“MEN HAVE DIED BECAUSE OF THEIR ACTIONS”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 28, 2015) — On Saturday, The Post & Email published the first part of an interview conducted with 2Lt. Scott Bennett, a U.S. Army Reserve officer and former Booz Allen Hamilton (BAH) employee imprisoned as a result of having blown the whistle on terrorist funding flowing through thousands of bank accounts held by Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS).
Despite his rank as an Army officer, Bennett was brought up on false charges by the U.S. Department of Justice, tried in a civilian court and convicted, spending more than two years in a federal civilian prison.
While incarcerated at the federal prison in Schuylkill, PA, Bennett met Brad Birkenfeld, a former UBS employee who confirmed Bennett’s discoveries of UBS as a major financier of Middle Eastern and worldwide terrorist activity through approximately 19,000 accounts.
In 2007, Birkenfeld attempted to inform the U.S. Justice Department and the IRS about the Swiss bank accounts whose funds were harming and killing U.S. fighting men and women in the Middle East. According to Bennett, both agencies declined to issue subpoenas in order to hear Birkenfeld’s testimony. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Intelligence, then chaired by Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), gave Birkenfeld an audience but failed to act on the information he provided.
Then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) was a member of the subcommittee which heard Birkenfeld’s testimony.
In a press release dated February 4, 2010 on the topic of terror funding and “corruption,” Levin wrote:
Corruption is a cancer that corrodes the rule of law, undermines economic development, and eats away at the fabric of civil society. In extreme cases, corruption can destabilize communities, and lead to failed states, lawlessness, and terrorism. For the United States, which has so much riding on global stability, corruption is a direct threat to our national interests.
That’s why the United States is engaged in a relentless, worldwide battle to stop the flow of illegal money into and within places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Laundered money is used to train and provide support for terrorists and terrorism. If we want to credibly lead efforts to stop illegal money abroad, we’ve got to stop it here at home as well. The fact is that those engaged in large-scale corruption want to put their money in a modern financial system that can store, protect, invest, and transfer their funds efficiently. They want access to U.S. banks. And it is our job to stop them and keep foreign corruption out of the United States.
The full press release can be read here: Carl Levin Permanent Subcommittee 2010
In an August 2010 featured story in CBS’s “60 Minutes,” host Steve Kroft reported that Swiss banks, and UBS specifically, were known to have operated in secrecy. In introducing his guest, Brad Birkenfeld, Kroft characterized Birkenfeld as a whistleblower who had previously “helped Americans hide their money” and “defraud the U.S. Treasury.” Birkenfeld is acknowledged to have divulged information about “19,000 clients” who had sought to avoid paying taxes on the money to the IRS.
Kroft’s report did not include the fact that Birkenfeld also divulged that funds from 19,000 accounts UBS were used to fund Middle Eastern terror.
Robert Wolf, a bundler for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign who served as chairman of UBS subsidiary UBS Americas and was “frequently spotted on the golf course with the president,” left the company in July 2012 reportedly to launch an “advisory firm.” CNN reported that Wolf would remain with UBS in the capacity of “senior adviser.”
One month prior to the announcement that Wolf was leaving UBS Americas as the division’s chairman, The New York Times reported that Wolf’s frequent publicizing of photos featuring him with Obama “has been making other UBS executives uneasy of late.” As The Times reported, The Wall Street Journal termed Wolf “A ‘Fat Cat’ with the President’s Ear.”
On August 26, 2014, The New York Post featured a photo of Wolf and Obama playing golf during Obama’s Martha’s Vineyard vacation with the caption, “Wolf will host the Labor Day barbecue that will give Wall Street financiers the chance to bend Obama’s ear.”
As reported by Bennett and The New York Times, on September 11, 2012, the same day as the terrorist attack on a CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya which killed four Americans, Birkenfeld was paid $104 million in return for his whistleblower reports concerning tax evasion by the holders of the 19,000 UBS accounts. It was the largest amount awarded to a whistleblower in U.S. history.
Despite Birkenfeld’s testimony to the Permanent Subcommittee in 2007, which Kroft did not report in 2010, the U.S. Justice Department charged Birkenfeld with failing to confess to his relationship with a California businessman, Igor Olenicoff, who he allegedly helped to obscure $200 million in income in order to avoid paying taxes. Birkenfeld was sentenced to a 40-month “enhanced” prison sentence, which he spent at the federal prison in Schuylkill, PA.
It was there that Birkenfeld and Bennett met, compared notes, and Bennett began to assiduously contact members of Congress and the media about his knowledge acquired while at Booz Allen which was reinforced by Birkenfeld’s revelations.
