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Archive for the ‘impunity’ Category

Dumb Choices: Why Hillary should not be president

Posted by Charles II on October 2, 2014

I had five minutes to read Hillary Clinton’s book, Hard Choices, so I skimmed 10 pages on Latin America. Although I knew where she stood on Honduras, reading her explanation about that and the ongoing Cuban embargo made me realize how much contempt she has for Latin America.

I’m not a fan of Fidel Castro. Read Havana Nocturne (T.J. English) and see if it doesn’t raise questions in your mind about his character. I do recognize that he has done some good things, both in ending extreme poverty in Cuba and in terms of opposing apartheid and elevating world health. But I recognize that he’s done it through undemocratic means. That’s Realpolitik: understanding why leaders can be bad people yet popular, or at least more popular than the alternative.

But the embargo against Cuba–which was just extended for a year–is not just a “relic of the Cold War.” It is a flagrantly and increasingly illegal act, condemned by the entire world. Not even the U.K., not even Japan, not even Poland stands with us (Israel does). But Hillary Clinton goes along with the US line that we have to continue to isolate ourselves in order to force the Cuban government to democratize.

Even though it hasn’t worked for 52 years.

Even though the only people really hurt by it are the Cuban people.

And, according to Hillary, any Latin American country that sees the embargo not as a quaint “relic”, one that we can keep around out of fondness for the death and misery it causes, but as U.S. bullying (not to mention arrogance and stupidity) must be a commie creep like that Chaaavez fellow.

That is not leadership, Madame Secretary. That is contempt for Latin America and for the intelligence of your readers.

And then there’s Honduras. And Nicaragua. And Venezuela. And Brazil (!) All of whom are/were run by “strongmen.” Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is even the “caricature of a strongman.”

No, Madame Secretary. You’re a caricature of American arrogance and blindness. And your justification for your actions during the Honduran coup is transparently dishonest. You tell us that Oscar Arias (correctly) told you that a military coup against a democratically-elected leader could have a “domino effect” throughout a region that had been plagued by coups and dictatorship. You were most entertained by this “novel interpretation” (if I recall your phrase correctly) of the domino theory.

FFFFFFF. If this is the sort of contempt for Latin America that you display in public, what you must feel in your heart!

No more fake Democrats, please.

Posted in Brazil, Chavez, Cuba, Honduras, impunity, Latin America, Venezuela | 6 Comments »

Justice dismayed

Posted by Charles II on June 24, 2014

Lisa O’Carroll and Patrick Wintour, The Guardian:

Rebekah Brooks, his [Andy Coulson’s] predecessor in the job [editor of the News of the World}, walked free from the Old Bailey after she was cleared of all four of the charges she faced in the eight-month trial.

[Brooks husband] Charlie [Brooks], [secretary Cheryl] Carter and News International’s head of security, Mark Hanna, were all cleared of one count each – conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

The News of the World’s former managing editor Stuart Kuttner was also found not guilty on phone-hacking charges, but the jury have not reached unanimous verdicts on two further charges faced by Coulson and one charge faced by the News of the World’s former royal editor Clive Goodman.

Brooks’s acquittal will provide some relief for Rupert Murdoch, who once described the woman who rose to be chief executive of his London based News International operation his “top priority” when the phone hacking crisis first broke in the summer of 2011.

The only Murdoch employee found guilty was Andy Coulson, David Cameron’s former head of communications.

This follows a familiar pattern: criminality is rampant at a corporation, but the boss didn’t have the slightest knowledge; jail time for the small fry, not even a slap on the wrist for the people who–however cleverly and deniably– ordered the deeds. How different things would be, I think, if the law held the boss responsible for whatever was done by a corporation.

Posted in corruption, impunity, Media machine, Rupert Murdoch | Comments Off

The tax grift

Posted by Charles II on May 20, 2014

Citizens for Tax Justice:

American Fortune 500 corporations are likely saving about $550 billion by holding nearly $2 trillion of “permanently reinvested” profits offshore. Twenty-eight of these corporations reveal that they have paid an income tax rate of 10 percent or less to the governments of the countries where these profits are officially held, indicating that most of these profits are likely in offshore tax havens.

