Thursday, May 19, 2016
Who quit and put us in charge?
Almost everyone is aware of America's Manifest Stupidity in trying to be the World Police, militarily intervening wherever and whenever we choose. But few people have noticed the quiet effort to prosecute crimes committed far beyond our borders.
The revelation that the Justice Department is looking into allegations of doping by Russian athletes seems to be the latest example of American law enforcement reaching beyond U.S. borders to target corruption — a noble effort, experts say, that nonetheless opens the country up to criticism about trying to serve as the world’s prosecutor.Why yes we will just declare our jurisdiction over these crimes whenever to wise solons of our Congress deem it so. But you can easily imagine the howls of outrage if any other country tried to do the same to our citizens. It is past time for the US to recognize its own borders, again.
In recent months, the Justice Department has assigned 10 new prosecutors to work exclusively on foreign bribery cases, while the FBI has created three squads dedicated to international corruption. The department also has proposed legislation to give prosecutors more tools to ferret out such wrongdoing.
While federal prosecutors’ efforts have long been focused on corrupt foreign businesses and elected officials — they recently announced that the Amsterdam-based telecommunications company VimpelCom had reached a deferred-prosecution agreement that required it to pay a criminal penalty of more than $230 million to the United States — they have also shown a willingness to examine wrongdoing in sports.
Prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York — where one person said the investigation of Russian doping is based — are in the midst of a massive case against high-ranking officials at FIFA, the organization responsible for the regulation of soccer worldwide.
“It’s part of our culture of wanting to bring democracy and transparency to the world,” said Andrew B. Spalding, a law professor at the University of Richmond who teaches and writes about international anti-corruption law. “We really stretch jurisdictional principles. Whether we should be doing that is an open question.”
The probe involving Russian doping, first reported by CBS News and the New York Times, appears to be in its infancy, and it is possible — perhaps even likely — that it will lead nowhere. One person familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing review, said among the people investigators seem to be targeting is Grigory Rodchenkov, the longtime head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory. He told the Times that he helped Russian athletes use banned substances to get ahead in global competitions, including the Sochi Olympics, and that he did so at the direction of the Russian sports ministry.
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