Category: Randy “Duke” Cunningham

Ex-UT Veteran Edits A Second Pulitzer Story

If they gave out Pulitzers for editing, Susan White, who left The San Diego Union-Tribune in 2007, would have collected her second yesterday.

Susan White

White is now in New York at ProPublica, the online investigative site, where she edited Sheri Fink’s story that claimed a Pulitzer for investigative reporting. This is the first time an online site has won journalism’s top honor.

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Brent Wilkes, Master of Delay

The appeal of Brent Wilkes, who was convicted in 2007 of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, has been delayed again.

The former defense contractor remains free on $2 million bail.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said earlier this month that it won’t hear the appeal until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its rulings in the appeals of former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling and former Rep. Bruce Weyrauch.

Those cases involve the crime of depriving the public of the right to “honest services,” the same law federal prosecutors in San Diego used against Wilkes.

Wilkes’s briefing papers now are due before the 9th Circuit about a month after the Supreme Court issues its rulings in Skilling and Weyrauch. The earlier deadline was today.

With more arguing back and forth and the average wait of a year for a ruling from the court, it will be a long time before Wilkes sees the inside of prison again.

It’s a pretty sweet deal for Wilkes, who is being represented by the federal public defender’s office in San Diego.

Cunningham is due to be released in 2013, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons website.

Amazingly, it’s looking increasingly likely that Duke may finish serving his sentence before Wilkes starts serving his.

Eric Massa's San Diego ties

The strange saga of former Rep. Eric J.J. Massa, now reportedly under investigation for allegedly groping male staffers, is being closely followed in San Diego’s Navy community.

His father, Emiddio “Mead” Massa and his father-in-law, Adolf “Jake” Jacobsen, are retired Navy captains. Eric married Jacobsen’s daughter, Beverly.

Eric Massa graduated in 1981 from the U.S. Naval Academy. He retired in 2003 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

“Massa and his family moved to San Diego to be near his and Beverly’s parents, and he spent six months undergoing surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. They bought a one-story house because Massa had trouble walking up stairs,” Money magazine wrote in a 2006 profile.

Diagnosed as cancer-free, Massa decided to run for Congress in upstate New York. The couple sold the San Diego home and plowed the proceeds into Massa’s campaign, according to Money.

Former Rep. Charlie Wilson Dead at 76

First John Murtha. Now former Texas Rep. Charlie Wilson has died at 76.

The ethically-challenged Wilson was made famous by the excellent book by the late George Crile (and the movie) Charlie Wilson’s War, which revealed how he secretly supplied the funds for the CIA’s covert war in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

He appears a couple of times in my book, Feasting on the Spoils, most memorably in a a scene at a poker game at the Watergate Hotel. The Watergate was a home away from home for San Diego defense contractor Brent Wilkes and his CIA buddy, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

Wilkes and Foggo continued their long-standing tradition of weekly card games in Washington. Foggo would invite along friends from the CIA, and Wilkes would bring the congressmen. One of the congressional guests was Charlie Wilson, who had in 1993 received the CIA’s Honored Colleague Award, the first time it was ever awarded to anyone outside the agency. At one game, Wilson invited along his friend from Texas Joe Murray, a columnist for The Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Murray met Wilson in the hotel lobby. “I’m not sure how they chose the Watergate,” Murray wrote in a May 20, 1994 column, a few days after the poker game. “Perhaps because a sense of history. Either that or a sense of humor.”Murray followed Wilson into the suite, which was filled with cigar smoke. Wilson knew a few of the CIA personnel at the game. One was Brant Bassett, a well-regarded officer who spoke fluent Russian, German, and Hungarian. Bassett was known as Nine Fingers after a motorcycle accident had cost him a finger. Wilson brought gifts, a sack full of guns that included a Soviet automatic used by Russian paratroopers. Wilson had a special pen for everyone, one that with a click fired a .32-caliber bullet. Everyone in the room started clicking his pen.

“Boy, I wish I’d had it this afternoon,” someone said.

