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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How Foreign Lobbies Imperil America

by Christopher Deliso

August 10, 2005
balkanalysis.com

Critics of foreign lobbies in the nation's capital are often dismissed
as either hopelessly naïve, or as cranky isolationist curmudgeons
disinterested in embracing other cultures. Since it is natural for a
country to seek economic and cultural ties with other nations, the
argument goes, what other choice do people with competing interests in
a globalizing, capitalistic world have, in order to make themselves
heard, except banding together to petition those in power?

Obviously foreign lobbying is an age-old practice, and it will never
go away. Still, something must be done to curb the extravagances and
indiscretions of foreign lobbyists in Washington. A failure to do so
can only invite ruin for the United States and its citizens, because
as with everything else in the so-called "indispensable nation,"
lobbyists have simply gone overboard, feeling themselves to be above
the law and beholden to no one.

Now, they are not only continuing the old practice of pouring slop in
the trough of corrupt politicians, they are also endangering America's
national security by serving foreign interests, doing business with
terrorists, and directly targeting American citizens. Unfortunately,
in 2005, we're a long ways away from Thomas Jefferson's ideal of
"peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling
alliances with none."

Cunning, Diversionary Tactics

Perhaps the worst thing of all about the behavior of the nefarious
lobbyists is that they abuse the public trust. Sometimes they manifest
as the type of organization generally considered as being above-board,
in the economic and cultural sphere, in order to disguise criminal
intent. In an Antiwar.com interview last summer, FBI whistleblower
Sibel Edmonds gave a hypothetical example of how such "semi-legitimate
organizations" operate:

"…say, an Uzbek folklore society based in Germany. The stated purpose
would be to hold folklore-related activities – and they might even do
that – but the real activities taking place behind the scenes are
criminal."

The "real activities" of such organizations, says Edmonds, can include
arms and drug smuggling in the area of hundreds of millions of dollars.

The close connection between lobbying and "semi-legitimate" activities
was driven home for me the other week when I met in Skopje with an
American "consultant" representing a businessman in a certain Balkan
country. Apparently, the businessman was eager to do business in
America, but did not have the right connections. How could he go about
getting his foot in the door, he asked? According to the consultant,

"…we advised him to set up a foundation dealing with one of the usual
Balkan issues, arms smuggling, human trafficking, ethnic rights, etc.
Then we could see to it that this topic would come up in a
congressional committee or sub-committee meeting. So he would have a
chance to introduce himself, in his capacity as foundation chair, not
as a businessman. And after the presentation, what if somehow they
decide to talk business? Well, I wouldn't know about that, would I?"

Case Study 1: Larry Franklin and the AIPAC Spies

The scandals that have emerged over the past couple years, largely in
the context of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq War, show
clearly the extent of the danger America is facing due to
out-of-control foreign lobbyists.

Former Pentagon analyst Larry Franklin is currently in the dock for
repeatedly passing top secret intelligence documents pertaining to
Iran, the Khobar Towers bombing and terrorist activities in Central
Asia to his "handlers" in the American-Israeli Public Affairs Council
(AIPAC), an organization that bills itself as "America's pro-Israel
lobby."

Now, two senior AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, have
also been indicted. According to Justin Raimondo, who has been
following the story tirelessly, three Israeli embassy officials are
also mentioned in the indictment.

That the FBI has apparently been investigating this bunch since 1999
sheds light on the enormity of the case; the more we learn, the more
it seems that US foreign policy is under the control of those who wish
to secure the realm – the Israeli one, that is. As the Franklin case
shows, spies within the government willingly (it does not appear that
Franklin wanted pay; he seems to have been doing it out of sheer
devotion) collaborated with Israeli lobbyists, who in turn handed over
sensitive data to their government. But Franklin was not alone; other
American government officials, as yet unnamed, have also been
indicted. Raimondo sums up the lobbyists' role succinctly:

"…What emerges from this indictment is AIPAC's role as an organization
that functioned as a lot more than a mere Washington lobbying group,
but rather one whose primary objective is intelligence-gathering on
behalf of Israel.

