Understanding the Awan connection

Scott wrote today about the “Awan connection” — a scandal, finally getting some attention, that involves House staffers with ties to Pakistan who are accused of stealing equipment from members’ offices without their knowledge and committing serious, potentially illegal, violations on the House IT network. Interest in the scandal has been reinforced by the arrest of Imran Awan Monday evening as he was about to board a flight to Lahore, Pakistan.

The arrest was based on suspicion of fraud against the Congressional Federal Credit Union in a real estate loan, not IT improprieties. Still, as Scott said, something is happening here.

What, though? I’m still trying to understand this scandal or at least ask the right questions about it. In this effort, I found Jim Geraghty’s summary helpful.

Like Scott, Geraghty focuses on Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for whom Awan worked. He focuses, in particular, on her demand that Capitol Police Chief Matthew Verderosa return equipment belonging to her office that was seized as part of the investigation — or else “[expect] consequences.”

Among Geraghty’s questions are: (1) Why was Wasserman Schultz so impatient to get her computer back from the Capitol Police if it’s relevant to a criminal investigation and (2) Why did she keep Imran Awan on staff until this week? The IT scandal broke in February.

I’d also like to know more about the security implications of the theft of the IT equipment and the “serious, potentially illegal, violations of House IT policies.” The theft and breaches of policy reportedly affect the offices of more than 20 members of Congress.

Which members? In addition to Wasserman Schultz, Awan and his family members reportedly have worked for Democrats on the most important House committees from a national security and foreign policy standpoint:

The five. . .employees worked for at least three members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and five members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs were among the dozens of members who employed the suspects on a shared basis. The two committees deal with many of the nation’s most sensitive issues, information and documents, including those related to the war with radical Islamic terrorism.

Jamal Awan handled IT for Rep. Joaquin Castro, a Texas Democrat who serves on both the intelligence and foreign affairs panels.

Imran Awan handled IT for Rep. Gregory Meeks, a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee where he is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Imran Awan also worked for Rep. Andre Carson, an Indiana Democrat and one of two Muslims in the House of Representatives, and Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat. Both are members of the intelligence committee.

The Awans were well-compensated for their services to congressional Democrats. Yet, as George Raisley chronicles, they were involved in multiple suspicious mortgage transfers and a debt-evading bankruptcy. One of them, Abid Awan, reportedly had more than $1 million in debts following a failed business. Court documents claim that Abid stole money and vehicles from associates in that business.

And, as noted, Imran Awan is now accused of bank fraud to the tune of $165,000.

Raisley also says the Awans controlled a limited liability corporation called Cars International A (CIA), a car dealership with odd finances that took, but did not repay, a $100,000 loan from one Dr. Ali Al-Attar. According to Raisley, laundering money through used car dealerships is a known Hezbollah tactic.

Raisley also cites a former CIA officer who says Dr. Attar, the man who loaned the Awans car dealership $100,000, “was observed in Beirut, Lebanon conversing with a Hezbollah official” in 2012, shortly after the loan was made.

Hezbollah aside, the danger posed by scandal-plagued, debt-ridden IT professionals on Capitol Hill is obvious, especially when (1) they have access to national security information and (2), if I may say so, when they are connected to Pakistan. It’s impossible not to wonder who may have received data the Awans had access to, especially given Pakistan’s history of collaborating with a various foreign countries and entities — including both friends and foes of America.

Finally, according to Raisley, Imran Awan had access to Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s iPad password. This probably means the brothers had direct access to DNC emails. Might they have sold them to Russians? Might they have sold them to non-Russians?

Clearly, I’ve entered the realm of speculation. But if the mainstream media is going to speculate endlessly about President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia, shouldn’t it also be speculating about the Awan connection? And if Trump is to be investigated endlessly by the government, shouldn’t the Awan connection be investigated, as well?

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