Tag: FBI

Jan 09

The Burglars Who Came In From The Cold

On March 8, 1971 a burglary took place in Media, PA. That wouldn’t be significant except for the target, the local FBI office, and the documents that were taken opened a can of worms that blew the lid off of the covert, and sometimes illegal, FBI program called COINTELPRO, an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram. The police and FBI, Hoover had over 200 agents on the case, were never able to find the perpetrators of the break-in. Now, 43 years later. with the statute of limitations expired, the burglars have some in from the cold.

They were never caught, and the stolen documents that they mailed anonymously to newspaper reporters were the first trickle of what would become a flood of revelations about extensive spying and dirty-tricks operations by the F.B.I. against dissident groups.

The burglary in Media, Pa., on March 8, 1971, is a historical echo today, as disclosures by the former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden have cast another unflattering light on government spying and opened a national debate about the proper limits of government surveillance. The burglars had, until now, maintained a vow of silence about their roles in the operation. They were content in knowing that their actions had dealt the first significant blow to an institution that had amassed enormous power and prestige during J. Edgar Hoover’s lengthy tenure as director.

“When you talked to people outside the movement about what the F.B.I. was doing, nobody wanted to believe it,” said one of the burglars, Keith Forsyth, who is finally going public about his involvement. “There was only one way to convince people that it was true, and that was to get it in their handwriting.”

Two weeks after the burglary, Washington Post reporter Betty Medsger ran the first story exposing the FBI’s blanket surveillance of the peace and civil rights movement, the tactics of disinformation and deception the bureau used to silence protesters.

But the document that would have the biggest impact on reining in the F.B.I.’s domestic spying activities was an internal routing slip, dated 1968, bearing a mysterious word: Cointelpro.

Neither the Media burglars nor the reporters who received the documents understood the meaning of the term, and it was not until several years later, when the NBC News reporter Carl Stern obtained more files from the F.B.I. under the Freedom of Information Act, that the contours of Cointelpro – shorthand for Counterintelligence Program – were revealed.

Since 1956, the F.B.I. had carried out an expansive campaign to spy on civil rights leaders, political organizers and suspected Communists, and had tried to sow distrust among protest groups. Among the grim litany of revelations was a blackmail letter F.B.I. agents had sent anonymously to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., threatening to expose his extramarital affairs if he did not commit suicide.

“It wasn’t just spying on Americans,” said Loch K. Johnson, a professor of public and international affairs at the University of Georgia who was an aide to Senator Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho. “The intent of Cointelpro was to destroy lives and ruin reputations.”

The eight burglars never met again as a group. When the statute of limitations had expired, the FBI closed the case. Ms. Medsger wrote that only one of the burglars was on the final list of suspects. Three of the burglars have decided to remain anonymous.

Democracy needs whistleblowers. That’s why I broke into the FBI in 1971

By Bonnie Raines

Like Snowden, we broke laws to reveal something that was more dangerous. We wanted to hold J Edgar Hoover accountable

I vividly remember the eureka moment. It was the night we broke into an FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, in March 1971 and removed about 1,000 documents from the filing cabinets. We had a hunch that there would be incriminating material there, as the FBI under J Edgar Hoover was so bureaucratic that we thought every single thing that went on under him would be recorded. But we could not be sure, and until we found it, we were on tenterhooks. [..]

Looking back on what we did, there are obvious parallels with what Edward Snowden has done in releasing National Security Agency documents that show the NSA’s blanket surveillance of Americans. I think Snowden’s a legitimate whistleblower, and I guess we could be called whistleblowers as well. [..]

Democracy needs whistleblowers. Snowden was in a position to reveal things that nobody could dispute. He has performed a legitimate, necessary service. Unlike us, he revealed his own identity, and as a result, he’s sacrificed a lot. [..]

Nowadays, the country is divided once again, but I don’t see much concern about the abuses that are happening today, like the surveillance of mosques in America, using agent provocateurs. I hear people say, “I don’t care,” the government can do what it needs to do as long as it protects me from terrorism …” To me, that’s giving the authorities blanket permission to cross the line again.