“If only Aldrich Ames were here.”

Murray and Wilson stayed only a short while, and as they were leaving, one of the agents offered Murry one of his cigars, a Dominican. Murray offered the agent one of his, a Cuban. The agent told him, “You know, of course, this is considered contraband. But you’ve done the right thing as a good citizen. You’ve turned it in to the proper authorities. Be assured that very shortly it will be destroyed by fire.”

Wilson insisted there was no hanky-panky the night he was there. “The only activities that took place there that would be considered illegal and unlawful was cigar smoking on a nonsmoking floor,” Wilson said. Cunningham was the only other congressman who ever attended the poker games, according to Wilkes.

The “hanky-panky” Wilson is referring to were the rumors that flew around Washington that congressmen were supplied with prostitutes at these games. The FBI never found any evidence of this (the government certainly would have used it against Wilkes if they had) but people still think it’s what happened anyway.

After my book came out, Wilkes’ nephew and right-hand man, Joel Combs, testified that Wilkes told his employees to lose to Duke at poker and he yelled at one man who wasn’t losing enough.

Wilkes was sentenced to 12 years for bribing Cunningham; Foggo is serving time in prison for steering CIA contracts to Wilkes.

As for Charlie Wilson, he didn’t remember Wilkes; Foggo, however, he remembered well when I interviewed him in 2006.

When I told Wilson that Foggo had a rather unsavory reputation, Wilson said that the CIA sometimes had need of people like that in the CIA to do the dirty work against the KGB. (Foggo was no James Bond, however; he was a logistics officer.)

Ah, well, I’m sorry Charlie is gone. He made Congress fun.

"King of Pork" John Murtha Dead at 77.

John Murtha, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Committee who was considered one of the most corrupt members of Congress, died today.

The Defense Appropriations subcommittee is perhaps the most powerful in the House, funding not just the world’s biggest military, but the U.S. intelligence community as well.

President Obama signed the $636 billion 210 Defense appropriations bill into law in December. In it, Taxpayers for Common Sense counted 1,720 earmarks totalling $4.2 billion.

As chairman, Murtha cleaned up with 23 earmarks worth $76.5 billion.

With so much power and money flowing through it, the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee has become fertile ground for corruption on both sides of the aisle. One of its more infamous members was another Vietnam war hero like Murtha, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, R-Calif.

With Murtha gone, the lobbyists and defense contractors who fed at his trough for so many years are in mourning. At the top of that heap is lobbyist Paul Magliochetti, a former Murtha aide whose PMA Group was raided last year.

Johnstown, Pennsylvania will also need to find another sponsor for all the pet projects nurtured for years by Murtha, the representative since 1974. Things like the National Drug Intelligence Center. Or the John P. Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. Or the Johnstown Flood National Memorial.

The FBI captured Murtha’s bare-knuckled performance on videotape in 1980 during an undercover sting aimed at exposing corrupt lawmakers. Murtha turned down 50,000 cash from the representative for a phony Arab sheikh, but not before adding, “After we’ve done some business, I might change my mind.”

Murtha was never charged with a crime, and in Congress, Speaker Tip O’Neill protected Murtha, as George Crile revealed in Charlie Wilson’s War. Wilson shut down the House Ethics Committee’s probe before a special prosecutor could move on Murtha.

When Murtha was in the running for majority leader in the fall of 2006, someone leaked a copy of the FBI videotape to The American Spectator. (See here.)

Mitch Wade lawyer nominated for US Atty

President Obama has nominated Ronald C. Machen Jr. to be U.S. Attorney in Washington DC.

Machen, 40, was part of the team at WilmerHale that defended defense contractor Mitchell Wade, briber of Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

Thanks to WilmerHale’s efforts, Wade is serving a 30-month sentence. That’s not bad, considering that Cunningham is serving more than eight years and Wade’s former boss and Cunningham briber, Brent Wilkes, is appealing his 12 year sentence.

Machen also represented another corrupt former congressman, Democrat William Jefferson and Christopher Ward, former National Republican Campaign Committee treasurer accused of stealing funds.