The DOJ eventually reached a settlement with UBS, which paid a $780 million fine and was given mandates to “cease its offshore banking activities with Americans” and to “turn over the names of 4,000 U.S. citizens suspected of tax fraud.”
“I exposed 19,000 international criminals,” Birkenfeld told Kroft during the interview in response to the specter of his “going to jail” in consideration of the fact that neither Olenicoff nor any other tax evader served prison time.
Bennett told The Post & Email that Birkenfeld did, in fact, tell the Justice Department about his relationship with Olenicoff and had the documents to prove it.
A Justice Department spokesman told Kroft that “It is not uncommon for someone to engage in criminal activity and to provide us information but also go to jail.” Kroft acknowledged Birkenfeld’s prospective receipt of a whistleblower “reward” during the interview.
Birkenfeld was released from prison on August 1, 2012. After receiving the $104 million, he was not heard from publicly again.
After reporting his discoveries about terrorist financing through UBS to his superiors at Booz Allen and his military chain of command, Bennett was stopped at gunpoint while on MacDill Air Force Base. Booz Allen had arranged for Bennett’s housing on the base prior to his transfer to Florida from Washington, DC in service to Booz Allen.
Bennett told The Post & Email that he made all of the necessary arrangements to register his firearms in Florida before relocating, but he was charged with possessing unregistered firearms on the base. A second apprehension followed by eight hours of questioning while handcuffed convinced Bennett that he was being tested for a future assignment or that a horrible misunderstanding had taken place regarding his position as an Army Reserve officer and full-time Booz Allen Hamilton employee with a Top Secret/CSI clearance, the highest security clearance available.
The U.S. Department of Justice then accused Bennett of having lied on his housing application, violating federal firearms laws, and impersonating a police officer. As a military officer, he was strangely tried in a civilian court while prosecuted by an Air Force Major.
Bennett’s trial concluded on July 23, 2011 with a guilty verdict. While he believed he would be acquitted, Bennett said that if he were found guilty, he had planned to “immediately appeal, fire his attorney and seek new military counsel.” “All the time, I was like a deer in the headlights,” Bennett said. “I had never been in a court environment, and in that situation, you trust your lawyers. In the American culture, you’re brought up not to say a word and let your lawyers run the show or you’re a dead man. I gave them all the material and said, ‘This is nonsense; put me on the stand, and I’ll testify to what I can.’ Well, they said they’d do this and they’d do that. There was nothing about justice, nothing about truth. It was so obscene and disgusting to me that part of me didn’t even want to entertain dialog with these people,” he said.
That was a mistake; I should have stood up and with absolute moral outrage and clarity said, “You have no jurisdiction to have me in front of a civilian jury because what I’ve done has been part of a top-secret classified military operation with a defense contract to serve my country. For a variety of reasons, I’ve been shut down, and these silly, asinine charges have been leveled against me. You don’t have jurisdiction in a civilian court to even entertain these charges; this is a military-related function. Only military courts with military lawyers and military juries can handle this because they understand the military. That’s what the constitution has established.”
Instead, I was quiet and I let the attorneys say their nonsense. One of them was Donna Shalala‘s nephew, David Shalala, who’s a Democrat and had notions of running for Congress; he also seemed to me to be on pain killers and drinking. It was very, very bizarre, and I think they were very keen on keeping the contract in the good graces at MacDill Air Force Base. So there were a lot of things then that should have put up a red flag and disqualified them. But for whatever reason, it was allowed to go through, and they just didn’t think they were going to fight as hard as I did. I entered prison on July 23, 2011 and immediately started filing in handwriting a request for a new trial. I fired my counsel and requested military intervention, as I had before and was denied.
They purposely put this into a civilian court, and by doing that, they denied me my military defense as an officer, basically saying, “We’re going to allow the civilian court system to try you for a traffic ticket.” And I was saying, “Wait a minute, I was driving in a Humvee on a military mission. How could you give me a civilian traffic ticket when I’m doing this wearing the uniform?”
If you don’t do what you’re told to do in the military, you get shot in the head. You can be thrown in the brig. That’s the nature of the military. We’re out there to kill people and break things, and if you don’t do what you do, other men die. So I was doing what I had been told to do, doing it my own way, very aggressive, very special-ops-oriented, but I was doing everything according to what my superiors had told me.
I think there is also such a disgust in the Air Force with Special Operations things; they have such an arrogant, Englishman’s arrogant distaste, because it’s all about their planes and their Air Force base and facilities, and they look at the Army as a bunch of ground-pounders. It’s hard to believe, but all of that prejudice comes up and expresses itself. So for the first time in the history of the United States, they’ve allowed a military officer to be tried by civilians on military issues using statutes that were never designed to be used in that way, and they’ve covered it up from military review. So all of that is still in play; all of that will be brought back into the court system in Florida and at Ft. Bragg and at the Military Court of Appeals and at the Military Court of Review. It just takes an enormous amount of time to get this through the legal mechanism…six months here, wait; another six months, wait…by that time, you’re out.
