Rescue Mission Puts Spotlight on Bill's Contacts

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2009 4:45 AM CDT
Bill Clinton meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyonggyang, North Korea, on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2009.    (AP Photo/Korean Central News Agency via Korea News Service)
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(Newser) – The same sprawling network of business and political contacts that caused trouble with Hillary Clinton's confirmation as secretary of state helped her husband secure the release of Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the Washington Post reports. Private donors paid for Bill Clinton's trip to North Korea, and the former president handpicked the team that came with him, which included his former chief of staff.

The Obama administration was careful to distance itself from the mission, although officials confirm they had been told the women would be released if Clinton traveled to Pyongyang. The secretary of state, meanwhile, took pains to point out that her husband's visit doesn't signal a shift in American policy toward North Korea. But she acknowledged diplomatic benefits could follow.  "Perhaps they will now be willing to start talking to us," she said yesterday.