Pubdate: Sun, 23 Nov 2008
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2008 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Author: Conrad Black
Note: This is an edited version of an article by the former Daily 
Telegraph proprietor that appears in the current edition of Spear's 
Wealth Management Survey magazine


I write to you from a US federal prison. It is far from a country club
or even a regimental health spa. I work quite hard but fulfillingly,
teaching English and the history of the United States to some of my
co-residents. There is practically unlimited access to e-mails and the
media and plenty of time for visitors.

Many of the other co-residents are quite interesting and affable,
often in a Damon Runyon way, and the regime is not uncivilised. In
eight months here there has not been the slightest unpleasantness with
anyone. It is a little like going back to boarding school, which I
somewhat enjoyed nearly 50 years ago (before being expelled for
insubordination) and is a sharp change of pace after 16 years as
chairman of The Daily Telegraph. I can report that a change is not
always as good as a rest.

However, apart from missing the constant companionship of my
magnificent wife Barbara, who visits me once, twice or even three
times each week and lives nearby in our Florida home with her splendid
Hungarian dogs, I enjoy some aspects of my status as a victim of the
American prosecutocracy.

My appeal continues. Given the putrefaction of the US justice system,
it is an unsought but distinct honour to fight this out and already to
have won 85% of the case and 99% of the financial case. The initial
allegation against me of a "$500m corporate kleptocracy" has shrunk to
a false finding against me - that even some of the jurors have already
fled from in post-trial comments   of the underdocumented receipt of
$2.9m. There is no evidence to support this charge.

It has been a grim pleasure to expose the hypocrisy of the corporate
governance establishment, who have bankrupted our Canadian company and
reduced the share price of the American one from $21, when I left, to
a miraculous two cents (yes, two cents). They have vaporised $2
billion of public shareholder value; fine titles in several countries
have deteriorated; and for their infamies, the protectors of the
public interest have cheerfully trousered more than $200m.

US federal prosecutors, almost all of whom would be disbarred for
their antics if they were in Britain or Canada, win more than 90% of
their cases thanks to the withering of the constitutional guarantees
of due process   that is, the grand jury as an assurance against
capricious prosecution, no seizure of property without just
compensation, access to counsel, an impartial jury, speedy justice and
reasonable bail.

We did not know the grand jury was sitting, have never seen the
transcript of its proceedings and I was denied counsel of choice by
the ex parte seizure, which the jury later judged to be improper, of
the proceeds of the sale of an apartment in New York that I was going
to use as the retainer for trial counsel.

The system is based on the plea bargain: the barefaced exchange of
incriminating testimony for immunity or a reduced sentence. It is
intimidation and suborned or extorted perjury, an outright rape of any
plausible definition of justice.

The US is now a carceral state that imprisons eight to 12 times more
people (2.5m) per capita than the UK, Canada, Australia, France,
Germany or Japan. US justice has become a command economy based on the
avarice of private prison companies, a gigantic prison service
industry and politically influential correctional officers' unions
that agitate for an unlimited increase in the number of prosecutions
and the length of sentences. The entire "war on drugs", by contrast,
is a classic illustration of supply-side economics: a trillion
taxpayers' dollars squandered and 1m small fry imprisoned at a cost of
$50 billion a year; as supply of and demand for illegal drugs have
increased, prices have fallen and product quality has improved.

I wish to advise Lord Hurd that when I return to the UK I would like
to take up more energetically than I did initially his request for
assistance in his custodial system reform activities.

Obviously, the bloom is off my long-notorious affection for America.
But I note from recent comment in Britain and Europe that the habit of
blaming anything that goes awry in the world on the US is alive and
well. However, the United States has not disintegrated and American
capitalism is not dead, nor even in failing health. The recent
financial upheavals have exposed the folly of the US Congress and
Federal Reserve and will aggravate a cyclical recession and take some
time to shake out.

The United States has just retained the riveted interest of the whole
world, most of which does not wish it well, in the billion-dollar
vulgarity of its election process for an entire year. And it surely
has earned the respect of the world in elevating a very capable leader
as the first non-white man to head any western nation.

I would be distinctly consolable if the United States really was in
decline and I have more legitimate grievances against that country
than do The Guardian or the BBC, but it is still a country of
incomparable vitality even as its moral, judicial soul atrophies and
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake