Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Wolfowitz Report: How He and Shaha Riza Gamed the Bank




From my "Capital Games" column at www.thenation.com....

World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz broke the rules and engaged in an actual conflict of interest when in 2005 he arranged for a rather generous salary boost for his girlfriend, Shaha Riza, a communications official at the Bank.

That's the conclusion of a special panel of the Bank's board of directors, which on Monday released its report on the Wolfowitz matter. This judgment was no surprise; the basics had been leaked days earlier. But the report presented more information that places Wolfowitz in a tough spot--for it suggests that he and Riza brazenly took advantage of the situation created by his appointment to the Bank to guarantee her a promotion and pay rise she had failed to obtain previously. And the question of the moment is the obvious one: can he survive?

Here are some interesting portions of the report:

According to Mr. [Xavier] Coll [vice president of human resources], he met with Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. [Robin] Cleveland, Counselor to the President, on August 10, 2005, in preparation for a meeting on August 11 with Ms. Riza. During that meeting, Mr. Coll was told to stop consulting with the Bank's General Counsel on this matter.


In retrospect, it's clear there was the need for more legal advice, not less, about what to do about Riza, who could not continue to work at the Bank in a position under the supervision of Wolfowitz. Yet Wolfowitz kept the circle small. He has claimed it would have been a conflict of interest to involve the Bank's general counsel--a contention rejected by the special panel. But even if Wolfowitz had been right about that, he could have sought another way for the human relations department to obtain appropriate legal guidance. He did not.

According to Mr. Wolfowitz, he knew of Mr. Coll's "discomfort" with the proposed agreement with Ms. Riza. He stated that Mr. Coll did not tell him the proposals were outside the Bank's rules, and that, in any case, "there were no established Bank practices for a situation like this." According to Mr. Coll, he told Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Cleveland that the terms proposed by Ms. Riza, regarding her promotion increases and guaranteed promotions...were "outside the Staff Rules" and that moving forward with them was a reputational risk to the Bank. In Mr. Coll's view, there is "no doubt that the President knew or had been made aware of by me that this was outside the rules."


If this is so--if the Bank's board believes Mr. Coll--it's end of story. Had Wolfowitz indeed proceeded with a deal after he was warned it was "outside the rules"--a deal that was rather lucrative for his girlfriend--that ought to be a firing offense.

According to Mr. Coll, after he received the written August 11 [2005] instructions from Mr. Wolfowitz [dictating the terms of the Riza deal], he asked again whether he could consult with the Bank's General Counsel, or anyone in the Bank's Legal Department, and was told he could not.


Two strikes for Wolfowitz.

According to Ms. Riza, she arrived at the figure of $180,000 [for her new salary] by taking into account her view that "two consecutive MENA [Middle East and North Africa] Vice Presidents" had not promoted her due to "discrimination," because she is "a Muslim, Arabic woman who dares to question the status quo."


This explains it. Riza was angry. She was mad (as the report notes) that she had to leave the Bank because her romantic partner was taking over. But she also harbored a grudge, believing, rightly or wrongly, that she had been the victim of discrimination at the Bank. (In a previous article, I explained how she was turned down for a promotion to a job for which she did not meet the minimum qualifications.) According to the panel's report, it was Riza who came up with the specific terms of her reassignment. It seems she was trying to turn lemons into champagne--that is, using the opportunity to settle old scores and award herself the money she believed she deserved. And Wolfowitz went along with his gal-pal.

The report is clear: "The salary increase granted to Ms. Riza far exceeded an increase that would have been granted in accordance with the applicable Staff Rule." The report notes that even had she received a promotion at that time, she could have expected a boost in her annual salary of between $5000 and $20,000--not the $47,000 Wolfowitz awarded her. The report also says that the agreement Wolfowitz arranged called for an annual salary increase more than twice the customary rate and that the automatic promotions awarded Riza in the deal violated the Bank's rules.

The special panel is unequivocal. Wolfowitz engaged in a conflict of interest by setting the terms for Riza's package. "It is the view of the Ad Hoc Group," the report notes, "that these actions show that the relationship between Mr. Wolfowitz and Ms. Riza went beyond the appearance of conflict of interest...and constituted an actual conflict of interest situation." It adds, "these actions manifest a lack of understanding and a disregard for the interests of the institution as a public international organization." The report also finds that Kevin Kellems, a senior aide to Wolfowitz (who recently resigned) made misleading public statements about the Riza deal and that Wolfowitz's "actions are inconsistent with his obligation to "maintain the highest standards of integrity in [his] personal and professional conduct."

