Friday, February 25, 2011

Frank Gardiner Wisner~It's All About Whom You Know

An authorized biography of Frank Wisner?

The flyleaf of Burton Hersh's The Old Boys boasts that the book is "the never-before-told story of how an elite East Coast Ivy League Wall Street clique, patriotic but arrogant, and often amateurish, dominated the OSS and later the CIA," labeling it a "history of how a secret government alien to our constitutional system grew into the CIA, which ultimately fostered the extralegal scandals of the Iran-Contra affair."

Leafing through the photo section of the hardbound book, first published in 1992, one gets a sense that the book was in large part an authorized biography of Frank Gardiner Wisner, whose family opened up their scrapbooks to Hersh and allowed him to publish nine photos from the family album, while the other ten photos of all other men from the book are taken from more official institutional collections. It leaves one wondering, "What did they want left out about this official history of how covert operations work?

As mentioned in Part 1, Wisner's life began a new direction as a result of friends he met in Virginia. Hersh casts him as somewhat of a rebel, likening his image to a young Marlon Brando. "Young Frank grew up in awe of the flinty paternal standards yet uncomfortable with the churchiness that stiffened family exchanges," he writes. He tells of the father, "Frank George," serving "a stint on the War Industries Board in 1918," as well as being president of a lobby known as the National Lumber Manufacturers Association with headquarters in Washington, D.C. He says Frank George was "displeased" with the son's "slapdash grades" and wild ways and "agreed to ship him off to Woodberry Forrest [sic] School in Orange, Virginia," which "catered unabashedly to hard cases from comfortable Southern families, its masters well practiced at shaking the rakehell out before the boys tried higher education....Nevertheless, it took family pull to get him enrolled at the university of Virginia, class of 1931."

We do not know at exactly what point Wisner met the young Franklin Lord, Jr., a born and bred New Yorker from Long Island, touted by the Gardiner branch of Wisner's clan as their own true heritage. But the two men did meet, travel together to Cuba immediately after law school graduation. But for some reason Lord's role in Wisner's future was omitted from this authorized tale of how this "unsophisticated" Southern lad would be appointed to such an important role on behalf of the "secret government".

The best way to find out is to learn more about the society into which Wisner was being cultivated.

Louise Burton Blagden and Franklin Butler Lord

Although Hersh does not name which of Wisner's classmates enveigled a job for his friend, it is quite simple to discover from public documents, as we showed in Part 1. At the time Frank went to Cuba instead of looking for work in New Orleans, as Hersh told us he had done, Franklin Lord had already been married for two years to a young socialite named Louise Burton Blagden, whose old-money family was accustomed to having its name in the news, at least in New York.

Grace Church, 820 Broadway, New York City
Louise had chosen Grace Church at 802 Broadway in Manhattan as the setting for her wedding to Franklin Lord. The Episcopal church had first opened in 1846, and its most famous rector was Dr. Henry Codman Potter, later named as Bishop of the diocese, as his uncle, Dr. Horatio Potter, had been. The Potters were an institution in American Anglicanism, as well as in pro-British sympathies of every description. More about the Potter family as the story continues.

Louise's grandmother~Julia Goodman Clark Blagden~would have approved her choice for the service, having spent years at Grace Church, operating a school teaching young matrons how to perform benevolent works for the community. She had married Samuel Phillips Blagden, a man from a notable Massachusetts family, who moved to New York to establish a lucrative insurance business in the financial district.

Louise's grandfather was U.S. manager of the North British and Mercantile Insurance Co., a marine insurer based in Edinburgh, and also had his own fire insurance firm which employed one or more of their five sons. His own father had been Rev. George W. Blagden, a member of Grace Church, who had married Miriam Phillips, sister of abolitionist Wendell Phillips. Samuel had belonged to some of the most prestigious clubs in New York, including the  Seawhanhaka-Corinthian Yacht Club.

