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March 15, 2006
Did Pakistan Buy The 9/11 Commission?

Jeff at Protein Wisdom found a report in the India Telegraph claiming that a Pakistani newspaper bragged about the nation's payoff of the 9/11 Commission. The Friday Times reports that their foreign office paid lobbyists "tens of thousands of dollars" to ensure that the final report painted Pakistan in the best possible light:

The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.

The Pakistani weekly said its story is based on disclosures made by foreign service officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday.

It claimed that some of the commission members were also bribed to prevent them from including damaging information about Pakistan.

The magazine said the PAC grilled officials in the presence of foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and special secretary Sher Afghan on the money paid to lobbyists. ...

The Pakistan foreign office defended the decision to hire the lobbyists, saying it was an established practice in the US.

It would be quite a provocative claim, if there was any way at all to substantiate it. The only claim that can be easily addressed is the last one quoted above; lobbyists represent anyone with enough money for a retainer. The initial claim could just refer to the Pakistanis hiring a PR and lobbying firm to spread the word on Pakistani cooperation in the war on terror. The Saudis launched a $5M ad campaign in 2003 attempting to do the same thing with the American public.

However, the Friday Times claims that commission members took bribes to cut out any information that would paint Pakistan in a bad light. That seems difficult to prove, and from what I see of the Telegraph's report, they offer little besides this unsupported assertion. The allegation would generate laughter under normal circumstances, but the omission of a number of important facts from the 9/11 Commission's work assists in making this story more credible. Normally I would not ascribe to corruption that which can be explained to incompetence, but the amount of items missed by the panel has begun to look very strange indeed.

In looking through the commission's executive report, Pakistan only comes up five times in 31 pages. All of those references are fairly straightforward, the last of which is a recommendation to engage Pakistan more closely as a partner in the war, if possible. The full report has 311 references to Pakistan. If they wanted to keep Pakistan out of the final report, it's hard to see how they succeeded, although nothing in the report implicates Pakistan in the 9/11 plot, either.

The simplest explanation would be that some members of the Pakistani foreign service padded their personal accounts, and when they had to explain the difference, told their bosses they spent it on bribing American politicians. I'm not inclined to believe that the sins of the 9/11 Commission include bribery among incompetence and arrogance.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 15, 2006 10:50 PM

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