This is a damning document. One doesn't have to read far between the lines to see that panel members believe that Riza tried to pull a fast one and that Wolfowitz enabled her, even cutting out other Bank officials who might have questioned the deal. "Her desire for compensation for a past grievance, not related to Mr. Wolfowitz [sic] arrival," the panel says, "appears to have driven the most controversial elements of the agreement she reached with the Bank (with Mr. Wolfowitz directing the Bank's side of the negotiations)." The report slams Wolfowitz for not accepting "responsibility or blame for the events that transpired....The Ad Hoc Group sees this as a manifestation of an attitude in which Mr. Wolfowitz saw himself as the outsider [at the Bank] to whom the established rules and standards did not apply. It evidences questionable judgment and a preoccupation with self interest over institutional best interest."

The board of directors was scheduled to discuss the report with Wolfowitz on Tuesday evening. The issue is, what will the board do in response to the report? It can vote to reprimand or remove Wolfowitz. A reprimand might not be enough for many board members. But the board may not want to pull the trigger. It can issue a vote of no confidence, hoping Wolfowitz will resign. But does Wolfowitz want to put up a fight? Is the White House willing to stick with him, as it has done (so far) with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? George W. Bush can be a stubborn fellow.

The report is a strong indictment of Wolfowitz. It shows he and his girlfriend tried to game the system in a way that could bring her (over the course of his tenure and beyond, thanks to a generous pension) millions of extra dollars. If Wolfowitz manages to stay on after the release of the report, it will be quite an accomplishment for the accountability's-not-us Bush administration.

Posted by David Corn at May 15, 2007 11:12 AM

17 comments:

Robert S said...

And now for someone completely different...


Happy 95th to 'the people's intellectual in red socks'
(http://www.suntimes.com/news/washington/373506,CST-EDT-LAURA07.article)
May 7, 2007
LAURA WASHINGTON


Characters will come and go. Louis "Studs" Terkel is the quintessential Chicago icon. Studs keeps on going -- and going. His literary peregrinations and explanations have straddled the questions of who we are -- and who we aspire to be. Studs' peerless storytelling skills can at once revel in the virtues of the voice of a Samuel Ramey, then tout the table-setting skills of one Dolores Dante, the waitress.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning author turns 95 on May 16. There aren't enough words out there to capture what Studs means to his town. Still, I asked a few notable Chicagoans to give it a shot.

Bernardine Dohrn, the radical leader and human rights advocate, knows a couple of things about professional activism. Dohrn, a Hyde Parker, told me: "Studs Terkel is the best of Chicago radicals -- a lover of people, a humanizer, an eyes-wide-open narrator of the human condition, a storyteller with a funny bone. He is the people's intellectual in red socks. Studs lives in the fiery tradition of Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, Clarence Darrow and Gwendolyn Brooks, and does them proud."

Alex Kotlowitz recalled visiting Studs at his rambling brick Uptown abode a few weeks ago. He found him "seated in his usual chair by the bay windows, the midday sun streaming over his shoulder. He has a manuscript propped up in his lap. It's his new memoir which he's just completed."

More.

*****************************

Better to light a candle than...

Robert S said...


Death squad activity up over 70 percent in a month
RAW STORY
Published: Monday May 14, 2007


As the White House stood firm in its commitment to a troop surge in the Iraq war, statistics released this week show a key indicator of progress in Iraq trending in the wrong direction.

Insurgent death squads dumped 234 bodies around Baghdad in the first 11 days of May, a 70.8 percent increase from the 137 bodies dumped around the capital during the first 11 days of April, The Observer of London reported Sunday.

Addressing reporters Monday, White House spokesman Tony Snow said there was "concern" about the rise in death-squad activity, but he maintained "the longer-term trends ... still generally are down and considerably so."

More.

***************************

Sounds like a surge to me...

capt said...

Paul Wolfowitz's Fatal Weakness



The cronyism that may cost him his World Bank job is also what caused the Iraq debacle.


The executive board of the World Bank mulled a possible vote of no confidence in the leadership of its president, Paul Wolfowitz, this weekend. How did the renowned neoconservative and former deputy secretary of defense, a primary architect of the Iraq war, come to these straits? Is he, as he claims, the victim of a smear campaign by those who dislike his politics? Or do the charges of favoritism and nepotism reflect genuine character flaws?

