CIA internal memo warning of political contact vanishes Democratic Party official allegedly sought help for major contributor

April 03, 1997|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- An internal memo warning then-CIA Director John M. Deutch that a top Democratic Party official had improperly contacted the CIA on behalf of a major campaign contributor mysteriously vanished in the spy agency's upper reaches in 1995, and its disappearance is now the focus of an investigation into alleged efforts to exploit the CIA for political purposes.

The CIA official who sent the warning to Deutch has since been identified in news accounts as having cooperated with Democratic National Committee Chairman Donald Fowler on behalf of a major Democratic contributor.

That has left some who are familiar with the case wondering whether the CIA officer was set up as the fall guy to protect more senior CIA officials who might have failed to heed his warning.

Fowler tried to assist Roger Tamraz, a Lebanese-American entrepreneur seeking U.S. support in his effort to build a multibillion-dollar pipeline from the Caspian Sea through the strife-torn Caucasus to Turkey.

Tamraz, who is wanted by the Lebanese government on bank embezzlement charges, attended six White House events with Clinton, including at least three after a National Security Council official urged the administration to bar him from such high-level access.

The December 1995 memo warning of Fowler's allegedly improper contacts with the CIA was signed by William Lofgren, then the chief of the central Eurasian division in the agency's directorate of operations, its clandestine espionage arm.

The warning memo carried a "routing code" showing that, in addition to Deutch, it was addressed to many of the CIA's other top officials -- including Nora Slatkin, the CIA's executive director and its third-ranking official, and David Cohen, the CIA's deputy director for operations and head of clandestine espionage.

U.S. intelligence sources stress that Lofgren sent the memo, but CIA officials insist there is no evidence that Deutch or the other senior officials to whom it was addressed ever received it.

CIA sources also say Deputy CIA Director George Tenet, Clinton's nominee to head the agency, never received the warning.

The missing memo is now the focus of an inquiry by the CIA's inspector general into contacts between Fowler and the CIA, according to U.S. intelligence sources.

Lofgren, who has retired from the agency, refused to comment.

Fowler denied that he had contacted the CIA, but two calls from Fowler to the CIA were electronically documented on a CIA caller ID system, according to a White House source.

Sources say that Lofgren's warning came in response to repeated attempts by Fowler to enlist the CIA to help Tamraz, who had a long-standing, secret relationship with the CIA.

When he found he had been shut out of the White House, Tamraz told DNC officials that the resistance was probably due to his shadowy past in the Middle East and that the CIA could vouch for him to overcome the gatekeepers at the National Security Council.

In July 1995, Tamraz began contributing to the Democrats, ultimately giving $177,000 to the Democratic National Committee and state parties and pledging to give several times more. Sources say Tamraz was seeking -- unsuccessfully, it turned out -- one-on-one meetings with Clinton and Gore to discuss the Caspian Sea pipeline proposal.

By December 1995, Tamraz was still meeting NSC resistance in his efforts to gain access to Clinton and Gore. So Fowler called the CIA again, reaching the same officer in the central Eurasian division and again asking for more support for Tamraz.

Alarmed that earlier efforts to rebuff Fowler hadn't deterred him, staffers in the central Eurasian division wrote a memo detailing Fowler's contacts. It was sent to Deutch's office under Lofgren's signature.

And then it vanished, sources said. It is still unclear how far the memo went before it was lost or intercepted. A copy was kept at the central Eurasian division.

Pub Date: 4/03/97

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