Monday, March 26, 2012

History of CIA police training scandal in Haiti

Editor's Note: On occasion we re-publish articles that are important to the historical and public record, especially when they are difficult to find. After reading this article you may not be surprised it has all but disappeared from the Internet. We would like to thank the author Sam Skolnick for his kind permission to republish his article on the Haiti Information Project (HIP) blog.

March 1, 1999


By Sam Skolnik 
The former director of the Justice Department program that trains foreign

police officers has alleged that she was forced from her post after raising

concerns that department officials refused to protect her office's law

enforcement mission from possible CIA encroachment.

Janice Stromsem, until last month director of the International Criminal

Investigative Training Assistance Program, has filed a grievance with the

department's equal employment opportunity office, claiming that her efforts

to implement a policy preventing ICITAP's staff from engaging in

intelligence activities resulted in her ultimately being removed from her


The ICITAP program has spawned several complaints from disgruntled

employees. But the issues raised by Stromsem are especially sensitive, given

Cold War- era concerns about keeping domestic law enforcement free of

international espionage.

That historic divide is a flashpoint at ICITAP, a 13-year-old program whose

staffers work to win trust among newly emerging, often unstable

democracies many of which have been of great interest to American

intelligence in the past.

The line between law enforcement and intelligence has been blurring in

recent years, causing tensions among U.S. government agencies. The most

recent: allegations that U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq were working in

concert with the CIA.

Stromsem filed her EEO action in December 1998, but the underlying incident

at the heart of her grievance dates back to 1996.

That year, she claims, her efforts to implement a policy walling ICITAP

staffers off from intelligence-gathering activities was rejected by Mark

Richard, a powerful career attorney in the department's Criminal Division.

In the fall of 1998, Stromsem claims, she was contacted about the matter by

the office of Inspector General Michael Bromwich, which has been probing a

series of allegations of misconduct at ICITAP and its sister office, the

Office of Professional Development and Training (OPDAT), which trains

foreign prosecutors. Stromsem told Bromwich about the aborted

anti-intelligence policy, and provided documents to back her claim,

according to her attorney, Irving Kator of D.C.'s Kator, Scott & Parks.

Following that contact, Bromwich called in Richard, according to Kator. Soon

after that meeting, Stromsem was told she would be leaving ICITAP, Kator



In an interview late last week, Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said

that there was no cause and effect involved in Stromsem's departure from the

ICITAP program.

"Bottom line, there was no linkage between the IG investigation and Janice

Stromsem's removal, " Holder says.

Asked the department's view on whether programs like ICITAP should ever be

open to intelligence agency participation, Holder says: "We cannot comment

on intelligence activities regarding ICITAP , no matter how unfounded the

allegations might be. We reaffirm the exclusive mission of ICITAP is

international training and nation building."

Stromsem, now an official at the Global Bureau of the U.S. Agency for

International Development (AID), and Richard both decline comment.

A CIA spokeswoman also declines comment.

One U.S. government official, who asks not to be identified, says that "the

CIA is not in any way involved in ICITAP . If you were to report that, you

would be wrong."


Stromsem is not the only one who has voiced concerns that intelligence

agents have sought to infiltrate ICITAP, a $25 million operation with some

40 staffers fanned out across the Caribbean, Latin America, the former

Soviet Union, and Eastern Europe.

According to four former ICITAP staffers and one State Department official,

the CIA has from time to time sought to recruit staffers, contractors, and

trainees affiliated with the program in countries such as Haiti and El

Salvador, where ICITAP has trained thousands of police officers.

One former ICITAP contractor in Haiti says bluntly that he and other

instructors were informed by students "that they were solicited by U.S.

intelligence services."

Charles Allen, a legal adviser to the Richardson, Texas, police department

who worked for ICITAP in 1995, says the practice, in which intelligence

agents would approach the students during off hours and weekends to try to

recruit them, "was wrong."

"When we went to Haiti, we went with the understanding that the country had

never had a democratic government or civilian police force, " says Allen.

Intelligence recruiting was "not good for those cadets, not good for Haiti,

and not good for the program. We were to make civilian police out of them,

not spies."

