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Chicago Indymedia

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Where Are They Now?

ON TELEVISION, the good guys almost always catch the criminal by the last commercial. But in real life, criminals disappear and reappear with puzzling unpredictability.

American intelligence operations, for example, have been unable to locate Osama bin Laden, the 6-foot-4 bearded al Qaeda leader who masterminded the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. From somewhere -- a cave or a trawler on the high seas -- he still directs a multinational terrorist organization and taunts and threatens American officials.

Mullah Omar, the one-eyed enigmatic Taliban leader, has also disappeared. Every so often, some farmer spots him wandering in the mountains of Afghanistan, but American forces have been unable to find him as well.

The anthrax killer has also vanished -- after sending deadly spores through the postal system to members of Congress and the media. According to Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a molecular biologist with the Federation of American Scientists, the FBI knew within two weeks that the strain of anthrax originated within the U.S. bio-defense program. This has led some to wonder if the government would prefer that the culprit remain undiscovered. If missing, he can't reveal secrets about our government's biological weapons research labs.

But despite these intelligence lapses, give the Bush administration credit for capturing an impressive crowd of prominent former criminals.

John Poindexter, for example, has emerged from relative obscurity to head the new Orwellian office of Total Information Awareness, housed in the Pentagon. Once a national security adviser to President Reagan, Poindexter helped mastermind the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scam that sought to evade congressional will. In 1990, he was convicted of five felony counts (later overturned on a technicality) for lying to Congress. Now he is armed with an immense database that can track all our of lives through government and commercial sources.

Also resurrected is Elliot Abrams, another veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal. President Bush has just appointed him director of Middle Eastern affairs. In 1987, Abrams pleaded guilty to withholding information from Congress. Five years later, Bush senior pardoned him.

Don't forget John Negroponte and Otto Reich, also veterans of the Iran- Contra scam. They are now, respectively, our ambassador to the United Nations and special envoy for the Western Hemisphere affairs at the State Department.

Henry Kissinger is also back, though not by popular demand. President Bush chose him to lead the independent commission that will investigate why our government failed to prevent the deadly terrorist attacks against American civilians. For the record, Kissinger has not been charged with any crime, though many believe he committed more than a few when he conducted government affairs in secrecy and with deceit. His harshest critics, moreover, have accused him of war crimes -- of orchestrating the secret bombing of Cambodia and the violent overthrow of Salvador Allende, the elected president of Chile, in 1973.

Even Jim Crow -- long thought dead after the passage of civil rights laws in the 1960s -- made a surprise appearance when Senate Republican leader Trent Lott of Mississippi praised retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., for having defended white supremacy and legal segregation.

Well, there you have it. Call it what you will -- coddling criminals or compassionate conservatism -- but this is the Bush administration's quixotic record for finding and bringing criminals to justice.



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