When a popular uprising exploded in Libya in mid-February, Moammar Gadhafi's son and military commander Khamis Gadhafi, charged with protecting the regime at all costs, was not there. Instead, Khamis was on a whirlwind, cross-country tour of the U.S. organized by an American company, flitting from the Port of Houston to Wall Street to the offices of major defense contractors with U.S. State Department approval.
On this week's episode of "Brian Ross Investigates," we hear from Wayne Dolcefino of KTRK-TV, the ABC owned-and-operated station in Houston, Texas, who broke the story.
The Port of Houston is one of the world's leading centers of petrochemical shipping. Dolcefino said he learned about Gadhafi's guided tour of Houston's sensitive port facilities, complete with catered lunch and photo ops, while conducting a larger investigation of the port.
"We got tips that they were very worried we would find out about this Libyan connection," said Dolcefino. "Once we got the documents and the photos we established this was just part of a two-year courtship."
The Port of Houston, explained Dolcefino, sought lucrative consulting business with Libya's ports. Libya is a major oil exporter. In a statement, the Port Authority told Dolcefino that because of an easing of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Libya it had entered into "formal agreements" to encourage trade "with the region."
Dolcefino said he thinks the story about Gadhafi's son is an "embarrassment" to the Port of Houston, but promised more stories in the coming weeks on other subjects that will also make the Port of Houston uncomfortable.
Gadhafi's trip was part of an internship program with Los Angeles-based engineering giant AECOM, set to span just over a month, and take Khamis to tours and meetings with high-profile universities and companies from Houston to L.A., San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, Washington D.C., New York and Boston. Khamis visited Northwestern University, Northrop Grumman, the New York Stock Exchange and Lockheed Martin, among other destinations.
Back in Libya, Gadhafi commands a brutal military brigade named after him, and his family stands accused of hiring mercenaries to massacre civilians. Though he was rumored to have been killed in a suicide attack, last week Libyan state television featured footage of Khamis riding atop a vehicle at Gadhafi's Tripoli compound and rallying the faithful.
"Brian Ross Investigates" Celebrates One Year On The Air
This week marks the first anniversary of "Brian Ross Investigates," which launched in April 2010. To date there have been almost 50 episodes, and this week's episode looks back at the three most viewed segments from the show's first year, as measured in hits and downloads.
The third most-watched "Brian Ross Investigates" story from the past year was an exclusive investigation into ATV safety across the country, and the story of one family advocating for tougher child protection laws in the wake of a tragedy. That investigation was later featured on "Nightline," "Good Morning America," and "World News with Diane Sawyer."
The second most-watched story was a report on death by stoning, including graphic video of the death of a woman in a Taliban-controlled area of Pakistan. The woman was reportedly sentenced to death by the Taliban because she had been seen out with a man.
The most watched story of the show's first year was a cry for help by the parents of one U.S. soldier accused of killing innocent Afghan civilians, who said their son's real enemy was not Taliban insurgents but a fellow American in his own Army unit.
One of the other U.S. soldiers accused in that "thrill kill" case, Spc. Jeremy Morlock, recently pleaded guilty to murder and is set to testify against his one-time comrades in their upcoming trials.
CLICK HERE for a round-up of the year's best stories.
Also on this week's show, see a new report on the Obama administration's green energy program, and whether major Obama backers benefited from the program's half a billion dollars in loans and grants. In a joint investigation with the Center for Public Integrity, ABC News found that while the program has been slow in distributing funds, and its criteria for choosing recipients have been criticized by auditors, companies linked to political allies have received loans, grants and loan guarantees.
Congress has given the Energy Department authority to distribute billions of dollars in public funds to help stimulate the economy and seed a new generation of clean energy firms. A joint investigation by ABC News and the Center for Public Integrity that aired on "World News with Diane Sawyer" found that Westly is just one of several political allies of the president who have ties to companies receiving chunks of that money through loans, grants, or loan guarantees.
"Brian Ross Investigates" is a weekly 30-minute investigate news magazine show that features exclusive interviews, undercover videos and extended investigations and story updates, airing every Friday on Hulu.com -- CLICK HERE to watch the full episodes -- and ABC News Now, the network's 24-hour news channel available throughout the U.S. and Europe, at 1:36 p.m. Each show is also available on mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.
Viewers can submit videos and personal thoughts on controversial issues and current topics through Facebook and Twitter, including the "Skype Gripe" segment, in which viewers are invited to interact with Ross about recent investigations.
To join in on the discussion and be part of the show, follow Brian Ross on Twitter at @BrianRoss, the Investigative Team at @ABCNewsBlotter, and on Facebook (ABC News Investigative Team).