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2006-05-09

Ken Silverstein on CIA Chief Porter Goss’ Abrupt Resignation & The Duke Cunningham Bribery Scandal

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Kyle "Dusty" Foggo — Goss’s top aide and the CIA’s third highest official — resigned Monday as the agency’s Executive Director. Foggo has been under internal review for his links to the bribery scandal that sent Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham to jail. [includes rush transcript]

We turn now to the continuing fallout over the resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss. In a widely expected move, Kyle "Dusty" Foggo — Goss’s top aide and the CIA’s third highest official — resigned Monday as the agency’s Executive Director. Foggo has been under internal review for his links to the bribery scandal that sent Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham to jail. On Monday, the FBI confirmed it was conducting its own investigation into Foggo’s links to defense contractor Brent Wilkes who has been accused of bribing Cunningham.

Our guest today has been following this story closely. Ken Silverstein is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine. A renowned investigative journalist, he’s a former reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He joins us from our studio in Washington, DC. Welcome to Democracy Now!

  • Ken Silverstein, Washington Editor for Harper’s Magazine. He has written about the resignation of Porter Goss on the new blog Washington Babylon.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn back to Washington, D.C. now, to Ken Silverstein with Harper’s Magazine, who wrote the piece, "Why Did the C.I.A.’s Chief Resign So Abruptly? On the Loss of Goss." Why, Ken Silverstein?

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Well, I think it’s definitely tied to the whole Duke Cunningham scandal that’s been unfolding and the allegations of these parties that were thrown at the Watergate Hotel and the several other hotels apparently in Washington. I’ve never heard that Porter Goss did anything personally wrong. I mean, he certainly — no one suggested that he had any unsavory role at these parties. I have heard stories that he may have attended a few of the parties.

But the bigger issue really is with the C.I.A.'s current executive director — although he apparently resigned yesterday — "Dusty" Foggo, who Goss brought in for reasons that were never quite clear and apparently has been defending. And he looks to be under intense scrutiny in this whole affair. The C.I.A. — there's an internal investigation at the C.I.A., and the F.B.I. is reportedly investigating him, as well. He has acknowledged being at these parties. He’s also a longtime friend of Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor who allegedly bribed Cunningham with money and reportedly with prostitutes, as well. And so, he is very, very deeply — he’s at the center of this whole unfolding scandal, and he’s very close to Goss.

Furthermore, several other people close to Goss, C.I.A officials who he brought in, their names have surfaced in the investigation, as well. Newsweek recently reported that Brant Bassett, who was nicknamed "Nine Fingers," attended one of these —- well, they described it as an "all-male party" at the Watergate with Wilkes and others; and so, I think the -—

AMY GOODMAN: At the Westin.

KEN SILVERSTEIN: At the Westin. I think the potential fallout from this whole scandal could touch Goss at least indirectly, in the sense that people close to him, particularly Foggo, have come under real close scrutiny. So, I do think there was clearly unhappiness between Goss and Negroponte, and Negroponte maybe just simply used this as an excuse to get rid of him. But it’s also possible that somebody said, "Look, this is getting closer to the director of Central Intelligence. It’s going to be very embarrassing if these people close to him are deeply implicated in wrongdoing, and it might be better to cut our losses and get rid of him now." I mean, you know, these are the things that I’ve been hearing.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Ken Silverstein, Washington editor for Harper’s Magazine, who has just launched a blog there and has written about the "loss of Goss." You talk about related news: Member of Congress calling for — saying they’ll investigate a more than $21 million contract between the Department of Homeland Security and Shirlington Limousine of Alexandria, Virginia. Who are they? What is this business?

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Yeah. This is a story that I first reported at the Harper’s blog on April 27th. What I learned at the time was that Shirlington, which was used by — appeared to be the exclusive provider of transportation by Brent Wilkes, was ferrying people to the Watergate and the other hotels, is owned by a man who had a 62-page rap sheet, a ten-year record of criminal conduct from 1979 to 1989. Shortly after that, he gets hooked up with Wilkes and, you know, begins providing limousine service for him. And, meanwhile, this guy, who doesn’t have the most impressive background, let’s say, gets a big, fat $21.2 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security, on top of an earlier contract for, I believe it was $3.8 million. I’ve also discovered three additional contracts that the company got from other federal agencies.

And so, the question is: How did a company that is headed by a guy with this sort of background get plugged in to the point that it got from D.H.S. alone about $25 million worth of contracts? So now, Congress is calling for an investigation into this and trying to figure out whether any political influence was exercised to help Shirlington get the contracts. And, I think, obviously the investigators in the Cunningham scandal are very closely looking at what role Shirlington played here, and did it, in fact, ferry prostitutes over to the Watergate and potentially other hotels at the behest of Brent Wilkes? That’s what’s been alleged.