"Rosen used AIPAC's resources, both financial and political, to carry
out a sophisticated spy operation inside the Pentagon, involving not
only Franklin but an entire subterranean network of informants and
other assets, government officials who regularly provided information
and pushed Israel's agenda inside the administration. AIPAC
functioned, in effect, as an organized conspiracy on behalf of a
foreign power, a funnel that not only poured money into pro-Israel
candidates in both major parties and lobbied furiously on behalf of
Tel Aviv, but also operated as a virtual clearinghouse of classified
information, laundering it through the media – and, of course,
funneling it back to their Israeli handlers."

Case Study 2: Sibel Edmonds and the Turkish FBI Infiltration

Another dimension of malevolent foreign lobbying has been revealed in
the testimony of Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI employee and
whistleblower. While the government has not allowed her full testimony
to come out, keeping her gagged under the State Secrets Act, enough
has been revealed to cast a light deep into the dark places inhabited
by lobbyists, the politicians they work with, and their spies within
federal law enforcement agencies.

Edmonds' allegations point to another dangerous dimension of the
lobbying phenomenon. Whereas Franklin's crew seem to have been
motivated out of a certain idealism and patriotism to Israel – the
classic state-sponsored brand of spying – the people Edmonds was
tracking as an FBI translator were of another breed. She speaks of a
shadowy world of foreign terrorists, gun runners, drug lords and
politicians, all of whom seem to have had a common meeting place
(lobby groups and other "semi-legitimate organizations," as she calls
them) – like some watering hole where all the wild creatures of the
jungle come out to drink at dusk.

And, according to Edmonds, they were all motivated by a single purpose
– not by ideals or nationalism, but by sheer and simple greed. In the
end, the whole business just "…boils down to a whole lot of money and
illegal activities."

Although I tentatively take credit for breaking the story a year ago,
it has only been since January that the mass media has really focused
on one organization in particular – the American-Turkish Council, an
extremely powerful Washington lobby group chaired by Brent Scowcroft
and supported by all of the biggest American and Turkish business
interests; its "Golden Horn" group of high-end contributors is pretty
heavy on military contractors, such as Boeing, Bechtel International,
BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, General Electric, Northrop Grumman,
Raytheon and United Technologies/Sikorsky.

As the above interview recounts in depth, one of Edmonds' co-workers
in the FBI, Melek Can Dickerson, was a former employee of the ATC who,
with her husband, a US Air Force man in the weapons procurement game,
basically offered her membership in the exclusive organization; the
implication was that Edmonds would be able to profit from sharing FBI
secrets, or, as Dickerson herself was doing, block ongoing FBI
investigations into Turkish nationals suspected of trying to breach
American national security. Edmonds declined, and her resolute refusal
to compromise American security and aid the criminals meant the end of
her job.

According to a new article on whistleblowers in the latest issue of
Vanity Fair,

"…Sibel later told the O.I.G. [Office of the Inspector General] she
assumed that the A.T.C.'s board – which is chaired by Brent Scowcroft,
President George H. W. Bush's national-security advisor – knew nothing
of the use to which it was being put. But the wiretaps suggested to
her that the Washington office of the A.T.C. was being used as a front
for criminal activity."

Yet no matter how high the corruption may have gone within the
organization, it was clear that at least individuals – as well as US
elected officials that Edmonds is not allowed to name – were in on a
major racket. Many of the wiretapped calls she processed at the FBI
disclosed activities that could directly endanger the lives of
American citizens, says the Vanity Fair article:

"…Another call allegedly discussed a payment to a Pentagon official,
who seemed to be involved in weapons-procurement negotiations. Yet
another implied that Turkish groups had been installing doctoral
students at U.S. research institutions in order to acquire information
about black market nuclear weapons. In fact, much of what Edmonds
reportedly heard seemed to concern not state espionage but criminal
activity. There was talk, she told investigators, of laundering the
profits of large-scale drug deals and of selling classified military
technologies to the highest bidder."

Hey, why should anyone care about who's getting their hands on black
market nukes, or passing around American secret military technology?
Share the wealth, right?

