US government refused to even reply to multiple requests for assistance over an 18 month period. David Albright himself testified in congress that:
The United States should respond to the Swiss requests for assistance as quickly as possible. To continue to ignore these requests undermines the vital prosecution of key members of the Khan network and risks undercutting support for Swiss cooperation in non-proliferation matters. In addition, I find this lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons.
As I wrote last week:
In an interview on Democracy Now a week (after his testimony in Congress), Albright said that he finds the US stonewalling "disturbing and perplexing," "mystifying" and "embarrassing as an American," adding:
"The signal (the U.S. government is) sending is that it doesn’t want the Swiss to prosecute these three people, and yet they provide no reason for that."
Albright's perspective certainly add some important context to the allegations that the US government pressured the Swiss to destroy the Tinner files in order to prevent a public trial - and all that might entail...
Given this context, MSNBC's 'Deep Background' has some interesting reporting. For some reason:
"U.S. officials are downplaying reports in the New York Times and Washington Post that Pakistan's A.Q. Khan may have given Iran--and other nations--blueprints for a miniature nuclear warhead first developed for his country's program.
Publicly, U.S. officials have been low key in discussing the reports, surprising in that the Bush administration has been pressing Iran to stop its uranium enrichment program.
A spokesman for the CIA declined all comment.

A senior U.S. official familiar with the network's operation explained why the U.S. is downplaying the reports, at least publicly.

"You'll have a hard time proving or disproving this," he said, referring to the possibility that Iran was given the blueprints. "We don't know that this transfer took place."
It sure is 'surprising.' Whatever happened to "We don't what the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud"?

Even as the rhetoric against Iran continues to heat up, the Bush administration is trying to deflect attention away from this matter. Why is that? This seems like the perfect 'opportunity' to scale up the pressure. Why are they distancing themselves? What do they have to hide?


In other news, I was interviewed by Peter B Collins about Sibel's case for 20 minutes on Monday. You can listen to that here (mp3)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

media alert

Sibel and I will be on Scott Horton's radio show at 1.15pm Eastern on Tuesday.

Scott has done great work on Sibel's story in the past - and knows more about this case than just about anyone.

Update: Apparently there is some technical trouble at Antiwar Radio. The interview has been delayed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Case: More Destruction of Evidence re Nuclear Black Market

It's remarkable, really.

The US government has taken some extreme measures to silence former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. Among other reasons, they are obviously very nervous about information that Sibel has regarding the involvement of US, Israeli, and Turkish officials in supplying the nuclear black market.

Now we have this: The US Government apparently demanded that the Swiss government destroy all evidence - all 30,000 pages of it - related to the pending prosecution of the Tinner family. The Tinners were "very key suppliers" of AQ Khan's nuclear proliferation network, but their court case is now unlikely to proceed, given the destruction of the evidence.

Basic Facts
The Tinners, the father and two sons, were arrested by German authorities and extradited to Switzerland in 2004 for their role in supplying the A.Q. Khan nuclear proliferation network.

Two weeks ago, the Swiss President, responding to media reports, read out a prepared statement announcing that all the evidence relating to the Tinners' case was destroyed late last year. He said that it was important to destroy all the evidence, which included sensitive information about how to make nuclear weapons, in case the information fell into the hands of terrorists. He also stated that Switzerland was merely meeting its obligations under the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and that the IAEA supervised the destruction of the documents.

That sounds reasonable.

The Questions
Unilateral Decision Making. The Swiss government is under pressure internally as a result of its unilateral decision to destroy the evidence. Both the parliament and the courts are accusing the Swiss government of violating the principle of Separation of Powers. The Parliament has already announced that it will hold an investigation into the matter.

Why the Secrecy? The announcement that the evidence was destroyed (6 months ago) was forced on the Swiss President by rumours in the media. The Swiss government refuses to answer any questions regarding the matter, as do the IAEA and the US government.

NPT Obligations? I haven't seen any media report which confirms or supports the Swiss claim that this destruction of evidence was an obligation under the NPT. However the Guardian, which has the best reporting on this story, quotes a 'former senior IAEA official' saying: "I am quite astonished. It's very unusual to see people destroying documents like this. They should be put somewhere very safe."

