As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton should be given wide latitude by the president in her hiring decisions, but I have to raise a major warning flag at her decision to nominate Marc Grossman to be the new special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In a nearly three-decade career at the State Department, Grossman served as assistant secretary of state for Europe and ambassador to Turkey. His last assignment, before retiring from the foreign service in 2005, was undersecretary for political affairs during the first administration of George W. Bush.
You may remember that Marc Grossman was an important character in the Valerie Plame scandal.
In the accounts by the lawyer and associates, Mr. [Richard] Armitage disclosed casually to Mr. [Robert] Novak that Ms. [Valerie] Wilson worked for the C.I.A. at the end of an interview in his State Department office. Mr. Armitage knew that, the accounts continue, because he had seen a written memorandum by Under Secretary of State Marc Grossman.
Mr. Grossman had taken up the task of finding out about Ms. Wilson after an inquiry from I. Lewis Libby Jr., chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney.
But that is not what concerns me. What concerns me are the allegations that former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds made about Grossman. Here you can see the central claims detailed in this January 6, 2008 UK Sunday Times excerpt:
Edmonds described how foreign intelligence agents had enlisted the support of US officials to acquire a network of moles in sensitive military and nuclear institutions.
Among the hours of covert tape recordings, she says she heard evidence that one well-known senior official in the US State Department was being paid by Turkish agents in Washington who were selling the information on to black market buyers, including Pakistan.
The name of the official – who has held a series of top government posts – is known to The Sunday Times. He strongly denies the claims.
However, Edmonds said: “He was aiding foreign operatives against US interests by passing them highly classified information, not only from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, in exchange for money, position and political objectives.”
In 2009, Brad Friedman confirmed that the unnamed official in this UK Sunday Times article was Marc Grossman.
Grossman was specifically identified as a ring-leader in a very broad espionage scandal — which includes the theft and sale of nuclear weapons technology to the foreign black market — in a series of front-page exclusives by the UK Sunday Times in early 2008 (the stories can be found here, here and here). At the time, though the paper clearly identified the official in question, they didn’t name him outright due to British libel laws. One of the co-authors of the series, Joe Lauria, has since confirmed the official in question was, indeed, Grossman.
Now, these allegations were not made by Sibel Edmonds alone. As detailed at The American Conservative, former FBI Counterintelligence and Counterespionage Manager John Cole “publicly confirmed the FBI’s decade long investigation of the former State Department Official Marc Grossman.”
“I read the recent cover story by The American Conservative magazine. I applaud their courage in publishing this significant interview. I am fully aware of the FBI’s decade-long investigation of the High-level State Department Official named in this article, Marc Grossman, which ultimately was buried and covered up. It is long past time to investigate this case and bring about accountability…”
Now, I want to be clear that Marc Grossman was never charged with anything and that he is certainly innocent until proven guilty. His continued advancement at the State Department certainly means that his loyalty to this country is trusted by people in positions of responsibility. However, if it’s true that he was withdrawn early from his position as Ambassador to Turkey because of his ties to the Susurluk Scandal, I don’t want him anywhere near Afghanistan’s poppy fields. For more on that, see the this interview with Sibel Edmonds.
Now, going back to Hillary Clinton, the Washington Post reports:
According to one candidate who discussed the job with Clinton, she was looking for someone with the stature to speak for both her and President Obama to Congress and foreign governments. Some in the White House, this person said, wanted someone with a more traditional diplomatic background whose duties would be restricted to representing the administration in the region…
…Two potential candidates – Nicholas Burns, who served in the same job as Grossman in the second Bush administration, and Strobe Talbott, deputy secretary of state in the Bill Clinton administration – were thought to be too closely identified with U.S.-India relations to serve as viable interlocutors with Pakistan.
Others on the list included Frank Wisner, the former U.S. ambassador to Egypt, and John Podesta, Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff.
So, again with the Wisner family, and again with nothing but Clinton retreads with lots of baggage.
Obama needs to take the reins here. If he doesn’t, he’s going to get embarrassed repeatedly.