Dissent and accountability are the lifeblood of democracy, yet people now think they just have to roll over in the name of “anti-terrorism”. Members of government thinks it can lie to us about it, and that they can lie to Congress. That concerns me for the future of my children and grandchildren, and that too makes me feel I can talk about, at my age, doing something as drastic as breaking-in to an FBI office in the search for truth.

Jul 12

Comey Set To Be Confirmed

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If anyone, at this point, thinks that President Barack Obama would a change from the Bush administration, his nomination of James Comey to be FBI Director should be proof that any change from the past was a delusion. Besides his record of approving torture, indefinite detention and warrantless wiretapping, at his confirmation hearing Comey defended current US surveillance practices.

James Comey defends US surveillance practices at FBI confirmation hearing

by Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian

Former deputy attorney general who famously rebelled against warrantless spying in 2004 declines to criticise current policy

James Comey, the former US deputy attorney general, said Tuesday that the secret surveillance court that approves wiretapping requests is “anything but a rubber stamp”, even though the so-called Fisa court approves nearly every surveillance request by the government.

“I think folks don’t understand that the FBI operates under a wide variety of constraints,” Comey testified during his confirmation hearing to succeed Robert Mueller as the second director of the bureau since 9/11. The combination of the Fisa court, investigative guidelines from the US attorney general, congressional scrutiny and internal inspectors general are “very effective” at checking FBI abuse, Comey argued.[..]

But Comey declined to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records when senators asked if they should be scaled back.

Having been out of government since 2005, Comey said that he was “not familiar with the details of the current programs” and did not wish to opine on them. “I do know, as a general matter, the collection and analysis of metadata is a valuable tool in counter-terrorism.”

When questioned about the use of drones, Comey said he did not think drones should be used to kill US citizens in America, but left the door open for cases of “imminent threats.” The precise definition of what circumstances would constitute an “imminent thread” were left unanswered.

Former FBI agent, Colleen Crowley, who was a division legal counsel for 13 years and taught constitutional rights to FBI agents and police, joined Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! to discuss Comey’s testimony and inevitable confirmation.



Transcript can be read here

At his confirmation hearing to head the FBI, former Bush administration Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to criticize the broad, ongoing collection of the phone records of Americans and defended the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens deemed to be enemy combatants. Comey also explained why he signed off on a memo authorizing waterboarding while serving under Attorney General John Ashcroft. We get reaction from former special FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who served with the Bureau from 1981 to 2004. The New York Times just published her op-ed titled “Questions for the FBI Nominee.” In 2002, Time magazine named her and two other female whistleblowers as Time’s “Person of the Year,” for warning about the FBI’s failure to help prevent the 9/11 attacks.

What digbt said: What do you have to do to not be eligible for promotion in official Washington?

I’ve always thought it was a mistake for the administration not to pursue prosecutions for the torture regime. It seems like a bad idea for a powerful nation to ignore war crimes. You have to assume that it could blow back on it some time in the future. But since we now know that the presidency is largely a ceremonial position without any power to shape the debate, affect legislation or influence the military industrial complex, it’s clearly awfully tough to do anything at all. Best stick to nice pictures with foreign leaders and leave it at that.

However, even those who view the office as nothing more than a symbol of leadership would have to grant that the president surely has the discretion not to promote the people who signed off on the war crimes.

Jul 06

Comey’s Torture Advocacy Questioned

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Try as President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder might to denounce torture their actions with the last round of nominees and appointments to crucial positions speak louder than their words. First is was John Brennan to head the CIA, whose dubious record during the Bush/Cheney regime on torture and covering up war crimes was glossed over by Obama. Then there is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, an inveterate liar who has a memory problem as well, “I forgot the Patriot Act.” Really? Clapper also served as an executive for Booz Allen Hamilton, a private security company contracted to gather data for the NSA, who employed Edward Snowden.

Now, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Robert Mueller is retiring and who does Obama choose to replace him? Another Bush crony, James B. Comey, who served as deputy attorney general from 2003 to 2005. Comey, as has been hammered by the Obama administration supporters, blocked, along with Mueller, the Bush administration’s attempt to renew a still secret and illegal surveillance program on Americans’ electronic communications. That incident is only part of Comey’s record at DOJ which includes his support of torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention. In her article at The Guardian, Laura Murphy reviews Comey stands on these issues and questions just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it?

