Frank Wisner’s Two Hats


Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama’s envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a Washington law firm, Patton Boggs, which works for the dictator’s own Egyptian government.

Wisner’s astonishing remarks – “President Mubarak’s continued leadership is critical: it’s his opportunity to write his own legacy” – shocked the democratic opposition in Egypt and called into question  Obama’s judgment, as well as that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The US State Department and Wisner himself have now both claimed that his remarks were made in a “personal capacity”. But there is nothing “personal” about  Wisner’s connections with the powerful Washington law firm and lobby shop Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US”. Oddly, not a single journalist raised this extraordinary connection with US government officials – nor the blatant conflict of interest it appears to represent.

Wisner is a retired State Department 36-year career diplomat – he served as US ambassador to Egypt, Zambia, the Philippines and India under eight American presidents. In other words, he was not a political appointee. But it is inconceivable Hillary Clinton did not know of his employment by a law firm that works for the very dictator which  Wisner now defends in the face of a massive democratic opposition in Egypt.

So why on earth was he sent to talk to Mubarak, who is in effect a client of Wisner’s current employers?

Patton Boggs states that its attorneys “represent some of the leading Egyptian commercial families and their companies” and “have been involved in oil and gas and telecommunications infrastructure projects on their behalf”. One of its partners served as chairman of the US-Egyptian Chamber of Commerce promoting foreign investment in the Egyptian economy. The company has also managed contractor disputes in military-sales agreements arising under the US Foreign Military Sales Act. Washington gives around $1.3bn (£800m) a year to the Egyptian military.

Wisner joined Patton Boggs almost two years ago – more than enough time for both the White House and the State Department to learn of his company’s intimate connections with the Mubarak regime.

Nicholas Noe, an American political researcher now based in Beirut, has spent weeks investigating  Wisner’s links to Patton Boggs.  Noe is also a former researcher for Hillary Clinton and questions the implications of his discoveries.
“The key problem with Wisner being sent to Cairo at the behest of Hillary,” he says, “is the conflict-of-interest aspect… More than this, the idea that the US is now subcontracting or ‘privatising’ crisis management is another problem. Do the US lack diplomats?

“Even in past examples where presidents have sent someone ‘respected’ or ‘close’ to a foreign leader in order to lubricate an exit,”  Noe adds, “the envoys in question were not actually paid by the leader they were supposed to squeeze out!”

Patton Boggs maintains an “affiliate relationship” with Zaki Hashem, one of Egypt’s most prominent legal firms. It was founded in 1953 and Zaki Hashem himself was a cabinet minister under Mubarak’s predecessor, President Anwar Sadat, and later became head of the Egyptian Society for International Law.
By a further remarkable irony, one of Zaki Hashem’s senior advisers was Nabil al-Araby, one of the 25 leading Egyptian personalities just chosen by the protesters in Tahrir Square to demand the overthrow of Mubarak. Nabil al-Araby, a former member of the UN’s International Law Commission, told me yesterday that he ended his connection with Zaki Hashem three years ago and had “no idea” why  Wisner had come out in support of Mubarak’s continued rule. He himself believed it was essential Mubarak make a dignified but immediate exit. “The head must go,” he said.

When Frank Wisner joined Patton Boggs in March 2009  the company described him as “one of the nation’s most respected diplomats” who would provide clients with “strategic global advice concerning business, politics and international law”. The firm stated specifically that “it looks to Ambassador Wisner to use his expertise in the Middle East and India to assist its American and international clients.”

Stuart Pape, managing partner at Patton Boggs, said at the time that “it is a real coup for the firm to have Ambassador Wisner – one of the most experienced and highly regarded diplomats – join our ranks… His in-depth knowledge of global politics and the international financial world is a huge asset for our clients.”

We still do not know exactly what kind of “expertise” he has bestowed upon the dictator of Egypt. But his remarks at the weekend leave no room to doubt he advised the old man to cling on to power for a few more months. The vast network of companies with family connections to Mubarak’s regime is, of course, one of the targets of the pro-democracy demonstrators in Egypt.

A spokesman for the State Department said he “presumed”  Clinton knew of  Wisner’s employment by Patton Boggs and the firm’s links with the Mubarak government, but refused to comment on any conflict of interest for the envoy.

Editors’ note: The 72-year old Wisner has secure footholds in government and corporate America.  Until recently he was vice chairman of AIG, which he left to become a foreign policy adviser at Patton Boggs where  his brother Graham has long been ensconced. We’re talking the Permanent Government here. Wisner’s father, Frank Sr., ran the CIA’s covert arm at the height of the Cold War, had a nervous breakdown after the failure of the Hungarian rising of 1956 and committed suicide in questionable circumstances in a CIA secure facility outside Washington DC in 1967. AC/JSC

ROBERT FISK is a reporter for the London Independent where this story was first published.


More articles by:

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent, where this column originally appeared. 

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Can We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring