A Potent Illustration of the Problem With Our Country

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

Enron was one of the biggest scandals to ever hit the business world. The failure of Lehman Brothers directly caused the financial crisis from which the United States is still feeling the effects. One would think that the directors of these failed firms – the worst failures in this decade – would have been punished by the market for their poor oversight.

Apparently not. This article indicates that many of directors on these failed companies have prospered quite nicely:

A few of the directors conveniently omit Enron from their biographies, but they do not appear to remain tainted, staying in their chosen professions…

The experiences of the Enron directors over the last decade would appear to offer great hope to the directors of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers.

…the Bear and Lehman directors are returning to public company service even quicker than the Enron directors. In part this reflects the old boy network on Wall Street, which keeps people in the same positions because of friendships. It is not a coincidence that two former Bear Stearns directors serve on the Viacom board.

The trend also underscores the decline in the importance of reputation on Wall Street — even since the time of Enron. Prior bad conduct simply is often not viewed as a problem.

The fact that these people have done so well constitutes a potent illustration of the problem ailing the United States. Simply put, the corporate world is no longer in any sense accountable to succeeding or failing. CEOs like Mitt Romney can personally lead firms to ruin and yet still get paid incredibly handsome “golden parachutes.” Meanwhile inequality continues to increase at an inexorable rate and the economy continues to flounder.

Reading about the denizens of big business succeeding to this extent while America as a whole flounders really strikes a bone of contention with me. There are few words in the English language to describe the wrongness of what is happening – how people who singlehandedly fail at everything that they are supposed to do still get tens of millions of dollars.

Here is one: unjust.

 

 

3 Years After Blackwater Massacre in Iraq, Contractors Still Lack Accountability and Oversight

Coauthored by Melina Milazzo

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe) private security contractors working for the U.S. Department of State shot dead 17 unarmed civilians and wounded 24 more in an unprovoked incident in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Amid the political firestorm that ensued, one thing became crystal clear: the United States lacked a coordinated, systematic policy for overseeing private contractors abroad and holding them accountable for serious violent crimes.

Three years later, we’ve seen some progress in U.S. law and policy. Congress has required greater agency oversight and coordination over contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and established a means of investigating and reviewing incidents of violence by private security contractors abroad.

But serious gaps in oversight and accountability continue, especially when it comes to holding contractors accountable for serious violent crimes like the ones that took place in Baghdad three years ago. And the U.S. has never created a mechanism for compensating the victims of private security contractors’ crimes.

In a report issued today, Human Rights First provides a snapshot of the legal and regulatory progress made since the Nisoor Square shooting, and identifies key areas where we still need major improvement.

When it came to holding the Blackwater contractors accountable, the Bush administration claimed that the U.S. government had no authority to prosecute private security contractors working for the State Department, as the Blackwater guards were. Although the Obama administration takes a different view, the issue has never been resolved by Congress or the courts.

To date, it remains unclear whether the U.S. government can prosecute contractors who work for any agencies other than the Department of Defense for serious crimes committed abroad. And it’s not clear that the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States even allows the Iraqi government to prosecute all private security contractors in its own country for serious crimes committed there.

The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or CEJA, currently in both chambers of Congress, would clarif y and expand U.S. criminal jurisdiction over all private contractors working for the U.S. government abroad . The U.S. government also needs to review its agreements with Iraq and Afghanistan and ensure that local law in those countries adequately extends to civilian contractors, so that serious crimes committed do not go unpunished.

The problem isn’t only with prosecuting violent crimes, however. U.S. government agencies don’t even track how many contractors and subcontractors work for them abroad. And the U.S. government still lacks sufficient staff within agencies that rely on private contractors abroad to keep track of contractors’ work and ensure they’re obeying the law. In Iraq, a Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that the Defense and State Departments still need to improve their investigations of serious incidents. And in Afghanistan, private security contractors for the State Department are not even required to report serious incidents (such as attacks, injuries, and death) involving contractors to the government.

Despite the troubling lack of oversight, the United States is dramatically increasing its reliance on private security contractors. With the U.S. drawdown in Iraq, the Department of State plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs, from 2,700 to 7,000. And an additional 50,000 contractors are expected to be needed to support the Afghan surge. Meanwhile, the jurisdictional gap over non-Defense contractors widens.

“We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors,” said Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator, shortly after the Nisoor Square shootings. President Obama was right then. The U.S. has both a moral responsibility and a national security interest in ensuring that the contractors it fields abroad operate in an effective, safe and law-abiding manner.

