Author Topic: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture  (Read 27351 times)

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Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
11th February 2010

Financing Cheney’s pro-torture front is Melvin Sembler, who once enabled “enhanced interrogation” of American teens

By Joe Conason
Slate | Feb 9, 2010

The arrest of an Army sergeant (and Iraq veteran) who allegedly waterboarded his 4-year-old daughter for failing to recite the alphabet is sickening. Yet it may be the kind of news we must come to expect if, as a society, the United States determines that torture is an acceptable method of securing information and inducing obedience. Physical abuse of children is nothing new, of course,  in certain right-wing quarters, as Max Blumenthal reminded us by exposing the pedagogical sadism of Focus on the Family in Republican Gomorrah.

For a sergeant who tortures his child, however, the relevant model probably comes from somewhere high in the chain of command. At the center of today’s propaganda promoting the torture state are former Vice President Dick Cheney, his family and many of his friends, working through an organization called Keeping America Safe that is run by his daughter Liz Cheney. The financier behind that outfit is one Melvin Sembler, a curious character whose résumé indicates that he is all too familiar with the “enhanced interrogation” of children.

Sembler is best known as a Florida shopping center magnate and Republican fundraiser whose success in amassing funds for the Bush family won him two ambassadorial appointments. Such patronage is a sordid aspect of national politics, but seems trivial when compared with the truly dark side of Sembler’s biography. Long before he achieved prominence in national politics, he was the driving force in the “boot camp” movement that popularized the use of psychological and physical abuse of “troubled” children and teenagers.

His own creation was a federally funded outfit known as Straight, Inc., which eventually fell apart amid multiple lawsuits and accusations of torture by teenagers abused in its secretive facilities.

The  best reporting on Straight’s frightening history in recent years has appeared in Reason, the libertarian magazine, under the byline of Maia Szalavitz. Some of the techniques that eventually brought Sembler’s organization to the attention of law enforcement authorities will be eerily familiar to anyone who remembers what happened at Abu Ghraib:  humiliating punishments, broken bones, starvation, sleep deprivation, stress positions, verbal assaults, eight-hour sessions of questioning, and so on.

According to Szalavitz, “Straight’s national clinical director … admitted to authorities in 1982 that he had kept teenagers awake for 72-hour periods, put them on peanut butter-only diets, and forced them to crawl through each other’s legs to be hit in a ’spanking machine’ …  Straight ultimately paid out millions of dollars in dozens of lawsuits related to abuse and even kidnapping and false imprisonment of adults.”

Eventually Straight crumbled amid those multimillion-dollar settlements, newspaper exposés and government probes, thanks to the activism of Richard Bradbury, a young man whose experience resembles the stories of innocent Iraqis who were caught up in the torture machine over there.

Again according to Szalavitz, Bradbury “was forcibly enrolled in the program in 1983, when he was 17. His sister had had a drug problem, and Straight demanded that he be screened for one as well. After an eight-hour interrogation in a tiny room, Bradbury, who was not an addict, was nonetheless held. He later described beatings and continuous verbal assaults, which for him centered on sexual abuse he’d suffered as a young boy. Staffers and other participants called him a ‘faggot,’ told him he’d led his abusers on, and forced him to admit ‘his part’ in the abuse.”

Of course Sembler, like his pal Cheney, will never admit that anything went wrong with his grisly enterprise. When last heard from, as ambassador to Italy, he still listed his affiliation with Straight on his official State Department profile as a matter of personal pride. Just another exemplar of Cheney family values.

Offline chris jones

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #1 on: March 02, 2010, 08:10:11 am »

I would love to go one on one with cheney, fisticups that is, ya I'm an old fart myself, so that would even up the odds.

He is a sadistical pervert, sociaopthic freak,  a chicenkshiiite bullying cowardly pysco. Reminds me of a first sargent I knew, we went one on one, I lost, but it was worth it.

I'm not promoting violence- moderators, but I am saying the truth.

Offline Dig

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #2 on: March 02, 2010, 08:23:59 am »
Straight Inc. My (Brother's) Story

Thanks to the wonderful folks who started and worked at Straight Inc., and the Seed, such as Mel Sembler, Mark Foley, Mel Riddile, Paul Bishop and more, my brother is dead today. Yes I blame them completely. Even if my brother was messed up when he went in, they only made him worse, they did NOTHING to help him, he was abused along with thousands of other children. Many who are just coming to terms with it now, some 20+ years later.

Straight no longer exists but it's offspring does. They are named: Pathway Family Center, The Seed, SAFE Inc., Kids Helping Kids, Growing Together. Many of these "Wilderness" programs are extremely abusive as well. Betty and Mel Sembler (ambassador of Australia and Italy appointed by both Bush's) stared the Drug Free American Foundation, after Straight Inc. was finally shut down. It's a bad organization run by bad people. Now they are trying to push their agenda on the world through the The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice.

New 1/3/09: Public Acknowledgement & Apology of the abuse that went on at Straight Inc.

Click here for more developments.

R.I.P. DJ A.M. aka Adam Goldstein, a veteran of Straight Inc.

My (Brother's) Story
continued below...

He's the one on the left w/ his best friend Cory.
Read what others have had to say over the years.
Please leave your own comments, questions etc. Let us know you stopped by!
I'm always interested in hearing from anyone who knew Steve, I get quite a few emails. Email me anytime at .

Before I get into the specifics let me say a few things, the story below, was written in 2001, it is now 2009 and the madness continues. These programs still exist. After doing research over the years it's become very obvious Straight Inc. was just a profit machine, as are most of the programs that exist today. The phrase Troubled Teen Industry was coined and it is real. It is a business, an industry. People getting rich claiming they can fix what probably isn't broken. I have documents from Straight Inc. that use words like "sales" and "quota" in regards to children's lives. Something is wrong with that picture.

There are 2 simple rules parents should follow if they feel they must send their child away.

1. Do NOT put your child in any facility that will not let you speak to your child anytime you want to, period!

2. Do NOT put your child in any facility that does not allow your child the human right, that even prisoners have, to contact outside council if there is any abuse that takes place.

The kids in Straight were not prisoners, had committed no crimes, yet they had less rights than prisoners of war.

If you don't follow these two rules then you really don't have your child's best interest at heart. Ultimately you should consider finding an outside source, an abitrator, if you will, to sit down with you and your child to help decide the best course of action if you don't feel you can handle your child on your own. But please, consider every and any alternative before sending them away. Why have a child just to shove the responsibility on someone else. If you truly feel you have no choice, it is your responsibility as a parent to make sure the treatment is compassionate and founded on love, not TOUGH love. Tough love is a crock of shit, especially for a child that doesn't volunteer to be treated that way. And it is your responsibility to keep your child safe and out of harms way.

Believe me, abuse in a facility like Straight will do far more damage than recreational drug use, FAR more! These aren't compassionate rehabs, they are behavior modification facilities. The same "program model" that was used in Straight Inc. to reform "druggies", is still used today to reform gay kids and turn them straight. No joke, read all about it. Again they use the SAME program model as Straight Inc. Behavior Modification has one goal, to change your child into someone else via intensive brainwashing. Since when does anyone have the right to steal someone's identity and replace it with what they think is best. A parent does not own their child, they are a guardian not a master. Do the right thing!

Now on with my brother's story. Please understand I wrote this from the heart, so the grammar and what not may not be perfect, I just wrote it as it came to me, I did it for my brother and all those who are not here to testify about their experience in Straight Inc.

My brother, Steve (click here and here to view some pictures) had such a beautiful spirit. He was extremely talented, he could sing, draw, he was very artistic and introspective. He started messing with drugs as a young kid with his friends. My parents tried putting him in military school and that didn't work. They got wind of Straight Inc. through a Tough Love group. Only $4,000 a year, my brother was there for 2 1/2 years. Mind you Straight didn't advertise it's evil ways. They let you know there was a WAR going on, a Drug war. They let you know your child was a victim of this war and they were your last resort.

My parents decided to put him in Straight Inc. Straight Inc. was a very intensive, family program. Meaning the family is involved as well. At age 13, I had to go to what they call "Open Meetings" every Monday and Friday and then sibling meetings on Saturday. Can't say I enjoyed it. The open meetings on Monday weren't too bad but on Fridays they lasted up to 3 hours, then we had to break out into a sibling meeting which COULD last another 2 - 3 hours. We were usually there from about 6pm until midnight or 1am.

When kids get put into straight they are put on phase 1. On phase 1 you stay at someone else's house. You are stripped of all your rights, you can wear no shoes, or belt and are led around by the back of your pants (belt loop) where ever you go. Can't even SHIT or SHOWER alone. You had ZERO privacy, you were NEVER alone. You could not read (except for the Bible, those hypocrites) anything, could not watch tv, could not listen to music. While staying at your host home (a home of a family who had a child on a higher phase) you were basically locked in. All the doors were locked, the windows were barred, in the bedroom the locks were reversed so you couldn't leave and the "oldcomer's" bed was usually pushed up against the door. My brother spend 2 1/2 of his 3 years on phase 1. You would think these kids had committed murder or something, most of them smoked a few joints and drank a few beers, if that. We aren't talking junkies were talking 12-15 year old kids who liked to experiment and party, for the most part.

While on first phase you could earn Talk with your family that occur after the open meetings. When someone got a talk they would get to come meet with their family and talk to them for 5 minutes, being lead by the seat of their pants, of course, unless they were lucky enough to earn Talk & Responsibility which meant no one had to grab your ass while you were talking to your family. I think it took my brother over 3 months to earn his first one. When he did it was extremely emotional for all of us. Considering my brother was on first phase for 2 1/2 years you can imagine how little we got to communicate with him, the TALKS after open meetings are the ONLY communication you get while they are on first phase.

Straight had this philosophy that 90% of all teenagers were druggies or potential, eventual, druggies. All druggies who started with beer, pot or mild drugs would eventually turn to more extreme drugs. All druggies would be unsuccessful and probably wind up dead. I did drugs, mostly pot, and I consider myself VERY successful today, no thanks to Straight. My brother is dead and it wasn't drugs that killed him. They convinced parents their kid would die without help and they were good at it. Dead, insane or in jail, they would say.

On 2nd phase you got the privilege to come home at night. EVERY DAY (unless in school) from about 7am until about 9pm (sometimes much later) you were at the Straight Inc. building. During that time you could NOT talk to anyone else, nor make eye contact with anyone, other than who was talking. You had to sit up straight for over 12 hours or be kicked in the back frequently if you didn't comply. If you were caught day dreaming or even thinking about something else and not paying attention you could easily be set back a phase or even body slammed to the ground. Imagine a kid with A.D.D. in this program. In the building (a revamped warehouse) there were basically no windows, florescent lights, peanut butter sandwiches for lunch every day. You had to get permission to go to the bathroom, no real medical care, absolutely NO real therapy or counceling by licensed therapists.

On first phase, you were taken out of school and/or any job you held. Once you got to 3rd phase you got to go back to school and 4th phase you could hold a job. On 5th phase you actually could go out on an outing with friends like a movie, WOW. Finally comes graduation, something my brother never saw. There were kids in Straight Inc. who had never done drugs (they signed a confession eventually after hours and hours of intimidation), kids with mental problems and eating disorders, as if an abusive experience like this is going to help someone with a mental disorder. That is criminal. They used mental intimidation to get some kids to admit to problems they never had so they could fill their f**king pockets!!

My brother was in the program for 3 years (from age 15 to 18) and ran away SEVEN TIMES! (that should be a hint). Now before I go further let me say I don't lay full blame on my mom she was ignorant as to what was happening. They sold a great package! Only recently have I told her what Steve went through, and I know it is and was hard for her to hear. She ultimately feels responsible. For 15 years I was pissed off at my brother for taking his life and leaving his family. Then I learned the truth, and to be honest I can't say I wouldn't have done the same. I don't know if I could have handled 3 years in that place. Let me give you some examples of the abuse he had to suffer.

Nightly they had to write "Moral Inventories", better known as MI's. My mom saved these and recently I asked her if I could have them. I put them all in order and started reading. On his 60th day in straight he stated that he was very proud because he finally had a day where he wasn't physically restrained. One got physically restrained for not raising their hand. It's not like he was trying to beat people up or run away on a daily basis, he just wasn't complying. That's my brother, he was a fighter. And when I say restrained, imagine four big guys or girls, throwing you to the ground and sitting on you so you could hardly breath for 30 - 60 minutes. People got broken fingers, hands, arms, ribs, etc, often.

They were told to make a list of all the bad "sexual" things they did when they were young. Many kids hadn't really done anything yet but they were hounded so severely kids actually made things up. And then of course it was used against them as ammunition to remind them what sluts and whores they all were. Druggies were losers, and people who went back to using drugs were useless losers who would never succeed. Yeah that's the way to cure someone, make them feel like total shit about themselves for a problem they may or may not have.

They were not allowed to talk about anything much beyond themselves. Meaning if there were severe family problems going on, that might even have attributed to the drug use, so what. The problem was drugs, not that "you were molested as a child". These kids were severely brainwashed into thinking they were complete losers and everything was their fault. A very popular phrase "SPIT THERAPY" comes from this program too... think about it. Many of these kids had problems such as depression, or were bi-polar yet got ZERO therapy for any problems, NO psychiatric counceling. The counceling for the most part came from KIDS (brainwashed kids) who had already graduated the program, that way these greedy f**kers didn't have to PAY for real help.

Before my brother could come home on phase 2, Straight Inc. told my dad he had to get rid of the alcohol in the house, because it would be tempting. My mom and some friends thought it might be a good idea to have an intervention for my alcoholic father (he is a true blue alkie). They had the intervention at the Straight building (Straight loved to be in control), they didn't plan on putting my dad in there, the intervention just took place there. Of course if you have ever experienced an intervention you feel cornered and will usually back down and comply because of all the "friends and family" that are there. So, my dad agreed to go into a 3 week program at Fairfax Hospital to stop drinking.

As we all know you won't stop abusing (drugs, alcohol, whatever) until YOU are ready, my dad wasn't ready. He left the program and came up with the GREAT idea that he would move out so my brother could come home. NICE DAD! So now my brother saw my dad as choosing his BOTTLE over him. Again my dad had to be ready to quit but DAMN what a slap in the face that was for me and my brother. My dad cared more about getting his buzz on then his own god damned family. I still harbor resentment today about it.

Then, while in Straight we found out my dad had cheated on my mom with MANY different women and had another child about 7 years before. My brother got wind of this in Straight, of course a senior staff member at Straight told him, they just wouldn't let him talk about it. EVERY TIME he tried to talk about it they would tell him to focus on HIS problem. As if DRUGS are EVER the problem. Something is always behind it. So basically they told him just to f**k with him, not to help him. It breaks my heart that my brother was put through this. He was made to think he was worthless and useless and had nothing going for him. Every time he ran away he was brought back FORCEFULLY to Straight. Even punched a window out in hopes of severing his hand so he could go to the hospital instead of Straight, no such luck.

I was around a few times when they got him at our house, it was always VERY physical (my brother was 6'3"), with friends and neighbors helping to restrain him. Granted none of them knew of the horrors of straight, but the one problem I do have is that if a kid runs away 7 times then the PROGRAM ISN'T WORKING, move on! Get him OUT! But that didn't happen. Looking at it from the perspective I now have, it really breaks my heart. Because every time my brother ran it was as if he was escaping a concentration camp, and they brought him back to that hell hole 7 times. He actually jumped from a moving car on one occasion risking his life in order not to go back. I can't imagine what he had to endure each time he came back, I would not have survived that.

The sibling side of straight was odd as well (siblings of course being the brothers and sisters of those in the program). We would go to sibling meetings (Monday nights, Friday nights and practically all day Saturday for THREE YEARS) and have to talk and share (yuck) but I got into it at the time, as if I had a choice. If you don't go then they warn your parents you are probably on drugs too. I actually had an interview 2 years into straight because a straightling saw me try snuff in school and reported me. They thought I was on drugs, thank GOD I wasn't put in there. The folks in Straight were pretty much brainwashed into narking on anyone seen doing anything suspicious. Many kids who never TOUCHED drugs went into that program and the parents were of course told they were druggies since the counselors grilled them enough to admit it in writing.

In siblings we had to write MI's too, we had to sing these stupid mother f**king songs, although I preferred that to sharing. When we wanted to talk we have to MOTIVATE. Meaning raising both your hands in the air and shaking them like a god damned gorilla or something. The kids in the program would get restrained for not doing this. Straight was very "God" oriented *how f**king hypocritical*, they were against ROCK music and premarital sex. I still remember friends of mine in siblings that were just BLASTED for going to a rock concert or having sex at the age of 17. I mean BLASTED. Oh it makes me sick to think about. And that was NOTHING compared to what went on to the kids INSIDE Straight.

My brother turned 18 in September of 1985 and withdrew himself from Straight. He asked my mom if he could come live at home and she said only if he goes to AA. At the time I didn't understand why he said no. But now I do. He had been a prisoner with NO rights for 3 years (keep in mind he was on FIRST PHASE for 2 1/2 of those 3 years) and wasn't about to be told what to do. He left Straight homeless and alone and somewhat brainwashed. He was still in contact with his highschool buddy Corey, who I recently contacted. Corey was probably his only TRUE friend, him and Craig and Bubba *grin*. I saw my brother once before he died working at the Mobil gas station. He looked good but sad, I wanted to cry, wanted to go give him a big hug, but even our relationship had been affected, we had hardly seen each other in 3 1/2 years. I could tell he was happy to see me but didn't know how to react. Finally on June 30th 1986 my brother checked himself into the Econo Lodge in Springfield Virginia. Wrote a note to Corey, took some cocaine for courage, and jumped from the 4th story window. He hit his head on the concrete. He was without oxygen to the brain for over 10 minutes, which of course caused his brain to die. He was put in the hospital and kept on life support until July 3rd when we decided to pull the plug.

I recently got to read my brother's suicide note for the first time. It confirmed everything for me. My brother never really had a self defeated attitude yet the entire note talked about what a f**k up he was and how he would never amount to shit. Straight did a WONDERFUL job of drilling this into his head for 3 years. Imagine hearing for 3 years straight that if you ever smoke another joint or drink another beer you are a loser who WILL wind up dead. That is exactly how he viewed himself.

I didn't deal with his death for the first 15 years, hardly cried and rarely spoke of it. One day, back around 2001, I decided to do some research on the net about Straight. Oh my god the shit I found blew my mind. It goes so much deeper then what I express in this letter. Being that I was not with my brother in straight I could only share things that he went through that others shared with me. But if you visit some of the links below you will gain a better understanding of what really occurred. It was absolutely horrific and it's STLIL GOING ON TODAY!

