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In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 30, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Out of the dangers and frustrations of guarding witnesses in motels grew the concept of the safehouse. Promoted by the 1967 President’s Crime Commission, the idea seemed a perfect solution, both efficient and economical.

Large numbers of endangered trial witnesses could be housed in well-guarded facilities for months or even years. Once they had finished testifying, they could remain at the safehouse until they no longer needed protection.

Starting in 1971, about a dozen safehouses were created around the nation. The permanent ones were located in Sacramento, Providence, Staten Island and Fort Holabird, Maryland. Temporary facilities were set up in Boston, Miami, San Diego, Manhattan and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

In theory–and, at first, in practice—the safehouses offered witnesses increased security at reduced expense to the Justice Department. Each safehouse had about fifty witnesses, called “principals,” who lived under constant guard for usually six to eight months.

They cooked their own meals, received a small daily allowance, and wore ordinary clothes instead of prison garb—which most of them, as convicted felons, would have worn had they been housed in jails. They were encouraged to use aliases and to mind their own business. And they were warned to not talk with other witnesses about their past crimes—a favorite topic among underworld figures.

These conditions provided several advantages over quartering witnesses in motels. Life became easier for both witnesses and their guards, who no longer had to live on the run. Witnesses had time to relax and prepare for upcoming trials. Case agents and prosecutors had ready access to witnesses for the exhaustive preparation vital to successful courtroom appearances.

At first, the safehouses weren’t meant to last more than two years. During the first one, Justice Department officials believed, the facilities would be entirely secret and secure. During the second year, they would be less secret but could presumably be made more secure by additional guards and electronic surveillance devices.

But two flaws quickly appeared in this theory. First, the safehouses were not phased out after the second year. They provided so many comforts and conveniences to witnesses, guards, case agents and prosecutors that no one wanted to terminate the arrangement. Second, many prisoner-witnesses, upon returning to prison or their underworld careers, passed along the locations of the safehouses where they had been lodged.

So the safehouses eventually became known to the Mafia. According to St. Germain: “Every Mafiosi in New England knew where the Providence safehouse was. It was well-defended, but I think that if somebody had wanted to get in there, I think they could have.”

Shortly after the opening of the Staten Island safehouse, federal agents got a tip that it was about to be blown up by the Mafia. That facility was closed and its witnesses lodged at the safehouse in Providence.

In 1975, the Mafia smuggled a hitman, posing as a witness, into a New York safehouse. He didn’t execute anyone there. He simply rifled the luggage of many witnesses, looking for the claim-tags noting their past or future relocation areas. He also mingled with many witnesses, learning where they expected to be sent after they left the safehouse.

Some witnesses grew suspicious of the curiosity of their new acquaintance. One of them called Witness Security Inspector Richard St. Germain at his office in San Francisco. He alerted his superiors at the Justice Department.

Panic-stricken, they ordered the immediate closing of that safehouse. Every witness there had to be relocated to a new area. The WITSEC imposter was rushed to the headquarters of the Program in Falls Church, Virginia, and thoroughly interrogated. St. Germain never learned what happened to him.

Because the locations of the safehouses were no longer secret, some witnesses refused to stay in them.

One man, flown from California to an Eastern state, refused to spend a single night at a particular facility. “Screw you,” he told the marshals who met him at the airport to escort him to that safehouse. He boarded the next flight to California and was gone within the hour.

By 1974, the Justice Department began closing the safehouses, with one exception. This was a “floating” safehouse in New York. Every ten days to two weeks, all the marshals and their charges staying at a particular motel would move to a new motel.

Only during the late 1980s did the concept of the safehouse—now dubbed “safesite”—re-emerge. By 1991, at least seven safesites—one in each of the seven busiest metropolitan areas of the country—had been established.

There was an important difference between the new safesites and the old safehouses: the safesites were ringed with sophisticated electronic security devices—infrared seekers, motion detectors and video surveillance cameras.

By contrast, the safehouses had depended completely on perimeter checks by deputy U.S. marshals. Donald “Bud” McPherson, the Inspector for Los Angeles in the 1980s, helped design the safesite in his city. He believed that it would not have been difficult for the Mafia to infiltrate any of the now-defunct safehouses.

So there was an interim between the closing of the safehouses and the creating of the safesites. During that period, the U.S. Marshals Service went back to quartering witnesses in motels or jails or on military bases.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 at 10:51 am

In his play, Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare has Marcus Brutus justify his participation in the assassination of his longtime friend with the following words: “Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

President Barack Obama’s Republican critics could have said something very similar during their criticism of him for setting up a $20 billion escrow account to compensate victims of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

That they opposed the President “not because I love the oil industry less, but because I hate President Obama more.”

On June 17, Congressman Joseph Barton offered a badly-timed apology to BP CEO Tony Hayward.

