Rogue Statesman

Congressman Dana Rohrabachers absolutely crazy, quite possibly illegal back-channel chats with the villains of Sept. 11

While Rohrabacher waxed optimistic, American diplomats became increasingly suspicious of the Taliban. On April 27, 2001, the U.S. State Department officially rebuked Rohrabacher's meddling. Alan Eastham, assistant secretary of state for South Asia, told reporters that while the congressman belongs to the president's Republican party, he did not have authorization for a diplomatic mission. Rohrabacher "did not inform us in advance of his plans with the Taliban," Eastham said.

News of Rohrabacher's Qatar meeting with the Taliban was unreported in the U.S. for 16 months. Then, last month, Gerrie Schipske—Rohrabacher's Democratic challenger in the November elections—issued a press release calling the congressman's unauthorized discussions "not only illegal but dangerous to our country." She believes he violated the Logan Act by meddling in American foreign policy and should be prosecuted.

"It is simply outrageous that this rogue congressman engaged in negotiations with the Taliban," Schipske said. "He needs to explain why he tried to cut a deal on his own and what he promised the Taliban during the meeting."

According to Schipske, Rohrabacher also lied to Congress about his April 2001 trip to Qatar. "He told the House that he was attending a conference. He did not disclose the meeting with the Taliban. Members of Congress are only allowed to accept paid trips that are connected with their official duties. Negotiating with Osama bin Laden's protégé isn't one of them."

Despite Rohrabacher's own April 2001 overseas admission of his Taliban dalliance, only a few media outlets on the East Coast picked up Schipske's press release. Mainstream news organizations in Orange County—including the Los Angeles Times and the Register—have so far ignored this tale of international intrigue. (For the record, the Times OClikely still reels from the congressman's wrath over its reports of his role in a 1996 voter-fraud scandal; the Register is Rohrabacher's ideological soulmate and former employer.)

"It's amazing that the local media won't touch this story," said Schipske. "I guess either it's hard to imagine Dana Rohrabacher negotiating with the Taliban or the story is just too big for them."

Research assistance provided by Anthony Pignataro.

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