Apply the BP Standard of Responsibility to Benghazi

Is it just me, or do politicians apply higher standards to others than they do to themselves?

For instance, there was that politician who thought it funny that billions in taxpayer money were wasted on poorly researched "shovel ready jobs;" while at the same time calling for the prosecution of debt rating agencies for their erroneous analysis of collateralized mortgage obligations.

Likewise, Congress spawned Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes Oxley, requiring ever higher policing of conflicts of interest by corporate directors and advisors, while one congressman appointed his boyfriend to a position with a company he regulated and another steered federal funds to her husband's bank.

The recent indictment of BP personnel is yet another example.

Eric Holder's U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Louisiana prepared an indictment against BP employees Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine. The indictment charged Kaluza and Vidrine with eleven counts of involuntary manslaughter (Superseding Indictment for Involuntary Manslaughter, et al., US District Court of Louisiana, paragraph 17, p 5.) and other felonies, in the matter of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout.

This indictment presents a situation and fact pattern, standards of duty and care, and accusations of gross negligence, all of which are also readily applicable to whoever had "ultimate authority" in the Benghazi incident that occurred on September 11, 2012.

First, the situation and fact pattern. In paragraphs 2-8 of the BP indictment, the US attorney describes BP's offshore drilling activities as "sophisticated," "dangerous by their nature," involving "serious risks" which "if uncontrolled... could cause a serious blowout... with the potential for ignition, explosions, casualties [and] death...." In those same paragraphs, the US attorney highlights a "fundamental concept and duty known as 'well control,' which included customs, standards and practices designed to ensure" safety "consistent with the industry standards of care." The US attorney concludes that Kaluza and Vidrine were "leaders [who] had a duty to maintain well control...."

The Benghazi situation and fact pattern are similar. Needless to say, a U.S. diplomatic mission, safe house and prison are "sophisticated." And Libya is more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico. A dozen violent events over the six months prior to September 11, 2012 and the near presence of terrorist camps made the Benghazi situation "dangerous by its nature" and one involving "serious risks" which "if uncontrolled... could cause... explosions, casualties [and] death...." The State Department and CIA have "customs, standards and practices designed to ensure" safety in such volatile areas. In fact, Benghazi came with advance warning, but those warnings and requests for additional security were denied. Imagine if BP had denied requests for an improved blowout preventer.

Second, the standards of duty and care. In paragraphs 17-20 of the BP indictment, the U.S. attorney discusses extensively the "negative test," an industry standard tool used to identify the presence of an "underbalanced condition... an indication that the well was not secure and that oil and natural gas could be entering the well." According to the indictment, leaders Kaluza and Vidrine were expected "to take appropriate precautions to ensure well control, including shutting in the well, communicating with BP personnel in Houston" and taking actions to address and remediate the situation.

Once again, the Benghazi incident is disturbingly similar, although something more obvious than a down-hole pressure test was available to assess whether or not Benghazi's own "underbalanced condition" was in effect. That more obvious evidence was a live streaming video of the attack on the Benghazi consulate. That video demonstrated a definite "increase in pressure" on the safe house with "the potential for ignition, explosions, casualties [and] death." Organized terrorists were seen attacking the consulate in real time; yet no actions were taken to address or remediate the situation.

Finally, the accusations of gross negligence. In paragraphs 18-23 of the BP indictment, the US attorney states that "Kaluza and Vidrine became aware of multiple indications... that the well was not secure." Much of paragraphs 19 & 20 merit specific mention for reasons that will be obvious:

Despite these significant indications that the well was not secure, defendants Kaluza and Vidrine failed to phone engineers onshore at that time to alert them to the problems. Instead, defendants... accepted an explanation from one or more members of the rig crew attributing the drill pipe pressure to an alleged "bladder effect." This explanation was scientifically illogical and was not recognized within the deepwater oil exploration industry. Defendants... nonetheless accepted the explanation, and failed to... discuss whether this alleged "bladder effect" was a realistic explanation for the observed pressures... Despite these ongoing, glaring indications... that the well was not secure, defendants... failed to investigate any further.

