This is part one of a two-part series. Click here to read part two.
In his important 2006 book, Nemesis, the Last Days of the American Republic, the third and concluding part of a trilogy, the late Chalmers Johnson, who was an expert on Japan and US foreign policy, writes that as much as 40% of the Pentagon budget is “black,” meaning hidden from public scrutiny. If the figure is even approximately correct, and I believe it is, the number is alarming because it suggests that democratic oversight of US military research and development has broken down. In which case our democratic values and way of life are presently at risk; not from without, as there is no foreign enemy that can destroy the US Constitution, but from within.
I would argue that Chalmers Johnson’s estimate was corroborated on September 10, 2001, on the eve of the worst terrorist attack in US history, when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged during a press conference that the Department of Defense (DoD) could not account for $2.3 trillion of the massive Pentagon budget, a number so large as to be incomprehensible. Any remaining hope that the US military might still get its budgetary house in order were dashed at 9:38 am the next morning, when the west wing of the Pentagon exploded in flames and smoke, the target of a terrorist strike. Incredibly, the exact point of impact was the DoD’s accounting offices on the first floor. The surgical destruction of its records and staff, nearly all of whom died in the attack, raises important questions about who benefited from 9/11. Given the Pentagon’s vast size, the statistical odds against this being a coincidence prompted skeptics of the official story to read a dark design into the attack. As Deep Throat said: “Follow the money.”
Was the Pentagon accounting office destroyed because diabolical individuals planned it that way? No question, the west wing presented a much more challenging target than the east wing. Targeting the west wing required a difficult approach over the Arlington skyline. The final approach was especially dicey and amounted to a downhill obstacle course, skirting apartments and a large building complex about a quarter-mile from the Pentagon known as the Naval Annex; which sits atop a hill that rises from the flat ground along the Potomac River. In April 2008, I interviewed Army Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, a credible witness to the events of that morning. Vaughn explained over the telephone that on 9/11 he was on his way to work at the Pentagon via Shirley Highway (I-395) when the strike occurred. The general told me the hijacked aircraft (presumably AA 77) just missed the Naval Annex and would have hit the US Air Force memorial that presently occupies the site, had the 270 feet-tall monument existed on 9/11. The new memorial was constructed in 2006 and dedicated the same year.
Why did the terrorists not take the easy approach up the Potomac River? The river approach would have afforded a reasonably good chance to crash the offices of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which were located on the opposite side of the building, in the middle of the outer “E” ring. The location of their offices was no secret. Surely terrorists would have been more interested in decapitating the command structure of the US war machine than going after a bunch of accounting clerks.
That morning, there were other striking anomalies. The crash of AA 11 into the North Tower at 8:46 am should also have raised red flags, because the point of impact at the 95th and 96th floors was too remarkable to be happenstance. Both floors were occupied by Marsh & McLennan, one of the world’s largest insurance brokerages, with family ties to the private intelligence firm, Kroll Associates, which held the security contract at the World Trade Center. Indeed, the network of corporate ties is so entangled that were I to trace all of the links, they would easily fill a book. Here, I will sketch out only the most salient connections.
The CEO of Marsh & McLennan on 9/11 was Jeffry Greenberg, son of Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, owner of AIG, the world’s largest insurance conglomerate (or second largest, depending on the source). Greenberg’s other son, Evan, was CEO of Ace Limited, another large insurance company. Maurice Greenberg had been a director of the New York Federal Reserve Bank for many years, and in 1994-95 served as its chairman. Greenberg was also vice-chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which in 1996 published his report, “Making Intelligence Smarter: The future of U.S. Intelligence”; as a result of which, Senator Arlen Specter floated Greenberg’s name as a candidate for the directorship of the CIA. Although George Tenet eventually got the job, the mere fact that Greenberg was in the running shows the extent of his influence. In 1993, Greenberg’s huge insurance conglomerate AIG reportedly bankrolled the Wall Street spy firm, Kroll Associates, saving it from bankruptcy. Thereafter, Kroll became an AIG subsidiary. After the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, Kroll acquired the contract from the Port Authority of New York to upgrade security at the World Trade Center, in the process beating out two other firms. Kroll continued with the WTC security contract through the period leading up to the September 11 attacks. One of Kroll’s directors, Jerome Hauer, also managed New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s Office of Emergency Management, which was located on the 23rd floor of WTC 7.
