"THE INVESTIGATOR," SANTA BARBARA-NEWS PRESS, AUGUST 2nd, 2008
Few noticed that President George W. Bush
quietly revamped the role of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board earlier this year. But nobody knows, until now, that a spy scare was one of the reasons to precipitate this change.
The role of the advisory board, which President Dwight Eisenhower
created in 1956, has been to monitor U.S. intelligence services and offer non-partisan, expert advise to the president on its conduct. In the mid-1970s, after the exposure of CIA abuses by the Church Committee, PFIAB's clout expanded to investigate crimes within the intelligence community, empowered by President Gerald Ford
to report criminal activity directly to the attorney general.
On Feb. 29, President Bush signed an executive order that diminishes PFIAB's authority and transfers the investigative powers to the director of national intelligence.
This followed a lengthy FBI counterintelligence investigation into the activities of a retired U.S. Air Force colonel who they suspected of spying on PFIAB for Russia.
It is believed in some quarters that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
personally recruited this colonel while Putin was posted to Dresden, East Germany, as a KGB intelligence officer. From 1985 to 1990 it was Putin's job to recruit spies in Germany, where U.S. military officers serving at NATO air bases were considered high priority targets.
At that time, the colonel was based at Borfink Air Force Base, where he supervised top-secret U-2 and SR-71 reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union.
Soon after retiring from the Air Force, this colonel, in 1992, organized a trade delegation of Russians to the Principality of Monaco. Included in this delegation was an obscure political functionary from St. Petersburg. His name was Vladimir Putin. (Putin had resigned from the KGB a year before.) This delegation marked a Russian entry into Monaco, a tax haven that provides a variety of shielded opportunities to the very rich.
A Russian presence in Monaco has greatly proliferated during the past two years.
As if to consummate the relationship, Prince Albert II of Monaco
last August vacationed for a week in Russia with Putin, as the Russian president's guest. More recently, the Russian state "gifted" Prince Albert with a two-story, three-bedroom dacha, which Russian builders constructed from scratch on the grounds of Roc Agel, the bachelor prince's country hideaway in the French Alps, high above his glamorous principality.
Back to the mid-1990s, the U.S. Air Force colonel created a business entity in Monaco with a member of a prominent Monegasque family. Over a five-year period this entity is understood to have laundered $600 million through Monaco's banks for corrupt Russian interests--funds reputedly channeled into real estate around Western Europe and further laundered through coded accounts at banks in Malta, the Bahamas, and the Turks & Caicos Islands. An estate in Ireland was allegedly purchased on behalf of one "Andrey Vasiliyev," an alias that Putin, while president, was known to use in correspondence with his intelligence chiefs.
The colonel was also known to carry suitcases full of cash--presumably on behalf of Russians, maybe for Putin personally--from Switzerland to Monaco for deposit in local banks.
Although his last annual salary in the Air Force as an attachè was about $60,000--and that by his own admission he "retired broke"--the colonel quickly amassed $10 million worth of real estate in Monaco, London, Malibu and Whistler, Canada, plus luxury cars, and a collection of ultra-pricey Ming Dynasty antiques.
One of the Russians who figured into the colonel's Monaco-based Russian money laundering scheme was Viktor Bout
, a former major in the GRU (Soviet military intelligence), nicknamed "The Bill Gates of Arms Dealing" and now in custody in Thailand, fighting extradition to the United States.
Trouble for both the colonel and Bout, 41, first began in February 2001 when a prosecutor in Belgium, under pressure from the United States government, issued an arrest warrant for Bout alleging that this merchant of death had laundered millions of dollars from illegal arms sales, including the sale of Russian military aircraft to the Taliban in Afghanistan, pre-9/11.
The colonel and his Monegasque partner, who has since died, liquidated their entity four months later and are understood to have destroyed the company's documentation. The colonel then left Monaco to lay low in his other homes.
However, the colonel still maintained a link to PFIAB, whose meetings he had occasionally attended while in the U.S. Air Force to "flap charts" for senior officers conducting presentations. The colonel, in retirement, had been known to boast to others that he was attached to PFIAB, and that he was engaged in running secret missions on its behalf.
But he was lying. The colonel neither sat on PFIAB's sixteen-member board nor was he on its staff; nor does PFIAB have operational authority or capability to run missions.
Yet when annual PFIAB meetings rolled around every December, the colonel traveled first-class to Washington D.C. for precisely the same dates and holed up in five-star hotels--The Willard or the Hay Adams--a stone's throw from PFIAB's venue, the Old Executive Office Building adjacent to the White House.
It is believed the colonel knew someone at PFIAB--a board member or staffer--whom he wined and dined at expensive restaurants and from whom he weaseled intelligence gossip about PFIAB briefings and discussions. And then reported everything he collected to the Russians.
The colonel has apparently gotten off scot-free, unless the FBI turned him into a double agent. Obviously, they're not saying, and are otherwise preoccupied celebrating their 100th anniversary with a PR campaign.
A call from The Investigator
to PFIAB for comment was referred to the White House Media Office, which did not call back.
For more on Vladimir Putin, go to:
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