Before her marriage to Franklin, Louise and her sister Nancy lived with their parents  in the Upper East Side of Manhattan in Lenox Hill, next door to cousins Cornelia and Lydia Blagden, her bridesmaids. Samuel Blagden's insurance business had been so lucrative that his sons could afford mansions in what was then the most elite neighborhood in Manhattan. F. Meredith Blagden worked with Samuel in the insurance business, while Louise's father, Wendell P. Blagden, was a stock broker. Very little remains today of that "impressive stretch of mansions that become known at the start of the 20th Century as 'Millionaire's Row.' The boom, which began in the 1890s and lasted through the 1920s, not only filled the lots on Fifth Avenue with sumptuous and sometimes palatial residences but also led less fortunate rich people to build impressive townhouses on the side streets as far west generally as Lexington Avenue."

The Blagden mansions were on East 70th Street between Fifth and Madison Avenues, where James Lenox's library had once been. Many of the surrounding residences were owned by wealthy Democrats, such as William Collins Whitney or Thomas Lamont. They were Grover Cleveland and August Belmont Democrats.

But others who were equally wealthy were staunch Republicans, such as Stephen C. Clark at 46 East 70th, whose garage, and that of John D. Rockefeller, faced the Blagden homes from across the street (formerly the stable of Jules Semon Bache).

On almost the same block with the four Blagden girls was Caro Quartley Brown, daughter of Stephen Howland Brown, another stock broker like Wendell. Just before Louise's parents married, Louise Burton had gone to a masked ball at the Brown mansion at No. 154, given as a debutante party for Caro.

Stephen Brown's father, Vernon, and his law firm were the general agents for the Cunard Steamship line, whose attorney for litigation purposes was Lord, Day & Lord~Franklin's family's firm. New York was such a small world in those days.

When Wendell Blagden and Louise's mother (also named Louise Burton) were married at Trinity Church in Hewlett in 1911, they had their wedding reception at the Burton family country home in Cedarhurst on Long Island. Robert L. Burton, had actually developed Woodsburgh, adjoining Garden City, with new homes, post offices, clubs, and elegant shops, in a suburban atmosphere to attract affluent businessmen and professionals. The town of Lawrence was created shortly thereafter, and became the home of Franklin B. Lord, Sr.'s father, Daniel D. Lord. All were members of the Rockaway Hunt Club.

Franklin Butler Lord, Jr. invited Lewis Cass Ledyard III to be an usher at his wedding in 1932. Like Franklin, Cass was accustomed to everyone in his family being given the same name generation after generation. It was almost the equivalent of having titles of nobility. Ledyard's law partners, Carter and Milburn, however, did not have suitable names to adapt to the tradition, but Frank G. Milburn was at least attempting to start one when he named his son Devereux. Devereux Milburn had been a close friend of Louise's father and brothers a generation earlier.

It would have been a simple matter for either Franklin or Louise to ask the groomsman's father, Lewis Cass Ledyard, Jr., a name partner of the firm--who was also a close neighbor of Franklin's older brother, George De Forest Lord on Long Island--to talk to Frank Wisner about a job after after his admission to the New York Bar in 1935.

What, if anything, does that relationship reveal to us about Frank Wisner at the time he went to work for the OSS?

Wendell Blagden's mother was a member of the Clark family~one of the founders of Clark, Dodge & Co. at 51 Wall Street, operated by three of her brothers, along with George Blagden.

The Corporation of Harvard University, circa 1945. 
Front, left to right: Dr. Roger I. Lee, Grenville Clark, President James B. Conant. 
Rear, left to right: Paul Cabot, Charles A. Coolidge, William L. Marbury, 
Henry L. Shattuck.
Louis Crawford Clark married  Marian de Forest Cannon in 1880 and had a son named Grenville Clark. Grenville completed Harvard Law School in 1906 with Franklin Roosevelt and both joined the same law firm--Carter, Ledyard and Milburn. FDR had only stayed there one year, however, finding a career in politics much more attractive. Uncle Grenville also moved on, but by 1931 had been named to the Board of Harvard Overseers. He was also an insider in the campaign of his old friend Franklin Roosevelt.

