The Bush family connection was obvious. The chairman of New Bridge was Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush’s chief of staff when he was governor of Texas and national campaign manager for the Bush-Cheney 2000 presidential campaign. Directors Edward M. Rogers Jr and Lanny Griffith came from one of Washington’s best-connected Republican law firms. Both had been assistants to George Bush Sr in the White House.
A bizarre Bush-Thatcher-Bush-Blair continuum was completed when the company invited an unlikely Englishman to join its ranks. Sir Charles Powell was defence and foreign affairs consultant to Margaret Thatcher and John Major, expending much effort advising PMs that the government needed to invest more in military technology and arms sales. He went on to work for the chairmen of arms firms BAe Systems and Thales, advising them, evidently, that the government needed to invest more in military equipment and arms sales.
As luck would have it, Charles’ brother Jonathan, another Foreign Office diplo-wonk, who used to be Britain’s ambassador in Washington, is now Tony Blair’s chief of staff. He is also said to be the man responsible for single-handedly rubbishing Robin Cook’s ethical foreign policy on the basis that Britain needed to invest more in military equipment and arms sales. It must run in the family.
And then, as if that isn't enough, there's yet another connection to Bin Laden and Al Quaeda
What the press release doesn’t mention is that an al-Bunnia partner is also a founding partner in an organisation identified as helping to fund al-Qaeda. Documents from the Swiss Federal Commercial Registry show Sadoon al-Bunnia to be a founding partner in the Malaysian Swiss Gulf and African Chamber (MIGA), one of 14 businesses controlled by Ahmed Idris Nasreddin and Youssef M. Nada.
In August 2002, US Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill announced that businesses in the Nasreddin-Nada network “appeared to be providing a clandestine line of credit to a close associate of Usama bin Laden and as of late September 2001, Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaida organisation received financial assistance from Youssef M. Nada.”
You would think this record might blot the copybook of businessmen hoping to do deals with the US administration in Iraq, but no; US engineering super-giant, Bechtel has just signed them up to help rebuild the Al Mat bridge, bombed by a stray cruise missile during the war.
Astonishingly, the US government and their contractors seem blithely unconcerned about al-Bunnia’s al-Qaeda connection. According to the US Treasury, its undiplomatically-named Office of Foreign Assets Control keeps a list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, prohibiting trade with the listed persons or organisations. MIGA makes the list. Al-Bunnia does not.
When pushed, the US Treasury said that al-Bunnia’s “association with MIGA should raise some due diligence concerns, but it is not necessarily wrong for a US company to do business with him, and it is certainly not illegal.” Senseless and dangerous, perhaps. But not actually illegal.
And then it discusses Karen Kwiatkowski, a whistleblower who was embroiled in the sexing up of the intelligence.
Interesting and yet angry-making reading