Spooks on the Hill

The news has been out since at least 1996, when The New York Times reported (Oct. 30, 1996) on the upcoming book by the "former" CIA intelligence analysts, husband and wife team Patrick and Robin Eddington, Gassed in the Gulf: The Inside Story of the Pentagon-CIA Cover-up of Gulf War SyndromeThe fact that the Eddingtons didn't get the Frank Snepp treatment and have all their royalties attached by the CIA is enough to make one suspect that the book is, itself, a limited hang-out cover-up book on Gulf War syndrome, but that's not what this article is about.  The Eddingtons' real blockbuster revelation is deeply buried away in the aforementioned Times article:

Immediately after the [first Gulf] war, the Eddingtons prospered in their careers. In 1993, Mrs. Eddington was placed in a fellowship program that singles out fast-rising female employees and offers experience in other agencies of the Government.

She found work on Capitol Hill in the offices of the Senate Banking Committee, which was then led by Senator Donald W. Riegle Jr., a Michigan Democrat who was interested in the question of why so many gulf war veterans were falling ill.

A "fellowship program," they say?  Sounds nice and academic and harmless, doesn't it?  But consider what's going on here.  Robin Eddington was an employee of the Central Intelligence Agency, a part of the executive branch of the government.  In that capacity, she was given a job in the United States Senate, which is in the legislative branch.  Is this not a clear violation of both the Constitution, which prescribes a separation of powers between the three branches of government, and of the law governing the CIA, which confines its operation to foreign countries?  How blasé and accepting have we become of the destruction of our basic governmental institutions that the reporter and his editors should let this admission of gross illegality pass without comment? 

This revelation also raises a host of other questions.  Just how many Robin Eddingtons are there, and have there been, staffing the Congress?  The CIA would be guilty of sex discrimination if its "fellowship programs" were confined only to promising young women.  Surely it has a similar program for infiltrating young men into the Congress.  And given the CIA's well-known penchant for skulduggery, we have to wonder what all those moles in the Congress are up to.  Are they digging up dirt so that members can be made to jump to the CIA's tune?  Did Senator Riegle and the other members of his committee know that one of their staff people was a CIA operative?  Could these Robin Eddingtons work for a secretive organization like the CIA and have it be known by so many people who their real employer was?  Did most of those eventual congressmen or media celebrities who rose from the staff ranks (e.g. Bill Richardson, Chris Matthews, Charlie Rose, Tim Russert) have the wheels greased for them by having started out like Robin Eddington?  If they didn't make it to representative, senator, or higher, are they rising in the staff ranks to the point that they can heavily influence Congressional policy themselves? 

The P.O.W./M.I.A. Cover-up

On that last point, let us take a critical look at the official Congressional position on the question of whether or not our government abandoned hundreds of prisoners of war in Southeast Asia after the close of the Vietnam War.  That is hardly an issue upon which the executive branch could risk pure objectivity on the part of the Congress.  The deck would have to be stacked. 

It is a well-known fact that the anti-Vietnam War movement was heavily infiltrated by government informants.  Indications are strong that it was not just infiltrated, but was penetrated as well.  To be "penetrated" is an intelligence term meaning that agents of the opposition actually secretly occupy leadership positions within the target organization.  Former National Security Council member, Roger Morris, reported in his book, Partners in Power: The Clintons and Their America, that a reliable source within the intelligence community told him that young Bill Clinton, while acting as an antiwar demonstrator as a student at Oxford, was actually informing on the activists to the U.S. government.  Morris implies that much of Clinton's later political success is explained by that fact. 

But Clinton, not being a leader in the antiwar movement, would have been a mere infiltrator.  Might there be a good candidate around (other than certain members of the Chicago Seven), for a penetrator?  How about another almost inexplicably successful politician, who, like the Clintons, is a Yale product, and like his presidential opponent in 2004, George W. Bush, is even a member of Yale's secret society, Skull and Bones.  I speak, of course, of the senior senator from Massachusetts, John Kerry.  While the original leadership of Vietnam Veterans against the War got the Gainesville Eight treatment from the feds, Kerry rose to the top position in VVAW, and got by far the most comprehensive and favorable coverage from the press that any antiwar spokesperson has received in this writer's lifetime.  This is a man who as senator seems to have forgotten his past antiwar sentiments and has been a consistent backer of the wars of aggression and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

If the CIA has, in fact, penetrated the Senate, is there a more likely candidate for that honor than John Kerry?  And if the executive branch wanted a stacked deck for a Senate investigation of the question of abandoned POWs in Indochina, who better to perform the cover-up than Kerry, as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./M.I.A. Affairs?

