“A nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks concludes that ‘it is indisputable that the United States engaged in the practice of torture’ and that the nation’s highest officials bore ultimate responsibility for it.”
So began a page-one story in the New York Times that should have dominated public discussion for days and begun the process of coming to terms with this shameful chapter in American history. Unfortunately, the story ran April 16, the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, and thus got little notice. And just as attention on Boston was waning, the George W. Bush Library and Museum was dedicated in Dallas. Unsurprisingly, neither President Obama nor the ex-presidents assembled to celebrate the event (and the Bush administration), mentioned this “nonpartisan, independent review.”
It’s been pretty much consigned to the memory hole. But maybe it’s not too late to retrieve it.
The review was done by The Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, which included members not normally associated with critics of the Bush administration, such as former Republican Rep. Asa Hutchinson (co-chairman), who was an undersecretary in the Bush administration’s Department of Homeland Security and administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The task force concluded that in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and other places, American forces engaged in torture and other practices that violated U.S. laws and international treaties — conduct that has been condemned by the U.S. government when practiced by other governments. Such conduct has long been considered a war crime, the task force noted. While it stopped short of claiming that the highest government leaders explicitly called for the use of torture against detainees, it said the use was a consequence of the administration’s declaration that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to people captured in the “war on terror.” (PDF) The report states,
The Task Force believes there was no justification for the responsible government and military leaders to have allowed those lines to be crossed. Doing so damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive.
Democracy and torture cannot peacefully coexist in the same body politic. The Task Force also believes and hopes that publicly acknowledging this grave error, however belatedly, may mitigate some of those consequences and help undo some of the damage to our reputation at home and abroad.
The task force also found,
There is no firm or persuasive evidence that the widespread use of harsh interrogation techniques by U.S. forces produced significant information of value. There is substantial evidence that much of the information adduced from the use of such techniques was not useful or reliable.
It notes that some former officials insist their interrogation techniques were effective, adding, “but those officials say that the evidence of such success may not be disclosed for reasons of national security.” The task force discounts such assertions, however, because the former officials “generally include those people who authorized and implemented the very practices that they now assert to have been valuable tools in fighting terrorism.… It is reasonable to note that those former officials have a substantial reputational stake in their claim being accepted.” The task force went so far as to reject the claim that torture led to the locating of Osama bin Laden, citing the Senate Intelligence Committee finding to that effect. (The fundamental case against torture, of course, is not that it is ineffective, but that it is immoral.)
The task force also called attention to the continuing detention of prisoners at Guantanamo, over half of whom have long been cleared for release. At the moment 100 of the 166 prisoners are conducting a hunger strike, and 21 are being force-fed by nasal tube, which in itself has been called torture and is condemned by the task force. A majority of the task force called for civilian or military trials of some of the detainees and release of others to countries in which they will not be tortured. It continued,
Those prisoners who are deemed to still be a threat to the safety of the U.S. and its citizens and who would be difficult (a) to prosecute because they were subjected to torture or the relevant criminal laws did not apply overseas at the time of their conduct; or (b) to transfer due to lack of suitable receiving country, would be brought to the mainland United States and held in custody until a suitable place to transfer them was found. Their cases would be subject to periodic review.
This recommendation is not good enough. How can men be held indefinitely because the alleged evidence against them was obtained by torture and is inadmissible? That is grounds for release. But even worse is the recommendation from the two-member minority consisting of Hutchinson and Richard Epstein (yes, alas, that Richard Epstein):
As troubling as indefinite detention might be, there are currently no good or feasible alternatives. Those prisoners who are deemed to be a continuing threat to the United States and for whom a trial is not currently feasible, and where there is no other suitable country that will accept them, should remain in detention for the foreseeable future. They should not be brought to the U.S., and Guantánamo remains the best location to hold them.
Justice demands to know why people against whom there is apparently no trial-worthy evidence are to be left to rot in an American prison in Cuba. This is truly a disgrace. And notice the self-reinforcing nature of the argument. These people are said to be a threat, but holding them at Guantanamo sows the seeds of hostility and the desire for revenge. Even if they were tried and acquitted, they might be angry at the U.S. government for the treatment they received. Are they still to be held even if acquitted? (The Bush administration thought that in some cases, yes.)
It’s good to see that the task force report holds the Bush administration lawyers responsible for the mistreatment of detainees:
Lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) repeatedly gave erroneous legal sanction to certain activities that amounted to torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of U.S. and international law, and in doing so, did not properly serve their clients: the president and the American people.
Extraordinary rendition, the practice (begun in the Clinton years) of outsourcing torture to foreign governments, and abuse of detainees at secret CIA prisons, or “black sites,” also come in for condemnation as violations of international law. Unfortunately, the task force did not call for an end to turning people over to other governments; it simply recommended that there be more than “diplomatic assurances” that torture will not take place.
Refreshingly, physicians and psychologists are taken to task for their participation, in violation of age-old ethical standards, in the abuse of detainees, both by devising techniques that constituted torture and for failing to report abuses. It’s about time a floodlight was shined on this shameful conduct by medical and so-called mental-health professionals.
Also welcome is the recommendation that “the executive branch should declassify evidence regarding the CIA’s and military’s abuse and torture of captives.” We have a right to know what this lawless government did in our names.
The task force also called on the government to comply with its obligation under the Convention Against Torture to assure “that the victim of an act of torture obtains redress and has an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation.” Quite the opposite has happened: “The United States has not complied with this requirement, in large part because of the government’s repeated, successful invocation of the state-secrets privilege in lawsuits brought by torture victims.” The Obama administration has been particularly determined to keep such suits out of court. This is a blot on the country.
The report further indicted the government for not complying with its obligation under the Convention Against Torture to “criminalize all acts of torture, attempts to commit torture, or complicity or participation in torture” and “proceed to a prompt and impartial investigation, wherever there is reasonable ground to believe that an act of torture has been committed in any territory under its jurisdiction.” It notes that “no CIA personnel have been convicted or even charged for numerous instances of torture in CIA custody.” Conspicuous by its absence is the call for prosecution of President Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, members of the Office of Legal Counsel who cooked up legal justifications for torture, CIA director George Tenet, and other top officials.
President Obama says “looking backwards” at past conduct is unproductive when it comes to the interrogation of detainees. That’s odd. The government doesn’t find it unproductive to look back when private individuals commit crimes. Why should government officers get special treatment?
We can only hope that someday, when these people are traveling abroad, they will be arrested and brought before the International Criminal Court.
Finally, the task force notes that Obama, despite apparent promises to end the abuses, has not lived up to expectations. Guantanamo is still open (he said this week he would push to close it), and reporter Jeremy Scahill has exposed the CIA’s continued participation in interrogations in a secret prison beneath Somalia’s National Security Agency. Scahill’s reporting reveals that the administration has simply outsourced torture — hardly an improvement over the Bush years. Of course, Obama also claims the power to kill people and to detain them indefinitely in a military prison without due process.
“The Obama administration has ended the most inhumane treatment of detainees,” the report states, “though some troubling questions about current policies remain unanswered. But it is unclear whether it has taken sufficient steps to prevent a future administration from resorting to torture or cruel treatment.”
When it comes to conserving the national-security state, it matters little which party is in power.