“I do not want to live in a country where any time a citizen or a corporation does something that is legitimately wrong is subject to some sort of political pressure that is–again, in my words, amounts to a shakedown,” Barton, a Texas Republican, said. “So I apologize.”

Barton was apologizing for an announcement made by President Obama on June 16. After meeting with the President at the White House, BP’s leaders had agreed to set up a $20 billion escrow account to–in Obama’s words–“provide substantial assurance that the claims people and businesses have will be honored.”

Barton said he was “ashamed” of what had happened at the White House and called it a “tragedy of the first proportion” that a private company would be subjected to a “$20 billion shakedown” that’s really a government “slush fund.” Barton said it was unprecedented and illegal.

Barton has received $100,470 in campaign donations from oil and gas interests since the beginning of 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The same group reported that since 1990, the oil and gas industries have given more than $1.4 million to Barton’s campaigns–the most of any House member during that period.

Barton is scheduled to become the Republican Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is supposed to oversee the actions of energy companies.

Nor was Barton the only Republican to condemn the President rather than Gulf-polluting BP. Congressman Tom Price of Georgia attacked the escrow account as an example of Obama’s “Chicago-style shakedown politics.”

“These actions are emblematic of a politicization of our economy that has been borne out of this administration’s drive for greater power and control,” Price charged.

Yet another Republican, Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, criticized the BP disaster fund even before it was announced. Bachmann–who has repeatedly damned Obama as a socialist–called it a “redistribution-of-wealth fund” during a Heritage Foundation luncheon in Washington.

Bachmann told The Washington Post: “If I was the head of BP, I would let the signal get out there–‘We’re not going to be chumps, and we’re not going to be fleeced.’ And they shouldn’t be.

“They shouldn’t have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest–they’ve got to be legitimate claims.”

Bachmann also accused the president of demonizing BP. “He makes them evil, and what we’ve got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this,” she said.

Bachmann made these comments 57 days after BP’s shattered Deepwater Horizon oil rig began spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

“Whose side is she on?” asked Tarryl Clark, Bachmann’s Democratic opponent in Minnesota’s conservative 6th Congressional District.

Putting Bachmann’s comments into perspective, Clark said she was giving “advice to the corporate honchos at BP on how to keep themselves from being ‘fleeced’ by the American people.”

Contrary to the stereotyped charge, bureaucracies are not made up of faceless cogs. They are comprised of men and women–whose loves, fears, hates and ambitions are reflected within those institutions.

Nor can bureaucracies exist in a vacumn. Every bureaucracy has a constituency–if not several constituencies. And the people who comprise that constituency expect their needs–if not their wishes–to be met.

This proves true even in dictatorships. The dictator may sit at the top of the pile. But if those who serve him–such as the secret police and the army–feel ignored or slighted, they will take appropriate action–and soon there will be a new dictator.

Adolf Hitler, for example, was careful to retain support among the top leaders of the German Armed Forces, by giving them titles and estates–and an entire continent to dominate.

Thus, it is a mistake to view statements such as those made by Barton, Price and Bachmann as separate from the views held by the constituencies these politicians represent. If the voters who placed–and keep–them in power didn’t fully support their hate-filled views of President Obama, such statements simply wouldn’t be made.

Or, if they were, the voters would quickly register their anger and turn such representatives out of office. It is because such politicians truly represent the hatreds and fears and greeds of their constituencies that they got into office. And it is because they continue to reflect those hatreds, fears and greeds that they continue to remain there.


In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Politics on June 15, 2010 at 1:23 pm

CEOs and Mafia bosses are bureaucrats at heart: When they want somebody roughed up or rubbed out, they nearly always order a subordinate to do it for them.

But once in a while a highly agitated boss (corporate or criminal, as if there’s a difference) loses his cool and decides to do the job himself.

Or, as in the case of Meg Whitman, herself.

According to a June 14 story in the New York Times: California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman was accused of shoving an employee while she was head of eBay in 2007. The incident cost the company about $200,000 in an out-of-court settlement.

The employee, Young Mi Kim, said she was helping Whitman prepare for a media interview when her boss became angry, used an expletive and pushed her in a company boardroom.

In her acceptance speech last week, Whitman referred to herself and Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, another former CEO, as “two business women from the real world who know how to create jobs, balance budgets and get things done!”

Carly Fiorina seems to think that getting things done means making catty remarks about the hairstyle of her opponent–in this case, Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.

And Whitman apparently doesn’t rule out the use of physical force in dealing with those who dare not strike back–at least, not physically.

