GOP Lobbyists Spiked Terror Report
GOP lobbyists working for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia behind censorship of the 9/11 Commission report
Rawstory carried a link yesterday to reports that lobbyists working on behalf of Pakistan had persuaded the 9/11 Commission to drop key references to the link between that country's military and intelligence services with the network that financed al-Qaeda. Newspapers in India and Pakistan published these reports earlier this week.(see, *links below)
If true, this would NOT be the first time the 9/11 Commission deleted information embarrassing to countries accused of harboring and financing terrorists. At the time of the publication of the Commission's report in 2004, the panel was widely criticized for the 27-page gap that was redacted from the public version. That section reportedly dealt with Saudi funding sources for the 9/11 attack. According to the new reports, similar types of information about Pakistani links to the hijacking were omitted from the final report.
The articles that have appeared in recent days accuse unnamed members of the Commission or its staff of bowing to lobbyists working for Parvez Musharrif regime.
If these reports are confirmed, it may prompt a reexamination of the files related to 9/11 and would force an official inquiry into the work of the Commissioners, who have been under question for their refusal to incorporate any reference to a Pentagon surveillance program codenamed Able Danger. Officers assigned to that DoD project claim they identified at least four of the 9/11 hijackers months before the attacks occurred. Commission Co-Chairs Lee Hamilton and Tom Keane defended the decision to omit reference to that program, dismissing the Able Danger findings as "historically insignificant."
The covert funding and technology flows to Pakistan's nuclear program, and its international proliferation under A..Q. Khan, are particularly sensitive issues to both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. had that nuclear program under surveillance for decades, and during that time, certain American policy-makers appear to have acted in complicity with some aspects of the program. It has been widely known within U.S. intelligence that the same international financial network that funded Khan's nuclear proliferation was also a funding source for al-Qaeda.
(*LINKS - http://www.telegraphindia.com/... ; http://www.thefridaytimes.com/ (story available on string at another site, do edit-find for Did Pakistan Influence 9/11 Report : http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/... )
THE ABRAMOFF FACTOR
These articles come at time that the work of Washington lobbyists is under close scrutiny. Jack Abramoff and associates have been indicted for running a vast scheme to funnel illegal contributions -- a considerable portion of which is foreign sourced -- to leading GOP lawmakers in order to influence votes, and allegations of influence peddling within the Bush White House. A similar scandal involving defense contractors and Republican Congressman has resulted in the conviction of California Congressmen Randall Cunningham.
Abramoff was the registered lobbyist for Pakistan. In 1997, he is alleged to have arranged the travel of a Congressional delegation to Pakistan without informing the members of his relationship with the government of that country. Pakistan had retained the services of Abramoff's lobbying group, Preston Gates & Ellis in 1995, after Congress imposed human rights sanctions and stopped arm shipments during the period of increasing tensions leading up to the first test explosions of Pakistan's nuclear weapons in May, 1998.
According to a New York Times, the trip to Pakistan arranged by Abramoff was sponsored by the National Security Caucus Foundation, a group that claimed to have very prominent figures on its Board, including former Secretaries of State, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger. When the scandal broke, both promptly disclaimed any knowledge of the foundation and the junket:
Lobbyist Paid by Pakistan Led U.S. Delegation There
By PHILIP SHENON and ANNE E. KORNBLUT
Published: May 8, 2005
WASHINGTON, May 7 - Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the center of a federal corruption investigation, led a Congressional delegation to Pakistan in 1997 but failed to tell the group's sponsor or the lawmakers that he was a registered lobbyist for the Pakistani government, according to the sponsor and the two House members on the trip.
"I wish I'd known that he had a bias that way," said Representative Michael R. McNulty, Democrat of New York, who was on the trip. Gregg Hilton, whose nonprofit organization, the National Security Caucus Foundation, sponsored the trip for Mr. McNulty and Representative Howard Coble, said he felt "deceived" by Mr. Abramoff. The trip to Pakistan and Mr. Abramoff's role in it came to light with the release of documents this week showing that he had also used his personal credit card to pay more than $350,000 in travel expenses for other Congressional trips, some of them sponsored by the National Security Caucus Foundation, which is now defunct.