On Torture

On 30 December 2004, a memo addressed to James Comey was issued that superseded the infamous memo that defined torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure”. The memo to Comey seemed to renounce torture but did nothing of the sort. The key sentence in the opinion is tucked away in footnote 8. It concludes that the new Comey memo did not change the authorizations of interrogation tactics in any earlier memos.

In short, the memo Comey that approved gave a thumbs-up on waterboarding, wall slams, and other forms of torture – all violations of domestic and international law. [..]

On Warrantless Wiretapping

While, to his credit, (Comey) he immediately began raising concerns (pdf), the program was still in existence when the New York Times exposed it in December 2005. This was a year and a half after Comey’s hospital showdown with Gonzales and Card. In fact, the warrantless wiretapping program was supported by a May 2004 legal opinion (pdf) produced by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and signed off by Comey, which replaced the 2001 legal opinion Comey had problems with (pdf).

This, of course, raises the question: just what illegal surveillance program did Comey oppose so much he would resign over it? Last weekend, the Washington Post provided a new theory: the Marina program, which collects internet metadata. Now, the Senate has an opportunity to end the theorizing and find out what exactly Comey objected to.

On Indefinite Detention

The final stain on Comey’s record was his full-throated defense of the indefinite military detention of an American citizen arrested on American soil. In a June 2004 press conference, Comey told of Jose Padilla, an alleged al-Qaida member accused of plotting to detonate a dirty bomb as well as blow up apartment buildings in an American city. By working for al-Qaida, Padilla, Comey argued, could be deprived of a lawyer and indefinitely detained as an enemy combatant on a military brig off the South Carolina coast for the purpose of extracting intelligence out of him

In a letter to Comey, two Democratic senators, Senators Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, expressed concern on Wednesday about Mr. Comey’s views on waterboarding and his role in approving “enhanced interrogation techniques” while at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration. They are asking Comey to explain his e-mail of April, 2005, where he gave his approval of 13 interrogation techniques that included waterboarding.

. . Mr. Comey gave his assent to a Justice Department legal opinion that authorized the C.I.A. to use 13 interrogation methods, including waterboarding and up to 180 hours of sleep deprivation. The opinion “was ready to go out and I concurred,” Mr. Comey wrote to a colleague in an April 27, 2005, e-mail message obtained by The New York Times.

But he said in the e-mail that he disagreed with another legal opinion addressing the “combined effects” of the harsh methods, suggesting that their use in combination might be illegal. He recorded his views in e-mails to Chuck Rosenberg, then his chief of staff, as if deliberately creating a record in case his position might become relevant to his record in the future, as it has.

Appointing Comey to head the FBI is a another slap in the face to voters to whom Mr. Obama promised that he would end the Bush era abuses. Instead, Mr. Obama and his appointees not only continued these programs but covered up the wrong doing of the past, reinforcing and expanding the abuses.

This is what Barack believes.

Jun 18

NOT TO BE MISSED!

I have just finished reading questions and answers that were put forth to Edward Snowden.  Snowden’s answers are intelligent, most articulate and totally understandable/logical.

I urge you to do a read, as well.

Edward Snowden Q and A: “The US Government Destroyed Any Possibility of a Fair Trial at Home”

The whistleblower behind the biggest intelligence leak in NSA history answered questions about the NSA surveillance revelations.

June 17, 2013  

It is the interview the world’s media organisations have been chasing for more than a week, but instead  Edward Snowden is giving Guardian readers the exclusive.

The 29-year-old former NSA contractor and  source of the Guardian’s NSA files coverage will – with the help of Glenn Greenwald – take your questions today on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of US citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces. Ask him anything.

Snowden, who has fled the US, told the Guardian he “does not expect to see home again”, but where he’ll end up has yet to be determined.

He will be online today from  11am ET/4pm BST today. An important caveat: the live chat is subject to Snowden’s security concerns and also his access to a secure internet connection. It is possible that he will appear and disappear intermittently, so if it takes him a while to get through the questions, please be patient.

To participate, post your question below and recommend your favorites. As he makes his way through the thread, we’ll embed his replies as posts in the live blog. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag # AskSnowden.

We expect the site to experience high demand so we’ll re-publish the Q&A in full after the live chat has finished.

11.07am ET

Question:

GlennGreenwald

17 June 2013 2:11pm

Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?