It seems "bladder effect" was to Kaluza and Vidrine, what "spontaneous protest" was to the Obama Administration; yet the U.S. attorney dismisses "bladder effect" as an insufficient defense. "Spontaneous protest" is perhaps even more illogical than "bladder effect," given the "ongoing, glaring indications" presented by real time video of a well-armed and organized terrorist militia seen launching its night-long attack on the consulate.

The U.S. attorney concludes the indictment with:

Defendants Kaluza and Vidrine, in violation of their duty of care, negligently and grossly negligently failed to maintain control of the Macondo well. Among other things, the defendants negligently and grossly negligently: failed to phone engineers... failed to adequately account for abnormal readings... accepted a nonsensical explanation... decided to stop investigating... which caused blowout of the well to later occur... and quickly caused explosions that killed eleven men... all of whom were subcontractors for... BP.

Thus, although the earth's natural geo-pressure was ultimately responsible for the BP blowout, the US attorney and Eric Holder felt strongly that Kaluza and Vidrine's inappropriate response merited charges of manslaughter. Paragraph 23 states that the "negligent and grossly negligent conduct of Kaluza and Vidrine proximately caused the deaths of these eleven men."

The BP indictment charges Kaluza and Vidrine, those with "ultimate authority," with eleven counts of involuntary manslaughter. Assuming the charges are valid and that we are a nation of laws, why shouldn't those with ultimate authority over the Benghazi incident face similar charges of proximate cause in the deaths of four men, all of whom were contractors or employees of the United States? Either Kaluza and Vidrine are innocent because good-faith mistakes happen; or they, and an "ultimate authority" in the Benghazi incident, are guilty.

Plato had very high standards for those who would be leaders, asking of them virtue through wisdom, courage and temperance. As described in The Republic, Plato expected that these philosopher-kings would exceed the general population both in character and performance. He advocated a double standard, but one that was higher for leaders than for the governed. How far we have fallen. Now our elected class is held to a lower standard. Is it too much to ask for mere parity?

Is it just me, or do politicians apply higher standards to others than they do to themselves?

For instance, there was that politician who thought it funny that billions in taxpayer money were wasted on poorly researched "shovel ready jobs;" while at the same time calling for the prosecution of debt rating agencies for their erroneous analysis of collateralized mortgage obligations.

Likewise, Congress spawned Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes Oxley, requiring ever higher policing of conflicts of interest by corporate directors and advisors, while one congressman appointed his boyfriend to a position with a company he regulated and another steered federal funds to her husband's bank.

The recent indictment of BP personnel is yet another example.

Eric Holder's U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Louisiana prepared an indictment against BP employees Robert Kaluza and Donald Vidrine. The indictment charged Kaluza and Vidrine with eleven counts of involuntary manslaughter (Superseding Indictment for Involuntary Manslaughter, et al., US District Court of Louisiana, paragraph 17, p 5.) and other felonies, in the matter of the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout.

This indictment presents a situation and fact pattern, standards of duty and care, and accusations of gross negligence, all of which are also readily applicable to whoever had "ultimate authority" in the Benghazi incident that occurred on September 11, 2012.

First, the situation and fact pattern. In paragraphs 2-8 of the BP indictment, the US attorney describes BP's offshore drilling activities as "sophisticated," "dangerous by their nature," involving "serious risks" which "if uncontrolled... could cause a serious blowout... with the potential for ignition, explosions, casualties [and] death...." In those same paragraphs, the US attorney highlights a "fundamental concept and duty known as 'well control,' which included customs, standards and practices designed to ensure" safety "consistent with the industry standards of care." The US attorney concludes that Kaluza and Vidrine were "leaders [who] had a duty to maintain well control...."

The Benghazi situation and fact pattern are similar. Needless to say, a U.S. diplomatic mission, safe house and prison are "sophisticated." And Libya is more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico. A dozen violent events over the six months prior to September 11, 2012 and the near presence of terrorist camps made the Benghazi situation "dangerous by its nature" and one involving "serious risks" which "if uncontrolled... could cause... explosions, casualties [and] death...." The State Department and CIA have "customs, standards and practices designed to ensure" safety in such volatile areas. In fact, Benghazi came with advance warning, but those warnings and requests for additional security were denied. Imagine if BP had denied requests for an improved blowout preventer.

