Saudi Spin Doctors Dodge U.S. Marshals

Posted: Dec 06, 2002 12:00 AM
On the same that Saudi spokesman Adel al-Jubier was holding a high-profile press conference to portray Saudi Arabia as America’s loyal ally, the House of Saud’s American spin doctors were dodging U.S. Marshals. The Saudi PR flacks were playing cat-and-mouse with the feds in order to avoid being served Congressional subpoenas aimed at unraveling a web of Saudi deceit. Three Saudi representatives—Jack Deschauer (a partner at law firm Patton Boggs), Michael Petruzzello (the managing partner of Qorvis Communications), and Jamie Gallagher (president of The Gallagher Group)—were supposed to be at a Congressional hearing Wednesday, but they were conspicuously absent. It’s not that they weren’t invited. Despite repeated invitations to appear voluntarily, the three men—who lobby lawmakers and attempt to polish Saudi Arabia’s image in the press—told Congress that they would have to be subpoenaed before they’d testify. But when the U.S. Marshals came knocking, the men were nowhere to be found. That it even came to the U.S. Marshals having to serve papers should be something of a surprise. Most witnesses face the music with dignity; even reputed L.A. mafia under-boss Tommaso Gambino and convicted cocaine dealer Carlos Vignali have accepted Congressional subpoenas by fax. But not the Saudi spin doctors. Deschauer, Petruzzello, and Gallagher gave Congress the stiff arm, and they went into hiding—literally. When the U.S. Marshals went to Deschauer’s office, he was not there. When they went to his house, no one answered the door. Same for Petruzello. U.S. Marshals would have tried Gallagher, but his lawyer stalled Congressional staff until too late in the day for agents to serve a subpoena. But when staff from the House Government Reform committee went to Gallagher’s office, no one was there. And when they went to his house, it was deserted. What made these men so scared that they just disappeared? The only logical conclusion is that they’ve got something to hide. With distraught American parents and their kidnapped children as the true victims in this story, what the PR flacks are hiding could be very damaging—to them, the Saudi royal family, and the U.S. State Department—in the new, anti-Saudi climate. For the past six months or so, Chairman Dan Burton (R-IN) has doggedly pursued the Saudi royal family and its closest ally—the State Department—to help ensure the safe return of abducted American children to their left-behind American parents. Working in tandem, the Saudi government and State have repeatedly lied to Burton and his staff, and now that his term as chairman is almost over, they are trying to run out the clock. But it might not be so easy. Burton is demanding answers for a number of shenanigans and obfuscations, particularly the incident in London over Labor Day weekend involving Patricia Roush’s two daughters, who were kidnapped from their suburban Chicago home by their Saudi national father in 1986. The Saudi government shuttled Roush’s daughters, Alia and Aisha, to a London hotel—conveniently during the exact same weekend Burton was leading a Congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia to negotiate their release. State was in cahoots, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Dianne Andruch ordered a consular officer to take the girls’ canned statement—with an open microphone in the room and Saudi officials just outside the door. With the law against them—their goofy defense rests on what amounts to “lobbyist privilege”—the only way the Saudi spin doctors can shield their files is to remain in hiding. Burton has scheduled another hearing for next Wednesday, and the U.S. Marshals will be tracking down Deschauer, Petruzzello, and Gallagher for the entire week. If they somehow manage to elude agents for the next seven days, however, they still might not be home-free. When Burton’s term as committee chairman expires early next month, there’s a strong likelihood that either he or Rep. Chris Shays (who is also passionate on the issue) will be the chairman of the subcommittee with jurisdiction—meaning the three men could be ducking the feds for a long time to come. That is unless, of course, they are willing to accept subpoenas as graciously as have reputed mob bosses and convicted cocaine dealers.