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Location: Takoma Park, Maryland, United States

I'm now a 52-year-old American male raised as an Episcopalian, veteran of submarines, Peace Corps, and State Department. I like teaching people about what they can do with computers and have gotten by as an independent Microsoft trainer teaching networking, but I really hope to someday find a way to make a living traveling on my motorcycle, camping, and writing about places and people I meet along the way.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Visit with Susan

Yesterday, I drove to NYC and visited Susan. It was quite an interesting experience. I got there at 1:00 PM visiting hours closed at 2:00 PM and for while I thought I was going to get turned away, but after waiting an hour for folks who were already in the visiting room to leave, they put us in an elevator and I got to spend about an hour talking with her, one-on-one.

She looks better than I've ever seen her, and she definitely has her wits about her, but it also seems that she is as mixed up as ever about what can be done with her case. She is not alone. Her father has been telling people that she can get out anytime simply by agreeing to accept medication from a private doctor of her choosing. This is not true. It is not even on the table, and she has already proposed exactly that.

Liz Fink points out that there are rules the court must and will observe. Susan has to "cool out" and accept that she really is incompetent and needs what ever help others will give her.

It's pretty clear that Susan will be returned to Carswell for medication after the hearing of the 13th. The only thing that will prevent that would be if somebody were to come forward for the funding for a private institution. Her father's friend Joan Berlin was one of her hopes, but it seems her father may have poisoned that well with his claims that Susan did have an out and that only her being stubborn was preventing her release. Why would anybody contribute with a father making such claims?

Her father told me that Susan took a loan from the family trust to purchase her house, and the father seemed anxious to liquidate the house so that the trust can be repaid an applied to other needs in the family. In short, the father seems as responsible as anybody for Susan being declared incompetent.

I do not accept the claims of some that Susan's lawyer is corrupt or evil. It is clear to me that, while it may have been a mistake to go the incompetency route, any lawyer who has Susan as a client would find themselves in "over their head." Susan is just unmanageable and untrusting of all authority figures. Sanford did a marvelous job in the defense portions of the hearing, and can play the cards that remain as well as anybody.

While it is clear that the judge doesn't like the situation Susan is in and may be sympathetic to her plight, he will not break the rules for her. We can talk about injustice: How this seems like double jeopardy, that she must prove herself competent first, and then get to have a trial, and the Justice Department being able to treat her in a manner indistinguishable from common criminal punishment before she has been found guilty. We can talk about whether the State is imposing a form of religion by setting itself up as the arbiter of mental competency when critics become bothersome or embarrassing. Nevertheless, I have to be somewhat sympathetic to the interests of the State as well. You cannot have free agents taking up with foreign intelligence services and doing business with state sponsors of terrorism. If we prosecute the rich who pursue such profits, then we must also prosecute the more naive among us who succumb to such overtures.

Watching Judge Mukasey run the courtroom was one of the pleasures of this whole ordeal, for me. Susan has the benefit of some very professional people and a fundamentally well-intentioned court system that she would not have in many other countries. I'm not sure that my admiration carries over to the Justice Department, but I understand the prosecutor when he protests that "These are serious charges. We have video tapes of her accepting payments from the Iraq Intelligence Service when we were about to go to war." I don't envy him his role.

If I have a criticism it would be for the way our government has allowed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to operate without a lot of oversight--even outsourcing it to corporations who operate under a profit motive where there is probably even less accountability. Our prisons do not commend us. We need to listen to people who work within them and make some of the improvements that I'm sure they will have to suggest.


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