Press Box

Richard Perle Libel Watch, Week 9

What happened to Richard Perle’s big, bad, libel stick?

Perle steps in it again

Where, oh, where has Richard Perle put his big, bad, libel stick? In the middle of March, Perle informed the New York Sun of his intention to sue Seymour Hersh for libel over Hersh’s March 17 New Yorker feature, which explored the conflicts of interest posed by Perle’s business dealings and his chairmanship of the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board.

Now, as we reach Week 9 of the Richard Perle Libel Watch, it’s more evident than ever that Perle was just trash-talking. To begin with, the Hersh piece contained no libel. Yes, the scrutiny may have bruised Perle’s ego. But hurting somebody’s feelings isn’t against the law, even in Britain, where Perle said he would file his suit, on account of its liberal libel laws. Why did Perle lodge the threat in the first place? Perhaps he surmised that by intimidating Hersh he could impede the rest of the journalist pack from inspecting his oscillations from business to government to business again.

If so, Perle was wrong. Crazy wrong. Call it a coincidence, but after he issued his libel threat the press mobbed him. The New York Timescame first with a similar conflict-of-interest investigation, asking Nosy Parker questions about Perle’s advisory work for the bankrupt telecom company Global Crossing. Global Crossing had paid Perle a consulting fee of $125,000 to help it persuade the Pentagon and the FBI to allow a Hong Kong enterprise with close ties to the Chinese government to acquire it. The Times found it a tad unseemly that Perle might be simultaneously advising the Pentagon (for nuthin’) and a company that was trying get around the Pentagon (for $125,000, and a $600,000 bonus if the deal went through).

Following the Times revelation, Perle retreated to the corner of the ring. Saying that he was innocent of all conflict-of-interest charges, Perle resigned the DPB chairmanship, claiming that he didn’t want the hubbub surrounding him to distract Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from the Iraq invasion. A couple of days later, the Times cuffed Perle again, retroactively, for having advised Loral Space & Communications during his time on the DPB. The government, you may recall, had accused Loral of improperly transferring rocket technology to the Chinese.

Today’s Los Angeles Times feeds yet another grief-burger to Perle. A Page One piece by Ken Silverstein and Chuck Neubauer documents how Perle received a classified North Korea/Iraq briefing in February at the DPB from the Defense Intelligence Agency—and then three weeks later gave a briefing of his own at an investment seminar run by Goldman Sachs on how to profit from possible conflicts with those two countries. Perle, you may recall, is a principal in the venture capital firm Trireme, which invests in the technology, security, and defense businesses.

Silverstein and Neubauer find, as Hersh and the New York Times did before, that Perle’s private consulting and investment machinations overlap with his DPB duties in a non-kosher manner. Perle, a grandstander extraordinaire—he called Hersh a “terrorist” on CNN—refused to speak to the Los Angeles Times reporters.

If Perle does eventually sue Hersh, I recommend he negotiate a group rate with his barrister that would include suits against the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and a publication to be named later, since there’s sure to be another story soon. At the rate the conflict-of-interest accounts are piling up, it will only be a few days or weeks before another reporter scores another Perle exposé.

The two Timesescan relax. Based on his recent conduct, Perle is just your average litigation bully, one who delights in menacing people with threats of legal action but who never follows through. He has no case. He can’t take the heat. It’s time for him to get out of the DPB kitchen.


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