Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Hastert: the key to understanding Brewster Jennings

(updated below)
Given Denny's (hopefully) imminent resignation, it's time for a brief post describing what we know about Hastert. I bet he never thought he'd lose his job to (someone else's) cybersex - there are so many other worthy reasons for him to resign (and go to jail)

In David Rose's blockbuster article in Vanity Fair, there are three separate bribery claims:
a) Hastert received tens of thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions

b) Hastert received tens of thousands of dollars in surreptitious payments in exchange for political favors and information. These bribes were delivered in cash in suitcases. We don't know specifically what these payments were for.

c) Hastert is believed to have accepted another $500,000. The details are a little murky, but it has been reported that this payment was in return for pulling a Congressional resolution on the Armenian genocide.
Got that? At least three different bribes that we know about.

We aren't exactly sure who was doing the actual bribing, or whether there are more than one group that 'owns' Hastert. There are three groups suspected of bribing Hastert, and there is probably significant overlap between the groups.

The first group is a criminal element of the Military Industrial Complex, represented primarily by Richard Perle, Doug Feith and Marc Grossman among others - generally using AIPAC and the American Turkish Council as front organizations.

The second group suspected of bribing Hastert is the 'mafia-like' Turkish 'Deep State', probably a mix of Turkish military, heroin producers and drug-runners. It is suspected that these funds are laundered through 'lobbyists' - originally Perle & Feith's company International Advisors Inc, and later (and currently) through Bob Livingston's company The Livingston Group.

The third group is a bit more hazy, but it is suspected that it is a group of Turkish heroin 'baba' (mafia) operating in the US, probably headquarted in Chicago. This group appears to use front organisations such as the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (A.T.A.A.)

My interview with KTM director Mathieu Verboud has more on Hastert:
Mathieu: In our cast, David Rose (the author of the Vanity Fair article) had the crucial role of the guy who makes the first important revelations. He was the man for the job. He has a great vision of the whole thing, he's a great story teller, but at the same time carefully sticking to what he knows. He is the only one who has spoken to people who know what’s on the (FBI's) tapes. He met with the sources, and as he says in the film, ‘these sources were very nervous about the tapes’. His testimony helps strengthening the pillars of the story - yes, the tapes involved Turkish officials, some of them working for the embassy in the Washington, and others in the consulate in Chicago. Money in exchange secrets, basically what we could read in Vanity Fair… When that was done, he described how he found out about Hastert, and then alluded to what we expose in the last segment of the film: the Neocons connection.
From an interview with Meria Heller, 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 (Vanity Fair) 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.”
My interview with Larisa clouds things a little:
Luke: And the American Turkish Council and the Speaker of the House?

Larisa: Yes, the Vanity Fair piece of course. Now my understanding from the sources used by the writer (David Rose) that they had provided a great deal more on this account, but legal folks got involved and wanted certain things left out. I think that it is absolutely fair to believe this account to be true. First of all, the Speaker has yet to go on the record to fully deny these charges - apart from a glib reference. Secondly, the key witness/ whistleblower in this case, that is Sibel, is gagged under a rarely used gag, the states secret gag, so she cannot present her argument in court. The evidence also, from what I understand of the case does support her claims. So it is fair to say that there is reason to believe the Speaker Hastert is indeed taking money from foreign nationals, that is bribes, in exchange for something. In fact, the evidence was such that the FBI took this to the DOJ and an investigation was being assembled when the new administration came into office and Ashcroft, the then new Attorney General shut it down. Clearly shutting down an FBI/DOJ investigation instead of allowing it to move forward would also support the allegations against Hastert, but he is not alone in these allegations by any measure.

Luke: Well there were two allegations in the article. One was the ongoing bribery, and the other was the $500,000 for pulling the Armenian Genocide bill.

LA: No - well - sort of, but not really. The point is that there are only a couple of people who know, and obviously I cant report it and the key person who knows is gagged. So that leaves no room to fully and openly explore this. One would hope that in a democracy a citizen would have her right in court and the politically appointed AG would not shut down an FBI sting operation that had been going on for several years. One would hope that foreign nationals would not be bribing members of Congress and I don’t believe, at least from what I have seen, that these bribes have anything to do with a bill that Hastert may or may not have taken to the floor. Remember, this is about “making cookies” and those factions that we alluded to earlier. But if you really want to understand why Sibel is gagged, you need to focus on what happened with Hastert - not Hastert himself, but what happened with Hastert - because THAT is the holy grail to understanding why she is gagged - and also to some extent understanding Brewster Jennings. Not Plame - but Brewster Jennings - and that's the best I can do on the record (and off really).

