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FTR #390 Political Plate Techtonics

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When Trea­sury Sec­re­tary O’Neill resigned on Fri­day, Decem­ber 6, the pop­u­lar press report­ed the res­ig­na­tion as hav­ing been pre­cip­i­tat­ed by the fail­ure of the econ­o­my to respond to Bush’s eco­nom­ic pol­i­cy. Spec­u­la­tive in nature, this broad­cast ana­lyzes events in the sev­er­al days lead­ing up to the res­ig­na­tion and pos­es the ques­tion of whether O’Neil­l’s exit might have been due to his con­duct of Oper­a­tion Green Quest. Specif­i­cal­ly, the 3/20/2002 raids by Trea­sury Depart­ment agents impli­cat­ed peo­ple con­nect­ed to the Repub­li­can Par­ty, the milieu of George Bush and the Al Taqwa milieu in the fund­ing oper­a­tions of Al Qae­da and Hamas.

1. One of the most impor­tant dynam­ics in this line of inquiry con­cerns the pro­found Sau­di polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic clout in the Unit­ed States and with­in the Bush admin­is­tra­tion. Was O’Neil­l’s res­ig­na­tion real­ly due to Bush’s dis­sat­is­fac­tion with the results of O’Neil­l’s han­dling of the econ­o­my? Or was it because of the Bush/Saudi axis dis­sat­is­fac­tion with O’Neil­l’s per­for­mance vis a vis the 3/20 raids? Recall that Talat Oth­man, a direc­tor of Bush’s failed Harken Ener­gy firm, inter­ced­ed with O’Neill to express the dis­sat­is­fac­tion on the part of the “Wah­habi lob­by” with the Green Quest raids. Oth­man was deeply involved with the milieu involved in Green Quest, hav­ing sat on the boards of direc­tors of a num­ber of the insti­tu­tions involved in, or direct­ly over­lap­ping, the tar­gets of that oper­a­tion.

2. Although media cov­er­age in the Unit­ed States empha­sized the extent to which the Saud­is were coop­er­at­ing in the finan­cial effort to inter­dict the eco­nom­ic fund­ing for Al Qae­da, the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion is very dif­fer­ent. Even as the Amer­i­can media were trum­pet­ing the Sau­di stance on ter­ror, the chief for­eign pol­i­cy advi­sor to Crown Prince Abdul­lah was stat­ing that the coun­try would not loosen its inves­tiga­tive stance on ter­ror­ist financ­ing-in effect, telling the U.S. to go “shove it.” “Sau­di Ara­bia said yes­ter­day it would not low­er its stan­dard of evi­dence for des­ig­nat­ing finan­cial sup­port­ers of ter­ror­ism, set­ting the stage for con­tin­ued ten­sion with the US over the ade­qua­cy of Sau­di mea­sures to crack down on the financ­ing of ter­ror­ism.” (“Saud­is Resist US Push on Ter­ror Funds” by Edward Alden; Finan­cial Times; 12/4/2002; p. 3.)

3. It is inter­est­ing (and pos­si­bly sig­nif­i­cant) to note, in this con­text, the great con­fi­dence on the part of the Saud­is that the US “would not act uni­lat­er­al­ly.” “But Adel al-Jubeir, for­eign pol­i­cy advi­sor to Crown Prince Abdul­lah, the Sau­di leader, said he did not believe that the US would act uni­lat­er­al­ly against Sau­di indi­vid­u­als or groups sus­pect­ed of sup­port­ing ter­ror­ism. “When it comes to des­ig­na­tions of either indi­vid­u­als or orga­ni­za­tions. . . we work togeth­er.’ he said.” (Idem.)