Answer:

   1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it. . . .

I cannot see Snowden as anything but a man with a “nagging conscience,” such that steered him to his decision to reveal certain of his knowledges concerning the NSA activities.    

May 11

Obama: Privacy For Me But Not For Thee

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

SOPA Reddit Warrior photo refresh31536000resize_h150resize_w1.jpgThe New York Times revealed in an article by Charles Savage that the Justice Department is preparing legislation that would allow the FBI to wiretap online communications with far greater ease:

The Obama administration is weighing a proposal that would fine companies that do not comply with wiretap orders. An earlier proposal by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have required all companies to build in this capacity from the outset – a costly mandate that critics worried would stifle tech innovation and small businesses.

Attorney Albert Gidari Jr., who specializes in representing technology companies, told the Times: “We’ll look at lot more like China than America after this.”

Albert Gidari Jr., who represents technology companies on law enforcement matters, told the NYT, “We’ll look a lot more like China than America after this.” Gidari further stated, “that if the United States started imposing fines on foreign Internet firms, it would encourage other countries, some of which may be looking for political dissidents, to penalize American companies if they refused to turn over users’ information.”

The Raw Story notes:

It’s not clear yet if the White House will send this proposal to Congress, but if they do it’s sure to ignite another major debate on Internet freedom and privacy rights not unlike the struggle over network neutrality and the push-back against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA).

And according to the Department of Justice, “warrants? we don’t need no stinking warrants:”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI believe they don’t need a search warrant to review Americans’ e-mails, Facebook chats, Twitter direct messages, and other private files, internal documents reveal.

Government documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and provided to CNET show a split over electronic privacy rights within the Obama administration, with Justice Department prosecutors and investigators privately insisting they’re not legally required to obtain search warrants for e-mail. The IRS, on the other hand, publicly said last month that it would abandon a controversial policy that claimed it could get warrantless access to e-mail correspondence.

The Fourth Amendment is apparently irrelevant to Mr. Constitutional Law Professor.

The fight to protect the Constitution from Barack Obama and his Justice Department continues.

Jan 07

FBI and Banks Supressed “Terrorist” #OWS

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

If anyone had any doubts that the US Government is no longer a “government of the people” but of corporation and Wall St, you need only read the recently released FBI documents that labeled Occupy Wall Street a “terrorist group” and coordinated with banks and cities nationwide to suppress the protests with strong arm tactics and targeted assassinations (see pg 61 of document). This all started before the protest even began without evidence that the protests would be anything but peaceful and despite the internal acknowledgment that the movement opposed violent tactics. The documents prove that the government blatantly lied about the Department of Homeland Security involvement in coordinating the violent crackdown in New York City, Oakland and other major cities. Partnership for Civil Justice obtained the heavily redacted FBI documents revealing that the surveillance began at least a month before the protest in Zuccotti Park began and that the #OWS movement was being treated as potential criminal and terrorist activity.

The PCJF has obtained heavily redacted documents showing that FBI offices and agents around the country were in high gear conducting surveillance against the movement even as early as August 2011, a month prior to the establishment of the OWS encampment in Zuccotti Park and other Occupy actions around the country.

“This production, which we believe is just the tip of the iceberg, is a window into the nationwide scope of the FBI’s surveillance, monitoring, and reporting on peaceful protestors organizing with the Occupy movement,” stated Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Executive Director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF).  “These documents show that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security are treating protests against the corporate and banking structure of America as potential criminal and terrorist activity.  These documents also show these federal agencies functioning as a de facto intelligence arm of Wall Street and Corporate America.

“The documents are heavily redacted, and it is clear from the production that the FBI is withholding far more material. We are filing an appeal challenging this response and demanding full disclosure to the public of the records of this operation,” stated Heather Benno, staff attorney with the PCJF.

Author and activist Naomi Wolf reported in The Guardian that these “new documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent.”

It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves.

The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

The documents, released after long delay in the week between Christmas and New Year, show a nationwide meta-plot unfolding in city after city in an Orwellian world: six American universities are sites where campus police funneled information about students involved with OWS to the FBI, with the administrations’ knowledge (p51); banks sat down with FBI officials to pool information about OWS protesters harvested by private security; plans to crush Occupy events, planned for a month down the road, were made by the FBI – and offered to the representatives of the same organizations that the protests would target; and even threats of the assassination of OWS leaders by sniper fire – by whom? Where? – now remain redacted and undisclosed to those American citizens in danger, contrary to standard FBI practice to inform the person concerned when there is a threat against a political leader (p61).

