George Miller and his colleagues introduced the Human Dignity Act to end the abuse on the Commonwealth on Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and shut it down as a gateway for terrorists and a haven for money laundering, human trafficking, drug running and international criminal networks. (No wonder Tom and Jack like Saipan so much).
For 20 YEARS the abuse has flourished. 12 years ago there was bi-partisan agreement to end the abuse and extend US laws to CNMI. Then Jack Abramoff entered the picture. With the backing of Tom DeLay and the GOP he managed to protect a system where law and morality did not exist.
To underscore why HR 5550 is needed, Rep. Miller released a suppressed 2002 report analyzing the security risks to the mainland from the lack of Federal oversight on Guam and CNMI.
It is an indictment.
Stopping the efforts of human rights workers, President Clinton and a majority of Senators and Congressmen from ending the abuse of workers was one of the tasks that Jack did for his Hong Kong based patrons. But there were many other tasks as well.
One Family holds the power over CNMI. And much of the rest of the Pacific rim. It is the Tan Family. A 3-29-2001 Saipan Tribune article told the story of the Families rise to power:
Thirty years since its entry into the region's business community, Tan Holdings Corporation has grown from a shipping company in 1971 to a major contributor of economic growth in the small island nations of the Western Pacific Region today.
A $200-million corporation, THC has, since then diversified and now operates a myriad of business activities that include real estate, insurance, hotel, airline agent and airport service. [snip]
It opened L&T International in 1982 to bring the film distribution to another level. L&T International was established to oversee trading, cinema and family entertainment businesses, according to Dr. Tan.
Within the same year, THC invested into what is now the company's biggest business activity -- garment manufacturing. THC launched its apparel manufacturing operation on Saipan before it expanded to the Philippines, China. Cambodia, Indonesia, and Guatemala.
THC has also infused huge investment into Pohnpei and plans to expand to other island-states in the Micronesian region. It also set up an office in Japan which had grown to become one of the largest suppliers of tuna in that North Asian country. [snip]
"I believe that people who work hard to survive difficult situations will come out stronger. Difficulties give us new opportunities to be better than what we are today," says THC President Willie Tan. [snip]
THC has made major economic contributions in the West Pacific and Mr. Tan says the company is not stopping there. "We are going to do more. We will reaffirm our commitment to social responsibility. We will maintain the beautiful, clean environment where we do business."
He lays down plans to make THC the Western Pacific Region's counterpart of America's General Electric, a world-renowned company operating various businesses in different industries.
"We will expand. We will explore acquisitions, particularly in tourism and real estate development. You will hear our vision to become the most admired company in the region," he told participants to the first annual THC conference at the Hyatt Regency Saipan.
One does not become the GE of Asia without a power base in both the United States and the Peoples Republic of China (PRC). Fortunately for the Tan Family they had both.
Their connections to China are long and deep. The Family is based in Hong Kong. They are building a garment manufacturing city in Dongguan, Guangdong province. They are partners with the PRC in many business deals, in many countries.
For ties with the US they would have to build relationships based on cash, greed and mutual self-interests. They were so lucky that Newt Gingrich and his 1994 GOP revolution took power in DC. They were also lucky that Newt, Tom, Ricky and the boys needed a star lobbyist to be the point of the spear for The K Street Project. Enter Jack Abramoff, stage extreme right.
It was only a matter of time before the Tan Family introduced their American Team to the PRC Team. And it was only a matter of time before their American Team started doing favors for the Tan Family's Chinese partners.
That back-story brings us to the suppressed security report. It was compiled in 2001 after 9-11. It painted a picture of a back door security gap into the USA. It exposed the seamy underbelly of the CNMI system of human trafficking. It exposed the deep financial ties between the PRC and the local CNMI and Guam governments and business community. It exposed an unregulated system of banks and casinos. It exposed the GOP's Hong Kong and PRC patrons.