I will never forget in 1986 Nancy Reagan and Princess Diana came to Straight in Northern Virginia, I was in the open meeting that they came to. And then afterward publicly gave their support to the program, completely CLUELESS as to it's horrors and treatment of these kids. I was told there were certain "trouble makers" who were taken to back rooms and gagged so they wouldn't make a peep while the first lady and the Princess were there. That breaks my heart. Many people I have since talked with are just NOW (15-20 years later) coming to terms with this abuse. Many completely lost themselves and their personality and have had to rebuild. Brainwashing is REAL and no joke. It's a tried and true practice and they used techniques in Straight that have been used globally. Definitely a Clockwork Orange meets Full Metal Jacket type situation, and very very sickening to me.

I have talked to so many people over the last few years who knew Steve in Straight, who tell me what a fighter he was, that he didn't cave and give into the bullshit they were dishing out. How in his own way (Since you weren't allowed to talk in there) he actually was able to inspire others to keep their head up and make through. This is a bitter sweet reality for me. Straight stole my brother from me. At 13 he was taken and I never spent a moment of quality time with him again. They destroyed my family and countless others. They should be held accountable and I will keep talking about it and informing people of the truth until the day I die, if things don't change.

Thank you for taking the time to read this information. If you were unaware of these atrocities before, my hope is it's angered you enough to at the minimum, spread the word, tell one person. Knowledge of the truth is powerful, and we have the power to end these crimes!

In the meantime, I feel it's extremely important to get this information out. Parents have NO EXCUSES anymore when it comes to sending their kids to these programs. The information is out there for them to gain FREELY, if they only do the research. I think the most important thing is to realize that drug treatment needs to be REAL therapeudic treatment and it needs to be voluntary. I don't care if a kid is 15 years old no child should be FORCED to do something like that. If you do your research, you will see,that children have less rights in this country then ANIMALS or prisoners of war, and when it comes to private rehabs they have no rights. At the very least if you were ever faced with putting your child in a facility that was not voluntary, make sure their rights are covered by the law, meaning as much as I hate to say it, a government run institution is bound to the law and it's much harder for them to get away with these crimes then in a private rehab. If a parent doesn't love their kid enough to do the research before sticking them somewhere like that, they need to rethink the whole parenting thing. And believe it or not there are parents out there who would much rather throw their kid in a rehab then be a parent. I know that isn't the case in most situations, but it does happen and therefore the child needs the right to speak out if they are put in an abusive facility.

Straight Suicides: This is a partial list of people who committed suicide while in straight or after they got out. Many others TRIED to take their lives. I left last names out purposely for those who wish to maintain privacy. There are several others that have died reasons not disclosed. No doubt this list will continue to grow over time. These people did not die in vain and we are not going away until all these abusive facilities are shut down and the people responsible are held accountable! *Denotes death but suicide unconfirmed.

Springfield, VA Straight
Jon Guyton 1985
Greg Hughes 1985
Steve Matthews 1986
Kristin Stottlemeyer 1986
Chris Weiss 1986
Chris Kelly 1987
Duane Rolfs 1987
Matthew Hunter 1988
Charlie Griffith 1989/90
Greg T. 1989
Dan Brown late 80s
Ira Kauffman late 90s
Glen Steepleton 2000
Kevin Yriondo 2000
Kent H. 2009
Travis Stone
Paul Riffle
Terry L.
Teddy B.
Lisa D.

Stoughton, MA Straight
Chris Ahlman 1988
Glenn Jenkins
Brandon E.
Dale N.

Atlanta, GA Straight
Brandon K.
Tara M.
Theresa S.
Tracey G.
Ron H.
Michelle E.
Ben L.

Dallas, TX Straight
William F. 2001
Vance H.
Shiela C.
Michelle K.

Cincinatti, OH Straight
Jeff Leugers 1990
Paul Price
Rob H.
Dane W.

St Pete, FL Straight
Jerry V.
Geoffery R.
Kent C.

Sarasota, FL Straight
Reagan F.

Orlando, FL Straight
Chris C.
Aaron Rockey
Dave Gilman
James Mixon (died Oct 1989 -15 yrs old- possible suicide by cop)
Matt Willingham
Chris Cybulski

The Seed
Ken S.

Charlie P.
Jamie C.
David H.
Ryan K.
Ron F.
Phil W.
Albert P.
Andy M.
Tracy B.
Shirley C.
Brian N.
Bennett B.
Bill F.
Dan H.

Note: According to statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics, in 1987 the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas Counties) had the highest suicide rate in the country. It's not just because of the large number of retirees there. The juvenile suicide rate in Pinellas County rose 130% between 1980 and 1986. A 1992 study found that 1 out of 4 girls in neighboring Pasco County attempted suicide in 1991 (national average was 10%). And in neighboring Hillsborough County the juvenile suicide rate rose from 3 in 1980 to 9 by 1987. 19 youths committed suicide in Pinellas/ Hillsborough Counties in 1989 [up to nine of these were gay.] Straight operated its founding center, Straight-St Pete, in Saint Petersburg, Florida in Pinellas County from 1976 to 1993.
Alledged abuses at Straight, Springfield, VA
Virginia Letter to Deny License
Republicans and Straight
Straight Court Cases
Mel Sembler, Straight's Founder, buying his ambassadorships?
Flowchart of Straight's History

Straight Inc. Alumni - The largest online group of ex-straightlings. Great for locating people as well as discussing your experiences and trauma related to attending straight and/or programs like it. All are welcome!

Fornits - A huge online discussion forum bringing together people who were in straight, Pathways, WWASP (World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools), Kids Helping Kids, Aspen Group, The Seed, Elan School, wilderness programs, Brat Camp, CEDU/Brown Schools, Hidden Lake Academy, Hyde Schools, Daytop Village, Growing Together/L.I.F.E., Mission Mountain School, Synanon, Kids of North Jersey and more. You may rema
in completely anonymous on this discussion forum if you wish.

The Rick Ross Institute on Straight Inc. - This page contains information The Rick A. Ross Institute has gathered about Straight Inc.

Quackwatch - Quackwatch, Inc., which was a member of Consumer Federation of America from 1973 through 2003, is a nonprofit corporation whose purpose is to combat health-related frauds, myths, fads, and fallacies. Its primary focus is on > quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. Founded by Dr. Stephen Barrett in 1969 as the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud, it was incorporated in 1970. In 1997, it assumed its current name and began developing a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors.

Teen Advocates USA - Founded in 1999 by Barbe Stamps, Teen Advocates USA is a non-profit children's rights and advocacy organization focused on monitoring the care and treatment of youth by the privatized behavior modification industry.

Teen Liberty - Protecting the Civil and Human Rights of Teens.

A Clockwork Straight -The most extensive website about straight, documenting it's past, present and future.

The Trebach Report

OVer the GW- New movie about a straight offspring (Kids Helping Kids) .

Surviving Straight, Inc. In their Own Words!

Kimberly's Story- Kimberly's Personal Story

Ginger's Story - Ginger's personal story.

The Agitator - The daily writings of Radley Balko, the author of the Fox News article. - is the most complete guide to information about Self -Improvement, Personal Growth and Self Help on the Internet. It is designed to be an organized directory, with articles and references to thousands of other Web Sites on the World Wide Web.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline Dig

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2010, 08:33:17 am »
A Clockwork Straight
Rehabilitation,Thought Reform and the Destruction of Young Minds


by Wesley M. Fager

(c) 2000

"I been around, you know. There was a time when I could see, and I have seen boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off.  But there is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit, there is no prosthetic for that."  Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Al Pacino) in the 1992 movie Scent of a Woman 

But the fool on the hill,
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head,
See the world spinning around.

The fool is Jesus Christ, from Fool on the Hill by the Beatles.

"Life is a very wonderful thing," said Dr. Branom . . . ‘"the processes of life, the make-up of the human organism, who can fully understand these miracles?. . . What is happening to you now is what should happen to any normal healthy human organism . . . You are being made sane, you are being made healthy."
"That I will not have," I said, "nor can I understand at all. What you’ve been doing is to make me feel very ill." Alex talking to his psychiatrist in A Clockwork Orange

"If I would have realized back then that I would have been out of jail a lot sooner than I got out of Straight, I definitely would have picked jail. It was kinda' like from the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest with Jack Nicholson. Jack thought it would be easier serving his time out in a psyc ward instead of prison and the next thing ya know the poor guy gets a lobotomy. Well that kinda' happened to me. Except my lobotomy was a brainwashing. Start out thinking "I'll just go along to get out of here," then the next thing ya know BAM! I am gone and some jackass flapping his arms around like an idiot and singing songs like "Zippity Do Da" is sitting in my chair. I still get can't believe it. Seems like it happened to another person or something."
LESTAT49203, Straight-Cincinnati and Straight-Detroit

"They [the Straights] run very close to really performing psychic murder."
-Marge Robertson,  executive director of the Cincinnati Chapter of the ACLU,  from Cincinnati Post.

"I have seen people sit in Group and physically carve into their arms to,  in my opinion,  try to escape the hell they were in. I know that they put to much on us for young people. I wonder if they didn’t set some of us crazy themselves. I know of one  young child that didn’t speak to anyone for probably 2 months. This kid didn’t crack a smile;  it was like he was in his own world. I never understood why some kids with obvious mental disorders were allowed to continue treatment when it was obvious that they needed mental help from someone more than a  teenager or young adult who had no formal training. Will any of us ever know how much damage straight really did to our minds, and our bodies?"   Mark Fuller, Straight-Springfield

"Staff members directed me to physically batter and verbally assault other clients. They gave me this directions when I was a client and when I was a Staff Trainee. I carried them out. So did hundreds if not tens of thousands of other kids. . . As hard as it has been to live with the reality of being clinically abused for nearly two years,  it cannot compare with the complete nightmare of living with the fact that I abused other people repeatedly in the name of a thought control cult. It cannot compare with the nightmare of knowing that some of the people I abused have ended up in jail, or dead, and that I contributed to the destruction of their lives." James,  Straight-Atlanta

"Several children attempted suicide while staying with host families, but the attempts were not reported and the children were not treated. . . Some teen-age clients were forced to reveal their sexual fantasies during group sessions. Others were subjected to "spit therapy," where children would spit on each other to reduce their egos."  Jacqueline M. Ennis, formerly head of licensing for Virginia's Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services, speaking about Straight. [Saint Petersburg Times, 7-31-91] 

"Children are a very marketable commodity for hospital admissions." Pete Kreis (1985), former Chief of Children, Youth and Families Division,  Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services (HRS). [Saint Petersburg Times, Jul 6, 1987]

"Getting money is easy . . . Myself. [I would invest in] drug and alcohol rehab centers. I’m serious. It’s the number one op of the 90s. Priscilla, people are chic. You tell them they can’t quit on their own and suddenly everybody needs help. I mean the human mind. What can you say.”
   Con artist Eddy Otis (Kevin Spacey) from the 1993 suspense thriller Consenting Adults

". . . research has shown that over the last 3 years there has been a decline in Straight’s market, to-wit: middle and upper income children involved in drugs. Instead, more lower income families are affected." Jay Snyder, Straight Foundation board member, January 17, 1991

"It is too easy for tyranny to eclipse therapy when teenagers have authority over other teenagers." David Rosenker, Program Director, Louis House North, Blaine, Minn. The [Bergen] Record, 7-26-87, p. A17.

"It just shows that we must have been doing things right." a "grinning" Mel Sembler "proudly" commenting on the ACLU's lawsuit against Straight - Atlanta. Florida Trend Magazine, May 1997

"Business!!!! Mankind was my business."  The ghost of Jacob Marley from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

"I often wonder what it is that brings one man success in life and . . . failure to his brother. . . some men succeed because they cheerfully pay the price . . .and others are unwilling . . . That’s why so many . . . remain on the beaten paths that are for broken men." A quote carried around by Straight founder Ambassador2 Mel Sembler, AO

They tell you they love you,
but it is a lie;
Satisfaction is theirs once you have cried

From the moment your foot steps into the door,
If you give in a little they push you for more

It's so vicious, so desperate,
It seems never-ending

Your soul is at stake
with the outcome still pending

You awake in the midst of a strangers bed,
And more often than not,
You will wish you were dead.

It is hushed to the world
Yet so full of hate-
A place all too many
Now know as Straight.

-Thea, written after her release from Straight - Atlanta, 1990

I have been researching and writing a book about Straight for five years now.  When I started I just had no idea how big they were or just where the story would take me.   I haven't finished my book,  but I have been inspired by three  former Straight students to publish some sort of interim, web-based book on Straight.  These students are  Scott Wagner from Philadelphia who made the first-ever,  substantial page on Straight;  Kathy Martin of Manassas,  Virginia who formed a discussion forum for Straight Survivors;  and Ginger Warbis of Lighthouse, Florida who has put together the pointers to the various resource pages on Straight.

DEDICATION.   This condensed version of my book is dedicated to all the men and women who have been students in Straight-based re-education centers,  to those those boys and girls currently in abusive, Straight-like therapeutic communities,  and to those former students,  too numerous to mention here,  who took their own life following their Straight experience.  That said,  I will mention three names in dedication:

to Professor Arnold Trebach of American University and of the Drug Policy Foundation who worked so hard to tell the story
to my friend Richard Bradbury of Tampa, Florida who spent seven long years of his youthful life closing them down under the name Straight, Inc.
and to Bill Fager who has given his all.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.  I would like to thank all  who have shared their stories with me through eMail,  snail mail, telephone and personal visits.  Internet discussion forums like Kathy Martin's and Don Smith's on Straights,  and Kimberely Fee's forum KIDS  continue  to be a wealth of information about the Straights and I appreciate everyone for sharing.  I would like to thank everyone who has helped me out on special research projects.   I would like to thank Kathy Martin, Scott Wagner and Ginger Warbis for inspiring me to do an internet presence and to all those others like Marti Heath who have subsequently developed fine web pages about the Straights and its descendents.   I am also indebted to Ginger Warbis  for her technical and editorial assistance, and for her political insights.  This story could never have been told without  Richard Bradbury of Tampa, Florida who turned over his enormous archives to me.  Special thanks  go to Dr. Arnold Trebach of the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC for access to that foundations voluminous files on the Straights and for use of his court documents from the Fred Collins trial.   I would like to thank an anonymous friend who has generously helped the cause financially.   I am indebted to true detectives--the librarians all over the country,  and especially to the library staffs at the Saint Petersburg Public Library,  the Fairfax County Public Library,  and the Library of Congress.  I will always  be indebted to the reporters  and editors of America's newspaper--The Saint Petersburg Times--for their excellent  coverage of the  Straight story and for their coverage of their local citizen Melvin Sembler.   Channel 13 Eye Witness News of Tampa and WAMI TV in Miami have also done excellent jobs in reporting the story.  Finally,  I would like to thank my wife Kay for an ever listening ear and for putting up with five years of research and writing so  this story could be told.

FOREWORD by attorney and world renowned author and addiction expert Dr. Stanton Peele.  In many cases, kids in trouble (read "distress") are seen to require no care or affirmation; quite the contrary, they are often seen to benefit from highly aggressive and degrading communications and environments -- one thinks of prison programs such as "Scared Straight," boot camps, drug treatment interventions, and ":tough love" treatments.  The thought seems to be that kids are misbehaving since they are disobedient and willful -- they may be bad seeds -- and need to be brought to heel.  Straight, Inc. was and is a treatment regimen for children built on such assumptions.  As in other such cases, it produces often strongly negative outcomes (such negative outcomes are not restricted to children in abusive programs, but occur with adults as well, as in the high suicide rates reported by the Atlanta Constitution for doctors and other health care workers treated by G. Douglas Talbott, founder and board member of the American Society of Addiction Medicine).  Thanks to Wesley Fager for commemorating the victims of this abuse, who died for reasons unknown, but whose deaths should not go unacknowledged.         

Stanton Peele, J.D., Ph.D.


ENDORSEMENT.  As a person who was incarcerated at Straight, Inc., for twenty months, I can personally attest to the veracity of many of the accounts of abuse and wrongful imprisonment contained in this book. As a physician, I am horrified by the absolute disregard for the psychological, emotional, and physical health, safety, and constitutional rights of Straight clients during the period I was there in the early to middle 1980's. I graduated from the program after having been forced, by repeated verbal and physical assaults, to accept the notion that I had a drug problem even though I did not. I was an honors high school graduate already accepted into a competitive college, but because of my parents' poor parenting skills and their vulnerability to the slick marketing tactics of Straight, Inc., I found myself, at the age of eighteen years, a prisoner with absolutely "no rights" according to Miller Newton, the executive director of Straight at the time. Submission to every rule and Straight custom was demanded and enforced by brutality. I existed in a constant state of terror for my safety and even my life if I did not conform. Although I lost my innocence, precious years of my adolescence, and was forced to delay my educational goals, I realize how fortunate I am that I was able to succeed professionally and personally despite the repeated assaults on my psyche and body. Sadly, many former clients whom I knew have suffered terribly, some turning to drugs and others having committed suicide. To this day, some twenty years later, I suffer from nightmares and periods of intense anxiety brought on by such seemingly simple triggers as certain songs I heard while in the program. Mel Sembler boasts about the over 12,000 successful graduates from Straight1, although it begs the question "what does he mean by 'successful'?" Although I appear to be such, I succeeded despite the program and would give anything to remove from my closet that ghastly skeleton that is Straight, Inc., and the inescapable images of horror and violence I was forced to endure and witness there.  Victoria H., M.D.,  Sept. 2002

INTRODUCTION.  This is a story about organized child abuse in the western world on a massive scale,  maybe in excess of 50,000 kids involved.   It's about convincing affluent white parents that their child will die without the services of a juvenile drug rehab program called Straight (and in some cases one of its abusive follow-on programs).  This is a story about human excrement, urine, vomit and spit.   It's about little white girls on their periods sitting in pools of blood   and about kids carving on their bodies.  A tongue partially bitten off or the inside of a cheek chewed up,   starvation and sleep deprivation.  It's a story about coerced or coaxed sexual confessions.  It's about teaching a child to become ultraviolent and about ripping families apart.    And it's about money--90 million dollars.  As I write this introduction I am reminded of an old Twilight Zone segment I saw years ago–probably before many of you readers were born. According to that episode:   A flying saucer had landed on the mall in Washington, D.C. The aliens told the Washingtonians that they had come in peace and gave the authorities a little red book to prove it. Problem is the document was written in alien language. So the generals turned the little book over to the code breakers at the National Security Agency. After a month-long effort, the best the code breakers could do, even with the aid of modern computers, was to decipher just the title of the strange little red book. It read: HOW TO SERVE MANKIND.  Now that was a nice gesture. The aliens could not stay on earth for long, but they invited a delegation from earth to journey back with them to their native planet in a distant galaxy. A Russian botanist, a Catholic priest, a senator, an educator. People of various disciplines from the far reaches of earth were selected for this momentous trip–even Roger Johnson, one of the cryptologists at the National Security Agency who had helped break part of the alien hieroglyphics, had signed on for the space flight. Finally the big day arrived and the earthlings filed onto the saucer’s gang-plank one-by-one. But just as the last foot vanished as the underside metallic-crab door slammed shut, the chief code breaker from the NSA ran up screaming with all his might, "Roger, don’t go!   DON’T GO!!  HOW TO SERVE MANKIND!!!"

