Despite brutal and under-reported crackdowns by the Saleh regime, the pro-democracy movement in Yemen continues to soldier on, with widespread defections in the Yemeni military and in embassies across the world supporting the protesters.
This morning, MSNBC host Willie Geist hosted Roger Cressey, who he identified as a “former White House counter-terrorism official” and NBC News terrorism analyst, to talk about Yemen. Geist stated that reported plans by Yemeni president Ali Saleh to resign “scares a lot of people in the United States intelligence community.” Cressey said that “they should be scared” and said that if Saleh leaves, then our ability to battle terrorism will be “thrown up in the air.” He said that the Yemeni dictator was the “glue” that kept counter-terrorism efforts together and warned that his successor may not provide the same level of cooperation against Al Qaeda:
GEIST: Let’s talk about Yemen. We’ve heard now that the president will step down by the end of the year. That opens up a vacuum that scares a lot of people in the United States intelligence community. What can we expect?
CRESSEY: Well, they should be scared, Willy. When you compare Libya and Yemen, Yemen is a far more important concern from a counter-terrorism perspective. We’ve been talking about AQAP [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula], their ability twice to attempt attacks against the United States. There is a very strong infrastructure there right now that with Saleh gone, if he does go, then our ability to work with the Yemenis is going to definitely be thrown up in the air. We need to keep in mind that Yemen is on the precipice of a potential failed state. You have a Houthi rebellion in the north, you have a secessionist movement in the south, and then you have this Al Qaeda presence throughout the country. Saleh has been the glue that has kept that together as tenuous as it’s been. And we have provided him with lots of money, lots of training, and we’ve provided him with military operations against Al Qaeda there. If he leaves, it’s up in the air as to what level of coordination we’ll get from his successor.
What is not disclosed about Cressey in this segment where he scaremongers about a post-Saleh Yemen is that he has multiple conflicts of interest with the current regime there. Cressey founded and was president of Good Harbor Consulting, a leading cybersecurity firm. Among the clients of Good Harbor Consulting is none other than the Yemeni government itself. The “National Security Committee of the Government of Yemen” hired Good Harbor Consulting staffer to provide “strategic security advice” for the Gulf 20 games. Meanwhile, another Good Harbor Consulting staff member served as a “senior advisor” to the Yemeni Government “at the Critical Infrastructure Protection & Counter Terrorism Workshop for the 20th Gulf Cup preparations in Aden Yemen.”
Additionally, Cressey was named last month as a Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton, one of Washington’s top defense-related contractors. In addition to netting literally billions of dollars in defense contracts over the past decade, Booz Allen Hamilton is one of the “principal implementers” of USAID contracts in Yemen related to agriculture investments.
None of this is to say that Cressey holds these views only because of the interests of his employers. It does, however, highlight the importance of disclosing conflicts of interest.