The U.S. Attorney is DC’s top law enforcement official, overseeing  the largest federal prosecutors office in the country.

Machen served as an Assistant US Attorney in the Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, US Department of Justice, from 1997 to 2001.

Brent Wilkes: Justice Delayed

Remember Brent Wilkes? The formerly high-flying San Diego defense contractor was sentenced to 12 years in prison for bribing former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham, but it will be a long time before Wilkes is behind bars.

Wilkes has been free since January on $2 million bail while he appeals his conviction.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently delayed the appeal for the third time this year after Wilkes’ court-appointed attorneys argued that they needed more time.

All the paperwork in the case is now due April 9, 2010. Unless there’s another delay.

According to the court, it takes on average 4-5 months for the 9th Circuit to hear oral arguments, and then three months to a year for the court to decide, so Wilkes likely won’t have a decision before 2011.

By then, Wilkes’ former consultant and fellow convicted Cunningham briber, Mitch Wade, will be nearing the end of his sentence, as will Wilkes lifelong best friend, Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the CIA’s former executive director.

Cunningham has a 2013 release date.

Foggo Talks to the NY Times

Kyle “Dusty” Foggo, the imprisoned former top CIA official, has given an interview to The New York Times, which published his claims last week in a front-page story titled, “A Window Into CIA’s Embrace of Secret Jails.

From behind the walls of a Kentucky prison where he is serving more than three years for fraud, Foggo says he was given a special assignment to help build secret prisons for suspected terrorists.Foggo “went on to oversee construction” of three prisons — one in Bucharest, Romania, one in Morocco (that went unused) and a third in an unnamed Eastern European country, the Times reported.

A review of the story and the background of the case shows there is evidence to believe Foggo’s account, but ultimately, there’s more reason to doubt he’s telling the whole truth.

First a bit of background:

Foggo pleaded guilty last year in a fraud scheme involving a defense contractor named Brent Wilkes. Foggo admitting using his influence at the agency to steer $2 million in contracts to Wilkes, who paid for lavish overseas vacations for Foggo and his family. Wilkes was separately convicted of bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham with cash, travel and hookers.

The scheme centered around Foggo’s time as chief support officer of FRANSUPT, the agency’s crucial regional support terminal in Frankfurt, Germany from July 2001 to November 2004. In that position, Foggo had control over millions of dollars in government funds.In November 2004, CIA Director Porter Goss picked Foggo to run day-to-day operations at the CIA, as the agency’s executive director, the No. 3 job. Foggo says he was promoted in part because of his work on the prisons.

The Times story paints a picture of Foggo as a lovable rogue, “a cigar-waving, burbon-drinking operator” who could get things done. The job of building prisons was “too sensitive to be handled by headquarters,” Foggo said.  “I was proud to help my nation.”

One problem lies with what isn’t in the story. Missing from the Times account is any comment from federal prosecutors, who have a strikingly different view of Foggo. To them, Foggo is a man who is motivated not by patriotism but by “narcissism and deceitfulness.”

In sworn declarations filed by prosecutors, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center director described Foggo as a “con man” who was “seriously flawed, ethically and morally.” Former CIA Director Porter Goss says Foggo left him feeling “deceived and betrayed.”  A CIA attorney recounted how she became convinced that Foggo was “effortlessly lying” to her.

Is it possible Foggo is telling the truth? As chief support officer, he quite likely knew something about the prisons. Before securing his guilty plea, prosecutors complained that the defense wanted turn the case into “a referendum on the global war on terror” and a debate over sensitive “CIA programs and methods.”

Foggo’s attorneys asked to be read into areas of sensitive compartmented information — the most closely guarded class of secrets. One pertained to the CIA’s terrorist detention and interrogation program. The request was denied. Shortly before he went off to prison, Foggo spoke with a prosecutor investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotaped interrogations.

