Sunday, January 20, 2008

Why Are United States Taxpayers Funding Legal Insurance For Wrongdoing By Federal Employees?

Interesting story by Scott Shane in Sunday’s New York Times on the liability insurance carrier Jose Rodriquez, former head of the CIA Directorate of Operations (Clandestine division) and the other spooks involved in the torture tapes destruction, apparently as well as a whole boatload of other Administration officials and agents (an astounding 32,000 of them), are relying on.

Like a growing number of C.I.A. employees, Mr. Rodriguez, former head of the agency’s clandestine service, had bought professional liability insurance from Wright & Company. The firm, founded in 1965 by a former F.B.I. agent, is now paying his mounting legal bills.

The standard Wright policy costs a little less than $300 a year. The government pays half the premium for all supervisors and certain other high-risk employees, a group that includes hundreds of C.I.A. officers, including everyone at the agency involved in counterterrorism or counterproliferation.

When Al Qaeda attacked the United States in 2001, Wright & Company was insuring about 17,000 federal employees against the legal hazards of their work. Today, that total has nearly doubled to 32,000, Wright executives say, spurred in part by a spate of lawsuits, investigations and criminal prosecutions related to mistreatment of detainees from Iraq to Guantánamo Bay, an immigration crackdown and other aftershocks of 9/11.

The standard Wright policy pays up to $200,000 in legal fees for administrative matters like investigations by Congress or an inspector general, or cases involving demotion or dismissal. An additional $100,000 is available for legal fees in criminal investigations, and the policy pays up to $1 million in damages in a civil suit.

As the subject of both Congressional and criminal investigations, Mr. Rodriguez, former head of the C.I.A.’s clandestine service, has $300,000 in coverage for legal fees. How long that might last is anybody’s guess. He has hired Robert S. Bennett, a Washington lawyer who represented President Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones sexual misconduct lawsuit and whose standard rate was described by colleagues as more than $900 an hour.

The videotape case has brought claims for legal representation from several C.I.A. employees other than Mr. Rodriguez, said Mr. Lewis, who declined to name them. George J. Tenet, the former director of central intelligence; Scott W. Muller, the agency’s former general counsel; and John A. Rizzo, the current acting general counsel, are among those who have retained counsel. Spokesmen for the three men declined to comment.

A new possible source of reimbursement for legal fees was created in 2006 by the Military Commissions Act, which requires the government to pay lawyers for C.I.A. and military officers facing lawsuits or criminal investigations for “authorized” actions involving detention of suspected terrorists. Whether the destruction of the videotapes would qualify is uncertain, but lawyers in the matter are studying the question. (Emphasis added)
Couple of thoughts here. In relation to the first portion bolded, what is the government doing underwriting insurance to cover wrongdoing by it’s employees? Is this a proper use of taxpayer money? Did Congress authorize this; if not, who did?

As to the second bolded portion, we know that Congress did pass the contemptible Military Commissions Act in 2006 thanks in a large part to the disingenuous actions of St. John McCain, Lindsay “Huckleberry” Graham, Mr. Liz Taylor John Warner and Harry Reid; not to mention the deception and outright lies of the Bush Administration. That aside, the question still remains, is this a proper use of taxpayer money? For 32,000 governmental employees? For my money, it most certainly is not.