Should embattled World Bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz resign, be fired, or at least be investigated for six-figuring his thinly-credentialed girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza, into a cushy U.S. State Department job?
If you say yes, look outformer Assistant U.S. Attorney Ruth Wedgwood says you're a liar.
But she doesn't put it that directly. Instead, she calls you and others "authors" of an "acrid affair" that's merely "a manufactured scandal." And the Los Angeles Times, ordinarily a very good newspaper, has published Wedgwood's claims.
Ordinarily, expert opinions by former assistant U.S. attorneys like Wedgwood count for something. But Wedgwood, sputtered one angered reader, is biased. "For the Times to publish her column without disclosing her close ties to the Bush administration is inexcusable," scolded reader Gerald Shea.
Indeed, anything written by Wedgwood should probably attach the warning that Wedgwood claims U.S. President George W. Bush's 2003 invasion of Iraq was legal. She babbles neocon platitudes like, "The Saudi regime is not acceptable in its present configuration," and still searches for U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney's weapons of mass destruction.
Talk about "close ties" to Bush!
Did Wolfowitz help Wedgwood get her job at SAIS?
Wolfowitzan academic with a Ph.D. in political science, was dean at Wedgwood's neocon sinecureJohns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)from 1993 to 2001. Wedgwood, a lawyer with no Ph.D. in political science or anything else, reportedly joined SAIS as a "professor of law" (although SAIS is not a law school) "and diplomacy" (although Wedgwood has never reportedly been a diplomat) sometime around 2002. In one bio, Wedgwood notes that she joined SAIS "at the invitation" of Wolfowitz.
Harvard and Yale produced George Bush, and they are also Wedgwood's alma maters. Given her privileged education, Wedgwood should address the real legal question facing Wolfowitz and Shaha: How did Shaha, a Libyan national with British citizenship, get her Pentagon and U.S. State Department security clearances?
Sidney Blumenthal first raised this issue in his recent Guardian article, "Wolfowitz Sinking Into Endless Scandal." Shaha needed security clearances for her Wolfowitz-engineered "leave of absence" from the World Bank to her consulting job at Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and later to her State Department job. But she apparently didn't have them. "Who intervened?" Blumenthal asks. "It is not unusual to have British or French midlevel officers at the department on exchange programs, but they receive security clearances based on the clearances they already have with their host governments."
Did Shaha already have such a clearance from Great Britain? Not likely. Unless she had some kind of secret or classified employment in, say, intelligence, Shaha was merely a World Bank employee. "Granting a foreign national who is detailed from an international organization a security clearance is extraordinary," Blumenthal emphasizes, "even unprecedented."
So how did Shaha get hers?
Maybe Wedgwood knows. But, Blumenthal writes, the State Department itself has "no record."
"State Department officials believe" the Defense Department issued Shaha's clearance "after SAIC was forced by Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith," head of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, "to hire her," Blumenthal relates. Shaha's Pentagon clearance would have given her "a State Department building pass with a letter issued under instructions from Liz Cheney," Blumenthal reasons. But State Department officials told Blumenthal "that no such letter can be confirmed as received," and State "would never issue a clearance to a non-U.S. citizen" like Shaha as part of her SAIC contract.
"Never." It's a heavy word for real lawyers.
"Issuing a national security clearance to a foreign national" like Shaha "under instructions from a Pentagon official" like Wolfowitz or his deputy, Douglas Feith, "would constitute a violation of the executive orders governing clearances," Blumenthal explains.
If Wedgwood wants to be Wolfowitz and Shaha's defender, this is the issue she needs to address.
Wedgwood calls the Wolfowitz-Shaha controversy an "acrid affair." She's got the smell right. And it comes oh-so-close to her.
Sarah Whalen is an expert in Islamic Law and a photojournalist specializing in U.S. foreign policy issues. Click here to read more about The Times' Blowback forum.