Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal

Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney
He Just Won't Stop Lying

By Dana Priest and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, September 29, 2003; Page A01

In making the case for war against Iraq, Vice President Cheney has continued to suggest that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with a Sept. 11, 2001, hijacker five months before the attacks, even as the story was falling apart under scrutiny by the FBI, CIA and the foreign government that first made the allegation.

The alleged meeting in Prague between hijacker Mohamed Atta and Iraqi Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani was the single thread the administration has pointed to that might tie Iraq to the attacks. But as the Czech government distanced itself from its initial assertion and American investigators determined Atta was probably in the United States at the time of the meeting, other administration officials dropped the incident from their public statements about Iraq.

Not Cheney, who was the administration's most vociferous advocate for going to war with Iraq. He brought up the connection between Atta and al-Ani again two weeks ago in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which he also suggested links between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Cheney described Iraq as "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11." Neither the CIA nor the congressional joint inquiry that investigated the assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon found any evidence linking Iraq to the hijackers or the attacks. President Bush corrected Cheney's statement several days later.

Cheney's staff also waged a campaign to include the allegation in Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's speech to the United Nations in February in which he made the administration's case for war against Iraq. Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, pressed Powell's speechwriters to include the Atta claim and other suspected links between Iraq and terrorism, according to senior and mid-level administration officials involved in crafting the speech.

When State Department and CIA officials complained about Libby's proposed language and suggested cutting large sections, Cheney's associates fought back. "Every piece offered . . . they fought tooth and nail to keep it in," said one official involved in putting together the speech.

The vice president's role in keeping the alleged meeting in Prague before the public eye is an illustration of the administration's handling of intelligence reports in the run-up to the war, when senior officials sometimes seized on reports that bolstered the case against Iraq despite contradictory evidence provided by the U.S. intelligence community.

Cheney's office declined to comment. Mary Matalin, a former senior aide to Cheney who still provides the vice president with advice, said Cheney's job is to focus on "the big picture." His appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, she said, was intended to "remind people that Iraq is part of a bigger war that will require patience and sacrifice."

Cheney does not fully vet his speeches or public statements with the CIA or the wider intelligence community for accuracy, according to several administration officials, but usually gives the CIA a list of possible points or facts that might be used in a speech or appearance.

Matalin said Cheney "doesn't base his opinion on one piece of data," but has access to information that cannot be declassified because it would harm national security or compromise sources. "His job is to connect the dots in a way to prevent the worst possible case from happening," she said, but in public "he has to tiptoe through landmines of what's sayable and not sayable."

The claim that Atta, an Egyptian and Sept. 11 hijacker, had met with al-Ani in early April 2001 has been a constant element of the vice president's case against Iraq. Surveillance cameras at the Radio Free Europe building in Prague had picked up al-Ani, an intelligence officer at the Iraq embassy, surveying the building in April, five months before the Sept. 11 attacks. The tape was made available to Czech intelligence. Al-Ani was expelled at the U.S. government's request soon afterward for conduct incompatible with his diplomatic status.

In October 2001, after pictures of Atta had circulated publicly, an Arab student who worked as an informant for BIS, the Czech Security Information Service, told the service he had seen Atta meeting with al-Ani in April.

That November, Stanislav Gross, the Czech Republic's interior minister, said publicly that al-Ani and Atta had met in Prague. A short while later, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman told Powell that the two had discussed targeting the Radio Free Europe building, not the Sept. 11 targets.

On Dec. 9, 2001, Cheney said on "Meet The Press" that "it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack."

But that same month, Czech President Vaclav Havel was retreating from the more definitive accounts provided by his government, saying there was "a 70 percent" chance the meeting took place. Indeed, while Czech officials never officially backed away from their initial stance, officials at various agencies say that, privately, the Czechs have discredited the accuracy of the untested informant who came to them with the information. According to one report, Havel quietly informed the White House in 2002 there was no evidence to confirm the meeting.

The Czechs had reviewed records using Atta's name and his seven known aliases provided by the CIA and found nothing to confirm the April 2001 trip. Meanwhile, CIA and FBI officials were running down thousands of leads on Atta and the other 18 hijackers involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

U.S. records showed Atta living in Virginia Beach in April 2001, and they could find no indication he had left Virginia or traveled outside the United States.

