Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Julian Assange, founder and Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks, is the man responsible for the daily release of emails showing the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign to be an unprecedented machine whose tentacles and snitches reach into Wall Street, big corporations and big media. Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released emails showing that the Democratic National Committee had maliciously conspired to undermine the presidential campaign of Clinton challenger, Senator Bernie Sanders, in order to elevate Hillary Clinton to the top of the ticket.
Now it has emerged that two of the top lawyers representing Assange, John Jones in London and Michael Ratner in New York, died within less than a month of each other this year. And, Assange’s closest confidant in London and a Director of WikiLeaks, Gavin Macfadyen, died just yesterday.
Wall Street On Parade has carefully investigated the similarly unprecedented banker deaths over the past two and one half years. What is noteworthy about the banker deaths is that at the time of the deaths, Wall Street banks and their global brethren were under the largest investigations for criminal rigging of markets to occur in the past century. Even during the Senate investigations of the early 1930s when crooked business journalists touting fraudulent Wall Street stocks and crooked Wall Street bank execs manipulating stock prices were regularly revealed through subpoenaed documents, there was no similar rash of deaths or series of alleged suicides. (See related articles below.)
Now there is WikiLeaks leaking emails and documents that show that the same kind of cartel-like behavior that has corrupted Wall Street to its core has also infested the top of the Democratic Party. And, amazingly, three key members of the Assange/WikiLeaks support network have died within six months of each other this year. The statistical probability of this being a natural occurrence is slim.
The first WikiLeaks lawyer death to occur was on . . .
Joseph Cox writes at Motherboard:
It’s not just your friends following you on Facebook or Twitter. The cops are, too.
Law enforcement agencies around the world have used social media monitoring software to keep tabs on populations en masse, sweeping up their posts and tweets, giving police a bird’s-eye view of what, say, Twitter users are broadcasting in a specific area, or about a particular topic. Tweeting from an Olympic stadium? Sharing a post with a hashtag supporting Black Lives Matter? Police may be watching that, in real time.
On the face of it, you might not have a problem with cops reading public social media posts or tweets: individuals presumably took the decision to put the information out there themselves. But law enforcement’s monitoring of social media is not that simple.
“Social media monitoring is so much more than it first appears. Programs to monitor social media are rarely about manual review of public information,” Amie Stepanovich, US policy manager at activist group Access Now, told Motherboard in a Twitter message.
Instead, these programs are often about learning new, and qualitatively different information from an individual’s or communities’ postings. That might be the ‘mood’ of a population, which can then be used to predict any upcoming instability, or if a group may start to protest, for example.
“Police have a huge challenge in monitoring social networks for the prevention and detection of crime due to the sheer volume of material across networks such as Twitter and YouTube,” a spokesperson from the Metropolitan Police Service in London told Motherboard in an email. The MPS has made heavy use of social media monitoring tools.
Or, software can map a person’s movements over time, based on the geolocation data attached to their posts, and other pieces of metadata that users may not realise they are beaming out, as it is not always easily accessible to someone just looking at Twitter normally.
“What law enforcement increasingly can do with social media looks very different from what the public can do,” Rachel Levinson-Waldman, senior counsel from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law told Motherboard in a phone call. According to The Daily Dot, Geofeedia, a particularly popular social media monitoring tool, also makes use of fake profiles in an attempt to gain access to even more information on behalf of law enforcement clients. This activity appears to be geared toward targeted individuals.
Indeed, these services may rely on special access to social media site data, which gives them more information than an ordinary user. . .
“Are we being followed?” can now be answered: Yes, we are. All of us. And with tools that can zoom in and get an amazingly complete profile of any individual.
UPDATE: Using the “Look Inside” feature to read the first page of Nexus, a science-fiction novel.
And Hillary Clinton now owes Wall Street another big favor: it was Citigroup (probably the most criminal of the Wall Street banks) that recommended Hillary for State and Eric Holder for Department of Justice. (And don’t forget Obama’s appointment of Mary Jo White as chair of the SEC: Wall Street seems totally in control.) So the Hillary Clinton administration will be a handmaiden of Wall Street. Still, it’s better than Donald Trump, who seems to suffer from dementia or other mental health problem.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
If there is any truth to the allegation that Russia is behind the hacking of emails being released by WikiLeaks, then the American public owes Russia a huge debt of gratitude. At a time when the American people are sharply focused on how the leader of the free world is chosen, WikiLeaks is giving us an unprecedented, historical opportunity to understand how corporate money in politics has corrupted everything we believe in as a democracy.
