Mar 25th, 2003, 10:35 PM
Reuters: Probe Sought of Pentagon Adviser Perle
Probe Sought of Pentagon Adviser Perle
Tue Mar 25, 5:16 PM ET !
By Jeremy Pelofsky
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. Democrat has called for an investigation of Richard Perle, an architect of the war on Iraq (news - web sites), for possible conflicts of interest in his roles as corporate adviser and Pentagon (news - web sites) consultant.
Rep. John Conyers, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (news - web sites), asked the Pentagon's inspector general to probe Perle's work as a paid adviser to bankrupt telecommunications company Global Crossing Ltd. and his guidance on investment opportunities resulting from the Iraq conflict.
"I am aware of several potential conflicts that warrant your immediate review," Conyers said on Monday in a letter to the Defense Department's inspector general, Joseph Schmitz. The letter was made available on Tuesday.
"Mr. Perle is considered a 'special government employee' and is subject to government ethics prohibition -- both regulatory and criminal -- on using public office for private gain," Conyers' letter said.
Perle did not return a call seeking comment on Tuesday but has said he has always followed ethics rules. A spokesman for the Defense Department declined to comment. Standard practice is for the inspector general to review such requests and determine whether an investigation is warranted.
"The president is confident that all laws will be followed by all people who are on all commissions," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer (news - web sites) said in response to a question about Perle at his daily news conference.
Perle chairs the Defense Policy Board, created in 2001 to advise the Pentagon, but has no official policymaking role and is not paid. A leading Washington hawk, he has played an influential role in developing the Bush administration's blueprint for ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).
Critics have questioned Perle's activities when not advising Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
GLOBAL CROSSING REVIEW
Perle signed on to help Global Crossing, a bankrupt operator of an international fiber-optic network, win U.S. approval to sell a 61.5 percent stake to Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte.
The plan has run into trouble with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. Including Rumsfeld and other top national security officials, the panel can block mergers and acquisitions it feels could harm to U.S. interests.
Global Crossing began talks to restructure the deal after the committee raised concern that its network would be controlled by a company with strong ties to China. Hutchison is majority owned by Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing.
Perle has said he would be paid $125,000 for his advice and another $600,000 if the government approves the deal.
An article in The New York Times cited a March 7 affidavit in which Perle discussed his "unique perspective" on national defense and security and said he had contacted a government official on Global Crossing's behalf.
"The fact that Mr. Perle may be reconsidering filing the affidavit does not alter the existence of the alleged conflict," Conyers said, citing the newspaper article.
Conyers also asked the Pentagon to probe reports that Perle participated in a conference call sponsored by Goldman Sachs to discuss investment opportunities emerging from the war in Iraq and that he received stock options from a company doing business with the U.S. military.
"I would submit that it is a conflict of interest for a high-ranking government official to be proffering advice on how to profit from the war," Conyers said.
A Goldman Sachs spokesman had no immediate comment.
Conyers also pointed out that Perle sits on the board of Autonomy Corp., which lists the U.S. Army and military as customers, and received stock options.