What did Kerry do in furtherance of the cover-up? An overview would include the following: He allied himself with those carrying it out by treating the Pentagon and other prisoner debunkers as partners in the investigation instead of the targets they were supposed to be. In short, he did their bidding. When Defense Department officials were coming to testify, Kerry would have his staff director, Frances Zwenig, meet with them to "script" the hearings—as detailed in an internal Zwenig memo leaked by others. Zwenig also advised North Vietnamese officials on how to state their case. Further, Kerry never pushed or put up a fight to get key government documents unclassified; he just rolled over, no matter how obvious it was that the documents contained confirming data about prisoners. Moreover, after promising to turn over all committee records to the National Archives when the panel concluded its work, the senator destroyed crucial intelligence information the staff had gathered—to to [sic] keep the documents from becoming public. He refused to subpoena past presidents and other key witnesses.*

That is just for starters, as you will see if you read Sydney H. Schanberg's entire article in the Feb. 17, 2004, Village Voice, "When John Kerry's Courage Went M.I.A," from which the passage is taken.

But where did Kerry find such a compliant staff director?  Might not it have been from the deep "Robin Eddington" pool?  Let's have a longer look at Ms. Zwenig.

In the spring of 1972, I was in my last semester as a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  I received an invitation to attend a 2-day anti-Vietnam War seminar, which was held at the ritzy 90-acre Quail Roost Conference Center in Durham County.  I was on the invitation list as one of the principal organizers of the North Carolina Veterans for Peace, headquartered on the UNC campus.  I remember the occasion for a couple of fine meals that we were served and for an array of high-powered speakers against the war.  I left with renewed conviction that our cause was a noble one, but somewhat puzzled by the whole thing.  The fancy wing-ding must have cost a lot of money, I reflected, and for what?  It was all so much preaching to the choir, because all the invitees were devoted opponents of the war already.  We left with no coherent marching orders.  

The organizer of that bash was the Duke University law student, Frances Zwenig.  Maybe the gathering did have a purpose, after all, to establish Ms. Zwenig's credentials as a John Kerry-like anti-war leader.  

As fate would have it, our paths would cross again some ten years later.  Newly arrived to Washington and working for the government of Puerto Rico, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Ms. Zwenig had become the administrative assistant, that is to say, the top aide, of a liberal Democratic senator.  At this point I must rely upon my faulty memory, but I recall that the Senator was my fellow Davidson College graduate, Wyche Fowler of Georgia.  It was not John Kerry.

Of course, after making the proper arrangements, I paid Ms. Zwenig a visit in her office.  I was surprised to find her extraordinarily cool toward her former comrade in arms, or anti-arms, as it were, in the peace movement.  At the time I just chalked her unfriendliness up to the fact that, like so many people who come to see her, I was in a position to ask favors of her boss.  Seeing the subsequent trajectory of her career, I have had second thoughts about that initial assessment, however.

When her work for Senator Kerry ended, Ms. Zwenig went to work for the US-ASEAN Business Council.  Currently, she is their counselor covering Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam ("ASEAN" stands for the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations).  As an outfit that touts its work "with ASEAN leaders on sensitive issues of economic policy" and itself as an organization [that has] become a trusted partner of governments throughout the region," the Council was in a perfect position to reward Ms. Zwenig for the work she did to bury the "sensitive issue" of the retention of American prisoners of war by two of ASEAN's three Communist members, Vietnam and Laos.   Considering the nature of its operations, should it come to light some day that this US-ASEAN Business Council is just another Asian CIA front, it would hardly come as a surprise.

Bill Hendon's Take

Impressed with the 2007 book that he wrote with Elizabeth Stewart, An Enormous Crime: The Definitive Account of American POWs Abandoned in Southeast Asia, I wrote former North Carolina congressman, Bill Hendon, on October 20, 2009, and shared with him the reasons given above for my suspicions of Frances Zwenig.  The index of his book lists Ms. Zwenig on seven pages.  The picture Hendon paints of her is no more complimentary than that painted by Sidney Schanberg in the aforementioned Village Voice article.  His response the next day was at the same time gratifying and depressing.  He politely thanked me for writing him and then opined, "You are probably right about Frances, but what's done is done and if she's agency or whatever there's nothing I/we/anybody can do about it."

What can I say?  He has been in the Congress and I haven't, and his work on the P.O.W/M.I.A. issue is enough to make a jaded cynic out of almost anyone.  I do know, though, that if one is to cure an illness, it helps to have the proper diagnosis, and, toward that end, it is always better to know more than to know less.

* Rolling over is apparently something that Kerry has been very well trained to do.  He did the same thing when the Ohio vote was stolen from him in the 2004 presidential election, insuring a second term for George W. Bush.  He rolled over again when, right in front of him, police strong-armed and then tasered a student who was asking him a probing question at a college forum.  Before those two episodes, he did another pretty good rollover job during the Senate inquiry into the death of Deputy White House Counsel, Vincent Foster.

David Martin

November 14, 2009


See also my review of An Enormous Crime.




If Frances Zwenig was recruited for the CIA at Duke Law School, another prize candidate for that honor would have been the aforementioned Charlie Rose.  He got his degree there a few years before Zwenig, and as I write this, he is attending the Bilderberg Conference.


June 2, 2012



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