View Full Version : Kofi's Coverup - Is the White House helping?

05-10-2004, 11:33 PM
Another U.N. letter saying shut up, or else.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

So now there's a third "hush" letter from the United Nations demanding that an Oil for Food Program contractor cease cooperation with Congressional investigators. Dated April 27, the note--like earlier ones to inspection companies Saybolt and Cotecna--is signed by another U.N. official "for Benon V. Sevan," the outgoing Iraq Program chief. In this case the recipient was an individual consultant whose name was blacked out by our Capitol Hill source.

The letter informs the consultant of a contract clause stating: "contractors may not communicate at any time to any other person, Government or authority external to the United Nations any information known to them by reason of their association with the United Nations which has not been made public, except in the course of their duties or by authorization of the Secretary-General or his designate."

The purpose of the first of these letters to surface, U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard argued last week, was to facilitate evidence gathering by the U.N.-backed inquiry headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker. This excuse didn't make a whole lot of sense. It's not as if the Oil for Food-related documents in question could be shared with either Congress or Mr. Volcker but not both. But this latest hush letter adds a new wrinkle, stating twice that the U.N. demands control of "documentation or information" (emphasis added). Translation: Shut up or we'll sue.

We have every confidence Mr. Volcker will lead a thorough investigation, but the public should not be asked to take it on faith that he will be given access to all information and rely on his interpretation alone. As the above-quoted contract makes clear, the Secretary-General has the authority to waive all these confidentiality agreements. The fact that Kofi Annan has chosen instead to pursue a campaign of legal intimidation is a pretty good indication that he intends as much of a whitewash as he can get away with.

All this lends urgency to new accountability legislation that has been introduced in the Senate by John Ensign (R., Nevada) and Lindsey Graham (R., South Carolina), and in the House by Jeff Flake (R., Arizona). Modeled on language that passed Congress during a 1990s battle over U.N. reform, the law would have the United States withhold a modest percentage of its U.N. dues unless the President certifies that the U.N. is cooperating with Oil for Food investigations in the U.S. and other member states.
Speaking of the President, the White House's silence on this issue is becoming more notable by the day. We understand the Administration is trying to enlist the U.N.'s help in Iraq, but that's not a good reason to try to squelch the bad news until later like it did with its cost estimates for the Medicare drug bill. In particular, we hope it's not at White House request that Iraq czar L. Paul Bremer has been threatening to defund the Iraqi Governing Council's investigation of Oil for Food.

If abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers demands an accounting, so too does the world-wide conspiracy of bribery that helped prop up Saddam Hussein's torture-based regime. Now's hardly the time for the White House to be seen demanding anything less than full openness and accountability in any area of its Iraq policy.