Whitman’s actions may seem trivial, but they tell us a great deal about her–and certainly far more than she wants us to know. As the ancient historian Plutarch writes in his biography of Alexander the Great:

“And the most glorious exploits do not always furnish us with the clearest discoveries of virtue or vice in men; sometimes a matter of less moment, an expression or a jest, informs us better of their characters and inclinations, than the most famous sieges, the greatest armaments, or the bloodiest battles whatsoever.”

At a time when corporate CEOs (Corrupt, Egotistical Oligarchs) are trumpeting their ability to “get things done,” it’s well to ask: “What things?” and “How?”

As for “What things”: Meg Whitman has made it clear she believes that corporations pay far too much in taxes. And if the titans who bring home multi-million-dollar salaries are forced to pay out so much as a penney’s worth of taxes, it’s going to make them not want to hire people who are paid a comparative pittance.

On one hand, it’s the old hostage-game: “If you force me to live up to my obligations as an American citizen and pay taxes, I’ll take my football (company) and go someplace where I won’t have to live up to them.”

On the other hand, it’s the return of failed,
trickle-down Reaganomics: “Give billions in tax-breaks to the ultra-wealthy, and maybe they’ll deign to ‘trickle-down’ a few nickels to the peasantry.”

As for “How CEOs get things done”: There is a Russian phrase that sums it up beautifully: “Kto kovo?” Or: “Who whom?” as in “Who can do what to whom?”

For the vast majority of CEOs, the end of serving their own greed more than justifies whatever means they use to serve it.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Fiorina spent $5 million on her primary campaign and Whitman spent $71 million of her own money towards her race. All this for jobs that pay $174,000 (for U.S. Senate) and $212,179 (for Governor) a year.

Most Americans know nothing about the history of ancient Rome. But even those who do feel there is nothing to be learned from it. To them, the ruthless intrigues by would-be tyrants like Julius Caesar–financed by wealthy businessmen like Marcus Crassus–mean nothing.

On the contrary, there is much to learn from such history–and it sounds a warning for us.

In true “privitization” spirit, Crassus made his millions by setting up a private fire brigade (when there were no public ones) and then offering to buy those tenaments being consumed by fire.

If the owner agreed, Crassus’ brigade then put out the fire–and Crassus paid the now-homeless former owner a pittance. Crassus then became the property’s owner. If the owner refused, Crassus let the property burn–and the owner got nothing.

As the Republican propaganda machine loudly champions the private sector against the public one, it’s well to remember that the motivating force of that private sector is private greed.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics on June 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

The saying “Who will watch the watchman?” grew out of a time when castles posted a watchman in a high tower to give alert to approaching enemies.

If the sentry gave the alarm in time, there was a good chance the castle would repulse its would-be conquerors. But if the watchman didn’t, the outcome could be catastrophic.

In one of the most famous stories in world literature, Trojan sentries got drunk and fell asleep while celebrating Troy’s “victory” over the “departed” Greek Army. And they kept on sleeping even as the Greeks stormed the city and slaughtered almost all its inhabitants.

Something very similar happened at the Securities and Exchange Commission(SEC) in 2007-8.

“High-ranking officials within the SEC were spending more time looking at porn than taking action to help stave off the events that put our nation’s economy on the brink of collapse,” said California Congressman Darrell Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, in April, 2010.

A report written by SEC Inspector General David Kotz cited the following violations of SEC and government-wide ethics rules:

• Thirty-three employees and/or contractors used their computers while on government time to access pornography, sexually explicit and sexually suggestive images.
• More than half the accused workers earned $99,000 to $223,000 annually.
• A regional staff accountant tried to access pornographic websites nearly 1,800 times in a two-week period.
• A senior attorney at the SEC’s Washington headquarters spent up to eight hours a day looking at and downloading pornography.
• An accountant was blocked more than 16,000 times in a month from visiting sexually-explicit websites.

The cracks in the financial system emerged in mid-2007 and spread into full-blown panic by the fall of 2008.

Bureaucracies have always struggled to police the improper actions of their employees. Their options have generally consisted of rewards and punishments.

Rewards usually come in the form of increased salary and/or promotion. Punishments usually consist of reduction in rank and/or salary or dismissal.

For decades, the FBI was notorious for transferring agents who displeased its tyrannical director, J. Edgar Hoover, to Butte, Montana, the Bureau’s version of Siberia. The FBI also used surprise inspections to try to catch agents violating its vast array of rules–such as forbidding them to drink coffee at their desks or wear any color of shirt other than white.

A traditional problem for organizations is their inability to objectively investigate complaints directed at themselves. The FBI has tried to address this by having complaints made against a particular field office investigated by a different one. The hope is that this will ensure a measure of impartiality, since the investigating agents will presumably not know the agents whose behavior they are investigating.

