Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Many in Government Helped Cunningham Or Yielded, Panel Finds; Report Indicates Widening Investigation
Many in Government Helped Cunningham Or Yielded, Panel Finds
Report Indicates Widening Investigation
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer

Former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) channeled more than $70 million in Pentagon and intelligence agency contracts to two companies that paid him bribes, and required the "cooperation or at least the non-interference of many people" to pull that off, a congressional investigation has found.

Since Cunningham had no authority to award contracts, he needed the acquiescence of some members of Congress, congressional staff members and Defense Department officials, according to the executive summary of an investigation by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence into his activities as a panel member.

"This was a lot of people to persuade, cajole, deceive, pressure, intimidate, bribe or otherwise influence to do what they wanted," the executive summary says.

Although the congressional inquiry was directed at Cunningham's activities and found no evidence of corruption among panel staff members, the five-page summary written by the panel's special counsel, Michael Stern, indicates how the continuing federal criminal investigation of corruption and bribery has continued to spread since it began almost two years ago.

The summary discloses for the first time that the government is investigating the CIA's award of "several large contracts" that involved Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo when he was No. 3 at the agency under then-Director Porter J. Goss. Foggo was a longtime friend of contractor Brent R. Wilkes, who federal investigators say was one of Cunningham's co-conspirators along with contractor Mitchell J. Wade.

Foggo resigned in May after being linked to the Cunningham inquiry. Days later, federal agents searched his agency office and his rented home in Northern Virginia.

Yesterday, agency officials refused to comment on the newly disclosed information, saying the matter is under investigation. Foggo was originally investigated by both the CIA inspector general and federal prosecutors after it was alleged this year that he had helped Wilkes obtain CIA contracts and had improperly accepted vacation trips from him.

The House report adds that another Foggo friend, Brant Bassett, a former CIA officer who worked as a staff member of the House intelligence panel, has been drawn into the case. Bassett, Foggo, Wilkes and the unnamed person who received the large CIA contracts "apparently had dinner together at the Capital Grille in June 2003," according to the summary. Stern says that meeting warranted further inquiry but was outside his jurisdiction to investigate.

The summary says Cunningham had "dealings . . . with certain foreign nationals" that have apparently triggered inquiry by "law enforcement and national security agencies."

In November 2005, Cunningham pleaded guilty to taking bribes and is serving a prison sentence of up to eight years. Wade pleaded guilty in February to giving $1 million in bribes, and his sentencing has been postponed until March. Wilkes has yet to be charged but was listed as co-conspirator No. 1 in court documents charging Cunningham.

Published reports have indicated that other members of Congress are under investigation, including Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Stern, in his report, says requests to the committee for permission to speak to current and past staff members have not been answered.

House intelligence panel staff members were aware of Cunningham's activities and in some cases saw "red flags" but did not interfere, the report says. It adds that there was "no evidence" uncovered that any past or present committee aides "sought to profit or expect to profit personally from any of the funding requests," Stern wrote.

Release of the executive summary by the panel's ranking Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), added fuel to the running partisan battling going on in the committee, and quickly drew criticism from its chairman, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.).

Harman said that she acted because the original investigation was finished in May and the unclassified executive summary in July, and that the release was held up because of a disagreement between her and Hoekstra over subpoenaing Cunningham to testify. Earlier this month, according to Harman, Hoekstra agreed to release a mutually agreed upon version of the summary, which was completed last week.

Hoekstra, in a statement yesterday, described the release as "disturbing and beyond the pale," and called the summary an "incomplete, internal committee document" that other panel members had not reviewed. His statement echoed words Harman used this month when Hoekstra released reports by the committee majority staff on North Korea and Iraq that were done without the approval of Democrats on the panel.

Wade's company, MZM Inc., benefited from several questionable contracts given by the Counterintelligence Field Activity agency (CIFA), the Pentagon's newest intelligence arm, which was created in 2002 to coordinate protecting defense facilities and personnel at home and abroad from terrorist attacks. Its budget is secret, but congressional sources earlier this year said it totaled more than $1 billion over the past three years; its staff consisted of 400 full-time employees and 800 on contract status.

Cunningham, as a member of the intelligence panel, chaired the terrorism subcommittee that had authority over CIFA. The House committee's "ability to conduct appropriate oversight over the counterintelligence project at CIFA, MZM's other contracts with CIFA, and arguably CIFA as a whole appears to have been seriously impeded by the corrupt conspiracy between Cunningham and Wade," the report says.

CIFA's two top officials, director David A. Burtt II and his deputy, Joseph Hefferon, suddenly resigned in August, but other officials at the agency refused to discuss any link to the ongoing investigations. A Pentagon spokesman said their leaving was "a personal decision that they both made together."