While congressional hearings over the past few years have focused attention on the tax avoidance strategies of technology corporations like Apple and Microsoft, this report shows that a diverse array of companies are using offshore tax havens, including U.S. Steel, the pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the apparel manufacturer Nike, the supermarket chain Safeway, the financial firm American Express, and banking giants Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

These 28 companies are not alone in shifting their profits to low-tax havens—they’re only alone in disclosing it. A total of 301 Fortune 500 corporations have disclosed, in their most recent financial reports, holding some of their income as “permanently reinvested” offshore profits. At the end of 2013, these permanently reinvested earnings totaled a whopping $1.95 trillion.

The only way to have both balanced budgets and low taxes on the middle class is to tax deadbeat corporations. Everyone else, especially those many corporations which do pay taxes (notably, corporations whose operations are all in the US), should be in favor of this.

Posted in impunity, taxes, The Plunderbund | 4 Comments »

They all just hang out together

Posted by Charles II on March 16, 2014

Robert Parry, The Consortium:

[Following the Iraq debacle,] You might have expected that the neocons would have been banished to the farthest reaches of U.S. policymaking, so far away that they would never be heard from again. However, instead of disappearing, the neocons have proved their staying power, now reemerging as the architects of the U.S. strategy toward Ukraine.

… the ultimate goal of the Ukraine gambit is not just “regime change” in Kiev but “regime change” in Moscow. By eliminating the independent-minded and strong-willed Putin, the neocons presumably fantasize about slipping one of their ciphers (perhaps a Russian version of Ahmed Chalabi) into the Kremlin.

Then, the neocons could press ahead, unencumbered, toward their original “regime change” scheme in the Middle East, with wars against Syria and Iran.

JP Sottile, The Consortium:

Behind the U.S.-backed coup that ousted the democratically elected president of Ukraine are the economic interests of giant corporations – from Cargill to Chevron – which see the country as a potential “gold mine” of profits from agricultural and energy exploitation, reports JP Sottile.

Despite the turmoil within Ukrainian politics after Yanukovych rejected a major trade deal with the European Union just seven weeks earlier, Cargill was confident enough about the future to fork over $200 million to buy a stake in Ukraine’s UkrLandFarming. According to Financial Times, UkrLandFarming is the world’s eighth-largest land cultivator and second biggest egg producer.

On Dec. 13, Cargill announced the purchase of a stake in a Black Sea port. Cargill’s port at Novorossiysk — to the east of Russia’s strategically significant and historically important Crimean naval base — gives them a major entry-point to Russian markets and adds them to the list of Big Ag companies investing in ports around the Black Sea, both in Russia and Ukraine.

Cargill was decidedly confident amidst the post-EU deal chaos.

Freedom House, the National Endowment for Democracy and National Democratic Institute helped fund and support the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution” in 2004. Freedom House is funded directly by the U.S. Government, the National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S. Department of State.

David Kramer is a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and, according to his Freedom House bio page, formerly a “Senior Fellow at the Project for the New American Century.”

That puts Kramer and, by one degree of separation, Big Ag fixer Morgan Williams in the company of PNAC co-founder Robert Kagan who, as coincidence would have it, is married to Victoria “F*ck the EU” Nuland, the current Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Interestingly enough, Ms. Nuland spoke to the U.S.-Ukrainian Foundation last Dec. 13, extolling the virtues of the Euromaidan movement as the embodiment of “the principles and values that are the cornerstones for all free democracies.”

These people hang out together, they have the same triumphalist world view in which America is the lamp to the world and capitalism = democracy, so they work together on common goals, even if those goals may contradict international law and those American values that are not commercial. It’s not a conspiracy, but neither is it the government that Americans voted for when they voted for Barack Obama. After all, what Cargill, Monsanto, and John Deere are doing in the Ukraine (using our State Department and the tax money collected by our government) is more akin to a hostile takeover of the kind that Mitt Romney pioneered.

