Contracting probe could extend to CIA

Federal investigators in San Diego have made it clear that while just-resigned Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham pled guilty last week to taking bribes from defense contractors, their public corruption probe will not stop at Cunningham. Numerous current and retired CIA officials say they will not be surprised if the investigation touches the CIA in general, and its third-ranking official in particular.

"Though everyone has been talking about what Cunningham did for contractors from his position on [the House] Defense Appropriations [subcommittee], you also have to remember that he had a seat on [the Permanent Select Committee on] Intelligence too, which is also a good position to help contractors from, particularly if they want to do business with the CIA," says a veteran CIA officer. "But the real question I think is, if those contractors were doing business with the CIA, did they need Cunningham? And even if they didn't, the question is, even if he didn't do anything, did one the highest-ranking agency officials have any idea what his friends were up to?"

According to past and present CIA officials interviewed over the past month, CIA executive director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo--whose career duties have encompassed letting CIA contracts--has had a long, close personal relationship with two contractors identified (though not explicitly named) in court papers as bribing Cunningham: Brent Wilkes of the Wilkes Corp., whose subsidiaries include defense contractor ADCS; and former ADCS consultant Mitchell Wade, until recently president of defense contractor MZM, Inc. It is a relationship, the CIA officials say (with some putting a particular emphasis on Wilkes), that has increasingly been of concern.

One current and two retired senior CIA officials told Government Executive that (as noted last week by reporter Laura Rozen in The American Prospect's TAPPED blog) the relationship of Wilkes and Foggo--who the CIA's Web site declares is "under cover and cannot be named at this time," even though he is pictured and identified on a federal charity web page--has been a subject of increasing concern by some at Langley.

Another recently-retired senior agency official, while not naming Wilkes or Wade by name, also noted concerns borne out of both personal experience with and reports from colleagues about Foggo. "If you were a case officer and worked with him, you'd be saying to yourself, 'I've got to watch this guy,'" says the former official. "There is one contractor with whom he enjoys a very, very, very close relationship."

According to several of the officers interviewed for this article, Foggo and Wilkes have been friends since at least their college years at San Diego State University in the 1970s, where they were roommates. According to several regulars at Washington's Capital Grille, the two jointly lease one of the restaurant's private wine lockers.

A CIA spokesperson would not comment on any aspect of this story and said Foggo was not available for interviews.

After a brief stint in law enforcement, Foggo entered the CIA through the Presidential Management Intern program, and began work in what was then known as the Directorate of Administration (DA), the CIA organization that, among other things, handled a significant portion of the agency's contracting.

Foggo belonged to the DA's Management General Services unit, whose personnel, while not case officers who directly recruit and oversee spies, nonetheless received the same training as covert-action oriented Directorate of Operations officers.

MGS officers ran operational support programs in the field, a critical job directly below the agency's station chiefs. MGS officers had unique powers, including sole access to and oversight of a station's funds, as well as handling a station's accounting and contracting.

"The MG guy is the station's contracting authority, and is responsible for acquiring whatever a station needs to function, and to keep it running---the glue the holds it all together and gets anyone anything they need," says a veteran logistics officer.

While most federal government contracts are openly solicited, competitively bid and have their details publicly available, by virtue of its mission the CIA is not subject to the same rules. MG officers in particular have historically had great leeway.

"While the process is the same as anywhere else--in theory, you go to the place you can get the best deal--you're not going to find our stuff on the federal schedule, and the payment will come either through a company we set up or some other governmental cover," says a recently-retired MGS veteran. "Historically MG officers have been able to sole-source, and for smaller contracts, in some cases up to the half-million range, have not needed Langley's approval. A lot of smaller sole-source contracts can add up for a contractor."

Prior to becoming executive director, Foggo's postings included stations in Latin American and Europe. One of his first assignments was Honduras in the early 1980s, where one now-retired CIA officer recalls seeing him at least once with a visiting Brent Wilkes, who was there with "some kind of congressional delegation" in a "kind of vague" capacity.

Directly before coming executive director, Foggo was chief of the CIA's support base in Germany, which provides its Middle East stations, including Baghdad, with logistical support. While there, according to a recently retired CIA official, he let at least one contract to Wilkes. A veteran CIA administrative officer also noted that while Foggo has spent most of his career as an MGS officer, he also did a stint in the agency's Directorate of Science and Technology, "where a lot of really big contracts are handled."

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