This week, for example, emails from WikiLeaks show that President Obama, using the email address email@example.com, was communicating directly with Michael Froman of Citigroup in 2008, who fed Obama lists of recommended appointments to his cabinet. In an email from Froman dated October 6, 2008, with Froman using his Citigroup email address of firstname.lastname@example.org, Hillary Clinton shows up on Froman’s list for Secretary of State or head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In a separate list attached to the email, Eric Holder was recommended for U.S. Attorney General at the Department of Justice or as White House Counsel. (See the email and the attachments here.) In less than a month after Obama’s election as President on November 4, 2008, Obama had nominated Clinton to be his Secretary of State and Holder as his Attorney General. Despite the unprecedented corruption rooted out on Wall Street by regulators, Holder failed to prosecute any of Wall Street’s top executives for the crimes that led to the greatest financial crash since the Great Depression.
Froman had served as Chief of Staff to Robert Rubin when Rubin was Secretary of the Treasury in the Bill Clinton administration. Rubin led the effort to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act, which barred investment banks and brokerage firms on Wall Street from merging with commercial banks that held FDIC insured deposits for savers. The Glass-Steagall Act had been in force since 1933, after Congress had conducted three years of hearings showing the recklessness and corruption of the major Wall Street banks. Rubin left the Treasury Department and promptly took a job at Citigroup, the primary beneficiary of the repeal in 1999. Over the next decade, as Citigroup was serially charged by its regulators for abusing the public trust, Rubin collected compensation of $126 million.
Froman followed Rubin to Citigroup where he served as Chief Operating Officer of Citi Alternative Investments and later as Managing Director of Citi Infrastructure Investors, a unit of Citi Alternative Investments. The latter is the division that blew up the bank in the same month that Obama was elected President. Froman had been a major bundler for Obama, raising funds that USA Today placed at $200,000 to $500,000.
Just seven days after Froman sent his Hillary and Holder recommendations to Obama in 2008, Citigroup received $25 billion in a bailout. Other Wall Street banks received similar amounts. But what happened just 19 days after Obama’s election was unprecedented in the annals of U.S. financial history. Citigroup received an additional infusion of $20 billion in equity from the government, assets guarantees on more than $300 billion of its toxic assets, and, it was secretly receiving billions of dollars in low-cost loans from the Federal Reserve – an amount that would cumulatively add up to $2.5 trillion from 2007 to 2010. This is how we reported in November 2008 on Citigroup’s teetering status as the President-Elect was secretly receiving his personnel marching orders from one of Citi’s executives: . . .
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Last Friday Senator Elizabeth Warren released a 12-page letter calling for President Obama to remove Securities and Exchange Commission Chair, Mary Jo White. For a female Senator and former Harvard Law professor to publicly humiliate a female Federal agency head and fellow lawyer is an extraordinary event. There is a code in Washington that women in power support other women in power. Warren didn’t just violate the code, she shredded it.
Warren called Mary Jo White’s conduct as SEC Chair “brazen” and wrote that White was undermining the SEC’s central mission of investor protection. All of that is true as Wall Street On Parade repeatedly predicted it would be over three years ago. (See hereand here.) Between White’s career at law firm Debevoise and Plimpton and her husband John W. White’s long term career at the international law firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP, the two had represented every major Wall Street bank. John White went right on representing them after his wife took her seat as SEC Chair.
Of course, after Warren released her letter, President Obama was quick to reassure Wall Street that no change was coming. White House spokesman Eric Schultz promptly stated that “The president continues to believe that Chair White is the right leader for the Securities and Exchange Commission.”
In her letter, Warren had attempted to spin White’s derelict actions as an affront to the President’s wholesome agenda, writing that White is “undermining your Administration’s priorities….”
As our readers well know, we have never believed that President Obama has ever genuinely wanted to level the playing field for the average American. He could not have had that agenda and appointed the people he did to his cabinet and regulatory agencies.
Obama’s choice for U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, came from the law firm Covington & Burling which had fronted for Big Tobacco for decades and directly engaged in misleading the public about the devastating health impacts from smoking, according to a Federal court decision. (See Was the U.S. Justice Department Sold to the Highest Bidder.) Then Obama remained silent as the Justice Department failed to indict any Wall Street bank executives for the crimes leading up to the financial crash in 2008. As the PBS program Frontline reported, there were no subpoenas, no wiretaps, no investigations involving Wall Street banks at the Justice Department.
Less than three weeks after Obama had been elected to his first term, and before actually taking office, he announced his pick of Tim Geithner for U.S. Treasury Secretary. Geithner had been the head of the New York Fed and, unknown to the public at that time, had secretly funneled trillions of dollars in below-market rate loans to Wall Street and global banks without any authorization from Congress.
