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In his farewell address in 1796, George Washington warned that America must be constantly awake against “the insidious wiles of foreign influencesince history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”
Today, foreign influence, that most baneful foe of our republican government, has its tentacles entrenched in almost all major decision making and policy producing bodies of the U.S. government machine. It does so not secretly, since its self-serving activities are advocated and legitimized by highly positioned parties that reap the benefits that come in the form of financial gain and positions of power.
Foreign governments and foreign-owned private interests have long sought to influence U.S. public policy. Several have accomplished this goal; those who are able and willing to pay what it takes. Those who buy themselves a few strategic middlemen, commonly known as pimps, while in DC circles referred to as foreign registered agents and lobbyists, who facilitate and bring about desired transactions. These successful foreign entities have mastered the art of ‘covering all the bases’ when it comes to buying influence in Washington DC. They have the required recipe down pat: 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.
The most important facet of this influence to consider is what happens when the active and powerful foreign entities’ objectives are in direct conflict with our nation’s objectives and its interests and security; and when this is the case, who pays the ultimate price and how. There is no need for assumptions of hypothetical situations to answer these questions, since throughout recent history we have repeatedly faced the dire consequences of the highjacking of our foreign and domestic policies by these so-called foreign agents of foreign influence.
Let’s illustrate this with the most important recent case, the catastrophe endured by our people; the September Eleven terrorist attacks. Let’s observe how certain foreign interests, combined with their U.S. agents and benefactors, overrode the interests and security of the entire nation; how thousands of victims and their loved ones were kicked aside to serve the interests of a few; foreign influence and its agents.
Senator Graham’s Revelation
It has been established that two of the 9/11 hijackers had a support network in the U.S. that included agents of the Saudi government, and that the Bush administration and the FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship.
In his book, “Intelligence Matters,” Senator Bob Graham made clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry’s final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties in the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Here is an excerpt from Senator Graham’s statement from the July 24, 2003 congressional record on the classified 27 pages of the Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11: “The most serious omission, in my view, is part 4 of the report, which is entitled Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters. Those 27 pages have almost been entirely censured.The declassified version of this finding tells the American people that our investigation developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States. In other words, officials of a foreign government are alleged to have aided and abetted the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, which took over 3,000 lives.”
In his book Graham reveals, “Our investigators found a CIA memo dated August 2, 2002, whose author concluded that there is incontrovertible evidence that there is support for these terrorists within the Saudi government. On September 11, America was not attacked by a nation-state, but we had just discovered that the attackers were actively supported by one, and that state was our supposed friend and ally Saudi Arabia.” He then cites another case, “We had discovered an FBI asset who had a close relationship with two of the terrorists; a terrorist support network that went through the Saudi Embassy; and a funding network that went through the Saudi Royal family.”
The most explosive revelation in Graham’s book is the following statement with regard to the administration’s attitude on page 216: “It was as if the President’s loyalty lay more with Saudi Arabia than with America’s safety.” Further, he states that he asked the FBI to undertake a review of the Riggs Bank records on the terrorists’ money trail, to look at other Saudi companies with ties to al-Qaeda, to plan for monitoring suspect Saudi interests in the United States; however, Graham adds: “To my knowledge, none of these investigations have been completedNor do we know anything else about what I believe to be a state-sponsored terrorist support network that still exists, largely undamaged, within the United States.”
What Graham is trying to establish in his book and previous public statements in this regard, and doing so under state imposed ‘secrecy and classification’, is that the classification and cover up of those 27 pages is not about protecting ‘U.S. national security, methods of intelligence collection, or ongoing investigations,’ but to protect certain U.S. allies. Meaning, our government put the interests of certain foreign nations and their U.S. beneficiaries far above its own people and their interests. While Saudi Arabia has been specifically pointed to by Graham, other countries involved have yet to be identified.