Mr. Abramoff did not pay for the group's trip to Pakistan, Mr. Hilton said, adding that his foundation had arranged the trip's financing. A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff had no immediate comment on the trip. Government filings show Mr. Abramoff's law firm was registered as Pakistan's lobbyist until April 1997, after his trip. The firm said on Saturday that it did its last work on the contract in 1996 and did not consider Pakistan a client by 1997. By not revealing his lobbying work for Pakistan while he served as a tour guide there for the nonprofit group, Mr. Abramoff might have served his own business practices, but he also deceived the people he had offered to help, the trip's participants said.
Lobbyists for foreign governments are required to register with the Justice Department. Disclosure statements filed by Mr. Abramoff and his former firm, Preston Gates & Ellis, show that the firm was retained by Pakistan in May 1995 to lobby to overturn sanctions barring delivery of American weapons to Pakistan if its government continued to pursue a nuclear weapons program. The initial six-month lobbying contract paid the firm a retainer of $165,000, plus expenses. A spokesman for Preston Gates had no comment. Later disclosure forms show that Mr. Abramoff and the firm lobbied aggressively on Pakistan's behalf, including repeated contacts with the offices of Mr. DeLay, a close friend of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. DeLay, now the House majority leader, has asked the House ethics committee to resolve accusations involving his overseas travels with Mr. Abramoff.
Mr. Hilton provided a number of descriptions of Mr. Abramoff's role with the National Security Caucus Foundation, at one point denying that the lobbyist had a formal role and suggesting that the trip to Pakistan had never happened. Provided evidence to the contrary, he acknowledged that he had hoped Mr. Abramoff would donate money and join the board, but that he never did. Some of the dignitaries listed on the letterhead of the foundation, including Henry A. Kissinger, Elie Wiesel and George P. Shultz, said they had never heard of the group or agreed to have their names used by it. Mr. Hilton said they were actually affiliated with a sister organization. Preston Gates's disclosure statements with the Justice Department show that the firm largely ended its lobbying activity for Pakistan after Prime Minister Bhutto's government was ousted in 1996. The firm was on record as Pakistan's foreign agent, however, until April 1997.
THE OLD SPOOK CONNECTION
As far as is publicly known, Abramoff ceased lobbying directly for Pakistan in 1997. Following his departure from that role, but well before 9/11, the role of lobbyist shifted TO former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson, an Old Hand in the Great Game. Wilson is a near-legendary figure in intelligence circles, and someone intrinsically intertwined with the history of the Islamic Jihadists who were funded by the CIA and the Saudis, and organized by the Pakistani ISI and armed by the Israeli Mossad intelligence services, to rid Afghanistan of its Soviet occupiers in the late 1980s. This set up an paradoxical three-way relationship that has endured to this day, one which is at the center of the Bush Administration's dilemma in the Middle East and South Asia, from 9/11 through its misconduct of the so-called war on terrorism, the bloody quagmire of Iraq, and the neocon orchestrated psywar against Iran.
Soon after he left Congress in 1997 -- according to a report in Dawn, the major Pakistani English-language daily -- Charlie Wilson took over the account from Abramoff. This was at a time following the nuclear tests that US-Pakistani relations were under mounting strains. Wilson appears to have been the right man to clear obstacles within American government to renewal of relations with the Pakistani military, which two years later, with only token objection from Washington, deposed the civilian government in a coup that led to the ongoing reign of General Musharraf.
There's an old article in Dawn that indicates Charlie Wilson, a former Congressman from Texas whose major client was Israeli defense contractors, succeeded Abramoff:
DAWN - Features; 10 January, 1998, Shaheen Sehbai
VERY FEW eyebrows have been raised or questions asked about the main Washington lobbyist for Israeli arms industries who was hired by Islamabad last year as the main lobbyist for Pakistan but all hell is ready to break out if attempts by some influential Pakistani-Americans to replace him with an Indian Government lobbyist are even considered by Islamabad. The Israeli lobbyist, working for Israeli Military Industries Ltd., is none other than Pakistan's beloved and darling Democrat from Texas, Charlie Wilson, who retired from Congress last year and then waited for a year to begin his lobbying job for Israel and Pakistan in October, despite some high-profile strong-arm efforts by some Pakistani-Americans to push him aside and themselves takeover the job, lucrative both politically and financially. Charlie's Israeli connection was revealed recently but another of his key connections that went unnoticed was his prized client-lobbyist relationship with Lockheed Martin, the aerospace giant and maker of F-16 aircraft against which Pakistan has claims of over $650 million dollars for not delivering the purchased planes or returning the money.