Further, The Nation magazine reported in February 1996 that the CIA had

placed agents in the Haitian National Police, which was rebuilt after the

1994 U.S. invasion and the installment of Washington-backed ruler Jean-

Bertrand Aristide. The magazine reported that those CIA recruitments took

place during ICITAP training at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.

There was no specific ICITAP policy in place to prevent them from doing so.

In late 1995, Stromsem decided to write a policy that would set in stone

what had been an unwritten rule prohibiting ICITAP staffers from

communicating with agents of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, or

any other covert intelligence gathering group.

"It is critical for the credibility of the program and for the legitimacy of

U.S. Government efforts in overseas police reform that ICITAP personnel and

contractors be exclusively dedicated to fulfilling ICITAP's mission goals

and objectives, " states the executive summary of the proposal, a copy of

which was obtained by Legal Times. "It is manifestly evident that any

connection between representatives of ICITAP and any internal intelligence

gathering organization would be detrimental to our mission, and would be an

especially sensitive issue with many countries with which we expect to be

dealing in the future."

The proposal also contended that the Foreign Assistance Act of 1960

specifies that no foreign aid money can be used to provide assistance to

U.S. intelligence agencies.

Though it is a Justice Department program, ICITAP receives most of its funds

from the State Department_i.e., from foreign assistance money.


Stromsem presented the proposed initiative to Richard in March 1996,

according to internal DOJ memorandums.

But Richard, then Stromsem's supervisor, wrote to her on April 25, 1996,

saying, "I have serious concerns about this statement and do not want to see

it moved on without further discussions, " according to an internal DOJ


Richard's decision to nix the proposal was firmed up in a meeting the

following day, according to two participants in the meeting, which included

Richard, Stromsem, and at least three other Criminal Division officials.

Richard said he did not want to preclude putting ICITAP resources at the

disposal of intelligence agencies_including the CIA_when needed, according

to the two participants, who asked not to be named.

In a Jan. 7, 1999, letter to Deputy Attorney General Holder, Stromsem's

attorney wrote that " Stromsem was surprised when Mark Richard . . . refused

to approve the memo. Consequently, the directive was never transmitted to

ICITAP staff and the issue of the use of ICITAP employees for intelligence

work was never dealt with directly."

Kator claims that despite Stromsem's positive job appraisals, Richard forced

her out of ICITAP after four years at its helm, denied her a raise she is

owed, and bad-mouthed her to potential new employers.

Kator says he has received no reply to his letter to Holder. A senior

Justice official says that Holder did respond to Kator in January, adding

that the letter was forwarded to the IG, in accordance with standard


Bromwich is apparently interested in probing the question of alleged CIA

involvement in ICITAP, according to two government officials who have been

questioned by the inspector general's office. The officials say his

investigators first raised the issue with them.

Paul Martin, a spokesman for the inspector general, declines comment on the

status of the investigation.


Stromsem_who Kator says will also likely file a whistleblower complaint soon

at the Office of Special Counsel_may herself be a target of the IG's


Although no actions have been taken against her as a result of the wide-

ranging ICITAP probe, Stromsem, according to three Justice officials

familiar with the matter, may be under investigation for relatively minor

allegations of workplace harassment and other charges.

(Stemming largely from the complaints of a pair of whistleblowers, the

inquiry has grown significantly in the last two years and involves

allegations ranging from security breaches to contracting abuses to visa

fraud to hiring irregularities and workplace harassment. (See "Blowing

Whistles at DOJ, " Sept. 21, 1998, Page 2.) The investigation was first

reported by Insight, a weekly news magazine published by The Washington

Times Corp., in September 1997.)

Stromsem does have at least one high-powered backer, however. Sen. Edward

Kennedy (D-Mass.) wrote Holder on Jan. 19, urging him to take the necessary

steps to ensure that Stromsem is treated fairly.

And at least one official at the State Department supports many of

Stromsem's claims.

"As much as we wanted her to continue on as ICITAP director, it was clear

they were making life difficult for her at Justice, " says the official, who

asks not to be named. "Jan has the complete and absolute confidence of the

State Department and AID."


Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, a civil

liberties group, says Richard and other higher-ups at Justice may have

concluded that in the larger national interests of fighting terrorism and

international drug smuggling, it is necessary to keep open the option of

allowing the CIA into programs that on their face have nothing to do with

intelligence gathering.