Once FDR was elected in 1932, Franklin Lord's family surely hoped the connection would give them a path to the President's ear.

 When it was said that FDR "betrayed his class," were these the men who felt betrayed?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Frank Gardiner Wisner ~ The Education of a Covert Agent

Frank Gardiner Wisner was born and grew up in Laurel, Mississippi. His family owned the town of less than 20,000 people when he left there for a Virginia Episcopal prep school around 1925 or so. For whatever reason he didn’t go to Lawrenceville, like his cousin Gardiner Green, he turned out well enough by going to Woodberry Forest, then on to Charlottesville to the University of Virginia and its law school. 

When Burton Hersh wrote his tale of the early days of the CIA, called The Old Boys, he interviewed one or more family members of Wisner’s who led him to write the following:
At this juncture Wisner's promise as a track athlete peaked; he'd placed quite high in shakedown meets around the Southeast Conference, and so was invited onto the U.S squad in training for the Berlin Olympics in 1936....Frank George saw no percentage in fooling away a summer with time trials, and directed his only son to forget collegiate sidelines and get into something. The disappointed young athlete looked hard for work in New Orleans, got no bids, and trooped along to Wall Street, where Woodberry Forrest [sic] classmates helped snag him a trainee berth at Carter, Ledyard and Milburn, attorney to the Stock Exchange, where Franklin Roosevelt practiced. (p. 192)
We are guessing Hersh didn’t look further into what he was told, or he may have discovered something incredibly disturbing about what happened next. Perhaps his sources were only repeating what Frank had told them about job-searching in New Orleans, but public immigration records tell a much different story.

The first thing he did after law school was travel to Cuba in August, 1934 on the Zacapa with a couple from Charlottesville, Franklin Butler Lord, Jr. and his young wife Louise Blagden Lord, who had married in a celebratory fashion in 1932:

New York Times, 15 Jun 1932

The wedding announcement revealed that they were to live in Charlottesville while the groom, Franklin Butler Lord, Jr., continued his studies at the law school there--the same law school from which Frank Gardiner Wisner graduated in 1934, followed by the trip to Havana, Cuba with the Lords. So much for Wisner seeking work in New Orleans! Was it a lie he had told his family, who then shared it with Hersh, or was Hersh misleading us for some reason? Either way, we know it was untrue. Wisner spent that time during the summer of 1934, not in New Orleans, but in Cuba.

Read Part 2

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Evidence Meese Had Alzheimer's in 1984

Poor Ronnie. It wasn't bad enough that his son suggested he was suffering from Alzheimer's even before he left office. All these reminiscences of his 100th birthday during the last week have brought up the fact that his attorney general, Edwin Meese, may have been suffering from the dread illness during his prolonged confirmation hearings--even before he got into office. He couldn't remember a damn thing!

Good Friends and Bad Memory

Time: Mar. 26, 1984

By Ed Magnuson. Reported by Anne Constable/Washington

The Senate finds a few more questions to ask Edwin Meese...

The Senate confirmation of Presidential Counsellor Edwin Meese as Attorney General has suddenly shifted from a near certainty to an increasingly close call. Republican Strom Thurmond, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, had closed the heated hearings two weeks ago after four days of testimony. But last week he reluctantly agreed to Democratic demands that Meese answer more questions before the committee voted on his nomination. "The longer the issue accelerates, the better and better his chances of being defeated become," said Meese's chief opponent, Ohio Democrat Howard Metzenbaum.

