This article is the second in a series. Part one can be read here.
Before Ayman al-Zawahiri became a leader with al-Qaeda, he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the U.S. invaded Iraq, al-Qaeda took root there thanks to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Since then, it has become ISIS. To say American leadership has been lacking over the course of multiple administrations would be an understatement. The country is in a mess but there is a simple, yet difficult solution.
Barely two weeks after the Operation Green Quest (OGQ) raids on the offices of Muslim organizations on March 20, 2002, Bush family business colleague Talat Othman and co-founder of the Islamic Institute Khaled Saffuri were invited to a luncheon with the man who headed the Treasury Department responsible for conducting the raids in the first place, Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill. The stated purpose of the luncheon was to give grease to Muslim community leaders who were the squeakiest wheels in response to the businesses being targeted.
Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as explaining who was in attendance and why:
“We invited to meet with senior Treasury officials those who were most critical of our effort. We wanted some honest feedback.”
The idea that the Treasury Secretary would get ‘honest feedback’ from Muslim leaders who objected most to raids on Muslim businesses suspected of being involved in financing terrorism is at best counter-intuitive and ill-advised. In any case, it’s bizarre. Based on what information had become known as a result of the raid, shouldn’t such objections have raised suspicions about the motives of Othman and Saffuri?
The Wall Street Journal article quoted an asset-forfeiture lawyer familiar with cases like the one launched in OGQ. He was obviously surprised:
“It’s virtually impossible [to arrange such a meeting], especially with the Treasury secretary,” Mr. Zagaris said. “It’s very difficult to even get phone calls returned.”
If the 9/11 attacks represented a major flashpoint in American history, this luncheon may have represented another. Indications were that if the efforts of Othman and Saffuri at that luncheon didn’t lead to a calling off of the dogs, the two events were mutually exclusive because the dogs were called off.
Just days before that luncheon, the Financial Times reported on the OGQ raids, which included groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood:
In northern Virginia they targeted, among others, the International Institute of Islamic Thought, the Graduate School of Islamic Social Sciences, the Muslim World League and the Fiqh Council of North America. These bodies were described by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) as “respected Islamic institutions” whose targeting “sends a hostile and chilling message to the American Muslim community and contradicts President Bush’s repeated assertions that the war against terrorism is not a conflict with Islam”.
Another organization targeted in the OGQ raids was the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). According to at least one FBI analyst, IIRO had contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas charities (Hamas is an officially designated Foreign Terrorist Organization).
Three months after that April 4, 2002 luncheon, George W.’s curious sale of more than $800,000 of Harken Energy stock on June 22, 1990 was given renewed interest when the SEC report on the deal was leaked. At the time Bush sold the stock, he had been serving on the Board of Harken for approximately three years with none other than Talat Othman. Two months later, in August of 1990, Othman suddenly had access to President George H.W. Bush, joining him in the White House for no fewer than three meetings.
It is not known if George W.’s sale of the stock had anything to do with Othman’s White House access or if the events were mutually exclusive.
Who bought the stock?
According to a 2001 Boston Globe article, George W. and his attorneys were warned in a memo against selling the stock George W. would ultimately sell one week later because it could carry insider trading risks. Obviously, the sale proceeded but who was on the receiving end of more than 200,000 shares of Harken?
The Globe reported:
Bush has said that a Los Angeles stockbroker, Ralph Smith, called him in early June 1990 to ask if he would sell his Harken shares to one of Smith’s clients… One week after the memo was written, Bush sold his shares on June 22 via the broker, Smith. Smith could not be reached for comment, but has been quoted as saying the buyer was an institution that he would never reveal.
Whoever purchased the shares, the Harvard University Endowment appears to have had some significant investment in Harken. Another Boston Globe article from 2002 explains that one person in particular associated with the endowment was more interested than most:
…even as Bush was dumping the bulk of his Harken holdings – about $848,000 in stock sold to a buyer whose name has never been disclosed – Harvard Management plowed millions more into the firm.
Several former Harvard Management officials said in interviews that they wanted to pull out of the Harken deal, but they said one man in particular – Harvard Management executive and Harken director Michael Eisenson – resolutely insisted he could turn around the investment by pumping more money into it…
…Harvard Management risked 1 percent of the university’s endowment in the small, struggling company, a surprisingly large bet by any measure, but particularly given Harken’s dismal prospects.
To be fair, the Globe article said it…
…found no evidence to support the contention by some critics of Harvard Management and some adversaries of Bush that its deep involvement in Harken was a political favor to the Bush family.
Nonetheless, Harken was a near simultaneous source of significant Bush enrichment and Harvard loss. Again, these realities are either related or mutually exclusive. The SEC found them to be mutually exclusive.
Where does this leave us?
Let’s go back to the circumstances under which Othman joined Harken.
Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI)
Acccording to the 1991 Wall Street Journal, Othman joined the Board circa 1987, as a representative for Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh, who owned stock in Harken at the time. Another entity involved is worth highlighting as well:
…there are numerous links among Harken, Bahrain and individuals close to the discredited Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI), a banking empire that used Mideast oil money to seek ties to political leaders in several countries.
The article then points out two relationships of potential interest:
Sheik Khalifa bin-Salman al-Khalifah, the prime minister of Bahrain and a brother of the country’s ruling emir, is identified on an October 1990 shareholder list as one of the 45 investors who own parent company BCCI Holdings (Luxembourg) S.A. The emir played a role in approving the Harken transaction.
Sheik Abdullah Bakhsh, a major Harken shareholder represented by Mr. Othman on the company’s board, has been a co-investor in Saudi Arabia with alleged BCCI front man Ghaith Pharaon, and used Khalid bin-Mahfouz, until recently a principal BCCI shareholder, as his banker.
As other authors have made it clear, there was no evidence indicating that these relationships were either relevant or a coincidence.
Something that has been demonstrated are nefarious BCCI dealings. In 2007, former Harvard law professor and noted liberal Alan Dershowitz soured on President Jimmy Carter as a result of the former president’s relationship with entities like BCCI. Dershowitz wrote:
Carter and his Center have accepted millions of dollars from suspect sources, beginning with the bail-out of the Carter family peanut business in the late 1970s by BCCI, a now-defunct and virulently anti-Israeli bank indirectly controlled by the Saudi Royal family, and among whose principal investors is Carter’s friend, Sheikh Zayed. Agha Hasan Abedi, the founder of the bank, gave Carter “$500,000 to help the former president establish his center…[and] more than $10 million to Mr. Carter’s different projects.”
This demonstrates a willingness on the part of BCCI to buy leverage and influence. It does not demonstrate a willingness on the part of George W. to be open to selling it. Again, was it a coincidence George W. was so close to a man who represented a BCCI investor or were these things mutually exclusive?
As it turns out, there is also a BCCI connection to Iran-Contra. A 1991 TIME Magazine article by Richard Lacayo entitled, “Iran-Contra: The Cover-Up Begins to Crack,” explained why the then dormant scandal had come back to life. Among the reasons:
Investigators probing B.C.C.I. have told TIME that the Iran-contra affair is linked to the burgeoning bank scandal. Former government officials and other sources confirm that the CIA stashed money in a number of B.C.C.I. accounts that were used to finance covert operations; some of these funds went to the contras.
George W. would sit on the Board of Harken with a man in Othman, who represented a man with ties to BCCI. That would be the same BCCI that had a connection to the Iran-Contra scandal. It is not known if these are coincidences or unrelated, mutually exclusive events.
Events after the 2002 Luncheon
In 1991, regulators forced BCCI to close down after the bank was found to have been engaged in massive amounts of fraud. If there was one country that had a stake in protecting the Muslim World League (MWL), whose offices were raided as a result of OGQ, it was Saudi Arabia. According to Dershowitz, when BCCI was in operation, it was “indirectly controlled by the Saudi Royal family”.
Among the Saudi Royal family’s most prized creations is the MWL. Founded more than half a century ago, MWL is engaged in the spread of the Saudi brand of fundamentalist Wahhabism around the globe, to include inside the U.S., where it is very closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood front groups that were caught up along with MWL in the OGQ raids.
Several months after the 2002 luncheon with Treasury Secretary O’Neill, the 9/11 Commission was formed, on November 27th. The Commission’s final report was issued in July of 2004. Again, whether causal or mutually exclusive, that report did not include even one mention of either the MWL or the IIRO.
As the 9/11 Commission was conducting its investigation, two very significant events took place in March of 2003. One was the invasion of Iraq. The other was the placing of the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In May of that year, an agreement between then DHS head Tom Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft moved counterterrorism investigations out of the hands of Customs and into the hands of the FBI. A 2004 Harper’s Magazine article summed up one of the consequences thusly:
This deal between Ashcroft and Ridge effectively shut down Green Quest, quashing the one serious–if flawed–probe into domestic terrorist financing.
When the final 9/11 Commission Report was released in July of 2004, the MWL and the IIRO – along with several other organizations and individuals – were not mentioned once in the report. It is not known if the decision to omit those entities from the report had anything to do with the decision to shut down OGQ or if the two events were mutually exclusive.
In 2007, George W. Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington to re-dedicate the Mosque on its 50th anniversary. According to the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Schwartz, the mosque was taken over by the MWL in 1983. One year later, the MWL appointed its representative Abdullah M. Khouj to lead the mosque as the Imam. In this video, Khouj is seen introducing President Bush:
It makes no difference whether everything presented here is the result of mistakes or misdeeds. Short of an act of God, the answer to righting the U.S.S. America is for its leaders and power players – both past and present – to come clean with the American people about why we’re in such a mess.