The small morality play unfolding at the World Bank tells us something significant about how the United States became bogged down in the Iraq quagmire when Wolfowitz was highly influential at the Department of Defense. The simple fact is that Wolfowitz has throughout his entire career demonstrated a penchant for cronyism and for smearing and marginalizing perceived rivals as tactics for getting his way. He has been arrogant and highhanded in dismissing the views of wiser and more informed experts, exhibiting a narcissism that is also apparent in his personal life. Indeed, these tactics are typical of what might be called the "neoconservative style."

Soon after becoming head of the World Bank, Wolfowitz lapsed into his typical favoritism, even while he was, ironically, decrying the technique as practiced by governments of the global South. Instead of having an open search for some key positions and allowing for promotions from within, Wolfowitz simply installed Republicans from the Bush administration in high positions with enormous salaries. He brought Kevin Kellems from Dick Cheney's office (where he had been communications director) and gave him a tax-free salary said to have been as high as $250,000 a year. As Wolfowitz's new senior advisor, Kellems was leap-frogged over hundreds of officials with serious credentials in development work, something about which he knew little. When representing Cheney, Kellems went to great lengths to defend the vice president's implausible conspiracy theory linking Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

More HERE

*****end of clip*****

Sounds like the writer has informed comment.



capt

Robert S said...


Reconsidering Impeachment
by Bob Burnett | May 15 2007


In Berkeley, it's difficult to travel more than a few blocks without seeing an "Impeach Bush" bumper sticker. And whenever I write a column about the 43rd President, I receive emails suggesting that the simplest solution to America's problems is his impeachment. Nonetheless, I'd never taken the possibility of impeachment seriously until this week, when I realized I've had enough: I want Dubya to go down.

The movement to impeach George W. Bush started around Labor Day, in 2002, when it become clear that he was determined to invade Iraq. In March 2003, it gathered momentum when many Americans joined marches and silent vigils to protest what we considered to be an ill-considered and dangerous action. Bush was enormously popular and many "blue" Americans felt we had lost our country: we couldn't understand why so many of our fellow citizens supported Dubya; or why they voted to reelect him in 2004. In those dark days, the impeachment movement seemed to be the last refuge of die-hard liberals: a defiant stance that had little hope of success.

Times changed: in 2006, Democrats took control of Congress and Bush's popularity rating sank to Nixonian depths. Meanwhile, evidence of his malfeasance exploded. Suddenly, even conservative Republicans were criticizing the President, calling for him to abandon his customary intractability and engage in real bipartisanship.

As the impeachment movement grew stronger, I resisted its call for several reasons. While I've never doubted that there are strong legal grounds for Bush's impeachment, I've been troubled by pragmatic considerations: if Dubya was removed from office, Dick Cheney would become President; impeachment proceedings would tie up the 110th Congress at a time when congressional energy needs to be focused on undoing Bush Administration mistakes -- such as ending the war in Iraq; and the impeachment process would further polarize a nation that has become far too adversarial and combative. When the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, said that impeachment was "off the table," I agreed: it's one thing to be right and quite another thing to be effective, I thought.

My thinking changed after I read George Packer's magnificent commentary in the May 14th New Yorker Magazine No Blame, No Shame. Packer asks the key question: "Why has it become impossible to admit a mistake in Washington and accept the consequences?" I pondered the fact that "under the Bush Administration no senior civilian official or military officer has been held responsible for what will probably turn out to be the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history." Then, I had an epiphany: I understood the "why" Packer asks about. The reason why Bush never admits a mistake or accepts consequences is because he believes he can get away with it. He was raised in a system of privilege where there's no accountability.

George Bush's unwillingness to be held personally responsible reflects on more than his Administration. It's a symptom of a deeper malaise that infects American politics and, sadly, much of American society. It's what I think of as the dual justice system. I first ran into this system many years ago when I was an idealistic probation officer in Orange County: courthouse habitu├ęs informed me that the defendants whose cases I handled were exclusively from the lower and middle class, because there was a different system of justice for the rich and powerful - patricians didn't go through the same process that plebeians did. Whether their crime was petty theft or murder, the elite received different treatment than they would have if they had been poor, or a person of color.

There are two systems of justice in the United States: one for the rich and powerful and a far different system for everyone else. Rob a bank and you go to prison; loot a savings and loan as an executive and you're likely to get a hefty fine, if that. Every day, we read about corporate executives who mismanaged their firms, caused the layoffs of thousands of poorly paid workers, and then danced away with millions of dollars of severance pay. We see what happened to the architects of the disaster in Iraq: Bremer, Franks, and Tenet got the "Presidential Medal of Freedom," Rice and Wolfowitz got promoted, as did the invasion supporters within the Pentagon. There was no accountability; they got away with it. So far.