Why reopen the hearings? The key was a revelation in the Washington Post that Meese had failed to tell the committee about a $15,000 interest-free loan made in December 1980 to his wife Ursula by Edwin W. Thomas, a longtime California friend of the couple's. Meese had also failed to include the loan in his 1981 financial-disclosure statement, which was supposed to cover any large assets or indebtedness of anyone in his family. After the Post sought an explanation from him to include in its story revealing the loan, Meese hurriedly wrote a letter of apology to the Judiciary Committee saying, "I sincerely regret the oversight."

The Meese letter said that his wife had used the loan to buy stock for their children early in 1981 in Biotech Capital Corp., a firm headed by a colleague of Meese and Thomas' from California.

That "friend" could not possibly have been Earl Winfrey Brian, could it? According to Cheri Seymour in her book, The Last Circle:
An old 1975 Sacramento Bee newspaper article, dated January 12, 1975, reported that Earl Brian, called the Genius Doctor by his friends, was out to get a little "of that Middle Eastern oil money." The article went on to say that Brian was "helping to write a proposal on health care for Iran."Brian, then at the University of Southern California, was working with Samuel Tibbetts of the California Lutheran Hospital Association, which in turn was working with a Chicago group. The Chicago group was not named and details of the proposal were not known. It is significant that Brian left his post one year before this proposal was written, in 1974, as Governor Ronald Reagan's Health and Welfare secretary. It was not known whether the contract with the Iranian government was ever consummated.
Another interesting facet of Brian's background included his relationship with Senator Terry Sanford (D-N.C.). Prior to his election, Sanford had been the attorney representing Earl Brian in his 1985 takeover bid for United Press International (UPI). Sanford was also instrumental in winning Brian an appointment to the board of Duke University Medical School. At that time, Sanford was the president of Duke University.

Dr. Brian ultimately directed his energies towards biological technology. Another of his companies, Biotech Capital Corporation of New York, became 50% owner of American Cytogenetics, which was planning in 1982 to create a subsidiary to engage in genetic research. One notable investor in Biotech, when it went public in 1981, was Edwin Meese. Today, American Cytogenetics in North Hollywood, California, conducts Pap tests for cervical cancer. It also tests tissue samples for cancer and related diseases. Sales in 1985 were $3.4 million.

Hadron, of which Dr. Brian was a director, provided engineering and computer consulting services, along with telecommunications products. Sales were $25.7 million in 1985. Clinical Sciences, Inc. sells biochemical products used for diagnostic tests and antibody analysis. Dr. Brian was also a director of this company. Sales in 1986 were about $4 million.

But Meese also failed to list the stock holding [for Biotech], as required, in his 1981 financial-disclosure statement. He told the Judiciary Committee that his wife sold the stock on May 13, 1983, at a loss of $3,000 and repaid the loan at about the same time. Since the interest rate on a personal loan for the period was about 16%, the lack of interest charged over the 30 months was in effect a gift of more than $3,000.

In isolation, Meese's omission of the loan could have been considered as merely another example of his shaky memory. But the real problem for Meese was that the newly revealed loan seemed to be part of a pattern in which individuals who helped Meese financially landed federal jobs.
    1. Thomas, who had been assistant Cabinet secretary in California when Reagan was Governor, was appointed a deputy to Meese in the White House in January 1981 at a salary of $59,500. Thomas left the Meese staff in 1982 to become a regional administrator of the General Services Administration in San Francisco, a $69,600 Government post.
    2. His wife Gretchen was appointed on Sept. 5, 1982, to a $30,402 federal job with the Merit Systems Protection Board. They join a lengthening list of Meese benefactors who got appointive jobs from the Reagan Administration. They include:
    3. John McKean, a California accountant, who lent $60,000 to Meese in 1981 and demanded no interest payments for more than 20 months. McKean was appointed a part-time member of the Postal Service board of governors on July 31, 1981, and is now the board's chairman.
    4. Thomas Barrack, a California real estate developer, who found a buyer for Meese's California house in the summer of 1982, lent $70,000 to a prospective purchaser and then forgave the loan. Barrack was appointed Deputy Under Secretary of the Interior in December 1982. 
    5. Gordon Luce, chairman of Great American Federal Savings Bank in San Diego, who was named an alternate U.S. delegate to the United Nations after his bank granted Meese mortgage loans of more than $400,000 and let him fall 15 months behind in payments without threatening foreclosure.
      Meese has insisted in his confirmation testimony that his financial deals had no connection with the federal appointments (he is certain to be asked about Thomas when hearings resume) and has denied initiating any of the appointments. But he served on a White House committee that approved the appointment of McKean, at least, without disclosing the loan he had received from the appointee. Democrats are demanding that top Reagan aides be called to testify this week about how the appointments were made, but the White House says that it may invoke Executive privilege to block their appearance.