Now you don’t have to look far to find the documented evidences of Straight abuses. A boy restrained in his own urine in Detroit, a teenage girl with a sock crammed down her throat in California, a boy with a broken leg in Virginia, a girl forced to wipe up the blood from her roommate’s recent suicide attempt in Maryland. You can find abuses documented by Trebach, by Miller, by Baum. But what you can’t find is Straight’s big secret. What is the big secret?   Through the years Straight, Inc. has operated 12 treatment facilities.  There has never been one Straight, Inc. treatment facility that has not been accused of abuse.  Several programs have imitated many parts of the Straight, Inc. program.  The title of this book makes claim that Straight, Inc. destroys young egos.  It make no claims that any of the follow-on Straight programs are destructive or that they destroy young egos--unless specifically noted.   

I have been researching and writing a book about Straight for some time now. I never knew when I started this project just how big it would turn out to be, and, for a variety of reasons, I have not yet finished. Encouraged by recent web pages and discussion groups on Straight and Straight follow-on programs, I have decided to develop my own page to share some of the insights I have learned about Straight during my extensive research. Rather than spending several more months composing a finished web-page document, I have decided to let this page just grow as I develop upon one topic or another while I build  this site over the next few months. 

After all these years I suspect that  tens of thousands of former Straight clients still suffer from the confessional sessions which they were forced to endure.  A purpose of this web page is help them  understand what happened to them and why it happened.  A few parents caught on sooner or later to what Straight is, but even they don't know the whole story.  Most parents have never caught on at all.   To this day they firmly believe their child had a life-threatening disease that only Straight could cure,  and many will continue to be eternally grateful to  Straight, Inc. for saving (or for gallantly "attempting" to save)  the life of their teenage son or daughter.  And so another purpose of this web page is to educate these parents, as well as law enforcement officials, health officials, judges and probationary officers, high school officials, the media and  politicians including the President of the United states as to  what actually happens when the doors are shut so that we can all work to provide safeguards  so that such excesses and abuses can never occur again behind Straight's closed doors.   Check out "What you can do" from time-to-time in the left  margin of my web page on the Straights to see how you can help.   A big message we want to spread is that no child can be denied access to the outside world when held captive in rehabilitation programs of any sort. 

Everyone I talk to seems to run into the same two problems when they try to tell the story of Straight.  One,  if you try to tell the story,  you just can't seem to do it.   You just can't get people to understand the sheer human misery that Straight kids are forced to endure.  Or if you're a victim trying to tell the story to your own  parents,  they refuse to believe what you.   Two,  like the Nazi Holocaust,  the scale of suffering is so enormous  that it's almost impossible to document and describe it all.  Years ago I read  Simon Wiesenthal's book on the Holocaust.  I was a bit  disappointed then because of 7 million stories of human misery,  Mr. Wiesenthal  just told the tragic tales of about 20 people.   I remember one tragic tale he tells of a little boy who lit a candle each time the Nazi's came by and took one of his family members.  Finally,  one day,   they came and took the little boy too.  As his armed captors were hauling him away in an ox cart he asked his guard to wait a minute. With that he jumped off the cart and ran into his house and lit a final candle--one for  himself!  In this web-based,  abridged version of my up-coming book,  I,  at first, thought that I faced a similar problem to Mr. Wiesenthal's.  How do you tell the story of  thousands of cases of abuse in just one volume.  Ultimately,  I think,  I have a different task than  Mr. Wiesenthal's.  For the Nazi Holocaust is well established;  Straight's is not.  Therefore,  to some extent,  I did have to,  I feel,   document many more of the cases of abuse so that you can see that Straight,  is in fact,  an American Holocaust.   Speaking of Holocausts,  I want to say one final thing.  My professional background is in mathematics and information sciences.  Years ago  when I studied about the Nazi Holocaust   I was so enraged with what I heard that I was seriously considering contacting Simon Wiesenthal to offer my services as a volunteer to help track down Colonel  Doctor Josef Mengleles--The Angel of Death.   But Doctor Mengeles drowned before I could take any action.  (BTW.  Anybody  know what kind of medical doctor he was?  Colonel Doctor Joseph Mengeles,  who performed all sorts of medical experiments on children and adults,  and especially on twins,   without their consent, was not a  medical doctor at all.  He was a medical anthropologist.)   One man who will tell you that he escaped the Nazi Holocaust as a teenager is Walter Loebenberg,  the visionary behind the Tampa Bay Holocaust Museum on whose board sits Straight's founder--Melvin Sembler.  And why not.  Walter Loebenberg is formerly the President of Straight.  Melvin Sembler is also the finance chairman of the National Republican Party,  and one of the reasons for Straight's  longevity and success is its endorsements by prominent Republicans including Nancy and Ronald Reagan and George Bush. (Don't ask me which one either.  The whole Bush family is tied to Melvin Sembler's pocketbook.) 

  is the condensed, electronic version of a hardback book which is still under development.  Though condensed,  it is nevertheless quite long for a web page.  The tragic heart  of the story can be learned by reading the first three chapters.  Chapter 1 on deprivations and child abuse enumerates many of the instances of child abuse at Straight.  Chapter 2 on body carvings and suicide attempts suggests that Straight caused many of its young students to attempt to kill themselves due to the deprivations the kids sustained;  but watchful eyes by Straight personnel, including fellow students, prevented any suicides from occurring on the premises.  But what was Straight's after care plan to prevent suicides once a student left Straight.  Chapter 3 looks at the deaths by suicide of many former Straight students and questions whether Straight and its officers should be liable for any of these deaths.  So if you can't read the whole work,  you should try to read the first three chapters in order.   

Most people think that Straight closed in the early 1990s,  but the chapter on "where are they" tells the story of  how some former Straight officials opened their own treatment programs as the Straights closed.  Many of these programs are still in operation.   Next I introduce you to some of the men behind the Straights.  In 2000 Reverend Doctor Virgil Miller Newton and his medical team settled with a client in his KIDS program in New Jersey for $4.5 million for abuses she claims she sustained at KIDS.  Miller Newton was Straight's former national clinical director and I devote an entire chapter to him.  Chuck Dederick is the man who actually popularized the Straight concept of addicts aiding in their own recovery.  Dederick's story is in the chapter on his church--Synanon Church.  This chapter shows that there was never any real medical basis for the Straights in the first place and that there were warnings from competent people that the process could be dangerous to human subjects--especially to children.  And then I discuss why Straight was so successful.  One of the major reasons for its great success was its founder Melvin Sembler and his connections to the national Republican Party.  Another chapter shows that Straight took in almost $100 million dollars in treating predominantly white children.   Next the Straight therapeutic process is discussed followed by an essay which shows that  Straight officials do not have the requisite credentials to run a drug rehabilitation program. 
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2010, 08:39:38 am »
Ricky Ross (friend of AJ and the late Gary Webb who was instrumental in putting the pieces together to help with "Dark Alliance" concerning the CIA drug operations) has an entire page dedicated to his institute's research on Straight, Inc.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #5 on: March 02, 2010, 08:42:51 am »
Over the GW
(Movie about some Straight, Inc. Kids)

Based on actual events in the life of the filmmaker, writer/director Nick Gaglia's Over the GW tells the tale of two Bronx siblings whose desperate mother takes them across the GW Bridge to New Jersey in hopes that a revolutionary rehabilitation program will be the key to their recovery. Tony (George Gallagher) and Sofia (Kether Donahue) are druggies. Having exhausted all other options for getting her kids sober, Tony and Sofia's mother opts to taken them to New Jersey and place them in a rigorous thirty-day rehabilitation program run by the tyrannical Dr. Hiller (Albert Insinnia). When Tony and Sofia's one month stretches into a grueling two-and-a-half year ordeal, the psychological torment and false imprisonment they are forced to endure at the behest of the corrupt doctor threatens to do far more damage than even the most addictive narcotics. Eventually led to believe that the only thing keeping them alive is the program, the frightened siblings fall victim to a detestable form of brainwashing while navigating a cult-like maze of confusion and struggling to maintain their true identities.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline Dig

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2010, 08:53:44 am »
Just an FYI... The offspring of these psychotic institutionalized rape and torture chambers for America's children is now heavily owned by Mitt Romney. It is no wonder that Cheney backed him in the last election and is poised to do the same in 2012 (the whole BS about Huckabee and the Seattle False Flag was to start chipping away at the Huckster in prep for a fully evangelical supported Mitt Romney 2012 bid. The Huckster split the evangelical vote last time and Mitt cannot have it this time. Mitt is heavily involved with Blackwater/CIA/False Flag Terrorism to justify martial law/zionism/NWO End Times and Forced Rapture insanity).

Cheney backs Romney

Romney, Torture, And Teens: The Former Governor's Connections To Abusive "Tough Love" Camps

Refer to last week's thread here for more info:

Watch the documentary for more information on the "camps" and Robert Litchfield

And AI...this one is for you...

The main "Torture the Child" prison camp investor Mitt Romney was also involved with this deal (first exposed by Pat Buchanan):

Bain Capital is partnering with China's Huawei Technologies in a buyout of 3Com, the U.S. company that provides the technology that protects Pentagon computers from Chinese hackers.
Subprime Nation
Pat Buchanan, 14, 2008

January 14, 2008
9:29 p.m. Eastern

Since it began to give credit ratings to nations in 1917, Moody's has rated the United States triple-A. U.S. Treasury bonds have been seen as the most secure investment on earth. When crises erupt, nervous money seeks out the world's great safe harbor, the United States. That reputation is now in peril.

Last week, Moody's warned that if the United States fails to rein in the soaring cost of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the nation's credit rating will be down-graded within a decade.

Our political parties seem oblivious. Republicans, save Ron Paul, are all promising to expand the U.S. military and maintain all of our worldwide commitments to defend and subsidize scores of nations.

Democrats, with entitlement costs drowning the federal budget in red ink, are proposing a new entitlement – universal health coverage for the near 50 million who do not have it – another magnet for illegal aliens. Moody's is telling America it needs a time of austerity, while the U.S. government is behaving like the governments we used to bail out.

California has already hit the wall. With an economy as large as a G-8 nation, the Golden State is looking at a $14 billion deficit in 2009 and a $3 billion shortfall in 2008. Gov. Schwarzenegger has called for slashing prison staff by 6,000, including 2,000 guards, early release of 22,000 inmates, closing four dozen state parks and a 10 percent across-the-board cut in all state agencies. The Democratic legislature is demanding tax hikes, which would drive more taxpayers back over the mountains whence their fathers came.

Meanwhile, Washington drifts mindlessly toward the maelstrom. With the dollar sinking, oil surging to $100 a barrel, the Dow having its worst January in memory, foreclosures mounting, credit card debt going rotten, and consumers and businesses unable or unwilling to borrow, we appear headed into recession.

If so, tax revenue will fall and spending on unemployment will surge. The price of the stimulus packages both parties are preparing will further add to the deficit and further imperil the U.S. credit rating. This all comes in the year that the first of the baby boomers, born in 1946, reach early retirement and eligibility for Social Security.

To stave off recession, the Fed appears anxious to slash interest rates another half-point, if not more. That will further weaken the dollar and raise the costs of the imports to which we have become addicted. While all this is bad news for the Republicans, it is worse news for the republic. As we save nothing, we must borrow both to pay for the imported oil and foreign manufactures upon which we have become dependent.

We are thus in the position of having to borrow from Europe to defend Europe, of having to borrow from China and Japan to defend Chinese and Japanese access to Gulf oil, and of having to borrow from Arab emirs, sultans and monarchs to make Iraq safe for democracy.

We borrow from the nations we defend so that we may continue to defend them. To question this is an unpardonable heresy called "isolationism."

And the chickens of globalism are coming home to roost.

We let Europe to get away with imposing value-added taxes averaging 15 percent on our exports to them, while they rebate that value-added tax on their exports to us. Thus, the euro has almost doubled in value against the dollar in the Bush years, as NATO Europe begins to bail out on Iraq and Afghanistan.

We sat still as Japan protected her markets and dumped high quality goods into ours and China undervalued its currency to suck jobs, technology and factories out of the United States. Now, China and Japan have $2 trillion in cash reserves. The Arabs have an equal amount of petrodollars. Both are headed here to spend their depreciating dollars snapping up U.S. assets – banks, ports, highways, defense contractors.

America, to pay her bills, has begun to sell herself to the world.

Its balance sheet gutted by the subprime mortgage crisis, Citicorp got a $7.5 billion injection from Abu Dhabi and is now fishing for $1 billion from Kuwait and $9 billion from China. Beijing has put $5 billion into Morgan Stanley and bought heavily into Barclays Bank.

Merrill-Lynch, ravaged by subprime mortgage losses, sold part of itself to Singapore for $7.5 billion and is seeking another $3 billion to $4 billion from the Arabs. Swiss-based UBS, taking a near $15 billion write-down in subprime mortgages, has gotten an infusion of $10 billion from Singapore.

Bain Capital is partnering with China's Huawei Technologies in a buyout of 3Com, the U.S. company that provides the technology that protects Pentagon computers from Chinese hackers.

This self-indulgent generation has borrowed itself into unpayable debt. Now the folks from whom we borrowed to buy all that oil and all those cars, electronics and clothes are coming to buy the country we inherited. We are prodigal sons, and the day of reckoning approaches.  

WHAT? The company that a potential US president founded hooks up with the Chinese to buy the technology that protects the Pentagon from being hacked by... the Chinese!? -Sandy

This politically sensitive defense-tech takeover could fuel a foreign funding backlash
Bain (founded by Mitt Romney) and Chinese-backed consortium’s takeover of 3Com

January 14, 2008  By Matthew Quinn

Foreign buyers made up 46% of the more than $230 billion worth of U.S. mergers and acquisitions announced in the fourth quarter, according to data from Bloomberg. That doesn’t account for the almost $18 billion injected into the U.S. financial sector by sovereign wealth funds in that time.

And while the U.S. has thus far been open for business, the buyout of 3Com by Bain Capital and China’s Huawei Technologies could provide a political litmus test on what types of investments and investors are most welcome. The $2.2 billion deal is relatively small, but it drew the attention of the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment over concerns it may pose a threat to national security due to 3Com’s role as a provider of intruder prevention software. Huawei would own just a 16.5% stake, with the option to increase it by another 5%, and have only a passive investment role; Bain would hold the remainder of the stake.

In October, eight lawmakers, led by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, backed a bill that would block the buyout over security concerns. “It would be a grave error for U.S. regulators to approve a deal that permits minority ownership in 3Com by one of the least transparent companies operating in China, a firm with shadowy ties to the Chinese army and intelligence services,” Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said.

There also are signs of a backlash abroad over foreign buying power. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed last week to shield French businesses from sovereign wealth funds. German chancellor Angela Merkel has lobbied for legislation to protect German businesses from them in recent months. Concerns have reached a fevered enough pitch that Wei Benhua, a senior official with China’s currency regulator, last week urged rich countries not to discriminate against sovereign funds. “The newly established [$200 billion] China Investment Corp. has been grabbing global attention and some certain countries are intentionally spreading the idea of a China threat,” Mr. Wei wrote in remarks published in the China Business News. Rather, he said, CIC would respect the laws of the countries it invests in and participate in international discussions on regulating sovereign funds.

Several U.S. financial institutions have looked to the deep-pocketed sovereign funds during the credit crunch, including Citigroup, which received $7.5 billion from an Abu Dhabi fund in November, and Morgan Stanley, which received $5 billion from CIC in December. Merrill Lynch, which sold $5 billion worth of stock to a Singapore fund in December, last week was reported to be seeking another infusion of up to $4 billion from a Middle Eastern fund and Citi was said to be looking for as much as $10 billion from funds from Asia and the Middle East.

To date there has been no furor over the capital injections received by U.S. banks. However, in a U.S. election year in which the economy could flirt with or fall into recession, protectionist agendas could rear their heads.

If you were a Presidential candidate fighting for a run at the White House, what would it cost to buy the support of just about every nationally-syndicated talk show host in America?

About 19.5 Billion dollars.

Mitt Romney's Massachusetts-based private equity firm, Bain Capital, founded in 1984 by Mitt Romney has just purchased Clear Channel Communications the largest radio station owner in the country.

"Clear Channel owns over 1,100 full-power AM, FM, and shortwave radio stations, twelve radio channels on XM Satellite Radio, and more than 30 television stations in the United States. Premiere Radio Networks, which is the largest syndication company in the United States, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Clear Channel and is home to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many others. Sean Hannity recently signed a large multi-market contract with Clear Channel, as well.".

And to think that we actually have 'free, unbiased' elections.....

Clear Channel Communications, Inc. Enters into Merger Agreement with Private Equity Group Co-Led By Bain Capital Partners, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P.

Clear Channel Shareholders offered $37.60 per share in cash; Transaction valued at $26.7 billion

San Antonio, Texas, November 16, 2006…Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (NYSE: CCU), a global leader in the out-of-home advertising industry, today announced the execution of a definitive merger agreement with a group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. and Bain Capital Partners, LLC, pursuant to which the group will acquire Clear Channel in a transaction with a total value of approximately $26.7 billion, including the assumption or repayment of approximately $8.0 billion of net debt.

Under the terms of the agreement, Clear Channel shareholders will receive $37.60 in cash for each share of Clear Channel common stock they hold, representing a premium of approximately 25% over Clear Channel’s average closing share price of $29.99 during the 30 trading days ended October 24, 2006, the day before the Company first acknowledged that it was evaluating strategic alternatives.

Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Deutsche Bank as well as Credit Suisse, RBS and Wachovia are acting as financial advisors and providing firm financing commitments to the private equity group.  Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse and RBS are also providing equity commitments.

The board of directors of Clear Channel, with the interested directors recused from the vote, has unanimously approved the merger agreement and has resolved to recommend that Clear Channel’s shareholders adopt the agreement.  A special advisory committee consisting of disinterested directors unanimously determined the terms of the transaction to be fair.

