Thursday, December 16, 2004

What About Bout? 

Our distinguished colleague the Yorkshire Ranter has been carefully following the Viktor Bout story now that it's hit the mainstream press. This L.A. Times item suggests how "international criminal" Bout managed to slip past the coalition's airtight security checks:
British Gulf's Zhuravylov recently recounted a story illustrating the agencies' lax procedures. In December 2003, he said, he struck up a conversation with a U.S. military fuel truck operator at the Balad airfield. Zhuravylov said the soldier gave him a blank government form, urging him to fill it out and mail it to military officials.

In April, "to my big surprise, I received a plastic card for each of our planes which allowed us to get military fuel," Zhuravylov said. British Gulf's business boomed.

"It was really so good," Zhuravylov said. "All by the mail. No inspectors, nothing like that. Write a letter, fill a form, get a card."
(Which is more or less the same vetting procedure you follow to become the Homeland Security czar or police commissioner of New York, except you don't actually have to turn in the paperwork.)

The Ranter also expands on a point made by Nick Confessore of TAPPED:
One explanation for this remarkable incompetence, of course, would be that somehow their hearts weren't in it. Nick Confessore appears to have picked up a crucial point in this direction, pointing out just how the case came to light in the first place. Remember, it was the fact that suddenly the US and British governments didn't want Bout's name on a UN asset freeze list (when it had been their policy for years to close him down) that initiated the whole story. Now, the initial reaction seems to be that it was all a terrible mistake. Somehow they just slipped through the net. But if that was so, and the officers, officials, and contractor executives involved just didn't know what was going on, how could both the State Department and the British Foreign Office have changed their policy?

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