Greeted at the airport by limousine drivers holding single-letter “B” signs, global luminaries such as Henry Kissinger, David Rockefeller and Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands began quietly slipping into Ottawa yesterday for the annual gathering of the ultra-secretive Bilderberg Group.
Over the next three days at the Brookstreet Hotel in Kanata, they and other prominent political and business leaders from North America and Europe are expected to discuss issues such as the security threat posed by Iran and the direction of oil markets.
The group’s discreet approach was evident as attendees arrived yesterday at the Ottawa Airport.
Outside the airport, a phalanx of limousines lined up to ferry guests to the Brookstreet, where security guards with ear pieces kept watch over the barricaded entrance to the hotel parking lot.
Limos were also dispatched to the nearby Shell Aerocentre to retrieve participants arriving on private aircraft. Some attendees had the single-letter “B” on their luggage tags.
Approached by a Citizen reporter upon his arrival, former U.S. defence policy adviser Richard Perle shot down criticism about the secrecy of the group’s meetings. “It’s a private organization,” he said. He denied the charge, advanced by Bilderberg critics, that the organization crafts public policy behind closed doors. “It discusses public policy,” he stressed.
Mr. Perle also dismissed suggestions that the group’s heavy representation from the oil industry gives it influence over energy prices. “If it did, I’d be trading on oil futures,” he said.
A former assistant secretary of defence to president Ronald Reagan, Mr. Perle is still considered an influential adviser in U.S. conservative circles. He advised President George W. Bush and is said to be a close friend of Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
In 2003, he publicly chastised the Canadian government for refusing to send troops to Iraq and warned that “lame-duck” prime minister Jean Chretien would be embarrassed once weapons of mass destruction were found.
Also seen arriving yesterday were Jorma Ollila, chairman of Royal Dutch Shell, Egil Myklebust, chairman of Scandinavian Airlines, World Bank president James Wolfenson, and Frank McKenna, former New Brunswick premier and ex-Canadian ambassador to the U.S.
According to an unsigned press release sent by fax yesterday, presumably by Bilderberg organizers, attendees will also include New York Governor George Pataki, deputy prime minister of Iraq Ahmad Chalabi, the heads of Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse, the Royal Bank of Canada, a number of media moguls, and cabinet ministers from Spain and Greece.
The release confirmed this year’s meeting will deal with energy issues, Iran, the Middle East, terrorism, immigration, Russia, European-American relations and Asia.
“The meeting is private to encourage frank and open discussion,” said the release. “There will be no press conference.”
Security was relatively light at the airport, with only a few uniformed police on hand.
But at the Brookstreet, the parking lot in front of the hotel was completely emptied and entrances to the lot were barricaded. A tow truck removed any vehicles that did not comply.
Private security guards in black blazers guarded various points around the hotel perimeter, including the golf course behind the Brookstreet. A number of Ottawa police officers also provided security.
Guests who stayed at the hotel on Wednesday night were asked to check out by 8:30 a.m. yesterday, several hours earlier than usual. The hotel is closed through Sunday.
The sidewalk in front of the hotel has become an improvised campground for conspiracy theorists and dedicated Bilderberg watchers, few more colourful than James P. Tucker Jr., a 71-year-old writer who says he has covered every Bilderberg conference for the last 30 years.
Mr. Tucker, who recently published a book called the Bilderberg Diary, said he spent several days this week casing out the hotel, plying Brookstreet bartenders for information over glasses of tomato juice.
“For years they denied their very existence,” said Mr. Tucker, dressed in a black pinstriped suit and straw hat. “Well, they certainly influence the world.”
Daniel Estulin, who flew from Spain to cover this week’s conference, is such a regular on the circuit that he is on a first-name basis with Bilderberg security officials.
“Their main objective is creating a world government ruled by an elite group of people whose main objective is to control all the natural resources of the planet,” said Mr. Estulin, who brought a small camera to snap photos of the Bilderbergers as they arrived in dark luxury sedans with tinted windows. Some of the sedans had sheets of paper bearing the trademark “B” on the dashboard.
But the Bilderbergers also attracted curious onlookers who only recently learned about the event through the media.
“There are all sorts of gaps in what politicians say and do. This is just another example of the circumventing of the democratic process,” said Cindy Mogensen, who took a break from work yesterday to check out the conference.