- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 30, 2000

President Clinton's trip today to Colombia, designed to show U.S. support for that country's beleaguered democracy, also points to the harm his administration's corruption scandals are doing to vital American foreign policy interests. Given that public corruption is a major issue in Colombia, the U.S. example does little to further respect for the rule of law there and is likely to add to the cynicism of its war-weary citizens.

Mr. Clinton is anxious to showcase the $1.3 billion his administration has succeeded in wrangling from the U.S. Congress to the government of President Andres Pastrana, which is currently embroiled in a frontier-less war against insurgency, paramilitary terror and drug trafficking. An important part of the aid package is $91.5 million allocated to the international training programs of the U.S. Department of Justice, of which the lion's share is to be administered by the Criminal Division's scandal-ridden International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP).

Since 1997 ICITAP has been the target of one of the most extensive criminal investigations ever conducted by the Department's Office of the Inspector General (IG), which has carried out hundreds of interviews on three continents. Justice Department sources say that ICITAP, a program that is supposed to train foreign law enforcement officers in issues running from human rights to ethics and anti-corruption, is about to be rocked by the findings of the inspector general. Among the allegations being looked into are financial corruption, including sweetheart contracts for friends and political associates of Attorney General Janet Reno; sexual misconduct; visa fraud, and a shocking disregard for basic rules governing the protection of national security information. Justice officials say the long-awaited report should be out in the next few weeks.

Three senior Justice Department officials have already been stripped of their security clearances in the probe. A senior Criminal Division manager and adviser to Miss Reno under investigation by the IG's office was last month allowed to quietly resign. His boss, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mark M. Richard, was demoted late last year and sent into exile in a cubbyhole office in dank Brussels, Belgium supposedly for his health. Department whispers about the relatively kid-glove treatment Mr. Richard received after his stewardship at the helm of a sinking bureaucratic ship are based on an uncomfortable fact. Mr. Richard was one of the senior Justice officials together with Lee Radek who advised Miss Reno on whether to appoint special prosecutors for, you guessed it, Mr. Clinton and his candidate wife, as well as Vice President Gore. Little wonder that the word from inside the department is that Brussels is a good place to be stashed away if you want to avoid inopportune questions from inquiring U.S. reporters.

The scandal has already taken its toll on U.S. foreign policy in concrete ways. A few weeks ago the Justice Department announced, without saying why, that it was pulling ICITAP out of Haiti. The once ballyhooed program spent more than $72 million in the last five years trying unsuccessfully to create a Haitian justice system. What happened during that time is a direct reflection of the ethical and moral lapses permitted in Miss Reno's Department all the more so given the fact that the same senior ICITAP managers now under investigation were given special performance awards by Miss Reno herself.

ICITAP's Haiti program is one of the centerpieces of the IG's investigation its former Washington manager is one of the three senior officials who had his security clearances yanked. Allegations involving Justice Department staff and contractors run from having helped accused embezzlers escape from jail, to gross financial irregularities, to widespread security breaches, and even that program personnel slept with 14-year-old girls in housing provided by ICITAP. This latter issue reportedly sparked an anguished meeting in the Criminal Division where a modest proposal that consultants working overseas sign a binding code of conduct agreement was overruled by Department lawyers worried that the existence of such documents would make the DOJ legally, and financially, liable for their behavior.

Today Department officials are preparing to unleash ICITAP on Colombia in a major administration of justice effort there, apparently in the hope that the dismal news already being reported about the ongoing scandal in the U.S. media won't reach Bogota. It is a foolish hope. Colombians are likely to be unimpressed by administration spinmeisters and for good reason it's their country that is involved in a life-or-death struggle, and it is their children's future that is at stake.

More generally, it is important to note that administration of justice reform is a major component of international peacekeeping, a role that the Clinton administration has embraced with gusto. By sending U.S. agencies abroad that are suffering from the continuing ethical rot of this administration, we share our shame with already overburdened allies while at the same time we are prevented from exporting what is good and decent about the American system of justice.

Martin Edwin Andersen, a former senior adviser for policy planning with the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, is the pioneer whistleblower in the ongoing inspector general's investigation.

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