Month: March 2019

Secret Service director revises account of his role in leak case

Director Joseph P.

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Clancy this week alerted investigators from the Department of Homeland Security that he was revising his account, the officials said. Clancy says he now remembers details of the incident, which involved agency personnel circulating information from its files that Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), an outspoken critic of the service, had once applied for a job at the agency and was turned down.

During a highly publicized inquiry by the DHS inspector general, Clancy told investigators that he was unaware of the information about Chaffetz until being informed April 1 that The Washington Post planned to publish an article about the matter, according to the report by Inspector General John Roth. Clancy also told investigators that he had been unaware that his staff was circulating the information internally, in violation of federal privacy law.

Roth’s report, released Wednesday, found that 45 agents and supervisors had peeked at Chaffetz’s personnel file, which was stored in an internal Secret Service database. The report said 18 supervisors, including the deputy director and Clancy’s chief of staff, knew that the information had been accessed inside the agency. But the report said Clancy was a notable exception and had never been informed.

Clancy now says he knew that the unflattering information was being shared inside his agency and was told about it by a top deputy before it was leaked to the news media, officials said.

As a result of his new statements, investigators from Roth’s office plan to reinterview Clancy about his revised account, the officials said.

In a statement to The Post, Clancy said Thursday that after the inspector general’s report was released this week, he recalled becoming aware on March 25 of a “speculative rumor” that Chaffetz had applied to the service and had been rejected. Clancy said he considered it at the time to be “not credible” and “not indicative” of any inappropriate action by employees.

“It was not until later that I became aware that this rumor had developed as Agency employees had used an Agency database to gain access to this information,” Clancy said in the statement. “I feel it is extremely important to be as accurate as possible regarding my knowledge of this matter and I have personally spoken to Chairman Chaffetz to advise him of the additional information that I provided to the Inspector General.”

Chaffetz, who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and has often clashed with Secret Service brass, said in an interview Friday that Clancy apologized to him in a telephone call. The lawmaker said Clancy also acknowledged during the call that he had learned the information about the job application several days before it became public but then had forgotten.

Chaffetz said it’s troubling that the director didn’t seem too concerned about his staff members knowing something they would have learned by violating federal privacy law.

“It wasn’t as if the director made any effort to squelch this at the time,” Chaffetz said. “He knew about it the day after the hearing. There’s no evidence that he did anything about it.”

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Lawmakers from both parties have said the efforts to embarrass Chaffetz are intolerable and have called on Clancy to punish those in his agency who were involved. One of Clancy’s hand-picked assistant directors, Edward Lowery, urged that the information about Chaffetz be made public, according to Roth’s report.

A Secret Service official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, said Clancy should not have been expected to know immediately that the information came from an internal file or that it posed a problem.

“Upon receiving a speculative rumor of this nature, a senior manager or any other employee would have no reasonable expectation to immediately know, or instinctively presume, that the information had to come from a Secret Service data system,” the official said.

The latest disclosures about Clancy come at time when doubt is mounting over his ability to reform the agency after high-profile security failures and misconduct in recent years.

President Obama picked Clancy as director this year against the advice of an administration panel of experts, who urged selecting an outsider to help improve the Secret Service. Clancy is a 27-year veteran of the agency and the former head of the president’s security detail. The panel said the Secret Service needed a transformative new leader without agency ties who could shake up its entrenched culture of secrecy and impunity.

In this latest incident, top leaders in the Secret Service began fuming when Chaffetz led a March 24 committee hearing at which he repeatedly criticized Clancy for mishandling several cases of security lapses and misconduct, and accused him of misleading the committee. Within minutes of the hearing’s start, an agent looked up Chaffetz’s name in an internal master database, and found that he had applied to be an agent in 2003 and had been turned down without getting an interview, according to Roth’s report.

Roth’s team found that Lowery had urged making public that Chaffetz had been turned down for a job. “Just to be fair,” Lowery wrote in his March 31 email.

“Again they are demonstrating why we need to conduct thorough oversight of their agency,” Chaffetz said in reaction. “Their culture is reprehensible.”

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On Friday, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Clancy expressing his deep concern at the effort to use private information to smear a critic, and he demanded answers about how Clancy would hold people accountable in the incident.