In covering up Saudi Arabia’s direct role in supporting Al Qaeda, the 9/11 Commission goes even a few steps further than the congress and the Executive Branch. The report claims “there is no convincing evidence that any government financially supported al-Qaeda before 9/11.” Their report ignores all the information provided by government officials to Congress, as well as volumes of published reports and investigations by other nations, regarding Muslim and Arab regimes that have supported al Qaeda. It completely disregards the terrorist lists of the Treasury and State Departments, which have catalogued the Saudi government’s decades of support for Bin Laden and al-Qaeda.
Why in the world would the United States government go so far to protect Saudi Arabia in the face of what itself declares to be the biggest security threat facing our nation and the world today?
Why is the United States willing to set aside its own security and interests in order to advance the interests of another state?
How can a government that’s been intent upon using the terrorist attacks to carry out many unjustifiable atrocities, prevent bringing to justice those who’ve been established as being directly responsible for it?
More importantly, how is this done in a nation that prides itself as one that operates under governance of the people, by the people, for the people?
How did our government bodies, those involved in drafting and implementing our nation’s policies, evolve into this foreign influence-peddling operation?
In order to answer these questions one must first establish who stands to lose and who stands to gain by protecting Saudi Arabia from being exposed and facing consequences of its involvement in terrorist networks activities. In addition to identifying the nations in question, we must identify the interests as well as the actors; their agents. Let’s look at Saudi Arabia as one of the successful foreign nations that have mastered the art of ‘covering all the bases’ when it comes to buying and peddling influence in Washington DC, and identify its hired ‘agents’ and ‘agents by default.’
Foreign Agents by Default
Although when it comes to our complex diplomatic threading with Saudi Arabia the easiest answer appears to be the ‘oil factor,’ upon further inspection the Saudi’s influence and role extends into other areas, such as the Military Industrial Complex and the too familiar Lobbying Games.
According to the report published by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), Saudi Arabia is America’s top customer. Since 1990 the U.S. government, through the Pentagon’s arms export program, has arranged for the delivery of more than $39.6 billion in foreign military sales to Saudi Arabia, and an additional $394 million worth of arms were delivered to the Saudi regime through the State Department’s direct commercial sales program. Oil rich Saudi Arabia is a cash-paying customer; a compulsive buyer of our weaponry. The list of U.S. sellers includes almost all the major players such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing.
The report by FAS establishes that despite the show of U.S. support demonstrated by this astounding quantity of arms sales, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is extremely poor; see the U.S. State Department’s 2000 Human Rights Report. Saudi Arabia’s position as a strategic Gulf ally has blinded U.S. officials into approving a level and quality of arms exports that should never have been allowed to a non-democratic country with such a poor human rights record.
Further, there are indications of Saudi’s active role as a player in the nuclear black-market. According to Mohammed Khilewi, first secretary at the Saudi mission to the United Nations until July 1994, the Saudis have sought a bomb since 1975; they sought to buy nuclear reactors from China, supported Pakistan’s nuclear program, and contributed $5 billion to Iraq’s nuclear weapons program between 1985 and 1990. While the U.S. government vocally opposes the development or procurement of ballistic missiles by non-allies, it has been very quiet in Saudi Arabia’s case, considering the fact that it possesses the longest-range ballistic missiles of any developing country.
The Military Industrial Complex certainly seems to be a winner in having the congressional report pertaining to the Saudi government’s role in supporting the 9/11 terrorist activities being classified. The exposure would have meant grounds for U.S. sanctions and retributions; it would have risked the loss of billions of dollars in revenue from its ‘top customer.’ These companies don’t even have to officially register as foreign agents; after all, their strong loyalty and unbreakable bond with foreign elements exists by default; it is called mutual benefit. They are ‘Foreign Agents by Default.’
This holds true for other parties and players involved within the MIC network; the contractors and the investors. Let’s look at one of these famous and influential players; another foreign agent even if only by default; a man who defended the Saudis against a lawsuit brought by the 9/11 victims’ family members; a man who happens to be the senior counsel for the Carlyle Group, which invests heavily in defense companies and is the nation’s 10th largest defense contractor with ties to the Saudi Royal Family, Enron, Global Crossing, among others; James Baker; Papa Bush’s Secretary of State. On the morning of September 11th, 2001, Baker was reportedly at a Carlyle investor conference with members of the Bin Laden family in the Ritz Carlton in Washington DC, while Bush Sr. was on the payroll of the Carlyle group.