I’ve said this to Kerry [Cassidy], too, and I can say it to myself: if I had not been put in prison, I would never have met Brad Birkenfeld. And if I had never met Brad Birkenfeld, I would never have discovered all of the bank accounts that were being directly utilized by terrorist finance operations all over the Middle East, because that’s what happens. Middle East people funnel these accounts – especially the wealthy Bahraini, Qatari and Saudi Arabian guys – they put a lot of money through multiple money-laundering mechanisms that wind up in Swiss banks that get even more closed and then come out the other side and go right back to bad guys, and those bad guys are killing Americans; they’re maiming Americans; they’re planting roadside bombs; they’re buying bullets; they’re attacking coalition forces. And that’s the treason. And that’s where I will not stop, because military men who don’t know what I know are getting killed, and they will say to me, “Bennett, please get this out before I’m forced to go on a mission where I get killed by weapons that are purchased and financed through these bank accounts.”
That’s where I hope every American citizen will begin to use this material and all the documents that I’ve got out and take it to their congressmen and their senators and demand an explanation. You’re sort-of heading that up in a leadership way by publishing it and also by contacting people, saying, “What do you have to say about this, Senator? I’m submitting a FOIA request. I want everything from your office that has the name ‘Scott Bennett’ on it. And the more citizens who do that, the more these bastards are going to know that their time is limited and they’re either going to comply with what the American people want or pack their bags and get their necks ready for piano wire, upon which they’re going to get hung. It is very serious: America’s children have been killed because they did nothing.
From federal prison, without access to a computer, the internet, or other conveniences, Bennett used an electric typewriter to compose detailed reports sent to numerous members of Congress, major media and military commanders. Of that experience, Bennett told us:
It was really a drama; you wouldn’t believe…we had to sneak out letters and reports to guys working in the airport. They had to take the letters under their shirts, take them out and sneak them into the mail and make copies because they were all watching me,” he told us. “I sat at an electric typewriter. I apologize for anyone who wants a beautiful, bound, Tom Clancy-looking typewritten book, but every page of those documents was directly from the typewriter in prison. There was a certain cliché that this was written from the Island of Misfit Toys itself.
Luckily, there were a few military guys who were guards, and they liked me. They were former Marines, Navy or Army, and they kept saying, “Bennett, you’ve been set up; you ticked someone off; they’re trying to stop you, but keep going. You’re eventually going to break out, and I can’t wait to see it.” They always gave me a heads-up when the media or the military were calling, so I knew I was stirring up a lot of stuff on the outside.
Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida should be impeached immediately and charged, because he wrote on his website – it was sent in to me – a letter to Dianne Feinstein to slander me and try to cover up what I was getting out to him and others about the Snowden connection, Birkenfeld and the Swiss banks. Nelson therefore knew about all this and was trying to cover it up, and he put it on his own website. Over 100 other congressmen and senators were informed – Dianne Feinstein, Mike Rogers, Howard “Buck” McKeon, Carl Levin – and a lot of these people didn’t run for re-election last year.
I and a few other whistleblowers who can corroborate a lot of the Swiss bank connections, intelligence, CIA and military dimensions want to get back in front of Congress to testify. If they can have hearings on dogs and poodles and porpoises that are on the “Endangered List” and whatever else out there that I classify as nonsense, surely they can do their constitutional duty and have a hearing on the subject that is financing the murder and destruction of military personnel and resources in the Middle East for the past ten years. Some of the revelations, of course, are that these members of Congress, including John Boehner, have Swiss bank accounts. A lot of that could be brought out.
When the American public hears the story and can see that it’s not fake, it’s not contrived, it’s not exaggerated; it happened the way it did; everything is documented so the integrity of the documentation and the timeline and the corroboration from Brad Birkenfeld, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, who all played a part in this, will reveal an amazing story that can only be divinely orchestrated or brilliantly manipulated by the intelligence agencies and the high-ups in the CIA and DIA.
I don’t really subscribe to that idea; I think this was an accidental perfect storm that came together, because I know people in the intelligence agency, and they are really not that smart. They’re not that sophisticated.
