WASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) -- A top adviser to U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and one of the intellectual architects of the war with Iraq resigned his post Thursday amid an ethics controversy.
Richard Perle resigned his chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board but is remaining a member of the board, according to the Pentagon.
"With our nation at war and American troops risking their lives to protect our freedom and liberate Iraq, I am dismayed that your valuable time, and that of others in the Department of Defense and the administration might be burdened by the controversy surrounding my chairmanship of the Defense Policy Board," Perle wrote in a letter Wednesday to Rumsfeld.
Perle, one of George W. Bush's foreign policy advisers during the 2000 presidential campaign, was hired last week by the bankrupt Global Crossing telecommunications company to help it restructure a deal to sell a majority holding in the company to Hutchison Telecommunications and government-run Singapore Technologies Telemedia. The United States government -- particularly the Defense Department and the FBI -- has national security concerns about the deal, according to The New York Times. It would put Global Crossing's fiber optics network -- which the military uses -- under Chinese ownership.
The newspaper wrote about the deal Friday, an article Perle disputed in a 10-point statement issued Thursday.
"I deeply resent the accusation that I am using a public position (the DPB) for private gain. Whatever help I was to Global had to do with 30 years of experience in these matters, and nothing to do with the DPB."
The Defense Policy Board provides top Pentagon leaders with "independent, informed advice and opinion concerning major matters of defense policy," according to its charter.
Perle said he was not paid for his influence and access to top Pentagon leaders but rather for his grasp of national security issues.
"It was clearly understood that I would not present their case to the government or lobby for them in any way and I have not done so. My role was limited to helping them understand the government's concerns and how to satisfy them. (This is complicated and much more difficult than one would imagine)," Perle wrote.
Perle said in his resignation letter he would not accept any compensation for the consulting work he did for Global Crossing and that "any fee for past service would be donated to the families of American forces killed or injured in Iraq."
The New York Times reported that Perle is to be paid $725,000 by Global Crossing, including $600,000 if the government approves the sale of the company to the Hutchison joint venture.
"I have seen controversies like this before and I know this one will inevitably distract from the urgent challenge in which you are now engaged. I would not wish to cause even a moment's distraction from that challenge. As I cannot quickly or easily quell criticism of me based on error of fact concerning my activities, the least I can do under these circumstances is to ask you to accept my resignation as chairman of the Defense Policy Board," he wrote to Rumsfeld.
According to The New York Times, Perle signed a March 7 affidavit that was to be filed with the bankruptcy court.
That stated, "As the chairman of the Defense Policy Board, I have a unique perspective on and intimate knowledge of the national defense and security issues that will be raised by the (Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States) review process that is not and could not be available to the other CFIUS professionals."
Perle stated Thursday, "This language was wrong. The (Defense Policy Board) does not deal with these issues and my position could not possibly enhance my knowledge or perspective. Accordingly, I revised (the lawyer's) draft to delete the sentence. Because of a clerical error the reference was only deleted from one page but appeared on another. Thinking that all the necessary deletions were made I signed the affidavit. The document was not filed with the court."
Rumsfeld accepted the resignation Thursday.
"I am grateful for his willingness to continue to serve on the board. I should add that I have known Richard Perle for many years and know him to be a man of integrity and honor," Rumsfeld said in a prepared statement.
As a member of the unpaid board, Perle would not be subject to the same ethics rules as the chairman.
Perle has been a leading, albeit somewhat free lance, voice in the Bush administration for a war with Iraq.
As a campaign adviser, he suggested in 2000 to a Senate committee that Bush would oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein if he were elected.
"Governor Bush has said ... he would fully implement the Iraq Liberation Act. We all understand what that means. It means a serious and sustained effort to assist the opposition with a view to bringing down Saddam's regime," Perle said.
In October 2001 -- just as the war in Afghanistan was beginning -- Perle told PBS the next target of the U.S. military should be Saddam.