Sunday, December 11, 2005

CIA And Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's case

According to Laura Rozen, there may be a tie in between the CIA's analysis that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were a sign that Hussein was reconstituting Iraq's nuclear weapons program and recently disgraced California congressman, Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's conviction on bribery charges.

According to the timeline established in the Pincus article, in September 2002, the NGIC determined that the aluminum tubes Iraq was purchasing were "'highly unlikely' to be used for rocket motor cases," e.g. they were likely to be for a nuclear weapons program -- which was "completely wrong" the Silberman-Robb report found. Then in October 2002, MZM got its first orders from the NGIC, to "perform a seven-week, $194,000 analysis of 'FIRES', a computer program concept to collect blueprints of facilities worldwide to create an intelligence database," Pincus reported. Then in December 2002, according to the Pincus report, MZM hired the NGIC executive director's son, William Scott Rich III. Shortly thereafter, "MZM received multimillion-dollar orders to continue work on FIRES and other programs," Pincus reports.

So is this all about conflict of interest, corruption, bribery, contracting improprieties? Or is there something else going on here? It's not clear. But guess what. The CIA hired a contractor in September 2002 (the month before the NGIC gave MZM its first orders) who also claimed the tubes were for a nuclear centrifuge, eRiposte pointed out to me in the email. Who was that contractor? The Senate Select Intelligence report has redacted it.

Rozen goes on to write:

What the Wilkes-Wade-Cunningham larger story reveals is the vulnerability of the US government appropriations and contracting process -- even its most sensitive elements - to unscrupulous people, whose chief interests are not necessarily motivated by concern for the well being of the United States, but, in this case, apparently, self-enrichment. It's really the story of a security breach, and how easily penetrated were two of the most national security-sensitive Congressional committees by those who targeted them and others for just that purpose. And they were targeted in the classic ways spies target recruits -- by first identifying who would be useful, and then identifying their weaknesses (money? alcohol? other ways?). In other words, it's a counter-intelligence story too. (Jason Vest and I reported on that angle in a subscription only National Journal piece this past week; what's most curious is that while the chair of the House Intel committee Peter Hoekstra is investigating the Cunningham case as a potential counterintelligence concern, the chair of the other committee on which Cunningham sat, Jerry Lewis (R-Ca) of the Appropriations committee, is reviewing Cunningham's programmatic recommendations only "informally," according to a spokesman for the committee. Why is that?)

This tangled web gets weirder and more troubling as time goes on. We need investigations and serious ones. I'm convinced that Fitzgerald's working hard on all of the angles and that newspapers and reporters are doing their best. I'm also convinced that the job is bigger than Fitzgerald imagined and that he probably needs more help and a bigger budget. No wonder Congress isn't digging too deeply in this. I've heard that by some estimates up to 100 politicians in Congress - Democrat and Republican - might be implicated in this scandal. Read the rest of Rozen's post and also catch her article in American Prospect for more on the evolving scandal. This one could make Abramoff look like child's play if only for the extensive sensitive nature of it affecting our Defense and Intelligence efforts.

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