The destruction of evidence took place with the apparent imprimatur of the IAEA, but they refuse to comment too. Has the IAEA been corrupted too?

US Involvement
Virtually every media article about this matter - including those articles preceding the official announcement - notes the strong suspicion that the Swiss Government acted on behalf of the US Government, specifically the CIA. The Guardian has the details:
"While the Swiss government maintains the treasure trove of nuclear intelligence was destroyed for reasons of national security, the Americans may have been involved because Tinner is believed to have also been working for the CIA. Albright said Tinner was recruited by the American agency from 1999-2000.

"The Swiss were doing other people's dirty work," said an international official familiar with the investigation into the Khan network. "The allegation is that Urs (Tinner) was on the CIA payroll for a very large sum of money."
The Americans were also present (at the destruction), according to the international official. "The Americans were involved in the destruction. They were calling the shots," he said.
Had the evidence been presented in court, compromising and embarrassing information about the CIA's activities with the Khan network could have surfaced, say experts and officials. "
Time Magazine has a more benign take on the reasons that the CIA might have wanted the evidence destroyed:
"The official stonewalling has fueled speculation that the United States, and specifically the CIA, has pressured the Swiss government to destroy the documents to aid its own efforts to stop nuclear smuggling, whatever the effect on the Tinners' trials. (emphasis mine)"
One item that I have not seen mentioned in any of the recent press reports is that the US government actively hindered the Swiss investigation into the Tinners for at least 18 months. In May 2006, former weapons inspector David Albright testified in Congress that the US government had been stonewalling the Swiss investigation:
"The U.S. Government Needs to Cooperate With Swiss Prosecutions of the Tinners.

Although the focus today is on Pakistan and unanswered questions about the Khan network, the United States has been remiss in assisting the overseas prosecution of key members of the Khan network. The United States has ignored multiple requests from Swiss prosecutors for cooperation that have extended over a year.
The (Swiss) Office of the Attorney General is disappointed over this matter. It is difficult to understand the actions of the U.S. Government. Its lack of assistance needlessly complicates this important investigation.
The United States should respond to the Swiss requests for assistance as quickly as possible. To continue to ignore these requests undermines the vital prosecution of key members of the Khan network and risks undercutting support for Swiss cooperation in non-proliferation matters. In addition, I find this lack of cooperation frankly embarrassing to the United States and those of us who believe that the United States should take the lead in bringing members of the Khan network to justice for arming our enemies with nuclear weapons."
In an interview on Democracy Now a week later, Albright said that he finds the US stonewalling "disturbing and perplexing," "mystifying" and "embarrassing as an American," adding:
"The signal (the U.S. government is) sending is that it doesn’t want the Swiss to prosecute these three people, and yet they provide no reason for that."
Albright's perspective certainly add some important context to the allegations that the US government pressured the Swiss to destroy the Tinner files in order to prevent a public trial - and all that might entail...

The Tinner case brings to mind the Sibel Edmonds case, in terms of the underlying issues, the secrecy, and the destruction of evidence.

One of the key issues in Sibel's case is the involvement of American, Turkish and Israeli officials in supplying the nuclear black market, including the so-called AQ Khan network. See the UK's Times' "For sale: West’s deadly nuclear secrets:
Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
Her story shows just how much the West was infiltrated by foreign states seeking nuclear secrets. It illustrates how western government officials turned a blind eye to, or were even helping, countries such as Pakistan acquire bomb technology.
In order to keep this information from becoming public, Sibel's case has been swept under the blanket of secrecy by the invocation of the State Secrets Privilege.

Destruction of Evidence
In a subsequent article, The Times also reported that the FBI "has been accused of covering up a file detailing government dealings with a network stealing nuclear secrets." The case file, 203A-WF-210023, was known to exist, but the FBI now denies that it exists. The question at the time was whether the FBI was lying about the existence of the file, or whether the case file, which contained all the evidence of a multi-year counterintelligence investigation, had been destroyed. I had been leaning toward the option that the FBI was hiding the existence of the file, but given that the US government has apparently been able to orchestrate the destruction of evidence in the Swiss Tinner case, it's easier to imagine that they could, and would, destroy their own case file.