According to Sociologist Theodore Caplow’s brilliant book, How to Run Any Organization there are twelve rules to follow for effective supervision:

1. Set unmistakable goals.

2. Supervise the work more than the worker: “The chef who sits at the kitchen door and tastes every dish as it passes…[will] find it easy to communicate with [his] workers.”

3. Distinguish between essential and non-essential rules: “With respect to those few norms that express the organization’s moral commitment and do call for perfect compliance, the supervisor’s best course is to treat every violation as harshly as his powers allow.”

4. Reward sparingly, punish even more sparingly.

5. Give credit where credit is due.

6. Listen to complaints sympathetically; never complain in return.

7. Defend the faith: “The supervisor must take the group and its work more seriously than anyone else and must know how to assume a ceremonial stance for great occasions.”

8. Develop an inner circle: “An inner circle of lieutenants provides additional eyes, ears and hands to do his supervising.”

9. Protect the status of subordinates.

10. Retain final control.

11. Innovate democratically.

12. Take infinite pains.

The need for supervising the professional behavior of employees poses genuine problems for the organizations trying to do so. Too little supervision results in widespread violations of the agency’s/company’s most important rules and even of the criminal law. But too much supervision creates hostility between employees and managers and destroys company morale.

Even law enforcement agents who spend their lives cultivating informants among criminals despise their members who inform on officers who violate the law.

Without doubt the most-hated part of any law enforcement agency is its Internal Affairs Department. “Finks, “rats,” “the shoofly” are among the insults hurled at those who are charged with policing their fellow officers.

In extreme cases, those who have dared to inform on the corrupt actions of fellow officers have been forced to retire from law enforcement and/or assume a new identity via the Federal Witness Security Program.

As our society becomes more centralized and the Federal Government assumes greater regulatory powers, the agencies charged with this will have to find ways to effectively police their employees without sapping their morale–and the efficiency that accompanies it.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on June 9, 2010 at 9:46 pm

During most of the eight-year Presidency of Bill Clinton, the State Department often referred to nations like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as “rogue states.”

In a 1994 lecture, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defined a rogue state as one that actively tried to undermine the international system.

But in 2000, the State Department declared that it would no longer call such nations “rogues.” Instead, they would now be referred to as “states of concern.”

State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher said that “rogue” was inflammatory, and might hamper the efforts of the United States to reach agreements with its potential adversaries.

In short, it’s become Politically Incorrect to refer to even our sworn enemies as enemies.

As Steven Emerson, president of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) puts it: “If you can’t name your enemy, how can you defeat him?”

The following are excerpts from that June 19, 2000 press briefing where the announcement was made.

Q: On a related matter, the Secretary [of State, Madeleine Albright] said today, this morning, that the United States has abandoned the expression “rogue states” in favor of “states of concern.” I wondered if you could sort of give us an idea of the ideological shift that’s involved in this change in terminology.

MR. BOUCHER: All right. The phrase “states of concern” is a more general phrase. I think that the issue was whether you have one policy that tries to fit all, and when all these states are opposed to the peace process and opposed to the international situation and opposed to any form of liberalization and democracy, it’s easy to describe in one basket.

* * * * *

So the point, I think, is just a recognition that we have seen some evolution in different ways in different places, and that we will deal appropriately with each one based on the kind of evolution we’re seeing and what we think is possible in terms of getting them to live more harmoniously with the international environment and, in particular, to address the concerns that the United States has.

* * * * *

Q: Is “rogue state” then out of the lexicon as of today?

MR. BOUCHER: I haven’t used it for a while.

Q: Is it possible that some states will still be referred to as “rogue states” if they —

MR. BOUCHER: If they want to be rogues, they can be rogues, but generally we have not been using the term for a while, I think.

Q: So it’s not a matter of some countries continue to be “rogue states” and others have progressed to “states of concern;” all of them henceforth are “states of concern”?


Q: But does this lower the bar for what a “state of concern” is, now that there’s no “rogue state”?

MR. BOUCHER: Does this lower the bar? No, because, as I said, it’s more a description than a change in policy, because the issue is: Are various countries whose activities around the world have been troubling to us, are they actually dealing with the issues that we have been concerned about? And if we are able to encourage them or pressure them or otherwise produce changes in their behavior, and therefore a change in our relationship, we’re willing to do that. If they’re not, then we’re going to keep our sanctions on and we’re going to keep our restrictions on and we’re not going to change our policies.

Q: PR-wise, does that make it easier for the Administration if you ease sanctions on a “state of concern” than if you ease sanctions on a “rogue state”? So isn’t this just as much for you as it is them?

MR. BOUCHER: No, I think the determination will be state by state, where if we do something with an individual country that people think is unmerited, I think we’ll hear about it.

Q: Can you tell us how many there are?


* * * * *

Q: So are the same seven countries – or however many countries it was that were considered “rogue states” before – are they all now considered “states of concern”?