Even so, on March 24, 2002, Cheney again told NBC, "We discovered . . . the allegation that one of the lead hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had, in fact, met with Iraqi intelligence in Prague."

A few weeks later, in April, FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III told a San Francisco audience, "We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts." The FBI, he said, could find no evidence that Atta left or returned to the United States at the time.

In May, senior FBI and CIA analysts, having scoured thousands of travel records, concluded "there was no evidence Atta left or returned to the U.S.," according to officials at the time.

But on Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney, again on "Meet the Press," said that Atta "did apparently travel to Prague. . . . We have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence officer a few months before the attacks on the World Trade Center."

"What does the CIA say about that?" asked host Tim Russert. "Is it credible?"

"It's credible," Cheney replied. "But, you know, I think the way to put it would be it's unconfirmed at this point."

As war loomed closer, the Atta allegation generally began to disappear from the administration's public case against Iraq. Bush did not mention Atta or the Prague meeting in his Jan. 28 State of the Union address, when he sought to show Iraq's links to terrorism.

But behind the scenes, the Atta meeting remained tantalizing to Cheney and his staff. Libby -- along with deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley, a longtime Cheney associate -- began pushing to include the Atta claim in Powell's appearance before the U.N. Security Council a week after the State of the Union speech. Powell's presentation was aimed at convincing the world of Iraq's ties to terrorists and its pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

On Jan. 25, with a stack of notebooks at his side, color-coded with the sources for the information, Libby laid out the potential case against Iraq to a packed White House situation room. "We read [their proposal to include Atta] and some of us said, 'Wow! Here we go again,' " said one official who helped draft the speech. "You write it. You take it out, and then it comes back again."

Libby described the material as a "Chinese menu," simply the broadest range of options, according to several administration officials. "The papers were designed to assist [Powell's] preparation by organizing a lot of materials so that he could choose the order and evidence he found most compelling, although some of it, in the end, could not be declassified," said one administration official.

But other officials present said they felt that Libby's presentation was over the top, that the wording was too aggressive and most of the material could not be used in a public forum. Much of it, in fact, unraveled when closely examined by intelligence analysts from other agencies and, in the end, was largely discarded.

"After one day of hearing screams about who put this together and what are the sources, we essentially threw it out," one official present said.

Cheney's staff did not entirely give up. Late into the night before Powell's presentation, Libby called Powell's staff, waiting at the United Nations in New York, to question why certain material was not being included in the terrorism section, according to two State Department officials.

Earlier this month, on his most recent "Meet the Press" appearance, Cheney once again used Atta to subtly suggest a connection between Iraq and Sept. 11, 2001.

"With respect to 9/11, of course, we've had the story . . . the Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we've never been able to develop anymore of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it."

Defense and intelligence officials say al-Ani, who was apprehended by U.S. forces earlier this year, has denied meeting with Atta.

Research editor Margot Williams contributed to this report.

Cheney's ties to Halliburton draw more scrutiny
By Dave Montgomery
Star-Telegram Washington Bureau

Vice President Dick Cheney warned about the threat posed by Iraq during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Jan. 30. Cheney has stock options and draws a deferred salary from Halliburton Co., which is helping to rebuild Iraq.

WASHINGTON - The renewed uproar over billions of dollars in government work awarded to Texas-based Halliburton Co. is forcing the Bush administration to defend itself against accusations of conflict of interest and sweetheart deals as it struggles to maintain public support for U.S. involvement in Iraq.

At the center of the controversy is Vice President Dick Cheney, who was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000. He still holds Halliburton stock options and draws a deferred salary from the Houston energy and construction company.

Cheney says he no longer has an active financial interest in the company and dismisses critical remarks as "political cheap shots" from Democrats.

But his former Halliburton ties have heightened scrutiny over more than $1 billion awarded to Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, to aid the recovery of Iraq's battered oil industry. All told, Halliburton's government work in Iraq now totals nearly $2 billion.

"I think we ought to ask a lot of tough questions here, especially since the vice president has a deferred compensation package from Halliburton," said Rep. Martin Frost, D-Arlington, dean of the Texas congressional delegation.

Kellogg, Brown & Root, the engineering and construction arm of Halliburton, has considerable experience with big projects in energy and construction. The company has performed billions of dollars of work for the U.S. military since it won its first defense contract in 1940.

