Monday, February 07, 2011
Obama/Clinton can’t escape responsibility for appointing the wrong representative to Egypt
by Larry Geller
In a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, a US envoy to Egypt was discovered to be working for a law firm that has, as one of its clients, the Egyptian government itself.
This came out after this guy, Frank Wsner, Jr., suggested at the Munich Security Conference that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak must stay in office in order to steer changes through. He later tried to cover up by saying his remarks were personal.
Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama’s envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator’s own Egyptian government. … But there is nothing “personal” about Mr Wisner’s connections with the litigation firm Patton Boggs, which openly boasts that it advises “the Egyptian military, the Egyptian Economic Development Agency, and has handled arbitrations and litigation on the [Mubarak] government’s behalf in Europe and the US.”
[ThinkProgress, U.S. Envoy To Egypt Frank Wisner’s Law Firm Has Represented The Mubarak Regime In The Past , 2/7/2011]
The next time someone accuses the Karzai government in Afghanistan of corruption, they should review this situation. Although Obama might have been embarrassed by Wisner’s statement, he seemed ok to have Wisner in his position despite the glaring conflict of interest.
The article concludes:
Indeed, while Wisner has decades of experience working as a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East, he now works in the private sector, and it is a questionable choice to pick someone whose firm has litigated on behalf of the Egyptian government to be the American envoy to that same country.
Another article confirms that the State Department was fully aware of the conflict of interest but sent Wisner to Egypt anyway:
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said on Monday that the administration knew about Wisner's work for the lobbying firm Patton Boggs, which does business in Egypt, and that his long relationship with Mubarak was an asset, not a detraction.
"We're aware of his employer... And we felt that he was uniquely positioned to have the kind of conversation that we felt needed to be done in Egypt," Crowley said.
[Foreign Policy, The inside story on the exploding Egypt “envoy,” Frank Wisner, 2/8/2011]
We’ll never know, pending a WikiLeaks cable on the subject, if Wisner’s statement did indeed represent the position of the White House. The problem could have been only that he expressed that position publicly.