4. As not­ed in FTR#386, a Trea­sury Depart­ment offi­cial (Jim­my Gurule) had trav­eled abroad short­ly before this announce­ment to attempt to bring oth­ers in line. The fol­low­ing para­graph is worth con­tem­plat­ing in light of O’Neil­l’s back­ing of the 3/20 raids, Oth­man’s inter­ces­sion on behalf of the tar­gets of those raids on 4/4 and O’Neil­l’s res­ig­na­tion two days after this arti­cle was pub­lished. “The admin­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent George W. Bush is debat­ing whether to step up pres­sure on the Saud­is by threat­en­ing on its own to des­ig­nate and freeze bank accounts of some Saud­is sus­pect­ed of financ­ing ter­ror­ism. Since last March, the two gov­ern­ments have agreed that all such actions should be tak­en joint­ly. [Empha­sis added.] Some offi­cials want the US to act alone if the Saud­is fail to co-oper­ate after the US presents addi­tion­al evi­dence regard­ing sus­pect indi­vid­u­als and groups. But oth­ers believe that main­tain­ing vol­un­tary co-oper­a­tion from the Saud­is is the only way to move for­ward.” (Idem.)

5. The day before O’Neill announced his res­ig­na­tion, the Ger­mans pub­li­cized a Sau­di diplo­mat­ic con­nec­tion to a sus­pect on tri­al in Ham­burg in con­nec­tion with 9/11. “Ger­man pros­e­cu­tors are inves­ti­gat­ing pos­si­ble links between the alleged al-Qae­da ter­ror­ist on tri­al in Ham­burg and diplo­mats and Islam­ic activists from Sau­di Ara­bia. The busi­ness card of a mem­ber of staff at the Sau­di embassy in Berlin was found among the pos­ses­sions of Mounir al-Motas­sad­eq, the Moroc­can stu­dent charged with hav­ing helped plan the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks, when he was arrest­ed last year, a spokes­woman for the chief fed­er­al pros­e­cu­tor said yes­ter­day.” (“Ger­mans Probe Pos­si­ble al-Qae­da Diplo­mat­ic Link” by Hugh Williamson; Finan­cial Times; 12/6/2002; p. 3.)

6. In addi­tion, the sus­pect was in tele­phon­ic con­tact with Sau­di ele­ments. “Mr. Motas­sad­eq is also thought to have made tele­phone calls to Sau­di Ara­bia dat­ing back to Decem­ber 2000, accord­ing to Ger­man media reports. Note­books and com­put­er files seized from Mr. Motas­sad­e­q’s Ham­burg flat con­tained many Sau­di Ara­bi­an tele­phone num­bers. Tele­phone records indi­cate he called the num­bers many times. Mr. Motas­sad­eq has admit­ted know­ing the Ham­burg hijack­ers involved in Sep­tem­ber 11, but denies involve­ment.” (Idem.)

7. Sig­nif­i­cant­ly, the plain­tiffs in a tril­lion-dol­lar suit filed by sur­vivors of the 9/11 attacks against a num­ber of ele­ments and indi­vid­u­als are co-plain­tiffs in the Ham­burg tri­al. “The pos­si­ble Ham­burg al-Qae­da cell con­nec­tion with Sau­di Ara­bia comes as inves­ti­ga­tions con­tin­ue in the US into links between the Sep­tem­ber 11 hijack­ers and the Sau­di Ara­bi­an embassy in Wash­ing­ton. Sep­a­rate­ly, rel­a­tives of Sep­tem­ber 11 vic­tims who are co-plain­tiffs in the Ham­burg tri­al intend to use evi­dence from the court case in a civ­il law suit in the US against the Sau­di Ara­bi­an roy­al fam­i­ly, a lawyer for the co-plain­tiffs said yes­ter­day. The civ­il suit, filed in August, accus­es three senior Sau­di Ara­bi­an princes, Sudan’s gov­ern­ment and sev­er­al Mid­dle East­ern banks of fund­ing al-Qae­da.” (Idem.)

8. More details emerged about the Sau­di con­nec­tion to Motas­sad­eq. “Ger­man author­i­ties inves­ti­gat­ing a Moroc­can man on tri­al on charges that he was involved in the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks say there is evi­dence that he had con­tact with a Sau­di diplo­mat as well as the lead­ers of an extrem­ist group in Sau­di Ara­bia. But Ger­man offi­cials said that despite their requests for help fol­low­ing up on these leads, respons­es had not been forth­com­ing from either Amer­i­can or Sau­di author­i­ties.” (“Ger­man Offi­cials Prob­ing 9/11 Sus­pect Say U.S., Saud­is Less than Coop­er­a­tive” by Desmond But­ler [New York Times]; The San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 12/8/2002; p. A6.)

9. The U.S. ret­i­cence to con­firm what had been voiced by the Ger­man author­i­ties is note­wor­thy. It may well be that the US “ret­i­cence” extends to allow­ing O’Neill to remain in office. The pos­si­bil­i­ty that the Amer­i­can intel­li­gence author­i­ties may not trust the Ger­mans com­plete­ly is anoth­er pos­si­bil­i­ty to con­sid­er. “In Wash­ing­ton, a Jus­tice Depart­ment spokesman who declined to be named called ques­tions about the Ger­man author­i­ties’ requests ‘too sen­si­tive’ for com­ment. After the arrest of the Moroc­can, Mounir el-Motas­sad­eq, in Ham­burg last year, the police found the busi­ness card of an offi­cial in the Sau­di Embassy in Berlin in his apart­ment. Pros­e­cu­tors say they also found records of numer­ous calls to Sau­di Ara­bia, which have since been traced to mem­bers of an extrem­ist group in Riyadh called Dar al-Assi­ma al-Nahr. Cell phone num­bers of the group’s lead­ers were found saved on Motas­sad­e­q’s com­put­er.” (Idem.)

10. Not­ing the Bush admin­is­tra­tion’s con­nec­tions to the “Wah­habi Lob­by,” it is inter­est­ing that Bush vis­it­ed the Islam­ic Cen­ter of Wash­ing­ton for a sec­ond time, two days before O’Neill resigned. Was Bush act­ing to please his Sau­di busi­ness associates/masters? Some of the peo­ple with whom Bush appeared the first time are not at all dis­con­nect­ed to the ter­ror­ist milieu. It is worth not­ing that the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions is a deriv­a­tive of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, an Islam­o­fas­cist orga­ni­za­tion at the core of the Al Qaeda/Al Taqwa milieu. “Amer­i­can Mus­lim groups have urged Bush to speak out more force­ful­ly against con­ser­v­a­tives who have maligned Islam as an ene­my of the Unit­ed States. Even these groups, how­ev­er, have been sur­prised by the num­ber of oppor­tu­ni­ties Bush has tak­en to deliv­er his ‘Islam is peace’ mes­sage, as Ibrahim Hoop­er of the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions described it recent­ly. ‘Even I get a lit­tle tired of that,’ Hoop­er said.” (“Bush Reaf­firms Islam’s Place in U.S. Soci­ety, Despite Crit­ics” Dana Mill­bank [Wash­ing­ton Post]; San Jose Mer­cury News; 12/6/2002; p. 12A.)

11. Not­ing the sequence of the events dis­cussed in this pro­gram, it is intrigu­ing that the res­ig­na­tion of key exec­u­tives with a Repub­li­can-linked PR firm that had been run­ning inter­fer­ence for the Saud­is. The same day that Bush was kiss­ing A__ at the Islam­ic Cen­ter (and the day before) O’Neill resigned, peo­ple at Qorvis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions bailed out. The seis­mic pres­sures that were squeez­ing Bush and O’Neill may have pre­cip­i­tat­ed their depar­ture as well. “Three of the found­ing part­ners of the Wash­ing­ton firm, Qorvis Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, have announced that they are leav­ing, and asso­ciates say their depar­ture reflects a deep dis­com­fort in rep­re­sent­ing the gov­ern­ment of Sau­di Ara­bia against accu­sa­tions that Sau­di lead­ers had turned a blind eye to ter­ror­ism. The firm, hired by the Sau­di gov­ern­ment in the after­math of the Sep­tem­ber 11 attacks, has been paid about $200,000 a month to help the Saud­is bol­ster their bat­tered image with the Amer­i­can pub­lic.” (“3 Part­ners Quit Firm Han­dling Saud­is’ P.R.” by Philip Shenon; New York Times; 12/6/2002; p. A12.)