That may possibly explain why Islamabad and its representatives in Washington were eager to hire Charlie as their man on the Hill, as in one move they would be able to secure both their past and their future. The past could be guarded by having their own paid man entrenched deep in the enemy camp once the F-16 issue goes for the marathon court battles after Pakistan sues Lockheed and the US. Future security could be ensured by keeping the channels to the Israelis open for any future military and weapons trade, once the politics of the Middle East was out of their bilateral relations. And Charlie fitted themoldd perfectly.
But Charlie is not having a smooth ride, despite his credentials. In the hurly burly of the grand judiciary-executive super thriller in Islamabad late last year, a small Washington crowd was quietly playing its game to oust Charlie and replace him with, believe it or not, a lobbying firm which works for India. This crowd did not get the attention it needed because of the turmoil of Titanic proportions sweeping Islamabad.
This set of well-placed Pakistanis in the US had taken with them a gentleman called Terry McAuliffe whose firm was given the Indian lobbying contract by Ambassador Ray in Washington in 1994. TM, as he is called, is the guy who was high up in the Clinton- Gore presidential campaign of 1992, specially on the fund-raising side and many Pakistani supporters of Clinton had made their way to the White House through TM, one of them also getting the symbolic privilege of flying with the President on Air Force One from Washington to Chicago. TM and his Pakistani-American sponsors were actually being hosted in Islamabad by Gen Zia's son Ejaz-ul-Haq who, it is well known here, was returning the compliment of the "Chicago Group", the name given to a host of rich Pakistani activists from that Illinois city who believe nothing in Pakistan-US relations moves without their consent and if Nawaz Sharif came to the US or Clinton would be visiting Pakistan, it is they who deserve the credit.
Here's a snip about Wilson's exploits described in the book, "Charlie Wilson's War":http://www.amazon.com/....
Wilson, a six-feet-four-inch Texas congressman,liberal on social issues but rabidly anti-Communist, a boozer, engaged in serial affairs and wheeler-dealer of consummate skill. Only slightly less improbable is Gust Avrakotos, a blue-collar Greek immigrant who joined the CIA when it was an Ivy League preserve and fought his elitist colleagues almost as ruthlessly as he fought the Soviet Union in the Cold War's waning years. In conjunction with President Zia of Pakistan in the 1980s, Wilson and Arvakotos circumvented most of the barriers to arming the Afghan mujahideen-distance, money, law and internal CIA politics, to name a few. Their coups included getting Israeli-modified Chinese weapons smuggled into Afghanistan, with the Pakistanis turning a blind eye,and the cultivation of a genius-level weapons designer and strategist named Michael Vickers, a key architect of the guerrilla campaign that left the Soviet army stymied. The ultimate weapon in Afghanistan was the portable Stinger anti-aircraft missile, which eliminated the Soviet's Mi-24 helicopter gunships and began the train of events leading to the collapse of the U.S.S.R. and its satellites. A triumph of ruthless ability over scruples, this story has dominated recent history in the form of blowback: many of the men armed by the CIA became the Taliban's murderous enforcers and Osama bin Laden's protectors.
Alliance with Gus Avrakotos
An argument can be made that, in terms of the Cold War struggle to neutralize and weaken the Soviet Union, the most important recruitment in the CIA's 30-year career was made that April 1984 by Gust Avrakotos when he enlisted Charlie Wilson, during an unannounced and unauthorized visit to the Congressman's office
From that moment on, the terms of engagement for the CIA's war with the Red Army began to shift. Avrakotos had made a recruitment of sorts. This was the opening shot in what was going to become a Wilson-Avrakotos conspiracy, one that would very shortly succeed in neutralizing the traditional checks and balances that had been so carefully put in place to guide and restrain U.S. covert warfare. Wilson didn't yet know it but he had just found the true rogue elephant in the CIA.
Throughout the 1980s the Afghan mujahideen were America's surrogate soldiers in the brutal guerrilla war that became the Soviet Union's Vietnam, a defeat that helped trigger the subsequent collapse of the Communist empire. Afghanistan was a secret war that the CIA fought and won without debates in Congress or protests in the street. It was not just the CIA's biggest operation, it was the biggest secret war in history. In the course of a decade, billions of rounds of ammunition and hundreds of thousands of weapons were smuggled across the border on the backs of camels, mules, and donkeys. At one point over 300,000 fundamentalist Afghan warriors carried weapons provided by the CIA; thousands were trained in the art of urban terror. Before it was over, some 28,000 Soviet soldiers were killed.