“No one, whether a Member of Congress or a private citizen, should have private information violated in this manner. This incident is precisely why Americans do not trust the federal government with their personal information,” Goodlatte said.

He demanded that Clancy tell him by Wednesday how he will discipline the individuals identified as sharing this information and specifically asked about Lowery.

Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), a friend of Chaffetz who sat in on a briefing Wednesday on the investigation’s findings, said Clancy needs to recognize that the agency has broken a sacred trust with the public – not just a congressman.

“This is about expecting and trusting law enforcement officials to use the special tools we entrust them with,” Gowdy said. “You cannot use these special tools the public gives you to go after someone doing their job.”

In response to the inspector general’s findings about inappropriate conduct at the Secret Service, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Thursday that Obama was concerned about the activity but had not lost faith in the director.

“The president certainly has confidence that the appropriate steps will be taken to hold accountable those who didn’t follow procedures,” Earnest said. “When there are mistakes that are made, we’ve seen the director do the right thing, which is step up and take responsibility and offer an apology where it’s appropriate, but also assure not just Congressman Chaffetz, but also the president and the American people, that there will be accountability.”

Earnest added that the service’s initial response to this report is an indication that “there is strong leadership in place at the Secret Service.”

Despite the high expectations set by Obama and DHS leaders, the agency has been bedeviled by more high-profile miscues.

In March, two top supervisors, including the second in command of Obama’s security detail, spent a night drinking at an agent’s retirement party in a downtown bar and then drove onto the White House complex, through barricades and into an investigation of a suspected bomb. A watch commander decided to let them drive off without any sobriety testing, even though officers on the scene thought that both men were drunk.

In April, a female staffer reported that a top supervisor at headquarters had sexually assaulted her at an office party. That same month, an errant gyrocopter landed on the White House grounds, revealing that the service had little protection from drones and similar unmanned aircraft.

NSW man flees car washed down river

A man who climbed out of his car as it was being washed away in floodwaters has been rescued after sheltering in a NSW cabin for two days.

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Michael Bermingham’s car was washed off a road near Upper Allyn on Tuesday night but the 56-year-old reportedly managed to escape along with his dog after his car was swept three kilometres down the flooded Allyn River.

“I was being rumbled and tumbled and turned around in water upside down,” he told ABC at John Hunter Hospital.

He said he may have been in the waters for nearly 20 minutes before he managed to escape and make his way to a nearby cabin to the north of Dungog.

Mr Bermingham was found on Thursday shortly after his belongings were found nearby by members of the public.

He is in a stable condition at John Hunter Hospital.

Recovery efforts around the state are continuing as residents return home to assess the damage in Raymond Terrace.

“The storm waters have rattled quite a few of the houses. There is going to be a bit of a clean-up,” Port Stephens Deputy Mayor Chris Doohan told AAP.

For those returning home it could be hard to know how to get support to repair damage, Legal Aid Disaster Response co-ordinator Brenda Staggs said.

“When people have been through something traumatic like this, dealing with insurers can be a little bit confusing,” Ms Staggs said.

Although the damage was not as extensive as the havoc wreaked by storms in the region in April, she expected many calls in the coming weeks.

She also reminded people that temporary accommodation costs could be claimed from insurers.

NRMA insurance spokeswoman said they had already had around 860 claims for storm damage to homes across NSW and the damage was quite widespread.

SES has reminded people not to take risks around floodwaters even as the weather cleared.

“It is particularly dangerous after events. That’s when we have some bad accidents,” SES spokeswoman Sue Pritchard said, warning people not risk driving through areas until floodwaters had cleared.

Rescue crews are still searching for experienced yachtsman Mal Lennon, 62, after he was washed overboard by a large wave while at the helm of his yacht Amante on the NSW mid-north coast on Wednesday.

The search near Broughton Island off the coast of Port Stephens is being carried out by marine police but rescuers say there is little chance the sailor survived rough sea conditions.

Official: VA improperly spent $6 billion on care

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been spending at least $6 billion a year in violation of federal contracting rules to pay for medical care and supplies, wasting taxpayer money and putting veterans at risk, according to an internal memo written by the agency’s senior official for procurement.

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In a 35-page document addressed to VA Secretary Robert McDonald, the official accuses other agency leaders of “gross mismanagement” and making a “mockery” of federal acquisition laws that require competitive bidding and proper contracts.