Posted in impunity, Russia, State Department, The Plunderbund | 3 Comments »

New York City goes Stasi. Will the US?

Posted by Charles II on August 26, 2013

This is not a new story, but new information has significantly changed its interpretation.

I wish it were an exaggeration to say that New York City has gone to a level of surveillance that compares with the Stasi. Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, writing in New York Magazine make that case:

The activities [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly set in motion after 9/11 pushed deeply into the private lives of New Yorkers, surveilling Muslims in their mosques, their sporting fields, their businesses, their social clubs, even their homes in a way not seen in America since the FBI and CIA monitored antiwar activists during the Nixon administration. It was a proactive approach, but, in constitutional terms, a novel one.

To reinvent the Intelligence Division, Kelly called on David Cohen, a former senior CIA officer…

Cohen and [CIA operative Larry] Sanchez’s guiding idea was that if the NYPD had its own eyes and ears in the ethnic communities of the five boroughs, maybe things could be different. They needed to be in bookshops to spot the terrorist with his newly grown beard, or in restaurants to overhear friends ranting about America. If detectives infiltrated Muslim student groups, maybe they could identify young men seething with embryonic fanaticism.

Sanchez told colleagues that he had borrowed the idea from Israeli methods of controlling the military-occupied West Bank, the swath of land captured from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

[Judge Charles] Haight ruled: “For the purpose of detecting or preventing terrorist activities, the NYPD is authorized to visit any place and attend any event that is open to the public on the same terms and conditions as members of the public generally.”

To accomplish their goals, however, Cohen and Sanchez needed to go far beyond what the FBI could do. They needed to take a broad view of what was related to terrorist activity. As Sanchez would explain to Congress years later: “Part of our mission is to protect New York City citizens from becoming terrorists.

He [Cohen] recruited young Middle Eastern officers who spoke Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. They would be the ones raking the coals, looking for hot spots, and they became known as “rakers.”

The routine was almost always the same, whether they were visiting a restaurant, deli, barbershop, or travel agency. The two rakers would enter and casually chat with the owner. The first order of business was to determine his ethnicity and that of the patrons. This would determine which file the business would go into. A report on Pakistani locations, for instance, or one on Moroccans. Next, they’d do what the NYPD called “gauging sentiment.” Were the patrons observant Muslims? Did they wear traditionally ethnic clothes, like shalwar kameez? Were the women wearing hijabs?

If the Arabic news channel Al Jazeera was playing on the TV, the police would note it and observe how people were acting. Were they laughing, smiling, or cheering at reports of U.S. casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan? Did they talk Middle Eastern politics? If the business sold extremist literature or CDs, the officers would buy one or two. Was the owner selling fake I.D.’s or untaxed cigarettes? Police would note it. If customers could rent time on a computer, police might pay for a session and look at the computer’s search history. Were people viewing jihadist videos or searching for bomb-making instructions? Who was speaking Urdu?

On their way out, the rakers would look at bulletin boards. Was a rally planned in the neighborhood? The rakers might attend. Was there a cricket league? The rakers might join. If someone advertised a room for rent, the cops would tear off a tab with the address or phone number. It could be a cheap apartment used by a terrorist.

Surveillance turned out to be habit-forming. Cohen and Sanchez’s efforts also reached beyond the Muslim community. Undercover officers traveled the country, keeping tabs on liberal protest groups like [environmental awareness group] Time’s Up and the Friends of Brad Will [which protested police murders in Oaxaca, Mexico]. Police infiltrated demonstrations and collected information about antiwar groups and those that marched against police brutality. Detectives monitored activist websites and copied the contents into police files, including one memo in 2008 for Kelly that reported the contents of a website about a group of women organizing a boycott to protest the police shooting of Sean Bell, an unarmed black man killed the morning before his wedding….

The Demographics Unit had thousands of dollars to spend on meals and expenses …

That’s when [Lt. Hector] Berdecia realized that, in the hunt for terrorists, his detectives gravitated toward the best food.