That's why the impeachment of George W. Bush would send an important signal to other elected officials, and the power elite. It would be an indication that the American people are tired of Washington business-as-usual and serious about holding our leaders accountable for their actions. I'm not suggesting that the focus be exclusively on Bush, because I think his whole crew - Cheney, Gonzales, Rice, and Rumsfeld, among others - should go down, too. However, the logical place to start is with the guy at the top: the decider-in-chief.

Bob Dylan once wrote "even the President of the United States sometimes has to stand naked." This is the time for the trappings of power to be stripped from George Bush. He needs to stand naked before the law and take full responsibility for the failures of his Administration. Impeach Dubya.

***************************

Another one rides the bus... - Weird Al Yankovic

Robert S said...


Gonzales pins list of fired US Attorneys on outgoing deputy
Michael Roston
Published: Tuesday May 15, 2007


Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was heckled by protesters and challenged by reporters on the firing of United States Attorneys as he worked to promote the Justice Department's crime fighting strategy in a Tuesday address at Washington, DC's National Press Club. He took the opportunity to say that the responsibility for firing the US Attorneys came primarily from Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, who made known his intention to resign this summer on Monday.

As the embattled Attorney General began delivering an address on crime, hoping to promote an image of 'business as usual' at the Justice Department, protesters disrupted the proceedings.

"Resign! Please! You've dishonored your country! You've destroyed the Constitution! You've dishonored your country!" the unnamed protester, listed in a transcript as a 'heckler' said.

While Gonzales finished the address without further incident, reporters didn't concentrate on his crime-fighting plans for long, turning the discussion rapidly to the sudden decision of his number two, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, to step down this summer.

Gonzales appeared to suggest that McNulty was the key player in deciding which US Attorneys were fired, an assertion he repeated on several occasions.

"In this particular case, Mr. McNulty was a former colleague of all of these United States attorneys, and so he would probably know better than anyone else about the performance and the qualifications of these -- of our United States attorney community," he said. "My understanding was was that Mr. Sampson's recommendations reflected a consensus view of the senior leadership of the department, in particular the deputy attorney general."

Gonzales also continued to work to insulate the White House from any involvement in the firings.

"I believe the White House has publicly stated that, that they were not involved in adding names or deleting names from the list," he said.

The Attorney General defended the prerogative of the President to hire and fire US Attorneys on the basis of politics, and based less on performance, too.

"If you have a more formal process and a U.S. attorney gets a great evaluation, politically it may be more difficult for the president to make a change simply because he wants to make a change. A president should be able to do that," he argued.

Gonzales attempted early in the press conference to tell reporters to focus on questions of law enforcement strategy, and steer clear of the US Attorneys controversy.

"I think the American people really are concerned is the country safe...so while, of course, I'm focused on ensuring that the Congress has the information that it needs to do its job, I'm also -- remain very, very focused, as are members of the department of Justice, remain very focused on doing the work for the American people," he said.

He also sounded a defiant tone on the prospect of Congressional scrutiny later in his remarks.

"I'm not going to be bashful. I'm not going to be timid in going to Congress and pursuing what I think is absolutely necessary and right for the American people," he said.

At the very end of the press conference, Gonzales was asked what the advantages were of being an Attorney General who is very close to the president.

He joked that the question was a softball.

"Did my staff write this question?" he wrote, to laughter.

He then answered that he was a more effective Attorney General because of his close relationship with President Bush.

"I think to be able to walk into the Oval Office and tell the president 'no' and not worry about it -- how it's going to affect your future or your job -- is a good thing," he explained. "When I hear back, when Rachel Brand comes to me and says, 'Well, the White House has a problem with that policy,' my first question always my question I ask, 'Well, who at the White House is it?,' because sometimes it may be some low-level staffer who's maybe never even met the president."

capt said...

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For a "fresher democracy" order yours today! See order form below.

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Let's flood their offices with ImpeachMINTS so that they can't ignore the message from the people!
Get more impeachment products at the PDA store!


More HERE

Gerald said...

Religious Right Re-crucify Jesus

Jesus loved the sinner but not the sin. Of all the sinners Jesus had a great affection for the harlots. During Jesus' time women could be called a harlot for the least excuse. They were wrongly judged! Mary Magdelene was not a harlot! She came from money and she was a groupy following Jesus and she was mesmerized by Jesus' brilliant language skills and she helped fund the Jesus movement. For following Jesus and his apostles, people claimed that she was a harlot. Big error and a false accusation!

Gerald said...

Can't we all just get along

Gerald said...

Reclaiming the legacy of religious coexistence and recognizing vibrant instances of it even today will not magically make the world whole. Nor will the inherent rivalry among the world’s three great monotheisms suddenly go away. Remembering that Muslim societies have often been models of tolerance in the past will not convert today’s jihadis from hate to love. It may, however, illuminate other paths and directions and support a more stable, secure future. In a world where the very few are increasingly able to do great harm to the many, the consequences of our selective readings of the past are more than academic. We must reclaim both the history and future of peaceful coexistence, or the current conflicts will seem benign compared to what comes next.

Gerald said...

Sorry About That!

It seems there are two words in our language that are harder to utter for some than any others: I’m sorry!

Human beings sometimes go to great lengths to avoid saying “I’m sorry” even when they know they’ve hurt someone by their words or deeds.

One common response instead is to say, “I didn’t mean it that way,” or, “You took what I said (or did) wrong.” Either way, such a response puts the blame on the person whose feelings were hurt.

The offender skirts responsibility entirely.

It’s important to own up to hurting another’s feelings. Not that it’s easy; it isn’t. But such decisions do help define one’s character.

Do you have the courage to say, “I’m sorry” when appropriate?

(The magistrates) came and apologized to them. (Acts 16:39)

Dear Jesus, fill me with the humility and courage necessary to take responsibility for my actions.

Gerald said...

It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.

LET US LIGHT UP THE WORLD WITH THE WORDS OF JESUS WHO IS THE WAY, THE LIGHT, AND THE TRUTH!

Let us be on the side of a winner! Let us be with Jesus!

Gerald said...

How Great Thou Art

Robert S said...


How George Tenet Lied
By Ray McGovern
Consortium News
Monday 14 May 2007


If they question why we died,
Tell them because our fathers lied.
Rudyard Kipling

Mercifully, the flurry of media coverage of former CIA director George Tenet hawking his memoir, At the Center of the Storm, has abated. Buffeted by those on the right and left who see through his lame attempt at self-justification, Tenet probably now wishes he had opted to just fade away, as old soldiers used to do.

He listened instead to his old PR buddy and “co-author” Bill Harlow who failed miserably in trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. By this point, they may be having second thoughts.But, hey, $4 million is a sizable sum, even if split two ways. But, aside from the money, what else could they have been thinking?

Tenet’s book is a self-indictment for the crimes with which Socrates was charged: making the worse cause appear the better, and corrupting the youth.

But George is not the kind to take the hemlock. Rather, with no apparent shame, he accepted what one wag has labeled the “Presidential Medal of Silence” in return for agreeing to postpone his Nixon-style “modified limited hangout” until after the mid-term elections last November.

The $4 million advance that Tenet and Harlow took for the book marked a shabby, inauspicious beginning to the effort to stitch together what remained of Tenet’s tattered reputation.

Here in Washington we are pretty much inured to effrontery, but Tenet’s book and tiresome interviews have earned him the degree for chutzpah summa cum laude. We are supposed to feel sorry for this pathetic soul, who could not muster the integrity simply to tell the truth and stave off unspeakable carnage in Iraq.

Rather, when his masters lied to justify war, Tenet simply lacked the courage to tell his fellow citizens that America was about to launch what the post WWII Nuremberg Tribunal called the “supreme international crime”—a war of aggression.

Tenet’s pitiable apologia demonstrates once again not only that absolute power corrupts absolutely, but that the corruption befouls all those nearby.

Cheney’s Chess

For those of prurient bent, the book offers a keyhole-peep into a White House of ill repute, with Vice President Dick Cheney playing at his chess board, moving sniveling pawns like Tenet from one square to another.

Someone should have told the former CIA director that unprovoked war is not some sort of game. Out of respect for the tens of thousands killed and maimed in Iraq, it is time to start calling spades spades. It was a high crime, a premeditated felony to have taken part in this conspiracy.

Not surprisingly, few of Tenet’s talk-show hosts were armed with enough facts to pierce the smoke and the arrogant now-you-listen-to-me approach from Bill Harlow’s PR toolbox.

Whether out of ignorance or just habit, celebrity interviewers kept cutting Tenet more and more slack. Understandable, I suppose, for they, like Tenet, were enthusiastic cheerleaders for the attack on Iraq.

And so, affable, hot-blooded George was allowed to filibuster, bob, weave, and blow still more smoke. Tenet should not be behind a microphone, but behind bars.

With nauseating earnestness, Tenet keeps saying:

“I believed there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

This is a lie. And no matter how many times he says it (after the dictum of his master, George W. Bush, who has stressed publicly that repetition is necessary to “catapult the propaganda”), Tenet can no longer conceal the deceit.

