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While we ponder why Democrats are caving in haste to revising FISA, which probably stands for Federal Illegal Surveillance of Americans by now, consider this exquisite situation that has arisen from another of Bush's anti-terrorism laws. Here's the Washington Post:

Chiquita's executives left the meeting convinced that the government had not clearly demanded that the payments stop. Federal prosecutors, however, are now weighing whether to charge Hills; Robert Olson, who was then Chiquita's general counsel; former Chiquita CEO Cyrus Friedheim; and other former company officials for approving the illegal payments, according to records and sources close to the probe.

more below the fold...

The article starts startlingly:

On April 24, 2003, a board member of Chiquita International Brands disclosed to a top official at the Justice Department that the king of the banana trade was evidently breaking the nation's anti-terrorism laws.

Who is Chiquita, you dare ask? It is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based company with over $4 Billion in yearly sales of (yes) bananas, salads and other products (annual report):

Chiquita Brands International, Inc. (NYSE: CQB) is a leading international marketer and distributor of high-quality fresh and value-added food products – from energy-rich bananas and other fruits to nutritious blends of convenient green salads. Chiquita employs  pproximately 25,000 people operating in more than 70 countries worldwide.
Additional information is available at www.chiquita.com and  www.freshexpress.com

Who was that top official? Who else but Heckovajob2:

Chertoff, then assistant attorney general and now secretary of homeland security, affirmed that the payments were illegal but said to wait for more feedback, according to five sources familiar with the meeting. Justice officials have acknowledged in court papers that an official at the meeting said they understood Chiquita's situation was "complicated," and three of the sources identified that official as Chertoff.

And, who, you dare ask, is Roderick Hills? Here he is in their annual report:

RODERICK M. HILLS
Chairman of the Audit Committee
Chairman, Hills Enterprises, Ltd.
(investment consulting firm)
Former Chairman of the
Securities and Exchange Commission

But what was the crime? Well, that's a bit complicated. The WaPo tells us:

Roderick M. Hills, who had sought the meeting with former law firm colleague Michael Chertoff, explained that Chiquita was paying "protection money" to a Colombian paramilitary group on the U.S. government's list of terrorist organizations. Hills said he knew that such payments were illegal, according to sources and court records, but said that he needed Chertoff's advice.

So did Chertoff provide that advice?

Sources close to Chiquita say that Chertoff never did get back to the company or its lawyers. Neither did Larry D. Thompson, the deputy attorney general, whom Chiquita officials sought out after Chertoff left his job for a federal judgeship in June 2003. And Chiquita kept making payments for nearly another year.

So maybe this was a simple case of our anti-terrorism laws becoming too complicated in the international marketplace? Not so fast, flip to page three and behold:

The attorney general of Colombia, Mario Iguaran, and other Colombian officials have dismissed Chiquita's assertions that it was a victim of extortion and paid AUC to protect its workers. An Organization of American States report in 2003 said that Chiquita participated in smuggling thousands of arms for paramilitaries into the Northern Uraba region, using docks operated by the company to unload thousands of Central American assault rifles and ammunition.

So then they must have been prosecuted immediately by the DOJ, yeah?

Starting in 1997, according to court filings, Chiquita's subsidiary in Colombia, Banadex, began making cash payments to AUC.

Oh, it has only been ten years. Okey-dokey then. Maybe it's misguided law-making. But then, why the rush to FISA?

Originally posted to whenwego on Thu Aug 02, 2007 at 04:47 PM PDT.

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