Human Rights Watch, the Council of Europe and ABC News have reported that Romania (as well as Poland) served as locations of CIA prisons. The most detailed of these investigations (pdf) by the Council of Europe’s rapporteur Dick Marty found evidence that Romania’s “black site” was located near in a secure zone around an airbase near the Black Sea — a ways from Bucharest.

The choice of a busy street for a location of a secret prison, however, strains credulity, since the changing of guard shifts, supplies and transport of detainees could attract unwanted attention.

As James Risen wrote in State of War, “The CIA wanted secret locations where it could have complete control over the interrogations and debriefings, free from the prying eyes of the international media, free from monitoring by human rights groups, and, most important, far from the jurisdiction of the American legal system.”

The story lacks some internal consistency, something interrogators look for when evaluating truthfulness:  Foggo says he was given the task secret prisons because it was “too sensitive for headquarters.” Nevertheless, his work on the CIA’s so-called black sites helped him win a promotion back at headquarters, suggested that headquarters was well aware of his sensitive mission.

And finally, while the Times doesn’t rely on Foggo alone — it cites anonymous “former intelligence officials and others briefed on the matter.” One of these sources may be Brant Bassett, who is quoted later on in the piece speculating that Foggo was taken down because of his “fast rise and blunt approach.”

Regardless of whether Bassett is a confidential source or not, The Times didn’t fully explain his connection to the story. Bassett was a friend of both Wilkes and Foggo, part of their poker playing D.C. social circle. Bassett also served under Porter Goss the House Intelligence Committee and may have played a role in getting Foggo named executive director.

We owe a great deal to reporters like The Washington Post’s Dana Priest, who helped expose the CIA’s network of secret prisons with the help of agency insiders who were troubled by what was going on. It’s an important story, perhaps too important for the Times to give such credence to a man like Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

Foggo & Wilkes, Jerry Lewis & Tom DeLay

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Sharp-eyed reader Oskar points out a little nugget buried in the Foggo documents:

I was reading the Foggo appendix and found something pretty interesting. Om page 60, we learn that Wilkes and Foggo apparently dined with Lewis and DeLay(!). Of course, a dinner is just a dinner and doesn’t prove anything. But, still, it’s pretty interesting given Lewis’ claim that he had not seen Wilkes for 10 years or so…

This blog is lucky to have such astute readers.

The dinner for four at the Capital Grille that Oskar is referring to took place on Monday, May 16, 2005. Foggo, then the CIA’s executive director, and his old friend, defense contractor Brent Wilkes, had two impressive guests. The government’s appendix  states: “Assumes DeLay and Lewis also dined on the bill,” which came to $1,423. Wilkes, as always, picked up the tab.

Fast-forward to today. Wilkes has been sentenced to 12 years prison for bribing former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham with cash and hookers. (He’s out on appeal) Foggo was sentenced to more than three years for illegally steering CIA contracts to Wilkes.

At the time, Reps. Jerry Lewis and Tom DeLay were two of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives. Lewis was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the House was set to take up its annual appropriations bills.  DeLay, of course, was the majority leader.

One year later, Lewis was apparently suffering from memory loss, according to this 2006 story in The New York Times:

In recent months, Mr. Lewis has said that he barely knew Mr. Wilkes and that he did not remember seeing him in nearly a decade. But Mr. Wilkes says their relationship was closer than that. (emphasis added)

Ever since they went on a scuba-diving trip together in 1993, he said, Mr. Lewis had referred to him as his “diving buddy.” They occasionally dined together or met at political functions, Mr. Wilkes said. At a Las Vegas fund-raiser in April 2005, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lewis greeted him as “Brento” and hugged him as Mr. Wilkes surprised the lawmaker with $25,000 in campaign contributions.

As for DeLay, he had flown three times on a jet owned by one Wilkes’ company. Another Wilkes company gave $15,000 to TRMPAC, a political action committee DeLay founded to establish a Republican majority in the Texas legislature. (See my AP story here for more.)

Wilkes and Foggo were regulars at the Capital Grille and shared a well-stocked wine locker there. In 2005, documents show the two old high school buddies dined together at the pricey D.C. steakhouse about once a month.