When The Post & Email asked Bennett the steps he first took to inform his superiors of his discoveries about the terror funding, he responded:
“I think we followed all the proper steps and procedures. When I became aware of this as a military officer, I immediately filed an official report to my military commander stating that it was a whistleblowing report. According to federal laws and statutes, military members are covered under whistleblowing regarding contractor fraud. I sent that official documentation up to Gen. Jeffrey A. Jacobs, who was then commander of U.S. Military Psychological Operations Command at Ft. Bragg. He was the commander in charge of my military command in Psychological Warfare.
“His assistant was a guy named Lt. Col. Balcom Fulk, who admitted receiving my documentation. I sent a report up to him announcing that ‘It has come to my attention as a military officer that materiel is being financed to terrorist entities that’s causing the death of soldiers and wasting military resources. I am requesting that you investigate this; contact me to debrief, to get these materials and forward this up the appropriate chain of command. If I do not hear back from you, I will immediately begin filing this up to Congress.’
“So the first step is to go military; you follow the steps that they say you’re supposed to do. Ask Susan Lindauer. Before me, Brad Birkenfeld and I had put together a letter and sent that to Gen. James Mattis. We were treating it like a very secret operation that needed to be handled very delicately. In the letter, Brad communicated his identity, the material he had, the relevance to the military, and requested an immediate debriefing from Gen. James Mattis.”
[Editor’s Note: Mattis is now retired.]
“So they were given notice. The military was the first one to be given notice. That means that everything we did an American citizen can do. An American can call down to Ft. Bragg and say, “I want to talk to Lt. Col. Balcom Fulk; you were in charge of Bennett’s whistleblowing materials; I’ve just gotten wind of it as a citizen; I want to know exactly what you’ve done with it and why you did it; I want everything documented and sent to me under a Freedom of Information Act request. If you need to connect me with your attorney on base or your Inspector General, please do; in fact, please give me their contact information, because I’m going to call them next.” Go right to the recipients and say, “What have you done with this?” because that’s where the failure is and the dereliction of duty. Instead of taking the material and pushing it up for congressional action, they just buried it and hid it, and covered it up for, I say, treasonous reasons, because men have died because of their actions. It’s depraved indifference, it’s criminal neglect, it’s dereliction of duty and very serious.
Gen. James Mattis and Jeffrey Jacobs and Balcom Fulk and others at Ft. Bragg and Centcom, who were the first ones to receive this, need to be held to account.
The next ones were all members of Congress who were notified of this by me after Brad Birkenfeld testified.
[Editor’s Note: At this point in our interview, Bennett held up a copy of his book, “Exhibits: Letters and Reports to Congress, Military, and the Media and continued:]
This is every letter that went out to all these guys. It has the names of every congressman and senator and media person who was contacted. I first contacted the Congress: the Armed Services Committee, the Intelligence Committee, because they were the frontrunner committees that dealt with terrorist threats. I went up the chain. Then I went to the Judiciary Committee; I went to [the] Homeland Security [Committee]; then I went to the Permanent Investigations committee: Jason Chaffetz, Saxby Chambliss, [former Rep.] Allen West. Allen West had done a report in Investors Business Daily questioning terrorist financing, and I said, I’ve got the whole story right here; contact me. Here it is.” And no one did anything. No one ever responded.
I know it reached them because I sent them by certified mail, and the card was stamped “Received.”
The people who want to act on this need to get a copy of all the letters that went out to these congressmen and senators and call their office and do the same thing: confront them. Say, “I’m a citizen, and I’m aware that you received a letter and report from a military officer concerning terrorist financing and you’ve done nothing with it. I want to know why, and I want every piece of information that you’ve ever written that mentions the name of “Scott Bennett” or “Brad Birkenfeld” or “Union Bank of Switzerland” sent it to me under the Freedom of Information Act.”
Send it to all these congressmen who got letters. They can’t say they haven’t received anything, because they can do an analysis of their emails and they will see that after they received this letter, a whole flurry of communication was beginning to transpire between these congressmen and senators, the CIA, the military, and all these other parties who were desperately trying to put this fire out.
[Editor’s Note: On January 27, 2015, the International Business Times reported that Loretta Lynch, whose Senate confirmation hearings began on January 28, failed to list an interview she conducted with CBS News concerning HSBC, which “was accused of knowingly allowing Mexican drug cartels to launder money and of allowing violations of economic sanctions against countries including Iran, Libya, Sudan and Cuba.”
At the time of the financial settlement with HSBC of which Lynch was the chief architect, she was reporting to then-Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who Bennett has named as one of the government players who ignored his reports about UBS, instead choosing to prosecute him as an innocent man. IBD reported that Breuer “resigned after a scathing Frontline piece that highlighted Justice’s failure to try any of the banks tied to the recession and the risky trades that led to it. It was during a discussion of HSBC before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Attorney General Holder famously said some banks — although not HSBC specifically — were too big to prosecute.”