Mark P. Mays, the Chief Executive Officer of Clear Channel, said, “We are very pleased to announce this transaction which provides substantial value to our shareholders.  We look forward to working with Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital Partners to continue our business plan to provide exceptional programming to our audiences and value to our advertising partners.”

Scott Sperling, Co-President of Thomas H. Lee Partners, stated, “Clear Channel is one of the nation’s truly great companies that has the finest collection of outdoor and radio assets in the industry.  We are extremely pleased to be partnered with the management team led by Mark and Randall Mays and to have the opportunity to work with them and to grow this company that was created by its Chairman and founder, L. Lowry Mays. Clear Channel has tremendous long term growth opportunities in both the radio and outdoor businesses and we look forward to partnering with Mark and Randall to create value in the years ahead.”

John Connaughton, a Managing Director at Bain Capital, said, “We are very impressed with Clear Channel’s  strong  management team and the company’s leadership positions in a variety of markets and media formats. Clear Channel is an exceptional media franchise that is well-positioned to grow thanks to the solid foundation the Mays family has created. We look forward to partnering with Clear Channel as it continues to innovate in meeting the changing needs of the audiences and advertisers it serves.”

The merger does not require the consent of unsecured note holders and is not conditioned upon a merger, consolidation or going private transaction involving Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings, Inc.

The merger is subject to the approval of Clear Channel’s shareholders, requisite regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions.  Under the merger agreement, Clear Channel may solicit competing bids from third parties through December 7, 2006, and may negotiate with parties that submit competing proposals by that time until January 5, 2007.

Clear Channel may, at any time, subject to the terms of the merger agreement, respond to unsolicited proposals.  If Clear Channel accepts a superior proposal, a break up fee would be payable by the Company.  There can be no assurance that the solicitation of proposals will result in any alternative transaction.

At the request of the disinterested directors, three members of senior management have agreed to significantly reduce payments that could be payable upon a change of control by an amendment to their employment agreements.

Clear Channel also today announced, by separate press release, that it intends to solicit buyers for 448 radio stations in selected small markets as well as for its television broadcasting division.  The merger is not conditioned on the consummation of any of these sale transactions.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. is acting as exclusive financial advisor to Clear Channel and Lazard Frères & Co. LLC is acting as financial advisor to the special advisory committee.  Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Lazard Frères & Co. LLC have each delivered a fairness opinion to the Board and special advisory committee, respectively.  Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is acting as legal advisor for Clear Channel and Sidley Austin LLP is acting as legal advisor for the special advisory committee.  Ropes & Gray LLP and Dow Lohnes PLLC are serving as legal advisors to the private equity group.

About Clear Channel Communications

Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (NYSE:CCU) is a global media and entertainment company specializing in "gone from home" entertainment and information services for local communities and premiere opportunities for advertisers. Based in San Antonio, Texas, the company's businesses include radio, television and outdoor displays. More information is available at

About Bain Capital Partners, LLC

Bain Capital ( is a global private investment firm that manages several pools of capital including private equity, high-yield assets, mezzanine capital and public equity with more than $40 billion in assets under management.  Since its inception in 1984, Bain Capital has made private equity investments and add-on acquisitions in over 230 companies around the world, including investments in a broad range of companies such as Burger King, Warner Chilcott, Toys "R" Us, AMC Entertainment, Sensata Technologies, Burlington Coat Factory and ProSiebenSat1 Media.  Headquartered in Boston, Bain Capital has offices in New York, London, Munich, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai.

About Thomas H. Lee Partners, LP

Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P. is one of the oldest and most successful private equity investment firms in the United States.  Since its founding in 1974, THL Partners has become the preeminent growth buyout firm, investing approximately $12 billion of equity capital in more than 100 businesses with an aggregate purchase price of more than $100 billion, completing over 200 add-on acquisitions for portfolio companies, and generating superior returns for its investors and partners.  The firm currently manages approximately $20 billion of committed capital. Notable transactions sponsored by the firm include Dunkin Brands, VNU, Michael Foods, Houghton Mifflin Company, Fisher Scientific, Experian, TransWestern, Snapple Beverage and ProSiebenSat1 Media.

Important Additional Information will be filed with the SEC

In connection with the proposed merger, Clear Channel will file a proxy statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”).  INVESTORS AND SECURITY HOLDERS ARE ADVISED TO READ THE PROXY STATEMENT WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE BECAUSE IT WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE MERGER AND THE PARTIES THERETO.  Investors and security holders may obtain a free copy of the proxy statement (when available) and other documents filed by Clear Channel at the SEC’s website at  The proxy statement and other documents may also be obtained for free from Clear Channel by directing such request to Clear Channel, Inc., Investor Relations, 200 E. Basse Road, San Antonio, Texas  78209, Telephone (210) 822-2828.

Clear Channel and its directors, executive officers and other members of its management and employees may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from its shareholders in connection with the proposed merger.  Information concerning the interests of Clear Channel’s participants in the solicitation, which may be different than those of Clear Channel shareholders generally, is set forth in Clear Channel’s proxy statement for its 2006 Annual Meeting of Shareholders previously filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and in the proxy statement relating to the merger when it becomes available.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains forward-looking statements based on current Clear Channel management expectations. Those forward-looking statements include all statements other than those made solely with respect to historical fact.  Numerous risks, uncertainties and other factors may cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statements.  These factors include, but are not limited to, (1) the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstances that could give rise to the termination of the merger agreement; (2) the outcome of any legal proceedings that may be instituted against Clear Channel and others following announcement of the merger agreement; (3) the inability to complete the merger due to the failure to obtain shareholder approval or the failure to satisfy other conditions to completion of the merger, including the receipt of shareholder approval and expiration of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act of 1976; (4) the failure to obtain the necessary debt financing arrangements set forth in commitment letters received in connection with the merger; (5) risks that the proposed transaction disrupts current plans and operations and the potential difficulties in employee retention as a result of the merger; (6) the ability to recognize the benefits of the merger; (7) the amount of the costs, fees, expenses and charges related to the merger and the actual terms of certain financings that will be obtained for the merger; and (8 ) the impact of the substantial indebtedness incurred to finance the consummation of the merger; and other risks that are set forth in the “Risk Factors,” “Legal Proceedings” and “Management Discussion and Analysis of Results of Operations and Financial Condition” sections of Clear Channel’s SEC filings.  Many of the factors that will determine the outcome of the subject matter of this press release are beyond Clear Channel’s ability to control or predict.  Clear Channel undertakes no obligation to revise or update any forward-looking statements, or to make any other forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.


Clear Channel Communications, Inc. Extends Merger Agreement Termination Date

SAN ANTONIO, TX, December 12, 2007 - Clear Channel Communications, Inc. (NYSE:CCU), a global leader in the radio broadcasting and out-of-home advertising industries, announced today that it has, in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement providing for the acquisition of Clear Channel by CC Media Holdings, Inc., a corporation formed by private equity funds sponsored by Bain Capital Partners, LLC and Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P., extended to June 12, 2008, the date on which a party may terminate the merger agreement if the merger has not occurred as of that date.

All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline Dig

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2010, 08:59:44 am »
Romney, Torture, and Teens
The former governor's connections to abusive "tough love" camps

When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he’d support doubling the size of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, he was trying to show voters that he’d be tough on terror. Two of his top fundraisers, however, have long supported using tactics that have been likened to torture for troubled teenagers.

As The Hill noted last week, 133 plaintiffs filed a civil suit against Romney’s Utah finance co-chair, Robert Lichfield, and his various business entities involved in residential treatment programs for adolescents. The umbrella group for his organization is the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS, sometimes known as WWASP) and Lichfield is its founder and is on its board of directors.

The suit alleges that teens were locked in outdoor dog cages, exercised to exhaustion, deprived of food and sleep, exposed to extreme temperatures without adequate clothing or water, severely beaten, emotionally brutalized, and sexually abused and humiliated. Some were even made to eat their own vomit.

But the link to teen abuse goes far higher up in the Romney campaign. Romney’s national finance co-chair is a man named Mel Sembler. A long time friend of the Bushes, Sembler was campaign finance chair for the Republican party during the first election of George W. Bush, and a major fundraiser for his father.

Like Lichfield, Sembler also founded a nationwide network of treatment programs for troubled youth. Known as Straight Inc., from 1976 to 1993, it variously operated nine programs in seven states. At all of Straight’s facilities, state investigators and/or civil lawsuits documented scores of abuses including teens being beaten, deprived of food and sleep for days, restrained by fellow youth for hours, bound, sexually humiliated, abused and spat upon.

According to the L.A. Times, California investigators said that at Straight teens were “subjected to unusual punishment, infliction of pain, humiliation, intimidation, ridicule, coercion, threats, mental abuse… and interference with daily living functions such as eating, sleeping and toileting.”

Through a spokesperson, Lichfield has dismissed the similar charges against WWASPS to The Hill as “ludicrous,” claiming that the teens who sued “have a long history of lying, fabricating and twisting the story around to their own benefit.”

Straight would use virtually identical language in its denials: In the 1990 L.A. Times article cited above, a Straight counselor downplayed the California investigators’ report by saying, “Some kids get very upset and lie and some parents believe them.” Both Straight and WWASPS have repeatedly called their teen participants “liars” and “manipulators” who oppose the programs because they want to continue taking drugs or engage in other bad behavior.

Curiously, however, both programs regularly admitted teens who did not actually have serious problems. In 1982, 18-year-old Fred Collins, a Virginia Tech student with excellent grades, went to visit his brother, who was in treatment for a drug problem at Straight in Orlando, Florida.

A counselor determined that he was high on marijuana because his eyes were red (this would later turn out to have been due to swimming in a pool with contacts on). He did admit to occasional marijuana use, but insisted he was not high at the time, nor was he an addict. Nonetheless, he was barraged with hours of humiliating questions, strip-searched, and held against his will for months until he managed to escape.

He won $220,000 in a lawsuit he filed against the program for false imprisonment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, and battery. Ultimately, Straight would pay out millions in settlements before it finally closed. However, to this day, there are at least eight programs operating that use Straight’s methods, often in former Straight buildings operated by former Straight staff. They include: Alberta Adolescent Recovery Center (Canada), Pathway Family Center (Michigan, Indiana, Ohio), Growing Together (Florida), Possibilities Unlimited (Kentucky), SAFE (Florida), and Phoenix Institute for Adolescents (Georgia).

Sembler has never admitted to the problems with Straight's methods. In fact, when he recently served as Ambassador to Italy, he listed it among his accomplishments on his official State Department profile. Although all of the programs with the Straight name are closed, the nonprofit Straight Foundation that funded them still exists, though under a different name. It's now called the Drug Free America Foundation, and it lobbies for drug testing and in support of tougher policies in the war on drugs.

One of the plaintiffs in the current case against WWASPS, 21-year-old Chelsea Filer, spoke to me when I was researching a TV segment on the industry. She told me that she was forced to walk for miles on a track in scorching desert heat with a 35-pound sandbag on her back. “You were not allowed to scratch your face, move your fingers, lick your lips, move your eyes from the ground,” she said. When she asked for a chapstick, “They put a piece of wood in my mouth and I had to hold it there for two weeks. I was bleeding on my tongue.”

Why was Filer subject to such punishment? “I had less interest in school and more interest in boys and my mom was worried about me,” she says, explaining that her mother believed that the program was nothing more than a strict boarding school.

Because she has attention deficit disorder, Filer was unable to consistently follow the exacting rules, and repeated small violations were seen as ongoing defiance. “It broke my heart that my mom had no belief in me,” she says, describing how, because WWASPS had told her mother to dismiss complaints as “manipulation,” her mother ignored her pleas to come home.

“I’m not a bad kid,” she continued, “I never used drugs, I was never in trouble, I have no criminal record. I know my mom was worried about me—but so many times I told her that this is too much. I would gladly have gone to prison instead.”

WWASPS is linked with facilities Academy at Ivy Ridge (New York), Carolina Springs Academy (South Carolina), Cross Creek Programs (Utah), Darrington Academy (Georgia), Horizon Academy (Nevada), Majestic Ranch Academy (Utah), MidWest Academy (Iowa), Respect Camp (Mississippi), Royal Gorge Academy (Colorado), Spring Creek Lodge (Montana), and Tranquility Bay (Jamaica).

Although it has settled several lawsuits out of court, the organization has never publicly admitted wrong-doing. However, the U.S. State Department spurred Samoa to investigate its Paradise Cove program in 1998 after receiving “credible allegations of physical abuse,” including “beatings, isolation, food and water deprivation, choke-holds, kicking, punching, bondage, spraying with chemical agents, forced medication, verbal abuse and threats of further physical abuse.” Paradise Cove closed shortly thereafter. That same year, the Czech Republic forced the closure of WWASP-linked Morava Academy following employees’ allegations that teens were being abused.

The former director of the Dundee Ranch Academy Program in Costa Rica went to local authorities after seeing medical neglect and other severe abuse, although human rights abuse charges were ultimately dropped against the owner, Robert Lichfield’s brother Narvin. That program closed in 2003.

Police in Mexico have shut down three WWASP-linked facilities: Sunrise Beach (1996), Casa By The Sea (2004) and High Impact (where police videotaped the teens chained in dog cages).

In 2005, New York’s Eliot Spitzer forced WWASP to return over $1 million to the parents of Academy at Ivy Ridge students, because the school had fraudulently claimed to provide legitimate New York high school diplomas. He fined Ivy Ridge $250,000, plus $2000 in court costs. A civil suit has been filed for educational fraud in New York as well, by a different law firm.

Straight's Sembler currently heads the Scooter Libby Defense Fund, in addition to his work for Romney, and has worked tirelessly to keep the Vice President's former Chief of Staff out of prison, even after his conviction on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. After all, if running programs that impose these kinds of "treatments" on American teenagers is not a prison-worthy offense, why should lying to a court be?

The Romney campaign is aware of the WWASP suits, and should be familiar with the Straight suits. If not, it's worth asking: Does Romney support these types of tactics for at-risk youth? Or does he take the line the organizations founded by his fundraisers take—that these dozens of lawsuits are merely from bad kids who make up lies?

Coming from the man who wants to double the size of Guantanamo, these aren't insignificant questions. If Romney doesn't believe the aggressive tactics he supports for use against enemy combatants ought to be used against troubled teens and youth drug users, he should say so, and show he means it by removing these men from his campaign.
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline chris jones

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2010, 09:11:06 am »

Heavan help us.

The day may yet come when people see beyond the trappings of the wolves and see the reality for what it is.

These poor folks brought their kids to get help, fell for the ront, the porpaganda, and the BS Rhetoric. Reminds me of the regime.


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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2010, 10:03:18 am »
MEL SEMBLER (CIA Mind Control)/CIA Leak Case, “Iran Contra II”: DoD, Sembler, Doug Feith, Michael Ledeen & Ghorbanifar Hatch a Plot

6th July 2007

Note: Search my archive for more than you may want to know about Sembler. The CIA leak case story follows the profile of Sembler. – AC

Ambassador de Sade
By John Gorenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on November 8, 2005, Printed on December 16, 2006

Among our president’s appointments of GOP activists to important posts, we’ve done worse than Melvin Sembler, the Ambassador to Italy who couldn’t speak Italian. Unlike the FEMA chief, who had real responsibilities, Sembler sometimes found himself a fifth wheel around his own embassy. As the Washington Monthly has reported, the scandal that claimed Scooter Libby’s job last month may have sprung from secret Rome meetings between neocons, an Iran-Contra figure and an Italian intelligence boss who later pushed phony WMD documents — all behind Sembler’s back.

But where Melvin Sembler, 74, demands attention is as an object lesson in how cruelty can be redeemed by the transformative power of political donations. For 16 years, Sembler, with his wife Betty, directed the leading juvenile rehab business in America, STRAIGHT, Inc., before seeing it dismantled by a breathtaking array of institutional abuse claims by mid-1993. Just one of many survivors is Samantha Monroe, now a travel agent in Pennsylvania, who told The Montel Williams show this year about overcoming beatings, rape by a counselor, forced hunger, and the confinement to a janitor’s closet in “humble pants” — which contained weeks of her own urine, feces and menstrual blood. During this “timeout,” she gnawed her cheek and spat blood at her overseers. “I refused to let them take my mind,” she says of the program. The abuse took years to overcome.

“It sticks inside you,” she told Williams, “it eats at your soul.” She told AlterNet that she was committed at 12, in 1980, for nothing more than being caught with a mini-bar-sized liquor bottle, handed out by a classmate whose mother was a flight attendant. Samantha’s mother suspected more. A STRAIGHT expert was on hand to nurture fears her daughter was a drug fiend, not to be trusted. So the small blond junior high-schooler was lured under false premises to one of the warehouse-like outposts of STRAIGHT.

Overcome by dread in the lobby, Samantha tried to run but was hauled into the back by older girls. Inside, as was standard operating procedure, she began the atonement process that cost over $12,000 a year: all-day re-education rituals in which flapping the arms (“motivating”) and chanting signaled submission to “staying straight.” She was coerced, she says, into confessing to being a “druggie whore” who went down on truckers for drugs. “You’re forced to confess crimes you never committed.” (Some survivors call it extortion.)

Melvin Sembler stepped down earlier this year as Our Man In Rome — he also served under the first Bush as Ambassador to Australia. Were Monroe’s story unique, his STRAIGHT clinics might still be in business. Instead, his creation, which he stubbornly defends, closed in 1993 after reports of sexual abuse, beating and stomping to boys called “faggots” for hours while being spat upon — humiliation so bad that a Pennsylvania judge recently ruled it potentially mitigating of a Death Row sentence for a former STRAIGHT teen who committed a homophobic murder.

Although prosecutors closed the clinics, six-figure settlements sucked it dry, and state health officials yanked its licenses after media reports of teen torture and cover-up, Sembler himself escaped punishment. As one of the preeminent and hardest-working GOP fundraisers, Sembler has received the honor of living during the George W. Bush presidency at the Villa Taverna, the official residence for the U.S. ambassador, which has the largest private garden in Rome. One night in May at “The Magic Kingdom” (as Mel and Betty call it), the dining room filled with smoke from fine cigars, as the ambassador entertained Bush Sr. and an entourage — until Betty complained that the old friends were stinking up “my house,” the Washington Post reported.

He’s come home, but still wafting across national drug policy is the influence of his STRAIGHT, which has legally changed its identity to the Drug Free America Foundation (director Calvina Fay denies it’s the same organization but the name change is listed in Florida corporate filings). Subsidized by tax dollars, it lobbies for severe narcotics policies and workplace drug testing, with an advisory board that includes the like of Gov. Jeb Bush and his wife Columba, and Homeland Security Director of Public Safety Christy McCampbell. A more pressing issue is that former overseers of Sembler’s company, true believers in the STRAIGHT model, are still running spin-off businesses that treat teens with the old methods.