An equally scandalous appointment was Jack Lew as U.S. Treasury Secretary in Obama’s second term. Lew had been Chief Operating Officer in the very division of Citigroup that had imploded the bank, leading to the greatest financial bailout in U.S. history. While the bank was insolvent, Lew had accepted a $940,000 bonus from the firm. Lew, as part of his Citigroup perks, had invested in a fund in the Cayman Islands at the very street address that the President had called a tax scam.
Robert Scheer, writing at The Nation magazine said at the time:
I suppose that he can’t be much worse than Timothy Geithner, but that should be scant cause for cheer over the news that the president has nominated Jack Lew as Treasury secretary. Both championed the financial deregulation craze of the Clinton administration, and both are acolytes of Robert Rubin, the former Clinton Treasury secretary who unfettered Wall Street greed and then took his own considerable cut of the action.
Rubin went to work at Citigroup, the world’s largest financial conglomerate whose legality was enabled by legislation he advanced while in government. He made off with a salary of $15 million a year during his decade at that bank, which specialized in toxic mortgage derivatives and had to be bailed out by taxpayers to avoid bankruptcy. . . .
I fear the pattern will continue with Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders was our best chance.
Barrett Brown writes in The Intercept:
I never really got a chance to play any pen-and-paper role-playing games growing up, so being thrown into a prison system in which such things as Dungeons and Dragons are relatively common constituted one of the silver linings of my 2012 arrest, along with not having to deal with an infestation of those little German roaches that had colonized my kitchen or having to see “World War Z.”
As it happens, I’d actually learned about the prevalence of tabletop games among inmates a few months before my own incarceration, in the days after the FBI first raided both my apartment and my mother’s home in March 2012 and seized laptops and papers without yet making an arrest. As they themselves noted in the search warrant, which the late Michael Hastings published at BuzzFeed, the focus of the investigation was my collaborative journalism outfit Project PM as well as echelon2.org, the online repository where we posted our ongoing findings on the still-mysterious “intelligence contracting” sector (which has since been moved here). The warrant listed HBGary Federal and Endgame Systems — two firms on which we’d focused particular attention — as topics for the FBI’s search. This was revealing. A year prior, a raid by Anonymous on the servers of HBGary had revealed, among other things, the firm’s leading role in a conspiracy by a consortium calling itself Team Themis to conduct an array of covert operations against WikiLeaks and even journalists like Glenn Greenwald, prompting a congressional inquiry that would ultimately be squashed by a Republican committee chairman.
It’s often been reported, incorrectly, that I was the one to reveal the Themis conspiracy, different aspects of which were in fact discovered more or less simultaneously by several parties shortly after HBGary’s emails were made public. My own initial role, which began when I was informed of the hack as it was being conducted, was merely to explain developments to the press. But as it became clear that the media was losing interest despite clear evidence there was much more to the story, I began working with a rotating team of volunteer researchers to determine further details of Themis and related programs by searching through the remaining 70,000 emails that the hackers had seized and following up on the various mysterious references found therein. Although we made a number of significant discoveries and managed to shed light on other matters, the press didn’t generally realize the significance of these things until later.
On the other hand, I did get to indirectly gum up the works at Endgame Systems, which, though one of the four firms involved in Themis’s proposed operations against journalists and activists, managed to avoid being mentioned in most of the press coverage that followed the original exposure of the plot. You see, Endgame’s execs had insisted in one particular email thread that its name never appear in any Themis operational materials, explaining that the nature of the firm’s central activities was such that any public scrutiny would lead to disaster, and that this was a particular concern of their partners. Other emails ended up working against it, though, as I was able to pique the interest of Bloomberg Businessweek by forwarding this hilariously sinister “NO ONE MUST EVER KNOW” exchange to a contact I had there. A few months later, the magazine ran a long feature on Endgame revealing its ability to seize control of computers across the world and that it was offering this service to unknown customers outside of the U.S. government. This in turn prompted sufficient discomfort that the firm had to stop doing this, or at least claim to have stopped. Perhaps that’s why Endgame Systems was listed on my search warrant — and never mentioned again in a single other filing by the government in my case.