Indeed, the only other possibility—that he is (as he complains) being made the useful “idiot” on whom Vice President Dick Cheney and others mean to blame the war—can be ruled out .

Tenet was indeed useful to Cheney and Bush, but he is no idiot. Those who do not rely exclusively on the corporate media for their information know Tenet for what he is—a charlatan. A willing co-conspirator, he did for Bush and Cheney what propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels did for Hitler.

The key difference is that Goebbels and his Nazi collaborators, rather than writing books and taking sinecures to enrich themselves, were held accountable at Nuremberg.

No WMD

Tenet knew there were no WMD. Secret British documents reveal not only that Tenet told his British counterpart the intelligence was being “fixed” around the policy. They also show that Washington and London developed a scheme to “wrongfoot” Saddam Hussein by insisting on the kind of U.N. inspections they were sure he would reject, thus providing a convenient casus belli.

Saddam outfoxed them by allowing the most intrusive inspection regime in recent history. At the turn of 2002-03, U.N. inspectors were crawling all over Saddam’s palaces, interviewing his scientists, and pursuing every tip they could get from Tenet—and finding nothing.

What did satellite imagery show? Nothing, save for the embarrassingly inconclusive photos that then-Secretary of State Colin Powell displayed on Feb. 5, 2003 at the U.N.

Were there any photos of those biological weapons trailers reported by the shadowy Curveball? None. And so “artist renderings” were conjured up to show what these sinister trailers might look like.

At least the renderings produced by the CIA graphics shop were more professional than the crude forgeries upon which the fable about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa was based.

And the Cheney-Rice-Judith Miller story about aluminum tubes for uranium enrichment got bent hopelessly out of shape as soon as genuine scientists (as opposed to the Tenet’s stable of malleable engineers) got hold of them.

Exactly four years ago, amid the euphoria of Mission Accomplished and the incipient concern over the trouble encountered in finding WMD, then-deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz told writer Sam Tanenhaus of Vanity Fair that the Iraq’s supposed cache of WMD had never been the most important casus belli. It was simply one of several reasons:

“For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on...Almost unnoticed but huge is another reason: removing Saddam will allow the U.S. to take its troops out of Saudi Arabia...”

Evidence of Absence

Who needs real evidence as opposed to allegations of WMD, when the name of the game is removing Saddam?

But how to explain the blather about WMD in the lead-up to the war, when not one piece of imagery or other intelligence could confirm the presence of such weapons? Easy. Apply the Rumsfeld dictum: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

And then explain further that the lack of evidence proves nothing but how clever the Iraqis have become at hiding their weapons. Don’t laugh; that’s what Rumsfeld and the neocons said.

That foolishness had run its course by March 2003 when, despite the best “leads” Tenet could provide and the intrusive inspection regime, the U.N. inspectors could find nothing. It was getting downright embarrassing for those bent on a belli without an ostensible casus, but by then enough troops were in place to conquer Iraq (or so thought Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz).

At that point Bush told the U.N. to withdraw its inspectors promptly and let them watch the fireworks of shock and awe from a safer distance on TV. (What is really shocking is that President Bush continues to claim that Saddam threw out the inspectors. But, again, he has “catapulted” it so often that most Americans do not realize it is a lie.)

How did the White House conspirators think they could get away with all this? Don’t you remember Cheney saying we would be greeted as liberators?

We would defeat a fourth-rate army, remove a “ruthless dictator,” eliminate an adversary of Israel, and end up sitting atop all that oil with permanent military bases and no further need to station troops in Saudi Arabia.

At that point, smiled the neocons, what spoilsport is going to try to make political points by insisting: Yes, but you did this on the basis of forgery, fakery; and where, by the way, are the weapons of mass destruction?

Granted that over recent weeks George Tenet has shown himself a bit dense. There is nevertheless, simply is no defense on grounds of gross ineptitude or momentary insanity. He clearly played a sustained role in the chicanery.

Okay; if you insist: let’s assume for a moment that Rumsfeld did succeed in convincing Tenet that the reason there was no evidence of WMD was because the Iraqis were so good at hiding them. What then?

Sorry. None of this let’s Tenet off the hook. There was, in fact, no absence of well-sourced evidence that Saddam’s WMD had all been destroyed shortly after the Gulf War in 1991—yes, all of them.

Selective Use of Evidence

In 1995, when Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, Hussein Kamel, defected with a treasure trove of documents, he spilled the beans on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. There were none. He knew. He was in charge of the chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs and ordered all such weapons destroyed before the U.N. inspectors could discover them after the war in 1991.