Notice this means Kroll had unfettered access to all three of the buildings destroyed on 9/11. This startling coincidence should have been reason enough for the 9/11 Commission to investigate Kroll’s shady background as well as its relations with AIG, Ace, and Marsh & McClennan. The commission was armed with subpoena authority and might have probed deeply enough to learn the truth. Unfortunately, the official investigators were not interested in connecting the dots. Although Kroll was based in New York City, it served (and still serves) an international clientele through 60 offices in some 27 countries. Over the years, the firm has repeatedly been accused of, and/or formally charged with, conspiracy. In 1995 the French government expelled several Americans from the country, including a Kroll employee named William Lee, for allegedly spying on French industry. Lee’s involvement with Kroll made French authorities suspicious that his Paris operation might be a CIA front. The French were surely aware of Kroll’s longstanding practice of hiring former CIA, FBI, and British Intelligence agents. Kroll/AIG made no effort to conceal the fact that between 1997-2003 the AIG board of directors included Frank G. Wisner, Jr., son of one of the founders of the CIA. Wisner Jr. is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Wisner Jr. also served as US ambassador to several nations, including Egypt, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. As I write, Wisner’s name surfaced in the news. Last week, President Obama dispatched Wisner as his personal envoy to confer with the embattled Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Even as popular pressure continued to build for Mubarak to step down, Wisner embarrassed Obama by publicly encouraging Mubarak to ride out the crisis and hang onto power. No doubt, his action reflects the view from Langley, which would much prefer to see Mubarak remain in power. The CIA has long supported the Mubarak regime and in return was allowed to use Egypt as a haven for renditions and torture. Wisner’s thumbing his nose at his own president, no doubt, is also an accurate measure of the US national security state’s low opinion of Obama. It certainly exposes Obama’s weakness as president.
Did the French government over-react in 1995 when it expelled a Kroll employee for suspected industrial espionage? Possibly, but the French had good reason to be wary of CIA meddling in their country. It is a safe bet the French have not forgotten Operation Gladio, the rogue intelligence network secretly organized in Europe by the CIA, NATO and British MI-6, after World War II. “Gladio” means “sword” in Italian and is the root of the word “gladiator.” Known as the “stay behind armies,” they were in every NATO country, and totaled thousands of paramilitary soldiers. Their ranks included known underworld criminals and drug traffickers; and crucially, the CIA kept the whole operation secret for nearly forty years.
Although the stay-behind armies were supposed to form the nucleus of an armed resistance movement in the event of a Soviet invasion of western Europe, the invasion never materialized, and the CIA-trained forces were sometimes used for other less savory purposes. These included smear and disinformation campaigns, mass bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and attempted coup d’etats; all of which was blamed on the communists. Before it was over, the CIA-staged terror campaign added up to hundreds of incidents in Italy, France, Greece, Belgium, and other European nations.
The news about Gladio first broke in the Italian press, in August 1990, at the time of Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait; and immediately touched off a political earthquake on the continent. As they say, bad news travels fast. Shock turned to outrage as Europeans learned that for decades the CIA and NATO had been sponsoring terrorist attacks in the democratic nations of Europe. All of which, as noted, was blamed on the communists. The purpose of Gladio had been to strike fear into the population of Europe, and thus, to weaken the left-wing parties.
If this sounds like fantasy to the reader, it is only because the US media, to this day, has never informed the American people about the CIA’s long and ugly history of staging international terrorism. Here in the US, it is euphemistically known as “counter-terrorism.” Although the average American is ignorant of the fact, most Frenchmen probably also know that under Gladio, the CIA lent support to an attempted putsch against French President Charles de Gaulle in 1958 by reactionary elements of the French army. The renegade French forces were opposed to de Gaulle’s controversial decision to end to the French military occupation of Algeria. Most of the people of France probably also know about the CIA’s involvement in at least one other conspiracy to assassinate de Gaulle in the mid-1960s; but which fortunately failed. De Gaulle survived some thirty assassination attempts. At the time, the CIA’s involvement caused a near rupture in US-French relations. De Gaulle reacted angrily by pulling France out of NATO, and ordered US military forces out of France. The US was compelled to move NATO headquarters from Paris to Mons, in Belgium. Nor did the American people hear the truth about what really happened. In fact, they still do not know, because the US press has never informed them.
