By Jim Rarey
December 29, 2002
A cruel sham is being perpetrated on the American public and especially on the families of the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. One of the expectations of the public is that the Commission established to investigate the attacks will find out what the government (in particular intelligence agencies) knew prior to the attacks. However, both the restrictions on the Commission and the composition of its members are designed to prevent just that.
The Commission was established by the 2003 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 4628) to (1) conduct an investigation, (2) identify, review and evaluate lessons learned, and (3) issue a report to the President and Congress containing findings, conclusions and recommendations. While the first part of Section 604 of the Act defining the Commission's functions appears to give it a broad mandate of areas for investigation (including intelligence agencies), a following provision limits its inquiry into the 'intelligence community' to areas not covered by the 'Joint Inquiry' of Congressional Intelligence Committees unless there is new information not reviewed by the congressional investigation.
Commission members and staff will be required to have appropriate security clearances before they are given access to classified information. This probably means that any final report to the public will be 'sanitized' of classified information, as is the report of the congressional 'Joint Inquiry.' In other words, any meaningful information the Commission might find (despite the restrictions on it) will not be made public. Committee staff members are considered government employees and are subject to severe penalties for leaking classified information.
Some public hearings may be held but obviously will not deal with classified information. Each agency furnishing information to the Commission establishes its own classifications. The Commission can issue subpoenas for information or compelling testimony but only if at least six of the ten members approve or both the chairman and vice chairman approve.
If a subpoena is ignored, a U.S. District Court can issue an order to comply and if still ignored, cite the person or persons for contempt. Alternatively, by majority vote the commission can issue a non-binding request to a U.S. Attorney to bring the matter before a grand jury. U.S. Attorneys report to the Attorney General, or a subordinate, in the Department of Justice. The Commission is required to issue its final report eighteen months after the authorizing legislation went into effect.
If the limited scope of the commission is not enough, the membership of the commission virtually guarantees that nothing meaningful will emerge. In this writers opinion there are three general categories of persons who should have been excluded from the commission. The first is anyone who is a member of an organization that advocates abdicating U.S. sovereignty in favor of governance by a regional or world body. The premier organization pushing that concept for the last eight decades is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Members of the CFR hold a significant number of high-level government positions. A second category would be anyone who has had involvement with the 'intelligence community.' This would include members of congress who have been on intelligence committees as well as some private sector members of advisory boards. The rationale is that those persons likely have either been co-opted or have become inured to accepting assertions of intelligence agencies at face value.
The third criterion, which would mostly apply to government officials and members of congress, is anyone who participated in a cover-up of illegal activity related to organizations or groups involved in terrorism or the related activities of drug distribution and money laundering.
Then let's begin with the chairman of the commission Thomas Kean, former New Jersey Governor and President of Drew University. When Kean was appointed to replace severely conflicted Henry Kissinger, he asserted his only constituency was the students at Drew.
Well, it turns out that is not exactly true. Kean sits on the Board of Directors of Amerada Hess, one of the world's leading independent oil and gas companies. The company is coupled with Delta Oil, a Saudi Arabia company in a joint venture called Delta-Hess. Delta-Hess in turn is a partner in Azerbaijan with a consortium developing Caspian Sea oil resources.
Delta Oil is owned by the two Saudi families of Khalid bin Mahfouz and Mohammed Hussein al Amoudi. Both are alleged to be major financial backers of Osama bin Laden and have been named in a lawsuit by families and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Bin Mahfouz is Osama's brother-in-law. His sister married bin Laden.
Delta-Hess owns 20% of the Azerbaijan consortium. SOCOL, the state owned Oil Company has 50% and Frontera owns the remaining 30%. Frontera is headed by Bill White who was Deputy Secretary of Energy in the first Clinton administration and the architect of Azerbaijans first Caspian Sea offshore gas and oil consortium. Familiar names among its Board of Directors and advisors include Lloyd Bentsen, former Senator and Treasury Secretary and John Deutch, former Director of the CIA.
Kean also is co-chairman of Homeland Security Project, which had significant input into the drafting of the Office of Homeland Security legislation. The long-time member of the CFR also forgot to mention his role as general partner in Quad Ventures LLC. Quad is a limited partnership operating in the $815 billion education industry whose partners include; Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch Community Development, Wells Fargo bank and insurance giants Prudential Financial and Wachovia. Top officials in most of those companies are also CFR members. Both Citigroup and Morgan Chase are deeply involved in the Enron scandal. Citigroup received a slap on the wrist when found to have laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in drug money which some suspect helped fund terrorism.
