Thursday, February 5, 2009

Conflicts of Interest & the Intel Community

In anticipation of Leon Panetta's confirmation hearing today, questions have been raised in the media about Panetta's business relationships and finances. In the context of Obama's rules and the recent problems with Daschle and others, these may present a problem for Panetta. The AP runs a story with details - and Mark Silva at The Swamp has even more information. The most interesting charges to me are these: "a $28,000 honorarium from the Carlyle Group" and "a $60,000 'governmental advisor fee' from the Pacific Maritime Association."

Mark Silva has a quote from the Carlyle Group: "Chris Ullman, told Bloomberg that Panetta spoke at an annual investors' conference, 'which is unrelated to any of our portfolio companies,' such as Booz Allen Hamilton, an intelligence contractor for the government."

Well, we shall see how true that is. I'd like to see the topic of discussion, a list of the investors' present, etc.

Silva also says the Pacific Maritime Association "lobbies the federal government on terrorism laws." Although my knowledge of which laws the PMA is trying to influence is nonexistent, a look at their organization suggests they would be very homeland-security specific. Their site says "The principal business of the Pacific Maritime Association is to negotiate and administer maritime labor agreements with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.
Our member companies are cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores that operate at West Coast ports, where overall cargo movement supports 8 million U.S. jobs." PMA is not, for example, a defense contractor. Questions should be asked of course.

Now let's compare Panetta to the candidate scorned, John Brennan. I have documented in various posts his extremely intimate dealings with intelligence businesses. And by extremely intimate, I mean that in November of 2008 he was still the CEO of The Analysis Corp., an intelligence contractor! And not only that, as of November 2008, Brennan was the chairman of the most influential trade association in intelligence contracting - the Intelligence and National Security Alliance! Read more about TAC (The Analysis Corp.) and INSA here and here.

To excerpt from my diary at Talkleft on INSA:

"INSA's joint programs with the DNI have alarmed some intelligence veterans, who
wonder if INSA has become a way for contractors and intelligence officials to create policy in secret, without oversight from Congress
. 'Evidently, DNI McConnell has made it an early priority to stand up INSA as the preeminent nonprofit association serving the ODNI,' an industry insider told me, on condition of anonymity. 'While INSA has created multiple levels of memberships and a large connected board of both government and industry leaders, the real control remains with the big-dollar founding primes. I wonder if it's even legal for these officials to sit on an actual board of an industry trade association.'

"That is not entirely clear. Scott Amey, the counsel for the Project on Government Oversight, a public interest group that monitors federal contracting, said the DNI's relationship with INSA certainly raises serious ethical questions. If government officials are attending INSA meetings on a regular basis, he said, those meetings may be subject to open meeting rules, which would require them to be open to the public. The fact that contractors and intelligence officials are meeting under the cover of a business association - despite the fact that they are supposedly there as individuals - points to the need to expand the oversight of intelligence to include contracting." Tim Shorrock, "Spies for Hire," p.70-71 [emphasis supplied]

Now that's a real scandal. This may be why Brennan actually stepped away from the D/CIA position. Who knows. But I am glad at least that Panetta is farther removed than Brennan from this culture which made big bucks on the Bush terror regime.

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