Monday, June 18, 2007

Sibel Edmonds, Bandar Bush and BAe - similar but different.

It's been nearly impossible to get any attention to the case of former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds. We can't even get Waxman to even comment on whether he'll hold hearings on the case as he has promised.

So, whenever I can, I try to piggy-back on other relevant stories that are getting attention - in this case, the bribery scandal involving Bandar Bush, the UK government, the Saudis and defense contractor BAe.

In this post, I'll highlight the similarities and the differences between the two cases (hint: Sibel's case is much worse).

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

As I mentioned upstairs, it's been very difficult to bring any attention to Sibel's story, so I try to find a new angle where I can. I've tried emailing Dan Froomkin (who I really like) a few times to no avail. He was LiveOnline at WaPo so I asked him the following:

Australia: Hi Dan. Thanks for the column. Given the latest revelations about the payments to Bandar Bush in the BAE scandal, do you think Henry Waxman might hold hearings to see whether these payments may have influenced the foreign policy of Bush's White House?
He replied:
Dan Froomkin: A good question. There's been remarkably little in the coverage of this story about just how close and influential Bandar was with the Bushes for a long time.

My question was a little loaded.

Waxman refuses to hold hearings into Sibel's case, a case that is similar in some respects, and worse in others.

Military Industrial Complex
Both cases are about arms sales to our 'friends.' The BAe case involved fighter jets to Saudi Arabia. Sibel's case is about all sorts of arms trafficking - hardware, software, nuclear 'secrets' - involving a bunch of countries, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and others.

Policy or freelancing?
The most important difference between the two cases is that the UK government knew all about the deal from inception. The deal was officially sanctioned at the highest levels of government, and although it was hidden, was presumably valid, or at least, justifiable. (We may find out otherwise at some later date.)

In Sibel's case, the perpetrators are freelancing. They are profiting, personally, from their activities. They aren't selling arms to 'quasi allies' as part of official policy. They're arming the highest bidder, regardless of official policy.

We know that Bandar Bush received $2 billion in bribes to facilitate the deal. So far as we know, so far, that $2 billion was a pure cash transfer, with no strings attached regarding subsequent disbursements etc.

In Sibel's case, we have the bribes flowing into the US, the selling country, presumably because the US taxpayer, literally and otherwise, pays the bills. These bribes flow through to congress people, in envelopes, suitcases and campaign contributions, and the inevitable blackmail.

The BAe investigation has uncovered secret payments of $25million to a former Defense advisor. (As far as I know, these payments are separate to the Bandar Bush deals)

In Sibel's case, (at least some of) the 'lobbyists' are publicly known, and (at least some of) the payments are public. We know who is, or has been, on the Turkish payroll. Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, fmr Dem Senator Stephen Solarz, fmr Defense Secretary William Cohen, fmr Dem House Minority Speaker Dick Gephardt, fmr Speaker Bob Livingston.

There's only one problem, we know where some of the money is going, but we don't know where it is coming from. As Phil Giraldi notes:
The money involved does not appear to come from the Turkish government, and FBI investigators are trying to determine its source and how it is distributed. Some of it may come from criminal activity, possibly drug trafficking, but much more might come from arms dealing. Contracts in the hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars provide considerable fat for those well placed to benefit.

As Laura Rozen says:
What's stunning about these reports that Bandar was funnelled $2 billion in bribes from an $80 billion UK-Saudi arms deal is that no one - not Tony Blair, who shut down the UK Serious Fraud Office investigation, not Bandar, not BAE -- is really denying it... No effort to deny that the truth is really ugly, and shows the British government at the highest levels going back to Thatcher authorizing open bribery.

Similarly, Sibel says:
"So you have this case which for the past five years has been confirmed by Congressional sources, and people familiar with my case, and the Department of Justice’s Inspector General’s Office, and has never been contradicted or denied by the Justice Department or the FBI, and still nothing has been done."