Commission vice chairman and former congressman Lee Hamilton was appointed to replace former senate majority leader George Mitchell (CFR), who like Kissinger declined to disclose potential conflicts of interest and resigned. Hamilton, a CFR member since at least 1988, was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Select Intelligence Committee.
In 1987, House Speaker Jim Wright (who later resigned in disgrace) appointed Hamilton to chair a committee investigating the Iran/Contra affair. When a question was raised about CIA/Contra drug smuggling, the response was release by Hamilton of a cursory review that concluded there was no truth to the charges. The CIA recently released a report (that received almost no publicity) admitting the drug connection.
Considered one of the fifty most powerful women in the country, CFR member Jamie Gorelick is currently vice-chair of the giant mortgage lender and insurer Fannie Mae. From March 1994 until she joined Fannie Mae in May 1997 she was Deputy Attorney General, the number two spot in Janet Renos Department of Justice.
In May 1995, the Intelligence Community Law Enforcement Policy Board was established to meet quarterly and discuss mutual concerns of the Attorney General and Director of Central Intelligence. The board was co-chaired by Gorelick and DCI George Tenet. Other members included all of the law enforcement agencies, the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research and the Defense Department General Counsel.
This is the same time frame (spring of 1995) in which the Philippine government apprised the FBI, CIA and State Department of Project Bojinka an Islamic terrorist plot which included hijacking commercial airlines planes and flying them into the Pentagon, World Trade Center towers and, several other buildings. The BCCI scandal involved a number of powerful individuals. Clark Clifford and Robert Altman were the top two officers in First American, the new name given Financial General Bankshares when it was taken over by BCCI (known as the Bank of Crooks and Criminals International in the corridors of Washington) with the help of the Jackson Stephens/Lippo Worthen Bank and the Rose Law Firm.
First American is said to have been using the notorious PROMIS software. When BCCI and First American were exposed, the legal defense team for Clifford and Altman attracted a bevy of well-known names including Robert Fiske (later the first 'independent counsel' investigating Whitewater and Vince Foster's 'suicide'), Robert Bennett (later attorney for Bill Clinton), and Jamie Gorelick.
In a somewhat related case in 1978, Financial General Bankshares sued BCCI, two Jackson Stephens' companies (one was Systematics) and a number of individuals. Two of the attorneys representing Systematics in the controversy over PROMIS software were Webster Hubbell and Hillary Rodham.
In 1998, while at Fannie Mae, Gorelick served on Clintons Central Intelligence National Security Advisory Panel as well as the President's Review of Intelligence.
Ben-Veniste is a high-visibility Washington attorney and Democrat power broker. He was Democrat counsel to the Senate Whitewater investigation where he blocked inquiries about Webster Hubbell's hiring by the Lippo group and others administered by Truman Arnold.
According to investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker, Ben-Veniste then turned around and defended Arnold (the man he was supposed to be investigating) before Ken Starr's Whitewater grand jury, for which he was roundly criticized. Hopsicker also reveals that Arnold had furnished a $2 million airplane to his friend Wally Hilliard for $1. Hilliard, Hopsicker says, owned the Flight school in Venice, Florida where four of the Islamic terrorist pilots were trained that flew the suicide missions on 9/11.
Another of Ben-Venistes clients was Barry Seal, the drug running CIA asset of Iran/Contra and Mena, Arkansas notoriety. In fact, Hopsicker relates Ben-Veniste told the Wall Street Journal, "I did my part by launching him (Seal) into the arms of Vice President Bush who embraced him as an undercover operative."
Fielding is another one who has been around the centers of power for a while on the Republican side. In the Nixon administration he was a deputy counsel working under John Dean. In the Watergate scandal he helped his boss (Dean) handle Howard Hunt's safe full of documents. They wore rubber gloves so as not to leave fingerprints. Fielding was not one of the twenty or so Nixon associates (including John Dean) that went to jail over their involvement. Later Fielding served as White House Counsel to President Reagan. More recently he was at least partly responsible for getting George W. Bush's political mentor Karl Rove in hot water over failure to divest his stock in Intel Corporation valued at over $100,000.
Fielding advised Rove, who was planning to divest all of his stock, to hold onto it until a 'government certificate of divestiture' could be obtained. The certificate would have allowed deferral of capital gains taxes on stock sold.