It is believed to be the biggest U.S. government contractor in postwar Iraq. In addition to the oil field contract, the Halliburton subsidiary provides a broad range of military logistics, from building bases to serving chow and delivering the mail to the troops.

Halliburton has a work force in Iraq of more than 4,500 people. But company spokeswoman Wendy Hall countered assertions that the contracts grew out of political influence or ties to the administration.

"Certainly, it's easier to assign devious motives than to take the time to learn the truth," she said. "Our Halliburton people are sharing the hardships and the risks."

Three Halliburton workers, she said, have been killed, including one mail handler who died in an explosion and another caught in a crossfire. The third died in a car wreck.

Critics, however, argue that the perception of special treatment toward Halliburton, whether accurate or not, undercuts President Bush's efforts to shore up public support for the U.S.-led military presence in Iraq. It could also complicate his request to Congress for an additional $87 billion to pay for U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some Republicans have begun to question the $20.3 billion in the package to be set aside for rebuilding Iraq. But the questions about Halliburton's deals have been raised primarily by Demo-crats and public watchdog groups.

Halliburton's role was first questioned last year after it became clear that the company and its subsidiaries were getting millions of dollars in new government work in the wake of the 9-11 attacks.

But the controversy has flared anew in recent days as Bush began pressing for additional funds.

"The situation in Iraq is challenging enough without the bureaucrats causing additional problems by awarding a contract to the vice president's former company," said Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, a public watchdog group that supports Bush's Iraq policy but has long sparred with Cheney.

Judicial Watch won a court order last year forcing the administration to release documents relating to an energy task force run by Cheney. Also last year, Judicial Watch filed suit accusing Cheney and Halliburton of misleading investors. The suit was dismissed this month.

Halliburton's presence in Iraq evolved from a broad-ranging Pentagon contract that the company has held intermittently since 1992, according to officials with Halliburton and the Army. The contractor provides the Army with virtually every conceivable logistical need in hot spots around the globe.

The oil field contract has drawn the most controversy because it was awarded on a no-bid basis with a ceiling of $7 billion over two years. Kellogg, Brown & Root has fulfilled five postwar work orders totaling $1.2 billion since receiving the contract March 8, just before U.S. troops invaded Iraq.

Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, has said that military planners gave the oil-repair job to Kellogg, Brown & Root because the Texas company held the wider Pentagon contract and "was already very familiar" with operational plans.

At that point, he said, U.S. plans to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure were classified, and conducting a bid competition would have undercut both speed and secrecy.

But Rep. Henry Waxman of California, senior Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and a frequent critic of the administration, said a staff inquiry into the contract suggests that the Halliburton subsidiary received favorable treatment from the Pentagon because it got the job without competition.

The contract reimburses Halliburton for its expenses, plus a fee based on 7 percent of the total cost of the job. The terms give the company little incentive to control costs, Waxman said.

"They have, I fear, given Halliburton a blank check," he told the Star-Telegram last week.

Officials with the Army Corps of Engineers, which is overseeing oil field renovation, said the no-bid contract was a transitional step to get the work started. The Corps is soliciting bids for two new contracts, totaling $1 billion, which will phase out the existing contract held by Kellogg, Brown & Root. Companies in more than 20 countries are eligible to compete for the contracts, to be awarded in mid-October.

Although Waxman has avoided suggestions that Halliburton landed the contract because of the company's ties to Cheney, others have shown no such hesitancy. Democratic leaders in Congress as well as some of the 10 Democratic presidential candidates are hammering away at Cheney's Halliburton connections to bolster a pet theme that the Bush administration is a captive of big corporations.

Cheney, a former defense secretary and Republican congressman from Wyoming, headed Halliburton for five years until he was tapped to become Bush's running mate in 2000. The 84-year-old company was based in Dallas before moving its headquarters to Houston in midsummer.

The vice president told NBC's Meet the Press on Sept. 14 that he had no influence on Halliburton's current contracts in Iraq, never lobbied the Defense Department on behalf of the company and has no financial interest in the company.

But the Congressional Research Service, a nonpartisan arm of Congress that provides research for members, said in a report released Thursday that Cheney's deferred salary and stock options constitute a "financial interest" under federal ethics standards. The report was released by Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., one of the most vocal critics of the Halliburton contracts.