Second, the standards of duty and care. In paragraphs 17-20 of the BP indictment, the U.S. attorney discusses extensively the "negative test," an industry standard tool used to identify the presence of an "underbalanced condition... an indication that the well was not secure and that oil and natural gas could be entering the well." According to the indictment, leaders Kaluza and Vidrine were expected "to take appropriate precautions to ensure well control, including shutting in the well, communicating with BP personnel in Houston" and taking actions to address and remediate the situation.

Once again, the Benghazi incident is disturbingly similar, although something more obvious than a down-hole pressure test was available to assess whether or not Benghazi's own "underbalanced condition" was in effect. That more obvious evidence was a live streaming video of the attack on the Benghazi consulate. That video demonstrated a definite "increase in pressure" on the safe house with "the potential for ignition, explosions, casualties [and] death." Organized terrorists were seen attacking the consulate in real time; yet no actions were taken to address or remediate the situation.

Finally, the accusations of gross negligence. In paragraphs 18-23 of the BP indictment, the US attorney states that "Kaluza and Vidrine became aware of multiple indications... that the well was not secure." Much of paragraphs 19 & 20 merit specific mention for reasons that will be obvious:

Despite these significant indications that the well was not secure, defendants Kaluza and Vidrine failed to phone engineers onshore at that time to alert them to the problems. Instead, defendants... accepted an explanation from one or more members of the rig crew attributing the drill pipe pressure to an alleged "bladder effect." This explanation was scientifically illogical and was not recognized within the deepwater oil exploration industry. Defendants... nonetheless accepted the explanation, and failed to... discuss whether this alleged "bladder effect" was a realistic explanation for the observed pressures... Despite these ongoing, glaring indications... that the well was not secure, defendants... failed to investigate any further.

It seems "bladder effect" was to Kaluza and Vidrine, what "spontaneous protest" was to the Obama Administration; yet the U.S. attorney dismisses "bladder effect" as an insufficient defense. "Spontaneous protest" is perhaps even more illogical than "bladder effect," given the "ongoing, glaring indications" presented by real time video of a well-armed and organized terrorist militia seen launching its night-long attack on the consulate.

The U.S. attorney concludes the indictment with:

Defendants Kaluza and Vidrine, in violation of their duty of care, negligently and grossly negligently failed to maintain control of the Macondo well. Among other things, the defendants negligently and grossly negligently: failed to phone engineers... failed to adequately account for abnormal readings... accepted a nonsensical explanation... decided to stop investigating... which caused blowout of the well to later occur... and quickly caused explosions that killed eleven men... all of whom were subcontractors for... BP.

Thus, although the earth's natural geo-pressure was ultimately responsible for the BP blowout, the US attorney and Eric Holder felt strongly that Kaluza and Vidrine's inappropriate response merited charges of manslaughter. Paragraph 23 states that the "negligent and grossly negligent conduct of Kaluza and Vidrine proximately caused the deaths of these eleven men."

The BP indictment charges Kaluza and Vidrine, those with "ultimate authority," with eleven counts of involuntary manslaughter. Assuming the charges are valid and that we are a nation of laws, why shouldn't those with ultimate authority over the Benghazi incident face similar charges of proximate cause in the deaths of four men, all of whom were contractors or employees of the United States? Either Kaluza and Vidrine are innocent because good-faith mistakes happen; or they, and an "ultimate authority" in the Benghazi incident, are guilty.

Plato had very high standards for those who would be leaders, asking of them virtue through wisdom, courage and temperance. As described in The Republic, Plato expected that these philosopher-kings would exceed the general population both in character and performance. He advocated a double standard, but one that was higher for leaders than for the governed. How far we have fallen. Now our elected class is held to a lower standard. Is it too much to ask for mere parity?

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