Starting out STRAIGHT

The story begins in 1976 when Sembler, who’d made his fortune in Florida real estate, founded STRAIGHT from the ashes of The Seed — an earlier program suspended by the U.S. Senate for tactics reminiscent, said a senator, of Communist POW camps. But as the Reagan years rolled into view, and a climate of fear nurtured a Shock and Awe approach to teens, the Semblers found a new world of acceptance for an anything-goes treatment business, meting out punishment in privately run warehouses. Endorsers from Nancy Reagan to George H.W. Bush lent their names to the program, celebrating a role model weapon in the “war on drugs.”

Nine years before the elder Bush took office, Sembler was a faithful political supporter, and raising millions beginning in ‘79 for the Bushes’ clash with Reagan for the Republican nomination. In 1988, as Bush finally accepted the GOP’s nomination for president, Sembler sat in the front row. With his man in the White House, STRAIGHT would become a vehicle for purchasing eminence as a Drug War thinker. By 1988, Sembler wasn’t just running the Vice President’s “Team 100″ soft money campaign and enjoying steak dinners with him — he was sojourning in George and Barbara Bush’s living room, briefing the candidate on drug policy. As a token of his friendship, he gave Bush a new tennis racket, receiving this note in return: “Maybe we can play at Camp David someday.”

And Sembler’s success grew and grew as the Clinton era spooled out. The slickly dressed go-getter smashed records as RNC Finance Chairman from 1997 to 2000, chairing the “Regents” club that accommodated such super donors as Enron’s Ken Lay to fund George W. Bush’s campaign machine.

Meanwhile, a coast-to-coast trail of human wreckage had ensued during STRAIGHT’s reign from 1976 to 1993 — its survivors claimed physical, sexual and psychological trauma. The Web sites and have collected many of their stories. Posts Kelly Caputo, an ‘88 alumna: “I don’t think I will ever be the same. My every thought has been violated, confused, degraded and warped.”

“My best guess is that at least half of the kids were abused,” says Dr. Arnold Trebach, a professor emeritus at American University who created the Drug Policy Foundation to find alternatives to harsh laws. He has singled out STRAIGHT in his book “The Great Drug War” as among drug warriors’ worst mistakes.

But today, Sembler’s trail of purchased political friendships has led him through the opulent doors of the $83 million “Mel Sembler Building” in Rome, christened this year with help from a longtime ally in Congress, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-FL). Not the palace where Sembler worked as ambassador, but another of the Eternal City’s architectural treasures, built in 1927 and now dedicated as an annex to the U.S. Embassy in a $30 million renovation at taxpayer expense. “Narcissus is now Greek and Roman,” said the Washington Post of the monument. No one could remember any other diplomat receiving such honors, not even Benjamin Franklin.

“We don’t do that, do we?” George W. Bush reportedly told the congressman, according to Congressman C.W. Bill Young ’s (R-Florida) speech during the ceremony. “We don’t name buildings for ambassadors where they have served.”

“Mr. President,” the politician replied, “I introduced the bill and you signed it.” Bush may have missed the Sembler Building provision, tucked as it was into an appropriations bill. But he owed much to the longtime family friend, whom he thanked on “The Jim Lehrer Report” [RealAudio] in 2000 for raising $21.3 million at a single dinner in April, a new record. Asked what favors the money paid for, Bush professed wonderment at the premise: “I know there’s this kind of sentiment now — I heard it during the primaries … [that] if someone contributes to a person’s campaign, there’s this great sense of being beholden.”

At the Sembler Building, visitors can stroll among the Italian frescoes of cherubs and heavens, and marvel at the spoils of Bush family loyalty, and meditate on the human costs that made Sembler’s paradise possible.
STRAIGHT’s practices

Melvin Sembler’s Jekyll-and-Hyde empire appealed to parents with cheery pamphlets bearing pictures of happy and reunited families that had put their horrible pasts behind them.

Even Princess Diana had graced the clinics with a visit, celebrating STRAIGHT as a humanitarian institution. George H.W. Bush named the program among his “thousand points of light.” But many called it Hell.

Taking in new kids without much discrimination — many addiction-free — STRAIGHT staff assured parents that a variety of troubled teens could benefit from their brand of discipline.

Vanished from home and school, the newcomer would enter the care of a “host home” overseen, at night, by the same counselors up in her face by day. Over the months, patients like Samantha Monroe earned back basic privileges like speaking or, in the distant future, going to the bathroom alone, without an ever-present minder’s thumb in the belt loop — literally. The counselors were themselves STRAIGHT kids, who had been molded into drug warriors in the heat of humiliation. They’d learned to play along and join the winning side, becoming the hall monitors and the muscle that enforced the rules.

From the outset, STRAIGHT’s method was on thin ice with regulators. The underpinnings had long struck critics as more Pyongyang than Pinellas County. Sembler took his blueprint from another St. Petersburg program, The Seed, in which his son had enrolled in the 1970s. The Senate was less impressed than Sembler with The Seed. Senator Sam Ervin, who’d brought down Richard Nixon, killed the program’s federal subsidies for funding a method “similar to the highly refined ‘brainwashing’ techniques employed by the North Koreans.” Ervin’s 1974 probe into the rise of treatment abuse articulated an admirable American ideal: that “if our society is to remain free, one man must not be empowered to change another’s personality and dictate the values, thoughts and feelings of another.” Sembler had other ideals in mind, as hundreds of STRAIGHT victims would later attest.

Finally, one by one, the 12 clinics, which had once formed a nine-state empire, went dark. Much of the money was lost in settlements, but jury verdicts offered a peek into the regularity of the abuses. Florida patient Karen Norton was awarded $721,000 by a jury after being thrown against a wall in 1982 by the Semblers’ treatment guru of choice: Dr. Miller Newton, whose unaccredited Ph.D was in public administration, but was tapped by the Semblers as STRAIGHT National Clinical Director. He’s emblematic of how the creature Sembler built just won’t stop sprouting heads, having personally launched spinoff businesses with names like KIDS. As a result, Newton has paid out over $12 million to his victims. Having moved back to Florida, he now calls himself “Friar Cassian,” a priest in the non-Catholic Antiochian Orthodox church.

But just last month, Betty Sembler testified in a case against a STRAIGHT critic that Miller Newton, the dark cleric of rehab, is “a very close and dear friend and a valued one,” and an “outstanding individual.” Had he committed outrageous acts? “Absolutely not,” she said, adding that it was incomprehensible that ex-STRAIGHT teen Richard Bradbury was picketing Newton. Thanks to her judgment of character, Newton has been given a voice in national drug policy, listed as a participant in a Drug Free America Foundation “International Scientific and Medical Forum.”

From the beginning, critics were shocked to find that the keepers freely acknowledged many of the tactics — yet insisted they were necessary. Mel Sembler even seems to have been emboldened by painful questions about his clinics. “We’ve got nothing to hide — we’re saving lives,” he said in 1977 after six directors quit over practices that included kicking a restrained youth. He remained closely involved in personnel management. Almost two decades later, recalling how the ACLU was furious about STRAIGHT’s practices, Sembler told Florida Trend Magazine in 1997 — “with a grin,” the reporter wrote — that “it just shows that we must have been doing things right.”

And rather than clean up Florida’s program, he apparently leaned on health inspectors in 1989 to go easy on it. Reports of a cover-up wouldn’t emerge for four more years — long years, for the teenagers committed to a program that wouldn’t lose its license until 1993. STRAIGHT foe Bradbury, believing he’d been “brainwashed” into becoming an abusive counselor, brought the clinics to the attention of the state after years of protest. Inspector Lowell Clary of the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services found that reports of illegally restrained and stomped-on teens had been swept under the rug, likely with help from Republican state senators, who went unnamed, but made phone calls urging the clinic stayed open. A “persistent foul odor” hung over this use of power, said a St. Petersburg Times Op-Ed applauding the death of STRAIGHT.

“While at the facility,” wrote Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services Acting Inspector General Lowell Clary on May 19, 1993, “the team [of inspectors in 1989] received a phone call informing them that no matter what they found, STRAIGHT would receive their license.” “If you do anything other than what I tell you on this issue, I will fire you on the spot,” an HRS official was told. Clary wasn’t positive, but evidence suggested that “pressure may have been generated by Ambassador Sembler and other state senators.”

By now, Clinton was in office. Four years earlier, while young “druggies” were still being restrained to chairs for 12 hours, denied medication and sent to the hospital with injuries, the 1989 report would have tarnished President George H.W. Bush’s “points of light.” Bush had designated STRAIGHT an American treasure. On that fragile premise, not one but two STRAIGHT presidents had been named ambassadors in 1989, the year of the Florida inspection. Sembler got the Australian assignment. The other post sent co-founder Joseph Zappala to Spain armed for diplomacy with a high school education. The two were mocked in People as “too hick to hack it.” They’d clowned around during the nomination process, turning in nearly identical answers on Senate disclosure forms. In the “languages spoken” box Sembler had written, humorously, “English (fluent).”

That took real cheek. These two pranksters had been leaders of a group characterized as a destructive cult by top authorities on cult abuse ranging from Steve Hassan of the Freedom Of Mind Center to the late Dr. Margaret Singer of UC Berkeley, an expert on the abuse of American servicemen in the Korean War whose expert testimony was used to close a facility in Cincinnati. Bradbury, the whistleblower, concurs, saying the program modified his personality into something monstrous. Bradbury attended the St. Petersburg, Florida clinic. “You don’t understand what they did to these kids,” Bradbury told AlterNet. “They put stuff up my butt.”

But you wouldn’t know from Sembler’s State Department biography that his claim to fame has such a shoddy legal record. The program has the honor of being described as a “remarkable program” in his bio, and it credits STRAIGHT with saving 12,000 kids. The ambassador did not return attempts to contact him during the reporting for this story, and declined the author’s interview requests last year through a U.S. Embassy spokesman.

In addition to receiving a second Ambassadorship from the second Bush president, his Governor Jeb Bush named August 8, 2000, “Betty Sembler Day” for her “work protecting children from the dangers of drugs,” labeling her “ambassadorable.” The next year, at a drug policy conference in Florida, a writer from the Canadian legalization magazine Cannibis Culture asked her about the STRAIGHT victims. “They should get a life,” he quotes her as replying. “There’s nothing to apologize for. The [drug] legalizers are the ones who should be apologizing.”

The ambassador’s wife is an outspoken critic of what she calls “medical excuse marijuana,” and serves on the boards of such mighty anti-legalization campaigns as the International Task Force On Strategic Drug Policy, which works with Latin American countries to lobby for harsh drug laws. Mel himself used his Rome ambassadorial pulpit for a global conference in 2003, appealing to the “moral imperatives” of the drug war and urging a “culture of disapproval of drug abuse.” DFAF, founded by the Semblers, receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants from the Small Business Association to advance workplace drug testing in businesses — for example, a handout in 2000 of $314,000. Betty Sembler is president and Melvin has served as chairman.

STRAIGHT’s Spin-offs

Though Sembler’s clinics were shuttered, the spirit of STRAIGHT lives on as a flourishing model for drug rehabilitation. That includes offshoots run by former STRAIGHT staff, such as the Orlando STRAIGHT spin-off, SAFE, which was described by 16-year-old Leah Marchessault in 2000 as “something from the Twilight Zone” in a report by Florida’s WAMI TV station.

Leah had gone to visit her sister, in for heroin abuse, only to be told she herself was a “druggie” — sound familiar? And when Leah fled, she was pinned against a wall and assaulted by a pack of nine women members who forced her to undergo a full-body search. Another girl told WAMI of being “forced to stand for about an hour and a half, the attention being focused on me, and about every 10 minutes I was told how I was full of crap, how I needed to be flushed out.”

Despite their cheery names — SAFE in Orlando, Florida; Kids Helping Kids of Cincinnati, Ohio; Growing Together of Lake Worth, Florida — these barely regulated warehouses cry out for oversight. Hungry for recruits, they appeal to the fears of parents by warning a child will die on the streets if uncorrected by their methods.

In the TV report, the presence of a spokeswoman named Loretta Parrish was evidence that SAFE was the child of STRAIGHT — she’d been the local STRAIGHT’s marketing director until 1992, when the old company closed under state scrutiny, and SAFE, a new company, almost immediately sprang up to replace it. A new head for the hydra: Parrish didn’t dispute the visiting sister’s horrifying experience, but called it necessary, as if explaining something obvious to her since the ’80s.

“Yes we do require that,” said Parrish. “And if they don’t, then they have to remove the other child. This is a family treatment program. And unless the entire family is in treatment, it doesn’t work.”

“We do not do a strip search that is different from any other treatment program,” she adds, and later described the teens and moms attacking SAFE as “a coalition of cockroaches.” Gov. Jeb Bush even endorsed SAFE in a letter he wrote as “a valuable tool.”

And so with the former STRAIGHT bosses rich in Republican honors, and insulated in a political Xanadu not unlike the alternate reality field engulfing the White House, a new generation of teenagers is going under the hammer, as an old generation of victims finds cold comfort for their own suffering. If this is the compassionate kind of conservatism, how harsh the other variety must be.

John Gorenfeld, a freelance writer in San Francisco, will be blogging further details of this story at
© 2006 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

September 2004

Iran-Contra II?
Fresh Scrutiny on a rogue Pentagon operation.

By Joshua Micah Marshall, Laura Rozen, and Paul Glastris

On Friday evening, CBS News reported that the FBI is investigating a suspected mole in the Department of Defense who allegedly passed to Israel, via a pro-Israeli lobbying organization, classified American intelligence about Iran. The focus of the investigation, according to U.S. government officials, is Larry Franklin, a veteran Defense Intelligence Agency Iran analyst now working in the office of the Pentagon’s number three civilian official, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

The investigation of Franklin is now shining a bright light on a shadowy struggle within the Bush administration over the direction of U.S. policy toward Iran. In particular, the FBI is looking with renewed interest at an unauthorized back-channel between Iranian dissidents and advisers in Feith’s office, which more senior administration officials first tried in vain to shut down and then later attempted to cover up.

Franklin, along with another colleague from Feith’s office, a polyglot Middle East expert named Harold Rhode, were the two officials involved in the back-channel, which involved on-going meetings and contacts with Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar and other Iranian exiles, dissidents and government officials. Ghorbanifar is a storied figure who played a key role in embroiling the Reagan administration in the Iran-Contra affair. The meetings were both a conduit for intelligence about Iran and Iraq and part of a bitter administration power-struggle pitting officials at DoD who have been pushing for a hard-line policy of “regime change” in Iran, against other officials at the State Department and the CIA who have been counseling a more cautious approach.

Reports of two of these meetings first surfaced a year ago in Newsday, and have since been the subject of an ongoing investigation by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Whether or how the meetings are connected to the alleged espionage remains unknown. But the FBI is now closely scrutinizing them.

While the FBI is looking at the meetings as part of its criminal investigation, to congressional investigators the Ghorbanifar back-channel typifies the out-of-control bureaucratic turf wars which have characterized and often hobbled Bush administration policy-making. And an investigation by The Washington Monthly — including a rare interview with Ghorbanifar — adds weight to those concerns. The meetings turn out to have been far more extensive and much less under White House control than originally reported. One of the meetings, which Pentagon officials have long characterized as merely a “chance encounter” seems in fact to have been planned long in advance by Rhode and Ghorbanifar. Another has never been reported in the American press. The administration’s reluctance to disclose these details seems clear: the DoD-Ghorbanifar meetings suggest the possibility that a rogue faction at the Pentagon was trying to work outside normal US foreign policy channels to advance a “regime change” agenda not approved by the president’s foreign policy principals or even the president himself.

The Italian Job

The first meeting occurred in Rome in December, 2001. It included Franklin, Rhode, and another American, the neoconservative writer and operative Michael Ledeen, who organized the meeting. (According to UPI, Ledeen was then working for Feith as a consultant.) Also in attendance was Ghorbanifar and a number of other Iranians. One of the Iranians, according to two sources familiar with the meeting, was a former senior member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard who claimed to have information about dissident ranks within the Iranian security services. The Washington Monthly has also learned from U.S. government sources that Nicolo Pollari, the head of Italy’s military intelligence agency, SISMI, attended the meetings, as did the Italian Minister of Defense Antonio Martino, who is well-known in neoconservative circles in Washington.

Alarm bells about the December 2001 meeting began going off in U.S. government channels only days after it occurred. On Dec. 12, 2001, at the U.S. embassy in Rome, America’s newly-installed ambassador, Mel Sembler, sat down for a private dinner with Ledeen, an old friend of his from Republican Party politics, and Martino, the Italian defense minister. The conversation quickly turned to the meeting. The problem was that this was the first that Amb. Sembler had heard about it.

According to U.S. government sources, Sembler immediately set about trying to determine what he could about the meeting and how it had happened.

Since U.S. government contact with foreign government intelligence agencies is supposed to be overseen by the CIA, Sembler first spoke to the CIA station chief in Rome to find out what if anything he knew about the meeting with the Iranians. But that only raised more questions because the station chief had been left in the dark as well. Soon both Sembler and the Rome station chief were sending anxious queries back to the State Department and CIA headquarters in Langley, Va., respectively, raising alarms on both sides of the Potomac.

The meeting was a source of concern for a series of overlapping reasons. Since the late 1980s, Ghorbanifar has been the subject of two CIA “burn notices.” The agency believes Ghorbanifar is a serial “fabricator” and forbids its officers from having anything to do with him. Moreover, why were mid-level Pentagon officials organizing meetings with a foreign intelligence agency behind the back of the CIA — a clear breach of U.S. government protocol? There was also a matter of personal chagrin for Sembler: At State Department direction, he had just been cautioning the Italians to restrain their contacts with bad-acting states like Iran (with which Italy has extensive trade ties).

According to U.S. government sources, both the State Department and the CIA eventually brought the matter to the attention of the White House — specifically, to Condoleezza Rice’s chief deputy on the National Security Council, Stephen J. Hadley. Later, Italian spy chief Pollari raised the matter privately with Tenet, who himself went to Hadley in early February 2002. Goaded by Tenet, Hadley sent word to the officials in Feith’s office and to Ledeen to cease all such activities. Hadley then contacted Sembler, assuring him it wouldn’t happen again and to report back if it did.