And now, the lawyers in the Handschu case [which reined in police infiltration of legitimate political activism] have returned to court, arguing that Kelly and Cohen, in their effort to keep the city safe, have crossed constitutional lines. Regardless of the outcome, the NYPD’s programs are likely to join waterboarding, secret prisons, and NSA wiretapping as emblems of post-9/11 America, when security justified many practices that would not have been tolerated before.

No successes in stopping terrorism; indeed, no information garnered about a potential actual terrorist. Many thousands of people monitored and files created. Surveillance extended even to plainly domestic and plainly legitimate activist groups: the restrictions of Handschu circumvented by an appeal to anti-terrorism. CIA operatives designing surveillance of Americans.

And Ray Kelly could become the head of Homeland Security.

Posted in CIA, Constitutional crisis, fascism, impunity, terrorism | 2 Comments »

DoJ doctors Holder speech; Obama appoints fox as chicken inspector

Posted by Charles II on August 13, 2013

It’s good it’s August, or I would not believe that the Administration could get this silly.

First item. Dan Froomkin unearthed the archived version of a Holder speech in which he boasts about the prosecution of people committing fraud against homeowners. Quoting from Atrios, the original:

This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it’s been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file 285 federal criminal indictments and informations against 530 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 73,000 American homeowners – and inflicting losses in excess of $1 billion.

New, fluffier version:

This landmark Initiative, spearheaded by the FBI, was launched to help streamline and advance investigations and prosecutions against fraudsters who allegedly targeted, and preyed upon, Americans struggling to keep their homes. And it’s been a model of success. Over the past 12 months, it has enabled the Justice Department and its partners to file federal criminal charges against 107 defendants for allegedly victimizing more than 17,185 American homeowners – and inflicting losses in excess of $95 million.

This is, of course, exactly what Orwell described in 1984.

And then there’s this from Timothy Lee of the Washington Post:

On Friday, President Obama promised to appoint an “independent group” of “outside experts” to review the government’s surveillance programs.

Today, the president formally ordered the formation of this group

The panel will be chosen by, and report to, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper [who lied under oath to Congress].

And there are other signs that the group won’t turn out quite the way the president described it on Friday. Friday’s speech talked about the need for input from outside experts with independent points of view. The president made no mention of the need for outsiders or independent viewpoints in his memo to Clapper.

The stated mission of the group has also shifted. On Friday, Obama said the group would examine “how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.” But today’s memo makes no mention of preventing abuses. Instead, it will examine whether U.S. surveillance activity “optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust.”

The era of Obama is over. He has become Mitt Romney.

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Update. Perhaps in response to the mocking he got by Timothy Lee, Obama changed course yet again. Timothy Lee:

Update: In a Tuesday email, the White House says that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will not, in fact, choose the members of the Review Group. “The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community,” writes National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “The panel will not report to the DNI.”

Posted in Barack Obama, corruption, cronies, impunity, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | 8 Comments »

Civil asset forfeiture: evading due process

Posted by Charles II on August 5, 2013

Jo6Pac posted a link on the abuse of civil asset forfeiture in comments. Via Mikey at DK, I found this piece by Sarah Stillman:

On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”

They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.

He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.

No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.

Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.

The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)

The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services.

“Where are we?” Boatright remembers thinking. “Is this some kind of foreign country, where they’re selling people’s kids off?” Holding her sixteen-month-old on her hip, she broke down in tears.

Later, she learned that cash-for-freedom deals had become a point of pride for Tenaha, and that versions of the tactic were used across the country.