Jan Frye, deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and logistics, describes a culture of “lawlessness and chaos” at the Veterans Health Administration, the massive health-care system for 8.7 million veterans.

“Doors are swung wide open for fraud, waste and abuse,” he writes in the March memo, which was obtained by The Washington Post. He adds, “I can state without reservation that VA has and continues to waste millions of dollars by paying excessive prices for goods and services due to breaches of Federal laws.”

Frye describes in detail a series of practices that he says run afoul of federal rules, including the widespread use of purchase cards, which are usually meant as a convenience for minor purchases of up to $3,000, to buy billions of dollars worth of medical supplies without contracts. In one example, he says that up to $1.2 billion in prosthetics were bought using purchase cards without contracts during an 18-month period that ended last year.

He also explains how VA has failed to engage in competitive bidding or sign contracts with outside hospital and healthcare providers that offer medical care for veterans that the agency cannot provide, such as specialized tests and surgeries and other procedures. Frye says VA has paid at least $5 billion in such fees, in violation of federal rules that the agency’s own general counsel has said since 2009 must be followed.

Frye alleges further violations in the agency’s purchase of billions of dollars worth of prosthetics and in the acquisition of a wide range of daily medical and surgical supplies. He says many products are bought without the competitive bidding and contracts essential to ensure quality care, effective use of tight dollars and proper government oversight.

“These unlawful acts may potentially result in serious harm or death to America’s veterans,” Frye wrote. “Collectively, I believe they serve to decay the entire VA healthcare system.”

VA spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said in a statement that some of the care the agency pays for is not covered by federal acquisition law. She also said that the agency is trying to manage rapid growth in medical care administered by outside providers, with authorizations for outside medical care jumping 46 percent in the first four months of 2015 over the same period last year.

Dillon said VA officials are urging Congress to pass legislation that would allow an “expedited form of purchasing care” for veterans who need to go outside the VA system. She said the bill “would also resolve legal uncertainties that have arisen” regarding the use of purchasing agreements other than those required by federal acquisition regulations.

VA has been under intense pressure to provide adequate care to the surge of veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but Frye makes clear in his memo that the agency’s violations of purchasing law have been going on for years and that senior leaders have had many opportunities to revamp their practices.

He discloses his repeated efforts to raise his concerns with other senior officials at the agency but says he was consistently ignored. He also accuses top agency officials of deceiving Congress when they were asked about questionable practices.

VA operates one of the largest healthcare systems in the country, spanning 150 hospitals and more than 800 outpatient clinics. The agency has been struggling to serve not only the veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, but also a surge in veterans who served in the 1960s and 1970s.

VA has been rocked since last year by revelations about long wait times for veterans seeking treatment for health issues including cancer and post-traumatic stress disorder. McDonald’s predecessor, Eric Shinseki, resigned as VA secretary last year after a coverup of monthslong hospital wait times became public, and Congress has given the system $10 billion in new funding to ramp up private medical care.

On Thursday, Frye will have a chance to explain his concerns directly to lawmakers. He is scheduled to testify before the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee about waste and fraud in the purchase card program.

Frye, 64, is a retired Army colonel who has overseen VA’s acquisitions and logistics programs — one of the federal government’s largest — since 2005. In his role as the agency’s senior procurement executive, he is responsible for developing and supervising VA’s practices for acquiring services and supplies, but he is not in charge of making the purchases. A former Army inspector general, he has held senior acquisition positions over 30 years in government.

Some of his concerns were previously flagged by VA’s inspector general, who has reported for years that weak contracting systems put the agency at risk of waste and abuse. Thousands of pharmaceutical purchases were made without competition or contracts in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, often by unqualified employees, investigators found. And according to documents that have not been made public, the inspector general’s office has warned VA repeatedly that its use of purchase cards needs better oversight.

For the most part, Frye does not explain why the rules are so widely flouted. But he suggests, in this discussion of purchase cards, that the reason may be laziness. He calls these payments an “easy button” way of buying things. Frye told McDonald he became aware in 2102 that government purchase cards were being used improperly by VA. About 2,000 cards had been issued to employees who were ordering products and services without contracts, Frye recounts.

