Thursday, November 03, 2005

NYT: "Ex-Interior Deputy Testifies Lobbyist Offered Him Job" (Philip Shenon)

The former No. 2 official at the Interior Department acknowledged to Congressional investigators on Wednesday that he had received a job offer while at the department from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and that he had other contacts with Mr. Abramoff, the focus of a corruption inquiry.
The official, former Deputy Secretary J. Steven Griles, insisted in testimony to a hearing of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that there was nothing improper in his ties to Mr. Abramoff and that he had immediately reported the job offer, in 2003, to ethics officials in the department. It can be a crime for federal officials to open job negotiations while working for the government.
[. . .]
Mr. Abramoff's e-mail messages show that he used a conservative lobbying group, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, and its president, Italian Federici, as a go-between with Mr. Griles.
The council was established in the 1990's by Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, whom Ms. Federici has called her mentor. The council received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from Mr. Abramoff's tribal clients.
Ms. Federici, scheduled to testify, did not appear.

The above is from Philip Shenon's "Ex-Interior Deputy Testifies Lobbyist Offered Him Job" in this morning's New York Times or, as some may think of it, another chapter in this adminstration's Teapot Dome.

In other scandals, Libby e-mails to note Jeremy Scahill's "Tender Mercenaries: DynCorp and Me" (Common Dreams):

- DynCorp employees in Bosnia, where the company plays a major policing role, have engaged in organized sex-slave trading with girls as young as 12, and DynCorp's Bosnia site supervisor was filmed raping a woman. A subsequent lawsuit, filed by a company whistleblower, alleged that "employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts." The whisteblower, with whom DynCorp eventually settled, "witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased." The company's initial response was to fire the whistleblowers. The employees involved in the sex ring were transferred out of the country. Some were eventually fired, although none were ever criminally prosecuted. One of the whistleblowers told Congress, "DynCorp is the worst diplomat our country could ever want overseas.''
- In Afghanistan, where DynCorp guards President Hamid Karzai, the company has a reputation for brutality and recklessness, including serious complaints from internationals of intimidation. It has even been rebuked by the State Department for its "aggressive behavior" in interactions with European diplomats, NATO forces and journalists. A BBC correspondent also witnessed one of the guards slapping an Afghan government minister.
- In Haiti earlier this year DynCorp bodyguards on the detail of interim president Boniface Alexandre beat at least two journalists trying to cover a presidential event. DynCorp has had a checkered past in Haiti, where it "trained" the national police force after the original coup against President Aristide, bringing several feared Tonton Macoutes leaders back into prominence.
- The company is facing a major lawsuit filed by 10,000 Ecuadoreans forced to live (and die) with the impact of DynCorp's toxic crop spraying, which it does in several Latin American countries, including Colombia, as part of Plan Colombia. Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat, charges that "DynCorp's employees have a history of behaving like cowboys." A leading Colombian newsweekly called them "lawless Rambos."
As DynCorp swallows up more lucrative government contracts by the week, some in Congress are raising questions. "Is it [the] policy of the US government to reward companies that traffic in women and little girls?" Representative Cynthia McKinney asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in March.

Rod e-mails that today's scheduled topic for Democracy Now! is:

Excerpts from the historic funeral of civil rights pioneer, Rosa Parks, in Detroit, & more.

The e-mail address for this site is