An Interview with Tim Anderson on Obama’s Commerce Nominee, Penny Pritzker
President Barrack Obama has nominated his long time friend and top fundraiser, Chicago-based Multibillionaire, Penny Pritzker, to be the next Secretary of Commerce. According to the Chicago Tribune, “Pritzker’s nomination could prove controversial. She is on the board of Hyatt Hotels Corp., which was founded by her family and has had rocky relations with labor unions, and… She could also face scrutiny over the collapse of Superior Bank, which was co-owned by her family. The bank, based in Hinsdale, Ill., was involved in subprime mortgage lending, and its failure in 2001 stirred charges of fraud and mismanagement.”
Penny Pritzker, says Chicago-Based independent banking investigator Tim Andersen, played fast and loose with the American Dream. Anderson, who has been investigating for many years Pritzker’s pioneering sub-prime operations, says Superior Bank in Chicago, specifically targeted poor and working class people of color across the country. He asserts that her extreme wealth and privilege has not only made her virtually untouchable by law enforcement, but now her appointment to Sec of Commerce, will allow her to cleanse her sub-prime banking record by becoming the Secretary of Commerce.
D.B Let’s start with some deep background on Penny Pritzker and the family holdings…
TA: There are 11 senior Pritzkers, the descendants of A. M Pritzker, who is the 11th wealthiest person after Forbes. But they are different as far as their wealth goes. Before they broke up the family dynasty because of a suit between two of the junior siblings, they had about 15 billion dollars. Bloomberg thought it was more like 38 billion because so many of the assets are major companies that are privately owned, it’s hard to evaluate that.
DB: $38 billion, with a B.
TA: $38 billion. One publication listed eight casinos, another listed 13, with each license worth a half a million dollars. There is another $5-7 billion in casinos. When you own 13 casinos for 5-7 billion, you are a player in the casino business. That’s just the hotels and casinos. There are many other companies they own such as the second largest chewing tobacco company, which they sold for 3.5 billion dollars. They actually owned the second and third largest chewing tobacco company, but have since off-loaded those for billions of dollars. Many of their assets are not what society considers clean assets, but hey don’t care. As far as money goes, they want it. When it comes to casinos or chewing tobacco companies, they don’t care. Their wealth is almost incalculable, because according to Forbes magazine, they are the only family in America to have off shore tax-free trusts because they were grandfathered in. Their off shore trust can ship money back to their family tax-free. It was grandfathered in because their grandfather got it through Congress – he was smart to see the future and got it done. Congress closed the loophole and grandfathered him in. Forbesmagazine wrote about the Pritzker’s off shore trust, they emphasized that there are over 1000 separate trusts. Many families have two or three different savings accounts to keep track of what money belongs to who, but when you have over 1000 different trusts to handle the family estate it’s very hard to comprehend how much wealth there is and how many businesses they control. A few years ago, Penny sold TransUnion, the largest credit reporting agency in America, but there’s a question about whether she sold it to herself by selling it to various hedge funds which her family has a large interest in. Until she sold it, you could say that Penny Pritzker had more files on every citizen in America than the CIA and FBI combined, because everybody has a credit score and credit report. Penny Pritzker had the credit scores and report on every single citizen in America.
DB: That’s amazing because before she had TransUnion, she had Superior Bank, through which she destroyed the credit of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. You might say she helped destroy the credit of the United States of America.
TA: She had TransUnion while she had Superior Bank, so she controlled the credit scores of everybody who was getting a subprime loan. You pay a higher interest on your subprime loan based on your credit score. Whether or not it was ever brokered between the credit bureau and the bank, we don’t know, but we know the same people control both entities.
DB: What happened with Superior Bank when Barak Obama was an assemblyman in her district?
TA: Superior Bank was acquired back in 1989 as part of the original savings and loan giveaway by M, D and E Wall. As I wrote a in a paper for an economic conference in Denver, Superior Bank was sold to the Pritzkers for 42.5 million dollars. They changed the name from Lion Savings and Loan to Superior Bank after they acquired it. Lion Savings and Loan was sold to the Pritzkers just to put up money for the capital. But as government reports show, they only put up a million dollars cash and pledged their assets as the difference, the capital. That’s not supposed to be done, but they are privileged people so they get privileged deals. After they acquired this for $1 million they also got $640 million in tax credits.
DB: So they paid a million bucks and got $640 million in tax credits.
TA: The tax credits were designed so they could use it in any entity they wanted. They didn’t have to use it on what they bought. It could be sold on the open market for value, the credits could be used to file back taxes or warehouse them for future taxes. So for a million dollars, they got 640 million dollars for agreeing to take over Superior Bank, which they then looted for years then gave it back to the government with an enormous loss to the uninsured depositors and the whole subprime industry.
DB: And the US taxpayers.
TA: Oh yes. Taxpayers have lost very, very dearly. In 2007 and 2008, real estate dropped in value because of the subprime bubble bursting. Penny Pritzker, who ran Superior Bank, is going to claim she was just a silent investor and chairman. I gave the Chicago Sun Times a letter on Superior Bank letterhead that they ran, dated May 31, 2001. Addressed to the management and employees of Superior Bank, it said “with great pleasure…I am able to announce an agreement has been reached with the Office of Supervision for a $351 million plan to recapitalize Superior Bank. They reached the agreement, but they never paid it.
DB: So the Pritzkers never paid the $351 million?
TA: No. They reached the agreement so they could stay open. Then three months later they said that’s a bad deal – let’s just reneg on it. So they told the FDIC, “Here are the keys, you take it.” During that period of time, this letter, signed by Penny Pritzker, told her people – we are going to regain our prominence in the subprime industry. She was so proud of her prominence in the subprime industry. At that time, Wells Fargo, Countrywide and Washington Mutual hadn’t tooled up in the subprime lending as they did later on. One reason is they didn’t have a staff to do it. The FDIC closed down Superior Bank with its thousands and thousands and thousands of employees who made originated mortgages through their origination department. After they were laid off by the close of Superior Bank, they couldn’t work anywhere so they worked for Wells Fargo Countrywide. The whole tool up of Washington Mutual, Countywide and TransUnion are old Superior workers who were out of a job and knew how to make subprime mortgages.
DB: When you read the stories of the time, all the reports, including the Wall Street Journal, said the failure of the Superior Bank may have cost taxpayers between 1 and 2 billion dollars. It’s reported that between 1400 and 1700 savings accounts were gutted at Superior. How many people ended up losing their money at Penny Pritzker’s bank while she was busy working with her people to be sure that Wall Street got in real deep. She started with Meryl Lynch, which is also gone.
TA: These are smart people. Genius doesn’t have a connotation of ethics. Genius is genius unto itself. Let’s leave the ethics equation out of being a genius. The Pritzkers are absolute geniuses at understanding the tax system and investing and put it to their benefit. Warren Buffett is in awe of the Pritzkers. They gave Warren Buffett their Mermin group to manage for them and then he will buy them out as it performs over the years.
DB: So Warren Buffett is one of Penny’s managers?
TA: The Pritzkers, years ago, sold Buffett 40% of the Mermin group with the other 60% acquired by Buffett over a 10 year period based on how well the Mermin group performed. As Warren made the Mermin group more profitable, the Pritzkers got more money, as he had to keep buying it from them. That’s how they let him manage the asset for them. You cannot appreciate their sheer genius until you study all the stories about them. I have run across no family as bright, quick or well connected – with a White House pass. And any day, Penny Pritzker will probably be nominated as Secretary of Commerce by Congress.
DB: Some of those hundreds of people who lost their savings at Superior Bank lived in the same neighborhood as Obama. He knew. He got complaints from people about what Penny was doing, back in the day.
