I strongly advise you to read this piece in Salon
on Bain Capital's ties to a very shady "addiction recovery" operation run by a company called CRC. The revelations are bad enough on their face -- although one can predict easily the conservative response.
The most important revelation comes in this nearly-buried reference:
Mitt Romney may not know the details of Brendan Blum’s death, but it is difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be aware of the troubles facing CRC and the residential teen-treatment industry as a whole. Not only are two of his major campaign donors, Connaughton and Barnes, on CRC’s board, but two of his key advisors, Robert Lichfield and Mel Sembler, faced firestorms after allegations of abuse emerged regarding their own residential treatment chains.
(Emphasis added.) In years past, this column has devoted a lot of cyber-ink to these "teen recovery" programs, which profit from the industrialization of child abuse. In particular, we've taken a hard look at Mel Sembler, a friend to the Bush clan. (W made him ambassador to Italy.) The following comes from a Cannonfire story
published back in 2005:
Sembler has a sick secret: He used to run a nationwide network of abusive concentration camps -- brainwashing centers, in effect -- which masqueraded as drug rehab clinics for young people.
This older site
The Sembler program was called Straight. The program modeled itself after the notorious "Seed" program of the Nixon era, which was shut down after a congressional investigation. Most Straight clinics were closed during the Clinton years, due to lawsuits and media exposure.
Today, mysterious Sembler-esque figures are quietly reconstituting the abusive program under other names. As we shall see, Jeb Bush has been directly linked to one "neo-Straight" operation.
Youngsters in the Sembler program were starved, beaten, tortured, humiliated, sexually abused, raped, kept under surveillance even when gong to the bathroom, and forced to participate in non-stop group "thought control" sessions. Teens were forced to defecate on themselves and to "confess" to crimes they never committed. The program destroyed all sense of individuality or self-worth; victims often ended up torturing themselves.
In short and in sum, the Straight program was a hyperbolized version of the "brainwashing" techniques that Americans of an earlier generation commonly ascribed to the Communist Chinese. Straight victims often had no drug problems whatsoever. High-pressure salesmen, using the argot of recovery, would convince parents that children with no history of drug abuse were "dry druggies" living "in denial."
offers some excellent research into the strange connections between the Straight program and the Republican party. Poppy Bush and Barbara Bush have promoted Sembler's operation. This story
from Jeff Gorenfeld will leave you shaking with rage.
Sembler has another troubling friend:
According to Joshua Marshall, Sembler also has a long-standing relationship with another notorious figure associated with the Agency (even if we cannot technically call him an operative): Michael Ledeen.
Sembler played a still-mysterious role in the 2002 interactions between Ledeen and the notorious Iran-contra figure Manucher Ghorbanifar. He played an even odder role in the tale of the alleged terrorist kidnapped in Milan by CIA personnel. Sembler denied that American intelligence personnel were involved in the kidnapping, even though both an Italian judge and former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer identified the operation was a joint CIA/SISMI venture. Sembler also may have helped to obfuscate the strange circumstances surrounding the "friendly fire" attack on Guiliana Sgrena in Iraq (which some believe was other than accidental).
While we do not yet possess all the facts, those we do have indicate that Sembler may function as a trusted asset of the rogue clandestine operatives who set this country onto its current disastrous course.
(Hey, that's not just me
talking about spooks, as I am often wont to do -- that's Josh Marshall. Y'know, back when Marshall was cool.)
As many of you may be aware, Ledeen now focuses with laser beam intensity on attaining one goal: War with Iran. If Ledeen and Romney are pals -- and they have a mutual friend in Sembler -- then war is in the offing. In fact, Romney has surrounded himself with war-hawk neocons, although he has chosen a group
that is careful to distinguish itself from the Bush-era team.
Romney adviser Robert Lichfield
has a similarly vile history:
State inspectors investigated the private psychiatric institution after receiving complaints of children being admitted without consent from both parents and a failure to report a suspected case of child abuse, Utah Department of Health spokeswoman Debra Wynkoop said. The hospital shut down in 1998 after being informed by state health officials that they were going to order its closure, Wynkoop said.
As for his role in WWASPS, on paper Lichfield is simply a trustee. Some adversaries contend that the limited designation is the way he protects himself from legal liability.
A thicket of interrelated, for-profit companies has grown up around the nonprofit WWASPS. They include Teen Help, the association's marketing arm; Teen Escort Service, which convoys children to and from member schools; and R&B Billing, which sends the monthly bills to parents and processes their payments.
Thomas Burton, an attorney in Pleasanton, Calif., who has sued WWASPS, its member schools and associated businesses at least seven times — though he has yet to win a case — contends that all of these entities function as a huge, single commercial venture with Lichfield at the heart.
"The corporations keep shifting and being reconstituted with different people in different places," Burton said. "It seems they want to keep this a moving target."
In March, the Northern California lawyer filed suit in federal court in Salt Lake City on behalf of a former student at Tranquility Bay, claiming the WWASPS school in Jamaica was a "steaming squalid jungle camp, infested with flies, mosquitoes, scorpions and vermin."
WWASPS stands for "World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools." A class action lawsuit
against a Lichfield operation included complaints that...
...children attending schools operated by Lichfield suffered abuses such as unsanitary living conditions; denial of adequate food; exposure to extreme temperatures; beatings; confinement in dog cages; and sexual fondling.
The Coalition Against Institutionalized Teen Abuse
has a lot more information about the strange Mr. Lichfield. Back in 2007, someone devoted an entire blog
to exposing Romney's ties to Lichfield.
Much more to come. Follow these leads: Sembler and Lichfield are radioactive
As I noted in an earlier post, George H.W. Bush's rolodex has included entries for both Don Aranow and Mel Sembler. Very ironic. If you don't know why
that's ironic, you don't know who Aranow was.