view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Sunday, February 26, 2006

mzm and iraq

Found this, looks to be from 2004ish but I couldn't pin down a date:

On March 21, 2003, MZM received a $1.2 million contract from the Defense Department to send 21 interpreters to Iraq. MZM would not disclose any specific information about the contract. But, according to a copy of the eight-page contract, which the Center for Public Integrity received under the Freedom of Information Act, MZM will provide linguists to serve as interpreters for U.S. government representatives, ministries and other government offices, and during interrogations and investigations. The company will "provide collections of foreign language voice signals" and transcribe recorded voice communications. The contract also calls for MZM to "produce written and/or taped materials to support civil affairs and/or psychological operations (PSYOPS)." There are two amendments to the contract, but the Defense Department redacted descriptions of the modifications, and also blacked out the final, post-modification estimated price and the ceiling price for MZM's services.

[snip]

[Update]The value of MZM's contract to provide interpreters for work in Iraq was increased to $3,640,896, reflecting updated figures released by the CPA.

Why did the Pentagon turn to MZM so quickly after the start of the War (indeed, the day after the war began?) It's not as if MZM was a leader in the field, or used frequently as a contractor by the Pentagon before this:

Government procurement records show that MZM, which Wade started in 1993, did not report any revenue from prime contract awards until 2003. Most of its revenue has come from the agreement the Pentagon just cut off. But over the past three years it was also awarded several contracts, worth more than $600,000, by the Executive Office of the President. They include a $140,000 deal for office furniture in 2002 and several for unspecified "intelligence services."

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

One of the company's contracts was to provide linguists to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the first U.S.-run administrator put in place after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The contract, which expired last year, was initially expected to be worth about $1.2 million but grew to $5 million overall, an Army spokesman said.

Hmm, $3.6 million -- $5 million? Tomato, tomahto.

That's chump change -- MZM raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contract work. Here's where it gets really interesting, and where we can begin to see just how much influence MZM may have had not only on the Honorable Congressman Virgil Goode from Virginia (whose relationship with MZM we'll delve into more deeply later,) but on the uppermost echelons of the Bush administration and its marketing of the need for War in Iraq.

Enter NGIC, the National Ground Intelligence Center -- Charlottesville's very own Pentagon intelligence agency whose mission is to gather "integrated intelligence on foreign ground forces and support combat technologies to ensure that U.S. forces and other decisionmakers will always have a decisive edge on any battlefield."

Kind of like the information that led us up to the invasion of Iraq. Kind of like the bad intelligence lies that were peddled in BushCo's marketing of their war. Kind of like the bit about aluminum tubes being used for that mushroom cloud Condi warned would be coming if we didn't act:

Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte will review changes made at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) to address criticism by a presidential commission in March that found there was "gross failure" in the center's analysis of Iraqi arms in 2002, said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Negroponte's deputy.

Two NGIC analysts, who since 2002 have received annual performance awards, judged in September 2002 that the aluminum tubes that Iraq was purchasing were "highly unlikely" to be used for rocket motor cases because of their "material and tolerances," according to the report of the president's commission on intelligence. The NGIC finding, which the commission termed "completely wrong," bolstered a CIA contention that the tubes were meant for nuclear centrifuges and were evidence that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program.

You'll recall that BushCo. inserted this bit into the 2003 State of the Union address. From Mother Jones:

"Our intelligence sources tell us," President Bush told to the nation on January 28, "that he [Saddam] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." The claim, paired with the alleged uranium buy, painted a damning picture of Baghdad's atomic ambitions.

The truth is far less frightening. Saddam did indeed attempt to purchase some highly-refined aluminum tubes. But they were not, as alleged by the Bush administration, to be used in a uranium-enriching centrifuge; rather they were intended to be used in the production of conventional rockets -- at least according to the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency, the closest thing to an impartial authority in this case.

What's more, this was well known at the time Bush delivered his address. Indeed, two weeks before the State of the Union, the IAEA said that the tubes "were not directly suitable" for uranium enrichment. Months earlier, the Department of Energy had reached the same conclusion -- as had intelligence experts at the State Department.

Read the whole article -- just extraordinary. How does it all tie together? How connected were MZM and NGIS? Walter Pincus at the Washingon Post has this:

Two months after MZM Inc. was given its first order in October 2002 to perform services for the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), the company hired the son of the center's senior civilian official, Executive Director William S. Rich Jr., according to present and former intelligence center employees.
MZM's initial task was to perform a seven-week, $194,000 analysis of "FIRES," a computer program concept to collect blueprints of facilities worldwide to create an intelligence database, according to material provided by the Pentagon.

