Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sibel Edmonds Case: ABC News investigates Hastert scandals and the Turkish Connections.

Kudos to ABC News for (belatedly) taking the opportunity of Dennis Hastert's new lobbying job to give a run-down of some of the scandals Hastert has been involved in.

Despite the benign headline ("Ex-House Speaker Hastert Finds New Home"), Justin Rood mentions the Mark Foley / House Page scandal, Hastert's (under-reported) involvement in the Abramoff affair, and Hastert's dodgy land / earmarking deals. Rood's piece ends thusly:
"A 2005 Vanity Fair article alleged Turkish groups and individuals at the Turkish Consulate in Washington, D.C. had discussed funneling tens of thousands of dollars to Hastert in exchange for political favors; his spokesman at the time denied Hastert had any knowledge of Turkish groups and had done no favors.

Hastert's new firm has done work for the government of Turkey and Turkish companies, a spokesperson confirmed Monday. She could not say whether or not Hastert would be working on projects involving that country."
As far as I know, this is the first time that the Vanity Fair investigation has ever been referenced in the corporate media... 34 months after publication.

Please head over to the ABC article and leave a message of support & encouragement. We need to reward this sort of reporting, and also build on the momentum. The popularity of my article about Hastert on Monday demonstrates that there is a groundswell of interest in these matters.

Fox News, of all places, has also been reporting on (some of) Hastert's crimes:
"Budget earmarks became a national scandal — and a national joke — after some wasteful schemes made headlines recently:
The most recognizable name is Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert...

In February 2004, Hastert, with partners and through a trust that did not bear his name, bought up 69 acres of land that adjoined his farm some 60 miles outside Chicago. The price was $340,000. In May 2005, Hastert transferred an additional 69 acres from his farm into the trust.

Two months later, Congress passed a spending bill into which Hastert inserted a $207 million earmark to fund the “Prairie Parkway” which, when completed, would run just a few miles from the 138 acres owned by Hastert’s trust.

After President Bush flew to Hastert’s district in August 2005 to sign the bill, Hastert and his partners flipped the land for what appeared to be a multi-million dollar profit.
One of the problems with political reporting today is that these issues tend to only (if ever) get reported in 'silos.' We need to take the opportunity of Hastert's new job to present the portfolio of his crimes and dodgy deals in their entirety, and decide whether we really want to allow these people to seamlessly cross-over into private practice to continue to make millions of dollars, selling out the national interest.

One thing that I didn't mention in my article on Monday is that Sibel has repeatedly stated that there was actually a concerted effort to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the fact that these Turkish interests were buying up congressmen, including Hastert.

Here's Sibel:
“…What happened was, FBI had this information since 1997. In 1999, the Clinton Administration actually asked the Department of Justice to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate Hastert, and certain other elected officials that were not named in this (VF) article, to be investigated formally. And the Department of Justice actually went about appointing this prosecutor, but after the Administration changed they quashed that investigation and they closed it despite the fact they had all sorts of evidence, again I’m talking about wiretaps, documents- paper documents- that was highly explosive and could have been easily used to indict the Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. That investigation was closed in 2001, and this was around the time I started reporting my cases to the Congress.”
Vanity Fair reported the same thing, from a different source
"One counter-intelligence official familiar with Edmonds’s case has told Vanity Fair that the F.B.I. opened an investigation into covert activities by Turkish nationals in the late 1990’s. That inquiry found evidence, mainly via wiretaps, of attempts to corrupt senior American politicians in at least two major cities—Washington and Chicago.
[I]n December 2001, Joel Robertz, an F.B.I. special agent in Chicago, contacted Sibel and asked her to review some wiretaps. Some were several years old, others more recent; all had been generated by a counter-intelligence that had its start in 1997. “It began in D.C.,” says an F.B.I. counter-intelligence official who is familiar with the case file. “It became apparent that Chicago was actually the center of what was going on.”

Its subject was explosive; what sounded like attempts to bribe elected members of Congress, both Democrat and Republican. “There was pressure within the bureau for a special prosecutor to be appointed and take the case on, “the official says. Instead, his colleagues were told to alter the thrust of their investigation – away from elected politicians and toward appointed officials. “This is the reason why Ashcroft reacted to Sibel in such an extreme fashion,” he says “It was to keep this from coming out.”

In her secure testimony, Edmonds disclosed some of what she recalled hearing. In all, says a source who was present, she managed to listen to more than 40 of the Chicago recordings supplied by Robertz. Many involved an F.B.I. target at the city’s large Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Consulate, as well as members of the American-Turkish Council and the Assembly of Turkish American Associates.

Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes.... One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert."
An enterprising reporter ought to be able to track some of this down... Counter-intelligence officials have confirmed that steps were taken to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the fact that Hastert and others were taking bribes from officials at the Turkish Consulate, and key Turkish lobbying groups (American Turkish Council and Assembly of Turkish American Associates) related to "large scale drug shipments and other crimes."

We know that the FBI has been trying to determine the source of the money, and trying to determine how it is distributed:
Some of it may come from criminal activity, possibly drug trafficking, but much more might come from arms dealing. Contracts in the hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars provide considerable fat for those well placed to benefit.
We know that some of the other people named by Sibel have since been added to the Turkish payroll, with multi-million dollar salaries.

We know that Sibel has outlined a 'recipe' whereby "ex-congressmen turned lobbyists ... (pocket) a few dozen who still serve."

This is not about Hastert himself, so much as perpetuating a system where people like Hastert - and Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Eric Edelman, Marc Grossman, Roy Blunt, Dan Burton, Tom Lantos, Bob Livingston, Stephen Solarz and others - continue to subvert American democracy for private profit.

What will it take to stop it?

(For starters, please leave a supportive comment over at Justin Rood's article at ABC News)

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