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been hamstrung in its attempt to investigate the BAe deal for years, with Tony Blair completely shutting down the investigation last year.

In Sibel's case, which goes back to 1996, investigations were continually impeded. When FBI counter-intelligence agents found evidence of wrong-doing by guys like Perle, Feith, Hastert and Grossman, they were blocked from transferring the investigations to an 'actionable' unit, like counter-terrorism, or counter-narcotics.

In the BAe case, "the attorney general's office... said the SFO inquiry had been halted because of the "real and serious threat to national security"."

In Sibel's case, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, cited "Protecting Certain Foreign and Diplomatic Relations for National Security" and illegally gagged Congress by retroactively classifying information that had been all over the web for two years!

Hollow Justifications
In both cases, the invocation of 'national security' is bunk. In Sibel's case, they cite 'national security' in order to shut Sibel up because, otherwise, she could could send them to prison for criminal activity. The only thing that Sibel's case has to do with 'national security' is that the activities that she can/has exposed are detrimental to national security.

In the BAe case,
The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Vince Cable, called for an urgent inquiry into the new disclosures last night.
"It increasingly looks as if the motives behind the decision to pull the SFO inquiry were less to do with UK national interests but more to do with the personal interests of one of two powerful Saudi ministers ... Tony Blair's claims that the government has been motivated by national security considerations look increasingly hollow."

Both Parties
As noted, both cases go back a decade or more, surviving multiple parties. In the UK case, as noted, at least the deal appears to have been officially sanctioned. In Sibel's case, successive governments have failed to act on this information. Bill Clinton tried to act on one small part of the story - the suitcases of cash delivered to Hastert - but was railroaded by the impeachment proceedings. Now the current Democratic Congress is blocking the hearings. The reason, apparently, is that our new Dem Congress is too scared to 'out' their own. While the UK situation includes coverups by both parties, the US situation includes participation by people in both parties.

We can't afford corruption from either party. We were forceful in denouncing 'cold cash' William Jefferson and the decision to allow him to keep his comittee positions. Why not in Sibel's case?

'Ongoing Investigations'
In the BAe case, there appears to be a bunch of activity in the UK despite the fact that the SFO officially closed down the investigation last year. It's front page news every day with new revelations, and new leak investigations, and now the Attorney General is beings summoned to talk the 'constitutional affairs committee'.

And the BAe case is even getting some investigative attention in the US, as Spencer Ackerman reports:

"Josh Meyer at the Los Angeles Times makes it official: the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether BAE Systems, the British defense corporation accused of bribing ex-Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, has violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The Act is meant to prevent companies engaged in bribery from doing business in the United States. "

Sheesh. The US DoJ was happy to shut down a similar case, Sibel's case, to protect war-profiteers under the guise of 'national security' but now that BAe is encroaching on the market share of the US 'defense' contractors, the DoJ is interested all of a sudden. Funny how that works.

Compare and contrast. Sibel's case gets an eery silence from the media, and an eery silence in congress. Imagine what might happen if we were getting escalating attention into Sibel's case, like the BAe case, with new revelations every day.

In the real world, however, investigations have been shut down repeatedly, for years, and none of it sees the light of day.

I've put together a YouTube, 9 mins, called "Sibel Edmonds. Investigations Thwarted" which highlights some of the investigations that were blocked in her case.

My final point regarding 'Ongoing Investigations' is that the investigations into Sibel's case concluded long ago. And they all said that Sibel was "100% correct." Waxman could hold a hearing in a day or two simply by calling for the documents and a few witnesses. We know which documents we need, and we have agents willing to testify, under oath. And Waxman already knows the detail. His staff have been briefed repeatedly. He himself was 'outraged' and 'stunned.' So while the BAe case is very much an 'ongoing investigation', Sibel's case was closed, confirmed, years ago. Now we want accountability and justice.

As an aside, I put together another YouTube, 5 mins, "Sibel Edmonds. Everybody Knows." which (hopefully) highlights most of the people who know about Sibel's case and have done nothing about it.

