Last November Frank Carlucci, chairman of the Carlyle Group, spoke to a conference on national security sponsored by the Pentagon and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis, a conservative think tank where he sits on the board of directors. His topic, “Employing the Instruments of National Power in a Complex Environment,” was a perfect metaphor for Carlucci’s career, which has taken him from the CIA to the highest ranks of the defense and national security establishment and, finally, to the top of one of the world’s largest private equity funds.
Typically, Carlucci was introduced to his panel not as one of the country’s wealthiest executives but as National Security Adviser and Defense Secretary during the Reagan Administration. Carlucci began by praising the Bush Administration’s conduct of the war. He didn’t mention that Carlyle’s biggest defense company, United Defense Industries, decided in the wake of September 11 to go public, a deal that would raise the value of Carlucci’s stake in that company to $1.2 million by mid-March.
Then he launched into a subject he holds dear: the weakening of US intelligence capabilities. The CIA, he lamented, “has been used as a political football since the days of the Church committee. They’ve overlaid the process with regulations. We’ve forced the CIA to disgorge information threatening the protection of sources and methods. We’ve created in effect a risk-averse atmosphere; we’ve indicted CIA officers for implementing policy.” As a result, “we have no covert action capability.”
Carlucci should know. After a brief stint in the 1950s as an executive with the Jantzen swimsuit company, he joined the foreign service, serving in Congo, Brazil and several other countries where US intelligence played a key role during the cold war. President Carter later recognized Carlucci’s service by appointing him deputy director of the CIA.
Although he is one of Washington’s most powerful financiers, Carlucci avoids the limelight. But his facade cracked slightly last year, when Haitian director Raoul Peck released Lumumba, a dramatic account of the life and times of Patrice Lumumba, Congo’s first prime minister, who was brutally murdered in 1961. In one scene of the film, a group of Belgian and Congolese officials holding Lumumba prisoner vote to kill him. One of the Belgians turns to a gentleman sitting off to the side. “Carlucci?” he asks. The American mumbles something about the US government never involving itself in the internal affairs of other countries, and abstains.
Carlucci, who was the second secretary of the US Embassy in Congo from 1960 to 1962, has vehemently denied that he played any role in Lumumba’s demise. When Lumumba was shown at the Visions Theater in Washington last July, Carlucci made a personal appearance to address Peck’s charges. “The scene is tendentious, false, libelous; it never happened and it is a cheap shot,” he said. But he didn’t stop there. When HBO aired the film in February, lawyers for Carlucci managed to convince the company to delete the scene.