Perle's resignation Thursday as chairman of the Defense Policy Board,
a Pentagon advisory group, is long overdue. Perle quit the board because
he was hired to help bankrupt telecommunications firm Global Crossing
win approval from the Department of Defense to sell the company to
a Hong Kong billionaire and lawmakers questioned whether Perle's dual
roles was a conflict of interest.
Presumably, Global Crossing hired Perle, who served as assistant secretary
of defense under former President Ronald Reagan, as a lobbyist because
he wields an enormous amount of power around the Pentagon and would
likely get the job done. Perle is a key adviser to Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeld and a leading architect in the Bush administration's
policies toward Iraq.
The Pentagon and the Federal Bureau of Investigation objected to Global
Crossing's sale to Asian investors last year because the government
uses Global Crossing's fiber optics networks and a sale would put
the networks under control of the Chinese government. Global Crossing
said it would pay Perle $125,000 and an additional $600,000 if the
deal went through.
Perle denied Thursday that his unpaid advisory role on the policy
board would have interfered with his lobbying on behalf of Global
Crossing, which is mired in shareholder lawsuits as a result of its
questionable accounting practices. But Perle has a long history of
using his influential role as a government adviser to line his pockets.
"Richard Perle…has made a lucrative career out of some bald conflicts
of interest," wrote Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University
media professor, in the Free Press in 2000. "As an Assistant
Secretary of Defense for International Security under Ronald Reagan,
he got in some slight trouble when he wrote a memorandum urging the
department to consider buying equipment from a company that had paid
him a $50,000 consulting fee (as the the New York Times noted
back in 1984). As chairman and CEO of Hollinger Digital (owned by
media titan Conrad Black), Perle maintains his close connections with
the military industries. For example, as a non-executive director
of Morgan Crucible, PLC (UK), which has done business with the Pentagon..."
Moreover, Perle was also a director of Memorex Corp., a defense contractor,
in the 1990s while he was advising then-Secretary of Defense Dick
Cheney as a member of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee
during the first Bush administration. At the same time, Perle also
was a paid consultant to a Turkish-hired lobbying firm in Washington
and has been both an adviser to FMC Corp. and a director of an FMC-Turkish
joint venture building military equipment. It should be noted that
during Perle's tenure in the Reagan administration he was a fierce
proponent of aid to Turkey's military.
In 1987, the Pentagon's Office of General Counsel opened an inquiry
into whether Perle's attempts to write a fictional novel based on
classified intelligence information were a conflict of interest. At
the time, Perle was offered a $300,000 advance for the novel, titled
The proposal for the novel described an inside look at the bureaucracy
and promised a plot that seemed a thinly veiled account of Perle's
long-running internecine struggle with former assistant secretary
of state Richard R. Burt. It promised "an array of bureaucratic
maneuvers recounted in the context of actual events altered only enough
to make them publishable, to preserve the fiction in Memoranda."
In April of 1987, Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the former ranking Democrat
on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote an angry letter to Reagan
suggesting that Perle's book "creates a climate encouraging disrespect
for the protection of classified information" and might have
"a chilling effect on the candor of [officials'] policy analysis
and recommendations." Nunn also raised questions about the propriety
of the sale of the book during Perle's tenure in office.
In response to the inquiries, Perle resigned his post as assistant
secretary of defense in April 1987 to write the book. The title was
later changed to Hard
Leopold is the former Los Angeles bureau chief of Dow Jones Newswires.
He is currently finishing a book on the California energy crisis.