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, they would be. But I have to say the point is not to categorize them; the point is to deal with each country on the basis of what we can accomplish in terms of what we care about.

Q: But when you change the category, that is necessarily a categorization.

MR. BOUCHER: We’ll discuss that over lunch sometime. I think that’s too philosophical for me to deal with from the podium.


In Bureaucracy, History, Humor, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics on June 9, 2010 at 7:42 pm

On June 8, 2010, AOL News carried a story that must have sent Moshe Dayan and David Ben-Gurion spinning in their graves.

“Israel Apologizes for Music Video Mocking Gaza Flotilla,” ran the headline, and then, for those who couldn’t believe their eyes, there was this:

June 8 – The Israeli government has apologized for circulating a satirical video that uses Michael Jackson’s hit single “We Are the World” to mock activists from the Gaza flotilla.

“There’s no people dying, so the best that we can do is create the greatest bluff of all,” one refrain in the parody goes.

In early June, 2010, week nine people aboard the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships carrying aid to Gaza in defiance of Israel’s blockade, were killed under hotly contested circumstances during an Israeli raid on the flotilla.

In the video, Israelis dressed up as activists offer their own take on the incident through song.

…The Israeli Government Press Office distributed footage of the music video to foreign journalists on June 4, but then sent an apology to reporters just hours later, insisting it had been an accident.

“The contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the Government Press Office or of the State of Israel,” Israel’s Government Press Office later told CNN.

But such a retraction did not stop “We Con the World” from becoming an Internet hit. So far it has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube.

* * * * *

By issuing such an apology the Israeli government forfeited a vital weapon in its ongoing struggle for not simply sovereignty but survival: Ridicule.

Every great tyrant has feared the laughter of his enemies. For that reason, the Roman Emperor Augustus banished the satirical poet, Ovid, from Rome and the KGB worked overtime to suppress anti-Communist jokes.

And as the same news story affirms, issuing an apology “did not stop ‘We Con the World’ from becoming an Internet hit.” So Israel’s enemies will be ranting every time they hear the original song, because they’ll know that, from now on, there will be those who never forget its parody.

It appears that Israeli bureaucrats, like American ones, have caught a fatal case of the Political Correctness disease, where even the most criminally depraved are off-limits as targets for satire.

During most of the eight-year Presidency of Bill Clinton, the State Department often applied the “rogue state” moniker to nations like Iran, Iraq, and North Korea.

In a 1994 lecture, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, defined a rogue state as one that actively tried to undermine the international system.

But in 2000, the State Department declared that it would no longer refer to such nations as “rogues.” Instead, they would now be referred to as “states of concern.”

“Rogue,” said a State Department spokesman, was inflammatory, and might hamper the efforts of the United States to reach agreements with its sworn enemies.

In short, it’s become Politically Incorrect to refer to even our sworn enemies as enemies.

As Steven Emerson, president of the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) puts it: “If you can’t name your enemy, how can you defeat him?”

During World War 11, GIs–and their commanders–routinely referred to German soldiers as “krauts.”  Japense soldiers were universally referred to as “Japs.”

Throughout the Vietnam war, North Vietnamese troops were called “gooks,” “dinks” and “Charlie.”

During the 1991 Gulf War, American soldiers called Iraqi soldiers “ragheads.”

Admittedly, that’s not the sort of language to use in polite company.

But there is nothing polite about war, and it’s unrealistic to expect those whose lives could be snuffed out at any moment to be Politically Correct in talking about their enemies.

Similarly, the American government now seeks to impose the same Political Correctness restructions on how to refer to daily invasions of its sovereign bordeers.

“Illegal alien” is taboo–although totally accurate.   An “alien” is defined as “a foreigner, especially one who is not a naturalized citizen of the country where they are living.”

And a foreigner who violates another country’s immigration laws is in that country illegally.

“Undocumented immigrant” is the new fashionable term to be used by all federal agents charged with enforcing our immigration laws.

Liberals feel that this sounds nicer, and thus won’t offend our “little brown brothers” south of the Rio Grande.

“Undocumented immigrant” makes it seem as though the mass violation of America’s national borders is no big deal.  You might even think the alien simply lost his legal papers while sneaking across the border.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of modern political science, laid out the guidelines for effective propaganda.

In his notorious book, The Prince, he wrote:

…Men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel.  Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose themselves to the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them.


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 8, 2010 at 5:39 pm

From: Niccolo Machiavelli
To: President Barack Obama

In my last letter to you, Mr. President, I noted that Columnist Jonathan Berr advised you to “really crank up your energy level” in criticizing those responsible for the BP oil spill.