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, executive director of the PCJF, sat down for an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

Transcript can be read here

So much for paranoia. The government is out to stop peaceful protest in anyway they can.

Aug 23

Letting It All Hang Out

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

One of the latest MSM fixations has been an incident that occurred last year during a Republican junket to Israel. A nighttime swim in the Sea of Galilee by some members of the delegations turned embarrassing when the FBI found the Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) took his dip in the sea sans his suit. Oh my! A coed swim with one naked man is now national news. But the question by the press should have been, why was the FBI investigating this trip. Surely, they weren’t interested in who was taking off their clothed and skinny dipping. It turns out that the FBI was only interested in one member of that group and the investigation had nothing to do with that representative’s participation in that incident, clothed or otherwise.

The focus of the FBI is Staten Island’s freshman Tea Party backed House Representative Michael Grimm. The 42 year old former FBI agent who bears a striking resemblance to Rep. Paul Ryan and the other Tea Party clones has been under investigation by the FBI and a federal grand jury investigation into his 2010 campaign finances. The FBI was looking into Mr. Grimm’s side trip to Cyprus that was sponsored by the Cyprus Federation of America.

But FBI agents were actually interested in Grimm’s failure to file paperwork related to his trip to Cyprus following his Israeli junket, which had been paid for by the Cyprus Federation of America. The president of that company was arrested on federal corruption charges in June. Grimm had reported the Israel trip in his initial filing in May but did not list the trip to Cyprus until he amended it in June, one day after Cyprus Federation of America’s president was arrested.

FBI agents may have asked questions about “who went into the water that night, and whether there was any impropriety,” as Politico reported, but sources indicated the dip in the water certainly wasn’t the FBI’s central focus. [.]

Grimm, a former FBI agent, has been the subject of plenty of attention from federal authorities over the past year. On Friday, one of Grimm’s top fundraisers was arrested for allegedly lying about the source of a loan on immigration documents. That man, an Israeli named Ofer Biton, traveled around the New York area with Grimm in 2010 to raise money for his congressional campaign. At least four of Grimm’s 2010 campaign workers have been questioned by the FBI. Federal prosecutors have also interviewed several donors, according to the New York Times.

But heck, what’s more interesting, an skinny dipping congressman or an investigation into possible corruption by a congressman? I think we all know the answer to that.

Jan 20

Anonymous Strikes Back Against FBI & Music Industry

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This afternoon in raids that extended as far as New Zealand, the FBI took down on of the most popular websites in the world, Magaupload.com charging them with internet piracy seizing $50 million in assets and arresting seven people, four in New Zealand. Who needed SOPA?

Megaupload left this comment before the website went dark:

“The fact is that the vast majority of Mega’s Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch.”

Not long after Meguploads was shut down and the news hit the web, this happened

Hacktivists with the collective Anonymous are waging an attack on the website for the White House after successfully breaking the sites for the FBI, Department of Justice, Universal Music Group, RIAA and Motion Picture Association of America. [..]

“It was in retaliation for Megaupload, as was the concurrent attack on Justice.org,” Anonymous operative Barrett Brown tells RT on Thursday afternoon. [..]

Brown adds that “more is coming” and Anonymous-aligned hacktivists are pursuing a joint effort with others to “damage campaign raising abilities of remaining Democrats who support SOPA.”

Although many members of Congress have just this week changed their stance on the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, the raid on Megaupload Thursday proved that the feds don’t need SOPA or its sister legislation, PIPA, in order to pose a blow to the Web.

Brown adds that operatives involved in the project will use an “experimental campaign” and search engine optimization techniques “whereby to forever saddle some of these congressmen with their record on this issue.”