Of course it had to be suppressed. As Sherlock Google's Diaries have detailed, Rove, Ashcroft and Abramoff suppressed this report and had the authors re-assigned for doing their best to protect America. That created the illusion that the report was "classified". In a way it was as the preface makes clear:
The dissemination of this report or any information contained herein, is at the sole discretion of the United States Attorney for the Districts of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands or his authorized representatives.
So by replacing Robert Meissner, a DOJ regional security specialist and acting US Attorney, Frederick Black with hand picked cronies, Rove and Abramoff were able to keep the report out of the public eye for two election cycles. Thanks to George Miller the truth can come out.
The good folks over a TPMmuckraker have posted the 34 page report. It is a damning document, not only of DeLay and Abramoff, but also of George W. Bush and the entire Republican Party. They sold our security to protect DeLay's Petri-dish of Capitalism from oversight and justice. The Executive Summary says it all (emphasis added):
The Districts of Guam and the CN.M.I. are considered at the present time to be high risk security areas. Both districts have major threat potential and critical vulnerabilities. [snip]
If the present high risk environment is allowed to stand, it will continue to threaten Federal and public interests and seriously jeopardize the national security of the United States.
The lack of Federal jurisdiction over immigration, customs and financial matters coupled with a long history of deliberate territorial indifference to corrective action, creates an atmosphere which fosters criminal activity and public corruption, prevents Federal authorities from achieving optimum effectiveness in their enforcement of U.S. law, and produces critical security obstacles for Federal agencies. [snip]
The present environment produces its own threats and vulnerabilities and is currently being exploited by transnational criminal organizations and possibly by terrorist groups. All present an immediate danger to personnel, operations, and assets of the U.S. Attorney's office and those of other Federal agencies.
The Covenants and Compacts developed for the insular areas of the United States were a product of the 1980s. The factors which dictated their provisions have changed radically since that time. The current national focus on the war on terrorism requires realistic, current and proactive protective measures to safeguard U.S. citizens and interests. Guam and the C.N.M.L are two strategic areas which constitute the western most border of the U.S. homeland. Maximum protection of these vital areas is mission essential to U.S. interests.
Without trivializing a serious situation the current security posture of Guam and the C.N.M.L is analogous to a fence on the "back forty" with a number of large holes in it; everyone is focused on the front gate and little attention is being paid to the outer perimeter. The present security posture is "soft" and if left unattended there is a high probability that existing critical vulnerabilities will be exploited by a deliberate act against Federal, military or civilian interests. Therefore, a complete and in-depth review of deficiencies and policies vis-a-vis the relationships between the U.S. Government and the Governments of Guam and the C.N.M.L is urgently needed. [snip]
It is strongly recommended that all security shortfalls cited herein and which adversely affect the U.S. Attorney's Office and other Federal law enforcement agencies be thoroughly addressed at the earliest possible opportunity in the interest of public safety and national security.
Of course with our National security on the line, the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress took action. At the request of Jack Abramoff on behalf of the Tan Family and the PRC the report's authors were "reassigned" and the report itself was buried. The security loopholes that were identified almost five years ago have only grown.
The report is filled with damning details. Our Nation has been kept willfully vulnerable so that Bush and the GOP could keep the flow of off-the-books money into the US political system. There are many details in the report, but I wanted to point out a few.
First, here is how the guest workers are fairing in DeLay's Petri dish:
The large number of alien workers on Guam and in the C.N.M.I. have impacted negatively on the overall quality of health. In the C.N.M.I, the tuberculosis rate in 2001 was 85 cases per 100,000 of population. This is 15 times higher than in the U.S. The current infection rate is 48% lower than its peak in 1998 when the case rate was 164 per 100,000 of population. These high rates are credited to infected alien workers which occupy large percentages of the local work force. Approximately 60% of the alien work force have tested positive for tuberculosis and bloodborne pathogen diseases (human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Hepatitis B (HBV), malaria, syphilis, and Hepatitis C).