Case Study 3: A Bewildering Pakistani Gaffe and Nuclear Nightmares

Another whistleblower, former FBI senior intelligence-operations
specialist John Cole, was also interviewed in the same Vanity Fair
article. After 9/11, this distinguished veteran became the bureau's
national counter-intelligence program manager for India, Afghanistan
and Pakistan. However, he was soon deliberately upstaged by higher-ups:

"…Early in the fall of 2001, Cole was asked to assess whether a woman
who had applied to work as a translator of Urdu, Pakistan's national
language, might pose a risk to security. 'The personnel security
officer said she thought there was something that didn't seem right,'
Cole says. 'I went through the file, and it stuck out a mile: she was
the daughter of a retired Pakistani general who had been their
military attaché in Washington.' He adds that, to his knowledge,
'Every single military attaché they've ever assigned has been a known
intelligence officer.'"

This association "looked especially risky" to Cole, because Pakistan
was a volatile ally at best and its intelligence service, the ISI,
had, after all, created and propped up the Taliban in the first place.
Besides, the article adds, the government "…still contained elements
who were far from happy with President Pervez Musharraf's pro-American
policies."

For discovering the potential security breach, Cole was congratulated
by his superiors. Nevertheless, the Pakistani woman was given a job –
with top-secret security clearance.

"…As of July 2005," reports Vanity Fair, "the woman was still a bureau
translator. Sibel Edmonds said she remembers her well – as the leader
of a group that pressed for separate restrooms for Muslims."

Since 9/11, scores of commentators and analysts have cautioned America
to beware of nuclear-armed "ally" Pakistan. Besides the ISI/Taliban
connection is the disquieting fact that the country's nuclear
godfather, A.Q. Khan, is the world's single greatest black-market
nuclear proliferator. According to The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, who
told the story in detail in March 2004, the shadowy international
trade in black-market nuclear goods that Khan masterminded had
government sanction:

"…a Bush Administration intelligence officer with years of experience
in nonproliferation issues told me last month, 'One thing we do know
is that this was not a rogue operation. Suppose Edward Teller had
suddenly decided to spread nuclear technology and equipment around the
world. Do you really think he could do that without the government
knowing? How do you get missiles from North Korea to Pakistan? Do you
think A.Q. shipped all the centrifuges by Federal Express? The
military has to be involved, at high levels.'"

Seven months later, UPI reported extensively on the global nuclear
free-for-all described in Edmonds' testimony, again using the Khan
case as the centerpiece. Citing a report from the Institute for
Science and International Security, UPI revealed that Khan's supplying
of uranium enrichment centrifuges to Libya and Iran made use of vast
international resources and multiple countries – globalization at its
finest:

According to Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA,
"…nuclear components designed in one country could be manufactured in
another, shipped through a third, assembled in a fourth, and
designated for eventual turn-key use in a fifth."

It all sounds too much like some big-screen action thriller. But
that's the way it was. According to the article, the centrifuges were
assembled at workshops in Turkey and Malaysia, using parts from Italy,
Spain and elsewhere, smuggled on German-registered ships, diverted to
Dubai, repackaged and sent to Libya under false end-user certificates.

Just as Sibel Edmonds has argued regarding her own case, protecting
"foreign relations" has stymied any serious crackdown on such
criminals. A.Q. Khan's popularity in Pakistan made it impossible for
President Pervez Musharraf to give him anything worse than a slap on
the wrist – a pardon with home confinement. As Hersh reported,
referring to one American diplomat, this result came down to
embarrassment and foreign relations:

"…the United States was unwilling to publicly state the obvious: that
there was no way the Pakistani government didn't know about the
transfers. He said, 'Of course it looks awful, but Musharraf will be
indebted to you.'"

The sheer desperation that seems to drive America's foreign policy
would be understandable if only the stakes weren't so high. One might
understand why the administration would publicly and diplomatically
protect Musharraf from being flayed alive, by quietly looking the
other way in the Khan case. But still, this logic cannot explain why a
covert entity such as the FBI would knowingly breach its own security
standards by hiring someone who, in all likelihood, was passing on
classified information to Islamabad – and who knows where after that.

