The last point re Cheney has been one of the most perplexing. The FBI came with a search warrant to make an unprecedented raid on the office of Congressman William Jefferson of New Orleans.
From the Los Angeles Times article:
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, his deputy, Paul J. McNulty, and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III... indicated they would be unwilling to hand over the documents if requested by President Bush....
David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff and a former congressional staffer, questioned the legality of the raid.... But Frances Frago Townsend, a former Justice Department official and now the president's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said she thought the search was legal, according to the unnamed administration official.
By Wednesday afternoon, the atmosphere was "really tense" at the Justice Department, the official said.
Why would Cheney's office (OVP) suddenly become so concerned with executive overreach and the separation of powers? The conspiracy crowd jumped into the fray, with waynemadesenreport.com claiming:
...the $90,000 found in Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson's freezer by the FBI had its origins with Nigerian politicians....
The Nigerian bribery scandal involving Jefferson is also linked to previous bribes paid to Nigerian politicians by U.S. oil companies, including $180 million in bribes paid by Halliburton, while Dick Cheney was its chairman, to Nigerian officials in return for a gas liquefaction plant contract in Nigeria. That bribery scheme (known as the "Technip Affair") resulted in a multinational criminal investigation of Halliburton that included the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department....
The FBI's raid on Jefferson's office may have had more to do with eliminating evidence involving U.S. oil companies in Nigerian bribery schemes (and, therefore, protect Cheney) than in nailing Jefferson.
How irresponsible is this claim? I intended to find out.
Back in late August 2005, the Nigerian Times reported that the American home of Nigerian Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar was raided by the FBI.
The FBI has raided the Maryland residence of the Nigerian vice president as part of an investigation into whether a US legislator made or approved payments to officials in West Africa, a US newspaper reported.
A US State Department spokeswoman confirmed the search had taken place but would not make further comment....
The Justice Department declined to comment.
The raid, which took place on 3 August  but has just come to light, was in connection with an investigation into William Jefferson, a Democratic legislator from New Orleans, the city's Times-Picayune newspaper said on Saturday.
....A source familiar with the investigation said subpoenas showed federal agents were looking for records indicating whether Jefferson paid, offered to pay or authorised payments to Nigerian or Ghanaian government officials, The Times-Picayune saiddeal Jefferson was trying to engineer in Nigeria over the past year, according to documents and those familiar with details of the investigation.
According to The Times-Picayune, sources familiar with the telecommunications deal said Jefferson was attempting to smooth the way for iGate Corp., a small Kentucky company, to offer its high-speed broadband technology to Nigeria's fast-growing telecommunications market....
Jefferson's attorney, Mike Fawer, has said he thinks the FBI had been conducting a sting operation against his client.
Oddly, Cheney was involved with a scandal involving bribes to Nigerian politicians, too. Jerome a Paris reported on the situation in a little-read diary at Daily Kos in June 2005:
This is all linked to a huge LNG project, Nigerian LNG, which has been in the works for almost 20 years, and which finally came to fruition in the late 90s. LNG is liquefied natural gas, it essentially means that you freeze natural gas into liquid form so that it takes less volume and you can then transport it by boats (LNG tankers) to regasification facilities located in consuming countries. This is a good way to make money out of gas which is far away from markets and cannot be brought to a pipeline grid....
So, the big oil producers in Nigeria (Shell, in the leading role, with Total of France and ENI of Italy) joined up with NNPC, the national oil company, to build a big liquefaction plant, NLNG. Now, such plants are very expensive (between 1 and 2 billion dollars a pop, depending on their size), and such large investments are especially risky to make in a country so difficult as Nigeria....
In the case of NLNG, a consortium of four companies, TSKJ (Technip of France, Snamprogetti of Italy, Kellogg of the UK (but owned by Halliburton of the US), and JGC of Japan) was chosen to build the first "trains" (that's the name of each individual liquefaction facility)....
Our corruption story begins in 1994, as summarised in this MSNBC story form last year...
And, lo and behold, MSNBC had quite a tale to tell:
The Justice Department has opened up an inquiry into whether Halliburton Co. was involved in the payment of $180 million in possible kickbacks to obtain contracts to build a natural gas plant in Nigeria during a period in the late 1990's when Vice President Dick Cheney was chairman of the company, Newsweek has learned.
There is no evidence that Cheney was aware of the payments in question and an aide said today the vice president has not been contacted about the probe....
The investigation could raise sensitive political questions for the Justice Department because--unlike Pentagon probes now underway into Halliburton's Iraq contracts--the Nigerian matter specifically involves corporate conduct during the period between 1995 and 2000 when Cheney was chairman and chief executive officer of the company.