Tenuous Justifications
The main argument for the destruction of the Tinner evidence is that it had to be destroyed in case the nuclear blueprints somehow got into the hands of terrorists or rogue states. This is obviously a worthy objective, however:
a) Copies of the exact same information are known to exist elsewhere, and is suspected to be on the Khan network computers in Dubai.
b) There is no indication in any of the media reports that any effort was made to destroy only the sensitive information while maintaining the evidence required to prosecute the Tinners.
c) The US (and UK) allowed the network to proliferate nuclear hardware and nuclear know-how for years without apparently being concerned about the fallout. Why the concern all of a sudden with the Tinner case?

The Times accurately described how the US has ignored proliferation for years, without any apparent concern:
"The wider nuclear network has been monitored for many years by a joint Anglo-American intelligence effort. But rather than shut it down, investigations by law enforcement bodies such as the FBI and Britain’s Revenue & Customs have been aborted to preserve diplomatic relations."

In Sibel's case, the FBI watched while the network delivered nuclear product not only to their acknowledged end-customers, but also while freelancers within the network made copies of the information stolen "from every nuclear agency in the United States" and sold it to the highest bidder. There's no indication that the US government did anything to stop the flow of any of this information at the time, but rather went to extraordinary lengths to ensure that Sibel's knowledge of these events did not become public. Similarly, people at the Pentagon and State Department were able to ensure that the honest counterintelligence agents at the FBI were prevented from moving forward on any of their multi-year investigations that had discovered all of these nefarious activities.

After all this, we are now being asked to believe that the destruction of evidence in the Tinner case is to prevent secure information from getting in the hands of terrorists? Please.

Where is the Media?
One other similarity between Sibel's case and the Tinner case is the absence of the US mainstream media. The Tinner case broke on May 23. The Guardian article was on May 31. The US media has been completely AWOL on this story, apart from a single AP story that ran in some venues on May 23. UPI ran a short article based on the Guardian story, and Time ran an article on June 3. The New York Times hasn't run a single article on the story.

The silence (1,2) is baffling.

The US government has done just about everything it can to ensure that Sibel Edmonds is prohibited from spilling the beans on what she knows about the nuclear black market, among other things. Now we see the hand of the US government apparently reaching into a foreign democracy, exporting the concept of the 'unitary executive' and upsetting the balance of powers, to destroy evidence which was to be used to prosecute crimes involving the spread of nuclear weapons to rogue regimes.

The US government had previously demonstrated that it didn't wanted to prosecute these crimes, therefore their flimsy ex-poste rationales for destroying the evidence, in secret, need to be held up for extra scrutiny.

What's going on???


Crossposted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

For more background on Sibel's case and the nuclear black market, see my "Sibel Edmonds Case: Nukes for sale (Pt 2)" and "Sibel Edmonds Case: Benazir and The 'Islamic' Bomb"

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Case: ABC News investigates Hastert scandals and the Turkish Connections.

Kudos to ABC News for (belatedly) taking the opportunity of Dennis Hastert's new lobbying job to give a run-down of some of the scandals Hastert has been involved in.

Despite the benign headline ("Ex-House Speaker Hastert Finds New Home"), Justin Rood mentions the Mark Foley / House Page scandal, Hastert's (under-reported) involvement in the Abramoff affair, and Hastert's dodgy land / earmarking deals. Rood's piece ends thusly:
"A 2005 Vanity Fair article alleged Turkish groups and individuals at the Turkish Consulate in Washington, D.C. had discussed funneling tens of thousands of dollars to Hastert in exchange for political favors; his spokesman at the time denied Hastert had any knowledge of Turkish groups and had done no favors.

Hastert's new firm has done work for the government of Turkey and Turkish companies, a spokesperson confirmed Monday. She could not say whether or not Hastert would be working on projects involving that country."
As far as I know, this is the first time that the Vanity Fair investigation has ever been referenced in the corporate media... 34 months after publication.

Please head over to the ABC article and leave a message of support & encouragement. We need to reward this sort of reporting, and also build on the momentum. The popularity of my article about Hastert on Monday demonstrates that there is a groundswell of interest in these matters.

Fox News, of all places, has also been reporting on (some of) Hastert's crimes:
"Budget earmarks became a national scandal — and a national joke — after some wasteful schemes made headlines recently:
The most recognizable name is Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert...

