Global Policy Forum

White House Officials and Cheney Aide


By Erik Eckholm

New York Times
June 14, 2004

In the fall of 2002, in the preparations for possible war with Iraq, the Pentagon sought and received the assent of senior Bush administration officials, including the vice president's chief of staff, before hiring the Halliburton Company to develop secret plans for restoring Iraq's oil facilities, Pentagon officials have told Congressional investigators. The newly disclosed details about Pentagon contracting do not suggest improper political pressures to direct business to Halliburton, the Houston-based company that Vice President Dick Cheney once led.

But they raise questions about assertions by Mr. Cheney and other administration officials that he knew nothing in advance of the Halliburton contracts and that the decisions were made by career procurement specialists, without involvement by senior political appointees. Kevin Kellems, a spokesman for the vice president, would not comment on the disclosure, except to say, "We stand by our earlier statements on this matter."

As American forces stormed into Iraq in March 2003, Halliburton's role as an inside planner put it in place to receive, without open competition and in the shrouds of classified war planning, the major contract to carry out the oil strategy it secretly wrote months earlier. The deal yielded $2.4 billion in revenue. These oil and other war-related contracts with Halliburton, an oil services company, have been contentious because of accusations of overcharging and waste, and because Mr. Cheney was formerly the company's chief executive.

On the oil-field pacts, the Pentagon officials said they had not been pressured by political leaders to choose Halliburton, which they regarded as best qualified of the few companies that could do such a task. Rather, these officials said, they had sought to notify senior administration officials to ensure that they did not object to the politically delicate plan. In November 2002, a Pentagon energy group led by Michael H. Mobbs, a political appointee and adviser to Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense, gave Halliburton a $1.9 million "task order," under another contract, to develop secret contingency plans for the Iraqi oil industry.

The proposal was had been described at a meeting in late October of the Deputies Committee, a foreign policy body. Participants included the deputy national security adviser, deputy secretaries of state and defense, deputy director of central intelligence and I. Lewis Libby, Mr. Cheney's chief of staff. Pentagon officials, including Mr. Mobbs, provided the new details of the oil contracting to staff members of the House Committee on Government Reform at a June 8 briefing. In a letter faxed Sunday to Mr. Cheney and given to reporters, Representative Henry A. Waxman, the minority leader of the panel, asked him for all records of his office's communications on the oil contracts and for records of Deputies Committee meetings where the Halliburton deals had been discussed.

"These new disclosures appear to contradict your assertions that you were not informed about the Halliburton contracts," Mr. Waxman, Democrat of California, wrote. "They also seem to contradict the administration's repeated assertions that political appointees were not involved in the award of the contracts to Halliburton." Appearing on the NBC News program "Meet the Press" on Sept. 14, 2003, Mr. Cheney said, "And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government." He referred to the Army Corps of Engineers, which has managed oil infrastructure contracts.

Asked if he had been aware of Halliburton's noncompetitive awards, Mr. Cheney said, "I don't know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stayed away from any information on that." Richard A. Boucher, the State Department spokesman, said of Iraq contracting in a news conference last October: "The decisions are made by career procurement officials. There's a separation, a wall, between them and political-level questions when they're doing the contracts." On March 8, 2003, the Pentagon chose Halliburton to carry out the plan for strengthening Iraqi oil production. Mr. Cheney has denied any role in this contract, but critics have asked about a Pentagon memo that described the plans as "coordinated" with his office.

The administration revealed the contract later that month, describing it as mainly a deal to put out oil-well fires. Pentagon officials later revealed that it was much broader, and could involve billions of dollars. But they promised that it would be temporary and would be superseded by competitively bid contracts. After repeated delays, the contracts were awarded on Jan. 16, providing $800 million to the Parsons Corporation of Pasadena, Calif., and $1.2 billion to Halliburton.

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