12. Some of the past endeav­ors of Ms. Judy Smith (one of the depart­ing exec­u­tives) are inter­est­ing. “The most promi­nent of the depart­ing exec­u­tives is Judy Smith, a for­mer White House deputy press sec­re­tary who became the spokes­woman for Mon­i­ca Lewin­sky dur­ing Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s impeach­ment, lat­er a spokes­woman for the fam­i­ly of Chan­dra Levy, the mur­dered Wash­ing­ton intern. She and the oth­er depart­ing part­ners-Bernie Mer­ritt and Jim Weber, two long­time Repub­li­can par­ty strate­gists-announced on Wednes­day that they were leav­ing Qorvis to join a New York-based con­sult­ing and pub­lic rela­tions firm, Clark, and Wein­stock. Spokes­men for the Sau­di Embassy and Qorvis did not return phone calls for com­ment.” (Idem.)

13. Despite dis­claimers, it would appear that their posi­tion as flak-catch­ers for the Saud­is was becom­ing increas­ing­ly unten­able. “But friends and asso­ciates, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymi­ty, said the depar­tures had been prompt­ed large­ly by grow­ing evi­dence of ties between promi­nent Saud­is and the financ­ing of the ter­ror­ism net­work Al Qae­da, and by a con­cern that the firm and its rep­u­ta­tion were being over­whelmed by its work for Riyadh.” (Idem.)

14. The posi­tion of the Qorvis exec­u­tives was not helped by the recent state­ments of Prince Nayef, the Sau­di Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter. (Nayef was recent­ly named as a defen­dant in the tril­lion-dol­lar law­suit.) “The Sau­di police min­is­ter has claimed Jews were behind the Sept. 11 attacks because they have ben­e­fit­ed from sub­se­quent crit­i­cism of Islam and Arabs, accord­ing to media reports. Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Prince Nayef made the remarks in the Ara­bic-lan­guage Kuwaiti dai­ly Assyasah last month. The lat­est edi­tion of Ain al-Yaqeen, a week­ly Inter­net mag­a­zine devot­ed to Sau­di issues, post­ed the Assyasah inter­view and its own Eng­lish trans­la­tion. . . ‘We still ask our­selves: Who has ben­e­fit­ed from Sept. 11 attacks? I think they (the Jews) were the pro­tag­o­nists of such attacks,’ Nayef was quot­ed as say­ing. He was quot­ed as say­ing he believed ter­ror­ist net­works had links to ‘for­eign intel­li­gence agen­cies that work against Arab and Mus­lim inter­ests; chief among them is the Israeli Mossad.’ ” (“Saudi’s Top Cop says Jews Behind 9/11” by Alaa Shahine [AP]; San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 12/6/2002; p. A16.)

15. Inter­est­ing­ly (and, per­haps, sig­nif­i­cant­ly), among the voic­es cheer­ing O’Neil­l’s depar­ture (on Decem­ber ) was Grover Norquist, a key GOP oper­a­tive and the point man for that par­ty’s links to the milieu of the 3/20 Green Quest raids. (For more about Norquist, see FTR#‘s 356, 357, 358.) Accel­er­at­ing Bush’s tax­a­tion poli­cies is ludi­crous. As men­tioned [4], Bush’s tax poli­cies have been dev­as­tat­ing to the Unit­ed States-result­ing in enor­mous “Born-Again” bud­get deficits and record cur­rent-accounts deficits. “Con­ser­v­a­tive activist Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Reform, agrees. ‘If you want low­er tax­es,’ Norquist said, ‘the guy in this admin­is­tra­tion mak­ing sure we have low­er tax­es is Pres­i­dent Bush.’ ” (“Bush Ousts Top 2 Aides on Econ­o­my” by Car­olyn Lochhead; San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle; 12/7/2002; p. A18.)

