by Hank Sims
Remember Rep. Mike Thompson's visit to Iraq back in 2002, just before the outbreak of hostilities? Remember how it solidified Thompson's opposition to the war?
Um, about that ...
Muthanna al-Hanooti, a former official with an Islamic charity in Detroit, Michigan, was taken into custody Tuesday night. Hussein's spy agency secretly paid al-Hanooti 2 million barrels of oil, during the time the U.N. Oil for Food program was in place, for services rendered, the indictment states.
Those services included providing the Iraqi government with the names of U.S. members of Congress believed to favor the lifting of sanctions against Iraq, arranging for delegations of those members to visit Iraq and traveling with those delegations.
In September 2002, al-Hanooti traveled to Iraq with three members of Congress whom he believed to be sympathetic to lifting the economic sanctions against Iraq.
The U.S. led an invasion into Iraq, starting the war, in March 2003.
The indictment did not name the lawmakers, but Democratic Reps. Jim McDermott of Washington, David Bonior of Michigan and Mike Thompson of California made a trip to Iraq at that time.
Rep. Thompson now sits on the House Intelligence Committee, and is chair of the subcommittee on Terrorism, Human Intelligence, Human Analysis and Counterintelligence. So if you want to find a positive angle, you could say that being the target of an enemy power's intelligence operation might just deepen your understanding of, and commitment to, the cause of counterintelligence.
UPDATE: More links after the jump.
The members of Congress were innocent and unwitting victims of the scheme, according to officials familiar with the case.
"None of the Congressional representatives are accused of any wrongdoing, and we have no information whatsoever that any of them were aware of the involvement of the Iraqi Intelligence Service," Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said.
According to the travel database maintained by CQ Moneyline, McDermott took a trip to Baghdad and Basra as well as Amman, Jordan, from Sept.25-Oct. 1, 2002. The trip -- which cost $5,040 -- was funded by a group called LIFE for Relief & Development. The Moneyline database does not contain any filings by Thompson or Bonior for the trip, though their visit was documented in the press at the time.