August 23, 2009
A few posts down, I once again discussed my pet theory that young Barack Obama had been recruited by the CIA, a theory which annoys some and intrigues others. (See, for example, the strange blog here.) One piece of evidence favoring this idea concerns Obama's post-college gig at Business International Corporation, a New York firm never named or accurately described in his book, Dreams From My Father. A number of sources have pegged BIC as a company which has provided cover for CIA operatives.
This New York Times story on Obama's New York period offers further insights. The story refers to a blog called Analyze This, maintained by one Dan Armstrong. Unfortunately, that blog has slipped the surly bonds of the internets. When blogs die, the corpse usually lingers online for a good long time -- but Analyze This, alas, has vanished entirely. A pity, that: I've heard that it contained some interesting comments by other BIC alumni.
As does this NPR story.
Armstrong said Obama's book exaggerates just how respectable Business International was, with its description of suits and ties and meetings with German bond traders. There was no dress code, Armstrong said. And there was nothing corporate about it.The relevant section of Obama's book, and a counter-piece by Armstrong, can be found here. Obama portrayed the place as as a high-powered consulting house. Armstrong (who worked down the hall) replied:
"It was a company full of low-paid, hard-working, fun-loving young people," Armstrong said. "It wasn't part of a high-powered consulting or finance world. It was a little sweatshop."
First, it wasn’t a consulting house; it was a small company that published newsletters on international business. Like most newsletter publishers, it was a bit of a sweatshop. I’m sure we all wished that we were high-priced consultants to multinational corporations. But we also enjoyed coming in at ten, wearing jeans to work, flirting with our co-workers, partying when we stayed late, and bonding over the low salaries and heavy workload.I must confess: That does sound like a humdrum gig. Still, I wonder what life was like for the "country correspondents." I can easily see a CIA agent using that job title as cover.
Barack worked on one of the company’s reference publications. Each month customers got a new set of pages on business conditions in a particular country, punched to fit into a three-ring binder. Barack’s job was to get copy from the country correspondents and edit it so that it fit into a standard outline. There was probably some research involved as well, since correspondents usually don’t send exactly what you ask for, and you can’t always decipher their copy. But essentially the job was copyediting.
Here's how Armstrong describes Obama's somewhat misleading account of his days at BIC:
All of Barack’s embellishment serves a larger narrative purpose: to retell the story of the Christ’s temptation. The young, idealistic, would-be community organizer gets a nice suit, joins a consulting house, starts hanging out with investment bankers, and barely escapes moving into the big mansion with the white folks. Luckily, an angel calls, awakens his conscience, and helps him choose instead to fight for the people.Obama left the job without having any other source of income lined up, and his reason for leaving -- guilt over not being true to himself -- strikes me as unconvincing.
If my pet theory has merit, then we may posit that Obama, having done a service for the Agency in Pakistan, was granted a temporary gig at a firm with which the Agency had good relations. In other words, someone was looking out for him.
And just who was the someone? Possibly Zbigniew Brzezinski: Obama was one of only seven students to study sovietology under Brzezinski at Columbia, or so it says here.
The previous post also noted that Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, traveled the world while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Ford Foundation, Women's World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. USAID is notorious for working with the CIA, as is the Ford Foundation. (For further background, see "The Ford Foundation and the CIA.") But what of the other two groups?
The Asian Development Bank, headquartered in the Philippines, is a financial institution ostensibly devoted to raising Asia's poor out of poverty. A laudable goal. Frankly, though, after reading this Wikipedia entry (which reads like ad copy), I'm still not sure how this organization does what it says it does.
Even the most laudable and respectable organization may still provide cover for CIA-linked individuals, and the Asian Development Bank may have done just that. So, at least, claims the venerable German "spook-watching" publication Geheim!. They published an Agee-like list of CIA personnel serving under various guises throughout the world, a list compiled, it seems, from previous issues of the magazine.
One alleged Agency-linked personage is "Cinnamon N. Dornsife" of the "Asian Development Bank - Manila." Her name is actually N. Cinnamon Dornsife, and she was the "U.S. Ambassdor" to the bank, or so it says here. (I didn't know that countries sent ambassadors to banks. One learns something new every day.) Her resume is here. She was graduated from SAIS, a CIA-linked institution, and then went on to work for six years in Indonesia.
I wonder if she knew Ann?
Women's World Banking provides microcredit financing to woman-owned businesses internationally -- a very commendable goal, to be sure. I've found nothing linking this group to spookery.
So what does it all mean? Perhaps nothing -- after all, many people have worked for BIC, USAID, the Ford Foundation and Asian Development Bank without having any connection to the intelligence community. There's a difference between providing cover for CIA personnel and functioning as a CIA front.
Still, both Barry and his mom have interesting employment histories. Once again, I have to ask: How often does this sort of thing happen in your family?
An added note to the added note: A rather full account of Ann's foreign adventures can be found in a Google machine translation of a piece originally published in an Indonesian blog. The title of the post googles into English as "During the Rose of Heaven All her life Doing Good So Much Amazing That Called Stanley Ann Dunham." I get the impression that the author may have a bias. At any rate, it turns out that her work for the Asian Development bank took her to Pakistan in 1986-87.