The Carlyle Group, a Washington, DC based private equity firm that employs numerous former high-ranking government officials with ties to both political parties, was the ninth largest Pentagon contractor between 1998 and 2003, an ongoing Center for Public Integrity investigation into Department of Defense contracts found. According to this report, overall, six private investment firms, including Carlyle, received nearly $14 billion in Pentagon deals between 1998 and 2003. Considering the fact that Saudi Arabia is the top buyer of the U.S. weapons industry, Carlyle’s investment and its stake, and of course Jimmy Baker’s far reaching influence within the Pentagon and congress, everything seems to come together and fit perfectly to shield this foreign interest no matter the price to be paid by the American public.
The political action committees (PACs) of the biggest defense companies have given $14.2 million directly to federal candidates since Clinton’s first presidential bid, according to the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). In 1997 alone the defense industry spent $49.5 million to lobby the nation’s decision-makers.
Between 1998 and 2004, for the six-year period, Boeing Company spent more than $57 million in lobbying. For the same period of time, Lockheed Martin poured over $55 million into lobbying activities. Northrop Grumman exceeded both by investing $83 million in lobbying, and based on a report issued by POGO, it contributed over $4 million to individuals and PACs.
With ‘dime a dozen’ generals on their boards of directors, numerous high-powered ex congressmen and senators at their disposal in the ‘K Street Lobby Quarter,’ tens of millions of dollars in campaign donations, and billions of dollars at stake, the Military Industrial Complex surely had all the incentives to act just as foreign agents would, and fight for their highly valued client; the Saudi Government. They appear to have had all the reasons to ensure that the report would not see the light of the day; no matter what the effect on the country, its security, and its interests.
K Street Lobby Quarter
The fact that Saudi Arabia pours large sums into lobbying firms and public relations companies with close ties to congress does not come as a big surprise. The FARA database under the DOJ website lists Qorvis Communications as one of Saudi Arabia’s registered foreign agents. In 2003, for only a six months period, Qorvis received more than $11 million from the Saudi government. Another firm, Loeffler Tuggey Pauerstein Rosenthal LLP, another registered foreign agent, received more than $840,000 for the same six-month period, and the list goes on. Just for this six month period the government of Saudi Arabia paid a total of more than $14 million to 13 lobbying and public relations companies; all registered as foreign agents.
Why do the Saudis spend nearly $20 million per year in lobbying activities in the U.S. via their hired agents? What kind of return on investment are they getting out of the United States Congress?
Let’s take Loeffler’s group and examine its value for the Saudi government, since it was paid over $3 million in three years between 2003 and 2005. The firm was founded by former Republican Congressman Tom Loeffler of Texas. Loeffler served in the Republican Leadership as Deputy Whip, and as Chief Deputy Whip during his third and fourth term. He was a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Energy and Commerce Committee and Budget Committee. In the two Bush campaigns for governor, Loeffler, who contributed $141,000, was the largest donor. In 1998, he served as national co-chair of the Republican National Committee’s “Team 100” program for donors of $100,000 or more, and afterwards held the same title during George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Loeffler’s generosity extends to the members of congress as well. In 6 years, he has given more than $185,000 to members of congress, 97% of it going to only Republican members. During the same six-year period, Loeffler’s firm received more than $18 million in lobbying fees.
The firm’s managing director happens to be William L. Ball. Ball served as Chief of Staff to Senators John Tower (R-TX) and Herman Talmadge (D-GA). In 1985, he joined the Reagan Administration as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs. Later he was assigned to the White House to serve President Reagan as his chief liaison to the Congress. Wallace Henderson is also a Partner; he was Chief Counsel and Chief of Staff to Representative W. J. Tauzin (R-LA), Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator John Breaux (D-LA).