The piece Jo linked, by Isaiah Thompson of Raw Story, describes a different angle. Find someone violating a law and seize the home–even if the homeowner had nothing to do with the violation (Thompson also describes what is going on in Tenaha):

In October 2009, police raided the house and charged [Rochelle Bing’s] son, Andrew, then 24, with selling 8 packets of crack cocaine to an undercover informant. (Upon entering the house, police reported finding unused packets, though not drugs, in a rear bedroom.) Rochelle Bing was not present and was not accused of a crime. Yet she soon received a frightening letter from the Philadelphia district attorney’s office. Because Andrew had sold the drugs from inside his mother’s house, a task force of law enforcement officials moved to seize Bing’s house. They filed a court claim, quickly approved, that gave Bing just 30 days to dissuade a judge from granting “a decree of forfeiture” that would give the DA’s office title to the property.

It’s for these kinds of abuses, not the crap the right brings up about “takings” that constitutional protections for private property were designed.

Posted in corruption, crimes, fascism, impunity | 5 Comments »

Senate Dems’ letter on Honduras

Posted by Charles II on June 23, 2013

Via Adrienne:

We are writing to express our concern regarding the grave human rights situation and deterioration of the rule of law in Honduras. As the November 2013 elections draw near, we are particularly troubled by reports of corruption and extrajudicial killings.

Since June of 2009, international and Honduran human rights organizations have documented a pattern of violence and threats against journalists, human rights defenders, members of the clergy, union leaders, opposition figures, students, small farmers, and LGBT activists. There are also recent reports of death squads working with police….

…the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2012 requires the State Department to investigate and report on whether the Honduran government “is implementing policies to protect freedom of expression and association, and due process of law,” whether it is “prosecuting military and police personnel who are credibly alleged to have violated human rights,” and whether the Honduran police and military “are cooperating with civilian judicial authorities in such cases” – prior to obligation of 20% of the funds designated for the Honduran military and police, with exceptions for the promotion of transparency, anti-corruption efforts, and the rule of law. Given the reported violence and impunity linked to state entities in Honduras, we have serious questions regarding the State Department’s certification that these conditions were met for Fiscal Year 2012.

As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee you firmly denounced human rights abuses in Honduras. As Secretary of State, we hope you will continue to do the same.

signed by Ben Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Barbara A. Mikulski (D-MD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Mark Udall (D-CO), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

Posted in Honduras, impunity, State Department | 2 Comments »

It all adds up: mass wiretapping by NSA/updated

Posted by Charles II on June 16, 2013

Recently we discussed whether the NSA was just looking at metadata or involved in mass wiretapping, with conversations being recorded. Declan McCullough of CNet, citing sources including William Binney of the NSA indicates that the latter is closer to the truth (via Brit at DK):

The National Security Agency has acknowledged in a new classified briefing that it does not need court authorization to listen to domestic phone calls.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, disclosed this week that during a secret briefing to members of Congress, he was told that the contents of a phone call could be accessed “simply based on an analyst deciding that.”

If the NSA wants “to listen to the phone,” an analyst’s decision is sufficient, without any other legal authorization required, Nadler said he learned.

[Updated article adds this: James Owens, a spokesman for Nadler, provided a statement on Sunday morning, a day after this article was published, saying: “I am pleased that the administration has reiterated that, as I have always believed, the NSA cannot listen to the content of Americans’ phone calls without a specific warrant.”]

Not only does this disclosure shed more light on how the NSA’s formidable eavesdropping apparatus works domestically, it also suggests the Justice Department has secretly interpreted federal surveillance law to permit thousands of low-ranking analysts to eavesdrop on phone calls.

Because the same legal standards that apply to phone calls also apply to e-mail messages, text messages, and instant messages, Nadler’s disclosure indicates the NSA analysts could also access the contents of Internet communications without going before a court and seeking approval.

Earlier reports have indicated that the NSA has the ability to record nearly all domestic and international phone calls — in case an analyst needed to access the recordings in the future. A Wired magazine article last year disclosed that the NSA has established “listening posts” that allow the agency to collect and sift through billions of phone calls through a massive new data center in Utah, “whether they originate within the country or overseas.” That includes not just metadata, but also the contents of the communications.

William Binney, a former NSA technical director who helped to modernize the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping network, told the Daily Caller this week that the NSA records the phone calls of 500,000 to 1 million people who are on its so-called target list, and perhaps even more. “They look through these phone numbers and they target those and that’s what they record,” Binney said.

