WWW--This is an oldie but a goodie and is still sadly relevant. Corn had this op ed out in the March 2002 issue of the Nation, the publication he still edits from Washington.
Corn wrote presciently at the time:
There are always national security misdeeds to be mad about. They may not be as cinematic in nature as a plot in which shady, unidentified U.S. officials scheme to blow up the World Trade Towers to gain control of an oil pipeline in Central Asia. But dozens of dead Hondurans or twenty or so Afghans wrongly killed ought to provoke anger and protest. In fact, out-there conspiracy theorizing serves the interests of the powers-that-be by making their real transgressions seem tame in comparison. (What's a few dead in Central America, compared to thousands in New York City? Why worry about Negroponte, when unidentified U.S. officials are slaughtering American civilians to trigger war?)
Perhaps there's a Pentagon or CIA office that churns out this material. Its mission: distract people from the real wrongdoing. Now there's a conspiracy theory worth exploring. Doesn't it make sense? Doesn't it all fit together? I challenge anyone to disprove it. ("When 9/11 conspiracy theories go bad," The Nation, 03.02.2002)
Good luck proving him wrong! You know, I had a kind of lame experience during the DC Madam scandal with Corn, but I don't fault him these days (at the time, it was quite the opposite). He asked me about the presence of Ronald Roughead in the late madam's records and why it was relevant. He was skeptical, and that's fine, as he should have been. I remarked that it was relevant since Roughead was violating the terms of his security clearance at the time he made the calls in late 2005. Such an activity is forbidden. Corn never replied back. Palfrey had hooked-me-up with him, lamely, and without any good context. She would continue to do such things as time bore on.
A ll that said, he wasn't willing to move forward on it, and who can blame him when you look at Palfrey's behavior during all of that saga towards the press? She jerked everyone around and tried to use jornalists and bloggers to do the investigating for her, to exonerate her. That's fine, but you don't send people down blind alleys, you have something relevant to tell them. That's not to excuse their laziness and jadedness in the mainstream media, but Corn, as an editor, had to prioritize where to put his limited resources to investigate a story. The Nation--in case you didn't notice--isn't made of money. Yes, he'd found Roughead in the phone records but probably knew he and his staff could investigate the whole mess for years without that many real breakthroughs, and besides, people like me can grind away at finding the primary historical documents that they and others can examine in the aftermath (or vice versa). Surely, he had to know that Roughead was the brother of CNO Gary Roughead! No, it wasn't simply about "big names," there were other issues at play.
What do I think the significance of SAIC's Ronald Roughead was, his being in the DC Madam's phone records, a former Defense Attache, former director of the Iraqi Media Network, an investigator at the Kenya Embassy bombing, and likely an employee of defense/intelligence contractor SAIC? I can't draw any final conclusions, but it's pointing towards illegal lobbying practices, not that he would be a final indicator or it. His very presence is the answer. Corn hasn't had access to the defense materials I and others have, but he surely knew that it would practically take a congressional inquiry to get to the bottom of what appeared to be evidence of corruption beyond the mere issues of government and elected officials frequenting hookers.
In short, he asked me the wrong question, but not out of malice or apathy when he mistakenly focused on one man. The patterns are what count in this story, but again, he hasn't seen everything I have. A lot of people have dismissed this 2002 article as being jaded, but it's not, he's right. People have been wasting an incredible amount of time and energy chasing ghosts. I have done my share of this, but that's part of these times and part of investigating events like the DC Madam story where there have been a number of blind alleys. Even the House Judiciary Committee was interested in investigating whether Palfrey's 6th Amendment rights were being violated during the proceedings; but as happened again and again, they got cold-feet and gave no answers as to why.
It's almost hopelessly complicated and obscured, but there were a few peeks behind the curtain that were more than tantalizing and even a little revealing, about how business is done in Washington D.C. But a conspiracy? All I saw was incredible incompetence from the prosecution and the Court, and even from the investigators that likely created the whole mess to begin with.