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GOOD Guide: to Shadowy Organizations, the Bilderberg Group

The Bilderberg Group has no website, no publicity, no leaks, secret meeting locations, and secret minutes with no names recorded.

"Leave a message after the tone"

DOCTRINEOpen discussion and open criticism, with the kind of candor that can only exist in absolute secrecy. That means no website, no publicity, no leaks, secret meeting locations, and secret minutes with no names recorded. This also means lots of intrigue and speculation among conspiracy buffs as to the group's true purpose. Bilderbergers have said their meetings are too short and membership too varied to generate much consensus, let alone plans for world domination. They do, however, get lots of quality information early-Bilderbergers are said to have heard of U.S. plans to attack Iraq in June, 2002.

HEADQUARTERSBilderberg has a phone, a post-office box, and one full-time staffer in Leiden, a town in southern Holland. Write to this outpost at Bilderberg Meetings, P.O. Box 3017, 2301 DA Leiden, The Netherlands.

MYTHICAL ACHIEVEMENTSThe second Iraq war, NATO's strikes against Serbia, and the creation of the European Union are all said to have been test-marketed in cozy Bilderberg chats.GREATEST ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENTDefying the conventional wisdom that everything eventually leaks onto the record, this Dutch wall of silence has remained intact for 54 years. The greatest testament to Bilderberg's power may be its ability to inspire lunatics from across the political spectrum. Everyone from Timothy McVeigh to Osama bin Laden has worked the group into their rhetoric.

MembershipAn annual meeting of 130 emerging and established players from politics and business-almost exclusively Europeans and Americans-who gather at luxury hotels for four days of off-the-record conversation. Bankers and defense ministers are especially well represented. A few press barons and celebrity reporters are invited along too, as long as they agree not to write about it.AlumniPrince Bernhard of the Netherlands, one of Bilderberg's two founders, was a member of the Nazi Party and Hitler's SS. Veteran scenesters include David Rockefeller, Henry Kissinger, and a strong U.S. neocon contingent. Jacques Chirac and Ariel Sharon have attended, as did Colin Powell during his time as Secretary of State. Bilderberg's gatekeepers have a strong record of spotting young political talent-Tony Blair and Bill Clinton both attended the conference when they were still cutting their teeth in the provinces.The ExposéA British writer named Jon Ronson came a few feet away from crashing Bilderberg's 1999 meeting in Portugal before being chased off by security guards. In 2007, the group invited Mehmet Ali Birand, a journalist from the Turkish Daily News, to cover its meeting in Istanbul. Birand's story reports, "There were neither secret plans made, nor secret sentences uttered, nor secret decisions taken." It contains no names and no quotes.In Their Own WordsBilderberg has no website, no public email address, and no name on its voicemail. The eight-page fax we received from Maja Banck, Bilderberg's executive secretary, only deepened the group's mystique. Why are the meetings held in secret, we asked. "A meeting to be open must be confidential," Banck replied. What does she make of the conspiracy theories? "Reality speaks louder than fiction."

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