AMY GOODMAN: Ken Silverstein, on the issue of Porter Goss, there was a statement made that he had never attended these parties as Director of Central Intelligence, as Director of the C.I.A. But what about as a congressman?

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Well, again, you know, there are stories that I’ve heard, and, you know, he has denied ever being at any of these parties. There have been news reports that have come out. I’ve also heard from people that he may have attended a few of the parties over the years. These parties went on for many, many years, and it’s possible that he did attend some of the parties. I do want to emphasize that no one I’ve heard has ever suggested that, you know, he was involved in any wrongdoing. He may have — if he did go there, in fact — and, again, he denies it — he may have been there simply to talk to friends and to play cards or whatever.

But again, I think that the broader issue here is really these other officials who he brought in to senior positions at the agency who are apparently — I mean, they’re certainly being investigated, and they’re potentially going to be deeply implicated in this whole scandal. And that, I think, creates a real problem for Porter Goss at the head of Central Intelligence. It’s awfully embarrassing if some of these people’s names come out and are — you know, Foggo is accused of — or, reportedly — has potentially steered contracts to Brent Wilkes. I mean, he’s attended these parties. This is — you know, there’s potentially very, very serious fallout from the participation of some of these figures in the whole scandal, and these are people all who were close to Porter Goss and who he either brought in or elevated to very senior positions at the agency.

AMY GOODMAN: Ken Silverstein, I wanted to turn to another issue that you have reported on, that you’ve followed closely and that’s of interest to many people in this country and around the world: the peace agreement signed Friday between the Sudanese government and one of Darfur’s main rebel groups. It was just over a year ago that you appeared on our program to talk about the growing intelligence ties between the U.S. and the Sudanese government. You had written a major expose for the L.A. Times detailing how the Bush administration developed close intelligence cooperation with a country that’s accused of committing genocide. On Monday, President Bush announced a $200 million increase in food aid to Darfur. Just going to play a clip of his statement and then get your reaction.

PRESIDENT BUSH: About 200,000 people have died from conflict, famine, and disease, and more than two million were forced into camps inside and outside their country, unable to plant crops or rebuild their villages. I’ve called this massive violence an act of genocide, because no other word captures the extent of this tragedy.

AMY GOODMAN: Ken Silverstein, your response.

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Well, I mean, first I think that — you know, I have to say that the peace agreement is terrific news, if it holds, obviously. I mean, the violence that’s been going on over there is awful, and so I hope this thing holds. You know, I think what — the Bush administration clearly developed an intelligence relationship with the Sudanese that proved useful to the United States, and I think there’s a relevant question here as to if it played any role in impacting American policy. You know, there were a lot of — I have to say, some people have suggested to me after I wrote this story that our entire policy in Sudan was simply a function of this intelligence collaboration and that we took no steps against the Sudanese government because of that partnership, and I think that’s just too simple. There were a whole lot of factors at work in the policy.

That said, there’s no question that when you have an intelligence relationship — I mean, we’ve seen this time and time again in Uzbekistan, in Jordan, you know, Egypt where you have these close intelligence partnerships. It gives those countries chips with the United States, and so to suggest that it had no role in the policy, I just don’t believe. But I wouldn’t want to simply reduce the entire policy to: "Well, they collaborated on intelligence, and hence we did nothing — the Bush administration did nothing on Darfur." But, you know, there is a question as to whether it impacted the policy and whether the Sudanese government received some leniency, I guess, I suppose, in terms of U.S. policy.

AMY GOODMAN: When you were reporting for the Los Angeles Times, you reported the C.I.A. had sent, "an executive jet to Khartoum to ferry the chief of Sudan’s intelligence agency to Washington for secret meetings, sealing Khartoum sensitive and previously veiled relationship with the administration, the intelligence chief being Major-General Salah Abdallah Gosh, who had been accused by members of Congress of directly directing military attacks against civilians in Darfur." And Democracy Now! went to London and broadcast for a week, and it came out then that Gosh had secretly gone to London. Then, when John Bolton, the U.N. U.S. ambassador announced that they were going to seal the assets of members of the Sudanese government, they did not announce that Gosh would be one of them. Do you think he should have been? Do you think he should be a major target?

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Well, look, I mean, he was — I mean, at one point he was reportedly on the list of people who were going to be identified by the U.N. This guy is clearly seen by the United States —- there’s no question. I mean, you don’t send an executive jet to Khartoum to pick this guy up if you don’t think he’s giving you something that you want. I mean, you know, he’s the head of Sudanese intelligence, and so -—

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

KEN SILVERSTEIN: Oh, well, by definition, he has to have had some knowledge of what was going on. I mean, his specific role has not come out.

AMY GOODMAN: Ken Silverstein, I want to thank you for being with us. Washington editor for Harper’s Magazine, has launched a blog on Harper’s website.

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