- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 26, 2004

American justice

U.N. Ambassador John C. Danforth last week predicted that the U.N. oil-for-food scandal is “very likely” to end up before a federal grand jury.

Congress has no fewer than six investigations into side deals and kickbacks involving the six-year, $64 billion program, conceived as a way to bring desperately needed relief to the sanctions-starved Iraqi people.

But U.N. testimony and documents largely have been concentrated with the U.N.-authorized investigation led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, whose initial findings are expected to be released in late January.

“If you have alert prosecutors out there, they’ll be looking for jurisdiction if Volcker comes up with something,” Mr. Danforth last week told reporters at his hometown paper, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I think it’s very likely to happen.”

Mr. Danforth, a former Republican congressman who headed the Clinton administration’s inquiry into the 1993 firefight at the Branch Davidian compound, noted:

“We had a grand jury in Waco, so we could compel testimony and the production of documents. Volcker doesn’t have that, and it’s a real hardship.”

U.N. officials say they have ordered staff members to cooperate fully with the Volcker panel.

But it’s hard to know exactly how much cooperation the panel is getting from U.N. officials, Security Council diplomats involved in the vetting of contracts and others who would have personal knowledge of the program.

When U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was asked at his year-end press conference how much time he had spent with Mr. Volcker’s investigators, he offered an evasive answer.

“We have discussed on many occasions the setting-up of the commission. I have spoken to them since they started their work,” Mr. Annan said.

When the reporter tried to pose the question again, Mr. Annan, who had exceeded the 45 minutes promised to the press, was hustled away from the microphone by aides.

Whistleblower rescue

It looks as if Andrew Thomson, a co-author of the book “Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures,” will not be losing his job as a U.N. physician after all.

There has been an “informal resolution of his case,” said an e-mail sent to reporters from his U.S. attorney. “Dr. Thomson looks forward to many more years at the United Nations, serving its vital mission.”

The New Zealand national had been portrayed as a whistleblower for exposing the organization’s misadventures in Rwanda and Bosnia, where he helped exhume bodies from mass graves.

But U.N. officials said the medical examiner and his two co-authors were not whistleblowers, but had run afoul of rules against publishing books about their U.N. experience without the approval of the Secretariat.

The book, crammed with sex, drugs, boggled peacekeeping efforts and grim scenes from field missions, has been optioned by Miramax for a television series.

U.N. officials indicated last week that Dr. Thomson’s 11-month contract might, in fact, be renewed.

A second writer has 18 months to go on her contract, and the third has left the organization.

Spokesman marries

Congratulations to U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard, who married his longtime sweetheart, Kathryn Gordon, in a civil ceremony on Dec. 14.

The two quietly tied the knot at New York’s City Hall and celebrated with family members at a TriBeCa restaurant.

The newlyweds met at the United Nations about seven years ago, and their marriage has the blessing of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

“He said Kathryn was making me an honest man,” Mr. Eckhard said, admiring his gold wedding band with undisguised delight.

Mrs. Gordon is the editor of the U.N. Yearbook, which is produced by the Department of Information.

It is a second marriage for both.

Betsy Pisik may be reached via e-mail at BPisik@aol.com.

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