TA: Yes. But Penny and the Pritzkers are a special class of privilege – they are immune. Some major media are finally picking up on this story, but it got a pass four years ago because of the influence of the Pritzker family, which buys both sides of the isle. They are non-partisan, neither republican nor democrat. They will support whoever the incumbent is or is going to be. They invest in people, many of them being politicians, of course.
DB: Yes, they do. Now going back to the first Obama campaign, if the Clintons know they have a subprime bandit running their key opponent’s finances, why didn’t they go after Penny and her subprime operations? But the Clintons had a Pritzker too.
TA: Penny’s brother was co-chairman for Hilary’s campaign. I used to joke that it didn’t matter who won. If Hillary won, her brother would take her to the inaugural ball. If Barack Obama won, as he did, Hilary could take her brother to the inaugural ball. The Pritzkers bought both horses in a two-horse race. It was a no brainer. Society was fed up with George Bush, Dick Cheney, etc. Whoever won the democratic nomination was going to be the next president. The Pritzkers hedged their bet and bet on both horses in a two-horse race. They had one, and her brother had the other.
DB: How powerful are the Pritzkers in their hometown of Chicago?
TA: The Pritzkers have the Pritzker Foundation. The Pritzkers are large contributors to the museum, symphony, opera; anything that they can get their brass plaque above everyone else. They are golden in Chicago. They give away the Pritzker architect award, which is considered the Pulitzer of architecture. They have many others – as they curry favor with everybody. They invest in their own good name. They are very smart and savvy, disregarding what is good for society.
DB: Whatever the banks are doing now, they were doing 20 years ago. She was out of the subprime business by 2001 or 2003 and the FBI decided not to investigate anybody until 2004. How did that happen?
TA: That’s the privilege of the Pritzkers. They are immune to investigation. When the Pritzkers signed off on the deal on the Superior Bank with the FDIC to pay only some of the money, part of the agreement was that the FDIC, for this agreement, which is public record, would not cooperate with any other government agency without the Pritzkers. So the Justice Department couldn’t investigate the Pritzkers without the FDIC’s blessing, and the FDIC agreed they wouldn’t do it. What the Pritzkers did, and they negotiated beautifully, is they negotiated immunity from prosecution for all subprime crimes going back to 2004. In 2002, when the FDIC took over Superior Bank, they ran it for ten months under their management, using all the employees of Superior Bank and their mortgage originators. As the Wall Street Journal reported, for ten months the FDIC was the largest subprime lender in the country. They were taking the mortgages they were making, securitiizing and selling them off.
DB: Hence the Wall Street connection.
TA: Yes. The FDIC ended up working for the Pritzkers.
DB: Let’s talk about their predatory operations. There were many leads, examples, stories about what the Pritzker operation was doing to trap poor people, targeting specifically brown and black people for these predatory loans. They had a whole operation.
TA: I interviewed the only mortgage originator who went to jail out of the Superior Bank operation. The only reason he went to jail is that he pled guilty for the Pritzker’s signing the agreement with the FDIC. All his other cohorts who were going to be indicted were never indicted. I talked to the FBI, and they were ready to indict 14 people in this area. But the one guy, Jason Dune pled guilty and got it behind him. He explained to me that what you do is target a small couple and rip them off by moving the Pritzger subprime loans into their lives.
The subprime people would say they are just giving lower income people and middle America people a chance at the American dream. But these were not fresh mortgages; they were all refinanced mortgages. Superior was in the refinance business. If you had the American dream, the Pritzkers and Superior would push you into an American nightmare. That’s what they did across the country with lending offices under Alliance Funding. You can’t appreciate how large and profitable their operation was. They kept taking all the profits out in distribution dividends for the Pritzkers and then the OTS said, “You are taking so much money out, you are under capitalized.” But rather than give the money back, they said, ”OK, you take over the operation. The subprime business is over and we want out.” So they got out. But they got out without having to take any responsibility, and that is the real shame that has never been dealt with.
DB: So poor Jason Dune told the truth and went to jail for it. Penny stole zillions and she’s going to be the next Secretary of Commerce.
TA: That’s up to our Senate. Does our Senate, in a non-partisan manner, want to stand up and ask Penny a few questions, such as “What was your role in getting subprime mortgage bonds investment grade?” That’s how every pension fund, such as CalPers, the teachers pension fund in California that bought mortgage-backed securities because they were investment grade, lost money. How did they become investment grade? The Pritzker’s genius was that if there is a bond with a thousand mortgages in it, and they’re all subprime, it’s a junk bond by definition. The Pritzkers convinced the rating agencies that if any mortgage goes bad they would take it out of the bond portfolio and put a fresh mortgage in. So the raters said, “if that’s collateral substitution, the bond can’t default.” They forgot to ask the one question: what if you can’t make mortgages anymore? They couldn’t when they were taken over. That was the start of the collapse of subprime mortgages. There never should have been investment grade. But once it became investment grade, Merrill Lynch was doing it with the Pritzkers, then Countrywide, Wells Fargo and Washington Mutual had to do it because every major pension fund wanted these investment grade subprime mortgages. They paid a very high yield and knew they were quality because the rating agency said investment grade triple A. They never were triple A. We all have hindsight. The Pritzkers created the investment grade for the entire subprime mortgage industry. Once that collapsed, the worldwide economy collapsed. And this is the person they want to put as Secretary of Commerce.
DB: The Pritzkers were doing this beginning in the 40s. How could the first Obama campaign, when Obama was a newcomer and Penny was the chair of the finance committee, out fund-raise by two to three times what the well-connected Clintons raised?
TA: The Wall Street Journal wrote a cover story on the genius of what Penny set up. Besides being able to call all her friends to give money, they set up a system through public relations where people on the street pledged on their credit card to give $10 a month to the Obama campaign. The credit card was debited for a year and everybody wanted to be a piece of it. To see the momentum, look at the tapes of inauguration, the night in Chicago when he won the election. There was enormous euphoria in the country. There was euphoria because people were fed up with Bush. Nothing has made Bush look better than the last four years with Obama. Penny, four years later, as Secretary of Commerce, is not going to investigate herself. The circle closes. It’s up to the various editors of major newspapers, television and radio stations, to do their research. It’s all out there and easy to do. I was able to find information, find the documentation, reports. They need to do it and contact the various senators on the committee and make them ask Penny the questions. If Penny can answer the Senate’s questions, the Senate which represents us, then let them vote her in.
DB: Penny never relents – she’s always moving forward. There was an excellent picture of Penny as the President of the Pritzker Realty Group which owns the former navy base with David Pace, who is managing her development in Orlando with Orlando mayor Glenda Hood. She owns a lot of politicians. What has she been up to?