The vice president's aides say Cheney received $147,579 in deferred compensation in 2001 and $162,392 in 2002 under a binding arrangement he made with Halliburton in 1998. The annual payments, which can vary, will continue through 2005.

Cheney has said he has sought to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest by taking out an insurance policy guaranteeing that the deferred salary would continue, regardless of what happened to Halliburton. The intent was to free Cheney from being tied to Halliburton's fortunes so he would have no interest in trying to protect the company through his government position.

Cheney also holds 433,333 Halliburton stock options, but his office says that the options are controlled by an administrator and that after-tax profits go to charities.

"The vice president has no financial interest in Halliburton, and the allegations are irresponsible and baseless," said Cheney's spokeswoman, Cathie Martin.

Cheney took over at Halliburton after serving as defense secretary during the Persian Gulf War in 1991 and led the company through substantial growth. The Center for Public Integrity, a watchdog organization in Washington, reported in 2001 that Halliburton nearly doubled its government contracts during Cheney's tenure, to $2.3 billion, from $1.2 billion.

With 96,000 employees working in more than 120 countries, Halliburton is the world's largest supplier of products and services to the petroleum and energy industries, and it has a widening expertise in military logistics.

Kellogg, Brown & Root specialists have installed and maintained bases in Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, often deploying within 72 hours of notification.

Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va., said Halliburton's skills in energy and construction give the company an edge over many competitors.

"It's very hard for outsiders to evaluate the criteria that led to some of the Iraq reconstruction awards," Thompson said. "There are only a handful of large international construction companies that have the skill to do these kind of large reconstruction jobs."

Cheney made the same point during the NBC interview, while emphasizing that he had "no idea" why Halliburton got the no-bid oil field repair contract.

"There are few companies out there that have the combination of the very large engineering construction capability and significant oil field services," he said.

Cheney payments under fire
Democrats want Halliburton probe

Reuters News Service

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney, a former CEO of Halliburton Co., has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the company since taking office while asserting he has no financial interest in the company, Senate Democrats said Tuesday.

The Democrats demanded to know why Cheney claimed to have cut ties with the oil services company, involved in a large no-bid contract for oil reconstruction work in Iraq, when he was still receiving large deferred salary payments.

Senate Democratic Leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota and New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg said the revelations reinforced the need for hearings about the no-bid contracts Halliburton received from the Bush administration.

"The vice president needs to explain how he reconciles the claim that he has `no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind' with the hundreds of thousands of dollars in deferred salary payments he receives from Halliburton," Daschle said Tuesday.

On NBC's Meet the Press program last Sunday, Cheney, who was Halliburton's CEO from 1995 to 2000, said he had severed all ties with the Houston-based company.

"I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years," he said.

Cathie Martin, a Cheney spokeswoman, confirmed that the vice president has been receiving the deferred compensation payments from Halliburton, but she disputed that his statements on Meet the Press had been misleading.

Cheney had already earned the salary that was now being paid, Martin said, adding that once he became a nominee for vice president, he purchased an insurance policy to guarantee that the deferred salary would be paid to him whether or not Halliburton survived as a company.

"So he has no financial interest in the company," she said.

But Lautenberg said that Cheney's financial disclosure filings with the Office of Government Ethics listed $205,298 in deferred salary payments made to him by Halliburton in 2001, and another $162,393 in 2002. The filings indicated that he was scheduled to receive more payments in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

"In 2001 and 2002, Vice President Cheney was paid almost as much in salary from Halliburton as he made as vice president," Lautenberg said.

The vice president's salary is $198,600 annually.

The financial disclosure forms also said that Cheney continued to hold 433,333 unexercised Halliburton stock options, with exercise prices below the company's current stock market price.

Cheney's spokeswoman said he had placed these options in a charitable trust and no longer had control over them.

On Meet the Press, Cheney also said he had no involvement in the awarding of government contracts to Halliburton.

"As vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government," he said.

In March, Halliburton was granted, without competition, a contract by the Army Corps of Engineers to repair and restore Iraq's oil fields. The ACE says the cost of this contract to taxpayers is about $1 billion.

But under a second military support contract, Halliburton's KBR unit has racked up over$1 billion in expenses in Iraq, according to the U.S. Army Field Support Command.