Given this brief background, one must ask: Were the French trying to send a wake-up signal to the American people when they leaked the following shocker about 9/11 to the world press? In October 2001 the prestigious French paper Le Figaro reported that in July 2001, just two months before 9/11, Osama bin Laden received dialysis treatments and other medical care for a serious kidney ailment at the American Hospital in Dubai, one of the Arab emirates in the Persian Gulf. At the time, bin Laden was a wanted man, and had been indicted by the US Department of Justice for the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. Yet, according to the detailed report in Le Figaro, the Americans treated bin Laden as a VIP guest. The Al Qaeda leader arrived with a retinue that included his personal physician, a nurse, four bodyguards, and at least one of his lieutenants. Bin Laden reportedly held court in his hospital suite, welcoming members of his large family, Saudi officials, and even the local CIA station chief, who evidently was a well-known figure in the tiny country. The CIA official was evidently seen entering bin Laden’s room. Immediately after leaving, he caught a flight back to the US. The article in Le Figaro was closely followed by a story in The Guardian (UK), which added more details. It noted that bin Laden’s Saudi guests had included Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence. The story also named French intelligence as the source of the story in Le Figaro, and added that the information was leaked because the French were “keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere.” If the story is accurate, it means Osama bin Laden was a US intelligence asset right up until the morning of 9/11. There is no other possible interpretation. In which case, the American people have been seriously misled, indeed, have been fed a pack of lies, about the events of that horrible day. I would add: there were no retractions. Le Figaro stood by its story. Meanwhile, the US media played dumb and never even reported it.
But I digress. Back to AIG/Kroll. In 2005, the government of Brazil formally indicted Kroll’s chief Brazilian executive Eduardo Sampaio and five other Kroll employees on criminal charges, including bribery and various breaches of Brazil’s data privacy laws. Sampaio reportedly escaped arrest by fleeing the country.
In 2006 another Kroll affiliate made the news for “unacceptable billing practices” while representing the failed energy giant Enron in court. The Enron Corporation had collapsed in late 2001 amidst allegations of fraudulent accounting; then, in January 2002, hired Kroll Zolfo Cooper to handle its chapter 11 proceedings. The US Trustee Program, which administers bankruptcy cases, uncovered the billing irregularities after Kroll sought an additional fee of $25 million for its services. The firm had already received a cool $100 million for scavenging the Enron corpse but wanted more, even as stockholders received nothing. Evidently, the folks at Kroll thought no one would notice a mere $25 million, which is chump change compared with the $30 billion in inflated energy costs that Enron gouged from the state of California in 2000-2001. All of which must be good: because Enron got away with it. According to economist Paul Krugman, emails confirmed that Enron had rigged the markets. The heavily Democratic golden state has yet to recover from what must be viewed as a partisan attack.
Also in 2006: a whistleblower named Richard A. Grove went public with stunning testimony about his involvement with the Greenberg empire, an up-close-and-personal experience, Grove says, that nearly cost him his life. During the period leading up to 9/11, Grove worked as a salesman for Silverstream Software, an enterprise company which marketed designer solutions to a number of Wall Street firms, including Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Banker’s Trust, Alex Brown, and Morgan Stanley. According to Grove, Silverstream “built internet transactional and trading platforms,” designed “to web-enable the critical business functions of Fortune 500 companies, basically integrating and making available on the web the disparate legacy applications and mainframes while simultaneously streamlining workflow and traditional paper processes.” The “end result [was] a lower cost of operation and more efficient transactions because inefficiencies such as people were being taken out of the loop.”
Grove was so successful as a salesman that (he claims) he became a millionaire before the age of thirty. He only realized, later, that the software he sold might have enabled fraudulent trading in the hours before and possibly during the 9/11 attacks. The most advanced software of all went to Marsh & McClennan, which, he says, placed an order in 2000 for a technological solution “beyond what we had done for any of the above-named companies; insofar as it would be used to electronically connect Marsh to its major business partners via internet portals, for the purpose of creating ‘paperless transactions’ and expediting revenue and renewal cycles.” Grove inked the software deal with Marsh & McClennan in October 2000. After which, his employer Silverstream stationed a team of 30-40 technicians in the client’s offices in WTC 1, led by several software developers who proceeded to design and build the software package “from the ground up.” During this period, Grove served as liaison between Silverstream & Marsh to insure that the software would perform as specified. The team worked around-the-clock, seven days a week, to meet Marsh’s pre-September 11, 2001 deadline. The end result was “a specific type of connectivity that was used to link AIG and Marsh & McLennan, the first two commercial companies on the planet to employ this type of transaction.”
Grove says he first noticed fiscal irregularities in October 2000 when he and a colleague helped “identify about $10,000,000 in suspicious purchase orders.” Marsh’s chief information officer, Gary Lasko, later confirmed that “certain vendors were deceiving Marsh … selling … large quantities of hardware that were [sic] not necessary” for the project. But Grove did not worry too much about this at the time; nor did he run into personal trouble until the spring of 2001, when he learned, while negotiating a license renewal contract with Lasko, that his own employer, Silverstream, was over-billing Marsh “to the tune of $7 million, or more.” Grove brought the matter to the attention of Silverstream executives, but was told to keep quiet and mind his own business. A Marsh executive advised him to do the same. By this point, a number of Marsh employees had earned Grove’s trust and when he shared his concerns with them, they agreed that “something untoward was going on.” Grove names these honest employees in his testimonial: Kathryn Lee, Ken Rice, Richard Breuhardt, John Ueltzhoeffer, in addition to Gary Lasko, all of whom perished on 9/11. Incidentally, a simple check confirmed that these names do indeed appear on the fatality list of World Trade Center victims.
