Originally: Questions at Senate confirmation hearing
Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Nomination of Amb. Roger F. Noriega as assistant secretary of state, April 28, 2003
Sen. Dodd opens the debate on the matter.
And having said all that, let me bounce back into a couple of very specific questions again. And I come back to this Haiti issue to you, and I appreciate your answer; and it’s very important, I think, the OAS stay involved in this. There have been concerns, as you know, raised by our embassy there and the aid mission that individuals employed by IRI, the International Republican Institute, have been sort of — have caused some difficulties. I presume you’re aware of that. Are you aware of this?
MR. NORIEGA: I’ve heard of some of this.
SEN. DODD: Yeah. Now look, I’m a big supporter, by the way, of these — the National Democratic Institute, and we fought long and hard to create some vitality here, using our two great political parties to engage in the promotion of democracy around the world. MORE x x x world. And they played a very important role as observer teams in various elections around the place. So I don’t want my concerns here that I’m expressing to you to be in any way a reflection of my opposition to the participation of our two major political parties in this process. Many of us fought a long time to get them involved, and then we had to fight hard to keep them involved. But I want you to tell me what’s been done about this particular problem, because I think it goes beyond the issues we normally associate with these activities. Has this problem been solved? And specifically, what were the issues here?
MR. NORIEGA: Well, I haven’t been directly involved in — by any means, in any of the decisions made in this respect. But I have talked to Ambassador Curran, who is our ambassador there, who has voiced some of these concerns, really, since I came on board and some of his concerns about whether or not a particular individual working with IRI, for example, in Haiti on the ground was supporting or not U.S. policy, or if, quite the opposite, undermining it. I think it’s very difficult — I had a Haitian friend once tell me, “In Haiti, believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” So I have some difficulty sometimes assigning — making hard and fast judgments based on what —
SEN. DODD: This wasn’t from a Haitian, this was from our ambassador there.
MR. NORIEGA: Right. Who might have been relying on what some — what he’s heard from other folks.
SEN. DODD: They established some conditions on their behavior down there.
MR. NORIEGA: I’ll be very clear that any grantee, any grantee — for that matter, any agency of the United States government, would have to know quite well, it would have to be made clear to them — quite clearly to them that — what the U.S. policy is in any given matter, and that it would be considered unacceptable for any grantee or person working with a grantee to undermine our policy or misrepresent our policy, misrepresent our views. I agree with you that groups like IRI make a terrific contribution, and I’ve worked with them and they’ve done excellent work. I’ve worked with NDI and others, and they do excellent work in the region, and it’s essential that they be involved. I know that IRI’s involvement was particularly important in engaging even the Lavalas, Aristide’s own party, in the political process. I know that a third of their participants in IRI’s programs were Lavalas participants. So they have been — made a very careful effort to be multipartisan —
SEN. DODD: I — have you been in touch with this employee of the IRI yourself? Have you talked to him about this?
MR. NORIEGA: I don’t talk to this particular person. I get — I, along with virtually anybody that has anything to do with Haiti, gets e-mails from him on a regular basis.
SEN. DODD: But you know who Mr. Lucas is? You worked with him?
MR. NORIEGA: Yes. Yes. I know precisely who he is.
SEN. DODD: Do you think this warrants the inspector general looking at this issue at all?
MR. NORIEGA: I don’t know that, Senator. I do not know of any specific allegations of any wrongdoing, per se. If there’s something, whether someone is misrepresenting a policy, or carrying out a particular agenda, that’s the sort of thing that perhaps half the people in the State Department could be accused of in terms of pursuing a particular personal agenda.
SEN. DODD: The reason to have an inspector general’s report is to determine whether or not there’s wrongdoing, to draw a conclusion ?
MR. NORIEGA: But I think it would be — in my humble and personal opinion, I think it would be — I think it is always something that you would have to consider very carefully before engaging the inspector general in a process; there would have to be some basis, I think, that there would have to be some wrongdoing. x x x wrongdoing. It’s one thing to say that someone’s pursuing a particular agenda; it’s another thing to accuse them of wrongdoing.
SEN. DODD: Well, I’m told by staff here that the grant renewal specifically required Mr. Lucas to not be involved in the program. Is that correct?
MR. NORIEGA: As I understand it, this was something that Ambassador ?
SEN. DODD: And he is still involved in the program. Is that not also true?
MR. NORIEGA: As I understood, there was supposed to be a hiatus.
SEN. DODD: You’re going to be confirmed, I suspect. If you take care of this — now this is the kind of thing that concerns me —
MR. NORIEGA: Sure.
SEN. DODD: — you’ve got to be more direct now. I mean, I’d raise the same issue if others were raising it. I understand the closeness here, but that goes to the domestic politicization of these issues. That’s just wrong. You’re going to hurt the NDI and the IRI from the work they ought to be doing if you end up with these kind of allegations. There are plenty of people around here who think they shouldn’t be doing anything in these countries. And it’s this kind of stuff which hurts as we try to maintain the level of activity and involvement of our two major political parties. And when you start messing around like this, you put that at risk. And you’ve got to be strong about this.
MR. NORIEGA: Sure.
SEN. DODD: Even when they’re friends of yours or people you know, if you’re not strong on this stuff, then we don’t have confidence in you. So you’ve got to be strong about it, now.
MR. NORIEGA: Senator, I know a lot of people. I even like some of them.
SEN. DODD: Yeah.
MR. NORIEGA: And — but I also want to be careful but I also want to be very clear that I have not heard allegations of wrongdoing. It is one thing to suggest that someone’s pursuing an agenda. If they are and there was an explicit decision that this person should not be part of a program for a period of time, then that’s a programmatic decision.
SEN. DODD: I’m not making it up.
MR. NORIEGA: No, that’s a programmatic decision that has to be made. But I’m just a little uncomfortable with the impression that there’s some kind of legal wrongdoing.
SEN. DODD: Well —
MR. NORIEGA: But it’s something that could be clarified, and I’d be glad to carry on a conversation with you and your staff about it. And you’re right; when I — if I’m confirmed — (chuckles) — I almost said “when.” If I’m confirmed, I’m going to be on the spot to address these issues and I understand that. And I welcome the opportunity to take it on, head on.