Cheney link of Iraq, 9/11 challenged
By Anne E. Kornblut and Bryan Bender , Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent, 9/16/2003

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney, anxious to defend the White House foreign policy amid ongoing violence in Iraq, stunned intelligence analysts and even members of his own administration this week by failing to dismiss a widely discredited claim: that Saddam Hussein might have played a role in the Sept. 11 attacks.

Evidence of a connection, if any exists, has never been made public. Details that Cheney cited to make the case that the Iraqi dictator had ties to Al Qaeda have been dismissed by the CIA as having no basis, according to analysts and officials. Even before the war in Iraq, most Bush officials did not explicitly state that Iraq had a part in the attack on the United States two years ago.

But Cheney left that possibility wide open in a nationally televised interview two days ago, claiming that the administration is learning "more and more" about connections between Al Qaeda and Iraq before the Sept. 11 attacks. The statement surprised some analysts and officials who have reviewed intelligence reports from Iraq.

Democrats sharply attacked him for exaggerating the threat Iraq posed before the war.

"There is no credible evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with 9/11," Senator Bob Graham, a Democrat running for president, said in an interview last night. "There was no such relationship."

A senior foreign policy adviser to Howard Dean, the Democratic front-runner, said it is "totally inappropriate for the vice president to continue making these allegations without bringing forward" any proof.

Cheney and his representatives declined to comment on the vice president's statements. But the comments also surprised some in the intelligence community who are already simmering over the way the administration utilized intelligence reports to strengthen the case for the war last winter.

Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counterterrorism specialist, said that Cheney's "willingness to use speculation and conjecture as facts in public presentations is appalling. It's astounding."

In particular, current intelligence officials reiterated yesterday that a reported Prague visit in April 2001 between Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi agent had been discounted by the CIA, which sent former agency Director James R. Woolsey to investigate the claim. Woolsey did not find any evidence to confirm the report, officials said, and President Bush did not include it in the case for war in his State of the Union address last January.

But Cheney, on NBC's "Meet the Press," cited the report of the meeting as possible evidence of an Iraq-Al Qaeda link and said it was neither confirmed nor discredited, saying

: "We've never been able to develop any more of that yet, either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don't know."

Multiple intelligence officials said that the Prague meeting, purported to be between Atta and senior Iraqi intelligence officer Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, was dismissed almost immediately after it was reported by Czech officials in the aftermath of Sept. 11 and has since been discredited further.

The CIA reported to Congress last year that it could not substantiate the claim, while American records indicate Atta was in Virginia Beach, Va., at the time, the officials said yesterday. Indeed, two intelligence officials said yesterday that Ani himself, now in US custody, has also refuted the report. The Czech government has also distanced itself from its original claim.

A senior defense official with access to high-level intelligence reports expressed confusion yesterday over the vice president's decision to reair charges that have been dropped by almost everyone else. "There isn't any new intelligence that would precipitate anything like this," the official said, speaking on condition he not be named.

Nonetheless, 69 percent of Americans believe that Hussein probably had a part in attacking the United States, according to a recent Washington Post poll. And Democratic senators have charged that the White House is fanning the misperception by mentioning Hussein and the Sept. 11 attacks in ways that suggest a link.

Bush administration officials insisted yesterday that they are learning more about various Iraqi connections with Al Qaeda. They said there is evidence suggesting a meeting took place between the head of Iraqi intelligence and Osama bin Laden in Sudan in the mid-1990s; another purported meeting was said to take place in Afghanistan, and during it Iraqi officials offered to provide chemical and biological weapons training, according to officials who have read transcripts of interrogations with Al Qaeda detainees.

But there is no evidence proving the Iraqi regime knew about or took part in the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush officials said.

Former senator Max Cleland, who is a member of the national commission investigating the attacks, said yesterday that classified documents he has reviewed on the subject weaken, rather than strengthen, administration assertions that Hussein's regime may have been allied with Al Qaeda.

"The vice president trying to justify some connection is ludicrous," he said.

Nonetheless, Cheney, in the "Meet the Press" interview Sunday, insisted that the United States is learning more about the links between Al Qaeda and Hussein.

"We learn more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the '90s," Cheney said, "that it involved training, for example, on [biological and chemical weapons], that Al Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems."