Despite the loss of support for SOPA and PIPA Wednesday night, the Democrats remain the chief sponsors of the bills. MPAA CEO Chris Dodd, the former Democratic senator from Connecticut that blocked all financial reform, and his cohort, former Senate Democrat, now Independent, Sen. Joseph Lieberman have admitted that they want to copy Chinese style censorship. In an guest post article at naked capitalism, Washington’s Blog George Washington follows the money from Hollywood’s music and film industry to the Democrats in the Senate who are the “pillars of support for PIPA”:

Far and away, the top beneficiary in the Senate from interest groups that support PIPA is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who’s taken in just short of a million dollars from those groups, according to data from OpenSecrets.org. She’s also the most recent Senator to co-sponsor PIPA, adding her name to the list on Dec. 12. The runner-up is Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), who’s taken $777,383 from PIPA-supporting interest groups, and has co-sponsored the bill since May 2011.

In fact, a list of the top 20 beneficiaries of special interest money in favor of PIPA reads like a list of the Senate’s most influential Democrats: Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) in third; Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) in fourth; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in fifth; Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the bill’s primary sponsor, in sixth; Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) in seventh; Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) in eighth; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) in ninth; and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) in tenth.

The list goes on like that until Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who places 15th with $274,600 in special interest money promoting PIPA. He has not yet announced an official position on the bill. The only other Republican on the list of the top 20 PIPA beneficiaries in the Senate is Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), in 19th place with $212,312. Corker is one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

I have to give at least one Democrat credit although she is not in the Senate, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) opposed SOPA.

This is far from over.

Dec 24

Investigating Fannie & Freddie But Not The Banks

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

Another slap on the wrist by the government for the banks that caused the housing bubble and the crash that sank the economy world wide with unregulated derivatives and credit default swaps:

DoJ Settles – Again – With Countrywide on Fair Lending Claim

by David Dayen

The Department of Justice has announced a $335 million settlement with Countrywide, the former subprime mortgage giant now subsumed into Bank of America, on claims of housing discrimination.

   The Justice Department on Wednesday announced the largest residential fair-lending settlement in history, saying that Bank of America had agreed to pay $335 million to settle allegations that its Countrywide Financial unit discriminated against black and Hispanic borrowers during the housing boom.

   A department investigation concluded that Countrywide had charged higher fees and rates to more than 200,000 minority borrowers across the country than to white borrowers who posed the same credit risk. It also steered more than 10,000 minority borrowers into costly subprime mortgages when white borrowers with similar credit profiles received prime loans, the department said.

   The pattern and practice covered the years 2004 to 2008, before Countrywide was acquired by Bank of America.

   “The department’s actions against Countrywide makes clear that we will not hesitate to hold financial institutions accountable, including one of the nation’s largest, for discrimination,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said. “These institutions should make judgments based on applicants’ creditworthiness, not on the color of their skin.”

I’m waiting for someone to hold financial institutions accountable for discrimination against every one of its customers, by defrauding them and destroying the residential home mortgage market. That’s obviously not going to happen here.[..]

Here’s the settlement agreement, and once again you see that Countrywide doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing for their crimes.

But the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission will enthusiastically pursue the one agency that didn’t cause the crash but just inherited it, at tax payers expense:

FBI Now Investigating Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

by David Dayen

The walls have closed in over the past couple weeks on mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The SEC charged former CEOs and executives at the companies with fraud. California Attorney General Kamala Harris sued them for imformation (sic)in a wide-ranging fraud investigation. And now we learn that the FBI is investigating them[..]

If Fannie and Freddie are guilty of misleading investors, they deserve to pay the penalty. And yet, I do sense more enthusiasm to go after these government sponsored enterprises than to go after the private banking firms which were far more responsible for subprime. This feeds a false narrative that government somehow caused the financial crisis by forcing lending to poor people. Fannie and Freddie followed the market in subprime and did not originate it.

Nov 16

OWS Evictions Coordinated by Federal Agencies

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

As suspected and alluded to by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in an interview with the BBC, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI coordinated with mayors throughout the country on tactics to out Occupy Wall Street protesters from city parks. The heavy handed tactics has lead to police abuse, destruction of private property, illegal searches, injuries and arrests.

The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.

(emphasis mine)

The raid on NYC’s Zuccotti Park happened just one day after the last raid on Oakland’s #OWS protest that precipitated the resignations of Mayor Quan’s legal advisor and friend, Dan Seigel and Deputy Mayor Sharon Cornu.

