Last month, a letter sent to CIA Director, Gina Haspel, was leaked publicly and spread across social media. The letter was written by the former leader of the Malaysian External Intelligence Organization (MEIO), Datuk Hasanah Ab Hamid. She wrote the letter on May 4th, which was five days before the national election that resulted in defeat for the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak.
The letter from Hasanah asked for “US support for the present government even if we are to win the election by a simple majority of just one seat.” Some in the media have suggested that the letter was a request for aid in rigging the election.
Essentially, this letter was an olive branch from a corrupt regime pointing to key geopolitical alliances with the U.S. It labeled then opposition-candidate, Mahathir Mohamad, as “anti-West, anti-Semite autocrat.” (In fairness, that’s a fairly accurate description of Mohamad who served as Prime Minister from 1981 to 2003.) The letter also presented Najib as an ally in the war on terror, as well as a foe to China and North Korea.
What can best be inferred from the letter is that the Razak administration was hoping that the U.S. government would look the other way if evidence of election fraud were to come to light. The full transcript is available and readers can decide for themselves about the intention of the letter.
And there were certainly credible allegations of election fraud. For instance, over 500,000 voters were registered with the same address. Malaysia is, after all, a country fraught with a lengthy history of corruption. Nonetheless, in a surprise victory, the opposition candidate, Mahathir Mohamad, won the election. It was the first democratic transfer of power in Malaysia since 1957.
Mahathir Mohamad was able to garner political support largely due to the numerous scandals linked to the former Prime Minister, Najib Razak. Suffice it to say, the term “kleptocrat” is a fair label for Najib. Most notably, as much as $4.5 billion may have been embezzled from the country’s sovereign wealth fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), with hundreds of millionsof dollars diverted directly into Najib Razak’s personal bank accounts.
Ironically, funds from the 1MDB fund financed the Martin Scorsese film, “Wolf of Wall Street,” which was about a shady stockbroker who swindled investors out of a tremendous amount of money. As a result, the U.S. Department of Justice reached a $60 million settlement with the film’s production company, Red Granite, which was co-founded by Najib Razak’s stepson, Riza Aziz.
Najib Razak also had a lousy human rights record. Journalists, news organizations, and activists who brought attention to the 1MDB scandal faced government repression. Furthermore, Najib’s own bodyguard was charged with murdering a model, Altantuya Shaariibuu, who had been dating a friend of Najib. This bodyguard fled the country and was captured in Australia, but the Malaysian government has failed to request extradition.
Despite this immense cloud of political scandals, Najib was invited to the White House by Donald Trump. He also had two White House meetings with Obama, who also traveled to Malaysia to meet with Najib in 2015 after a number of 1MDB revelations had been reported by the international media.
In regards to the Trump meeting, it helped Najib’s diplomatic cause that he had a few influential lobbyists on his payroll, i.e. two former Trump campaign staffers, including one who works for the lobbying firm of former U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft.
Anyhow, with those facts in mind, it’s not surprising that Najib’s head of intelligence sent the aforementioned letter to CIA director, Gina Haspel. As mentioned earlier, this letter can best be described not as a request for help to rig an election. It was, however, at a minimum, an attempt to mitigate any international pressure if an election fraud scandal had come to the surface.
When this letter went public, Najib Razak denied that he had any involvement with the letter. On the other hand, his head of intelligence Datuk Hasanah Ab Hamid, first said that she could neither confirm nor deny writing the letter. However, a few days ago, she finally acknowledged the veracity of the letter. In fact, she recently filed a police report in hopes of punishing the leaker.
Many people have called Hasanah’s letter a treasonous act. However, her attorney claims that her actions were legal under the State Secrets Act. We’ll have to wait and see if the new administration proceeds with a criminal case against Hasanah. Conversely, Najib has already been arrested on corruption charges related to the 1MDB scandal.
It also should be noted that there is no evidence of the CIA being involved with the latest Malaysian election. In fact, CIA whistleblower, John Kiriakou, who has never minced words when criticizing the CIA, shot down any suggestion of CIA malfeasance in this election. Kiriakou said:
“If this had been 10 years ago or 15 years ago, my guess is that they would have referred this question, this letter, to the operational component, and they would have probably come up with some sort of a plan to help a U.S. ally. But in this day and age, in 2018, that’s just not the way it’s done anymore.”
Then again, this wouldn’t even be a question if the CIA didn’t have such an extensive history with military coups and anti-democratic processes. After all, former CIA Director James Woolsey couldn’t even feign a poker face during a recent Fox News interview when asked if the agency still meddles in other countries’ elections. He said that we only do it “for a very good cause, in the interest of democracy.”