TA: Any politician who is for sale knows how to call Penny and ask for money. What the Pritzkers did in ’01 when the navy decided there would be one recruiting depot in Great Lakes, Chicago-land, the Orlando and San Diego naval bases for recruits were closed. The Pritzkers were able to acquire 1,093 acres for $6900, under $7,000 an acre. That was the price they were paying for it. They were supposed to include some low and moderate-income housing, but after the deal closed, they realized, what a waste, let’s just build million dollar condos and houses. They were also able to sell back to the government open-space land and never paid a penny. They used taxpayer money to buy it by selling back land they couldn’t use. They sold wetlands and swampland as parks. They either got tax credits, which for the Pritzkers was the same as money, or they actually got cash for selling it back. They got financed to buy it through the state and the city of Orlando, which is when the politicians came in. It was a 19 million deal, which became 130 million and they never even used their own money. You cannot duplicate the deals they pull off. They are more than wealth – they are privileged. They can do whatever they want and not be held accountable and the people suffer. There were 1400 uninsured depositors of Superior Bank – the hubris of Penny. It would have been peanuts to be sure that Fran Sweet, and the other known excess depositors of over $100,000 were paid back. They lost their money because they were told the Pritzkers would never let it fail. They put their money in there, though they were nervous putting $100,000 in. It would have been so easy for Penny to pay them off. About a year ago, to get rid of this last debt to the FDIC, the Pritzkers got a discount for paying off their debt to the FDIC early. So Fran Sweet and 1400 other uninsured depositors will never get all their money back. The Pritzkers do not pay their bills. They like to say they pay their debt, but they don’t. This is just contempt – absolute contempt for society.
DB: When Obama was elected the first time, one of the first things Penny did was represent all the major, highest end of the corporate interests in Congress to resist any attempt to make it easy for people to unionize.
TA: One of the largest hotel workers unions, UNITE HERE, is not going to fight this thing with Penny because it would embarrass the president, and since these union people are democrats and love unions and Barak says he loves unions too, they don’t want to jeopardize their relationship with the president. So UNITE HERE is selling out their own people in Chicago, and the whole Hyatt chain throughout the country, to protect the president. It’s disgraceful. They know the story. I’ve had their people interview me twice. The union gets abused by the Pritzkers but they take it because they don’t want to hurt their president. Penny is immune from both sides. The far right doesn’t touch her because they like the kind of money she makes for them, and the left doesn’t want to fight her because Barak is their candidate. They know how to play both horses in a race.
DB: How close is the relationship? Is it true that Michelle and Penny used to run together?
TA: I don’t know. There are stories in the Wall Street Journal and Chicago papers that before Obama was a senator, they used to vacation together in one of Penny’s homes in Michigan. I think it’s accepted that they are very, very close. And for the billion dollars that she raised in 2008, she’s even closer.
DB: Is it true that when Barak Obama was in the Illinois state legislature, he received written complaints from people who were being ripped off by Penny?
TA: That’s my understanding.
DB: When people who lost their money in Superior were hustled, such as by the companies selling off the debt to other companies, people didn’t know who they were paying or who owned their property.
TA: The Pritzkers would sell them into bonds, and they got all their money back, plus a profit when someone else owned the debt. You made the payments to Superior Bank, but the notes had been sold to other investors – Superior just serviced the debt. People’s lives were made miserable because they would make a payment, but it would be held until after a due date and then they’d get a penalty.
DB: They paid the interest for years but could never pay down the loan.
TA: There’s a whole show of how you run predatory lending. The Pritzkers are masters. This was known by the government on July 3, 2000. The NCRC, National Coalition of Reinvestment Act, wrote a letter to the OTS complaining that Superior Bank was the largest predatory lender in the land. They were complaining about it and talking about how they would book these mortgages and set them up so the people would fail – it was designed to fail so they could foreclose. The report shows how Superior Bank targeted minorities three and four times greater than any other subprime lender. Superior Bank in 98, 99 and 2000 targeted the minority community for their subprime mortgages – to refinance them and get them into trouble. No shame whatsoever.
DB: There were many suits that non-profits took on.
TA: There was one successful guy who represented the James and Irene Phillips family in West Virginia. They were mentally challenged.
DB: I read that lawsuit and spoke to their social policy attorney. They were mostly minors and were targeted by the zip codes. You could see whole zip codes of houses disappearing because Penny’s front man was saying meet me at McDonalds and people would sign over what their house was worth, 18, 20 30 thousand dollars. It didn’t matter because the Pritzkers took them all.
TA: Yes. It was a very sophisticated con game. They were the best in the business at hurting the poor people – they did a superb job. Look at what they’ve done to the middle class, to everyone’s retirement, every pension fund that lost money in ’08, ’09 and 2010. The Pritzkers destroyed the American economy, which destroyed the world economy. It’s time for the Senate to ask Penny, when she goes before them, to explain. Let the staffers do their research, talk to me, you, others who have done the research. Look at the documentation. Make Penny answer the questions.
DB: And she never has. On September 11, 2001, and this is in no way is to suggest a conspiracy, but she was supposed to testify on the day the twin towers were hit. She was already in Washington, and that investigation was cancelled. There was never even the beginning of a follow-up. Tell us about Bert Healy.
TA: Bert Healy is a well-renowned bank consultant who is quoted in every business publication when they talk about banks. He, and George Kaufman, professor at Loyola University, and Ellen Sideman, the head of the Office of Supervision, were all sworn in on 9/11, ready to give their testimony. Healy will tell you the story that they were all there, sworn in, in the cloak room waiting to go back in, when they were told the first building was hit. When the first building was hit, they didn’t know it was a terrorist attack because we thought one plane had gone off course. Healy says all of a sudden they are back in the room and staffers are whispering to the senators, then the senators all left, came back, and said “Maybe you people want to leave too.” That was 9/11. Then Ellen Salmon wrote their report after the fact, a report that is part of the public record. I’ve got copies of all their reports. Penny was on the list to appear, but this was Penny Pritzker. I don’t know if she was there. She hires lawyers. She’s a lawyer; they all are. The original business of Pritzker and Pritzker was a law firm. The Forbes magazine story shows that the whole Pritzker enterprise was a Chicago-based law firm.
DB: They are very secretive folks. It will be interesting to see her as Secretary of Commerce. She wants a bit of the high profile now. We know a lot more about her because her kids sued her.
TA: Lisa and Matthew, her half brother and sister, sued all the Pritzkers. That’s how we found out as much as we did, but that left us to uncover more and more and more. Four years ago she had to decline it ??? because the family hadn’t been divided. Now she can fill out a financial statement, which will show that she owns x amount of shares of Bushar-Hathaway, x amount of shares of the Hyatt. She may or may not disclose how much she owns of the casinos, other shipping companies, etc. It will all be a great deal of money in trust. It’s not her wealth but her power and influence – her ability not to be held accountable for the damage that Superior Bank did to our economy that is the real shame.
DB: Many of the people who lose their money in the casinos are poor and working class folks. But her first casinos were the banks, in the context of the subprime meltdown.
TA: All their businesses were casinos, and the house always wins, no matter what business they’re in. It’s up to the public to pay attention. Adlei Stevenson the first, the vice presidential candidate, grandfather of the senator and father of the governor, said by and large, the people get exactly what they ask for. Typically, at the time, they don’t realize that’s what they are asking for. If the public is upset with our Congress and Senate, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Now it’s up to them to tell their senators, “Before you approve her to be Secretary of Commerce, make her answer the questions about her role, not her wealth, but her role in the subprime securitization mess.” She needs to answer to her role in the mortgage meltdown which basically destroyed our whole economy. They need to be prepared to ask her the right questions. If they don’t, she’ll just walk right through it and get free pass like she’s always gotten. The burden is on the public.
DB: This is one of those stories that I refuse to let go of. I put this story in my book about Henry Hyde, who was part of this Chicago story. These are not just the 1%, this is privileged wealth, the 1% of the 1%.
TA: These are the people who are immune from prosecution or any form of accountability. They are above the Madoffs and the Corzines of the world. They can do whatever they want, and no one is willing to hold them accountable.
Dennis J. Bernstein can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Ghost of failed bank may haunt Pritzker nomination (blogs.marketwatch.com)
- Commerce nomination cost Pritzker a pretty Penny (legalinsurrection.com)
- Obama Nominates Major Campaign Contributor Penny Pritzker for Commerce Secretary (news.firedoglake.com)
Keith Ellison, the Black U.S. House member from Minneapolis who is co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, says the U.S. should push for a no-fly zone over rebel-held areas in Syria. Ellison, who is also one of only two Muslim members of Congress, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, as did Republican Arizona Senator John McCain. It is a measure of how far to the right the Democratic Party has come under President Obama, that McCain, the war monger who likes to sing about bombing Iran, and Ellison, who claims to be a progressive, are in basic agreement over Syria. Both McCain and Ellison want no-fly zones, and both claim to prefer that there be no U.S. “boots on the ground” in country. Both are raving American imperialists who believe that the U.S. has not merely the right, but the obligation to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries. As Ellison, the phony progressive, puts it, “I don’t think the world’s greatest superpower, the United States, can stand by and do nothing” – which is, essentially, John McCain’s position.
Ellison has been advocating a no-fly zone for Syria for at least a year. Last May, he told U.S. News and World Report that so-called “safe zones” should be set up by the U.S. and its allies around the borders of Syria. Ellison made it quite clear that he sees such zones as a prelude to regime change. “I think the Libyan action was a good example of that,” he said.
On U.S. imperial policy, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between McCain, the hard-right Republican, and Ellison, who purports to be a progressive Democrat. Neither gives a damn about international law or the rights of smaller people’s to shape their own destinies. Ellison went to Saudi Arabia, the most socially backward rich country on the planet, and described the King as a “visionary leader.” He rejected George Bush’s troop “surge in 2007, by calling it “too little, too late.” Like Obama, he quibbles about whether U.S. wars are smart or dumb, too late or right on time, but never about the inherent right of the United States to wage war against the weaker nations of the world.
Ellison is part of the pro-war Left, which includes Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, whose primary mission is to make self-described liberals and leftists comfortable supporting imperial wars. McCain can’t do that, but Ellison can. Amnesty International is shameless enough to use women’s rights as an excuse to support continued occupation of Afghanistan.
Much of the pro-war left has been forced by events to recognize that the U.S. and its allies are backing jihadist Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in Syria – people they wouldn’t like to have brunch with. Therefore, they now demand that the U.S. intervene to make sure that the jihadists don’t get their hands on chemical weapons. Thus, the pro-war left starts off by advocating U.S. intervention to facilitate the coming to power of the rebels, but in the end winds up demanding that the U.S. do whatever it can to stop these guys from taking power. Either way, it ends with U.S. intervention. John McCain and Keith Ellison pretend to be on opposite ideological ends, but they are like Jack and Jill walking up the same hill when it comes to the obligations and privileges of U.S. imperialism.
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
US President Barack Obama today condemned the Guantanamo Bay prison camp run by US President Barack Obama, channeling the moral outrage last heard on the 2008 campaign trail.
“The idea that we would still detain forever a group of individuals that have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, that is contrary to our interests and it has to stop,” the president said during a press conference at the White House.
The rhetoric was bold and progressive. The reality? At least half of 166 never-tried, never-convicted prisoners that reside at Guantanamo Bay are engaged in a hunger strike that is making the president look bad. And so the man with a kill list who is ultimately responsible for them being there – and who’s initial plan for closing the prison was simply moving it to Illinois – had to act as if he was deeply troubled by his poor human rights record, like an oil executive shedding tears for Mother Earth after a big spill.
What Obama is banking on is the fact that most people (including his base) aren’t terribly detail oriented. The tale liberal Democrats tell themselves, and which the liberal media tells the rest of us, is that the fight over Guantanamo Bay is Obama and a bunch of ACLU lawyers on one side, the forces of fear-mongering, reactionary insanity on the other. The president, it is to be understood, is facing irrational hostility from the Chicken Littles of the right and would like to the do the right thing — of course he would — but, you know: Republicans.
That narrative, unfortunately, is false. The true story, obfuscated by the president’s occasional condemnations of his own human rights record, is that Obama himself signed an executive order creating “a formal system of indefinite detention for those held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay.” Rather than repudiate the notion of “detain[ing] forever a group of individuals that have not been tried,” Obama (through a task force he commissioned) determined that 48 of the prison camp’s detainees were “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution.” The evidence against those men would not be admissible even by the weakened standards of a military court – that is, it was probably gained through torture – but rather than release them, as if they were persons endowed with certain inalienable rights, the Obama administration would prefer to lock them away until they die.
The president has even refused to release dozens of Yemeni citizens who have been cleared of all wrongdoing. Obama also signed (and his lawyers later defended in court) a bill that allows for the indefinite detention of US citizens. And let’s not forget that kill list, which is based on the idea that it’s alright for the president to act as judge, jury and executioner, so long as the unilateral justice is being delivered abroad. So when the president of the United States righteously condemns the idea of imprisoning someone forever without charge or trial, it’s important to remember the truth about his record. It’s important to remember he is lying.
A US government task force is drafting FBI-backed legislation that would penalize companies like Google and Facebook for refusing to comply with wiretap orders, media report.
In the new legislation being drafted by US law enforcement officials, refusal to cooperate with the FBI could cost a tech company tens of thousands of dollars in fines, the Washington Post quoted anonymous sources as saying.
The fined company would be given 90 days to comply with wiretap orders. If the organization is unable or unwilling to turn over the communications requested by the wiretap, the penalty sum would double every day.
“We don’t have the ability to go to court and say, ‘We need a court order to effectuate the intercept.’ Other countries have that. Most people assume that’s what you’re getting when you go to a court,” FBI general counsel Andrew Weissmann told the Washington Post.
If passed in Congress and signed by President Obama, the bill could become a provision of the 1968 Wiretap Act, which require companies to develop mechanisms for obtaining information requested by government investigators.
However, many companies maintain that their resistance to this and similar measures has nothing to do with an unwillingness to help investigators. Google began encrypting its email service following a major hacking attack in 2010; developing wiretap technology could make it and other companies vulnerable, creating “a way for someone to silently go in and activate a wiretap,” said Susan Landau, a former engineer at Sun Microsystems.
The proposed expansion of wiretaps into the digital frontier is the latest in a series of US government efforts to monitor online communications.
The recent Boston Marathon bombings were used by some members of Congress as a reason to push through the highly controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protect Act (CISPA), which was passed by the lower house. If CISPA is signed into law, telecommunication companies will be encouraged to share Internet data with the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice concerning national security purposes.
Tech companies, including giants like Facebook and Microsoft, have objected fiercely to the bill, citing customers’ privacy concerns. The bill is currently shelved in the Senate following President Obama’s threat to veto CISPA due to a lack of personal privacy provisions.
Earlier in April, the FBI requested an additional $41 million from the federal government for the recording and analysis of Internet communication.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center also recently obtained over 1,000 pages of documents proving that the Pentagon has secretly eavesdropped on Internet traffic for several years.
“Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws,” CNET reporter Declan McCullagh wrote.