On her blog, Rachel Maddow makes the point that these raids, especially the police violence, only steels the protests resolve to continue:

{..} Greg Sargent argues that Occupy Wall Street accomplished something important today, despite the eviction. Ezra Klein asks whether or not Mayor Bloomberg, Brookfield and the NYPD have actually done the movement a favor. And my friends Allison Kilkenny and Amanda Marcotte both criticize the justification used not only for the city to clear the park, but to infringe upon First Amendment Rights.

Glenn Greenwald argues that the only laws being broken are by Mayor Bloomberg:

To justify his raid, Mayor Bloomberg said: “We must never be afraid to insist on compliance with our laws.” Leaving aside the fact that torturers, illegal eavesdroppers, wagers of aggressive war, Wall Streets defrauders, and mortgage thieves are some of his best friends who thrive and profit rather than sit in a jail cell, this is the same Mayor Bloomberg who, now beyond all dispute, is knowingly and deliberately breaking the law by violating a Court Order of which he is well aware. He’d be arrested for that if he weren’t a billionaire Mayor (and indeed, having seen that bevvy of political and financial elites break the law in the most egregious ways with total impunity over the last decade, why would Bloomberg be afraid of simply ignoring the law?).

Sep 15

9/11: “They Knew, They Knew”

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gasette

Ali Soufran, former special agent working with the FBI, was tracking Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden long before 9/11. He was in Yemen investigating the USS Cole bombing when he heard about the attacks on that day. His book, The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda, has released which describes how missed opportunities to defuse the 2001 plot, and argues that other attacks overseas might have been prevented, and Osama bin Laden found earlier, if interrogations had not been mismanaged. It is an frighteningly, revealing picture of the dysfunctional and factional intelligence community.

Mr. Soufran spoke with Rachel Maddow discussing the CIA’s redactions to his book, his role with the FBI before and after 9/11 and, most importantly, what was known in the CIA before 9/11 that could have prevented the attacks:

From Jeff Kaye at FDL:

In at least one other case, crucial information was kept from Soufan and other investigators by CIA officials, information that would have helped break the Cole case, and, crucially, have led FBI investigators to identify Al Qaeda operatives who had entered the United States more than eighteen months before 9/11. These two operatives, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, died on the plane that rammed into the Pentagon.

The controversies surrounding the CIA’s withholding of information about these two hijackers was told in Lawrence Wright’s 2006 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, and was further explored in Kevin Fenton’s recent book, Disconnecting the Dots: How 9/11 Was Allowed to Happen.

Here’s how Shane described the moment when Soufan realized he’d been had. For some strange reason, the NYT refrains from actually giving al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi’s names.

   [Soufan] recounts a scene at the American Embassy in Yemen, where, a few hours after the attacks on New York and Washington, a C.I.A. official finally turned over the material the bureau requested months earlier [from the CIA], including photographs of two of the hijackers.

   “For about a minute I stared at the pictures and the report, not quite believing what I had in my hands,” Mr. Soufan writes. Then he ran to a bathroom and vomited. “My whole body was shaking,” he writes. He believed the material, documenting a Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, combined with information from the Cole investigation, might have helped unravel the airliner plot.

Yes, they let it happen. That leaves the elephant question in the room: Why?

Jul 11

Brutalism and Decay at the FBI

FBI5

The British architects Alison and Peter Smithson coined the term “brutalism” in 1953, from the French b├ęton brut, or “raw concrete”, a phrase used by Le Corbusier to describe the poured board-marked concrete with which he constructed many of his post-World War II buildings. The term gained wide currency when the British architectural critic Reyner Banham used it in the title of his 1966 book, The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic?

The headquarters of the FBI at 935 Pennsylvania Avenue is probably the most impressive example of brutalist architecture in Washington DC, and every aspect of it expresses the brute force of government in the Twenty-first Century, except for a vast expanse of netting which completely swaddles the top two floors.

“Why is all that netting up there?” I asked a cop on guard at the exit of the parking ramp, and he said…

“To keep the building from falling on your head.”

“And who would I ask if I wanted a serious answer to that question?”

“That is a serious answer,” said the cop. “The building is crumbling, and chunks of concrete were falling on the sidewalk.”

“Thank you, officer, and I’m sorry for doubting you,” I replied, and maybe I could have eventually figured it out for myself, but now I have a source.  

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