In 2009, ProPublica identified more than thirty prisoners once held by the CIA who weren't accounted for. Since then, a few have resurfaced and many remain missing
In one of President Barack Obama first acts in the White House, he ordered the closure of the CIA’s so-called “black-site” prisons, where terror suspects had been held and, sometimes, tortured. The CIA says it is “out of the detention business,” as John Brennan, Obama’s pick to head the agency, recently put it.
But the CIA’s prisons left some unfinished business. In 2009, ProPublica’s Dafna Linzer listed more than thirty people who had been held in CIA prisons and were still missing.
Some of those prisoners have since resurfaced, but at least twenty are still unaccounted for.
Last week the Open Society Foundations’ Justice Initiative released a report pulling together the most current information available on the fates of the prisoners. A few emerged from foreign prisons after the turmoil of the Arab Spring. One has died. (The report relied exclusively on media accounts and information previously gathered by human rights groups. The Open Society Foundations also donate to ProPublica.)
The report counts 136 prisoners who were either held in a CIA black site or subject to so-called extraordinary rendition, in which detainees were secretly shipped to other countries for interrogation.
Many of the prisoners were tortured, either under the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” program or by other countries after their transfer. The report also lists 54 countries that assisted in some way with detention and rendition. The U.S. has not disclosed the countries it worked with, and few have acknowledged their participation.
The CIA declined our request to comment.
Here are the fates of a few of the prisoners we listed as missing back in 2009:
The whereabouts (and in some cases identities) of many more remain unknown or uncertain.
In 2007, then-CIA director Michael Hayden said that “fewer than 100 people had been detained at CIA’s facilities.” But only 16 have been officially identified by the U.S. government. President George W. Bush acknowledged the CIA’s detention program in September 2006 and announced the transfer of 14 “high-value” detainees to Guantanamo Bay prison. Two other high-value detainees were subsequently acknowledged.
Much else about the CIA program is still unknown. President Barack Obama closed the black-site prisons on entering office, but preserved the ability to render and to hold people for the “short-term.”
Obama banned torture, but announced that no one would be prosecuted for previously sanctioned harsh interrogations. A Justice Department investigation into deaths of detainees in CIA custody ended without charges.
The Senate Intelligence Committee recently completed a 6,000-page report on the CIA’s detention program. At Brenan’s confirmation hearings, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.), said the report shows the interrogation program was run by people “ignorant of the topic, executed by personnel without relevant experience, managed incompetently by senior officials who did not pay attention to detail, and corrupted by personnel with pecuniary conflicts of interest.” Rockefeller is one of the few to have read the report, which remains classified.
Madras Cements (one of our Street Beat picks) has posted decent third quarter results, amidst difficult economic conditions and survived a cement dealers’ strike. We had recommended the stock on 8 May 2012 at Rs 107.10. The stock closed at Rs242.65 today, up by 126.78% in over eight months
We had recommended Madras Cements in our Street Beat section last year (http://www.moneylife.in/article/madras-cements-solid-foundation/25484.html). In an otherwise tough economy, characterised with sluggish infrastructure sector, decision paralysis at the Centre and a dealers’ strike in Kerala, Madras Cements posted decent results. It reported net sales of Rs904.95 crore for the quarter ended 31 December 2012, up 22% year-on-year (y-o-y), when compared to Rs744.07 crore for the same period last fiscsal. Operating profit grew 12% y-o-y, from Rs210.49 crore to Rs234.71 crore. Net profit was Rs83.60 crore for the quarter ending 31 December 2012 as against Rs76.84 crore for the corresponding period last year, up 9.21%. Even though the results were generally above expectations, it was blighted by the cement dealers’ strike in Kerala.
Earlier, the company was impacted by the Competition Commission of India’s (CCI) decision to penalize it for alleged cartelization. The CCI levied a fine of Rs258.63 crore on 20 June 2012. This hit the company hard but it seems to have recovered a lot since then, and even posting positive results, after it filed an appeal before the Competition Appellate Tribunal (CAT) which stated that “no coercive steps should be taken for recovery of penalty. “
An in-depth look into Madras Cements numbers reveals that the company has been living up to expectations. Its net sales growth rate of 22% for the December 2012 quarter nearly matched its three-quarter average growth rate of 24%. Also, the results aren’t too bad considering that the infrastructure segment as a whole has been hit by poor decision making and bureaucracy. Further, the cement dealers’ strike in Kerala which lasted 16 days in November 2012 had affected sales volumes of the company. Its operating profits grew 12% y-o-y which is less than the three-quarter average of 18%. Its return on networth stood at 21%, which is above average while valuations remain depressed. The company is quoting a market capitalisation of six times its operating profit, which is on the lower end of the valuation scale. This is due to the general decision paralysis by the government on the infrastructure segment. Cement is largely cyclical and tends to perform during non-monsoon periods when construction usually picks up with full pace. So far it hasn’t happened.