3 Years After Blackwater Massacre in Iraq, Contractors Still Lack Accountability and Oversight

Coauthored by Melina Milazzo

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe) private security contractors working for the U.S. Department of State shot dead 17 unarmed civilians and wounded 24 more in an unprovoked incident in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Amid the political firestorm that ensued, one thing became crystal clear: the United States lacked a coordinated, systematic policy for overseeing private contractors abroad and holding them accountable for serious violent crimes.

Three years later, we’ve seen some progress in U.S. law and policy. Congress has required greater agency oversight and coordination over contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and established a means of investigating and reviewing incidents of violence by private security contractors abroad.

But serious gaps in oversight and accountability continue, especially when it comes to holding contractors accountable for serious violent crimes like the ones that took place in Baghdad three years ago. And the U.S. has never created a mechanism for compensating the victims of private security contractors’ crimes.

In a report issued today, Human Rights First provides a snapshot of the legal and regulatory progress made since the Nisoor Square shooting, and identifies key areas where we still need major improvement.

When it came to holding the Blackwater contractors accountable, the Bush administration claimed that the U.S. government had no authority to prosecute private security contractors working for the State Department, as the Blackwater guards were. Although the Obama administration takes a different view, the issue has never been resolved by Congress or the courts.

To date, it remains unclear whether the U.S. government can prosecute contractors who work for any agencies other than the Department of Defense for serious crimes committed abroad. And it’s not clear that the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States even allows the Iraqi government to prosecute all private security contractors in its own country for serious crimes committed there.

The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or CEJA, currently in both chambers of Congress, would clarif y and expand U.S. criminal jurisdiction over all private contractors working for the U.S. government abroad . The U.S. government also needs to review its agreements with Iraq and Afghanistan and ensure that local law in those countries adequately extends to civilian contractors, so that serious crimes committed do not go unpunished.

The problem isn’t only with prosecuting violent crimes, however. U.S. government agencies don’t even track how many contractors and subcontractors work for them abroad. And the U.S. government still lacks sufficient staff within agencies that rely on private contractors abroad to keep track of contractors’ work and ensure they’re obeying the law. In Iraq, a Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that the Defense and State Departments still need to improve their investigations of serious incidents. And in Afghanistan, private security contractors for the State Department are not even required to report serious incidents (such as attacks, injuries, and death) involving contractors to the government.

Despite the troubling lack of oversight, the United States is dramatically increasing its reliance on private security contractors. With the U.S. drawdown in Iraq, the Department of State plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs, from 2,700 to 7,000. And an additional 50,000 contractors are expected to be needed to support the Afghan surge. Meanwhile, the jurisdictional gap over non-Defense contractors widens.

“We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors,” said Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator, shortly after the Nisoor Square shootings. President Obama was right then. The U.S. has both a moral responsibility and a national security interest in ensuring that the contractors it fields abroad operate in an effective, safe and law-abiding manner.

3 Years After Blackwater Massacre in Iraq, Contractors Still Lack Accountability and Oversight

Coauthored by Melina Milazzo

On September 16, 2007, Blackwater Worldwide (now Xe) private security contractors working for the U.S. Department of State shot dead 17 unarmed civilians and wounded 24 more in an unprovoked incident in Baghdad’s Nisoor Square. Amid the political firestorm that ensued, one thing became crystal clear: the United States lacked a coordinated, systematic policy for overseeing private contractors abroad and holding them accountable for serious violent crimes.

Three years later, we’ve seen some progress in U.S. law and policy. Congress has required greater agency oversight and coordination over contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and established a means of investigating and reviewing incidents of violence by private security contractors abroad.

But serious gaps in oversight and accountability continue, especially when it comes to holding contractors accountable for serious violent crimes like the ones that took place in Baghdad three years ago. And the U.S. has never created a mechanism for compensating the victims of private security contractors’ crimes.

In a report issued today, Human Rights First provides a snapshot of the legal and regulatory progress made since the Nisoor Square shooting, and identifies key areas where we still need major improvement.

When it came to holding the Blackwater contractors accountable, the Bush administration claimed that the U.S. government had no authority to prosecute private security contractors working for the State Department, as the Blackwater guards were. Although the Obama administration takes a different view, the issue has never been resolved by Congress or the courts.

To date, it remains unclear whether the U.S. government can prosecute contractors who work for any agencies other than the Department of Defense for serious crimes committed abroad. And it’s not clear that the Status of Forces Agreement between Iraq and the United States even allows the Iraqi government to prosecute all private security contractors in its own country for serious crimes committed there.