The claims are based on a prewar allegation by a "senior terrorist operative," who said he overheard an Al Qaeda agent speak of a mission to seek biological or chemical weapons training in Iraq, according to Secretary of State Colin Powell's statement to the United Nations in February.

But intelligence specialists told the Globe last August that they have never confirmed that the training took place, or identified where it could have taken place. "The general public just doesn't have any independent way of weighing what is said," Cannistraro, the former CIA counterterrorism specialist, said. "If you repeat it enough times . . . then people become convinced it's the truth."

© Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.

Appeals Court Stays Out of Cheney Case

Sep 11, 10:18 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - A federal appeals court rebuffed Vice President Dick Cheney, refusing to intervene in a lawsuit delving into the role of business executives and industry lobbyists in formulating the Bush administration's energy plan in 2001.

The administration won only three votes in favor of rehearing the request to step into the case in which Cheney and his energy task force are being ordered to turn over a large number of documents to the conservative group Judicial Watch and the environmental group Sierra Club. The request for a rehearing went to nine appeals court judges.

The rejection Wednesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit leaves the Bush administration two choices.

The first is to ask the Supreme Court to consider the case. The other is to return to U.S. District Court where Judge Emmet Sullivan says the administration must comply with requests for documents or give detailed explanations about the materials it intends to withhold from disclosure.

The administration argues that the constitutional need for the president to receive candid advice demands confidentiality.

Vice President Not Out of the Woods Yet: Judicial Watch Statement on Halliburton Lawsuit Developments
Monday September 8, 11:54 am ET

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, said it would "carefully consider its next legal steps" in response to a federal court's decision to dismiss its shareholder lawsuit against Vice President Cheney and Halliburton for alleged fraud. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton issued the following statement in response to the judge's decision:
"Judicial Watch has various legal options it can take to hold the Vice
President and Halliburton accountable for their alleged corporate fraud.
It is important that Halliburton, which has massive government contracts
(including for the rebuilding of Iraq), not get away with Enron-style
accounting tricks and alleged misdeeds. Mr. Cheney is certainly not out
of the woods yet."

Reportedly, the Securities and Exchange Commission continues to investigate Judicial Watch's allegations against Mr. Cheney and Halliburton.

GAO's Final Energy Task Force Report Reveals that the Vice President Made A False Statement to Congress
Friday, Aug. 29, 2003

This month, the General Accounting Office (GAO) - the investigative and auditing arm of Congress - issued a report that contains some startling revelations. Though they are couched in very polite language, they are bombshells nonetheless.

The report - entitled "Energy Task Force: Process Used to Develop the National Energy Policy" - and its accompanying Chronology strongly imply that the Administration has, in effect, been paying off its heavy-hitting energy industry contributors. It also very strongly implies that Vice President Dick Cheney lied to Congress.

The Background: How Cheney Stonewalled GAO

In a sense, this story begins during the close 2000 Presidential election, when energy industry special interests were big-dollar contributors to the Bush-Cheney campaign. (In 2004's re-election campaign, they will doubtless be called upon once again.)

After he was elected - and very much beholden to those contributors - Bush put Cheney in charge of developing the National Energy Policy. To do so, Cheney convened an Energy Task Force. (Details about the Task Force can be found in my prior column.)

Cheney's selection alone was ominous: He had headed Halliburton, just the kind of big-dollar Republican energy industry contributor that had helped Bush-Cheney win the election in the first place.

The Energy Task Force might have operated in absolute secrecy, were it not for GAO. GAO is a nonpartisan agency with statutory authority to investigate "all matters related to the receipt, disbursement, and use of public money," so that it can judge the expenditures and effectiveness of public programs, and report to Congress on what it finds.

To fulfill its statutory responsibility, GAO sought documents from Vice-President Cheney relating to Energy Task Force expenditures. But in a literally unprecedented move, the White House said no.

Amazingly, it did so without even bothering to claim that the documents sought were covered by executive privilege. It simply refused.

On August 2, 2001, Vice President Cheney sent a letter - personally signed by him - to Congress demanding, in essence, that it get the Comptroller off his back. In the letter, he claimed that his staff had already provided "documents responsive to the Comptroller General's inquiry concerning the costs associated with the [Energy task force's] work." As I will explain later, this turned out to be a lie.