- Obama administration bypasses CISPA by secretly allowing Internet surveillance (alethonews.wordpress.com)
When one conspires to violate federal law, it helps to have a government agency or two as one’s co-conspirators when law enforcement comes poking around, as telecom giant AT&T and others learned recently when the Defense Department (DOD) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) successfully pressured the Justice Department (DOJ) to agree secretly not to prosecute blatantly illegal wiretaps conducted by AT&T and other Internet service providers at the request of the agencies.
Although some press reports have termed this an authorization of activity that would otherwise be illegal, this is a misnomer. The executive branch lacks the power to retroactively declare criminal conduct to be lawful, but it can choose to ignore it by waiving prosecution pursuant to “prosecutorial discretion.”
Although the secret DOJ prosecution waiver initially applied to a cyber-security pilot project—the DIB Cyber Pilot—that allowed the military to monitor defense contractors’ Internet links, the program has since been renamed Enhanced Cybersecurity Services and is being expanded by President Obama to allow the government to snoop on the private networks of all companies operating in “critical infrastructure sectors,” including energy, healthcare, and finance starting June 12.
“The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws,” warned Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, which obtained more than 1,000 pages of government documents relating to the issue via a Freedom of Information Act request. “Alarm bells should be going off.”
The wiretap law referenced by Rotenberg is the Wiretap Act, codified at 18 USC 2511, which makes it a crime for a network operator to intercept communications carried on its networks unless the monitoring is a “necessary incident” to providing the service or it occurs with a user’s “lawful consent.” Since neither of those exceptions applied, DOD and DHS pressed DOJ attorneys to agree not to prosecute what were clearly prosecutable offenses by issuing an unknown number of “2511 letters,” which are normally used by DOJ to tell a company that its conduct fit within one of the lawful exceptions to the Act.
The purported “retroactive authorization” is similar to the “retroactive immunity” given the telecoms by Congress for their participation in illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping between 2001 and 2006. Likewise, former DHS official Paul Rosenzweig compared the case of the “2511 letters” to the CIA asking the Justice Department for legal memos justifying torture a decade ago. “If you think of it poorly, it’s a CYA [“cover your ass] function,” Rosenzweig says. “If you think well of it, it’s an effort to secure advance authorization for an action that may not be clearly legal.” Or may be clearly illegal.
In any event, Obama’s own expansion by mid-June of the snooping “to all critical infrastructure sectors,” defined as companies providing services whose disruption would harm national economic security or “national public health or safety” will proceed.
- Obama administration bypasses CISPA by secretly allowing Internet surveillance (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- To Ease Internet Snooping, Feds Promise To Ignore Privacy Violations (reason.com)
Scared that CISPA might pass? The federal government is already using a secretive cybersecurity program to monitor online traffic and enforce CISPA-like data sharing between Internet service providers and the Department of Defense.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center has obtained over 1,000 pages of documents pertaining to the United States government’s use of a cybersecurity program after filing a Freedom of Information Act request, and CNET reporter Declan McCullagh says those pages show how the Pentagon has secretly helped push for increased Internet surveillance.
“Senior Obama administration officials have secretly authorized the interception of communications carried on portions of networks operated by AT&T and other Internet service providers, a practice that might otherwise be illegal under federal wiretapping laws,” McCullagh writes.
That practice, McCullagh recalls, was first revealed when Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn disclosed the existence of the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) Cyber Pilot in June 2011. At the time, the Pentagon said the program would allow the government to help the defense industry safeguard the information on their computer systems by sharing classified threat information between the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the Internet service providers (ISP) that keep government contractors online.
“Our defense industrial base is critical to our military effectiveness. Their networks hold valuable information about our weapons systems and their capabilities,” Lynn said. “The theft of design data and engineering information from within these networks greatly undermines the technological edge we hold over potential adversaries.”
Just last week the US House of Representatives voted in favor of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA — a legislation that would allow ISPs and private Internet companies across the country like Facebook and Google to share similar threat data with the federal government without being held liable for violating their customers’ privacy. As it turns out, however, the DIB Cyber Pilot has expanded exponentially in recent months, suggesting that a significant chunk of Internet traffic is already subjected to governmental monitoring.
In May 2012 less than a year after the pilot was first unveiled, the Defense Department announced the expansion of the DIB program. Then this past January, McCullagh says it was renamed the Enhanced Cybersecurity Services (ECS) and opened up to a larger number of companies — not just DoD contractors. An executive order signed by US President Barack Obama earlier this year will let all critical infrastructure companies to sign-on to ECS this June, likely in turn bringing on board entities in energy, healthcare, communication and finance.
Although the 1,000-plus pages obtained in the FOIA request haven’t been posted in full on the Web just yet, a sampling of that trove published by EPIC on Wednesday starts to show just exactly how severe the Pentagon’s efforts to eavesdrop on Web traffic has been.
In one document, a December 2011 slideshow on the legal policies and practices regarding the monitoring of Web traffic on DIB-linked systems, the Pentagon instructs the administrators of those third-party computer networks on how to implement the program and, as a result, erode their customers’ expectation of privacy.
In one slide, the Pentagon explains to ISPs and other system administrators how to be clear in letting their customers know that their traffic was being fed to the government. Key elements to keep in mind, wrote the Defense Department, was that DIB “expressly covers monitoring of data and communications in transit rather than just accessing data at rest.”
“[T]hat information transiting or stored on the system may be disclosed for any purpose, including to the government,” it continued. Companies participating in the pilot program were told to let users know that monitoring would exist “for any purpose,” and that users have no expectation of privacy regarding communications or data stored on the system.
According to the 2011 press released on the DIB Cyber Pilot, “the government will not monitor, intercept or store any private-sector communications through the program.” In a privacy impact assessment of the ECS program that was published in January by the DHS though, it’s revealed that not only is information monitored, but among the data collected by investigators could be personally identifiable information, including the header info from suspicious emails. That would mean the government sees and stores who you communicate with and what kind of subject lines are used during correspondence.
The DHS says that personally identifiable information could be retained if “analytically relevant to understanding the cyber threat” in question.
Meanwhile, the lawmakers in Congress that overwhelmingly approved CISPA just last week could arguably use a refresher in what constitutes a cyberthreat. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) told his colleagues on the Hill that “Recent events in Boston demonstrate that we have to come together as Republicans and Democrats to get this done,” and Rep. Dan Maffei (D-New York) made unfounded claims during Thursday’s debate that the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks is pursuing efforts to “hack into our nation’s power grid.”
Should CISPA be signed into law, telecommunication companies will be encouraged to share Internet data with the DHS and Department of Justice for so-called national security purposes. But even if the president pursues a veto as his advisers have suggested, McCullagh says few will be safe from this secretive cybersecurity operation already in place.
The tome of FOIA pages, McCullagh says, shows that the Justice Department has actively assisted telecoms as of late by letting them off the hook for Wiretap Act violations. Since the sharing of data between ISPs and the government under the DIB program and now ECS violates federal statute, the Justice Department has reportedly issued an undeterminable number of “2511 letters” to telecoms: essentially written approval to ignore provisions of the Wiretap Act in exchange for immunity.
“The Justice Department is helping private companies evade federal wiretap laws,” EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg tells CNET. “Alarm bells should be going off.”
In an internal Justice Department email cited by McCullagh, Associate Deputy Attorney General James Baker is alleged to write that ISPs will likely request 2511 letters and the ECS-participating companies “would be required to change their banners to reference government monitoring.”
“These agencies are clearly seeking authority to receive a large amount of information, including personal information, from private Internet networks,” EPIC staff attorney Amie Stepanovich adds to CNET. “If this program was broadly deployed, it would raise serious questions about government cybersecurity practices.”
