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#1085: CBS 60 minutes 11/14/99 (fwd)

gnsis32v28@aol.com   Jim O'Hanlon

CBS 60 minutes
Haiti 5 years and a Billion Dollars Later

MIKE WALLACE:  Five years ago, Pres. Clinton spent $1 billion when he sent 
some 20,000 American troops down to Haiti to restore the government of 
Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who'd been overthrown by his own army.  But to make 
sure that investment wasn't wasted, the US has spent millions more in foreign 
aid to help that Caribbean nation's fledgling democracy learn to observe the 
rule of law.  Fact is, the US has spent more money in the past five years 
trying to establish the rule of law in Haiti than anywhere else in the world. 
 But today, with the last US troops about to leave, questions are being asked 
about how wisely those US tax dollars have been spent.  So we went to Haiti 
to see what the US has gotten for its effort and its money.

The short answer: not very much.  At first glance Haiti seems as lawless as 
ever, dead bodies again being dumped on the streets of Port-au-Prince with 
police nowhere in sight.  Assassinated just this year: a Haitian senator and 
the leading candidate to supervise the nation's police.  Meanwhile, Haiti's 
courts remain chaotic and overwhelmed, and the jails are bursting with people 
never convicted of a crime, while drug traffickers roam free, turning Haiti 
into a major conduit for illegal drugs entering the US.  Former Justice 
Department attorney Maurice Geiger, an expert on court reform, went to Haiti 
four years ago to help a US government contractor launch a justice reform 
program there.  But today, Geiger is one of that program's harshest critics.

MAURICE GEIGER: Democracy is not a walk in the park, right?  I mean, it's a 
lot of hard work.  The only thing is, Mike, we all make mistakes, but healthy 
people and healthy institutions try to learn from those mistakes.  And here, 
it  seemed to me that when they made those mistakes, they just keep making 
them over and over.

MIKE WALLACE:  To learn what went wrong and why, we took a look at the 
justice reform program, one of the most vital projects funded by the US 
Agency for International Development, or USAID.  To help with our 
investigation, Maurice Geiger took us to the national penitentiary, which 
houses about half the nation's prisoners, many of whom are supposed to get 
legal help paid for by US tax dollars.

How many prisoners in here?

MAURICE GEIGER: About 1,800.  It was built for between 300 or 400 here.

MIKE WALLACE: These cell blocks hold pretrail detainees, those still awaiting 
trial.  In the whole penitentiary, nearly nine of every 10 prisoners have 
never been tried.

And they live here?

MAURICE GEIGER: Yeah.  Well, they can't even lay down to go to sleep, there 
are so many.  They take turns.

MIKE WALLACE: How long have you been there?

Prisoner 1: I've been inside since 1996

MIKE WALLACE: Three years?  Do you have a lawyer?

Prisoner 2  No.  None of us have seen a lawyer.

MW:  We heard the same story everywhere we went.

MAURICE GEIGER:  You have to understand, Mike, there's virtually no such 
thing as bail in Haiti.  So if you're accused of a crime, you're going to go 
to prison to await trial.

MW What crime are you accused of?

Prisoner 3  To this day, I have no idea.

MW  This teen-ager said he's been behind for two years, since he was 15 years 
old.  Many of these young men, who may very well be innocent of any crime, 
remain suspended in bureaucratic limbo, where prison files that should show 
why they were jailed in the first place are either lost, contain no 
accusation of a crime, or simply never existed.  And this is called pretrail 
detention: three months, nine months, two years, three, four years -- 
pretrail detention.
We reported what we had seen to Phyllis Forbes, who, for the past two years, 
has run USAID's office in Haiti.

I spent two or three hours today at the national penitentiary.


MW:  It was disgusting.

PHYLLIS FORBES Right, but --but you got in.

MW: The stench was unbearable.


MW:  Some of them say--and I have no reason to disbelieve--have been there 
two, three, four years in pretrail detention.  Why?

PHYLLIS FORBES  Justice isn't working right.

MW  They don't have lawyers.


MW  Is this justice?

PHYLLIS FORBES  You went to the jail.  They let you in.  We know who's in 
there.  They get food from their families.  Most recently, the --the minister 
of justice is-- has been sending doctors in.  This is definitely better.  

