FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Frank Wisner’s Two Hats

Cairo

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. 

December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
Victor Grossman
Sighs of Relief in Germany
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Robert Fantina
What Does Beto Have Against the Palestinians?
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Sartre, Said, Chomsky and the Meaning of the Public Intellectual
Andrew Glikson
Crimes Against the Earth
Robert Fisk
The Parasitic Relationship Between Power and the American Media
Stephen Cooper
When Will Journalism Grapple With the Ethics of Interviewing Mentally Ill Arrestees?
Jill Richardson
A War on Science, Morals and Law
Ron Jacobs
A Propagandist of Privatization
Evaggelos Vallianatos
It’s Not Easy Being Greek
Nomi Prins 
The Inequality Gap on a Planet Growing More Extreme
John W. Whitehead
Know Your Rights or You Will Lose Them
David Swanson
The Abolition of War Requires New Thoughts, Words, and Actions
J.P. Linstroth
Primates Are Us
Bill Willers
The War Against Cash
Jonah Raskin
Doris Lessing: What’s There to Celebrate?
Ralph Nader
Are the New Congressional Progressives Real? Use These Yardsticks to Find Out
Binoy Kampmark
William Blum: Anti-Imperial Advocate
Medea Benjamin – Alice Slater
Green New Deal Advocates Should Address Militarism
John Feffer
Review: Season 2 of Trump Presidency
Rich Whitney
General Motors’ Factories Should Not Be Closed. They Should Be Turned Over to the Workers
Christopher Brauchli
Deported for Christmas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail