A Bush Summer Rerun?

By Corn, David | The Nation, August 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

A Bush Summer Rerun?


Corn, David, The Nation


The next scene in Return of the Bushies may feature Brent Scowcroft, who was National Security Adviser to Bush I. The anonymous leakers of Washington are whispering that Scowcroft is in line to become head of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. This little-known outfit advises the chief executive on sensitive intelligence matters and occasionally investigates national security controversies. In recent years it has probed such delicate topics as security at the Energy Department ("a dysfunctional bureaucracy that has proven itself incapable of reforming itself," huffed the board), ex-CIA director John Deutch's mishandling of classified information (PFIAB--pronounced Piffiab--blasted George Tenet, the current director, for not supervising the Deutch inquiry better) and the China-stole-our-nuclear-weapons-secrets flap ("Possible damage has been minted as probable disaster; workaday delay and bureaucratic confusion has been cast as diabolical conspiracies. Enough is enough"). PFIAB also oversees the Intelligence Oversight Board, which is supposed to prepare reports on intelligence activities that may be unlawful.

Scowcroft, a national security establishment elder, has the standing to lead the board--but his connections make him a poor choice. If he's tapped for the part-time, unpaid job, which requires no Senate confirmation, he'll be granted access to a trove of government secrets. But Scowcroft heads a company that is--and would continue to be--in the business of providing intelligence to firms here and abroad. Should a fellow who directs an intelligence service for foreign and domestic corporations be allowed the run of the US intelligence apparatus?

After the fall of Bush I, Scowcroft hatched the Scowcroft Group. Billed as an "international business advisory group," Scowcroft's firm--"managed directly" by its namesake, according to its website--offers businesses "a wide range of services" to assist them in "strategic planning, risk management, market development and ongoing operations." The group boasts "extraordinary regional expertise" in Asia, Latin America, Africa, Western and Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. And it claims "strong ties to key decision-makers" in these regions. Its clients are telecom, insurance, aerospace, energy, financial, electronics and food companies around the world.

As the chairman of PFIAB, Scowcroft could easily come across sensitive information useful to customers and his own business endeavors. For instance, in 1997 the Scowcroft Group contracted with Medley Advisors to help it provide political intelligence and analysis to firms that trade the stocks, bonds and currencies of emerging-market nations. What if Scowcroft, while tending to his PFIAB duties, acquires nonpublic information related to the financial position of such nations? This is not to suggest that he's going to sell secrets and commit treason. But there likely will be enough overlap between his private and public interests to provoke questions about his official actions and decisions. …

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