Brewster Kahle, a computer engineer who founded the Internet Archive, has vast experience storing large amounts of data. He created a spreadsheet this week estimating that the cost to store all domestic phone calls a year in cloud storage for data-mining purposes would be about $27 million per year, not counting the cost of extra security for a top-secret program and security clearances for the people involved.

A New York Times article in 2009 revealed the NSA engaged in significant and systemic “overcollection” of Americans’ domestic communications that alarmed intelligence officials. The Justice Department said in a statement at the time that it “took comprehensive steps to correct the situation and bring the program into compliance” with the law.

The best description of the situation seems to be that the NSA is attempting to record everything, but that it has been limited by storage to record only 500K-1M people, many of whom are presumably outside of the US. That will change with Bluffdale coming online, at which point the NSA will be able to record everyone on the planet.

On the other hand, they only listen to a limited number of conversations and they claim they obtain legal authority to do so. From a rubber stamp court that never denies them, of course. So we are basically protected from totalitarian control because the NSA are honorable men who would never, ever break the law.

Except, of course, for the many times in the past when they have been caught at it.

They don’t even think they have to tell plausible lies anymore.
______
Added: I should point out that major news organizations have not yet gotten this far down the line and McCullough is hardly infallible. Citing an interview in the Daily Caller is an example of journalistic laziness. But this seems to me to be a fair summary of what is a very complicated story. Among the elements of the story that require careful dissection are:

* Are the targets of surveillance Americans?
* Are the interceptions based on communications inside the country?
* Is the intercept a telephone call vs. other forms of electronic communication?
* Does the intercept include metadata or content?
* What threshold is required to review the content of communications?
* If an intercept is determined not to be useful (or simply not examined), how long is it retained?

I actually think that storage is the most dangerous part of the system that has been constructed. In security states, the abuse typically occurs when someone does something legal that ticks off someone in power. They go back through old records to find something of which to to accuse the person. Limit storage to, say, 60 days, and that gets harder.
__________
Update: Josh Marshall says that McCullough misunderstood what Nadler said. Somehow he managed to miss all of the rest of the stuff in the article. The Nadler quote was only startling because it suggested that the NSA had admitted something. The NSA never admits anything.

It’s the other people–people like Bamford and Binney–who we should be listening to.

Posted in impunity, NSA eavesdropping, wiretapping | Comments Off

Financial crisis 2.0

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2013

Atrios linked a bit by Charles Pierce which linked Mary Williams Walsh in the NYT, with an uncharacteristically easy to understand article (based on a report by Benjamin Lawsky of NY Dept of Financial Services) on how life insurance companies are cooking their books.

Let’s suppose that you took the $100,000 mortgage on your house and sold it to your five-year old son for $1. Now you don’t have any liabilities! So you can buy that flat screen TV you always wanted.

But of course, when the bank comes around looking for their payment, your 5 year old son won’t have anything to give them.

This is what the life insurance companies have done, creating out of state shell companies to buy their liabilities in a phony “re-insurance” scheme. It looks to me to be exactly like the Enron scheme, turning a liability into an asset in an off-the-balance-sheet maneuver. According to Walsh, Lawsky says these deals were backed by “’hollow assets,’ ‘naked parental guarantees’ and ‘conditional letters of credit.’” And if the life insurers are doing this, what are other insurers doing?

These are publicly traded companies, so an investigation into whether or not this is fraud should be mounted. Walsh:

The separate analysis by SNL Financial, by contrast, was based on public regulatory filings. It did identify the life insurance companies that are the biggest users of the transactions, both in and out of New York. They include Transamerica, MetLife, Prudential, Hartford, Genworth, John Hancock, ReliaStar and Lincoln National, among others. Another insurer, Allstate, turned up in the sample even though its primary business is property and casualty, because it owns some life insurers.

Just incredible.

Posted in crimes, financial crisis, frauds, impunity | 2 Comments »

 
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