All things considered, it is very hard to believe that certain US
government officials, businessmen and lobbyists were unaware of the
rogue trade in nuclear goods until Gadhafi spilled the beans. After
all, if this is one of those black industries with profits in the
"hundreds of millions of dollars," as Edmonds described it, one would
hardly expect leaders who are already corrupted and irresponsible
enough to not cash in.

But we shouldn't worry – it's not like the US is provoking a new arms
race in one of the world's most volatile regions by ending a
moratorium and selling Pakistan nuclear-capable F-16s or anything.

A congressional source cited by Reuters said that the Bush
administration's decision, made right before Congress's summer recess,
could help "…blunt any backlash among the friends of India in
Congress, of which there are many."

Indeed, the lobbying race between the two archrivals has ended exactly
where the administration and its defense contractor allies hoped it
would – mutual annihilation:

"…In an attempt to address India's concerns, the Bush administration
is letting Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. compete for a
potential $9 billion market in India for as many as 126 combat
aircraft, as India replaces its fleet of Russian-built MiG-21s."

Case Study 4: Have Gun, Will Travel (to Kill US Citizens, That Is)

A dangerous variation of the Larry Franklin variety of lobbyist (i.e.,
one who is motivated by nationalist ideals) can be found among
different ethnic groups obsessed with whatever national cause they may
have. Larry Franklin may be dangerous as a spy for Israel, but he's
certainly not the sort who would strap on a Kalashnikov and hunt down
Israel's enemies by himself. But there are others who don't share his
reticence.

Take for example the situation in Kosovo, where America is allegedly
worshipped and the legacy of NATO intervention carefully whitewashed
as a "success." Albanian-Americans very successfully lobbied (and
subsidized) the former Clinton regime into bombing Serbia in 1999,
generating implausible sums of money overnight and engaging in
criminal activities to achieve their goal – an independent and
Serb-free Kosovo, which has basically been achieved.

Take Florin Krasniqi, the Albanian whose entire American existence
would seem to be one giant felony: first he smuggled himself illegally
into the country from Mexico, and then started smuggling heavy weapons
on commercial planes to arm his beloved "Kosovo Liberation Army" of
thugs back home.

One might think that a man with such a track record might be laying
low. The truth could not be more opposite: this surprisingly wealthy
roofer from Brooklyn, like his lobbyist peers, is a fixture at
Democratic campaign rallies; a recent documentary shows him writing
out thousand-dollar checks, back-slapping with successfully-lobbied
politicos like John Kerry, Wesley Clark and other Clintonites with the
profligate, self-assured zeal that could only be displayed by a
criminal who has significant political allies.

Now, Krasniqi has had a book and now two documentaries made in his
honor, in which he takes great pride in recounting how easy it is to
procure powerful .50 caliber rifles, and how great America is because
"…with money, you can do amazing things in this country... Senators
and congressmen are looking for donations, and if you raise the money
they need for their campaigns, they pay you back."

Indeed. There's only one problem with this happy little story.
Krasniqi, the inveterate displaced "patriot," has said that Kosovo
must be independent – and that if the UN does not leave, they will be
forced to leave: "…Kosovo is up in the air… we will throw the United
Nations out." As has been clear all along, the timid internationals
will run out with their tails between their legs if the going gets rough.

If there was any question regarding just how such an effort would be
achieved, Krasniqi makes it very clear:

"…We have a team of snipers here in the U.S. ready to be dispatched on
very short notice."

This is something for every American to think about. Currently
thousands of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, are serving in
Kosovo. You may even know one of them. Now Krasniqi's bombastic threat
has been backed up the shadowy "Albanian National Army" which very
recently sent a letter to the UN in Pristina, ordering all foreigners
to leave Kosovo immediately – or else.

For American soldiers and civilians to be killed by the same people
they came to liberate six years ago, and by guns sold in America and
with the blessings of bought-off elected officials in Washington –
folks, this will not just be ironic, it will be criminal. Like all of
the examples recounted above, it will constitute yet another
embarrassment of shortsighted foreign policy, and yet another example
of how government officials are willing to endanger their citizens in
order to profit from self-seeking foreign lobbies. Our third president
is no doubt rolling in his grave.

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