Kenneth P. Vogel
A handful of high-ranking Obama administration officials this month delivered private briefings at the annual invitation-only conference held by an elite international organization known as the Bilderberg group.
The closed meeting of some of the most powerful business, media and political leaders in North America and Western Europe heard from top Obama diplomats James Steinberg and Richard Holbrooke, who detailed the administration’s foreign policy, while economic adviser Paul Volcker, chairman of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board, also gave a presentation at the heavily guarded seaside resort in Greece that hosted the event.
The Bilderberg group, which takes its name from the Dutch hotel where it held its first meeting in 1954, exists solely to bring together between 100 and 150 titans of politics, finance, military, industry, academia and media from North America and Western Europe once a year to discuss world affairs.
Its ultra-exclusive roster of globally influential figures has captured the interest of an international network of conspiracists, who for decades have viewed the Bilderberg conference as a devious corporate-globalist scheme.
This year’s closed-press meeting, held at the five-star Astir Palace hotel in Vouliagmeni on the Aegean Sea about 25 miles south of Athens, marked the 57th gathering of the opaque organization.
The publicity-shy Bilderberg group – which in a rare mass-circulation press release last year described itself as “a small, flexible, informal and off-the-record international forum in which different viewpoints can be expressed and mutual understanding enhanced” – has no website and participants are asked not to publicly discuss the proceedings.
But a meeting attendee tells POLITICO that Holbrooke, a State Department special envoy, briefed attendees on the Obama administration’s unified approach to dealing with Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, gave a presentation on the administration’s broader foreign policy and National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander also participated in the conference.
An assistant to Volcker said she did not know the subject of his presentation at this year’s meeting. A White House official stressed that Volcker is not a full-time employee and wasn’t representing Obama in Greece. The White House, State Department and NSA did not respond to questions about whether Alexander, Holbrooke and Steinberg – all repeat Bilderberger attendees – were representing the Obama administration at the meeting and whether tax dollars paid for their travel.
Steinberg, it should be noted, was in the region on official business for talks with officials from Greece, Macedonia and Montenegro, on the eve of Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to other Balkan states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia.
Though Bilderberg tends to attract mostly former U.S. government officials, it’s not uncommon for sitting officials to attend.
Bilderberg stalwart Henry Kissinger, who’s attended more than half of its meetings, reportedly went at least twice during his stint as Secretary of State, while Alexander attended last year’s session as NSA director. In 2004, then-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) attended the Bilderberg conference in Stresa, Italy, and both TIME magazine and the New York Times reported that his performance at a debate there played a role in his selection one month later as the vice presidential running mate for Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
But any suggestion that Bilderberg is secretly anointing world leaders or plotting global policy is the provenance of “the black helicopter crowd,” the attendee of this year’s conference told POLITICO.
The meetings are “one of the least well-kept secrets in the world” and “don’t have any decision-making authority,” said the attendee, who did not want to be identified breaching Bilderberg’s off-the-record rule. The attendee called Bilderberg “a useful group of people who are well-connected and thoughtful who put on these meetings and usually invite a few people from the [U.S.] administration to come so they understand what the administration is doing.”
Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who attended the 2007 and 2008 Bilderberg meetings and until recently sat on the steering committee that picked invitees, did not respond to a request for comment about how invitees are selected.
Other American participants at this year’s conference included World Bank President Robert Zoellick, billionaire Bilderberg regular David Rockefeller, academic Barnett Rubin and leading neoconservatives Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, according to the attendee, who added that Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis also attended.
British press confirmed that top U.K. official Peter Mandelson was there.
Representatives of Obama economic advisor Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – both of whom have participated in past Bilderberg meetings – refuted foreign press reports predicting their presence last weekend.
Geithner was in New York, said Treasury spokeswoman Heather Wong. “I don’t know how that [Bilderberg rumor] got out there. I had some foreign press calls asking me where he was last weekend, but I didn’t have any domestic calls.”
Indeed, the gathering produced barely a blip in the American mainstream media, with the only notable dispatches coming from a Wall Street Journal reporter who was barred entry to the usually publicly accessible Astir Palace hotel, and an Associated Press reporter who noted that it was being protected by “hundreds of police, navy commandos, coast guard speedboats and two F-16 fighter planes.”
As in past years, the near-absence of mainstream media coverage left Bilderberg-veil-piercing duties to a group of self-styled Bilderberg hunters whose reporting and speculation fill fringe, libertarian-leaning websites, newspapers and AM radio shows popular with those whose worldview is characterized by a deep and angry suspicion of the ruling class rather than any prevailing partisan or ideological affiliation.
“Leaked Agenda: Bilderberg Group Plans Economic Depression,” blared a headline early this month on the popular website Infowars, which is run by syndicated radio talk show host Alex Jones.
The story was based on reporting by veteran Bilderberg sleuth Daniel Estulin, whose sources told him Bilderbergers were torn between whether to initiate “a prolonged, agonizing depression that dooms the world to decades of stagnation, decline and poverty … or an intense-but-shorter depression that paves the way for a new sustainable economic world order, with less sovereignty but more efficiency.”
Estulin, the author of “The True Story of the Bilderberg Group,” claims to have infiltrated Bilderberg, and he told POLITICO that “in the end, the shorter-intense crowd within the Bilderbergers won out and so we’re going to be looking at a year, a year-and-a-half of really intense financial meltdown.”
Estulin, who was the first to report the precise location of Bilderberg 2009 (though in late 2007 he also reported that U.S. intelligence was considering assassinating Texas GOP Congressman and libertarian icon Ron Paul), declined to email POLITICO a copy of the pre-meeting booklet on which his story was based.
Both Estulin and Jim Tucker, another veteran Bilderberg hunter, insisted that Geithner—who Infowars reported was “to take orders from global elite at Bilderberg”—attended this year’s conference.
Tucker, who edits the nationalist American Free Press newspaper, traveled to Greece to report on last weekend’s Bilderberg meeting. He says he’s been on the sidelines of about 30 of the meetings. At this year’s event, two of his reporters were confronted by the Greek Navy when they rented a boat to try to take photographs of beachside Bilderbergers from the sea, he said.
“They don’t want the world to know how they’re planning our lives,” Tucker contended. “Obama is Bilderberg’s obedient little boy. He’ll follow orders.”
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Leaked Agenda: Bilderberg Group Plans Economic Depression
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