And here is a quick snapshot of Immigration and Customs as run by the CNMI:
Guam and the C.N.M.I. are outside the Federal customs jurisdiction of the United States. Primary border control is handled by local Guam and C.N.M.I. customs officers. There are however U.S. Customs agents on Guam who pursue Federal criminal investigations on Guam and in the C.N.M.I. [snip]
In the C.N.M.I.' there is no primary Federal program oversight responsibility assigned to U.S. Customs, U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Labor, or U.S. Coast Guard. The C.N.M.I. has the responsibility over its own immigration as well. There is no Federal INS oversight in the C.N.M.I. All of these functions are controlled by elements of the territorial government. The manner in which it controls these functions is ineffective at best. For example, C.N.M.I Immigration officials routinely allow unvetted aliens associated with international criminal organizations unencumbered entry into its territory.
Oh, and then there is the movement of money:
Three banks are not members of F.D.I.C. Banks and money remittance businesses have no designated Federal or territorial government oversight. Many Federal officials believe the lack of on-site assets to thoroughly oversee bank and money remittance businesses allows a lucrative environment for money laundering. On Guam and in the C.N.M.I., there is no Federal income tax. Taxes are paid directly to the territorial governments. The Government of Guam has been unable to produce any accounting to the Department of Interior for millions of dollars in Federal funding. [snip]
The system remains inoperable. Neither territorial government has a revenue enforcement capability. The Federal Internal Revenue Service has no jurisdictional oversight on Guam or in the C.N.M.I. This creates a permissive environment for a wide variety of illegal financial dealings. One ongoing case within the C.N.M.I. involves a small group of individuals who fraudulently obtained control of the Bank of Saipan and made loans without approval of the Bank's board for approximately nine million dollars.
I wonder if the lack of Federal oversight and the extension of US custom, immigration, customs and other laws to CNMI is causing any problems:
A recent incident involved the arrival of an Islamic cleric. In order to enter the C.N.M.I. legally, a boarding authorization letter issued by the territorial government is required before an individual can board an airliner destined for Saipan. This individual arrived without such authorization. Evidently, sympathetic Muslim airline workers allowed the cleric to board in Bangladesh without a boarding letter. In Saipan, the entry was challenged by territorial immigration officials at the airport: However, a supporter of the cleric called the territorial Attorney General's office and the airport immigration official was advised to allow entry. When the territorial AG's office was pressed by Federal officials for an explanation, none was provided.
Public corruption has a rich history on Guam and in the C.N.M.I, and has become an integral part of the political and territorial landscapes. The large influx of Federal funds coupled with an Asian business environment which encourages kickbacks and bribes creates a fertile environment for many types of white collar crime. This type of criminal behavior occupies a large portion of investigative and prosecutorial assigned. [snip]
Bid rigging and kickback schemes seem to be the most prevalent. Each case further erodes the public confidence, initiates Federal action and, thus, provides a premise that local politicians and activists can use to develop anti-U.S. Government sentiment.
The illegal immigration situation within the C.N.M.I. is particularly critical. Illegal schemes abetted by public corruption have resulted not only in the entry of large numbers of illegal aliens but also members of transnational criminal organizations. As much as 60% of the population are non-citizens. Some officials indicated that as many as 10,000 -15,000 are illegal. Individuals belonging to Chinese Triad gangs, Japanese Yakuza, Russian Mafia, and Korean Mafia organizations each participate to some degree in the criminal activity of the islands. Gambling, prostitution, drugs, money laundering and the exploitation of the large segments of the alien population are fully orchestrated by these organizations. Because of the Covenant provisions allowing the territorial government to regulate immigration and customs, Federal authorities cannot prevent entry and must therefore adopt a reactive approach. This greatly taxes meager Federal assets and creates an environment in which organized crime can flourish.