- To Ease Internet Snooping, Feds Promise To Ignore Privacy Violations (reason.com)
- Congressman evokes Boston bombings as reason to pass CISPA (rt.com)
- U.S. gives big, secret push to Internet surveillance (philosophers-stone.co.uk)
US President Barack Obama is accused of making a U-turn on his nuclear disarmament pledges as his administration plans to allocate billions of dollars for upgrading its atomic arsenal in Europe.
According to newly published figures, the United States will set aside more than USD 10 billion dollars for a life extension program for the B61 bombs and another USD one billion for adding controllable tail fins.
The plan to give new tail fins to nearly 200 B61 gravity bombs stored in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Turkey would give them new mission and new capabilities. The bombs could be delivered by stealth F35 fighter-bombers.
“What will be going back to Europe will be a guided nuclear bomb… Especially when you combine it with F35 with stealth characteristics, that expands the targets you can hold at risk from Europe, because by placing the explosion closer to the target you can choose a lower explosive yield,” Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons expert at the Federation of Nuclear Scientists, told The Guardian.
“That is very important as there is less radioactive fallout. For many people this is a great concern because it means making nuclear weapons more ‘usable’,” Kristensen added.
In its Nuclear Posture Review in 2010, the US administration pledged to reduce its nuclear arsenal by not developing new nuclear warheads and vowing that it would not “support new military missions or provide for new military capabilities.”
According to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the US is believed to have deployed approximately 1,950 strategic nuclear warheads, including about 200 B61 gravity bombs deployed in five NATO states (Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Germany, and the Netherlands).
It also keeps 2,650 non-deployed warheads in reserve, and 3,000 warheads which are reportedly awaiting disarmament.
“It flies directly in the face of the pledges Obama made in 2010 that he would not deploy new weapons,” Kristensen added.
The US is the only country to have used an atomic bomb in war. Hiroshima was devastated on August 6, 1945 after the US B-29 bomber Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on the city, killing an estimated 140,000 people instantly or gradually from radiation sickness and cancers. Three days later, another atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000.
The nuclear radiation emitted following the blasts continued to claim thousands of more lives over the past decades.
- New study raises Hiroshima atomic bomb victim count (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel hinders efforts aimed at nuke-free Middle East: Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
A recent report says the visit by Israeli National Security Council Head Yaakov Amidror to Turkey is aimed at securing an airbase in Iran’s neighbor to pave the way for a military attack against the Islamic Republic.
In an article, the Sunday Times said that during his visit on Sunday, Amidror is expected to solicit Turkey’s agreement with regard to the deployment of Israeli fighter jets in Akinci airbase, northwest of Ankara, in exchange for advanced military equipments and technology, the Times of Israel reported.
“Until the recent crisis, Turkey was our biggest aircraft carrier. Using the Turkish airbases could make the difference between success and failure once a showdown with Iran gets underway,” Sunday Times quoted an unnamed Israeli military source as saying.
Ankara agreed to restore relations with Tel Aviv on March 22 after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized to Turkey for the deaths of nine Turkish activists in a 2010 Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound international flotilla.
Israel also agreed to pay compensation to the families of those who were killed by Israeli commandos. The apology was brokered by US President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Israel.
The Israeli source added that the regime’s military has been “lobbying hard for the politicians to find a form of apology, in order to restore the Israeli-Turkish alliance against Syria and Iran.”
The trip comes as the Israeli military chief recently repeated its war threats against Iran, saying the regime can invade Iran on its own.
“We have our plans and forecasts… If the time comes we’ll decide” on whether to take military action against Iran, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said on April 16.
Netanyahu has also recently said that the US-engineered sanctions against Iran over its nuclear energy program might not be enough.
The US, Israel and some of their allies accuse Iran of pursuing non-civilian objectives in its nuclear energy program with the Israeli regime repeatedly threatening to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities based on the unsubstantiated allegation.
Iran argues that as a committed signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), it has every right to use nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. Iran has further promised a crushing response to any act of aggression against it.
Unlike Iran, Israel, which is widely believed to possess between 200 to 400 nuclear warheads, is a non-signatory to the NPT and continues to defy international calls to join the treaty.
The investigation into Monday’s deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon has officially gone international: law enforcement officials from Israel have been sent to the United States to assist in the probe.
Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino says he has dispatched officials to Boston, Massachusetts, where they will meet with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and other authorities, the Times of Israel reports.
Citing an earlier report published by the newspaper Maariv, Times of Israel writes that Danino has dispatched police officers to participate in discussions that “will center on the Boston Marathon bombings and deepening professional cooperation between the law enforcement agencies of both countries.”
The paper reports that Israeli law enforcement planned the trip before the deadly pair of bombings on Monday that has so far claimed three lives, but the discussions will now shift focus in order to see how help from abroad can expand the investigation.
In an address made Tuesday, Israel President Shimon Peres said that tragedies such as this week’s incident in Boston, sadly, bring people together from across the world.
“When it comes to events like this, all of us are one family. We feel a part of the people who paid such a high price. God bless them,” Peres said. “Today the real problem is terror, and terror is not an extension of policy: Their policy is terror, their policy is to threaten. Terrorists divide people, they kill innocent people.”
“This was a heinous and cowardly act,” said Obama from the White House, “and given what we now know the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism.”
But even as officials come to assist from as far away as Israel, authorities are still in the dark as far as finding any leads in the case. Pres. Obama has directed the FBI and US Department of Homeland Security to assist in the investigation, but no agencies have identified suspects or motives at this time.
Pres. Obama has also said that his administration has been directed to implement “appropriate security measures to protect the American people,” but details as to what that could mean remain scarce. Meanwhile, at least one leading lawmaker is asking for the US to respond to the terrorist attack by increasing the scope of the ever-expanding surveillance program already growing across the United States.
“I do think we need more cameras,” Rep. Peter King (R-New York) told MSNBC after Monday’s attacks. “We have to stay ahead of the terrorists and I do know in New York, the Manhattan Security Initiative, which is based on cameras, the outstanding work that results from that. So yes, I do favor more cameras. They’re a great law enforcement device. And again, it keeps us ahead of the terrorists, who are constantly trying to kill us.”
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has also confirmed that he has dispatched law enforcement officers from the Big Apple to assist in the investigation by meeting with agents at a Boston fusion center, one of the DHS-funded data facilities that collects surveillance camera footage and other evidence in order to analyze events like Monday’s attack.
“We are certainly engaged in the information flow with the FBI through our Joint Terrorism Task Force. We have two New York City police officers, police sergeants, who are in the Boston Regional Intelligence Center,” Bloomberg said on Tuesday. “They’re up there, they’ve been up there since last evening.”
But in a study conducted last year by the Senate’s bipartisan Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, lawmakers found that those fusion centers have been more or less unhelpful in assisting with terrorism probes.
The Department of Homeland Security’s work with state and local fusion centers, the subcommittee wrote, “has not produced useful intelligence to support federal counterterrorism efforts.” Instead, they added, so-called “intelligence” shared between facilities consisted of tidbits of shoddy quality that was often outdated and “sometimes endangering [to] citizen‘s civil liberties and Privacy Act protections.”
“More often than not,” the panel added, information collected and shared at DHS fusion centers was “unrelated to terrorism.”
