You've probably never heard of Marty Martin. He spent most of his life as an anonymous CIA operative. But he very recently came out of the closet as the man Bush put in charge of finding Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11, and guess what? It turns out the man Bush put in charge of finding bin Laden is an extremely shady and allegedly corrupt war profiteer. Who would have thought?
Martin, of course, never succeeded in catching bin Laden. He ran the CIA's bin Laden unit from 2002 to 2004, a fact that we now know only because he emerged to grab some credit for bin Laden's death and celebrate the agency's discontinued torture program: "We got beat up for it, but those efforts led to this great day," he told the Associated Press three weeks ago. Prior to that, he was just a nondescript former agency official who went into the security consulting business after retiring. The closest hint to just how key an official he was came from references to a "Marty M."—described as a sort of Jack Bauer of the bayou—in former CIA director George Tenet's memoir.
Now that we know who Martin really is, we can get a sense of what kind of guy Bush turned to for arguably the most crucial job in the war on terror.
1. The Kind of Guy Who Bilks Taxpayers for His Own Enrichment
In 2007, after leaving the CIA, Martin joined International Oil Trading Company, a Florida company that delivered fuel to U.S. forces in the Middle East. In 2008, congressional investigators accused it of ripping off the Pentagon to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. This year, the Pentagon's own audit found that the company overcharged the government by as much as $204 million on a series of massive Iraq war fuel contracts.
2. The Kind of Guy Who Bribes Foreign Officials
According to a Florida lawsuit against International Oil's owner Harry Sargeant III, Martin paid a $9 million bribe to the head of the Jordanian intelligence service back in 2007 to secure his company's exclusive rights to ship fuel across Jordan to U.S bases in Iraq. (That allegation comes from the Jordanian king's brother-in-law, Mohammad al-Saleh, who is suing Sargeant for purportedly screwing him out of a $100 million stake in the company.)
3. The Kind of Guy Who Helps Launder Illegal Political Contributions
In 2008, the Washington Post reported that Sargeant, a billionaire, raised funds for John McCain's presidential campaign with help from an unnamed "former head of the bin Laden unit" who worked for him. The men reportedly skirted campaign finance laws by funneling the money through Arab-American "straw donors." McCain quickly returned $50,000 of Sargeant's lucre. The Post never named the ex-chief of the CIA bin Laden unit involved in the fundraising, but unless two former heads of the bin Laden unit were working for Sargeant at the time, that man was Marty Martin.
4. The Kind of Guy Who Gets Totally Psyched When People Die In a War He Profits From
In a court filing last week, attorneys for al-Saleh quoted from an e-mail that Martin wrote to Sargeant in 2008 in which he appeared to gloat over the escalation of violence in Iraq:
Fyi, word of a 're-surge' is floating around amidst shit hitting the fan in Iraq today. ☺
The "shit hitting the fan" was the Battle of Basra, the Iraqi Army's attempt in March 2008 to finally roll up militias loyal to Moqtada al Sadr. It was widely seen as a debacle and victory for al-Sadr, and many feared the conflict threatened to reignite the civil war. That month, 40 Americans died in Iraq. ☺!
In other words, he's a former CIA agent. Anyway, that's Marty Martin, the guy Bush put in charge of the bin Laden hunt. Glad it worked out for him.
Harry Sargeant's lawyers couldn't be reached for comment on this story. The CIA declined to comment. And Marty Martin's bin Laden-hunting predecessor, Michael Scheuer –- who served for two years as a special adviser to Martin's unit –- claims to have never heard of Marty Martin (which we can only presume is a CIA first-rule-of-Fight-Club omerta thing). Reached on his phone, Martin said: "No no, man. I don't want to talk to you, man," and hung up before we had a chance to ask a question.
[Image via AP]