He told us much more, and the information that could be checked out was confirmed.

The Condoleezza-must-have-just-missed-this-report excuse won’t wash, because Newsweek acquired a transcript of Kamel’s debriefing and broke the story on Feb. 24, 2003, several weeks before the war, noting gingerly that Kamel’s information “raises questions about whether the WMD stockpiles attributed to Iraq still exist.”

It was the kind of well-sourced documentary evidence after which intelligence analysts and lawyers lust. But the mainstream press dropped it like a hot potato after Bill Harlow (yes, Tenet’s co-author), in his role as CIA spokesperson, angrily protested (a bit too much) that the Newsweek story was “incorrect, bogus, wrong, untrue.”

It was, rather, entirely correct and documentary in nature. Curiously, the name of Hussein Kamel shows up on a listing of Iraqis in the front of Tenet’s book, but nowhere in the text. Tenet and Harlow apparently decided to avoid calling attention to the fact that they suppressed information from a super source, preferring instead to help the White House grease the skids for war.

In late summer 2002, CIA operatives had a signal success. They recruited Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri and had him working in place – for the U.S.

Proud of their successful recruitment of a senior Iraqi official, officers of CIA’s clandestine service, immediately sought and were given an early meeting with President Bush and his senior advisers.

The information Sabri had already passed to us had checked out well. Naively, the agency officers were expecting sighs of relief as they quoted him saying there were no WMD in Iraq.

The information went over like a lead balloon, dispelling all excitement at the high-level penetration of the Iraqi government. The CIA officials were told there was no interest in further information from this high-level source: “It’s not about intelligence any more. This is about regime change.”

"Curveball"

Director Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, played a direct role regarding the notorious “Curveball,” a former Iraqi taxi driver and convicted embezzler whom German intelligence deemed a mentally unstable alcoholic, who was "out of control."

Unlike the unwelcome reporting from the Iraqi foreign minister, Curveball provided very welcome, if bogus, information on alleged mobile laboratories producing biological weapons in Iraq—grist for the “artist renderings” for Powell’s U.N. speech.

It was all a crock. And Tenet and McLaughlin both knew it, because Tyler Drumheller, then-chief of European operations, gave them chapter and verse before Powell's speech.

The normally taciturn, but recently outspoken former director of State Department intelligence, Carl Ford, has noted that both Tenet and McLaughlin took a personal hand in writing a follow-up report aimed at salvaging what Curveball had said. Ford spared no words: The report “wasn’t just wrong, they lied...they should have been shot."

Nor can Tenet expunge from the record his witting cooperation in the cynical campaign to exploit the trauma we all felt after 9/11, by intimating a connection with that heinous event and Saddam Hussein.

If, as Tenet now concedes, no significant connection could be established between Saddam and al-Qaeda, why did he sit quietly behind Powell at the U.N. as Powell spun a yarn about a "sinister nexus" between the two.

That sorry exhibition destroyed what was left of the morale of honest CIA analysts who, until then, had courageously resisted intense pressure to endorse that evidence-less but explosive canard.

Worth a Thousand Words

George Tenet's book includes a photo that is a metaphor for both the primary purpose of his memoir and its unintended result. Most will remember the famous photo of Colin Powell briefing the U.N. Security Council, with Tenet and then-U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Negroponte sitting staunchly behind him.

Well, on a centerfold page large enough to accommodate the familiar shot, the photo has been cropped to exclude Tenet altogether and include only Negroponte’s shoulder and nose (which, mercifully, he was not holding at the time.)

This is an incredibly adolescent attempt to distance Tenet from that scandalous performance, even though he was the one most responsible for it. The cropping also suggests that Tenet and Harlow are only too aware that by including spurious “intelligence” in Powell’s speech and then sitting stoically behind him as if to "validate" it, Tenet visibly squandered CIA's most precious asset – credibility.

“It was a great presentation, but unfortunately the substance didn’t hold up,” writes Tenet/Harlow, without any trace that they appreciate the consequential enormity of the deception.

In a Feb. 5, 2003, Memorandum for the President regarding Powell’s speech that day, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity gave him an “A” for presentation, and a “C-” for content. (If we knew then what we know now we would of course have flunked him outright.)

We warned the President that intelligence analysts were “increasingly distressed at the politicization of intelligence...and finding it hard to be heard above the drumbeat for war.” That a war of choice was on the horizon was crystal clear—as were the consequences.

We urged the President to “widen the discussion beyond...the circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” We take no comfort in having called it right. Others did too. It was a no-brainer.