I do not share Berr’s opinion that losing your temper in public would prove helpful. On the contrary, as I stated in my book, The Discourses, which outlines how to preserve liberty within a republic:

A truly great man is ever the same under all circumstances. And if his fortune varies, exalting him at one moment and oppressing him at another, he himself never varies, but always preserves a firm courage, which is so closely interwoven with his character that everyone can readily see that the fickleness of fortune has no power over him.

On the other hand, your countrymen are long overdue for a White House history lesson–conducted directly from the Oval Office–on who is truly responsible for the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Consider the following examples:

While Hurricane Katrina–to which the BP crisis has been repeatedly compared–was created by Nature, the BP disaster was created by the secret bureaucratic maneuvers of the Bush administration.

• Halliburton–a market leader in the energy sector–gave its former CEO, Dick Cheney, a check for $34 million after he was nominated as the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 2000. Had this happened in any other country, the American media would have denounced it as a bribe to influence public policy.

• Soon after Cheney took office as Vice President, Minerals Management Service (MMS), the division of the Department of the Interior responsible for ensuring safety in oil-drilling operations, got two new high-ranking appointees. Both turned out to have a history of working for Halliburton. Their job: To oversee their own “former” employer.

• MMS declined to mandate certain safety devices required on offshore rigs in other countries and gave BP “a categorical exclusion” from the National Environmental Policy Act in 2009. This allowed BP to drill in 5,000 feet of water without requiring a detailed environmental impact analysis. BP’s exploration plan called the prospect of an oil spill “unlikely.”

• As if that weren’t bad enough, in 2008, Interior Department Inspector General Earl Devaney found that MMS employees in the division that gathers fees had sex with and accepted gifts from industry contacts while failing to collect almost $200 million due from energy companies.

• In addition, Vice President Cheney created an “energy task force” whose members consisted entirely of representatives of the oil, gas and nuclear energy industries. No environmental-protection groups were invited to attend. And no members of the media were allowed to monitor these secret meetings. Energy regulations were drafted by the very companies the government was supposed to be regulating.

• The Cheney policies of environmental pillage recieved strong and widespread support from influential Republicans, such as Columnist Ann Coulter, who said: “The lower species are here for our use. God said so: ‘Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet–it’s yours.’ That’s our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars–that’s the Biblical view.”

• And Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Sarah Palin gave her own blessing to oil drilling–off-shore and on-shore–when she coined the now-infamous war-cry, “Drill, baby, drill!” It was a guaranteed crowd-pleaser at Republican rallies. For some reason, however, it has now completely vanished from Republican political events.

In presenting this history, Mr. President, you should boldly place blame on where–and whom–it lies. Your predacessor, Bill Clinton, had such an opportunity in 1994, at the funeral of his predacessor, Richard Nixon. And he blew it.

He could have reminded his countrymen how lucky they were that this hypocritical arch-criminal had been forced to resign from office. He could have spoken of the triumph of a free press and judiciary and Congress over a power-crazed felon.

Instead, Clinton’s eulogy resembled one that might have been given for Adolf Hitler–had he died of natural causes 20 years after the Third Reich collapsed. Imagine Hitler’s surviving henchmen gathered at his gravesite and calling up fond memories of “the Fuhrer’s great heart” and speaking reverently of what he “meant to do” instead of the infamy and death and suffering he left as his legacy.

Finally–for now–Mr. President, you must take heed of the warning I gave you in my earlier book, The Prince:

“Men love at their own free will, but fear at the will of the prince, and a wise prince must rely on what is in his power and not on what is in the power of others.”

In short, Mr. President, you must abandon your instinctive trait of turning the other cheek when attacked by arrogant and ruthless enemies. As I have earlier advised you:

“A man who wishes to make a profession of goodness in everything must inevitably come to grief among so many who are not good. And therefore it is necessary for a [leader], who wishes to maintain himself, to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case.”


In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on June 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

To: President Barack Obama
From: Niccolo Machiavelli

Today, Mr. President, I read Media Columnist Jonathan Berr’s essay: “Hey, President Obama, How About Kicking Your Own Ass?”

Admittedly, the title is incredibly rude, and not at all how you are used to being addressed as a chief of state. Still, the column raises some useful truths.

Mr. Berr opens with this: “The media is agog after President Obama told NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday [June 8] that he was speaking to Gulf fisherman ‘so I know whose ass to kick’ regarding the BP oil spill.”

Berr advises you to act more with “the passion of Captain Kirk” and less with “Spock-like logic.” After all the enormous damage the oil spill has caused to sealife, writes Berr, the phrase “whose ass to kick” is “still way too tepid for the circumstances. It’s time to really crank up your energy level.”

In case you feel you’re the first President to be criticized for using colorful language, don’t worry. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy got mad when the steel companies raised their prices–which he thought would trigger inflation. He said–in private, not public: “My father always told me that all businessmen were sonsofbitches, but I never believed him till now.”

