Friday, August 11, 2006

Pentagon Officials Quit at Agency Linked to Bribes

The New York Times
Pentagon Officials Quit at Agency Linked to Bribes

WASHINGTON, Aug. 10 — The two top officials of Counterintelligence Field Activity at the Defense Department resigned this week amid investigations into their agency’s classified contracts with a businessman who has pleaded guilty to bribing department officials and Representative Randy Cunningham.

The resignations, which were first reported Thursday in The Washington Post, are the latest sign that the scandal surrounding Mr. Cunningham, a California Republican who stepped down last fall, is still unfolding. The new departures come as the House intelligence committee is preparing its own report on corrupt favors performed by Mr. Cunningham as a member of the panel.

The two officials, David A. Burtt II, the director of Counterintelligence Field Activity, and Joseph Hefferon, the deputy director, could not be reached for comment. A Pentagon spokeswoman said Thursday that their resignations were “a personal decision that they both made together.”

Federal prosecutors have named the counterintelligence agency in court papers as a source of tens of millions of dollars in inflated contracts provided to Mitchell J. Wade, chief executive of the military contractor MZM Inc.

In February, Mr. Wade pleaded guilty to bribing Mr. Cunningham and unidentified Defense Department officials in exchange for such contracts. Mr. Cunningham pleaded guilty to accepting illicit payments from Mr. Wade and another contractor, later identified as Brent R. Wilkes. Prosecutors have not charged Mr. Wilkes.

Mr. Cunningham was chairman of the intelligence panel’s subcommittee for human intelligence, giving him responsibility for oversight of the counterintelligence agency.

In February 2004, Mr. Cunningham sent a letter to Mr. Burtt, thanking his staff for its execution of a project he had inserted in a military bill, according to documents filed in United States District Court in Southern California.

And he promoted Mr. Wade’s company, MZM, to Mr. Burtt as well. “Additionally, I wish to endorse and support MZM Inc.’s work,” Mr. Cunningham wrote.