Failure in Professionalism

Tenet’s tell-some-but-not-all book is unwittingly self-incriminating in another key respect.

What may be less than fully clear to most readers is that, in his zeal to indict others and exculpate himself, Tenet reveals confidential discussions in the White House, not shrinking from quoting the President. This is thoroughly unprofessional, and does immeasurable harm to intelligence officers’ ability to do their job.

Any President has a right to expect that his comments/questions will be kept in strictest confidence. It is the height of irresponsibility for them to appear in a book, particularly while the President in question is still in office.

Presidents need to have confidence they can share their thoughts candidly and discreetly with senior intelligence officers, without their remarks becoming public. Breaches of this confidence destroy the conditions necessary for intelligence to garner trust and for the President to make the best use of the expertise available in the intelligence community.

That Tenet sees fit to violate that confidentiality for petty personal gain reflects poorly on his respect for the high office he held and the premium that must be put on trust and confidentiality. Those of us privileged to brief the President’s father and other senior national security officials never violated that trust the way Tenet has now done.

Regularized personal access by CIA officers to the most senior national security officials did not begin until former director and then-Vice President George H. W. Bush persuaded President Ronald Reagan to authorize the sharing of the President’s Daily Brief in one-on-one morning briefings for the Vice President, the secretaries of state and defense, and the President’s national security adviser.

(With White House approval, we later added the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs as a daily customer.) These early morning briefings were conducted by us senior analysts who prepared the PDB (and badgered the drafter/analysts with all manner of questions) the day and night before.

We were trusted professionals steeped in substance and just a secure telephone call away from the analysts we knew could provide additional trustworthy detail if needed.

Truth to Power

Our ethos, our job was to speak unvarnished truth to power, irrespective of the policy agendas of the officials we briefed. We were trusted to do that, and the last thing we needed was a CIA director looking over our shoulder—particularly one, like Tenet, not well schooled in the need to keep intelligence and policymaking separate.

During the Reagan presidency, Director William Casey rarely joined us for the PDB briefings and did no pre-publication review. The director had quite enough on his plate. It was a dual job involving herding the cats of a scarcely manageable multi-agency intelligence community, while trying to manage one agency (CIA) itself conceived with a serious birth defect.

A serious flaw in the National Security Act of 1947 gave the CIA director not only responsibility for preparing unvarnished intelligence, but the additional duty to “perform other such functions and duties related to intelligence affecting the national security as the National Security Council may from time to time direct”—like running “secret” wars, as in Nicaragua; overthrowing governments, as in Iran, Guatemala, Chile; and applying President Bush-favored “alternative” methods of interrogation in violation of international law and U.S. Army law, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Each of the two scarcely compatible CIA jobs were full-time challenges, and during my 27-year career I had a front-row seat watching nine directors, most of whom did their best to act with integrity and honesty, despite that structural fault. This in addition to the community-wide responsibilities which posed a management challenge of huge proportions.

Tenet all but admits he was not up to that management challenge. I’m “no Jack Welch,” is the way he puts it in his book.

Equally unfortunate, he picked inexperienced managers distinguished only by their malleability, their subservience to the perceived needs of the next level up. Perhaps the best case in point is John McLaughlin, the quintessential go-along-to-get-along functionary.

McLaughlin very rarely made use of his prerogative as statutory deputy in charge of the intelligence community and did not become much involved in operations. What he did do was worse still, shaping substantive analysis to bend with the prevailing winds from the White House and Pentagon.

Instead of tending to his knitting at CIA headquarters, Tenet decided to hitch a ride downtown with the PDB briefer in the morning, and in that way secure regular face time with the President. By several accounts, there were many “slam dunks” voiced in those very private discussions.

Gerald said...

Praying Each Day: May 15

I have a problem trying to say anything about Nazis, like Wolfie, because corruption, greed, decadence, and lies always prevail in Nazi America.

Gerald said...

THERE IS LITTLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DEMOCRATS AND THE NAZIS. THEY ARE OPPOSITE WINGS OF THE SAME BIRD.

Gerald said...

OpEdNews writes that God finally says enough! Sends Falwell to hell!

I cannot say what God's judgment will be for any person. On a daily basis I say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy for my wife, our sons, and me. I also say to Jesus to help anyone who may require a Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Jesus promised St. Faustina that even the most hardened sinner will be saved if a Chaplet is said for the dying person. It is possible that my Chaplet may have helped Jerry Falwell.

During the hour of death Jesus will stand between the dying person and God, the Father, asking for God's mercy on the sinner.

I do not want for any person to die and be sent to hell for eternity.

capt said...

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