The orders, however, seem to have had little effect, for a second meeting was soon underway. According to a story published this summer in Corriere della Sera, a leading Italian daily, this second meeting took place in Rome in June 2002. Ghorbanifar tells The Washington Monthly that he arranged that meeting after a flurry of faxes between himself and DoD official Harold Rhode. Though he did not attend it himself, Ghorbanifar says the meeting consisted of an Egyptian, an Iraqi, and a high-level U.S. government official, whose name he declined to reveal. The first two briefed the American official about the general situation in Iraq and the Middle East, and what would happen in Iraq, “And it’s happened word for word since,” says Ghorbanifar. A spokesman for the NSC declined to comment on this and other meetings and referred The Washington Monthly to the Defense Department, which did not respond to repeated inquiries. Ledeen also refused to comment.

No one at the U.S. embassy in Rome seems to have known about this second Rome meeting. But the back-channel’s continuing existence became apparent the following month — July 2002 — when Ledeen again contacted Sembler and told him that he’d be back in Rome in September to continue “his work” with the Iranians (This time Ledeen made no mention of any involvement by Pentagon officials; later, he told Sembler it would be in August rather than September.) An exasperated Sembler again sent word back to Washington, and Hadley again went into motion telling Ledeen, in no uncertain terms, to back off.

Once again, however, Hadley’s orders seem to have gone unheeded. Almost a year later in June 2003, there were still further meetings in Paris involving Rhode and Ghorbanifar. Ghorbanifar says the purpose of the meeting was for Rhode to get more information on the situation in Iraq and the Middle East. “In those meetings we met, we gave him the scenario, what would happen in the coming days in Iraq. And everything has happened word for word as we told him,” Ghorbanifar repeats. “We met in several different places in Paris,” he says. “Rhode met several other people — he didn’t only meet me.”

Not a “chance encounter”

By the summer of 2003, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence had begun to get wind of the Ghorbanifar-Ledeen-DoD back-channel and made inquiries at the CIA. A month later, Newsday broke the original story about the secret Ghorbanifar channel. Faced with the disclosure, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld acknowledged the December 2001 meeting but dismissed it as routine and unimportant.

“The information has moved around the interagency process to all the departments and agencies,” he told reporters in Crawford, Texas, after a meeting with Bush. “As I understand it, there wasn’t anything there that was of substance or of value that needed to be pursued further.” Later that day, another senior Defense official acknowledged the second meeting in Paris in June 2003, but insisted that it was the result of a “chance encounter” between Ghorbanifar and a Pentagon official. The administration has kept to the “chance encounter” story to this day.

Ghorbanifar, however, laughs off that idea. “Run into each other? We had a prior arrangement,” he told The Washington Monthly: “It involved a lot of discussion and a lot of people.”

Over the last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted limited inquiry into the meetings, including interviews with Feith and Ledeen. But under terms of a compromise agreed to by both parties, a full investigation into the matter was put off until after the November election. Republicans on the committee, many of whom sympathize with the “regime change” agenda at DoD, have been resistant to such investigations, calling them an election-year fishing expedition. Democrats, by contrast, see such investigations as vital to understanding the central role Feith’s office may have played in a range of a dubious intelligence enterprises, from pushing claims about a supposed Saddam-al Qaeda partnership and overblown estimates of alleged Iraqi stocks of WMD to what the committee’s ranking minority member Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) calls “the Chalabi factor” (Rhode and others in Feith’s office have been major sponsors of the Iraqi exile leader, who is now under investigation for passing U.S. intelligence to Iran). With the FBI adding potential espionage charges to the mix the long-simmering questions about the activities of Feith’s operation now seem certain to come under renewed scrutiny.

Research assistance provided by Claudio Lavanga.

Image in web link is a photo of Ghorbanifar from the mid-1980s, around the time of Iran-Contra.

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #10 on: May 02, 2011, 09:47:27 pm »
Elan School is now Closed  ;D
summary- Google: the elan school (this will basically open Pandora's box)

This place only still exist because so many people believe that it doesn't or that it can't. I believe that the internet is our #1 tool for exposing these horrid blind spots for what they are. Help me Reddit!  (WE SHUT THEM DOWN WITH AN INFOWAR)

I was sent to a place called The Elan School in 1998 and I was only 16. The scary thing is that Elan is still open, kids aged 13-20 are there right now. Normal kids, many whom may have smoked a joint or two, or who swore at their parents. Of course there were also real criminals there, but they did not make up the majority.

The "school" accepted anyone and then held them as long as they possibly could depending on the age of the child. If you were sent at 14 (many were) you may have been looking at 3-4 years. This is because The Elan School collects $50,000 a year per child, either from the child's state, school, or parents. And, of course, money was the only motivation of the staff and directors. These were the people in charge of your "progress" in the program.

I could write for hours about it, instead I ask you to skim the following bullet points and to understand that I am telling the truth.


      We were forced to participate in staff-organized fight clubs, none of which were fair, all were designed to humiliate one child who would be put up against at least 3 others. So even the children who "followed the rules" were forced to fight: in the name of "good".

      Children who tried to rebel or be free-thinking were thrown into an isolation room where they had to stay for months at a time, they had to sleep at night on a dirty mattress on the floor of the isolation room The mattress was brought to them at midnight and they were woken up around 7am.

      We were all forced to perform in a ritual called a "General Meeting" where the entire house (60 or more boys and girls) screamed at one child who stood behind a broomstick. Many times they were forcibly held up by two other students so they would have to accept the punishment.

      Education was considered a right, but those of us who earned the right were still robbed of an education. School was from 7pm-11pm: no homework, no test, no projects. Ex: math class consisted of grabbing a math book and handing the teacher at least one page of work.

      The other 12 hours of the day consisted of constant conditioning and brainwashing. In the beginning you obviously rejected it, but then you would be "dealt with". You would not be able to rise through the ranks of the program to earn more 'rights' until you could prove yourself to be a good candidate for more brainwashing. Eventually it became your responsibility to begin indoctrinating the newer residents (basically you, six month earlier). You had Strength and Non-Strength. Non-Strength's were not allowed to talk, interact, or communicate in any way with other Non-Strengths. It took a minimum of 6 months to earn the title of "Strength". It took some kids years to earn "Strength". Some kids never did.

      Elan made money based on the amount of time it took for you to graduate "the program". You had to have a minimum of 7 promotions before you were a candidate for "graduation". Each promotion took a minimum of 3 months, and 90% of the kids never made it past the 5th promotion. These kids had to wait until they turned 18 and could legally sign themselves out. Other kids stayed past their 18th birthday, which is a true testament to the effectiveness of the brainwashing, I remember one dude was 23.

      Your level of high-school had no reflection whatsoever on your ability to leave Elan. I was forced to do my senior year of high school twice, even though I was technically done after the first senior year.

      The staff members were primarily former students who were hired by Elan after graduating from the program. Many arrived in BMW's and clearly made 6 figure incomes. None of them had degree's in psychology, education, social work, etc... Many of them never went to college at all.

      All outgoing letters to parents were screened, many of us having to write many different drafts until they were accepted. All phone calls to our parents were monitored, we were allowed about 15 minutes a week and the person who monitored the call would have their hand hovering over the hang-up button as a constant reminder of our reality.

      We were not allowed to write or receive letters until we earned the right (this could take 8 months or more). When someone found out where I was and wrote me, my unopened letters were ripped up in front of me as motivation to move up in the program.

I feel like I am beginning to write too much and I do not want to overwhelm anyone who made it this far. Because most of the bullet points honestly require further explanation to give the full impact of what Elan truly was.

The most important thing that anyone can do is to be aware of this place and make sure that nobody you know ever gets sent there for any reason. If you are a parent then do not send your child there. If you know someone who is there now then beg the parents to do more research.

The amount of suicides and tragic deaths of former Elan students is reason enough to take this post seriously.

UPDATE: Leaked documents which have been posted publicly for the first time EVER. These were written in 1991 by an author trying to expose the school. The author had to flee the country. All major points have been highlighted and set in larger type depending on the seriousness of the allegations.

Offline Dig

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2011, 10:11:39 pm »
All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2011, 10:46:54 pm »

Elan is closed but unfortunately hundreds of others still exist.

Offline webdiva

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2011, 09:00:11 am »
Mel Sembler started Straight Inc.  Check out our trailer and clips
Due out this summer

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2011, 01:46:28 pm »
Mel Sembler started Straight Inc.  Check out our trailer and clips
Due out this summer

I was just about to add that link.
Thanks ;D

Offline BoxcarJack

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2011, 03:37:09 pm »
I was unaware of "Straight, Inc" or any of the teen boot camp info contained in this thread. This was a huge wake-up. Thanks to everyone who posted this info. I'm a big advocate for prison reform, outlawing prisons-for-profit and an end to the war on drugs. This is a whole facet I wasn't aware of. I do remember seeing the occasional show on teen boot camps, but it was usually from the point of view that it was somehow necessary, as a result I didn't see a balanced treatment of it. I've always been leery of the "tough love" concept. The hypocracy is off the charts when you add in how the US gov't was shipping in the drugs. Wow.
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. - Thomas Jefferson.

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2011, 04:02:32 pm »
Teen Abuse Hearing: Greg Kutz (Part 1 of 2) G.A.O.

Teen Abuse Hearing: Greg Kutz (Part 2 of 2)

Also try searching "H.R. 911"

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2011, 04:51:19 pm »
I was unaware of "Straight, Inc" or any of the teen boot camp info contained in this thread. This was a huge wake-up. Thanks to everyone who posted this info. I'm a big advocate for prison reform, outlawing prisons-for-profit and an end to the war on drugs. This is a whole facet I wasn't aware of. I do remember seeing the occasional show on teen boot camps, but it was usually from the point of view that it was somehow necessary, as a result I didn't see a balanced treatment of it. I've always been leery of the "tough love" concept. The hypocracy is off the charts when you add in how the US gov't was shipping in the drugs. Wow.

The Cult That Spawned the Tough-Love Teen Industry

— By Maia Szalavitz
September/October 2007 Issue

The idea that punishment can be therapeutic is not unique to the Rotenberg Center. In fact, this notion is widespread among the hundreds of "emotional growth boarding schools," wilderness camps, and "tough love" antidrug programs that make up the billion-dollar teen residential treatment industry.

This harsh approach to helping troubled teens has a long and disturbing history. No fewer than 50 programs (though not the Rotenberg Center) can trace their treatment philosophy, directly or indirectly, to an antidrug cult called Synanon. Founded in 1958, Synanon sold itself as a cure for hardcore heroin addicts who could help each other by "breaking" new initiates with isolation, humiliation, hard labor, and sleep deprivation.

Today, troubled-teen programs use Synanon-like tactics, advertising themselves to parents as solutions for everything from poor study habits to substance misuse. However, there is little evidence that harsh behavior-modification techniques can solve these problems. Studies found that Synanon's "encounter groups" could produce lasting psychological harm and that only 10 to 15 percent of the addicts who participated in them recovered. And as the classic 1971 Stanford prison experiment demonstrated, creating situations in which the severe treatment of powerless people is rewarded inevitably yields abuse. This is especially true when punishment is viewed as a healing process. Synanon was discredited in the late 1970s and 1980s as its violent record was exposed. (The group is now remembered for an incident in which a member placed a live rattlesnake—rattle removed—in the mailbox of a lawyer who'd successfully sued it.) Yet by the time Synanon shut down in 1991, its model had already been widely copied.

In 1971, the federal government gave a grant to a Florida organization called The Seed, which applied Synanon's methods to teenagers, even those only suspected of trying drugs. In 1974, Congress opened an investigation into such behavior-modification programs, finding that The Seed had used methods "similar to the highly refined brainwashing techniques employed by the North Koreans."

The bad publicity led some supporters of The Seed to create a copycat organization under a different name. Straight Inc. was cofounded by Mel Sembler, a Bush family friend who would become the gop's 2000 finance chair and who heads Lewis "Scooter" Libby's legal defense fund. By the mid-'80s, Straight was operating in seven states. First Lady Nancy Reagan declared it her favorite antidrug program. As with The Seed, abuse was omnipresent—including beatings and kidnapping of adult participants. Facing seven-figure legal judgments, it closed in 1993.

But loopholes in state laws and a lack of federal oversight allowed shuttered programs to simply change their names and reopen, often with the same staff, in the same state—even in the same building. Straight spin-offs like the Pathway Family Center are still in business.

Confrontation and humiliation are also used by religious programs such as Escuela Caribe in the Dominican Republic and myriad "emotional growth boarding schools" affiliated with the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs (wwasp), such as Tranquility Bay in Jamaica. wwasp's president told me that the organization "took a little bit of what Synanon [did]." Lobbying by well-connected supporters such as wwasp founder Robert Lichfield (who, like Sembler, is a fundraiser for Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney) has kept state regulators at bay and blocked federal regulation entirely.

By the '90s, tough love had spawned military-style boot camps and wilderness programs that thrust kids into extreme survival scenarios. At least three dozen teens have died in these programs, often because staff see medical complaints as malingering. This May, a 15-year-old boy died from a staph infection at a Colorado wilderness program. His family claims his pleas for help were ignored. In his final letter to his mother, he wrote, "They found my weakness and I want to go home."

* If you click on the link above there is a nice little chart that is part of this article.

Offline webdiva

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2011, 08:35:29 pm »
I was just about to add that link.
Thanks ;D

I know you! *grin*

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2011, 08:39:22 am »
I know you! *grin*

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I just came back to add "The SCHOOL OF SHOCK" article.
I think we agree that The Judge Rotenberg Center is The most abusive. (That we know of)


School of Shock

Eight states are sending autistic, mentally retarded, and emotionally troubled kids to a facility that punishes them with painful electric shocks. How many times do you have to zap a child before it's torture?

— By Jennifer Gonnerman

Mon Aug. 20, 2007 12:00 AM PDT

Rob Santana awoke terrified. He'd had that dream again, the one where silver wires ran under his shirt and into his pants, connecting to electrodes attached to his limbs and torso. Adults armed with surveillance cameras and remote-control activators watched his every move. One press of a button, and there was no telling where the shock would hit—his arm or leg or, worse, his stomach. All Rob knew was that the pain would be intense.

Every time he woke from this dream, it took him a few moments to remember that he was in his own bed, that there weren't electrodes locked to his skin, that he wasn't about to be shocked. It was no mystery where this recurring nightmare came from—not A Clockwork Orange or 1984, but the years he spent confined in America's most controversial "behavior modification" facility.

In 1999, when Rob was 13, his parents sent him to the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center, located in Canton, Massachusetts, 20 miles outside Boston. The facility, which calls itself a "special needs school," takes in all kinds of troubled kids—severely autistic, mentally retarded, schizophrenic, bipolar, emotionally disturbed—and attempts to change their behavior with a complex system of rewards and punishments, including painful electric shocks to the torso and limbs. Of the 234 current residents, about half are wired to receive shocks, including some as young as nine or ten. Nearly 60 percent come from New York, a quarter from Massachusetts, the rest from six other states and Washington, D.C. The Rotenberg Center, which has 900 employees and annual revenues exceeding $56 million, charges $220,000 a year for each student. States and school districts pick up the tab.

The Rotenberg Center is the only facility in the country that disciplines students by shocking them, a form of punishment not inflicted on serial killers or child molesters or any of the 2.2 million inmates now incarcerated in U.S. jails and prisons. Over its 36-year history, six children have died in its care, prompting numerous lawsuits and government investigations. Last year, New York state investigators filed a blistering report that made the place sound like a high school version of Abu Ghraib. Yet the program continues to thrive—in large part because no one except desperate parents, and a few state legislators, seems to care about what happens to the hundreds of kids who pass through its gates.

In Rob Santana's case, he freely admits he was an out-of-control kid with "serious behavioral problems." At birth he was abandoned at the hospital, traces of cocaine, heroin, and alcohol in his body. A middle-class couple adopted him out of foster care when he was 11 months old, but his troubles continued. He started fires; he got kicked out of preschool for opening the back door of a moving school bus; when he was six, he cut himself with a razor. His mother took him to specialists, who diagnosed him with a slew of psychiatric problems: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Rob was at the Rotenberg Center for about three and a half years. From the start, he cursed, hollered, fought with employees. Eventually the staff obtained permission from his mother and a Massachusetts probate court to use electric shock. Rob was forced to wear a backpack containing five two-pound, battery-operated devices, each connected to an electrode attached to his skin. "I felt humiliated," he says. "You have a bunch of wires coming out of your shirt and pants." Rob remained hooked up to the apparatus 24 hours a day. He wore it while jogging on the treadmill and playing basketball, though it wasn't easy to sink a jump shot with a 10-pound backpack on. When he showered, a staff member would remove his electrodes, all except the one on his arm, which he had to hold outside the shower to keep it dry. At night, Rob slept with the backpack next to him, under the gaze of a surveillance camera.

Employees shocked him for aggressive behavior, he says, but also for minor misdeeds, like yelling or cursing. Each shock lasts two seconds. "It hurts like hell," Rob says. (The school's staff claim it is no more painful than a bee sting; when I tried the shock, it felt like a horde of wasps attacking me all at once. Two seconds never felt so long.) On several occasions, Rob was tied facedown to a four-point restraint board and shocked over and over again by a person he couldn't see. The constant threat of being zapped did persuade him to act less aggressively, but at a high cost. "I thought of killing myself a few times," he says.

Rob's mother Jo-Anne deLeon had sent him to the Rotenberg Center at the suggestion of the special-ed committee at his school district in upstate New York, which, she says, told her that the program had everything Rob needed. She believed he would receive regular psychiatric counseling—though the school does not provide this.

As the months passed, Rob's mother became increasingly unhappy. "My whole dispute with them was, 'When is he going to get psychiatric treatment?'" she says. "I think they had to get to the root of his problems—like why was he so angry? Why was he so destructive? I really think they needed to go in his head somehow and figure this out." She didn't think the shocks were helping, and in 2002 she sent a furious fax demanding that Rob's electrodes be removed before she came up for Parents' Day. She says she got a call the next day from the executive director, Matthew Israel, who told her, "You don't want to stick with our treatment plan? Pick him up." (Israel says he doesn't remember this conversation, but adds, "If a parent doesn't want the use of the skin shock and wants psychiatric treatment, this isn't the right program for them.")

Rob's mother is not the only parent angry at the Rotenberg Center. Last year, Evelyn Nicholson sued the facility after her 17-year-old son Antwone was shocked 79 times in 18 months. Nicholson says she decided to take action after Antwone called home and told her, "Mommy, you don't love me anymore because you let them hurt me so bad." Rob and Antwone don't know each other (Rob left the facility before Antwone arrived), but in some ways their stories are similar. Antwone's birth mother was a drug addict; he was burned on an electric hot plate as an infant. Evelyn took him in as a foster child and later adopted him. The lawsuit she filed against the Rotenberg Center set off a chain of events: investigations by multiple government agencies, emotional public hearings, scrutiny by the media. Legislation to restrict or ban the use of electric shocks in such facilities has been introduced in two state legislatures. Yet not much has changed.