MW  They don't have lawyers.

PHYLLIS FORBES  Well, you know, I --I can't answer that.  I--I--I don't know 
what their situation is; I don't know which prisoners you were talking to.  
So I don't know if that's true or not.

MW  But prompted by our interview with Mrs. Forbes, her office did its own 
investigation of the national penitentiary, and they confirmed what we had 
seen.  Of those in prison at the time of our visit, only about 3 percent had 
received lawyers through AID, though they say the percentage had been much 
higher.  So who specifically was supposed to be providing these prisoners 
with lawyers?  It was the firm, Checchi and Company, a Washington, DC-based 
consulting firm that AID had selected to lead its justice reform program in 
Haiti.  Michelle Jacobs now oversees the program.

MICHELLE JACOBS:  I have an MPS degree in international agriculture from 

MW And you are not a lawyer?

MICHELLE JACOBS And I am not a lawyer.

MW Jacobs thinks the legal aid program has worked just fine.

MICHELLE JACOBS  Yes, it has been a success.  Looking strictly at numbers, we 
accepted about 15,000 prison cases.

MW  What they say is they've done a very good job on getting people out of 
jail who don't belong in jail.

MAURICE GEIGER:  Well, if that's what they say, that's just nonsense.  It's 
not at all uncommon to spend a year or two years waiting to be tried for a 
case for which, if you're guilty, you'd only go to jail for 30 days.

MIKE WALLACE  Geiger, whom Checchi calls a disgruntled former worker, says he 
quickly concluded that the firm simply wasn't right for the job.

MG  Well, I don't think they understand the subject matter of judicial reform.

MIKE WALLACE  And yet they got the contract.

MG  Well, that's right.  And I--and I don't think...


MG  And I don't think that the USAID mission here understood the subject 
matter, either.

MIKE WALLACE  Geiger couldn't believe it when he heard about plans to 
computerize the Haitian courts, many of which have no windows, no doors, no 
telephone lines, no electricity.

MG  We obviously thought that was stupid and said so.

MIKE WALLACE  The computer enterprise never saw the light of day.  And while 
outside evaluators did approve of some of Checchi's work, they questioned the 
company's efforts to help Haitian courts track their cases.  Without a good 
case tracking system, prisoners, like the pretrial detainees we saw at the 
national penitentiary, get lost in the system, leaving them stuck in jail 
with no way to get out.

An outside evaluation team found that Checchi apparently did not carry out 
what USAID intended.

MICHELLE JACOBS  An outside evaluation team said that?


MICHELLE JACOBS  Can you give me the quote from the outside evaluation team 
said that?

MIKE WALLACE  The evaluation team found that the Checchi system does not 
monitor the progress of a case through the criminal or civil process as a 
true case tracking system.

MICHELLE JACOBS  We were at the very beginning of this work.  And we did 
not-- at that time, anyway-- we certainly would not dispute the fact that we 
had a long ways to go.  We had just started.

PHYLLIS FORBES  They have definitely improved the case-- the --the 
record-keeping.  I can show you pictures of what these courts looked like 
before the Checchis been working at it.

MIKE WALLACE  Oh, be careful...


MIKE WALLACE  Mrs. Forbes-- we can show you pictures

PHYLLIS FORBES You went and spent

MIKE WALLACE  ...of case management.  We visited one of the busiest courts in 
Port-au-Prince, the only such court in a neighborhood called Carrefour, 
serving nearly as many people as live in the city of Miami.  We asked the 
clerk there to show us his case management system, and he did.  Checchi and 
Company calls his filing system a success.
Files, without numbers, stuffed into drawers -- I mean, it-- really, a little 
bit like a short-order kitchen where the chef has gotten mixed up.

MICHELLE JACOBS  Yes, well, no doubt there--for us, the P-a-P is always by 
far the most difficult place.  There's shortages of everything, including 
clerks, including judges.  So what you see is not necessarily surprising.