The proverbial schtick hit the fan on June 5th, 2001, the day after Grove sent an email to his sales team informing them that “Silverstream was billing Marsh millions above and beyond the numbers we were being paid commissions on….” There were only two possibilities: either the members of his team were being cheated out of their rightful commissions, or Silverstream was defrauding Marsh & McClennan. Later that day, Grove received word from Gary Lasko that Marsh had decided to retain Silverstream for the next phase of the project. The extension was good news and he immediately informed his boss. Grove was personally delighted because his rightful commission “would have been a payday worth well over a million dollars.” He never collected it, however; because the next morning, Grove was summoned to his boss’s office and abruptly terminated.
This is not the end of the story. Several weeks later, Grove suffered a medical emergency that required surgery and weeks of hospitalization. In August 2001, while still bedridden, a Silverstream company official visited him at the hospital and offered him $9,999 in cash, plus an extension of his medical benefits, if he would agree never to talk about the work he did for Silverstream. Grove needed the continuing medical coverage and agreed to the terms. However, after his convalescence he became suspicious about the secrecy agreement and decided that, at very least, he should maintain contact with the honest employees at Marsh, several of whom were now close friends. Shortly thereafter, one of them arranged for Grove to attend a meeting at the offices of Marsh & McClennan, at which the honest employees planned to “openly question the suspiciously unconcerned executive who seemed to be at the center of the controversial secrecy.” The executive had agreed to participate via a video conference link from his apartment in uptown Manhattan. This was the same individual who, months before, had warned Grove to look the other way. Grove was in possession of documents proving illicit activity, and he planned to produce them at the meeting. However, on the day of the showdown, he ran late, having been delayed by heavy Manhattan traffic. Grove says he was within 2-3 blocks of the World Trade Center when UAL 175 hit the South Tower. By then, all or most of his friends in the North Tower were already dead, or trapped on the upper floors. All told, some 300 or more Marsh employees perished that morning. None of whom had any idea what was in store for them.
 Chalmers Johnson, Nemesis: The Final Days of the American Republic, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 2006, pp. 9 and 115.
 Vaughn’s testimony is intriguing because it does not conform in all respects to the official narrative. Vaughn told CNN: “There wasn’t anything in the air, except for one airplane, and it looked like it was loitering over Georgetown, in a high, left-hand bank,” he said. “That may have been the plane. I have never seen one on that (flight) pattern.” The aircraft described by Vaughn has never been identified. Ian Christopher McCaleb, “Three-star general may be among Pentagon dead,” CNN, September 13, 2001. Posted at http://edition.cnn.com/2001/US/09/13/pentagon.terrorism/
 Douglas Frantz, “A Midlife Crisis at Kroll Associates,” New York Times, September 1, 1994, posted at http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9401EEDC1738F932A3575AC0A962958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all
 David Ignatius, “The French, the CIA and the Man Who Sued Too Much,” Washington Post, January 8, 1996.
 Vijay Prashad, “The Empire’s Bagman,” Counterpunch, February 2, 2011. Posted at http://www.counterpunch.org/prashad02022011.html
 Robert Fisk, “US Envoy’s business link to Egypt,” The Independent (UK), February 7, 2011. Posted at http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/revealed-us-envoys-business-link-to-egypt-2206329.html
 Daniele Ganser, NATO’s Secret Armies. Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, Frank Cass, London, 2005.
 William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Common Courage Press, Monroe, ME, 1995, pp, 148-152.
 Alexandra Richard, “The CIA met bin Laden while undergoing treatment at an American Hospital last July in Dubai, Le Figaro, October 11, 2001. (translated by Tiphaine Dickson)
 Anthony Sampson, “CIA agent alleged to haveb met Bin Laden in July,” Guardian (UK), November 1, 2001. Posted at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2001/nov/01/afghanistan.terrorism
 The Brazilian connection, June 25, 2005, posted at http://www.smh.com.au/news/business/the-brazilian-connection/2005/06/24/1119321906577.html
 Mark Sherman, “Justice Department finds billing irregularities by former interim Enron CEO,” Associated Press, March 27, 2006. Posted at http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20060327/SPECIAL14/60327014
 Paul Krugman, The Great Unraveling, Norton & Co, 2005, pp. 318-320.