Rob has paid little attention to the public debate over his alma mater, though he visits its website occasionally to see which of the kids he knew are still there. After he left the center he moved back in with his parents. At first glance, he seems like any other 21-year-old: baggy Rocawear jeans, black T-shirt, powder-blue Nikes. But when asked to recount his years at the Rotenberg Center, he speaks for nearly two hours in astonishing detail, recalling names and specific events from seven or eight years earlier. When he describes his recurring nightmares, he raises both arms and rubs his forehead with his palms.

Despite spending more than three years at this behavior-modification facility, Rob still has problems controlling his behavior. In 2005, he was arrested for attempted assault and sent to jail. (This year he was arrested again, for drugs and assault.) Being locked up has given him plenty of time to reflect on his childhood, and he has gained a new perspective on the Rotenberg Center. "It's worse than jail," he told me. "That place is the worst place on earth."

One Punishment Fits All

The story of the Rotenberg Center is in many ways a tale of two schools. Slightly more than half the residents are what the school calls "high functioning": kids like Rob and Antwone, who have diagnoses like attention-deficit disorder, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other emotional problems. The other group is even more troubled. Referred to as "low functioning," it includes kids with severe autism and mental retardation; most cannot speak or have very limited verbal abilities. Some have behaviors so extreme they can be life threatening: chomping on their hands and arms, running into walls, nearly blinding themselves by banging their heads on the floor again and again.

The Rotenberg Center has long been known as the school of last resort—a place that will take any kid, no matter how extreme his or her problems are. It doesn't matter if a child has been booted out of 2, 5, 10, or 20 other programs—he or she is still welcome here. For desperate parents, the Rotenberg Center can seem like a godsend. Just ask Louisa Goldberg, the mother of 25-year-old Andrew, who has severe mental retardation. Andrew's last residential school kicked him out after he kept assaulting staff members; the Rotenberg Center was the only place willing to accept him. According to Louisa, Andrew's quality of life has improved dramatically since 2000, when he was hooked up to the shock device, known as the Graduated Electronic Decelerator, or ged.

The Rotenberg Center has a policy of not giving psychiatric drugs to students—no Depakote, Paxil, Risperdal, Ritalin, or Seroquel. It's a policy that appeals to Louisa and many other parents. At Andrew's last school, she says, "he had so many medicines in him he'd take a two-hour nap in the morning, he'd take a two-hour nap in the afternoon. They'd have him in bed at eight o'clock at night. He was sleeping his life away." These days, Louisa says she is no longer afraid when her son comes home to visit. "[For him] to have an electrode on and to receive a ged is to me a much more favorable way of dealing with this," she says. "He's not sending people to the hospital."

Marguerite Famolare brought her son Michael to the Rotenberg Center six years ago, after he attacked her so aggressively she had to call 911 and, in a separate incident, flipped over a kitchen table onto a tutor. Michael, now 19, suffers from mental retardation and severe autism. These days, when he comes home for a visit, Marguerite carries his shock activator in her purse. All she has to do, she says, is show it to him. "He'll automatically comply to whatever my signal command may be, whether it is 'Put on your seatbelt,' or 'Hand me that apple,' or 'Sit appropriately and eat your food,'" she says. "It's made him a human being, a civilized human being."

Massachusetts officials have twice tried to shut the Rotenberg Center down—once in the 1980s and again in the 1990s. Both times parents rallied to its defense, and both times it prevailed in court. (See "Why Can't Massachusetts Shut Matthew Israel Down?" page 44.) The name of the center ensures nobody forgets these victories; it was Judge Ernest Rotenberg, now deceased, who in the mid-'80s ruled that the facility could continue using aversives—painful punishments designed to change behavior—so long as it obtained authorization from the Bristol County Probate and Family Court in each student's case. But even though the facility wasn't using electric shock when this ruling was handed down, the court rarely, if ever, bars the Rotenberg Center from adding shock to a student's treatment plan, according to lawyers and disability advocates who have tried to prevent it from doing so.

Since Evelyn Nicholson filed her lawsuit in 2006, the Rotenberg Center has faced a new wave of criticism and controversy. (See "Nagging? Zap. Swearing? Zap," page 41.) And again, the facility has relied heavily on the testimonials of parents like Louisa Goldberg and Marguerite Famolare to defend itself. Not surprisingly, the most vocal parent-supporters tend to be those with the sickest children, since they are the ones with the fewest options. But at the Rotenberg Center, the same methods of "behavior modification" are applied to all kids, no matter what is causing their behavior problems. And so, while Rob would seem to have little in common with mentally retarded students like Michael and Andrew, they all shared a similar fate once their parents placed them under the care of the same psychologist, a radical behaviorist known as Dr. Israel.


Dr. Israel's Radical Behavior

In 1950, matt israel was a Harvard freshman looking to fill his science requirement. He knew little about B.F. Skinner when he signed up for his course, Human Behavior. Soon, though, Israel became fascinated with Skinner's scientific approach to the study of behavior, and he picked up Walden Two, Skinner's controversial novel about an experimental community based on the principles of behaviorism. The book changed Israel's life. "I decided my mission was to start a utopian community," he says. Israel got a Ph.D. in psychology in 1960 from Harvard, and started two communal houses outside Boston.

One of the people Israel lived with was a three-year-old named Andrea, the daughter of a roommate. The two did not get along. "She was wild and screaming," Israel recalls. "I would retreat to my own room, and she'd be trying to pull away and get into my room, and I'd have to hold the door on one side to keep her from disturbing me." When company would come over, he says, "She would walk around with a toy broom and whack people over the head."

Through experiments with rats and pigeons, Skinner had demonstrated how animals learn from the consequences of their actions. With permission from Andrea's mother, Israel decided to try out Skinner's ideas on the three-year-old. When Andrea was well behaved, Israel took her out for walks. But when she misbehaved, he punished her by snapping his finger against her cheek. His mentor Skinner preached that positive reinforcement was vastly preferable to punishment, but Israel says his methods transformed the girl. "Instead of being an annoyance, she became a charming addition to the house."

Israel's success with Andrea convinced him to start a school. In 1971, he founded the Behavior Research Institute in Rhode Island, a facility that would later move to Massachusetts and become known as the Judge Rotenberg Center. Israel took in children nobody else wanted—severely autistic and mentally retarded kids who did dangerous things to themselves and others. To change their behavior, he developed a large repertoire of punishments: spraying kids in the face with water, shoving ammonia under their noses, pinching the soles of their feet, smacking them with a spatula, forcing them to wear a "white-noise helmet" that assaulted them with static.

In 1977, Israel opened a branch of his program in California's San Fernando Valley, along with Judy Weber, whose son Tobin is severely autistic. Two years later, the Los Angeles Times reported Israel had pinched the feet of Christopher Hirsch, an autistic 12-year-old, at least 24 times in 30 minutes, while the boy screamed and cried. This was a punishment for soiling his pants. ("It might have been true," Israel says. "It's true that pinches were being used as an aversive. The pinch, the spank, the muscle squeeze, water sprays, bad taste—all those procedures were being used.") Israel was in the news again in 1981, when another student, 14-year-old Danny Aswad, died while strapped facedown to his bed. In 1982, the California Department of Social Services compiled a 64-page complaint that read like a catalog of horrors, describing students with bruises, welts, and cuts. It also accused Israel of telling a staff member "to grow his fingernails longer so he could give an effective pinch."

In 1982, the facility settled with state officials and agreed to stop using physical punishments. Now called Tobinworld, and still run by Judy Weber, it is a $10-million-a-year organization operating day schools near Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Rotenberg Center considers itself a "sister school" to Tobinworld, and Israel makes frequent trips to California to visit Weber. The two were married last year.

Despite his setback in California, Israel continued to expand on the East Coast—and to generate controversy. In 1985, Vincent Milletich, an autistic 22-year-old, suffered a seizure and died after he was put in restraints and forced to wear a white-noise helmet. Five years later, 19-year-old Linda Cornelison, who had the mental capacity of a toddler, refused to eat. On the bus to school, she clutched her stomach; someone had to carry her inside, and she spent the day on a couch in a classroom. Linda could not speak, and the staff treated her actions as misbehaviors. Between 3:52 p.m. and 8 p.m., staffers punished her with 13 spatula spankings, 29 finger pinches, 14 muscle squeezes, and 5 forced inhalings of ammonia. It turned out that Linda had a perforated stomach. She died on the operating table at 1:45 a.m.

The local district attorney's office examined the circumstances of Vincent's death but declined to file any charges. In Linda's case, the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation investigated and found that while Linda's treatment had "violated the most basic codes and standards of decency and humane treatment," there was insufficient evidence to prove that the use of aversives had caused her death.

By the time Linda died, Israel was moving away from spatulas and toward electric shock, which, from his perspective, offered many advantages. "To give a spank or a muscle squeeze or a pinch, you had to control the student physically, and that could lead to a struggle," he says. "A lot of injuries were occurring." Since shocking only required pressing a button, Israel could eliminate the need for employees to wrestle a kid to the ground. Another benefit, he says, was increased consistency. It was hard to know if one staff member's spatula spanking was harder than another's, but it was easy to measure how many times a staff member had shocked a child.

Israel purchased a shock device then on the market known as sibis—Self-Injurious Behavior Inhibiting System—that had been invented by the parents of an autistic girl and delivered a mild shock that lasted .2 second. Between 1988 and 1990, Israel used sibis on 29 students, including one of his most challenging, Brandon, then 12, who would bite off chunks of his tongue, regurgitate entire meals, and pound himself on the head. At times Brandon was required to keep his hands on a paddle; if he removed them, he would get automatic shocks, one per second. One infamous day, Brandon received more than 5,000 shocks. "You have to realize," Israel says. "I thought his life was in the balance. I couldn't find any medical solution. He was vomiting, losing weight. He was down to 52 pounds. I knew it was risky to use the shock in large numbers, but if I persevered that day, I thought maybe it would eventually work. There was nothing else I could think of to do...but by the time it went into the 3,000 or 4,000 range, it became clear it wasn't working."

This day was a turning point in the history of Israel's operation—that's when he decided to ratchet up the pain. The problem, he decided, was that the shock sibis emitted was not strong enough. He says he asked sibis's manufacturer, Human Technologies, to create a more powerful device, but it refused. "So we had to redesign the device ourselves," he says. He envisioned a device that would start with a low current but that could increase the voltage if needed—hence its name, Graduated Electronic Decelerator or ged—but he abandoned this idea early on. "As it turns out, that's really not a wise approach," he says. "It's sort of like operating a car and wearing out the brakes because you never really apply them strongly enough. Instead, we set it at a certain level that was more or less going to be effective for most of our students."

Thirty years earlier, O. Ivar Lovaas, a psychology professor at ucla, had pioneered the use of slaps and screams and electric jolts to try to normalize the behavior of autistic kids. Life magazine featured his work in a nine-page photo essay in 1965 with the headline, "A surprising, shocking treatment helps far-gone mental cripples." Lovaas eventually abandoned these methods, telling cbs in 1993 that shock was "only a temporary suppression" because patients become inured to the pain. "These people are so used to pain that they can adapt to almost any kind of aversive you give them," he said.

Israel encountered this same sort of adaptation in his students, but his solution was markedly different: He decided to increase the pain once again. Today, there are two shock devices in use at the Rotenberg Center: the ged and the ged-4. The devices look similar and both administer a two-second shock, but the ged-4 is nearly three times more powerful—and the pain it inflicts is that much more severe.


The Mickey Mouse Club

Ten years ago, Israel hung up a Mickey Mouse poster in the main hall, and he noticed that it made people smile—so he bought every Mickey Mouse poster he could find. He hung them in the corridors and even papered the walls of what became known as the Mickey Mouse Conference Room. Entering the Rotenberg Center is a bit like stepping into a carnival fun house, I discovered during a two-day visit last autumn. Two brushed-aluminum dogs, each nearly 5 feet tall and sporting a purple neon collar, stand guard outside. Giant silver stars dangle from the lobby ceiling; the walls and chairs in the front offices are turquoise, lime green, and lavender.

Israel, 74, still holds the title of executive director, for which he pays himself nearly $400,000 in salary and benefits. He appears utterly unimposing: short and slender with soft hands, rounded shoulders, curly white hair, paisley tie. Then he sits down beside me and, unprompted, starts talking about shocking children. "The treatment is so powerful it's hard not to use if you have seen how effective it is," he says quietly. "It's brief. It's painful. But there are no side effects. It's two seconds of discomfort." His tone is neither defensive nor apologetic; rather, it's perfectly calm, almost soothing. It's the sort of demeanor a mother might find comforting if she were about to hand over her child.

Before we set off on our tour of the facility, there's something Israel wants me to see: Before & After, a homemade movie featuring six of his most severe cases. Israel has been using some of the same grainy footage for more than two decades, showing it to parents of prospective students as well as visiting reporters. They've already mailed me a copy, but Israel wants to make sure I watch it. An assistant slips the tape into the vcr, Israel presses the remote, and we all stare at the screen:

1977: An 11-year-old girl named Caroline arrives at the school strapped down onto a stretcher, her head encased in a helmet. In the next shot, free from restraints, she crouches down and tries to smash her helmeted head against the floor.

1981: Janine, also 11 years old, shrieks and slams her head against the ground, a table, the door. Bald spots testify to the severity of her troubles; she's yanked out so much hair it's half gone.

Both girls exhibit autistic behaviors, and compared with these scenes, the "After" footage looks almost unbelievable: Janine splashes in a plastic pool, while Caroline grins as she sits in a chair at a beauty salon. "Most people haven't seen these pictures," Israel says, setting down the remote. "They haven't seen children like this, so they cannot imagine. These are children for whom positive-only procedures did not work, drugs did not work. And if it wasn't for this treatment, some of these people would not be alive." The video is extremely persuasive: The girls' self-abuse is so violent and so frightening that it almost makes me want to grab a ged remote and push the button myself. Of course, this is precisely the point.

Considering how compelling the "After" footage is, I am surprised to learn that five of the six children featured in it are still here. "This is Caroline," one of my escorts says an hour or two later as we walk down a corridor. Without an introduction, I would not have known. Caroline, 39, slumps forward in a wheelchair, her fists balled up, head covered by a red helmet. "Blow me a kiss, Caroline," Israel says. She doesn't respond.

A few minutes later, I meet 36-year-old Janine, who appears in much better shape. She's not wearing a helmet and has a full head of black hair. She's also got a backpack on her shoulders and canvas straps hanging from her legs, the telltale sign that electrodes are attached to both calves. For 16 years—nearly half her life—Janine has been hooked up to Israel's shock device. A couple years ago, when the shocks began to lose their effect, the staff switched the devices inside her backpack to the much more painful ged-4.


Rogue Science

In 1994, matthew israel had just 64 students. Today he has 234. This astonishing rate of growth is largely the result of a dramatic change in the types of students he takes in. Until recently, nearly all were "low functioning," autistic and mentally retarded people. But today slightly more than 50 percent are "high functioning," with diagnoses like add, adhd, and bipolar disorder. New York state supplies the majority of these students, many of whom grew up in the poorest parts of New York City. Yet despite this change in his population, Israel's methods have remained essentially the same.

Israel has long faced criticism that he has not published research about his use of electric shocks in peer-reviewed journals, where experts could scrutinize it. To defend his methods, he points to a bibliography of 110 research articles that he's posted on the Rotenberg Center website. This catalog seems impressive at first. Studied more closely, however, it is not nearly so convincing. Three-quarters of the articles were published more than 20 years ago. Eight were written or cowritten by Lovaas, the ucla-affiliated behaviorist. One of America's leading autism experts, Lovaas long ago stopped endorsing painful aversives. And Lovaas' old studies focus primarily on children with autism who engage in extreme self-injury—not on troubled teens who have been diagnosed with adhd or add.

But then, it would be hard for Israel to find contemporary research supporting his program, because the practice of treating self-abusive kids with pain has been largely abandoned. According to Dr. Saul Axelrod, a professor at Temple University and an expert on behavior modification, "the field has moved away from painful stimuli because of public outcry and because we've devised better techniques," including determining the cause of an individual's self-abuse.

Another expert Israel cites several times is Dr. Brian A. Iwata, a consultant on the development of sibis, the device Israel modified to create his ged. Now a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Florida, he's a nationally recognized authority on treating severe self-abuse among children with developmental disabilities. Iwata has visited the Rotenberg Center and describes its approach as dangerously simplistic: "There appears to be a mission of that program to use shock for problem behaviors. It doesn't matter what that behavior is." Iwata has consulted for 25 states and says there is little relationship between what goes on at Israel's program and what goes on at other facilities. "He may have gotten his Ph.D. at Harvard, but he didn't learn what he's doing at Harvard. Whatever he's doing, he decided to do on his own."

Paul Touchette, who also studied with B.F. Skinner, has known Israel since the 1960s when they were both in Cambridge. Like Israel, Touchette went on to treat children with autism who exhibit extreme self-abuse, but he isn't a fan of Israel's approach either. "Punishment doesn't get at the cause," says Touchette, who is on the faculty of the University of California-Irvine School of Medicine. "It just scares the hell out of patients."

Over the decades, Touchette has followed Israel's career and bumped into him at professional conferences. "He's a very smart man, but he's an embarrassment to his profession," Touchette says. "I've never been able to figure out if Matt is a little off-kilter and actually believes all this stuff, or whether he's just a clever businessman."


Big Reward Store

At the rotenberg center, an elaborate system of rewards and punishments governs all interactions. Well-behaved kids can watch TV, go for pizza, play basketball. Students who've earned points for good behavior visit a store stocked with dvd players, cds, cologne, PlayStation 2, Essence magazine, knockoff Prada purses—anything the staff thinks students might want. But even more prized is a visit to the "Big Reward Store," an arcade full of pinball machines, video games, a pool table, and the most popular feature, a row of 42-inch flat-screen TVs hooked up to Xbox 360s.

Students like the "brs" for another reason—it's the only place many can socialize freely. At the Rotenberg Center, students have to earn the right to talk to each other. "We had to wait until we were in brs to communicate with others," says Isabel Cedeño, a 16-year-old who ran away from Rotenberg in 2006 after her boyfriend, a former student, came and got her. "That was the only time you really laughed, had fun, hung around with your friends. Because usually, you can't talk to them. It was basically like we had to have enemies. They didn't want us to be friendly with nobody."