P.S. - Gus Avrakotos died on December 5, 2005 at age 67.
THE GOP CONNECTION
In October 1999, Gen. Musharaff overthrew the civilian regime in Islamabad. A little over a year later, George W. Bush was appointed President after an election marked by unprecedented levels of voter irregularity. With came yet another change in Pakistani representation in Washington, this time with heavy-duty Republican ties.
According to Bill Berkowitz of Working Assets, there have been at least three GOP-associated PR firms which have handled the Pakistan account since 9/11. Berkowitz mentions Dan Pero of Sterling International, Fleishman-Hillard (F-H), and Gary Polland of Houston-based Polland & Cook.
Partnering with Pakistan
Bill Berkowitz - WorkingForChange
11.05.02 - It's tough for even the best public relations outfits to spin really bad news. Recent examples like the surprisingly good showing of Islamic fundamentalists in current elections, a New York Times story claiming Pakistan sold equipment to North Korea enhancing its nuclear weapons capabilities, and reports that al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are now operating out of Pakistan, are either: a) a PR firm's biggest nightmare, b) a welcome and challenging task, c) financially rewarding, or d) all of the above. Whether there's bad news to spin or good news to promote, you can depend on a well-paid PR firm to step up to the plate.
Dan Pero, a founding partner in the newly established Sterling International Consulting Corporation, which recently inked a month-by-month media relations contract with Pakistan, told me he was "excited about the possibilities" and "anxious to tell" Pakistan's story." As Pero sees it, the story is about how a "key ally of the U.S. in the war against terrorism" is moving closer toward democracy.
Even before 9/11, Pakistan was shelling out major-league money to US-based PR firms with conservative credentials and GOP connections. At that time, PR challenges included the dispute with India over Kashmir, the country's nuclear weapons program, human rights violations by Pakistan's military leadership, and the use of child labor.
Since 9/11, however, the "war on terrorism" has taken center stage.
Pero said that Sterling International, an affiliated company of the Sterling Corporation, will receive $50,000 a month in an agreement that began in early September and will be evaluated at the end of November.
Pakistan is not a newcomer to the PR game. In April of this year, the country hired Fleishman-Hillard (F-H) "to win Congressional approval for tariff relief," O'Dwyer's Daily reports. Donna Rohrer from F-H's Washington, D.C., office, recently noted that the campaign was now on hold -- "caught up in the national vise of our war on terror." F-H has been told to "back off from the media," she added.
F-H was promoting the "Pakistan Emergency Economic Development and Trade Support Act," introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), which was aimed at rewarding Pakistan for its support for the president's "war on terrorism," O'Dwyers PR daily reported. The bill, that would have given Bush "the authority to reduce or suspend import duties on Pakistani apparel," was opposed by the U.S. apparel manufacturers. Pakistan already exports about $2 billion in apparel to the U.S., according to O'Dwyers.
In January 2002, O'Dwyers PR Daily reported that the country had hired the "well-connected Houston-based Republican firm, Polland & Cook, to help smooth ties with the U.S. just prior to the Sept. 11 attacks. The purpose was to end U.S. economic sanctions against Pakistan, bolster trade and debt restructure." Gary Polland, who chairs the Harris County GOP, "is 37.5 percent owner of a joint-venture known as 'Team Barakat,' registered lobbyist for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan." The company was given an $180,000 contract that could be "renewable for another two years," O'Dwyer's pointed out. How well connected to the GOP is Polland? In January 2001, he organized the Texas Inaugural Breakfast that was attended by Texas Senators Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison and Majority Whip Rep. Tom Delay. The event also included a media panel consisting of John Fund (The Wall Street Journal), Grover Norquist (Americans for Tax Reform), John Gizzi (Human Events) and Glen Bolger (Public Opinion Strategies).
All this suggests that in the mid to late 1990s, Abramoff played a supporting role in the big-hitters efforts to help Pakistan with its nuclear program. Recall also that Kissinger was originally tapped to head the 9/11 Commission. Consider as well, the UBL cells were being treated as part of the Pakistani-Saudi network that had produced the "Islamic bomb" with very high level American support. Guided by Grover Norquist, this network was tapped by Abramoff in building his multi-million dollar GOP slush funds. These birds have all flocked back to roost, so to speak, if indeed sections of the 9/11 Commission report concerning Pakistan were removed, along with those related to the Saudis.
2006. Mark G. Levey