16. A soft­ware com­pa­ny in Mass­a­chu­setts that was raid­ed by fed­er­al author­i­ties is symp­to­matic of the eco­nom­ic clout wield­ed in the Unit­ed States by the Saud­is as a result of the invest­ment of their recy­cled oil wealth. The com­pa­ny-Ptech-appears to have been cap­i­tal­ized in part by Yasin al-Qadi, a defen­dant in the tril­lion-dol­lar law­suit men­tioned above and some­one con­nect­ed to the milieu of Al Qae­da and Al Taqwa. One of the moti­vat­ing fac­tors in the raid con­cerned the clients served by Ptech. If the com­pa­ny does have ties to Al Qae­da, the com­pro­mis­ing of the infor­ma­tion sys­tems of these clients may be very sig­nif­i­cant indeed, both in terms of the 9/11 attacks and in terms of pos­si­ble future inci­dents. “Fed­er­al agents raid­ed a small soft­ware com­pa­ny in this Boston sub­urb ear­ly this morn­ing in an inves­ti­ga­tion into whether it has ties to Al Qae­da. The com­pa­ny, Ptech Inc., counts among its clients the F.B.I., the Air Force, the Navy, the Depart­ment of Ener­gy and NATO. Law enforce­ment offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton said the author­i­ties were try­ing to deter­mine whether it might have been try­ing to use the soft­ware it pro­duces to gain access to clas­si­fied or con­fi­den­tial gov­ern­ment data.” (“Fed­er­al Agents Raid a Soft­ware Com­pa­ny Out­side Boston, Seek­ing Links to Al Qae­da” by Pam Bel­luck and Eric Licht­blau; The New York Times; 12/7/2002; p. A11.)

17. “The raid, just after mid­night at the com­pa­ny’s head­quar­ters in a bay-front office park, stemmed from infor­ma­tion the gov­ern­ment had received from for­mer Ptech employ­ees sug­gest­ing that one of its investors was Yasin al-Qadi, a Sau­di mil­lion­aire who is on a Trea­sury Depart­ment list of ‘blocked per­sons’ because of sus­pi­cion of ter­ror­ist ties.” (Idem.)

18. The broad­cast dis­cuss­es al-Qadi’s con­nec­tions to the Muwafaq [5] Foun­da­tion, accused of fund­ing Al Qae­da. “He [al-Qadi] once head­ed a Sau­di-based char­i­ty called the Muwafaq Foun­da­tion, which fed­er­al author­i­ties con­sid­er a front for Osama bin Laden’s ter­ror net­work. The gov­ern­ment sus­pects that Mr. Qadi and oth­er well-con­nect­ed Saud­is have trans­ferred mil­lions of dol­lars to Mr. bin Laden through trusts and char­i­ties like Muwafaq. Mr. Qadi denies hav­ing engaged in any such activ­i­ty. Law enforce­ment offi­cials said they were try­ing to deter­mine whether Mr. Qadi was in fact a backer of Ptech and whether the com­pa­ny had fun­neled mon­ey to char­i­ties that might have con­tributed to Al Qae­da or oth­er ter­ror­ist groups.” (Idem.)

