Probe of Alyeska Conduct Goes Behind Closed Doors : Congress: The public was ejected as a House panel began hearings into allegations of wrongdoing by the operator of the trans-Alaska pipeline.
A House panel went behind closed doors Monday to investigate possible criminal activity by an Alaska-based consortium of major oil companies and its security firm during a covert spying operation aimed at whistle-blowers.
The House Interior and Insular Affairs Committee began two days of hearings into allegations of wrongdoing by Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., operator of the 800-mile trans-Alaska pipeline, and its Florida-based security firm, the Wackenhut Corp.
The Alyeska probe was aimed at industry gadfly and former oil tanker broker Charles Hamel of Virginia, who has provided embarrassing information about oil companies to the media, Congress and regulators.
Among those who testified was former Wackenhut operative Ricki Sue Jacobson, who--using a false name--posed as an environmentalist and befriended Hamel in an Alaska hotel bar and later on an airline flight in 1990.
Jacobson declined to discuss her testimony, but said of the secret probe: “This was a horror story.” She denied news reports that have characterized her as a seductress who unsuccessfully sought to “compromise” Hamel as part of the probe.
“I’m not a Mata Hari,” she said.
Wackenhut’s alleged activities on Alyeska’s behalf--from establishing a phony environmental group, planting electronic bugs and making midnight thefts of Hamel’s garbage--also targeted Hamel’s sources within Alyeska.
During a break in the hearings, the committee’s chairman, Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez), reiterated accusations that the Alyeska-Wackenhut “sting” operation involved “criminal activities.”
Specifically, the committee is questioning whether the secret probe involved illegal procurement of telephone logs, mail fraud, mail theft, illegal electronic surveillance, use of a falsified Florida driver’s license and conducting an investigation in the state of Virginia without a license.
In statements outside the hearing, Alyeska general counsel David Marquez and the two Wackenhut operatives who ran the secret probe--Wayne B. Black and Richard Lund--separately denied that the probe involved any illegal activity.
Alyeska is owned by a consortium of seven oil companies, including Exxon Corp., Mobil Corp., Atlantic Richfield Co. and Unocal Corp.
The committee is also probing whether Miller himself or other members of Congress may have been targeted by the probe. In testimony prepared for delivery to the committee today, Chairman George R. Wackenhut and the security firm’s lawyer, William L. Richey, explicitly deny that.
Citing a House rule, a lawyer for Black, Wackenhut’s vice president for investigations, asked the committee to close the hearing to the public to protect Black from testimony that might “degrade, demean or incriminate” him. In an 8 to 5 vote, the committee agreed.
After the public was ejected, Black and Lund, a Wackenhut electronic surveillance expert, apparently gave brief testimony. Neither would comment on the substance of their statements.
Before the hearing, they were both expected to invoke the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.
Following them, the committee took hours of testimony from Jacobson and two other former Wackenhut operatives involved in the probe.
Meanwhile, questions of legality have been raised about certain of the probe’s activities, as detailed in testimony by former Wackenhut employees prepared for delivery to the committee today and statements to the press Monday by the former employees:
* Jacobson said Wackenhut officials gave her false identification, including a phony Florida driver’s license.
* Jacobson also said she saw Black leaf through Hamel’s mail while riding in Hamel’s car and when left alone in Hamel’s living room. Later, she saw Black in possession of two pieces of Hamel’s mail.
* Former Wackenhut investigator and onetime U.S. Customs agent Ana Maria Contreras said she was asked to analyze Hamel’s telephone logs, which she says Black told her Wackenhut purchased for $100 each. “When I was a Customs agent, we used to subpoena these records,” she said. “They were not subpoenaed by Wackenhut.”