Porter Goss on Foggo and the CIA

ProPublica’s Marcus Stern has unearthed a trove of documents filed in the case against Kyle “Dusty” Foggo.

For those of you who don’t know, Foggo is the former No.3 man at the CIA who has pleaded guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday for steering agency contracts to his childhood friend, Brent Wilkes.

Reading the documents about this lothario of a man with a nasty temper, I came away with the same impression as one of Foggo’s former bosses at the spy agency who stated that he was “flabbergasted” when then-CIA director Porter Goss tapped Foggo in November 2004 as his executive director.

“I found Director Goss’s selection to be quite revealing, that Mr. Goss would be taken in by a ‘con man’ like Mr. Foggo,” wrote agency veteran described only as John Doe No. 2, who was Foggo’s supervisor at an overseas CIA station in 1989, when local police filed a diplomatic protest against  Dusty for assaulting a bicyclist.

So how did Foggo come to be selected as Goss’ No. 3? Goss refused to comment when I called him while reporting my book, but the question has always nagged at me.

Porter Goss answers those questions for the first time in a sworn declaration filed in an appendix to the memorandum, which you can read here.

Goss says Foggo’s name was suggested by members of his senior staff. Although Goss doesn’t say this, I’ve heard that Foggo was recommended by Patrick Murray. Murray was chief counsel on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which Goss chaired, and he served as chief of staff at the spy agency during Goss’ stormy tenure there.

Goss says he directly asked Foggo whether there was anything he needed to know that would “reflect poorly” on the Director’s office or the CIA.  Foggo denied there was. Had he known what Foggo was up to with Wilkes, Goss says he would have fired him on the spot.

When press reports linked his executive director to Brent Wilkes, “I learned from my public relations staff that Foggo had been less than candid.” Ultimately he lost confidence in Foggo and asked him to resign. In May 2006, less than two years after he was sworn in as CIA director, the White House fired Goss and replaced him with Gen. Michael Hayden.

“I felt deceived and betrayed by Mr. Foggo,” Goss concludes.

A source tells Laura Rozen that Goss is lying, but I’m taking Goss at his word. He’s out of public life now, and I don’t think he would expose himself to perjury charges. At any rate, it’s more than apparent that he was absolutely the wrong man for the job of CIA director.

How out of the loop was Goss if it fell to public affairs to inform him of the problems with Foggo? As  the documents make clear, were already well known to his supervisors and were included in his agency file.

Foggo was not the only staff member who was unworthy of Goss’ trust. Equally suspect was Goss’ choice of Murray and the other “Gosslings” he brought over from Capitol Hill. As Ken Silverstein noted back in 2006, the Gosslings arrived at Langley with a “lengthy list of names of people to be purged and went about removing them.” One was Stephen Kappes, who eventually returned to the agency and is now serving as deputy director under President Obama.

A man who can’t tell the difference between the Foggos and the Kappeses shouldn’t be in charge of the Central Intelligence Agency. Period.

Update from CQ’s Jeff Klein:

Kyle “Dusty” Foggo’s CIA dossier included allegations that he was sharing a woman with a suspected Russian mole, according to a top former spy agency official and other sources.

CIA Director Porter J. Goss knew about the allegation when he hired Foggo to be the agency’s executive director, its third highest official, an aide said today.

But Merrell Moorhead, an aide to Goss at the CIA from 2004 to 2006, said CIA security officials later withdrew that and other serious allegations about Foggo’s record and “gave him a clean bill of health.”

Second Update: Klein updated his post to quote Moorhead as saying that Bassett “recommended” Foggo. Laura Rozen agrees. Ken Silverstein has reported that Bassett “positioned” Foggo for the job of executive director.

I’m not convinced. Bassett was a consultant to the agency. Maybe that makes him part of the “senior staff” Goss alludes to in his statement. I’m not so sure.

It seems there are still some hard feelings over Foggo and the blame game goes on.