In February 2004, Hastert, with partners and through a trust that did not bear his name, bought up 69 acres of land that adjoined his farm some 60 miles outside Chicago. The price was $340,000. In May 2005, Hastert transferred an additional 69 acres from his farm into the trust.

Two months later, Congress passed a spending bill into which Hastert inserted a $207 million earmark to fund the “Prairie Parkway” which, when completed, would run just a few miles from the 138 acres owned by Hastert’s trust.

After President Bush flew to Hastert’s district in August 2005 to sign the bill, Hastert and his partners flipped the land for what appeared to be a multi-million dollar profit.
One of the problems with political reporting today is that these issues tend to only (if ever) get reported in 'silos.' We need to take the opportunity of Hastert's new job to present the portfolio of his crimes and dodgy deals in their entirety, and decide whether we really want to allow these people to seamlessly cross-over into private practice to continue to make millions of dollars, selling out the national interest.

One thing that I didn't mention in my article on Monday is that Sibel has repeatedly stated that there was actually a concerted effort to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the fact that these Turkish interests were buying up congressmen, including Hastert.

Here's Sibel:
“…What happened was, FBI had this information since 1997. In 1999, the Clinton Administration actually asked the Department of Justice to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate Hastert, and certain other elected officials that were not named in this (VF) article, to be investigated formally. And the Department of Justice actually went about appointing this prosecutor, but after the Administration changed they quashed that investigation and they closed it despite the fact they had all sorts of evidence, again I’m talking about wiretaps, documents- paper documents- that was highly explosive and could have been easily used to indict the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. That investigation was closed in 2001, and this was around the time I started reporting my cases to the Congress.”
Vanity Fair reported the same thing, from a different source
"One counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds’s case has told Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990’s. That inquiry found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior American politicians in at least two major cities—Washington and Chicago.
[I]n December 2001, Joel Robertz, an F.B.I. special agent in Chicago, contacted Sibel and asked her to review some wiretaps. Some were several years old, others more recent; all had been generated by a counter-intelligence that had its start in 1997. “It began in D.C.,” says an F.B.I. counter-intelligence official who is familiar with the case file. “It became apparent that Chicago was actually the center of what was going on.”

Its subject was explosive; what sounded like attempts to bribe elected members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. “There was pressure within the bureau for a special prosecutor to be appointed and take the case on, “the official says. Instead, his colleagues were told to alter the thrust of their investigation – away from elected politicians and toward appointed officials. “This is the reason why Ashcroft reacted to Sibel in such an extreme fashion,” he says “It was to keep this from coming out.”

In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates.

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes.... One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert."
An enterprising reporter ought to be able to track some of this down... Counter-intelligence officials have confirmed that steps were taken to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the fact that Hastert and others were taking bribes from officials at the Turkish Consulate, and key Turkish lobbying groups (American Turkish Council and Assembly of Turkish American Associates) related to "large scale drug shipments and other crimes."

We know that the FBI has been trying to determine the source of the money, and trying to determine how it is distributed:
Some of it may come from criminal activity, possibly drug trafficking, but much more might come from arms dealing. Contracts in the hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars provide considerable fat for those well placed to benefit.
We know that some of the other people named by Sibel have since been added to the Turkish payroll, with multi-million dollar salaries.

We know that Sibel has outlined a 'recipe' whereby "ex-congressmen turned lobbyists ... (pocket) a few dozen who still serve."

This is not about Hastert himself, so much as perpetuating a system where people like Hastert - and Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Eric Edelman, Marc Grossman, Roy Blunt, Dan Burton, Tom Lantos, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz and others - continue to subvert American democracy for private profit.

What will it take to stop it?

(For starters, please leave a supportive comment over at Justin Rood's article at ABC News)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Case: Dennis Hastert to receive payoffs for 'services rendered'

So, former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds is again proved right. For more than a year Sibel has been predicting that Dennis Hastert will join a lobbying firm involved with Turkey, and now we learn that Hastert is joining Dickstein Shapiro.

In the "Representative Engagements" section of Dickstein's website, we learn that they represented "the government of Turkey in connection with the development and financing by private sponsors of the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and TransCaspian gas pipeline spanning from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean."