He said his concerns grew after learning that a supervisor in New York had recorded more than $50 million in prosthetics purchases in increments of $24,999 — $1 under the charging limit on each card. In a response to a member of Congress who inquired about the purchases, Shinseki had few answers. “No contract files exist” and “there is no evidence of full and open competition,” Shinseki wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Purchase cards, Frye says in his memo, can be a sufficient means of acquiring goods and services for “micro-purchases” up to $3,000. Above that limit, the cards can be used for payment only if there is a certified invoice linked to a properly awarded contract.

Frye’s concerns about payments for outside medical services are rooted in the reality that VA hospitals do not have the resources or specialists to provide all the treatment veterans require, such as obstetrics and joint replacements. For these services, VA normally refers veterans to a list of doctors or labs in their area.

The agency, Frye says, is required to identify providers through a competitive process and contract with them to ensure that the government pays reasonable prices and gets the best value and quality. And contracts help ensure veterans are legally protected if they get poor care or if a medical procedure goes wrong.

But according to Frye’s account, VA spent about $5 billion on outside medical care in both 2013 and 2014 in the absence of contracts, and such practices “extend back many years.” “Based on my inquiry in January 2013, (the Office of the General Counsel) confirmed in writing the fact VHA was violating the law,” Frye says.

Large medical systems similar to VA order many supplies in bulk through a list of approved vendors, identified through a competitive process, to ensure quick delivery for the best price. But VA’s system for these “just-in-time” purchases is deeply flawed, and this is yet another way that the agency wastes money, Frye says.

He writes that there are many types of supplies that are not covered by these arrangements. Instead, they are ordered off the shelf, without competition and for higher prices, from a “shopping list” containing 400,000 items, “indiscriminately and not in accordance” with acquisition laws.

Tennessee shooter struggled with clash of faith, drugs

It was getting late and Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez had work the next morning at his new job some two hours away in Franklin, said a close friend who was with him that night and spent several hours with him in the days leading up to the shooting.

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Abdulazeez dropped off a couple of his friends at their homes on the night in April, snorted some crushed caffeine pills and started to drive.

A little after 2 a.m., Abdulazeez was arrested for driving under the influence, according to court papers, an incident sharply at odds with blog posts in which he portrayed himself as a devout Muslim and his existence in this world a “prison of monotony and routine.”

The portrait emerging of Abdulazeez isn’t one of a committed Muslim or vengeful jihadist, but rather an aimless young man who came from a troubled home and struggled to hold down a job after college, said friends and law enforcement officials.

He never dated, the friend said.

In a statement, his family said Abdulazeez’s mental illness had contributed to the crime. “For many years, our son suffered from depression. It grieves us beyond belief to know that his pain found its expression in this heinous act of violence,” the statement said.

Abdulazeez had been in and out of treatment for his depression and frequently stopped taking his medication, despite his parents’ pleas for him to continue, said a person close to the family.

Abdulazeez smoked pot occasionally and then would feel guilty for violating his faith and beat himself up for it, said the close friend who has known Abdulazeez for 15 years and was recently questioned by the FBI. The friend, also a Muslim, spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity because he is concerned for his family’s privacy.

The friend said Abdulazeez was especially ashamed of his DUI arrest, which led to his mugshot being posted online and in Just Busted, a newspaper sold at local gas stations.

“He was pretty upset about it,” said the friend, who spoke with Abdulazeez almost daily in the weeks and days leading up to the shooting. “It was kind of degrading to him.”

Abdulazeez’s friends said he liked to shoot guns, drive four-wheelers through the mud and hike in the mountains. Within the past year, he bought two assault rifles — an AK-74 and an AR-15 — and a Saiga 12 pistol-grip shotgun from an online weapons site. Abdulazeez and his friends would drive out to the Prentice Cooper State Forest, where they would blast away at the state park’s gun range. None of his friends thought twice about his decision to purchase military-style assault weapons.

“Take any typical Chattanoogan — Christian or Muslim — and he’s going to like to shoot guns, ride trucks and climb mountains,” the friend said.

Abdulazeez’s father was angry when he spotted one of the assault rifles in their home, and Abdulazeez hid other guns from him. “His dad was always against him having guns and said they weren’t safe to have around the house,” the friend said. Abdulazeez insisted that he was old enough to handle them responsibly.

The friend and Abdulazeez — along with two other young Muslim men — spent hundreds of hours together over the past four years, including the weeks and months leading up to the violent attack. Sometimes they talked about the Middle East’s bloody wars, such as the battles between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and the chaos in Syria.