Kennedy always maintained that his father had been talking about “steel men,” since his father had been “a businessman himself.” (And, by all accounts, a highly unscrupulous one with ties to, among others, notorious members of the Mafia.)

But if he had made that distinction, it didn’t matter. The public was amazed (or at least claimed to be) that a President would use such language. (Which was nothing compared to what they would hear when the “White House transcripts” were released by Richard Nixon in 1974.)

And Republicans–then as now–used his words to accuse him of being a Communist who wanted to destroy business. They were even more angry when his brother, Robert–then the Attorney General–ordered FBI agents to interview the top executives of the steel companies.

FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, never missing a chance to embarrass the Kennedys, ordered his agents to show up at the homes of these executives in the evening. This led Republicans to further charge the Kennedys with using the FBI as a “Gestapo police force” to conduct “midnight interrogations” when, in fact, no interrogations were conducted.

In short, it was rather like Rand Paul recently accusing you of “being really un-American in his criticism of business” when you said BP would be held accountable.

But, back to Berr’s urging you to “crank up your energy level.”

On one level, Mr. Pressident, Berr is correct. As I wrote in The Prince, my handbook on how politics is really played: “Men in general judge more by the eyes than by the hands, for every one can see, but very few have to feel. Everyone sees what you appear to be, few feel what you are….”

I also warned you: “He is rendered despicable by being thought changeable, frivolous, effeminate, timid and irresolute—which a prince must guard against as a rock of danger…. [He] must contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity and fortitude. As to the government of his subjects, let his sentence be irrevocable, and let him adhere to his decisions so that no one may think of deceiving or cozening him.”

Early in your Presidency, you showed yourself to be a man of gravity when you ordered Navy SEALS to execute the Somali pirates who had taken an American captain hostage. You did not threaten or bluster. You simply gave the order in private and let it be carried out publicly–where all could see that you were not a man to be trifled with.

But I fear, Mr. President, that you have not been well-served by those who are responsible for winning the hearts and minds of your fellow countrymen for your programs.

An unfortunate example of this was the year-long debate over your proposal to reform the American healthcare system. You let your enemies on the Right slander your well-intentioned effort with impunity.

Sarah Palin, for example, accused you of intending to create government “death panels” to execute wholesale numbers of Americans.

You could–and should–have mounted a vigorous television advertising campaign to hold Palin accountable for such lies. And you should have pointed out that such “death panels” in fact already exist–except they’re run by insurance companies, not the government.

Your failure to do so gave comfort to your enemies and despair to your supporters. The bureaucracy of government–like the Nation–found itself confused and frightened as it did not know whether you would forthrightly drive on to victory or allow your enemies to stall your reform effort.

I will have more to say on that in our next encounter.


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 7, 2010 at 8:15 am

The number of guards assigned to a protected client of the Witness Security Program varied from case-to-case.

A security Inspector might decide that one witness didn’t need any bodyguards, while another needed the usual, five-marshal detail. Or he might assign a small army of marshals to protect a notorious, hotly-pursued witness such as Robert Leuci, who later became the subject of the bestselling book, Prince of the City, by Robert Daley.

Leuci had been an ace narcotics detective for the NYPD. This made him extremely well-known among his 32,000 fellow officers. He had also spent sixteen months as an undercover investigator for the Justice Department, probing widespread narcotics corruption throughout the Southern District of New York. This made him a high-profile target for Mafia hitmen and corrupt police officers.

To counter this threat, John Partington, the security Inspector for the Northeastern United States, stashed Leuci and his family at an isolated cabin in the Catskill Mountains. No fewer than eighteen marshals, working in three, eight-hour shifts, protected the Leucies. When Leuci appeared in New York to meet with prosecutors or testify in court, he was guarded by specially-screened NYPD officers.

Leuci proved more fortunate than the vast majority of witnesses. He and his family didn’t have to be quartered on a military base. “Witnesses on military bases aren’t allowed to leave the base,” said former Witness Security Inspector Richard St. Germain. “They’re put up in a house or an apartment, and have the use of the officers’ club.

“At a SAC [Strategic Air Command] base that’s very well-guarded, witnesses can go to the movies at night. Only one guard—not three or four, as is usual—is assigned to the witness on these occasions. Once the witness leaves the base, it’s a different story.” But military bases—owing to their requirements on behalf of national security—often did not have space available for civilian guests.

Nor did the Leucies need to be shifted every three to five days from one motel to another. Under this procedure, the marshals took over the entire floor of a motel. They rented one room for the witness (and his family, if he had one) and two or three adjacent rooms for themselves. But this arrangement provided the witness with only temporary security.