19. One of al-Qadi’s asso­ciates in the Muwafaq foun­da­tion was Khalid bin Mah­fouz, mar­ried to Osama bin Laden and a prin­ci­pal fig­ure in the BCCI net­work. It is worth remem­ber­ing in this con­text that the afore­men­tioned Talat Oth­man was a pro­tégé of Abdul­lah Bak­shs, anoth­er of the BCCI inti­mates. When George W. Bush final­ly select­ed the man to head the “inde­pen­dent com­mis­sion” to inves­ti­gate 9/11, his choice was Hen­ry Kissinger. Aside from the enor­mous bag­gage that Kissinger car­ries in oth­er respects, he is no stranger to the BCCI. (Bush was reluc­tant [6] to autho­rize such a com­mis­sion.) “The strangest play­er of all, pre­dictably, is Hen­ry Kissinger, whose first act as chair­man of the ‘inde­pen­dent’ com­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate 9/11 was to ini­ti­ate a cov­er-up, ful­ly backed by the White House, of the iden­ti­ties of the clients of Kissinger Asso­ciates, his con­sult­ing firm. Mr. Kissinger con­sis­tent­ly sees the con­fi­den­tial­i­ty of this list as a high­er pri­or­i­ty than ser­vice to his coun­try. When the Sen­ate’s Com­mit­tee on For­eign Rela­tions a decade ago inves­ti­gat­ed the B.C.C.I. affair‑a scan­dal that itself fig­ures in the tan­gled his­to­ry of Saudi/Al Qae­da mon­ey laun­der­ing-Kissinger Asso­ciates resist­ed the sub­poe­na by threat­en­ing lit­i­ga­tion ‘through an exten­sive appel­late process to the Supreme Court.’ (The quote is from the com­mit­tee’s Decem­ber 1992 report on its inves­ti­ga­tion.) The Sen­ate retreat­ed.” (“Pearl Har­bor Day, 2002” by Frank Rich; The New York Times; 12/7/2002; p. A35.)

20. One of the most impor­tant recent polit­i­cal devel­op­ments is the estab­lish­ment of the Home­land Secu­ri­ty Depart­ment. It is sig­nif­i­cant to note in the con­text of O’Neil­l’s res­ig­na­tion that inter­a­gency squab­bling over Oper­a­tion Green Quest over­laps the issue of intel­li­gence shar­ing in the Depart­ment. The direc­tor of the FBI (Robert Mueller) head­ed up the BCCI “inves­ti­ga­tion.” His agency has been at log­ger­heads with Trea­sury over Green Quest. “As an exam­ple of what the future may hold, some offi­cials point to a cur­rent case of inter­a­gency dis­agree­ment. The FBI and the Cus­toms Ser­vice have been squab­bling for months over Oper­a­tion Green Quest, the mam­moth Trea­sury-run task force that is inves­ti­gat­ing the fund­ing of ter­ror groups. Some FBI offi­cials have pushed hard to gain con­trol of the inves­ti­ga­tion, argu­ing that offi­cials at Cus­toms and its par­ent agency, the Trea­sury Depart­ment, do not have the coun­tert­er­ror­ism exper­tise that the probe requires. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from each side dis­par­aged the oth­er in pri­vate brief­in­gs with Con­gress, accord­ing to sources famil­iar with the meet­ings.” (“Home­land Secu­ri­ty Won’t Have Diet of Raw Intel­li­gence” by Dan Eggen and John Mintz; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 12/6/2002; p. A43.)

21. “To end the dis­pute, admin­is­tra­tion offi­cials have ten­ta­tive­ly decid­ed to leave respon­si­bil­i­ty for the Green Quest probe with Cus­toms when that agency moves over to Home­land Secu­ri­ty, while putting the FBI in charge of all oth­er ter­ror­ism-relat­ed finan­cial probes, sources said.” (Idem.)

22. What role, if any the Treasury/FBI dis­pute may have played in the depar­ture of O’Neill is con­jec­tur­al. Over­all, the events lead­ing up to O’Neil­l’s depar­ture are more than a lit­tle inter­est­ing-par­tic­u­lar­ly the polit­i­cal plate tec­ton­ics involv­ing the Sau­di oil forces to which Bush is bound.