While Fai’s arrest was noted by many press outlets and a smattering of articles appeared in the subsequent days, within a week the story virtually vanished from the establishment media.
The New York Times reported on Fai’s arrest, and the following day published an article announcing denials by Burton and his congressional colleagues that they had any knowledge of Fai’s ties to Pakistani intelligence. The last mention in the newspaper of the matter was less than a week later, when they reported that the FBI had attempted to arrest Fai several times, only to be stymied by the State Department and the CIA, who wanted to avoid heightening tensions with Pakistan. And except for a two-sentence mention on the New York Times India blog, the matter then disappeared from their pages entirely.
The Fai arrest got the same treatment from the Washington Post, which ran two stories and a short blog post in the days following Fai’s arrest, and later made short mention of his guilty plea. The paper has published nothing since.
The only full-scale treatment of the Fai matter and his influence on Capitol Hill was an October 2011 investigative piece by ProPublica researchers published by The Atlantic that outlined Fai’s background and lobbying efforts, as well as the extensive evidence compiled by the FBI in the case.
One might have at least expected a flurry of reporting when Fai pled guilty and was later sentenced to two years in prison, Alas, no. Nor was there any discussion of the 26-page Statement of Facts signed by Fai where he admitted in detail to his crimes outlined in FBI Agent Linden’s July 2011 affidavit.
The ambivalence about one of the biggest foreign intelligence influence operations on Capitol Hill in our lifetimes extended to Capitol Hill itself. No handwringing, no committee hearings or investigations, no press conferences by members of Congress explaining exactly how they had been duped for 20 years.
The Hill also made short work of the Fai affair, merely noting his arrest, guilty plea, and sentencing. No in-depth reporting, no stonewalling by congressional spokesmen, and certainly no chasing down members of Congress in the halls asking for comment.
About the only response from Congress was a two-paragraph press release from Rep. Burton’s office claiming he knew nothing, and promising to turn over the amount received by Fai to the Boy Scouts. In a brief interview with Rep. Joe Pitts by Lancaster (PA) Online, Pitts said in response to Fai’s arrest: “It never appeared to me that Dr. Fai was a lobbyist for Pakistan.” With respect to Fai’s attempt to influence him, “it didn’t work”.
In recent months I’ve conducted briefings for congressional staff and members of Congress on the Fai matter, and without exception have been met with blank faces and surprised stares.
So was the 20-year illegal lobbying effort by Ghulam Nabi Fai on behalf of Pakistan’s intelligence service really much ado about nothing? Was Rep. Pitts right that Pakistan’s influence operation on Capitol Hill “didn’t work”?
Or might there be something larger at work? Could it be that there’s more to the story of Ghulam Nabi Fai and the Kashmiri American Council than what you read in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and The Hill?
The story of Pakistan’s two-decade influence operation in the heart of Congress, the White House, the State Department, and the Pentagon is the biggest Capitol Hill spy scandal you’ve never heard about.
In Part Two, I’ll tell you the reason why.