Luke: Wow. That's interesting. Sibel described the way they quashed that investigation into Hastert in an interview recently - she said that it happened at the same time that she started reporting to Congress.

I actually run another blog called Disclose Denny which focuses on one of the claims in the Vanity Fair article where these Turkish groups were illegally financing his campaign and he refuses to open his books. It sure makes him look guilty.

LA: You are right. If Hastert is not being bribed, if these are false allegations, then he should stand up and go to court and address the accusers in court and say 'no I didnt do this' - or even in public. He should allow himself to be questioned and prove his innocence. But to have somebody gagged and to ignore the issue as though that should somehow indicate innocence is not very convincing. So until he corrects the record, and because Sibel is gagged - which gives her more credibility than him - I would say that it's quite probably true that he is being bribed. But I cannot emphasize enough that Hastert is not alone in this or even his “faction” as it were, rather, this is rampant abuse should these allegations be true.
Some have asked me how Hastert relates to Marc Grossman directly. I don't really know the answer, other than to say that Hastert appears to be merely an enabler, and was probably bribed by the people that Grossman represents. Phil Giraldi's blockbuster article about Sibel's case doesnt even mention Hastert - so I don't think that he is 'central' to Sibel's allegations. However, I strongly suspect that if we knew who was bribing Hastert, and why, then we'd be able to unravel large chunks of the story - and I strongly presume that it is mostly centered on certain neocons profiting from sales of military hardware and secrets, and I suspect that there's a side-business involving heroin manufacture and distribution.

The Irony Gods are smiling down on us today regarding the fact that Hastert's downfall is likely to be something other than Hastert's treason. Let's hope that Hastert's criminal treason catches up with him (and his ilk) and some point in the near future.

---------------------
update from the comments. Miguel writes:
Just want to correct the record a little (I think) on the Hastert bribery charges. I don't think Vanity Fair ever mentions suitcases full of cash. In fact, I believe the Vanity Fair lawyers must have deliberately cut that part of the story out, because there is no hard evidence- no paper trail- these payments were ever made. With the unitemized contributions, at least there was some circumstantial evidence that those payments might have been made, so I believe VF lawyers allowed it.

But Dan Ellsberg said on KPFA that Hastert received suitcases of cash delivered to his home near the Fox River. And Sibel made a hint of "bags of cash" on one Charles Goyette interview. And my general impression is that the unitemized contributions are how the bribery started in 1996-1997. They must have been "retainer" payments, and not for any specific action (this is my hypothesis). When Hastert became Speaker, I think the price of his obedience to Turkish interests rose significantly, so he worried that unitemized contributions were too risky, and demanded cash payments. And I think the 500K for Armenian Genocide was definitely cash, not unitemized contributions.

One other thing. You say there are three groups bribing Hastert. It is my impression that the people doing the actual bribing were from Turkish American Cultural Alliance, the local ATAA branch in Chicago... The question though, is where does the money ultimately come from. If Giraldi is correct, it comes from drugs and arms sales.
Miguel's comments re the suitcase is correct. My reference to Vanity Fair was simply to note that there are 3 separate claims in that article. Apologies for any confusion.

Also from the comments, Viget and notjonathon both note that there appears to be ongoing efforts to blackmail members of Congress to keep them in line. I agree with that, and I suspect that this is where Miguel's 'retainer' payments come into play. The bribers start with something innocuous sounding, and then step up the pressure from there.

From Part Three of my interview with Larisa:
Lukery: OK - but if we go back to Hastert in 1996 - (he was being bribed) when he's basically a nobody...

LA: Look - if you're already at the top, chances are you're already either owned by something or somebody – as the Hastert allegations show - or you're not buyable - as in Feingold's case. You're just not for sale - so they just leave you alone.

So of course they're going to go after the available, pliable ones. In fact, if you look at how CIA officers are trained, they're trained to provide a pitch of sorts to identify the weakest, and have them turn against their own country. So one would think that foreign assets are quite capable of doing the same thing.