Students live grouped together in homes and apartments scattered in nearby towns and are bused to the facility's headquarters every morning. They spend their days in classrooms, staring at a computer screen, their backs to the teacher. They are supposed to teach themselves, using self-instruction programs that include lessons in math, reading, and typing. Even with breaks for gym and lunch, the days can be incredibly dull. "On paper, it does look like they're being educated, because we have lesson plans," says former teacher Jessica Croteau, who oversaw a classroom of high-functioning teens for six months before leaving in 2006. But "to self-teach is not exciting. Why would the kids want to sit there and read a chapter on their own without any discussion?"

Croteau says teachers have to spend so much time monitoring misbehaviors there's often little time left for teaching. Whenever a student disobeys a rule, a staff member must point it out, using the student's name and just one or two rote phrases like, "Mark, there's no stopping work. Work on your task, please." Each time a student curses or yells, a staffer marks it on the student's recording sheet. Teachers and aides then use the sheet to calculate what level of punishment is required—when to just say "No!" and when to shock.

Employees carry students' shock activators inside plastic cases, which they hook onto their belt loops. These cases are known as "sleds," and each sled has a photo on it to ensure employees don't zap the wrong kid.

Behaviorism would seem to dictate that staff shock students immediately after they break the rules. But if employees learn about a misbehavior after it has occurred—by, say, reviewing surveillance footage—they may still administer punishment. Rob Santana recalls that Mondays were always the most stressful day of the week. He would sit at his desk all day, trying to remember if he had broken any rules over the weekend, waiting to see if he'd be shocked.

Employees are encouraged to use the element of surprise. "Attempt to be as discreet as possible and hold the transmitter out of view of the student," states the employee manual. This way, students cannot do anything to minimize the pain, like flipping over their electrodes or tensing their muscles. "We hear the sound of [a staffer] picking up a sled," says Isabel, the former student. "Then we turn around and see the person jump out of their seat."

Employees shock students for a wide range of behaviors, from violent actions to less serious offenses, like getting out of their seats without permission. In 2006, the New York State Education Department sent a team of investigators, including three psychologists, to the Rotenberg Center, then issued a scathing report. Among its many criticisms was that the staff shocked kids for "nagging, swearing, and failing to maintain a neat appearance." Israel only disputes the latter. As for nagging and swearing? "Sometimes a behavior looks innocuous," he says, "but if it's an antecedent for aggression, it may have to be treated with an aversive."

New York officials disagreed, and in January 2007 issued regulations that would prohibit shocking New York students for minor infractions. But a group of New York parents filed a federal lawsuit to stop the state from enforcing these regulations. They prevailed, winning a temporary restraining order against the state, one that permits the Rotenberg Center staffers to continue using shock. The parents' case is expected to go to trial in 2008.

When they talk about why they use the shock device, Israel and his employees like to use the word "treatment," but it might be more accurate to use words like "convenience" or "control." "The ged—it's two seconds and it's done," says Patricia Rivera, a psychologist who serves as assistant director of clinical services. "Then it's right back to work." By contrast, it can take 8 or 10 employees half an hour or longer to restrain a strong male student: to pin him to the floor, wait for him to stop struggling, then move his body onto a restraint board and tie down each limb. Restraining five or eight kids in a single day—or the same student again and again—can be incredibly time-consuming and sometimes dangerous.

Even with the ged, the stories both students and employees tell make the place sound at times like a war zone: A teenage boy sliced the gym teacher across the face with a cd. A girl stabbed a staffer in the stomach with a pencil. While staff have been contending with injuries ever since Israel opened his facility, the recent influx of high-functioning students, some with criminal backgrounds, has brought a new fear: that students will join forces and riot. Perhaps tellingly, among high-functioning kids most of the violence is directed at the staff, not each other.


"Our Students Have a Tendency to Lie"

Rotenberg staff place the more troubled (or troublesome) residents on 1:1 status, meaning that an aide monitors them everywhere they go. For extremely violent students, the ratio is 2:1. Soon after I arrived, right before I set off on my tour, a small crowd gathered—it seemed that almost the entire hierarchy of the Rotenberg Center was going to follow me around. That's when I realized I'd been put on 5:1. As I began to roam around the school with my escorts, my every move monitored by surveillance cameras, I realized it would be impossible to have a private conversation with any student. The best I could hope for would be a few unscripted moments.

Ten years ago, a reporter visiting Israel's center would have been unable to talk to most students; back then few of them could speak. These days, there are more than 100 high-functioning kids fully capable of voicing their views, and Israel has enlisted a few in his campaign to promote the ged. "If we had only [severely] autistic students, they couldn't talk to you and say, 'Gee, this is really helping me,'" Israel says. "Now for the first time we have students like Katie who can tell you it helped them."

In the world of the Rotenberg Center, Katie Spartichino is a star. She left the facility in the spring of 2006 and now attends community college in Boston. Around noon, a staff member brings her back to the facility to talk to me. We sit at an outdoor picnic table away from the surveillance cameras but there's no privacy: Israel and Karen LaChance, the assistant to the executive director for admissions, sit with us.

Katie, 19, tells me she overdosed on pills at 9, spent her early adolescence in and out of psych wards, was hooked up to the ged at 16, and stayed on the device for two years. "This is a great place," she says. "It took me off all my medicine. I was close to 200 pounds and I'm 160 now." She admits her outlook was less rosy when she first had to wear the electrodes. "I cried," she says. "I kind of felt like I was walking on eggshells; I had to watch everything I said. Sometimes a curse word would just come out of my mouth automatically. So being on the geds and knowing that swearing was a targeted behavior where I would receive a [GED] application, it really got me to think twice before I said something disrespectful or something just plain-out rude."

As Katie speaks, LaChance runs her fingers through Katie's hair again and again. The gesture is so deliberate it draws my attention. I wonder if it's just an expression of affection—or something more, like a reward.

"Do you swear anymore?" I ask.

"Oh, God, all the time," Katie says. She pauses. "Well, I have learned to control it, but I'm not going to lie. When I'm on the phone, curse words come out."

The hair stroking stops. LaChance turns to Katie. "I hope you're not going to tell me you're aggressive."

"Oh, no, that's gone," Katie says. "No, no, no. The worst thing I do sometimes is me and my mom get into little arguments."

For Israel, of course, one drawback of having so many high-functioning students is that he cannot control everything they say. One afternoon, when I walk into a classroom of teenagers, a 15-year-old girl catches my eye, smiles, and holds up a sheet of paper with a message written in pink marker: HELP US. She puts it back down and shuffles it into her stack of papers before anyone else sees. When I move closer, she tells me her name is Raquel, she is from the Bronx, and she wants to go home.

My escorts allow me to interview Raquel while two of them sit nearby. Raquel is not hooked up to the ged, but she has many complaints, including that she has just witnessed one of her housemates get shocked. "She was screaming," Raquel says. "They told her to step up to be searched; she didn't want to step up to be searched, so they gave her one." After 20 minutes, my escorts cut us off. "Raquel, you did a great job—thank you for taking the time," says Patricia Rivera, the psychologist.

Once Raquel is out of earshot, Rivera adds, "Some of the things she said are not true, some of them are. Our students obviously have a tendency to lie about things." She explains that a staff member searches Raquel's housemate every hour because she's the one who recently stabbed an employee with a pencil.

The Rotenberg Center does not have a rule about how old a child must be before he or she can be hooked up to the ged. One of the program's youngest students is a nine-year-old named Rodrigo. When I see him, he is seated outside at a picnic table with his aide. Rodrigo's backpack looks enormous on his tiny frame; canvas straps dangle from both legs.

"He was horrible when he first came in," Rivera says. "It would take five staff to restrain him because he's so wiry." What was he like? "A lot of aggression. A lot of disruptive behavior. Whenever he was asked to do a task that he didn't feel like doing, he would scream, yell, swear. The stuff that would come out of his mouth you wouldn't believe—very sexually inappropriate."

"Rodrigo, come here," one of my escorts says.

Rodrigo walks over, his straps slapping the ground. He wears a white dress shirt and tie—the standard uniform for male students—but because he is so small, maybe 4 feet tall, his tie nearly reaches his thighs. "What's that?" he asks.

"That's a tape recorder," I say. "Do you want to say something?"


Unfazed by the presence of Israel, Rivera, and my other escorts, Rodrigo lifts a small hand and pulls the recorder down toward his lips. "I want to move to another school," he says.


The Employee-Modification System

To understand how the Rotenberg Center works, it helps to know that it runs not just one behavior-modification program, but two—one for the residents, and one for the staff. Employees have no autonomy. If a staffer believes it's okay to shock a kid who is smashing his head against a wall, but it's not okay to shock someone for getting out of his chair without permission, that could spell trouble. "There's pressure on you to do it," a former teacher told me. "They punish you if you don't."

I met this former teacher at a restaurant, and our meeting stretched on for six hours. At times it felt less like an interview than a confession. "The first time you give someone a ged is the worst one," the teacher said. "You don't want to hurt somebody; you want to help. You're thinking, 'This has got to be okay. This has got to be legal, or they wouldn't be doing this.'" At the Rotenberg Center, it's virtually impossible to discuss such concerns with coworkers because there are cameras everywhere, even in the staff break room. Staff members who want to talk to each other without being overheard may meet up in the parking lot or scribble notes to each other. But it's hard to know whom to trust, since Israel encourages employees to file anonymous reports about their coworkers' lapses.

In addition, staff members are prohibited from having casual conversations with each other. They cannot, for example, say to a coworker, "Hey, did you see the Red Sox game last night?" "We don't want them discussing their social life or the ball games in front of the students or while they're on duty," Israel says. "So we'll sometimes actually have one staffer deliberately start a social conversation with another and we'll see whether the other—as he or she should—will say, 'I don't want to discuss that now.'" Monitors watch these setups on the surveillance cameras and punish staffers who take the bait.

Former employees describe a workplace permeated with fear—fear of being attacked by students and fear of losing their job. There are so many rules—and so many cameras—it's not easy to stay out of trouble. Employees quit or are fired so often that two-thirds of the direct-care employees remain on the job for less than a year.

New employees must sign a confidentiality agreement promising not to talk about the Rotenberg Center—even after they no longer work there. Of the eight ex-employees I interviewed, most did not want to be identified by name for fear of Israel suing them; all were critical of how the ged is used. Maybe, says one, the use of shocks was justified in a few extreme self-injurious cases, but that's all. "Say you had a hospital that was the only hospital in the nation that had chemotherapy, and they were treating people who had the common cold with it," she says. "I think the extreme to which they abuse their power has outweighed what good they do."


The Hard Lessons of Connie Chung

Matthew Israel has been fielding questions from journalists since the 1970s, but few have examined his operation as thoroughly—and critically—as the producers at Eye to Eye with Connie Chung did. In 1993, they spent six months investigating the facility. They even found an employee willing to go inside with a hidden camera. But Israel ended up getting the last laugh. As he recounts the story for me, he can barely contain his glee. "We refused to meet with her unless the parents could be in the same room," he says, grinning. "She talked to the parents, and they really gave it to her." This is no exaggeration: When Chung tried to ask him tough questions, his parent-supporters shouted her down.

Throughout this raucous meeting, Israel had his own camera rolling, too, which turned out to be a brilliant move. Before cbs got its 40-minute story on the air, Israel launched a national campaign to discredit both Chung and her report. He accused her of being "biased" and "hostile," and to prove it, he distributed edited videotapes of her interview to media critics and cbs affiliates. It worked. A New York Times television critic savaged cbs, accusing it of using "shabby tricks of the trade." Suddenly the story was not about whether the school had abused students—but whether cbs had abused the school.

"I don't think it was a positive thing for her career," says Israel, still smiling. It's late in the day, right near the end of my visit, and I'm starting to wonder why he's brought up this topic.

By now I've spent 22 hours with Israel and his staff—wandering around the facility, meeting parents they've brought in for me to interview. But before I depart, there's one more place I want to see, the room where they repair the geds. Israel and Glenda Crookes, an assistant executive director, agree to take me there. It is just past 7 p.m. and drizzling as we climb into Israel's Lexus for a short drive to the maintenance building.

There, Crookes and Israel lead me down a hall, past storerooms filled with red helmets, ged sleds, batteries and their chargers. The room at the end of the hall looks like it could be a repair shop for any sort of electronics equipment: scissors, screwdrivers, industrial-grade glue, a Black & Decker Pivot Driver. On one desk, I spot a form called a ged Trouble Report. The report explains that someone dropped off Duane's shock device because it was "making rattling noises." Crookes explains, "Anytime a screw is loose or anything is wrong with the device, it's automatically sent back here."

A Trouble Report on another desk suggests a more serious problem: "Jamie Z was getting his battery changed, Luigi received a shock." "What does this mean?" I ask. Crookes picks up the paper, reads it, then hands it to Israel and walks away. Her gesture seems to say, I cannot believe we just spent two days with this reporter and now this is the last thing she sees.

Israel stares at the report, then reaches into his pocket and pulls out a pair of reading glasses. Nobody says anything. Outside, one car after another races by, the tail end of the evening commute.

After a minute or two, Israel says, "Well, I don't understand the whole of it." He is still staring at the paper in his hand. "But there was apparently a spontaneous activation." The ged, in other words, delivered a shock without anyone pressing its remote.

This moment reminds me of something Israel told me earlier about the premise of Skinner's Walden Two, that by changing people's behaviors you can help them have a better life. But, Israel was careful to add, "The notion was that you needed to have the whole environment under control. With a school like this, we have an awful lot. Not the whole environment, but an awful lot."

He was right; he controls nearly every aspect of his facility. But all of his surveillance cameras and microphones and paperwork and protocols had failed to protect Luigi, a mentally retarded resident who had done nothing wrong.

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #21 on: September 20, 2011, 11:05:33 pm »
What’s Worse than Teen-Age Drug Abuse? Drug Programs Abusing Teenagers

Don’t miss two special shows this Thursday, September 15 (7-10 pm ET) and Friday, September 16 (7-10 pm ET) featuring survivors of teenage drug-abuse programs, where the programs unfortunately abused the teens far worse than the teens in them abused drugs.

I first examined this issue almost six years ago, and the response was so powerful, I did a second show on it. Now, just since announcing this show, I’ve received dozens of responses. So I’ve devoted six full hours to it. For those of you who were not regular listeners of THE INSIDE SCOOP six years ago, I thought I’d share the links to the old stories here:

This Bush Crony Has Blood on His Hands!
The Bush Crony Who Tortured American Teens, Part II

I will also be live-tweeting during the broadcast. Follow me at MarkLevineTV.

Here’s another disturbing story about these places. And an example of the incredible difficulty of obtaining a successful release of a child from these gulags.

Abuse of Teenagers in Drug Programs, Part 2

Mitt Romney’s national finance co-chair and Utah finance chair ran some of the most abusive teen torture centers (aka “treatment facilities) in the country.

Mitt Romney needs to disassociate from Mel Sembler (Straight, Inc.) and Robert Lichfield (WWASP) pronto or face the consequences!

Links to US Government Accountability Office Reports:

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAMS: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth: 2007 Report by Greg Kutz

RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS: Selected Cases of Death, Abuse, and Deceptive Marketing: 2008 Report by Greg Kutz

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #22 on: September 20, 2011, 11:29:18 pm »
*I forgot a few links
What’s Worse than Teen-Age Drug Abuse? Drug Programs Abusing Teenagers

Don’t miss two special shows this Thursday, September 15 (7-10 pm ET) and Friday, September 16 (7-10 pm ET) featuring survivors of teenage drug-abuse programs, where the programs unfortunately abused the teens far worse than the teens in them abused drugs.

I first examined this issue almost six years ago, and the response was so powerful, I did a second show on it. Now, just since announcing this show, I’ve received dozens of responses. So I’ve devoted six full hours to it. For those of you who were not regular listeners of THE INSIDE SCOOP six years ago, I thought I’d share the links to the old stories here:

This Bush Crony Has Blood on His Hands!
The Bush Crony Who Tortured American Teens, Part II

And an example of the incredible difficulty of obtaining a successful release of a child from these gulags.

Abuse of Teenagers in Drug Programs, Part 2

Mitt Romney’s national finance co-chair and Utah finance chair ran some of the most abusive teen torture centers (aka “treatment facilities) in the country.

Mitt Romney needs to disassociate from Mel Sembler (Straight, Inc.) and Robert Lichfield (WWASP) pronto or face the consequences!

Links to US Government Accountability Office Reports:

RESIDENTIAL TREATMENT PROGRAMS: Concerns Regarding Abuse and Death in Certain Programs for Troubled Youth: 2007 Report by Greg Kutz

RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS: Selected Cases of Death, Abuse, and Deceptive Marketing: 2008 Report by Greg Kutz

Offline Liberty4all

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Re: Mel Sembler: Behind Liz Cheney’s Group, a Weird Legacy of Torture
« Reply #23 on: February 07, 2014, 12:41:15 pm »

Offline Liberty4all

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Elan School update
« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2015, 11:52:20 pm »
This is a comment received today on my Elan School video.
Although the school is closed many former residents still struggle for Justice.

Roy Gutfinski
"I retired in 2013 after over 34 years as a Probation and Parole Officer for the State of Maine.  Since I am now a "free man" and can speak the truth, I will make a few comments about Elan.  During my first five years as a PPO, I supervised juveniles as well as adults and I worked with a few young people who were "students" at Elan.  I found the Elan administration provided very little communication concerning any of my clients at that facility.  One time I wanted to visit a boy on my caseload who was at Elan and was told they needed time to "prepare" for my visit.  After a couple of years on the job I had learned of several incidents of abuse at Elan against my clients and others.  When I went to my supervisor to report the abuse, I was told that Elan was a "sacred cow" and that officials in my department (Mental Health and Corrections) as well as Human Services and Education were "in tight" with Joe Ricci and the Elan School and that if I reported a problem with Elan I would become the problem.  I was told by one official in my department that anyone causing problems to Elan could "disappear like Jimmy Hoffa."  After "mandated reporting" of child abuse became law in Maine, there were several incidents of abuse at Elan reported to Child Protective (Department of Human Services) but they were "buried" and never given the proper investigation and follow up due to Mr. Ricci's political connections in Augusta.  Frankly, I am relieved that Elan has finally closed its doors and that more and more former Elan residents are having the courage to come forward.  Although Joe Ricci himself passed away in 2001, there are other former Elan administrators still around.  Bill Diamond, Maine state legislator, was Elan's "Director of Government Relations" and was instrumental in defending Elan from scrutiny.  Mr. Diamond claims today to be an advocate for abused children but his former association with Elan makes one wonder."