The Civilian Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, or CEJA, currently in both chambers of Congress, would clarif y and expand U.S. criminal jurisdiction over all private contractors working for the U.S. government abroad . The U.S. government also needs to review its agreements with Iraq and Afghanistan and ensure that local law in those countries adequately extends to civilian contractors, so that serious crimes committed do not go unpunished.

The problem isn’t only with prosecuting violent crimes, however. U.S. government agencies don’t even track how many contractors and subcontractors work for them abroad. And the U.S. government still lacks sufficient staff within agencies that rely on private contractors abroad to keep track of contractors’ work and ensure they’re obeying the law. In Iraq, a Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction found that the Defense and State Departments still need to improve their investigations of serious incidents. And in Afghanistan, private security contractors for the State Department are not even required to report serious incidents (such as attacks, injuries, and death) involving contractors to the government.

Despite the troubling lack of oversight, the United States is dramatically increasing its reliance on private security contractors. With the U.S. drawdown in Iraq, the Department of State plans to more than double the number of private security contractors it employs, from 2,700 to 7,000. And an additional 50,000 contractors are expected to be needed to support the Afghan surge. Meanwhile, the jurisdictional gap over non-Defense contractors widens.

“We cannot win a fight for hearts and minds when we outsource critical missions to unaccountable contractors,” said Barack Obama, then a U.S. Senator, shortly after the Nisoor Square shootings. President Obama was right then. The U.S. has both a moral responsibility and a national security interest in ensuring that the contractors it fields abroad operate in an effective, safe and law-abiding manner.

Immigration detention reforms a distant promise as deportations rise dramatically

From the Restore Fairness blog.

An astounding 387,790 immigrants have been deported in 2009, indicating an all time high. And for those who justify the record in the name of security, two-thirds of these deportations are of people who have committed non-violent offenses. So it’s not surprising when a little girl asks Michelle Obama why the President is deporting more immigrants than ever, even as the immigration system remains irreparably broken.

But all hope is not lost. Senator Al Franken’s is slated to introduce the HELP Separated Children’s Act which will give special protections to those apprehended by immigration who are parents of a minor in the U.S., aimed at stopping the continuing separation of families that has vast implications on childrens’ emotional and physical well-being. A similar bill was introduced last year but did not pass.

Increasing deportations are accompanied by a deteriorating detention system, even as the administration announced plans for its reform in October 2009. The proposed reforms were to address chronic problems in the system such as overcrowding, inhumane conditions, unchecked detainee transfers and a lack of alternatives to detention. But seven months and many detainees later, it is difficult to be optimistic about the state of immigrant detention.

Such as the recent ruling from the Supreme Court exempting government doctors from personal liability for inadequate medical care of detainees. So what about an immigrant like Francisco Castaneda who was made to wait ten months in detention before getting a biopsy, despite having advanced penile cancer. Just before the results came in Francisco was released from custody so the government would not have to take responsibility for his treatment. Francisco’s case is indicative of-

…exactly what is at stake when detention standards are not only inadequate but unenforceable, and when there is broad immunity enjoyed by the persons responsible for the treatment of immigrants in their charge. With minimal accountability for how they treat people in their own custody, DHS continually fails to provide dignified or tolerable treatment of immigrant detainees.

The lack of adequate medical care and accountability is compounded by the rapid increase of numbers of detainees, resulting in the overburdening of the immigration court system that already has a huge backlog of untried cases. An analysis by TRAC shows the number of immigration cases awaiting resolution by the courts has reached all time record high of 242, 776, with a wait time of 443 days.

Translated into real terms, a recent lawsuit filed by the ACLU in Southern California yielded a list from the administration of 350 immigrant detainees in the Los Angeles area who have been held for periods longer than six months while waiting for their cases to be heard. Many are neither flight risks, nor a danger to their community, but continue to be locked up because of harsh laws and a lack of alternatives to detention. This includes people like Damdin Borjgin, a Mongolian man seeking asylum in the United States who has been in custody since November 2007 and has never had a hearing to decide if his is eligible for release. Detention reforms were supposed to address alternatives to detention for people like Borjgin, but have so far not kicked into effect.

The infinite problems with the immigration detention and deportation system are part of a broken immigration system that continues to deny people basic human rights, due process and justice.

Learn. Share. Act. Go to restorefairness.org

 

 

 

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