In the end, GAO had to go to court to try to get the documents to which it plainly was entitled. On December 9, 2002, GAO lost in court - though, as I argued in a prior column, the decision was incorrect.

Then, on February 9, 2003, the Comptroller General announced GAO's decision not to appeal. He said he feared that another adverse decision would cause the agency to lose even more power, more permanently. Several news accounts suggest that it was the Republican leadership of Congress that stopped the appeal.

This August's Report Reveals Cheney Lied About Providing Responsive Documents

Then this August's Report was issued. It was not the thorough, comprehensive Report GAO wanted it to be. (Indeed, GAO's Comptroller General has stressed that "the Vice President's persistent denial of access to" records "precluded GAO from fully achieving our objectives and substantially limited our analysis.") But it is enough to shock, and disturb, the reader.

The Report shows that Cheney's claim to Congress, in the August 2, 2001 letter, that responsive documents were provided to GAO, was plainly false.

According to the Report, Cheney provided GAO with 77 pages of "documents retrieved from the files of the Office of the Vice President responsive to" GAO's inquiry regarding the Energy Task Force's "receipt, disbursement, and use of public funds."

To any lawyer, a mere 77-page document production seems suspiciously slim - especially when it is meant to represent information from a group of people on a fairly broad topic. Surely there were more documents that were not turned over.

Moreover, it turned out, as the Report reveals, that the documents that were turned over were useless: "The materials were virtually impossible to analyze, as they consisted, for example, of pages with dollar amounts but no indication of the nature or purpose of the expenditure." They were further described as "predominantly reimbursement requests, assorted telephone bills and random items, such as the executive director's credit card receipt for pizza."

In sum, the incomplete document production was not only nonresponsive - it was insulting. So the GAO pressed for responsive documents numerous times in different ways: letters, telephone exchanges and meetings.

Perhaps the most pointed of these was a July 18, 2001 letter from the Comptroller to the Vice President. It noted that GAO had "been given 77 pages of miscellaneous records purporting to relate to these direct and indirect costs. Because the relevance of these records is unclear, we continue to request all records responsive to our request, including any records that clarify the nature and purpose of the costs." (Emphasis added.)

Cheney's False Statement About the Responsive Documents Was Plainly Intentional

Despite receiving this letter, Cheney still claimed to Congress, a few weeks later, on August 2, that responsive documents had been produced.

Of course, Cheney is a busy man. Yet there can be no question as to whether he was aware of the July 18, 2001 letter from the Comptroller complaining about the 77 pages of documents' being unresponsive: He even attached it to his own August 2 letter to Congress, as part of a chronology. And again, he personally signed that August 2 letter.

Nor can there be any question that Cheney knows what it means to produce responsive documents - and not to do so. In the same paragraph of the August 2 letter in which he claims he was responsive to the Energy Task Force request, he makes a lesser claim with respect to another GAO request - stating that there, he had merely "provided substantial responses." (Emphasis added.)

Plainly, Cheney knows the difference between being responsive; offering a substantial response; and sending insulting non-responsive materials, featuring unexplained phone bills, columns of unidentified figures, and a pizza receipt.

Thus, Cheney's claim to have produced responsive documents was a false statement and, all evidence suggests, an intentional one. That means it is also a criminal offense - a false statement to Congress. (In a previous column, I discussed the false statements statute and its application.)

GAO's Polite Tone Belies The Shocking Evidence Its Report Offers

The straight arrows at GAO were no doubt horrified that the Vice President of the United States, who is the Constitutional presiding officer of the U.S. Senate, would deliberately mislead the Congress with such blatant misinformation.

Being nonpartisan, they refrained from accusing the Vice President of this crime. But as their Report shows, they included evidence that makes the crime evident for all to see. They also provided evidence of what the motive for the crime was.

The Report quietly - but tellingly - notes that the Vice President's team "solicited input from, or received information and advice from nonfederal energy stakeholders, principally petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists." (Emphasis added.)

In other words, if the Vice President is not trying to cover up the fact that he met with big energy interests - including past contributors - and allowed them a large role in settling our nation's energy policy, why all the secrecy ? That is what other observers have suspected - and what has been rumored from the beginning. Thanks to Cheney's obfuscation, we still can't know for certain. Yet thanks to GAO, we do now know for certain that he lied to Congress to cover up something, and there is little doubt in my mind as to what he is hiding.