Sunday, February 17, 2008

Did Stephen G. Bradbury Get My Justice Department Complaint regarding LifeCare?

Nearly two years ago, I wrote the Justice Department regarding my concerns about George Bush's White House Lessons Learned report and its omission of the hospital with the largest number of patient deaths after Hurricane Katrina. LifeCare Hospitals had been purchased weeks before by The Carlyle Group, a politically connected private equity underwriter with a Pennsylvania Avenue address. I never heard back. After reading today's Washington Post, I wonder if my complaint reached the desk of Stephen G. Bradbury.

Mr. Bradbury testified before a House committee on the Bush administration's use of waterboarding. The article said:

The method was not, he said, like the "water torture" used during the Spanish Inquisition and by autocratic governments into the 20th century, but was subject to "strict time limits, safeguards, restrictions." He added, "The only thing in common is, I think, the use of water."

Bradbury indicated that no water entered the lungs of the three prisoners who were subjected to the practice, lending credence to previous accounts that the noses and mouths of CIA captives were covered in cloth or cellophane. Cellophane could pose a serious asphyxiation risk, torture experts said.

Now I have some insight into the Justice Department's criteria. They may be willing to look at deaths where water enters the lungs, like the patients who drowned in St. Rita's, a New Orleans area nursing home. That facility made Fran Townsend's Hurricane Katrina report.

But in cases where patients expire with no water in their lungs, the feds might take a hand's off approach. This could explain the free pass given by the White House to LifeCare and its corporate parent, The Carlyle Group. If only Mr. Bradbury had written me back with his criteria, otherwise I'm left believing no one cares about my concern, not Pres. George W. Bush, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Sen. John Cornyn, Rep. Mike Conaway, White House Homeland Security Adviser Fran Townsend or any members of the FBI or Justice Department.

However, an observer to Stephen G. Bradbury's testimony seemed as disturbed as I was nearly two years ago, when I found the LifeCare deaths/Carlyle ownership/White House omission link.

Martin S. Lederman, a former Office of Legal Counsel official who teaches law at Georgetown University, called Bradbury's testimony "chilling." In an online posting, Lederman said that "to say that this is not severe physical suffering -- is not torture -- is absurd. And to invoke the defense that what the Spanish Inquisition did was worse and that we use a more benign, non-torture form of waterboarding . . . is obscene."

Yes, Professor Lederman. You can add submitting an "investigative report" that leaves out the hospital with the largest number of patient death to the list of obscene.

I want to know if Stephen got my second complaint regarding The Carlyle Group's purchase of ManorCare, the huge nursing home company. The PEU's track record of failing 24 long term acute care patients in a time of crisis warranted examination by both the Justice Department and Congressional hearings. But once again I heard nothing. The Bush administration served as Santa a second time for their good friends down the street, approving the deal just before Christmas.