But Martin warns that there can be "all sorts of terrible effects" when

intelligence agencies are allowed to recruit in programs like ICITAP.

"It can be positively detrimental to the rule of law in countries that for

the first time are trying to build their own intelligence agencies and do

away with the legacies of secret police, " Martin says. She adds that the

suspicion of CIA involvement "is best addressed by the U.S. government being

forthright. It's best to draw a bright line."

Two former ICITAP staffers, who ask not to be identified, concur.

"I didn't sign up to work for the CIA, " says one former staffer. Richard's

decision to reject the intelligence policy "conceptually subverted the need

for an ICITAP."

Former intelligence community officials say, however, that if the CIA has

attempted to gather intelligence or recruit agents through ICITAP, it likely

had good reasons to do so.

Stewart Baker, general counsel of the National Security Agency from 1992 to

1994, says that it's generally not unhealthy for law enforcement and the

intelligence community to be working more closely.

"That's a Cold War notion, that intelligence gathering is dark and dirty,

and law enforcement is just about catching crooks. That world is gone, "

says Baker, a partner at D.C.'s Steptoe & Johnson.

Jeffrey Smith, general counsel of the CIA from 1995 to 1996, and his

predecessor, Elizabeth Rindskopf, decline comment on the allegations

surrounding ICITAP.

But they note that they worked with the general counsel of the Peace Corps

to ensure adherence to the corps' rigid policy of walling off CIA contacts.

(Stromsem used the Peace Corps model in developing her policy proposal,

according to one ex-ICITAP employee.)

Regarding the Peace Corps, "We bent over backwards there to make sure we

were very correct, " says Rindskopf, who is of counsel at the D.C. office of

St. Louis' Bryan Cave. "It seems to me to be the wise policy."


Whatever the propriety of the policy or lack thereof, there is little

question that Stromsem's allegations are having an impact at the

department_in no small part because they involve one of its most powerful

and important behind-the-scenes players.

Richard has several adamant defenders, both inside and outside the

department. Even members of the civil liberties community say he is a smart

and honorable prosecutor.

Richard, a Brooklyn native who has spent more than 30 years at the

department, reportedly has the ear of Attorney General Janet Reno.

"Mark Richard has been a longtime official of DOJ, " says Holder. "I've

known him for 23 years. He's a totally dedicated, selfless public servant."

He also has friends in the intelligence community. In fact, he is regarded

as one of Justice's top experts on intelligence, having co-written a report

with Rindskopf, the former CIA general counsel, in May 1995 on improving

ties between Main Justice and the CIA.

Some of his detractors at the department say quietly that Richard carries

the water at Justice for the Langley spymasters.

But Smith, the former CIA general counsel, disagrees.

"Believe me, when I was out there, he took some skin off my back, " says

Smith, now a partner at D.C.'s Arnold & Porter. "He has no problem sticking

up for the Justice Department."


Richard is recovering from lung surgery and is now working part time; his

supervisors expect him to resume full-time duties before too long. But his

portfolio has changed. According to an internal department memo dated Jan.

26, Criminal Division Assistant Attorney General James Robinson has assumed

direct oversight responsibility over ICITAP and OPDAT_taking them away from

Richard. The Jan. 26 memo came less than three weeks after Kator's letter

landed on Eric Holder's desk.

Richard Rossman, chief of staff to AAG Robinson, says Stromsem's departure

from ICITAP and Richard's removal from the program's oversight are not

related to the IG investigation.

"I can assure you that the IG investigation had nothing to do with these

decisions, " says Rossman. "That, I'm adamant about."

Robinson, Rossman says, is interested in education programs, having served

as dean at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit before coming to

Justice, and came up with the idea of taking charge of the policing programs

on his own.

What's more, says Rossman, "the whole international training thing is

mushrooming into an important part of what we do here."

In fact, international police training long predates the appearance of

ICITAP in 1986. And there may be some cautionary lessons there for the


In 1962, Congress created the Office of Public Safety as an adjunct to AID

to formally incorporate police assistance into foreign aid programs.

In 1974, Congress terminated that program amid charges that U.S. trainers

condoned the use of police brutality and torture_and were too closely

identified with the CIA.