Posts Tagged ‘Dick Cheney’

Looks like scams in Nigeria aren’t limited to Internet hoaxes.

The government’s top contractor in Iraq, KBR, Inc., has pleaded guilty to bribing high-level officials in the Nigerian government during a decade-long scheme to win more than $6 billion in overseas construction contracts, federal authorities announced on Wednesday.

KBR and its former parent company, Halliburton, agreed to pay the government a combined $579 million in fines to settle the criminal and civil charges, the most ever paid by a U.S. firm in a foreign corruption case.

“Today’s guilty plea by KBR ends one chapter in the department’s long-running investigation of corruption in the award of $6 billion in construction contracts in Nigeria,” said Rita Glavin, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s criminal division. “This bribery scheme involved both senior foreign government officials and KBR corporate executives who took actions to insulate themselves from the reach of U.S. law enforcement.”

KBR was part of a joint venture of four companies — the other three firms involved were not identified — that was awarded four contracts between 1995 and 2004 to build liquefied natural gas facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, on Africa’s West Coast.

During that time, federal officials said the joint venture paid top officials in the Nigerian government, including members of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, more than $182 million in bribes.

If this story had come out during 2000 or 2004, the Democrats would have hammered Dick Cheney relentlessly for it, since this happened during his tenure as CEO from 1995 to 2000. The Government Executive story does not mention Cheney, nor does the 51-page plea agreement filed in a Houston federal court, and make no accusations of wrongdoing on his part. Bart Gellman in his exhaustively researched and well written Cheney biography Angler found no evidence that he ever used his position as vice president to benefit Halliburton, which for years was practically the left’s equivalent of the Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda connection.

Still, both KBR and Halliburton have taken a PR beating in recent years, between this and allegations of overbilling and lousy services in Iraq. Having to pay a $679 million settlement to the Justice Department during these tough economic times cannot be fun for the board or the shareholders.

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As the Bush administration winds down, Democrats and historians are concerned about what information (documents, emails, etc.) might be deleted, destroyed, or withheld before they leave office. ProPublica’s Kristin Jones has this brief review of which documents are and are not protected from destruction by the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

The New America Foundation will be hosting a discussion on the Cheney vice presidency on December 2. Participants will include Bart Gellman, author of the Cheney VP biography (which I highly recommend), Steve Coll of The New Yorker and Steve Clemons of The Washington Note.

If you’re in the DC area, I would recommend going to this.

With George W. Bush on the sidelines during the final days of the election, the Obama campaign got the next best thing (or arguably, something better from their perspective): Dick Cheney’s public endorsement of John McCain.

It probably wasn’t his intention, but Cheney just handed the Obama campaign a whole new case of ammunition to use against McCain during the final days. Cheney’s approval ratings are lower than President Bush’s, 18 percent in a Harris poll taken last June, in part because he genuinely did not care about his personal poll numbers during his entire vice presidency because he was never going to run for the top job this year.

There is something liberating about having an attitude or mindset like that in any politician, but I wonder whether or not it affected his political antenna. Nobody but the most die-hard Republicans is excited about Cheney, and he is not the most effective messenger for undecided voters especially when the ballot is by extension a referendum on the eight years the administration he served was in power.

And to absolutely no one’s surprise, Obama pounced on the endorsement.

I doubt any voters are going to make their decision in the booth based on Dick Cheney’s endorsement. The flap here from the Republican perspective is that it’s a last-minute reinforcement of Obama’s “McCain=Bush” message which has been very effective as an attack strategy.

Dick Cheney after having lunch at a Roman Restaurant.  September 7, 2008

Dick Cheney after having lunch at a Roman restaurant. September 7, 2008

I recently finished reading Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman’s book “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency.” It’s a tour-de-force of investigative, political, national security, and economic reporting based on a series of articles he co-wrote for the Post last year that won a Pulitzer Prize.

Having lived and worked in Washington DC during the first five years of the Bush presidency, the power and influence of Cheney was clear immediately.  According to Gellman’s book, Cheney’s office was intimately involved in nearly every major policy decision of the administration, and as I found out from my own investigation and field reporting while working at CNN, it was also Ground Zero for one of its biggest scandals.

The most surprising revelation in Gellman’s reporting to me was how he pieced together Cheney’s M.O.  He comes across as the ultimate bureaucratic warrior, knowing how the system works inside out, knowing where the loopholes are, and how to use them to his advantage.

Cheney was not Bush’s svengali or puppetmaster, as many liberals have claimed.  But he still managed to get a lot of his views and positions adopted in the policymaking process at lower levels in the bureaucracy, by placing ideological allies in key middle and senior-level positions throughout the federal government.  By the time the whole process had played itself out and made its way to the president, Cheney’s position nearly always came out on top.

Cheney comes across as something of a zealot, not necessarily because of his hardline conservative ideology but rather, because of his methods.  Even when the subject of the book focused on Iraq, I did not get the impression that Bob Woodward did when he wrote in Plan of Attack that Cheney had a fever regarding the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, a view attributed to Colin Powell, if my memory is correct.

The biggest bombshells in the book were the behind the scenes tick-tock of the Department of Justice’s impasse with the White House over the legality of the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, which nearly led to a Saturday Night Massacre-esque decapitation of the national security legal team of the federal government.  The second was the revelation from former House Majority Leader Dick Armey that Cheney misled (if not outright lied) to him about the intelligence on Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs during a private briefing after Armey expressed public doubt about the need to invade Iraq.

What makes the book more impressive is that Gellman was able to get a fair, balanced, and accurate portrayal of Cheney without the benefit of an interview.  He digs deep into the government bureaucracy and spoke extensively with Cheney’s friends and rivals to make sure that a well-rounded picture of his vice presidency came to light.

The major supporting character who pretty much jumps off every page in this book is Cheney’s counsel (and now chief of staff) David Addington, who shares his boss’s views about an expansive, near-unchecked power of the executive branch on matters of war and national security.   Even though Scooter Libby held the chief of staff role until his indictment in 2005, he did not come across in the book anywhere near as big a player in the government as Addington.

This is a very well-written and researched book which, until years pass and internal documents from the Bush White House are declassified and published, will likely be the standard by which all biographies of the Cheney vice presidency will be measured.