The entire article is well-worth reading, as it involves a parallel French investigation, and a dispute as to how influential Halliburton really was in the TSKJ consortium. Now, no one has directly accused VP Cheney of specific wrong-doing, but the French investigators were apparently thinking of bringing indictments against Cheney as late as December 2003. From the Le Figaro article, quoted in globalpolicy.org:
According to projections of the case, he could be charged with "eventual complicity in supplying the means or the orders or the reception (of stolen goods)", for the misappropriation of public property. If such a prospect is not on the agenda, it is possible since the opening of the judicial inquiry October 8 for "the bribery of foreign public officials and misappropriation of public property" targeting the American company Kellogg Brown and Root (KBR) which is the principal subsidiary of Halliburton, known for having obtained more than 2 billion dollars worth of Iraq reconstruction contracts from the American government and over which Richard Cheney presided as CEO from 1995 to 2000. Concretely, Judge Renaud Van Ruymbeke is trying to identify the beneficiaries of 180 millions dollars of commissions paid during the bidding for a gas complex construction contract in Nigeria for an amount estimated at 6 billion dollars or three times that of Iraq....
In June 2004, the U.S. SEC opened an investigation into the Kellog Brown Root/Nigeria bribery case. LA Weekly reported on the status of a Justice Department investigation into the matter:
A Department of Justice inquiry into the slush fund quietly begun earlier this year under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has gone nowhere -- partly because it has limited itself only to asking Halliburton for documents, partly because the national press has shown almost no real interest in the story (if it did, the pressure on Justice to move more aggressively would be enormous). And obvious conflict-of-interest questions must be raised about any investigation of a company formerly run by Cheney that is controlled by Cheney's political pal John Ashcroft.
Okay, but where does William Jefferson come in on all this? New Orleans Times Picayune summarizes the situation, as of last Tuesday:
Legal experts, including some former government prosecutors, said the release of search warrant documents Sunday after the weekend raid of Jefferson's' congressional office -- two rare if not unprecedented acts -- seems designed to increase the pressure on Jefferson to cop a plea....
In the 95-page affidavit issued by the government Sunday, Jefferson is listed as a target of the probe, along with Vernon Jackson, the CEO of iGate Inc., who stated in a May 3 plea agreement that he gave Jefferson more than $400,000 in bribes funneled to a company controlled by Jefferson's wife and children; and former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer, who worked for the cooperating witness, Lori Mody, and pleaded guilty to two bribery-related charges in January. Two other targets are listed in the affidavit, but their names are blacked out. The affidavit doesn't rule out adding other targets to the investigation later.
In the affidavit the FBI says the $100,000 accepted by Jefferson was intended to be paid as a bribe to a Nigerian official, whose name also is blacked out. However, federal investigators did search the Maryland home of Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the same time they raided Jefferson's home.
The vice president's attorney, Edward Weidenfeld, said Abubakar is cooperating with the investigation, but he had no further comment. Abubakar's wife, Jennifer, to whose foundation Jefferson allegedly talked about funneling money in order to advance an iGate Inc. telecommunications project in Nigeria, is being represented by Christopher Mead, who did not return calls for comment.
So, what have we learned here? Have U.S. companies been involved in Nigerian oil/gas investments? Yes, they have. There is even a new LNG facility being planned that, according to Nigerian Vice President Abubakar's own website, is heavily invested by "the U.S. oil firms of Chevron, Conoco, ExxonMobil and Texaco [who] had signed [in Feb. 2001] a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to conduct feasibilty studies for a second LNG facility that would be located in Nigeria's Western Delta."
There have been outstanding charges of bribery involving the companies from various countries and the Nigerian government or officials of same. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton when that company, and specifically attorneys from that company, are charged in making hundreds of millions in bribes.
Congressman Jefferson is charged with involvement in something similar, though around telecommunications contracts, and not energy. I see no link between Jefferson's case and that of Kellogg Brown Root (and possibly Cheney) as Madsen surmises. But both may very well be tainted by the same cesspool that is U.S. investment in the incredibly corrupt Nigerian economy. Further, it seems very strange that despite some good reporting, much of the knowledge of this still seems so arcane and unreported.
The Jefferson case involves guilty pleas and plea bargains already made fingering Jefferson. And we are supposed to believe that the Democratic House leadership didn't know about all this?
How dirty is American politics? We like to say that the GOP is the party of corruption. But the Jefferson case points to some pretty sordid "truths" that Democrats may not like to look at. I believe the GOP has been far more corrupted than the Democrats, but if the latter don't clean house, and SOON, the difference may be lost on the electorate.
Cheney's office's interest in protecting the files and whatever was taken from Jefferson's office certainly seems strange. And the Nigerian connection -- not direct, but associative -- surely becomes fertile ground for conspiracy theories of the "where there's smoke there's fire" variety.
I would love to get some feedback from the Daily Kos crowd. I think this diary has two important points to make:
1) That American politics is very corrupt, and that we seem to be unaware of much of it, despite the existence of various well-sourced stories.
2) The existence of poorly-sourced stories or websites muddies the waters because of irresponible claims or crackpot theories. But such sites do sometimes alert the wary reader to lines of inquiry that can be important.
Everything researched here was done by doing Google searches on names of people and companies, and combinations of same. There were plenty more sources I didn't use, because the diary already had become too long.
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