Our new book, A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry, isn't all road trips and sightseeing. In between travels to nuclear bunkers and missile test ranges, we paid visits to gadflies of the nuclear world who we thought could help us plan our travels. That's how we (well, Sharon, anyhow) ended up in the office of Curt Weldon, the former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.
Weldon, for those of you not familiar with the former lawmaker, was famous for securing funding for some Russian flying saucers, his conspiratorial belief that a classified program had identified several of the 9/11 terrorists, and his determination to insert himself in nuclear issues, ranging from North Korea to Iran. It was actually the Russians that got him in trouble. We'll get back to that.
We wanted to see Weldon because we were trying to get access to Russia's closed nuclear cities, and frankly, Weldon was known for having good contacts with the Russian government. How close? Well, we'll get to that, too. Weldon, on hearing of our interest, was thrilled to talk, just thrilled. Because he wanted to tell us all about how he could single-handedly solve the world's nuclear problems. I mean, this is a man who kept a mock-up of a suitcase nuke in his office.
This was in 2006. Not long after that,the FBI raided Weldon's office and he subsequently lost his seat in the House. It is suspected that Weldon may have helped secure funding for Russian companies that in turn, paid money to his daughter. Nowadays, it's tough to get Weldon, who is at the center of a corruption probe, to talk about Russia, let alone the International Exchange Group, or IEG, the nonprofit Russian corporation that appears to be part of the FBI's investigation into the former Congressman. The Kremlin-connected IEG, the Wall Street Journall notes, was dedicated to "promoting U.S.-Russia business exchange" and "removing bureaucratic obstacles to the implementation of U.S.-funded nonproliferation programs" in Russia.
Weldon remains under investigation, though he has not yet been charged. Ken Silverstein at Harper's has been covering this issue for several years now, as has Laura Rozen writing at War and Piece. But the latest twist comes from the Journal, which reported that IEG may have paid money to the wife of a Weldon staffer. Many of the questions center on the mysterious figure at the head of IEG, Vladimir Petrosyan, and his relationship with Weldon. How close were Petrosyan and Weldon?@ Wired
H/T to Alan for the story.