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Police Academy in the Alps | The Nation

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Police Academy in the Alps

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The weak leadership at the center is matched and possibly surpassed by the poor quality of the student body. In theory, students are the cream of the Eastern European crop. In reality, many bring to mind Bluto Blutarsky of Animal House. The reasons are easy to see: There are no admissions requirements, and students are picked by their governments, in consultation with US defense attachés. "Very few students here were sent because of their intellectual rigor," explains one professor, who, like many people I spoke with, asked to remain unidentified for fear of being targeted for retaliation. "Most are intelligence operatives, or were picked as a reward for being good bureaucrats or sycophants to important leaders." Others refer to a small "Bimbo Brigade"--girlfriends of Eastern European military VIPs. Some students have little command of any of the three languages in which instruction is offered, English, German and Russian. "I had one student whose English was limited to 'hello,' 'nice day' and 'want a beer,'" says the professor.

Research support was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute.

About the Author

Ken Silverstein
Ken Silverstein is a Washington, DC–based investigative reporter.

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Like the faculty, students--there's been an average of about 300 per year--have an easy life. They are not tested or graded. They get paid a generous per diem rate that dwarfs what they would make at home. Not a few have returned to their native lands with a used Mercedes or BMW, paid for by American taxpayers. A number of center students have been arrested for shoplifting. A visiting Russian official was put up at a local hotel. He stole the comforters and curtains and emptied the minibar every night, leaving a tab that had to be picked up by taxpayers. Shortly after arriving at the Marshall Center, Dan Nelson says, he naïvely held a reception for students at his home. Many of his guests got bombed; they stole things from his house, tossed household items from the balcony and made offensive comments to his wife.

Students in the Marshall Center's Executive Program are treated to two "field studies" trips, one to Berlin and Brussels, and the other to New York and Washington. The combined annual cost to the US Treasury runs to roughly $400,000, according to a source familiar with the program. On one 1996 trip a lieutenant from Kazakhstan got so drunk and abusive to flight attendants and passengers that he had to be tied to a chair. Last October some members of a group of about sixty-five Marshall Center students on a United Airlines flight to the United States became drunk, unruly and dangerous; local police were contacted so they could meet the plane.

Meanwhile, the harassment of internal critics continues. In 1999 Air Force Lieut. Col. Timothy Killam, the division chief for the school's conference center, reported to a superior about what he believed was fraud and abuse at the center. The Military Whistleblower Protection Act should have protected Killam, but his superiors swiftly retaliated. He was given a poor evaluation that contrasted sharply with his past reviews, and he was denied a previously approved transfer to an Air Force base in England. A Pentagon IG report concluded late last year found in Killam's favor.

The Nation has learned that the IG has recently concluded yet another report that focuses on complaints filed by three women at the center against deputy director McCarthy. A former director of resource management told the IG that McCarthy "has treated women...as if they were worthless and disposable, creating an extremely hostile work environment." Samantha Nerove, the center's chief of protocol, has also complained about McCarthy. In a letter to Gen. Joseph Ralston, who is in charge of overseeing the Marshall Center from his post as commander in chief of the US European Command, she said that McCarthy had been verbally abusive on several occasions and once chased her down the hall. Nerove wrote, "I am an experienced professional woman with a long history of achievement. I know what constitutes normal and acceptable behavior in a US government workplace. What has been going on here is neither normal nor acceptable."

The third case involves Lieut. Col. Deborah Parson, who until arriving at the center had enjoyed an impeccable twenty-year military career. Her performance reports called her an "exemplary leader" and an "absolute professional." But at the center, Parson claims, McCarthy repeatedly made offensive remarks to her, including once telling her that one black female general was "a real loser, everyone knew it, and she was only promoted because she was a minority female." Last September 7 Parson had an altercation with Susan Denike, McCarthy's secretary. Parson says that in seeking to calm down Denike she put her hands on her shoulders. Denike claims that Parson grabbed her and blocked her from leaving her office. Center director Kennedy as well as the investigating officer in the case recommended that Parson receive a formal admonishment, a relatively mild penalty, but McCarthy fought for and won an official "letter of reprimand." That sanction--which Parson notes was roughly equivalent to the one imposed on the commander of the US submarine that in February 2001 sank a Japanese fishing vessel, killing nine people--effectively ended her military career.

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