Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton holds hands with her husband former U.S. President Bill Clinton (Reuters / Jim Young)
As the Obama administration increased military weapons exports, Hillary Clinton’s State Department approved transfer of more than $300 billion worth of arms manufactured by US defense contractors to 20 nations that were or have since become donors of the Clinton Foundation, a major philanthropic organization run by the Clinton family. According to a review of available records of foundation donors by the International Business Times, those countries included governments that have received frequent criticism by the State Department for repressive policies.
“Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar all donated to the Clinton Foundation and also gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons even as the department singled them out for a range of alleged ills, from corruption to restrictions on civil liberties to violent crackdowns against political opponents,” IBT wrote.
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Algeria, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar were nations that directly donated to the Clinton Foundation during Clinton’s term as secretary of state, even as they were requesting weapons shipments. The donated money represents a loophole in US law regarding political contributions.
“Under federal law, foreign governments seeking State Department clearance to buy American-made arms are barred from making campaign contributions — a prohibition aimed at preventing foreign interests from using cash to influence national security policy,” IBT noted. “But nothing prevents them from contributing to a philanthropic foundation controlled by policymakers.”
The reviewed sales — both commercial and Pentagon-brokered — represent those made during “three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as secretary of state (from October 2010 to September 2012),” IBT reported. The deals made with the nations in question during this time add up to far more than arms agreements made with the same countries during the last three full fiscal years of George W. Bush’s administration, according to the report.
“The word was out to these groups that one of the best ways to gain access and influence with the Clintons was to give to this foundation,” Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, told IBT. “This shows why having public officials, or even spouses of public officials, connected with these nonprofits is problematic.”
The Clinton Foundation’s donor list has come under closer examination since Hillary Clinton announced she is seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2016. In April, the Clintons acknowledged they have made “mistakes” regarding transparency amid increased public scrutiny concerning donations from foreign entities, especially when Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, from 2009 to 2013.
Earlier this month, former President Bill Clinton defended his family foundation’s donors.
“I don’t think there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people in countries that are seriously involved in development to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up,” Mr. Clinton told NBC News.
The Clinton Foundation signed a foreign donor disclosure agreement just before Hillary Clinton became secretary of state, yet neither the department nor the White House raised issues with potential conflicts of interest regarding the weapons agreements.
IBT reported that in 1995 President Clinton signed a presidential policy directive demanding the State Department take into account human rights abuses when considering the approval of military equipment or arms purchases from US companies. Yet Mrs Clinton’s State Department ignored this stipulation, helping the Obama administration increase weapons transfers.
The State Department, under the aegis of Clinton, hammered the Algerian government in its 2010 Human Rights Report for “restrictions on freedom of assembly and association,” allowing “arbitrary killing,” “widespread corruption,” and a “lack of judicial independence.”
“That year, the Algerian government donated $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation and its lobbyists met with the State Department officials who oversee enforcement of human rights policies. Clinton’s State Department the next year approved a one-year 70 percent increase in military export authorizations to the country,” IBT reported. “The increase included authorizations of almost 50,000 items classified as ‘toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment’ after the State Department did not authorize the export of any of such items to Algeria in the prior year.
“During Clinton’s tenure, the State Department authorized at least $2.4 billion of direct military hardware and services sales to Algeria — nearly triple such authorizations over the last full fiscal years during the Bush administration. The Clinton Foundation did not disclose Algeria’s donation until this year — a violation of the ethics agreement it entered into with the Obama administration.”
IBT also reported that major US weapons manufacturers and financial corporations such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Goldman Sachs paid Bill Clinton lucrative speaking fees “reaching $625,000” just as arms deals they had an interest in were in the works with Mrs Clinton’s State Department.
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Hillary Clinton had pledged during her Senate confirmation hearings in 2009 that “in many, if not most cases, it is likely that the Foundation or President Clinton will not pursue an opportunity that presents a conflict.”
US weapons sales tripled in 2011 to a new yearly high of $66.3 billion, according to the New York Times, mostly driven by sales to Persian Gulf nations allied against Iran. This dollar total made up nearly 78 percent of all worldwide arms deals that year, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Reuters reported in January 2013 that the State Department office that has oversight of direct commercial arms sales “was on track to receive more than 85,000 license requests in 2012, a new record.”
The boom in arms sales by the Obama administration has continued to the present day, as Arab allies like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are using American-made fighter jets against Islamic State and for proxy wars in places like Yemen and Syria.
According to the Times, foreign weapons sales now represent 25 percent to 30 percent of revenue taken in by Lockheed Martin, one of the top US-based arms dealers.
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