By having foreign agents such as the Loeffler Group, in addition to their foreign agents by default, the MIC, the Saudis seem to have all their bases covered. Former secretaries and deputy secretaries with open access to the current ones, former congressmen and senators who used to be positioned on strategically valuable committees and know the rules of the congressional game, and millions of dollars available to be spent and channeled and re-channeled to various PACs go a long way toward ensuring results. Money counts. Money is needed to bring in votes. Professional skills and discretion are required to get this money to various final destinations. The registered foreign agents, the lobby groups, are geared for this task. The client is happy in the end; so are the foreign agents and the congressional actors.
Other Savvy Nations
Of course, the sanction and legitimization of far reaching foreign influence and strongholds in the U.S., despite the many dire consequences endured by its citizens, is not limited to the government of Saudi Arabia. Numerous well-documented cases can be sited for others such as Turkey, Pakistan, and Israel, to name a few.
I won’t get into the details and history of my own case, where the government invoked the state secrets privilege to gag my case and the congress in order to ‘protect certain sensitive diplomatic relations.’ The country, the foreign influence, in this case was the Republic of Turkey. The U.S. government did so despite the far reaching consequences of burying the facts involved, and disregarded the interests and security of the nation; all to protect a quasi ally engaged in numerous illegitimate activities within the global terrorist networks, nuclear black-market and narcotics activities; an ally who happens to be another compulsive and loyal buyer of the Military Industrial Complex; an ally who happens to be another savvy player in recruiting top U.S. players as its foreign agents and spending million of dollars per year to the lobbying groups headed by many ‘formers.’ Turkey’s agent list includes generals such as Joseph Ralston and Brent Scowcroft, former statesmen such as William Cohen and Marc Grossman, and of course famous ex-congressmen such as Bob Livingston and Stephen Solarz. Turkey too seems to have all its bases covered.
Another well-known and documented case involves Pakistan. Over two decades ago Richard Barlow, an intelligence analyst working for then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney issued a startling report. After reviewing classified information from field agents, he had determined that Pakistan, despite official denials, had built a nuclear bomb. In the March 29, 1993 issue of New Yorker, Seymour Hersh noted that “even as Barlow began his digging, some senior State Department officials were worried that too much investigation would create what Barlow called embarrassment for Pakistan.” Barlow’s conclusion was politically inconvenient. A finding that Pakistan possessed a nuclear bomb would have triggered a congressionally mandated cutoff of aid to the country, and it would have killed a $1.4-billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Islamabad. A few months later a Pentagon official downplayed Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities in his testimony to Congress. When Barlow protested to his superiors, he was fired. A few years later, the Executive Branch would slap Barlow with the State Secrets Privilege.
As we all now know, Pakistan provided direct nuclear assistance to Iran and Libya. During the Cold War, the U.S. put up with Pakistani lies and deception about their nuclear activities, it did not enforce its restrictions on Pakistan’s nuclear program when it counted, and as a result Pakistan ended up with a U.S.-made nuclear weapons system. Yet again, after 9/11, the Bush administration issued a waiver ending the implementation of almost all sanctions on Pakistan because of the perceived need for Pakistani assistance in the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, who ironically were brought to power by direct U.S. support in the 1980s in the first place.
Weiss, in the May-June 2004 issue of the Bulletin states: “We are essentially back where we were with Pakistan in the 1980s. It is apparent that it has engaged in dangerous nuclear mischief with North Korea, Iran, and Libya (and perhaps others), but thus far without consequences to its relationship with the United States because of other, overriding foreign policy considerations–not the Cold War this time, but the war on terrorism.” He continues: “But now there is a major political difference. It was one thing for Pakistan, a country with which the United States has had good relations generally, to follow India and produce the bomb for itself. It is quite another for Pakistan to help two-thirds of the “axis of evil” to get the bomb as well.”
FARA & LDA
An agent of a ‘foreign principal’ is defined as any individual or organization which acts at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a foreign principal, or whose activities are directed by a foreign principal who engages in political activities, or acts in a public relations capacity for a foreign principal, or solicits or dispenses any thing of value within the United States for a foreign principal, or represents the interests of a foreign principal before any agency or official of the U.S. government.