Abdulazeez blamed some of the bloodshed on U.S. foreign policy.

“All of us are upset right now about the fighting. It wasn’t anything that would throw up red flags,” said the friend. “We never would have seen this coming at all, but especially from him. Nobody suspected a thing. If we had, we would have done something to prevent this from happening.”

Indeed, the most striking thing about the last days that Abdulazeez spent with friends is how normal they appear to have been. Two days before the shooting, he texted his friend to ask if he wanted to go hot-rodding outside Chattanooga.

“You wanna go to lookout?” he asked, referring to the mountain on the city’s outskirts.

“IDK,” the friend replied. “I might have to run a few more errands.”

“I hear ya,” Abdulazeez texted back. “Let me know.”

The two men met up later that night around 11 p.m. and took off in a Ford Mustang Abdulazeez had rented — the same car that he used in the attacks. They drove for hours around the curving mountain roads surrounding Chattanooga. “We talked and had a lot of ‘oh [expletive]’ moments,” said the friend who recalls returning home around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, the friends exchanged texts for the last time. The friend was struggling with how to balance his Muslim faith with the more secular demands of his work, which included serving bacon to customers.

Abdulazeez responded a quote from the prophet Muhammad — that speaks to the tensions in the world between believers and non-believers. “Whosoever shows enmity to a wali [friend] of Mine, then I have declared war against him,” it begins. It ends by encouraging devout Muslims to keep the faith and draw closer to God.

Although the exchange suggests Abdulazeez was devout, he often seemed to struggle with his faith. Abdulazeez was fasting for the Ramadan holiday, which requires Muslims not to eat or drink during daylight hours. But he doesn’t appear to have regularly attended his parents’ mosque in the months leading up to the shooting, according to members of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga.

“The father came regularly. The mother did occasionally,” said Bassam Issa, the president of the society, which includes the mosque. “We really didn’t know much about the boy. He wasn’t around.”

Abdulazeez also struggled to find work after he graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with an engineering degree. He briefly landed a job at a nuclear power plant in Ohio but was dismissed when he failed a background check. He told friends he had failed the company’s drug test after smoking marijuana.

He remained in Ohio, where he lived with relatives and worked for a moving company.

Back home, his family also appeared to be struggling. His mother had filed for divorce in 2009, alleging physical and sexual abuse, but later pulled the petition. In recent years, their house, in a middle-class suburb of neatly tended lawns and towering oaks, began to fall into disrepair. The home’s wooden clapboards are warped, and the gray paint is peeling. The lawn is badly overgrown.

Issa said that immediately after the shooting, Abdulazeez’s father apologized for the damage his son had done. “He was distraught,” Issa said. “His voice was broken, and he said he was very sorry for what his son caused to the community of Chattanooga and the Islamic community here.”

Issa wondered if Abdulazeez had been radicalized during his several trips to Jordan, the last in 2014 when he was in the region for seven months.

“It has to be the overseas trip that caused this,” he said. “That’s the only thing I can figure out.”

Others who knew Abdulazeez when he was a mixed-martial-arts fighter reflected on his time in the ring, searching their memory for signs of potential violence.

Chet Blalock, owner of Blalock’s International Mixed Martial Arts Gym in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., described Abdulazeez as “very respectful” but stubbornly determined.

“My students would get him in a chokehold, and he wouldn’t tap out,” Blalock said, describing an incident in 2012. “He would just go to sleep.”

“It was a little crazy,” he added.

Less than two hours after the violent rampage, Abdulazeez’s friend texted him to check when they’d be able to meet up for the Muslim holiday of Eid. He’d seen the news alerts about the shooting in Chattanooga and wanted to talk about it with Abdulazeez, who he assumed was still at his new job outside Nashville.

By that point, Abdulazeez was already dead.

An earnest ‘My bad’ is good business

When he complained about the noise in Cabin 7243, he says a cruise line representative offered to either relocate him “temporarily” to a different room or to give him earplugs.

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He couldn’t move because he was next to his elderly in-laws, who needed his assistance.

“No further compensation was offered, and we felt that we were just brushed off,” says Landman, who works for a hotel in Las Vegas.