Update: see here for Daniel Ellsberg stating outright that Hastert received suitcases of cash from Turkish heroin interests.

5 comments:

Miguel said...

Luke,
Just want to correct the record a little (I think) on the Hastert bribery charges. I don't think Vanity Fair ever mentions suitcases full of cash. In fact, I believe the Vanity Fair lawyers must have deliberately cut that part of the story out, because there is no hard evidence- no paper trail- these payments were ever made. With the unitemized contributions, at least there was some circumstantial evidence that those payments might have been made, so I believe VF lawyers allowed it.

But Dan Ellsberg said on KPFA that Hastert received suitcases of cash delivered to his home near the Fox River. And Sibel made a hint of "bags of cash" on one Charles Goyette interview. And my general impression is that the unitemized contributions are how the bribery started in 1996-1997. They must have been "retainer" payments, and not for any specific action (this is my hypothesis). When Hastert became Speaker, I think the price of his obedience to Turkish interests rose significantly, so he worried that unitemized contributions were too risky, and demanded cash payments. And I think the 500K for Armenian Genocide was definitely cash, not unitemized contributions.

Of course, we don't know any of this for sure. It could be some or all of these payments were never made. But I give the benefit of the doubt to Sibel, not to Hastert.

Miguel said...

One other thing. You say there are three groups bribing Hastert. It is my impression that the people doing the actual bribing were from Turkish American Cultural Alliance, the local ATAA branch in Chicago. I think both you and I know the name of the person most likely coordinating the bribes at TACA. I won't throw it out here, because I do not believe in accusing someone I have no specific evidence against.

But this Turkish American at TACA, probably made most of the bribes. The question though, is where does the money ultimately come from. If Giraldi is correct, it comes from drugs and arms sales.

notjonathon said...

I won't say this is off-topic, but I've long had the feeling that the Bush administration has spent more time spying on its "friends" than on its enemies. The payoff is a lot better and more reliable. That is, "OK, Denny, we'll call off the dogs, as long as you behave." A good way to ensure a loyal ally. It's that final conclusion that led me to note it here.

Even Foley's quaint predilections might well have been a powerful weapon for keeping him in line on rethuglican issues; that is, keeping his dirty little secrect not only preserved the myth of "Republican values," it also made him compliant. What a series of ironies, in that case: a blackmailed Speaker in turn blackmailing other members (and rumor has it that there are others).

The rest of the argument is fascinating, but until there is some accountability within the government (and electing Democrats won't guarantee that, although electing Democrats is surely a prerequisite; i.e., a necessary but not sufficient condition), it will have to remain in the realm of speculation, at least for those of us who have no access to privileged information.

viget said...

notjonathon--

I agree completely. In fact, I'd take it a step further and say that the GOP *actively* recruits candidates that they know they have some sort of secret leverage over. This is how the CIA has recruited agents in foreign gov'ts for decades. Either you threaten to reveal some nasty little secret or you get them to break the law, and then offer protection from the authorities if they cooperate. How else do you get an otherwise normal, law-abiding citizen to participate in these nefarious schemes?

And then, I'm sure for the vast majority, they (the GOP) just recruit idealists who are easily swayed by opinion, throw tons of money, booze, parties, women/men/boys/whatever at them and corrupt them. Oh, and secretly get them on tape and in photos doing stuff their spouses and/or the values voters wouldn't approve of.

This may also answer Luke's long standing question as to why congressmen come so cheap for a few $10K in campaign contributions. It's more like if they don't play along with the miliatry industrial complex, their secrets are anonymously leaked to their spouse and/or constituents. Add to that a well-timed primary challenge and you get the picture.

Seriously though, how many congresscritters do you think actually *don't* have skeletons in their closets? I'd guess shockingly few.

lukery said...

thnx. post updated.

notjonathon, agreed re the blackmail, and I'd take it further as viget does.

re 'The rest of the argument is fascinating' - Sibel and the others from the FBI quoted in VF all note that this is DOCUMENTED. Having said that, I share your concerns that a Dem controlled govt is necessary but not sufficient.

viget, agreed and agreed. EW often notes that GOPper 'weakness' is a feature, not a bug.