      Critics on the committee have found Meese's memory troubling on the matter of memos addressed to him that referred to inside information from the Jimmy Carter campaign staff in 1980 [sometimes referred to as "debate-gate"]. The Judiciary Committee has received at least eight such papers from a house subcommittee that tried unsuccessfully to determine how the Reagan campaign team acquired documents used to prepare Carter for his 1980 debate with Reagan. Except for one of the memos he has been asked about, Meese has told the Senators that he has "no recollection" of having seen them.

      Meese sought to defuse another issue last week by retiring from the Army Reserve. After two years on active duty and 25 years in the Reserve, Meese by February 1983 had been promoted to colonel and given a previously nonexistent assignment as a consultant to the Selective Service System. The procedure was criticized by the Army's inspector general as a violation of regulations. With opposition from the eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee apparently hardening against him, Meese will have to persuade all of the ten Republicans to stay with him if he is to get a favorable committee vote.

      Two Republicans, Charles Mathias of Maryland and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, have been among those urging Meese to explain more fully his financial dealings and to try to refresh his memory. "Mr. Meese has some questions to answer," said Specter. Meese, in turn, accused the Democrats of making "false and misleading statements" based on "election-year politics." At the White House, Reagan vowed to support his adviser. Asked if Meese's nomination was in trouble, the President responded last week, "Not as far as I'm concerned."

      Tuesday, February 1, 2011

      Prince of the Emirates

      Earlier reports have stated that the notorious Erik Prince moved to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates after five of Blackwater's executives were indicted last April on conspiracy charges involving weapons violations. Abu Dhabi is one of seven emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE)--a federation on the Southeast Arabian Peninsula, which was created in 1971. Its close neighbor, the emirate of Dubai, boasts the world's tallest building, Burj Khalifa, more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.

      Prince, at the time of his relocation to UAE last August, was being threatened with civil litigation from Iraqi victims killed or wounded by Blackwater personnel in Baghdad. He renamed Blackwater to Xe Services so as to keep the Afghan contracts, then put his stock and other assets owned by Xe (including the 7,000-acre training compound it operates at its headquarters in Moyock, N.C.) up for sale in June. He abandoned the U.S. for his new home, which, coincidentally, has no extradition treaty with the U.S.

      Abu Dhabi, which has been called the world's richest city, and nearby Dubai, referred to as a city of gold, are central to the region's oil and financial empire. While America pulls increasingly more of its troops out of Iraq, the U.S. State Department depends more on private companies (which some critics refer to as mercenaries) for providing security to the officials still located there. One report in October also indicated there are 16,000 mercenaries on contract to the U.S. Defense Department in Afghanistan. So Prince has plenty of competition there, but there is also lots of demand for what he does.