“Say you take [a witness] to a motel, or rent an apartment,” said Richard St. Germain. “People get inquisitive.” During the security detail he commanded for Peter Harry Coloduros, a hulking witness against the Los Angeles Mafia Family of Nick Licata, one of the marshals had an automatic shotgun.

“One of the guys left it behind the door one day and when a maid cleaned the room she saw it. Nothing was said, but when they see that…. And then we couldn’t wear guns when she was around, we had to hide them, put them away.

“People think, ‘Here’s two or three guys watching another apartment. What the hell are they doing?’ People get inquisitive, so you don’t stay there too long. You’ve got to watch. You can tell when they get inquisitive. Then you just go ahead and say, ‘We’ve got to leave.’ So you stay in a motel for about a week. That’s about all you’re welcome.”

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement on June 6, 2010 at 2:50 pm

Protection began from the moment that a client entered the Witness Security Program (WITSEC).

Among the first questions he would be asked was: “Who do you know who might try to kill you?” The marshals assumed that a witness was usually the best judge of the people who posed the greatest danger to him.

Another question he would be asked was: “Do you know of any local or federal cops on the take?” If he said yes, his charges would be investigated.

No matter how powerful a criminal might have been in the underworld, his introduction to WITSEC always proved highly unnerving. Above all else, he felt terrified for his own immediate safety and that of his family.

In addition, he felt confused and ashamed about his newly-divided loyalties and uncertain about his future under a new, alien identity.

But within two weeks, his fears were replaced by a false sense of security (“I don’t need to worry; I’ve got federal marshals looking out for me”). So the marshals had to protect their new charge from his own over-confidence, and possible audacity.

Security specialists such as Richard St. Germain warned countless witnesses: “You’ve got to realize that your life’s in danger. Keep your eyes open. Use your head. Don’t lie to us. Stay close to us. Keep us apprised of everything that’s going on. Suppose you’re sitting out on your balcony and you see something flash. What could it be? A pair of binoculars? A rifle-scope? Be aware of your position, and help us protect you.”

People outside the security profession generally assumed that the safety of a witness depended on round-the-clock protection by a score of guards. But the average witness-security detail consisted of only five marshals.

“That’s enough,” recalled St. Germain. “You don’t want to put too many guards on these people. If you do, then you’re going to cause people to wonder, ‘Hey, what’s going on?’”

Usually three guards, working a twelve-hour shift, were assigned to a witness during the day. In the evening, when there was less activity by both the witness and his pursuers, only two marshals were needed. Whichever deputy was assigned as detail supervisor always drew the day-shift.

A new shift of guards replaced those on duty every two weeks—unless a marshal asked to stay longer. This rarely happened, however, because most deputies had wives and children to go home to. “More families were broken up in the Marshals Service because of the man’s being gone all the time than for any other reason,” said St. Germain.

These deputies armed themselves with a wide array of firearms. Pistols were required to be greater than a . 38 caliber. St. Germain preferred a revolver—a six-shot .357 Magnum or a nine-shot .22 Magnum. Other marshals carried automatics.

And more powerful weaponry was always kept within easy reach. Submachine guns were the firearms of choice for many—especially the highly reliable Uzi and Thompson models. Others relied on automatic shotguns—so powerful, their double O buckshot could turn over a car.

Upon entering the Program, a witness usually got round-the-clock protection until he could be transferred to another city or state. The security Inspectors always tried to move the witness out of the danger area as quickly as possible. This served the needs of both the witness and his protectors.

“As soon as the witness had talked to the Strike Force or United States Attorney,” said St. Germain, “I tried to get him out of the area immediately. I used to get a lot of arguments from the case agent or attorney: ‘We need this man here, we’ve got to talk to him.’

“I would tell these people, ‘We don’t have the men to put on him. You’re risking this man’s life to keep him around here. Now, what I’ll do is fly him out or drive him somewhere. When you need him, I’ll bring him back in. But as far as leaving this guy here, that’s not right.’”

Oftentimes the Inspector found his judgment ignored and his decision overruled through the influence of an aggressive federal prosecutor. “The Strike Force usually gets its way about guarding these people where [the Strike Force attorneys] want them,” admitted St. Germain. “They want [witnesses to be present] every day or every other day. [Prosecutors] need them in constant contact for information.”

So long as a temporarily-relocated witness appeared safe on his own, no guards were assigned to him. But when a “hot” witness traveled to meet with federal prosecutors, a security detail always escorted him. His wife, however, would not be allowed to accompany him unless she was also a material witness.

For the length of the trial, he would be guarded round-the-clock. When the trial ended, he might return to his former address. But if anyone had meanwhile discovered this, he would be shipped to a completely new location.

Copyright@1984 Taking Cover: Inside the Witness Security Program, by Steffen White and Richard St. Germain


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