In 1938, in response to the large number of German propaganda agents in the pre-WWII U.S., Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) was established to insure that the American public and its lawmakers know the source of propaganda intended to sway public opinion, policy, and laws. The Act requires every agent of a foreign principal to register with the Department of Justice and file forms outlining its agreements with, income from, and expenditures on behalf of the foreign principal. Any agent testifying before a committee of Congress must furnish the committee with a copy of his most recent registration statement. The agent must keep records of all his activities and permit the Attorney General to inspect them. However, as is the case with many laws, the Act is filled with exemptions and loopholes that allow minimization of, and in some cases complete escape from, warranted scrutiny.
There are a number of exemptions. For example, persons whose activities are of a purely commercial nature or of a religious, academic, and charitable nature are exempt. Any agent who is engaged in lobbying activities and is registered under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA) is exempt. The LDA of 1995 was passed after decades of effort to make the regulation and disclosure of lobbying the federal government more effective. However, LDA also has serious and important loopholes and limitations that can be summed up as: Inadequate Disclosure, Inadequate Enforcement, and Inadequate Regulation of Conduct. The recent congressional scandals make this point very clear.
In addition, neither act deals with an important issue: Conflict of Interest. Many of these agents, with their loyalty to the foreign hand that feeds them, end up being appointed to various positions, commissions and special envoys by our government. Recall Kissinger and his appointment to head the 9/11 Commission, and of course the recent revelation by Woodward on his advisory position to the current White House. Take a look at Jimmy Baker’s current appointment on the Iraq commission. Same goes for the father of all the ‘dime a dozen generals’, Brent Scowcroft, and one of his new protégés, General Joseph Ralston. In short, neither FARA nor LDA creates meaningful oversight, control, or enforcement; neither deals with conflict of interest issues, and neither provides any deterrence or consequences for unethical or illegal conduct.
It used to be congressional ‘pork projects’ and ‘corporate influence’ that raised eyebrows now and then; here and there. Gone are those days. Today the unrestricted and uncontrollable money game and influence peddling tricks within the major decision-making and policy producing bodies of the U.S. government have reached new heights; yet, no raised eyebrows are registered. Sadly, today, a new version of ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ would have to be produced as a documentary.
The other day I received a request to sign on to a petition put forth by a group of 9/11 family members urging the congress to reopen the investigations of 9/11 and declassify the infamous 27-pages which deal with foreign governments, U.S. allies, that provided support for those who carried out the attacks on our nation. My heart goes out to them. I do sympathize with them. I am known to take on similar propositions and methods of activism myself. However, looking at the realities, seeing what it takes to get things done in Washington, realizing how this beast works in the Real Sin City, I would encourage them to look at the root cause, rather than the symptoms. There are only two ways I can see that can bring about what they have been fighting for and what the majority of us desire to see in terms of bringing about Truth, Oversight, and Accountability; Justice.
The family members, and their supporters, us, either have to tackle the major cause; the corruption of our government officials via unrestricted and undisciplined ‘revolving doors’ and ‘foreign influence & lobby’ practices, and push for expedient meaningful reforms by the new ambitious congress, and have them prove to us their worth. Or, they may as well give up their long-held integrity, go bid high for one or two former statesmen, hire a few dime a dozen generals, and buy themselves a couple of ex-congressmen turned lobbyists; that will do the job.
SIBEL EDMONDS is the founder and director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC). Ms. Edmonds worked as a language specialist for the FBI. During her work with the bureau, she discovered and reported serious acts of security breaches, cover-ups, and intentional blocking of intelligence that had national security implications. After she reported these acts to FBI management, she was retaliated against by the FBI and ultimately fired in March 2002. Since that time, court proceedings on her case have been blocked by the assertion of “State Secret Privilege”; the Congress of the United States has been gagged and prevented from any discussion of her case through retroactive re-classification by the Department of Justice. Ms. Edmonds is fluent in Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani; and has a MA in Public Policy and International Commerce from George Mason University, and a BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from George Washington University. PEN American Center awarded Ms. Edmonds the 2006 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
© Copyright 2006, National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Information in this release may be freely distributed and published provided that all such distributions make appropriate attribution to the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.