While he still held the stock, Rove met with Intel executives and Vice President Chaney at which a proposed merger with a Dutch company was discussed. This was a breech of administration ethics rules.
Fielding served on the Bush transition team in early 2001. According to Clay Johnson, Director of Presidential Personnel and Deputy Chief of Staff, the Vice President asked Fred Fielding, who had been President Reagan's counsel, to come in and he volunteered to--as soon as we had a Cabinet Secretary-to-be, he would sit down with that person and they'd have a nice little chat for an hour or two. And then Fred would tell us whether he was confident that there were no clearance problems or not. If there was something that he thought might be problematic, he would explore it further, and maybe they had to go get some information, whatever. Johnson said the process now takes sixty days.
Jim Thompson was the longest serving governor in Illinois history completing four terms in office leaving in 1991. He is currently chairman of the large Chicago-based law firm Winston and Strawn. While he was governor, sensational charges were leveled against him and the law firm by Chicago author and investigator Sherman Skolnick.
Skolnick claimed that the First National Bank of Chicago had loaned (Communist) China billions of dollars to be repaid in gold. When China defaulted on the gold payments, according to Skolnick, the CIA and bank arranged for massive amounts of high purity heroin to be smuggled into the U.S. in lieu of the gold payments. Skolnick alleged shipments came in through Joliet, just south of Chicago, and were supervised by Thompson and the Winston and Strawn law firm. As with most claims of CIA involvement in illegal drugs, nothing came of the allegations.
Thompson got caught in the middle of a messy political battle between outgoing Governor George Ryan and Attorney General Jim Ryan, both Republicans. Ryan was running against Democrat Rod Blagojevich, the victor and incoming governor. At the same time AG Ryan was suing Governor George Ryan over the pardoning of death row inmates.
George Ryan hired former governor Jim Thompson to defend against the lawsuit. Blagojevich had railed in his campaign against the 26 years of Republican corruption and mismanagement. That included 12 of the years when Thompson was governor. To the astonishment of practically everyone, Blagojevich appointed Thompson to lead his transition team.
John Lehman is an investment banker who has served in a number of government positions including as Secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987 under President Reagan. His first government job was as special counsel and senior staff member to Henry Kissinger on the National Security Council in the Nixon administration. Lehman currently serves on several boards of directors including those of Ball Corporation, as chairman of OAO Technology Solutions, Inc. and his own J.F. Lehman & Company. He is a former chairman of Sperry Marine and investment banker with Paine Webber. Lehman served 25 years as a naval aviator in the selected reserves.
Slade Gorton is a former senator from the State of Washington. After he lost his reelection bid in 2000, he joined the Seattle Law firm of Preston, Gates & Ellis, which specializes in environmental issues. If jury selection rules were being used, Gorton would probably be dismissed from consideration for the commission for cause. Two days after the 9/11 attacks he told a public-television audience there was nothing government intelligence officials could have done to thwart the attack, according to the Seattle Times. The Times quotes Gorton as saying, I doubt we can expect to get too much inside information no matter what we do. Gorton served two years on the Senate Intelligence Committee. He says that experience and his personal friendship with Trent Lott were responsible for his appointment by Lott.
Tim Roemer is a moderate Democrat congressman (at least compared to the Democrat leadership) who is retiring from Congress at the end of this year. He was one of the prime movers in the House championing creation of the Independent Commission. He is credited with bringing the organization representing survivors and families of victims of the 9/11 attacks into the mix of support for the commission. Roemer is a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Max Cleland is a one-term Senator from Georgia who lost his reelection bid this year in a close contest. He is a triple amputee from wounds received in Vietnam. At the age of 28, Cleland was the youngest person and first Vietnam veteran elected to the Georgia State Senate. In 1977, he became the youngest ever head of the Veterans' Administration when appointed by President Jimmy Carter. In 1982 Cleland became the youngest person elected as Georgia Secretary of State. He resigned that position in 1996 to run for the seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Senator Sam Nunn. He was sworn in as a U.S. Senator in 1997. Barring (intentional) leaks, we will have to wait another 17 months to see what the product of the commission will be. By that time the publics attention will undoubtedly be focused on other things.
The author is a free lance writer based in Romulus, Michigan. He is a former newspaper editor and investigative reporter, a retired customs administrator and accountant, and a student of history and the U.S. Constitution.
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