Back in February 2010, our colleague Andrew Higgins wrote an extraordinary report on the massive crony capitalism and corruption amongst Afghanistan’s ruling elite and Kabul Bank, the country’s largest private bank.
A year later, after an investigation by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s inspector general, U.S officials suspended agency-contracted advisers to the bank for not blowing the whistle about massive fraudulent loans sooner, before the scandal sparked a major run on the bank and a financial crisis.
The inspector general’s investigation and report, which led to the termination of USAID’s contract with the Deloitte accounting firm, was made public in March. But then, in the past week or so, the report disappeared from the agency’s Web site, reports Steven Aftergood, who writes the Secrecy News blog for the Federation of American Scientists.
Seems that when the report was written, it was “utilizing information from non-classified sources,” a USAID official told Aftergood. But then USAID retroactively classified two documents cited in the report. “This action resulted in the entire report becoming classified, and we removed it from the Web site,” the official said.
So when anyone goes to look for the orginal report, which used to be available, you get the dreaded “ERROR 404: File not found” notice telling you: “We’re sorry. The page you are trying to request may be temporarily unavailable or may no longer exist on the USAID web site, or may have changed locations due to our recent redesign.” (The report is still available at the FAS site.)
“We suggest you try the following,” the notice advises, such as looking to “check the address to make sure you typed it correctly,” or go to the “Help Desk” and so on.
Don’t bother. It ain’t there. And it’s unclear what the two now-secret documents were, Aftergood told us.
You’d think after the WikiLeaks hemorrhage of seriously classified documents they might not worry about trying to make secret something they’d already made public for about six weeks. Hard to un-ring the bell, you know?
Speaking of WikiLeaks, one of its victims, former ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual , has found gainful employment at the State Department. Pascual, who had long irritated the current government, really upset those folks when leaked cables revealed his criticism of the country’s anti-drug effort and its president, Felipe Calderon. The disclosure him pretty much persona non grata.
Pascual — a 25-year veteran of the State Department, USAID and the National Security Council and, before his appointment, head of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution — takes over next week as a special envoy and coordinator for international energy affairs. He’s to set up a new Bureau for Energy Resources at State.
Loop Fans may remember the dust-up last year over plans by the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to set up a life sciences award in the name of Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema — to be endowed for five years with a fine $3 million gift from Obiang.
The human rights crowd launched a campaign to block it. They pointed out that Obiang, in power since 1979 and “elected” with 90-plus percent of the vote, ran the tiny but oil-rich nation through, the State Department reports said, “arbitrary arrest, detention . . . harassment and deportation of foreign residents . . . judicial corruption” and the usual other stuff.
Still, it appeared on track until Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) went public, saying the proposed $3 million was money that Obiang and his regime stole from the people. Obiang and company played the race and anti-colonial card, but Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of South Africa weighed in about UNESCO “burnishing the unsavory reputation of a dictator” by taking the money.
UNESCO, which apparently had already selected finalists for the award, quietly “suspended” — but did not officially reject — the award idea.
Sure enough, Obiang last week petitioned to UNESCO’s executive board to reverse its decision and immediately award the prize. The board on Monday declined to consider the Obiang ploy.
But this is like those old “Return of Dracula” movies: Until the organization cancels the prize once and for all, the regime will keep trying to get it awarded.
Don’t forget! There’s still time to pack for that fine congressional delegation trip, led by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), chair of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, leaving Saturday for Dublin, Vienna and Prague.
Remember, the purpose of this trip is to find and “engage European partners with a focus on security, economic partnership and strengthening U.S. relations with the European community.” Spring in Prague? Too good.
Unfortunately, this one could be booked up. But maybe Rep. Connie Mack (R-Fla.), who chairs the subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, will have a few seats left on his trip to Panama, Colombia and Mexico, which is also leaving this weekend. The delegation will meet with the presidents of those three countries as well as some of Mexico’s key law enforcement officials, his office said.
Mack criticized President Obama for dissing Panama and Colombia during his recent trip to Latin America. We hear there might be some time for walking tours and sightseeing, getting to know the countries, the people . . .
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