[snip]

Over the past three years, Rich was joined at MZM by at least 15 former intelligence center colleagues -- analysts and administrative personnel hired, in some cases, to work on the same projects they dealt with as government employees, according to present and former NGIC staffers. "After contract awards, many people were hired away from NGIC at a higher salary, only to return to work on the same programs," according to one contract employee working at the NGIC who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to keep his job.

The Ethics in Government Act's standards differ for executives, managers and workers who leave government employment and take up the same work as a private contractor. But agency leaders once engaged in awarding contracts are barred from then seeking contracts from the same agency.

Right. Now, employment ethical shadiness aside, here's my question: how instrumental was MZM in gathering the faulty data (whether or not it was intentional seems far beyond my amateur journalistic skills) upon which those aluminum tube claims were based? Check this out from Laura Rozen at warandpiece.com:

According to the timeline established in the Pincus article, in September 2002, the NGIC determined that the aluminum tubes Iraq was purchasing were "'highly unlikely' to be used for rocket motor cases," e.g. they were likely to be for a nuclear weapons program -- which was "completely wrong" the Silberman-Robb report found. Then in October 2002, MZM got its first orders from the NGIC, to "perform a seven-week, $194,000 analysis of 'FIRES', a computer program concept to collect blueprints of facilities worldwide to create an intelligence database," Pincus reported. Then in December 2002, according to the Pincus report, MZM hired the NGIC executive director's son, William Scott Rich III. Shortly thereafter, "MZM received multimillion-dollar orders to continue work on FIRES and other programs," Pincus reports.

So is this all about conflict of interest, corruption, bribery, contracting improprieties? Or is there something else going on here? It's not clear. But guess what. The CIA hired a contractor in September 2002 (the month before the NGIC gave MZM its first orders) who also claimed the tubes were for a nuclear centrifuge, eRiposte pointed out to me in the email. Who was that contractor? The Senate Select Intelligence report has redacted it. Here's what eRiposte writes:

...I wanted to bring this to your attention because one of the issues I was planning to discuss in my ongoing series on WMDgate related to the deliberate fabrications and/or misrepresentations by CIA/NGIC on the aluminum tubes issue using a mysterious contractor to “bolster” their claims. The Senate (SSCI) report points out that in September 2002 CIA hired a [REDACTED] contractor who conveniently “confirmed” the fraudulent tubes-as-centrifuges story for the CIA (and NGIC).

Here’s the Senate Report on this mysterious contractor:

---------
( ) Contributing to the CIA's analysis for the extensive September intelligence assessment was an analysis performed by an individual from DELETED who were working under contract with the CIA at the time to provide broad-based technical advice DELETED. The CIA WINPAC analyst, DELETED, requested in September 2002 that they perform an analysis of the tubes. SENTENCE DELETED

( )The contractors told Committee staff that the CIA provided them with a stack of intelligence data and analysis on the Iraqi aluminum tube procurements on September 16, 2002. All of the information was provided by the CIA and the contractors told Committee staff that they did not discuss the data with any agencies other than the CIA. They were provided with NGIC's analysis of the tubes, but said they were not briefed by nor did they ask to speak to NGIC or DOE analysts. One contractor said, "This was internal to the agency." One of the contractors said before joining DELETED he had been given a tutorial on 81-mm rockets by a DOE analyst, but said that the conversation was "pretty meaningless to me because the rest of the issue had not bubbled up at that point." A DOE analyst told Committee staff that he also discussed the issue with the contractor in May of 2001. The contractor produced a paper on September 17, 2002, one day after receiving the information, that said the team concluded, "that the tubes are consistent with design requirements of gas centrifuge rotors, but due to the high-strength material and excessively tight tolerances, the tubes seem inconsistent with design requirements of rocket motor casings." The report referenced NGIC's analysis that the material and quantity of the tubes were inconsistent with rocket motor applications. The report said that while the dimensions "possibly" were suitable for rockets, the tolerances were too stringent and the pressure test requirements were too high.
...

It's obviously unproven. But the implications are truly frightening. Could a contractor accused of bribing US government officials have contributed to the corruption of the intelligence by which the US went to war? I don't know who the contractor was, but it would seem this is a subject worthy of investigative scrutiny. What the Wilkes-Wade-Cunningham larger story reveals is the vulnerability of the US government appropriations and contracting process -- even its most sensitive elements - to unscrupulous people, whose chief interests are not necessarily motivated by concern for the well being of the United States, but, in this case, apparently, self-enrichment. It's really the story of a security breach, and how easily penetrated were two of the most national security-sensitive Congressional committees by those who targeted them and others for just that purpose.
Hmm.

Cunningham sat on the House Intelligence Committee, and also on the House Appropriations Committee. Goode also sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and we can all agree that Committee wields considerable clout (did this have anything to do with the Pentagon's $5 million contract with MZM for that interpreter work in Iraq back in 2003?) The Roanoke Times offers some perspective:

In the case of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Wade used cash, a yacht, expensive antiques, cars and other perks to get the California representative to steer defense contracts his way. Cunningham resigned last year after pleading guilty to accepting bribes.

No one has suggested that Goode took such lavish gifts from Wade.

"Virgil is not ostentatious," said Jim Severt, a political consultant and his former chief of staff. "He doesn't need a mansion or a Cadillac, because his life is politics."

But that doesn't make him immune from temptation, Severt added: "I would think that giving him $90,000 in campaign contributions has as much influence on him as giving him a Rolls Royce or a yacht, because politics is all he has."

According to irregulartimes.com:
MZM gave PAC contributions to Goode on the following dates:

9/9/2002 $1,000
3/20/2003 $5,000
3/25/2003 $3,000
3/27/2003 $1,000


$8,000 in PAC contributions by MZM itself, all within a week of that contract being awarded.

Now, it gets better. Waldo does the dirty work, and hunts down this bit from opensecrets.org. Between March 26 and April 7, 2003, Goode had received $29,851 from employees of MZM, including Mitchell Wade and his wife. To put it into perspective, MZM was Goode's top contributor for the last election cycle (2003-2004), contributing $39,551. The next highest contributor gave $12,750.

$29,851 (over 75% of the total money contributed by MZM employees, the biggest group of contributors directly to Goode in 2003-2004 election cycle), and $8,000 from MZM via PAC contributions were given within three weeks following MZM being given a $3.6 million contract for work done in Iraq. Over $37,000 donated by a single corporation, or agents thereof whose contributions were coerced under threat of termination, within three weeks of this contract. It's also notable that excepting two donations, these were the only contributions to Goode or his PAC made by MZM or its employees from 2003-2004. Curiously, the two outliers occurred on March 31, 2004 -- $500 each from two separate individuals employed by MZM, both listed as "Senior Executive Vice President." (As an aside, a similar explosion in contributions by MZM employees occurred in early March 2005, that time totalling over $46,000.)

Shorter last paragraph: Why did MZM donate so much freaking money to Goode or his PAC within three weeks of what appears to be the awarding of its first major Pentagon contract ever? As if such a huge burst of contributions wasn't enough, it occurred right at the time MZM began a long and remarkably lucrative relationship with the Pentagon? Why were these contributions coerced by Wade? Is it just a timely coincidence or is there more to it?

Here's more from irregulartimes.com that more brightly illuminates the relationship that was developing between Goode and MZM in 2003:

On 11/3/2003, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission announced that, thanks to the intervention of one Rep. Virgil Goode, it was happy to provide $250,000 to be provided to a certain company called MZM as an incentive for MZM to locate a facility in Martinsville, Virginia. In addition, $250,000 in incentives would be provided from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.

That’s $500,000 total. But wait, there’s more money for MZM involved. According to a 11/3/03 press release from the Governor’s office, MZM also received incentives via a $127,000 grant from the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth. This press release also notes that “U.S. Congressman Virgil H. Goode, Jr. was instrumental in securing this project for Virginia.”

That’s $627,000 received by MZM –that we know of– in this sweetheart deal.

The Martinsville Bulletin of October 31, 2003 reported, “Goode said Wednesday that he was involved in bringing MZM to Martinsville. ‘I am pleased that I was able to alert a first-class company to the strong work force and other attractive business features in the Martinsville-Henry County area and to get the company to take a serious look at locating an operation here,’ the congressman said in a statement issued Thursday. Efforts to lure MZM to Martinsville have taken place quickly. After Goode provided the initial lead, Harned said, the Martinsville Economic Development Department ‘worked very aggressively with this (project) for a month.’”

Fifteen days later, on 11/18/2003, MZM sent another PAC contribution to Virgil Goode, for $1,000.
And what was the nature of that $600,000 "Executive Order of the President" that occurred apparently before 2003? Did it have anything to do with the work on intelligence regarding aluminum tubes that would later prove so instrumental in BushCo's marketing of the invasion of Iraq?

No...just no way, right? Just what kind of story are we sitting on here in VA-05?

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