Money laundering investigations and prosecutions are significantly handicapped by the political empowerment of both Guam and the C.N.M.I. as specified by the Covenants currently in place. Unfettered access into the C.N.M.L and the presence of an unregulated international gambling casino on Tinian, allow for the perfect venue to launder illegal funds, regardless of their source. This situation is further compounded by the lack of any civil or criminal revenue enforcement by the territorial government or sufficient Federal assets to continually scrutinize banking and money handling businesses.
Time to remember the basic fact of the Abramoff scandal: Jack was a 25-year bagman for the GOP. He ran the slush fund. He needed to laundry money and lots of it.
Every Congressional trip Abramoff organized included a visit to Tinian. In 1997 Tom DeLay inserted language in the DOD appropriation to turn over land on Tinian for "development".
And as I mentioned in a recent Diary, Ney's Aide Cops Plea = BIG trouble for the GOP, the DOJ investigation is focusing on the bribes paid to CNMI Legislators from Rota and Tinian in exchange for their support of DeLay's candidate for Speaker of the CNMI House.
Now Tinian is a small island. It has two attractions. One is the historic sights from WWII, like where the Enola Gay took off to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The other is the Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino. And it is referenced in the suppressed report:
The P.R.C. has built and currently operates a 600-room hotel and international gambling resort on the island of Tinian in the C.N.M.I. This facility has been in operation for approximately three years. Federal officials indicate that it has-never enjoyed more than a 20 percent occupancy rate and is believed to be a "marker" for mainland China with involvements in international money laundering operations. In March of 2002, this casino became the subject of investigation by Federal authorities because it received $3.5 million in fraudulent loans in connection with the Bank of Saipan fraud scheme cited earlier.
And more casinos are on the way. I wouldn't be surprised if DeLay is an investor in one of the two projects underway. After all he did the hard work of pushing through legislation and funding to build the infrastructure on Tinian and Rota.
And that is where the money is next. Willie Tan knows it. He was just named #4 in the Power 10, Pacific Magazine's list of the most influential people in the Western Pacific. The profile included this bit:
In Micronesia, Tan Holdings is making a huge play into tourism with the acquisition over the past few years of three hotels on Saipan, and one on Guam. Two of the hotels now operate under Tan's Fiesta Resort brand. The move into tourism comes as the company's core business, garment manufacturing, lessens in importance on Saipan. Indeed, Saipan-based garment manufacturing and logistics operations now report to Luen Thai Holdings in Hong Kong.
Among Tan Holdings' other activities: a regional freight airline; a marine shipping company; a travel agency; insurance company, regional distribution firm; an active regional fishing company; airport ground handling services; real estate investment and management companies, a daily newspaper, and a 10-screen movie theater complex on Guam.
Willie Tan's base is so broad, and his reach into the central Pacific via his fishing company and air freight carrier is so deep, that he has the ability to easily expand further if opportunities present themselves. Add that to Tan's significant commercial base in Asia (primarily China, Hong Kong and the Philippines), and his economic and related political power is among the most significant of any Pacific Islands-based executive doing business in the region today.
And that brings us back to why Rove and Abramoff suppressed the CNMI/Guam Security Report. Willie wanted them to.
This should be a National campaign issue. The Republican Party has some explaining to do. They put the interests of their Hong Kong patrons ahead of justice, security and American values.
We need to shame the GOP into action.
We need to support the Human Dignity Act. Call, write, and release the Netroots-- everybody needs to take a stand.
They used their offices and positions to protect abuse and promote injustice. They put the Government of the United States of America in the business of supporting sweatshops, human trafficking, force prostitution and forced abortion. And they did it for money and power.
We need to talk about this. We need to make this an issue for 2006. The more we talk about it the less likely it is that the Bush political appointees will be able to sweep the Abramoff/DeLay abuse investigation under the rug (once again).
Every member of the GOP Caucus who worked to block legislation extending US labor, immigration and custom laws to CNMI should be put on the defensive. The crimes were real and the evidence has been presented to Congress since before 1994.
It is time to hold these folks accountable: both as co-conspirators and at the ballot box.
2006 is now. Let's take our Country back!