Throughout summer 2001, while intelligence warnings about an expected al-Qaeda terror attack went unheeded, the NSC staff met frequently to coordinate U.S. pressure on India over Enron's plant, drawing in the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative and the Overseas Private Investment Corp., which had committed $360 million in risk insurance to the Dabhol project.
While the NSC held no follow-up meetings on the Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence warning entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S., " national security adviser Condoleezza Rice organized and led the "Dabhol Working Group. "
The working group sought to broker meetings between Lay and senior Indian officials, including Brajesh Mishra, the national security adviser to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. During a trip to India, a senior State Department official delivered a "demarche " or official warning to the Indian government, but New Delhi still resisted the U.S. pressure.
Also in the summer of 2001, Enron was consolidating its influence at FERC.
Nora Mead Brownell, a controversial member of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, was named as a new FERC commissioner. In support of Brownell 's appointment, Lay called White House aide Karl Rove to say that Brownell "was a strong force in getting the right outcome " in deregulating Pennsylvania 's energy market, according to a July, 17, 2001, letter by Rep. Waxman to the White House counsel.
Then, in August 2001, FERC Chairman Hebert, who had gone along with the California price caps and had ordered the inquiry into Enron 's arbitrage schemes, abruptly resigned only six months into his four-year term. He clearly was forced out, explaining lamely that he desired "to seek other opportunities. "
Bush replaced Hebert with former Texas Public Utilities commissioner Pat Wood III. Lay had included Wood and Brownell on a list of his preferred FERC candidates. [AP, Jan. 31, 2002]
As Lay was flexing his political muscle in Washington, out of public view back in Houston, Enron 's accounting house of cards was shaking. On Aug. 15, 2001, Sherron Watkins, an Enron vice president, warned Lay that accounting irregularities, including the hedges tied to Enron stock, were threatening to undo the corporation.
On Sept. 11, however, the course of George W. Bush 's presidency took a sharp turn, as Islamic terrorists seized four U.S. airliners, crashing two into the World Trade towers at the heart of the U.S. financial markets. Another smashed into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in Pennsylvania when passengers apparently battled for control.
Bush vowed to retaliate for the attacks by waging a "war on terror, " finally targeting Osama bin Laden and his protectors in Afghanistan, the Taliban government. On the front lines of that new war were Pakistan and India, traditional enemies who were engaged in a brush war over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Despite the New Delhi 's importance in prosecuting the "war on terror, " Enron 's Dabhol power plant remained at the center of U.S. relations with India.
On Sept. 28, more than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, the NSC-led Dabhol Working Group prepared "talking points " about the Enron business dispute for Cheney to deliver in a meeting with India 's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.
On Oct. 7, the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan began with aerial assaults against Taliban targets.Two days later, on Oct. 9, the State Department was again pressing Enron 's case with the Indians.
Undersecretary Alan Larson "raised the Dabhol issue with both FM Singh and NSA Mishra and got a commitment to 'try ' to get the government energized on this issue prior to the PM 's visit to Washington " in November, an Oct. 23 NSC e-mail said. "Pls give me one/two bullets for the President to use during his meeting with Vajpayee. "