The company is involved in two segments: cement and windmills. Nearly all the revenues arise from the cement segment. However, the latter made a loss of Rs7.30 crore which is too small to make a dent and affect the company’s overall numbers.
Madras Cements Limited has also declared a second interim dividend of Re1 per share of Re1 each for 2012-2013 fiscal to its shareholders.
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IRDA came out with numerous initiatives last year including draft health insurance guidelines. While these will help to confine the role of TPA to claims processing and not settlement, there are vital issues that have been ignored
The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) came out with landmark draft health insurance guidelines on 31st May 2012. While it addressed numerous important issues like lifelong renewal, claims settlement within 30 days of receiving all documents, refund on pre-insurance medical check-ups, separate grievance cell for senior citizens and so on, there are several other issues which have vexed mediclaim policyholders. On 16th May 2012, Moneylife Foundation had submitted a Health Insurance memorandum to IRDA chairman, J Hari Narayan, who was the chief guest at the event.
Here are some of the points from the Moneylife Foundation memorandum that are not taken up in the health insurance guidelines:
• Senior citizens disallowed increase in Sum Insured (SI) - Survivors of critical illness like cancer are also denied increase in SI by the insurance company. This is easily managed by the insurance company under the garb of “Right to Underwrite”.
Action required - There should be mandatory allowance for inflation-linked increase in sum insured irrespective of past claims history.
• Need to cover prosthetics and artificial limbs for disabled – The Challenging Ones NGO gave a memorandum to the IRDA chairman on 16th May 2012 requesting him to ensure that all insurance providers be mandated by regulations to offer mediclaim and accident cover policies to cover the cost of provision of prosthesis/artificial limbs to the insured person, up to the sum insured and without any artificial cap. At the moment, not all insurance companies cover the cost of prosthetics.
Action required – IRDA chairman had given positive feedback and immediately acknowledged the need for mediclaim to cover prosthesis. He was going to advice companies about it as there is increasing need for various types of implants. Unfortunately, even after reminders there is no action taken by IRDA.
• 24 hour hospitalisation used as an excuse to reject claims - Today technological advancement does not necessitate hospitals to keep the insured for more than 24 hours in many cases. Insurance companies are rejecting claims under the garb of 24 hours hospitalisation.
Action required – More day-care procedures need to be added to mediclaim. IRDA should make insurance companies’ needs realistic rather than mechanically rejecting claims just because the stay in hospital was less than 24 hours.
• Lack of infrastructure to receive hospitalisation intimation - Many insurers have a strict 24/48 hour intimation rule for hospitalisation intimation and seven days for claim submission. There are other issues too. For instance, TPAs deny having received hospitalisation intimation. Sometimes they do not have 24-hour helpline, are closed on public holidays and weekends, or are short-staffed leading to endless wait time to get connected to a person. This prevents genuine hospitalisation intimation and is often exploited to reject claims mechanically.
Action required - IRDA should take tough stand on such frivolous claims rejection. All insurers should have a 24-hour toll-free phone number, fax, email and SMS facility for customers or agents to intimate hospitalisation. Technology makes this both inexpensive and easy to provide. Email/internet and SMS should have an auto confirmation facility. It is not acceptable that genuine intimation within the timelines end up rejected with TPA’s denying receipt of intimation.
• Cashless facility is restricted to preferred-provider-network (PPN) which does not include majority of high-end hospitals for government insurers. This issue is only for retail and not for corporate mediclaim policies.
Action required – If cashless is offered for corporate mediclaim, the same insurance company cannot disallow retail mediclam policies from getting same benefit. Just because individuals have less bargaining power, insurance companies can get away with it. Cashless facility must be re-started for retail consumers, at all Quality Council of India (QCI) accredited hospitals and nursing homes.
At the Bombay High Court hearing (12 February 2013) of a public interest litigation filed by social activist Gaurang Damani, IRDA legal representative stated that health insurance draft regulations have been approved by its board and it is now pending approval of Parliament. It means that there is less scope of the above-mentioned issues to be considered even though IRDA should have been proactive about it.
In the next article we will discuss pending issues that IRDA needs to address to improve life insurance customer satisfaction.