And yes, the same was true in the UK. 'Everybody' in the UK knew what was going on, for years, but now the public knows. Imagine what it will be like if Sibel's case is front-page news, and the hearings imminent.

Call Waxman. Demand public open hearings:
DC phone: (202) 225-3976
LA phone: 323 651-1040
fax: (202) 225-4099
Capitol switchboard phone: 800-828-0498

crossposted at Let Sibel Edmonds Speak

(let me know if you want to be alerted whenever I post a new 'sibel edmonds' diary)


Don said...

Moved into the new digs, huh? Very cool...

I just finished watching KTM for the first time. Very educational. I understand now the concept of Plame's outing being a two'fer as I didn't before.

Side note: watching KTM and 9/11:PfT back to back without tranquilizers and/or a lot of booze handy = outrage alert level red, no illustrative tie necessary. Not recommended for children or adults with any modicum of sense, sanity, or moral decency.

One curious omission from 9/11:PfT was the Saudi angle, covered here by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation (the interview transcripts make for very interesting reading). This is the companion website to the original broadcast, which can be found online if you look in the right places.

Back on thread, regards the lack of outrage on Sibel's case compared to the Jefferson file, one thought: while there are more than a few in left blogsylvania (and a couple on the right) who have their hearts and priorities in the right place, methinks sadly that many look only towards their own political agendas. Wholesale scandal and prosecutions, even if they nailed both GOP and Dems equally, probably don't play into that. After all, what's the point of "Crashing the Gate" if, once you've joined the party, you can't hit the bar? Partisan and party politics trumps all else.

The longer attorneygate goes on, the more I think it's just another dog-and-pony show for the masses. The Cheney-secrecy thing? Nothing new there except that it's finally getting airplay. The media have starved the people of the truth for so long that these driblets are considered a feast. The calls on the serious bullshit, from now back to 9/11 and beyond, are still painfully absent.

Ned Beatty in Shooter put it best: "There are no sides. There's no Sunnis and Shi'ites, there's no Democrats or Republicans. There's only haves and have nots."

Neither 'side' wants to let the big cats out of the bag for fear of being mauled.

Fucking cowards...

mamayaga said...

Speaking of parallels, Lukery, I have been haunted by the similarity between Hastert's suitcase of cash and the Abscam sting of the 80's. As you'll recall, a number of Congressmen were approached by FBI agents posing as operatives from various Middle Eastern countries and offered bribes in return for favors.

One thing we are being reminded of in the current airing of Cheney's MO is the fact that we can and often do have shadow governments within the legal government, and there is no reason to believe that Cheney's shadow government with its appetite for scooping up private information would refrain from the next step, the "inevitable blackmail" as you mention in this thread. Blackmail possibly arising from stings, such as a suitcase of cash delivered to Hastert, similar to Abscam run by Cheney's minions with the aim of neutering large swathes of Congress. This could explain the eerie silence on issues that deserve tremendous clamor and the curious spinelessness of many in Congress even with public support for opposition to the Cheney administration running into 70-80%. It can't be explained by political cowardice, but it may be explained by criminal vulnerability. Just a thought...

lukery said...

sorry for the delay in responding.

hi don!

ya know, there is some concern that people don't follow sibel's case because it is partisan - I'm not sure how true it is. It may be true that Dem politicians don't want to touch it for that reason, but i think we need a different explanation for why the bloggers don't touch it... (I have no idea what that explanation might be, however)

Hi Mamayaga!

i'm not particularly familiar with abscam - i'll take a closer look, thanks.

i think that you've got a great point re the possibility of criminal vulnerability and blackmail. That really is the best explanation for what we have observed - however i havent seen any evidence that the criminal vulnerability was a sting. I suspect that the 'foreign elements' were/are doing the bribing, and cheney et al make it their business to have a detailed understanding of who is being bribed by who.

I wrote a post on this a couple of days ago - i'll publish early next week.