- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 21, 2000

The failing U.S.-Russian relationship, laid bare in a 209-page report released Wednesday by Rep. Christopher Cox, provides a searing indictment of the lost opportunities to fight international crime under the Clinton-Gore administration. Not surprisingly, much of the blame lands squarely on Janet Reno's scandal-racked Justice Department.

"The lion's share of our aid was aimed at shoring up" the corrupt government of then-President Boris Yeltsin, Mr. Cox reported, while U.S. aid programs for the rule of law "were just a tiny fraction of our attention."

It didn't have to be that way. In the early 1990s, when I worked on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for Sen. Alan Cranston, we worked closely with the office of then-Attorney General Richard Thornburgh to provide such assistance to the newly emerging democracies of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Under Mr. Cranston's direction, I co-founded a congressional staff working group set up by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in order to draw attention to the law-enforcement needs of the formerly communist region. Mr. Cranston pushed hard for the establishment of FBI legal attach offices to be established east of Vienna, an initiative fought behind the scenes by a turf-conscious CIA. We also sought to loosen restrictions on foreign police training, a controversial effort among our liberal Democratic friends, who constantly decried efforts they saw as "getting us back into the torture business."

U.S. foreign police training efforts had been curtailed in the mid-1970s due to concern about intelligence agency infiltration in such programs and documented allegations that U.S. support was being given to forces that routinely tortured and killed political opponents.

With the fall of communism, however, a strong case could be made that the development of professional civilian police forces could not only effectively fight common crime and drugs, but also be enlisted in the struggle to secure human rights. Much of the hopes for emerging democracies around the world were pinned on the Justice Department.

However last week, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found that senior Justice Department officials had leaked highly classified information and engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment and favoritism in hiring, visa fraud, lying to federal investigators and other egregious ethical misconduct. Although the OIG report was significantly watered down prior to being publicly released, it was a bombshell.

The problem goes back to the early days of the Clinton-Gore administration. In 1995, administration officials prevailed upon the middle-level managers left running the Justice Department's international police training unit, the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP), to eviscerate successful programs in Latin America in order to shore up Haiti's already failing experiment in democracy. With DOJ "wannabes" falling all over themselves to be invited to meetings of the National Security Council, few questions were raised about whether the costs involved in setting up a new police force there would be compensated by realistic benefits. Today, after spending $72 million on police training, Haiti is on the verge of becoming a "narco-republic."

Russia and Ukraine are beset by powerful mafias. Despite initial success in setting up anti-crime strike forces the most important asset in the U.S. arsenal against organized crime at the request of their governments, senior Justice Department managers gutted the program. According to the OIG, the key Reno adviser in charge of the justice reform effort, Robert K. Bratt, spent most of his four trips to the region in meetings of dubious purpose with his Washington staff and chasing women, one of which he secured an illegal visa for. Mr. Bratt's subordinates visited strip clubs and leather bars, leaving themselves open to blackmail by the Russian intelligence services, and not to mention ridicule by those Russians who by day the Department sought to teach ethics and professional behavior.

A former ICITAP director, Janice Mathews Stromsem, accused Mr. Bratt's supervisor, then Assistant Attorney General Mark M. Richard, the Justice Department's liaison with the intelligence community, of trying to infiltrate CIA agents into the police training program. According to the prestigious Legal Times, the charge was backed up by several people affiliated with the program. David "Kris" Kriskovich, the late FBI agent who founded ICITAP, used to compare giving intelligence agents billets in a police development agency to a teacher in a girls' school trying to date one of his students.

A Clinton presidential directive, PDD-72, calls for the Justice Department to lead a major effort to develop and train an international police force to support the extensive United Nations peacekeeping operations favored by his administration. Unfortunately, under Clinton-Gore, international law enforcement development is what Mr. Cox called Mr. Clinton's record on Russia "a tragically lost opportunity."

Martin Edwin Andersen, a former senior adviser for policy planning at the Criminal Division of the Justice Department, was the pioneer whistleblower in the Inspector General's report released last week.

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