Dennis Hastert, who is listed in Sibel's "Rogues Gallery," was caught on FBI wiretaps accepting bribes from Turkish criminal elements associated with the Turkish government, as documented in Vanity Fair in 2005 and elsewhere.

The following clip from Kill The Messenger, a documentary about Sibel's case, discusses some of Hastert's involvement as mentioned in Vanity Fair.

In researching the Vanity Fair article, journalist David Rose interviewed various congressional staffers and counter-intelligence officials who are familiar with the case. He reported that there were three separate types of bribes paid to Hastert:
1) "(T)ens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks."
2) "(T)ens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information."
3) "(A)t least $500,000"

Hastert was lucky that there was literally zero follow-up in the mainstream media to these most serious charges. Hastert did not sue Vanity Fair for libel, instead, Hastert got his spokesman to send Vanity Fair a bizarre Letter to the Editor in response, 6 months later. BradBlog has the letter here, along with Sibel's effective debunking of Hastert's response.

The only action taken in response to the startling revelations in Vanity Fair was by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) which filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) asking them to investigate the "(T)ens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks." According to the Vanity Fair article, these bribes were funneled into Hastert's campaign in amounts less than $200, which would mean that the contributions were below the threshold for reporting. The Federal Election Commission dropped the investigation in early 2006 without answering the specific charge.

The bribes identified in Vanity Fair are probably just the tip of the iceberg, merely down-payments on what was promised to him when he left office, and could 'earn' a multi-million dollar salary as a lobbyist.

Sibel described how the process works, using another member of her "Rogues Gallery,"
former State Dept official Marc Grossman as an example:

"For example, look at Mr. Marc Grossman. He used to be the U.S. ambassador in Turkey and used his position within the State Department to secure future higher-level positions while in office—and I would like to emphasize this—while in office and with several agencies knowing about it. Some people in these agencies wanted to investigate these cases but they were prevented from going forward.

..And just take a look at where Mr. Grossman is today. Within a few months after he gave his resignation, he obtained a position with a semi-legitimate Turkish company that is supplying him with a very attractive monetary reward, (and) he obtained (another) position with a lobbying firm that represents (Turkey)."

And Sibel has made the same case elsewhere:
"Please do not make the grave and naive mistake of assuming that Grossman found and obtained his highly lucrative and questionable positions after his resignation in January 2005."

It appears that these arrangements aren't the typical 'Revolving Door' retirement packages, but rather specific quid pro quo deals. People like Hastert and Grossman and the others quite literally sell out their government while in office on the specific promise that they will be rewarded when they leave.

Hastert won't actually be a 'Lobbyist' according to Dickstein Shapiro, he'll be "providing strategy advice to the firm and its clients" - spending half his time in Chicago and half his time in DC.

Most likely, some of that 'strategy advice' will include advice on how to corrupt some of the sitting congressmen: The people who bribed Hastert and the others need to ensure the continuity of their operations, regardless of who is sitting in Congress. Sibel says that the foreign entities who are successful in this business simply need to follow a basic recipe:
"Get yourself a few ‘Dime a Dozen Generals,’ bid high in the ‘former statesmen lobby auction’, and put in your pocket one or two ‘ex-congressmen turned lobbyists’ who know the ropes when it comes to pocketing a few dozen who still serve."

Dickstein Shapiro, Hastert's new employers, were deeply involved with Turkey and the Central Asian region during the time that Hastert was caught taking these bribes - 1996 to 2001. For example, It was Dickstein Shapiro, in conjunction with the Baker Botts law firm, who put together the 'contract of the century' - the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (or BTC) pipeline which was to carry oil from Azerbaijan to the West, via Georgia and Turkey.

Some of Dickstein Shapiro's other claims to fame include:
1) Defending "former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams in connection with the Iran-Contra investigations."
2) "(S)uccessfully defended and represented prominent clients in a number of other high-profile cases such as...BCCI Bank"
3) Employing convicted felon Lewis Scooter Libby (and his wife), who was a partner at the firm from 1986 to 1989.

If there's any justice in the world, Dickstein Shapiro will soon be adding Dennis Hastert to their 'Ex-employees who are now convicted felons' Hall of Fame.