I asked Carnival about Landman’s cruise. It reviewed his case and decided that as a “goodwill gesture” it would refund 20 percent of his cruise fare and offer him a 15 percent discount on a future sailing.

Landman wants to know: Is that a sincere apology?

It’s a timely question. Companies are constantly apologizing to their customers, but the recent news cycle has delivered two high-profile mea culpas for travelers. Volkswagen last month said it regretted rigging some emissions tests, stating it was “deeply sorry” that it betrayed the trust of its customers and the public. United Airlines’ new chief executive, Oscar Munoz, is on a national apology tour, admitting the company hasn’t lived up to customers’ expectations since its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines.

For wronged travelers, simply having a company admit to a problem is a good start. But gauging the sincerity of the apology is not always so easy.

Although there’s no magic formula for determining whether an apology is genuine, there are indicators of good faith, experts say. They include the right timing, sufficient remorse, an offer to be transparent and cooperative, concrete actions and appropriate compensation.

One of the hallmarks of a sincere apology is its promptness. “Are they doing it because the clock has run out and they have no choice?” asks Dan McGinn, a reputation management expert based in Arlington, Virginia. “A public apology, when it ultimately comes, is often too convoluted to be of any real value. The wording is carefully calibrated to express regret, without accepting responsibility.”

An apology like VW’s, which came soon after the scandal hit the news, is more compelling than United’s, issued via full-page newspaper ads years after the painful merger with Continental and subsequent low customer-service scores. (It’s also more convincing than Carnival’s, which came only after a consumer advocate asked about Cabin 7243.)

For an apology to be effective, a company must admit its guilt. And that can be difficult, according to Matt Brubaker, a corporate messaging expert with FMG Leading. “In many cases, public apologies are really not apologies at all, but PR statements designed to minimize risk, eliminate negative consequences and save face while sidestepping the actual wrongdoing or misstep,” he says.

Another sign the apology is legitimate is whether it is accompanied by a sincere expression of remorse, preferably from someone at a high level, according to “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” co-author Jennifer Thomas, a researcher specializing in the psychology of corporate apologies.

“You have to not only express regret but also say that you’re sorry for the hurt you’ve caused,” she says.

By that measure, VW and United put a few points on the board. Both apologies came directly from the CEO, even though they were a little vague about the damage they caused their customers.

Credible apologies also have to include a promise to do better, says Gary Frisch, who has covered the VW apology for the Bulldog Reporter, a public-relations trade publication.

“A good apology needs to include the promise of transparency — from the offer to cooperate with any investigation to taking questions from the media and answering them as fully as possible,” he says. “The minute you say, ‘No comment,’ or walk away from the microphone without a Q&A, you’ve lost the public’s trust.”

The apology must also be accompanied by action, like taking Cabin 7243 out of the Miracle’s inventory, improving airline service or even finding new leadership.

“You look at their actions,” says Rasheen Carbin, who handles PR for a technology company in Oak Brook, Illinois, “not just their words.”

Carbin says by that standard, VW’s mea culpa, which came from its (now former) CEO, Martin Winterkorn, was pretty sincere, “not because it was especially heartfelt but because he lost his job. Nothing shows the public that you’re serious like someone getting fired.”

Munoz didn’t offer a way to contact him directly in his newspaper ads, instead pointing the public to a generic company Web site. That hasn’t gone over well with some of United’s customers.

Compensation is another element of a sincere apology — maybe the most difficult of all. How do you make things right?

“A business should offer a refund, replacement or an additional gift item or service to show their sincerity,” says Toni Coleman, a McLean, Virginia, psychotherapist and relationship expert. “This would truly say, ‘We are sorry, value your opinion and business, and want to serve you again.’ “

Carnival’s offer certainly fits that bill. It’s still unclear how VW will compensate its customers, and United hasn’t offered its passengers any kind of make-good for the years of dreadful service they received.

And the final ingredient? “Asking for forgiveness,” says Thomas, the psychologist. That’s often implied in corporate mea culpas but rarely articulated.

No apology is perfect, of course. Landman isn’t turning down Carnival’s money, but he is unsure whether he’ll ever book another cruise with the line. VW owners are stuck with their vehicles, and United’s customers are unlikely to defect to another airline, now that most competition has been squeezed out of the industry.

Anyone care to apologize for that?

Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United. E-mail him at [email protected]杭州桑拿按摩,.