      His new place of residence was disclosed as a result of a whistleblower lawsuit filed against Blackwater/Xe in which a deposition of Prince was ordered by the court and taken in Abu Dhabi by attorney Susan Burke. Burke's husband, also a lawyer, reported on his blog:
      Prince sought to avoid giving a deposition in this case by claiming that he needed to be in Abu Dhabi in time for his children to begin school there on August 15. It is unclear what English-speaking school in the country begins any time before September. But, calling his bluff, Susan offered to travel herself to Abu Dhabi to take the deposition there, and the judge granted the order. As the old expression goes, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, you bring the mountain to Mohammed.
      Jeremy Scahill of The Nation, a month after that deposition, wrote:
      Soon thereafter, Prince's lawyers declared the entirety of the transcript of Prince's deposition to be confidential material and asserted that it should be sealed. Prince's attorneys filed papers in the case asking the judge to allow Prince and his lawyers to classify any information or documents Prince provides or any information or documents Burke obtains from Prince or Blackwater as "confidential" and therefore barred from public dissemination. Prince's lawyers have also asked that all documents they provide in the case be destroyed or returned within 120 days of the conclusion of the case. Prince's lawyers have alleged that Burke intends to use the media to embarrass Prince and to litigate her case outside of court and have asked for a "gag order" against her and the other attorneys litigating the case. Burke, in her court filing, points out that the actions of Prince and his companies have generated tremendous publicity and attention. Burke writes:
      Defendant Prince and his companies create the media stir by their own actions. Indeed, their misconduct has led to a series of indictments, charging letters from the State Department, and criminal trials. Indeed, Defendant Prince seeks publicity that serves his own ends. He voluntarily participated in a Vanity Fair interview, pressing his view that anyone who criticizes his misconduct must have a "political agenda." Defendant Prince voluntarily cooperated with a book about his life, called Master of War. In the book, he voluntarily revealed, among other things, that he fathered a child out of wedlock and cheated on his wife who was dying of cancer.
      On September 22, Burke filed a motion opposing the gag order and what she sees as Prince's attempt to "seal everything." In her motion, Burke reveals that she provided the US State Department with a transcript of the deposition for review of potentially classified material. A State Department contracting official wrote, "As contracting officer I do not require any redactions to the subject transcript of the Erk Prince deposition before it is made publicly available." In arguing against a gag order, Burke writes that media coverage results in witnesses coming forward who will "be helpful in showing the jury that [her clients'] claims of widespread fraud and misconduct have merit." To support her argument, Burke cited Howard Lowry, whom she says contacted her after seeing media reports on Prince and Blackwater.
       Lowry, a Texas businessman involved in international trade and development, alleged in a September 10 deposition, which was part of a 2008 lawsuit, that he was hired to procure such necessary materials for the company's employees as steroids, AK-47s and ammunition on the black market. This lawsuit, according to Scahill, stated that "Blackwater tried to bill the US government for a prostitute for its men in Afghanistan and for strippers in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

      Lowry was described in Scahill's article as a friend of one of the Blackwater employees, Jerry Zovko, who was hanged from a bridge in Fallujah in 2004, who Lowry stated in his deposition had instructed him of the importance of steroids to the Blackwater men, as well as armor and weapons needed because Blackwater "was not adequately arming its personnel."

      After reading Lowry's deposition, Scahill wrote in The Nation:
      Lowry also says that he had several meetings with Erik Prince where Prince asked him for assistance in winning contracts with the Iraqi government for an off-shore company Prince owns called Greystone. It is registered in Barbados. Lowry, who says he knew the Iraqi Interior and Defense Ministers "very well," claims Prince wanted to offer the Iraqi government Greystone's training and security services. Lowry says that Prince stated "very clearly" to him that Greystone was "set up to deflect any liability, future liability, that he may have with respect to any weapons sales or any bodily harm or anything else, contract issues with both the US and the Iraqi governments." Lowry claims the Iraqis were aware of Greystone's connection to Blackwater and "detested" the companies.
      The UAE address for Greystone, Ltd. is Airport Road next to the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi, one possibility of where Prince's children may be schooled. The school began in Lebanon, where, it may be recalled, Erik Prince's new endeavor, Saracen International was registered. Possibly only another coincidence.