If Richard N. Perle intends to sue Seymour Hersh for libel in Britain, as he promised three weeks ago, he better get to gettin' before the Department of Defense's inspector general launches a requested investigation of Perle.
Earlier this week, Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., asked the DoD inspector general to probe Perle's business dealings with the bankrupt telecom company Global Crossing. (See this New York Times story from yesterday for the details.) Global Crossing retained Perle for $125,000 to help overcome U.S. government opposition—notably from the Pentagon and the FBI—to its acquisition by Hutchison Whampoa, a company controlled by a Hong Kong billionaire. A potential conflict of interest exists, says Conyers, because Perle heads the Defense Policy Board, an unpaid Pentagon advisory committee. The Times news story continues:
Some Democrats pointed out today that [Perle] was now working to complete the sale of the company to Hutchison Whampoa, noting that during the Clinton administration, prominent Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott sharply criticized the company for its ties to the Chinese leadership.
Conyers also wants the IG to investigate Perle's business dealings with Autonomy, a software company whose clients include the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. And he wants the IG to look at Perle's Trireme Partners, whose machinations are detailed in Hersh's allegedly libelous New Yorker feature.
On Monday, March 24, a New York Times editorial dismissed as specious Perle's explanation that no conflict of interest exists because he's not lobbying anybody at the Department of Defense on behalf of Global Crossing. The editorial concludes:
But that is not the right test. Global Crossing's fee is clearly payment, at least in part, for the influence Mr. Perle exerts through his Defense Department post, and federal ethics rules prohibit using public office for private gain. To remove the conflict, Mr. Perle will have to choose between the gain and the office.
While we're on the subject of payment, Perle stands to collect another $600,000 upon consummation of the Global Crossing deal.
Conyers, a left Democrat, isn't the only person on the Hill scrutinizing the Global Crossing deal. The Washington Post's Al Kamen reports today that a "number of influential GOP senators, perhaps Sens. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), Trent Lott (Miss.), Jon Kyl (Ariz.), James M. Inhofe (Okla.) and Wayne Allard (Colo.)" will probably oppose any sale of Global Crossing to the Hong Kong billionaire because of his reported ties to Chinese intelligence and military.
One would think that fending off ethics investigations by the IG would keep Perle and his lawyers too busy to file his promised libel suit against Hersh. An attorney named Jimmy Sands, writing from Turks and Caicos Islands, says he will be happy to offer his services to Perle if he chooses to sue Hersh there instead of England. "He couldn't shop for a more agreeable forum. An hour and a half from Miami, it offers English law without the jetlag, together with a pleasant environment." (Note to Richard Perle: I'll connect you with Sands for a $125,000 finder's fee and a $600,000 payout if you beat Hersh in court. Send e-mail to email@example.com.)
If Turks and Caicos Islands isn't to Perle's liking, he could file suit against Hersh in Iraq, provided President Bush appoints him viceroy of the conquered nation. Perle could use his imagination to recompile Iraq libel law to retroactively apply to the New Yorker article. As viceroy he could presumably appoint himself as the judge in the case, too. What, you say? A plaintiff serving as a judge in his own case! Doesn't that pose a conflict of interest?
Not if you're Richard Perle.
Send your litigious e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.