MIKE WALLACE  Maurice Geiger says he's not surprised how Checchi and Co's 
record-keeping system turned out, given the background of the man who helped 
set it up.  His name is Jim Smith, a mysterious figure who, to the surprise 
of nearly everyone who met him, wound up as a top executive for Checchi in 
Haiti.  By all accounts, Smith was friendly and a hard worker, but...

MAURICE GEIGER:  He didn't know anything about judicial reform.  He didn't 
know much about Haiti either.  So I-- I didn't know why he was in that 

MIKE WALLACE  When Geiger voiced his concerns about Smith and where the 
program was heading...

MAURICE GEIGER:  We were told just shut up, and "It's none of your business."

MIKE WALLACE  Well, that just made Geiger even more curious.  Who exactly was 
this American teaching Haitians about justice?  So Geiger did what no one at 
USAID or Checchi had bothered to do.  He investigated Smith's background and 
made a stunning discovery.

MAURICE GEIGER:  He had been disbarred from the California Bar.  And he--he 
had been disbarred because he had been convicted of several felonies, and the 
felonies were defrauding the United States of America.

MIKE WALLACE  So how did a man who defrauded the US government and had been 
disbarred-- he has since gotten his license back-- how did he end up on the 
US government payroll, teaching Haitians about justice reform?  The only 
USAID official who would talk about it was Mrs. Forbes.  She was not there 
when Smith was hired.

You know about his background.  Do you know about his history?

PHYLLIS FORBES  I-- I can tell you what I know.

MIKE WALLACE  What do you know?

PHYLLIS FORBES  What I know is that he worked for the civil-- civil affairs.  
He was a ret- reserve Army officer.

MIKE WALLACE  He was a convicted felon...


MIKE WALLACE   ...who was disbarred....


MIKE WALLACE  hired by Checchi...


MIKE WALLACE  ...for a major job in the justice reform program of Haiti.


MIKE WALLACE   I mean come on.


MIKE WALLACE  Mrs. Forbes says Smith kept his background a secret from 
Checchi and USAID

MG  When we learned of Smith's background, we gave the information to USAID 
in Washington, and they told us, "Don't tell USAID mission in Haiti and don't 
tell Checchi.  We will check this out and figure out what's going on."  The 
we assumed that he would be gone within a few days.

MIKE WALLACE  But nearly four months later, Smith was still on the job.
Finally, Geiger told Checchi and Co about Smith, who was forced to resign.  
Later, we learned that it was USAID which had asked that Smith be hired in 
the first place.

MIKE WALLACE  AID declined to talk to us on camera about why they wanted 
Smith hired or why they told Geiger to keep  Smith's felony a secret.  Mrs. 
Forbes says the Smith fiasco should not obscure AID's achievements in Haiti, 
such as training and educating judges.

PHYLLIS FORBES  I think Checchi's done a very good job.

MIKE WALLACE  And under very difficult circumstances, she says, including 
having to work with an unstable Haitian government and a society with no 
democratic traditions.

PHYLLIS FORBES They do not yet have justice, though they have more of it than 
they had four years ago.

MIKE WALLACE  Bill O'Neil used to run the United Nations human rights mission 
in Haiti.  He's worked in some of the world's most trouble spots.

You know Haiti... poverty, violence, brutality, corruption, disease.  Is the 
justice system really at the top of the Haitian citizen's agenda?

BILL O'NEIL:  Surprisingly enough, among the Haitians I deal with, it is.

MIKE WALLACE  I might -- if I were in their shoes, I might have other things 
at the top of the agenda, like food, a house, schools.
But the Haitians I know all say the number one thing they want is justice.
People looking in, why should it make any difference to them whether or not 
there is a justice reform in Haiti?

MAURICE GEIGER:  Well, for a couple of reasons, but if no other reason, 
because we're paying the bill.  And I think most Americans work hard for 
their money and therefore work hard for their tax money.  And they are 
willing to help poor nations wherever they are, but they are not willing to 
have the money wasted.  I think that's what they wouldn't like.

MIKE WALLACE   USAID is now selecting a contractor to run the next phase of 
the justice reform program in Haiti, scheduled to begin in January.  And 
Haiti's justice minister, Camille LeBlanc, says that this time he wants the 
Haitian government more involved in the program.