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Far Beyond Torture: The Long, Dark History of an Imperial Factotum

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"BCCI's criminality included fraud by BCCI and BCCI customers involving billions of dollars; money laundering in Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Americas; BCCI's bribery of officials in most of those locations; support of terrorism, arms trafficking, and the sale of nuclear technologies; management of prostitution; the commission and facilitation of income tax evasion, smuggling, and illegal immigration; illicit purchases of banks and real estate; and a panoply of financial crimes limited only by the imagination of its officers and customers."

The Senate investigators found that the CIA lied about its extensive, long-term contacts with BCCI, although the Kerry panel often couched this flagrant falsehood in more decorous tones, e.g., "the CIA inadvertently failed" to tell the proper federal officials about BCCI's criminal activities (emphasis added). Still, much of the findings are straightforward on this point: "After the CIA knew that BCCI was as an institution a fundamentally corrupt criminal enterprise, it continued to use both BCCI and First American, BCCI's secretly held U.S. subsidiary, for CIA operations."


The criminals of BCCI were intimately involved in the execution of U.S. foreign policy during the Reagan-Bush administrations, including the Iran-Contra scandal, in which Reagan officials shipped weapons to American hostage-takers in Iran in exchange for clandestine cash for the terrorist army it was using to wage proxy war against Nicaragua. When George Bush Sr. became president, BCCI became a primary conduit for funneling secret aid to Saddam Hussein. The organization also received extraordinary protection from the White House when lower-level federal prosecutors began indicting BCCI associates for laundering drug cartel money and running guns and money to Iraq.


And now we come to little Jay:

...the Italian bank BNL was one of BCCI's main tentacles. BNL's Atlanta branch was the primary conduit used to send millions of secret dollars to Saddam for arms purchases, including deadly chemicals and other WMD materials supplied by the Chilean arms dealer Cardoen and various politically-connected operators in the United States such as weapons merchant Matrix Churchill.

When three BNL officials were indicted in 1991 for a fraud scam used to mask payments to Saddam, Bush I moved to throttle the investigation. He appointed lawyers from both Cardoen and Matrix to top Justice Department posts – where they supervised the officials investigating their old companies. The overall probe was directed by Justice Department investigator Robert Mueller. Meanwhile, White House aides applied heavy pressure on other prosecutors to restrict the range of the probe – especially the fact that Bush cabinet officials Brent Scowcroft and Lawrence Eagleburger had served as consultants for BNL during their pre-White House days as partners in Henry Kissinger's lobbying outfit, Kissinger Associates.....
 
The Kerry report found that the 1991 BNL probe had been unaccountably "botched" – witnesses went missing, CIA records got "lost," all sorts of bad luck. Most of the big BCCI players went unpunished or got off with wrist-slap fines and sanctions.

One of the White House aides who unlawfully intervened in the BNL prosecution was a certain factotum named Jay S. ByBee. In 2004, ByBee was appointed by George W. Bush to a place on the federal appeals court – a lifetime sinecure of perks and power. Mueller, meanwhile wound up as head of the FBI, appointed to the post in by George W. in July 2001, where directed the FBI's response – or lack of response – to the torrent of terrorism alerts during that fateful summer.

So there was more to Bush's bestowal of a federal judgeship on Bybee beyond the latter's craven complicity in Terror War torture and aggression. As we noted in the earlier piece:

Bush II had good reason to reward those who helped his father provide cover for BCCI. In addition to the continuing "shadowland" relationships between U.S. intelligence and key players in BCCI operations (especially the ISI connections which had used BCCI to fund Pakistan's secret nuclear arms program), George Walker Bush had benefited materially from his own connection to BCCI. As Kevin Phillips points out in his devastating – and woefully ignored – book on the Bushes, American Dynasty, Bush II's first large-scale business enterprise, the Arbusto oil company, was almost certainly financed in part with investments from American frontmen for BCCI-connected Saudi grandees Salem bin Laden, older brother of Osama bin Laden and then the head of the family, and Khalid bin Mahfouz, a major stockholder in BCCI.

The failing Arbusto was later bought out by Harken Energy in a sweetheart deal that landed business failure Bush a plum spot on the Harken board and plenty of stock to play with. Bush soon worked his magic touch on Harken: the company began to tank. It was saved by an unusual infusion of $25 million from the Union Bank of Switzerland, one of BCCI's associates. The deal was brokered by long-time Bush family contributor Jackson Stephens – who, curiously enough, was also a major paymaster for Bill Clinton's political rise. In fact, in 1992, Stephens was the largest individual contributor to both Bush I and Clinton in their presidential contest.

And so we come back full-circle in the filthy, bloodsoaked incestuous nest of American power politics. Bill Clinton is now regarded as a Bush Family "son," his wife is overseeing the "continuity" of a militarized Terror War foreign policy, and Bybee and his fellow war criminals are being protected by the new imperial manager, who has surrounded himself with cuthroats, courtiers and toadies from both the Bush and Clinton administrations: a veritable army of servile little Bybees -- scurrying, scraping, bowing, and nodding assent to whatever Power demands.

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Chris Floyd is an American journalist. His work has appeared in print and online in venues all over the world, including The Nation, Counterpunch, Columbia Journalism Review, the Christian Science Monitor, Il Manifesto, the Moscow Times and many (more...)
 

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