PressTVGlobalNews | April 12, 2013
US President Barak Obama has presented congress an almost 4 trillion dollar budget plan: Amongst his requests: more funds, in the billions, to modernize US’s nuclear weapons. This is while he will cut payments to Medicare not to mention cutbacks to its Social Security pensions and other government programs.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Mark Dankof, a political commentator from San Antonio, to further examine why the US – who has the lead in the possession of nuclear weapons and has advocated nuclear non-proliferation – feels the need to modernize its weapons of mass of destruction, which also goes against the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The video also offers the opinions of one additional guest: Charlie Wolf who is a writer and broadcaster from London.
The following is a partial and approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Do you not think that we have our guest there Charlie Wolf thinking that the Iranian government is pursuing weaponization of its program; Iran has clearly come out and said we want a Middle East free of nuclear weapons and at the same time, countries like the US are coming out and using nuclear weapons as, they claim to be deterrent but really to use and enforce power. What is your reaction there?
Dankof: A couple of things. One, I am not a nuclear expert but let me simply say this. If we take the director of National Intelligence of the United States James Clapper at his word, if we take the 16 intelligence agencies of the United States that produce the national intelligence estimate at their word, Iran is in fact not pursuing a weaponized nuclear program.
And I add it to that of course is the situation where the United States’ chief ally in the region Israel is a nuclear power and going back to something that the Times of Israel published earlier this week back in the 1970s, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yigal Allon then the foreign minister of Israel were repeatedly lying to the president of the United States and the senator Howard Baker of Tennessee and Mac Mathias of Maryland in regard to their Dimona Operation, in regard to their weaponized nuclear program and in regard to the fact that they already were in the 1970s in possession of nuclear weapons.
When you look at that Times of Israel’s report and then consider that Israel is the chief driving force behind what the United States is presently doing in the Middle East and what President Obama and John Kerry are insisting that Iran do in the Middle East and with their nuclear research program, I think the word hypocrisy does apply.
Press TV: Eight billion dollars for this most recent upgrade; Mark Dankoff, the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron just recently came out and he called the ownership of nuclear weapons, in response to North Korea threats ‘the ultimate insurance policy’. This is the kind of feeling that generally some people are feeling when it comes to the US president coming out with 8 billion dollars for what he calls upgrades. I mean, one nuclear bomb should be enough unless there is different types of bombs with lesser degrees or higher degrees. Again I know you said that you are not a nuclear technician. It does not give much merit to the president’s claim that it is for nuclear nonproliferation.
Dankof: That is right and I will say something again and this gets back to something Charlie [Wolf, the other guest on the show] was commenting on because I am not a nuclear expert, I do not know the extent to this budget upgrade by the president represents an attempt to merely keep the present stockpiles safe and workable and to keep it from being involved in some sort of accident or malfunction and to what extent it actually represents an upgrade in the expulsive capacity of these so-called weapons of mass destruction. I simply do not have that knowledge of my disposal.
But it does seem to me that when we look at the president’s actions, at least symbolically, when you look at what has happened since 9/11 with American foreign policy, the draconian increases in defense spending across the board, the ongoing military intervention of the United States and NATO and all kinds of circumstances around the globe of which Libya and Syria are only the latest and when you look at the kinds of things that the US is clearly doing in regard to the deployment of the aircraft carrier, Task Force Groups, black operations inside Iranian borders, draconian economic sanctions and so forth and so on, the Iranians could well be forgiven for interpreting all of these actions on the part of the United States as particularly bellicose.
I would like to say one other thing that Charlie commented on that I do disagree with. President Ahmadinejad is often quoted as saying that either he or Iran would wipe Israel off the map. That is not what the man said. That is what an Israeli translation service called MEMRI said that he said.
President Ahmadinejad’s remarks, properly translated as I understand it, indicated that he simply thought that the Zionist state would eventually fade from history because of all of the internal contradictions within it. That is more than a slight shift in nuance in regard to meaning. I do not think that the president of Iran said the things that had been repeatedly said that he said about wanting to annihilate Israel militarily.
I think that is a bad translation and a false translation and one that again was offered by a Middle East research institute that has no links to the Israeli intelligence community.
Press TV: I am trying to steer this debate to focus on Obama’s proposal to upgrade its nuclear arsenal. We seem to keep going back to the Middle East and Iran. So Mark Dankoff, let’s go along the line of why the US president feels for this upgrade and one deduction has been the US military industrial complex: companies such as GE of which there has been lots of money to be made here. Could this be part of the push by them?
Dankof: I think when you look at the American defense posture generally, it is hard to get away from this perception. After all, when you look at the power of these defense contractors, the amount of money that is involved, the influence that they have on Capitol Hill with people in both of the major political parties, certainly this has to factor into this without question.
There is an additional political context to all of this however that I think does go back to 1945. It is noteworthy that the United States is the only nation on earth that has ever used these weapons in wartime. It used them against two Japanese cities, as we all know, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to me the most chilling aspect of all of this is that my father’s old boss, General Curtis Lemay, the father of the Strategic Air Command said after the war that the American utilization of all those weapons against those cities had nothing to do with ending the war or getting Japan to surrender which is what we were always taught in American schools growing up for years after 1945.
But that had everything to do with simply showing the Soviet Union what we had and that using the Japanese as the victims of the demonstration. So with that as a beginning to this whole tragedy of nuclear weaponry, it seems that over the course of the last 70 years or so that we cannot get away from the political context of all of this and the perception on the part of most of the people of the world that when it comes to issues of nuclear proliferation and non-proliferation that the United States will play by one set of rules; the other nuclear powers will play by one set of rules and everyone else gets to play by the rules and guidelines that are said done by the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty.
This is perceived as inherently unfair and I do not think that we can separate the technical issues involved in this debate and the budgetary issues from the issue of the profit motive of these armament companies and also the whole question of the fact that some people want to have their cake and eat it too in terms of possessing these weapons and denying the right to these weapons to other people. It is a vexing situation.
Press TV: What is your response to Charlie Wolf’s remarks?
Dankof: As a matter of fact, we now know through a series of things that have been declassified that the Japanese had already agreed to surrender that Truman would not allow them to surrender because of his so-called unconditional Surrender Doctrine. What all the Japanese were asking for was that we kept our hands off of the emperor.
In fact, we went ahead and used these weapons and then turned around and basically agreed to the back channel demand that the Japanese had made after the destruction of both of those cities. So I would take issue with that.
I also in terms of Mr. Ahmadinejad would compare him with the current leadership of the nation of Israel. It is also a fact. Why do we not go back and take a look at what General Lemay and Admiral Nimitz and General Eisenhower had to say on this subject years after the war and a series of the things that have subsequently been declassified.
Press TV: Obama’s nuclear vision or is it an illusion?
Dankof: I think it is an illusion and it is interesting to me again that we are talking about a man of the Democratic Party and a man who is perceived on the left end of the Democratic Party spectrum who has been involved in a series of things and making him look to me like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney ranging from the drone strikes to agreeing to put out the war through his secretary of state that the United States is prepared to take preemptive military action against Iran or allow Israel to do so.
Under Obama’s presidency, the United States and Israel have been using the Mujahedin-E-Khalq or the MEK to conduct these assassinations of these Iranian nuclear scientists. With what all of that implies – and of course the president was very much involved in getting NATO to intervene in Libya – the president is now clearly involved as the United States is and as the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation States are in financing the attempted overthrow of this government in Syria with all of these al-Qaeda elements in it. This does not sound like liberal to me.