But the chief enemy I’d made was apparently the Department of Justice — because when Team Themis was exposed, the emails revealed that the whole indefensible conspiracy had been set in motion by the DOJ itself, which had made the necessary introductions when Bank of America came to the agency looking for advice on how to go after WikiLeaks. There were no known consequences for anyone at the DOJ; a congressman’s calls for an official inquiry were shot down by Lamar Smith, the relevant committee chair, who proclaimed that the DOJ itself should handle any investigation. Whether the DOJ took Smith’s advice and investigated itself for secretly arranging a corporate black ops partnership is unknown. Rather, it was my head that was to roll, in retaliation for my efforts to keep the story alive in articles I continued to write for The Guardian as well as for my occasional successes in causing difficulties to Themis participants like Endgame and the intelligence contracting industry as a whole, which regularly hires ex-government officials at high salaries and thus has a working relationship with most federal agencies. And so when the FBI came for my laptops and left that search warrant listing the entirely legal journalism entity I’d been using to lead an investigation into the state-affiliated firms that the warrant also listed, I knew from the brazenness of this move that I’d eventually be arrested and charged. I didn’t know for what, exactly, but that was OK — the DOJ didn’t know yet either. Eventually they resorted to indicting me on charges related to another firm, Stratfor, that wasn’t even listed on my search warrant, which were so flimsy that they eventually had to be dropped in favor of a vague “accessory after the fact” count.
Anywho, after that first FBI raid I started reading those little guides on life in prison that one finds online and noticed several references to role-playing games. When I got to the jail unit at Federal Correctional Institution Fort Worth shortly after my arrest, then, I immediately started agitating in favor of a campaign of Dungeons and Dragons or whatever was available, to begin ASAP, with the wooden table in the little corner library to be requisitioned for our use. A huge black guy awaiting trial on complicated fraud charges happened to have the basic mechanics memorized; I drafted him to be the dungeon master. Soon enough I’d also managed to recruit a white meth dealer who was familiar enough with the game to help the rest of us create our characters, a large and bovine Hispanic gangland enforcer who wanted to try the game and was at any rate influential enough to help us secure control over the table, and a fey Southern white guy for atmosphere.
With unlimited paper and pencils provided by the federal government, we had everything we needed except for a set of variously sided dice. It turned out that this was generally handled by making a spinner out of cardboard, a paperclip, and the empty internal plastic tube from an ink pen. This latter item is impaled loosely on the paperclip, itself positioned in the center of the cardboard, on which has been drawn a diminishing series of concentric circles divided into 20, 12, 10, 8, 6, and 4 equal segments, respectively. As we attended to this chore at the wooden table, an inmate sitting nearby realized what we were making and proceeded to tell us about a cell mate he’d had during a previous bid who’d used something similar. . .
Obama continued the Wall-Street-friendly approach that Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had followed, and it seems clear that Hillary Clinton will follow suit, in effect allowing Wall Street to police itself by staffing regulatory agencies with Wall Street personnel. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
The Presidential election of 2008 was held on November 4, with Barack Obama winning on a promise of delivering “hope” and “change” to a nation in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. At that time, Citigroup was a financial basket-case. It had already received $25 billion from the government’s bailout program known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October; it was secretly receiving hundreds of billions of dollars more each month in below-market rate, revolving loans from the Federal Reserve — information which the Fed refused to make public despite multiple Freedom of Information Act requests from the media; and Citigroup was just 19 days from more hemorrhaging, requiring an additional government infusion of $20 billion and asset guarantees of more than $300 billion. Citigroup’s stock was at $13.99, a decline of 63 percent in just 12 months and it was on its way to eventually trade as a penny stock, at 99 cents.
Citigroup had been serially charged by its regulators for abusing its customers and targeting the poor and financially uneducated. But key executives at the bank had played major roles in raising funds for the Barack Obama campaign so it was richly rewarded for that.
According to emails released by WikiLeaks yesterday, which came from a hack of the email account of John Podesta, a co-chair of Obama’s 2008 Transition Team, we learn that despite the obvious fact that Citigroup was both corrupt and derelict in handling its own financial affairs, Barack Obama gave executives of that bank an outsized role in shaping and staffing his first term.
“Attached is the latest version of the Agency Review teams. It is a closely held document, so please treat it with the same sensitivity as ours. If you all could take a quick look at the lists for the agencies in your area, that would be helpful. I think the hope is that, while there are no guarantees, some of the people on these lists might make their way into the agencies ultimately. Our role, therefore, is to check whether there is much overlap between the names here and the names were seeing/generating for sub-cabinet positions in each agency. There doesn’t need to be total overlap, but if there is a total disconnect, it would probably be better to rectify that now vs. later.
“I hate to ask, since I just send you another long spreadsheet to check, but if you could do this tomorrow and get back to Lisa (copied here) and myself, that would be great. Thanks.”
Froman had served in the Clinton administration and moved to Citigroup along with Clinton’s Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin. (Rubin would collect compensation of $126 million during his decade at the bank after helping to deliver the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, legislation that had previously prevented Citigroup from owning an insured bank along with high-risk brokerage and investment banking.) According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Froman was a Managing Director of Citigroup Management Corp. from 1999 to 2009.
Obama appointed Froman to the position of U.S. Trade Representative in 2013. This is how Politico sums up how trade deals are being deliberated under his command: . . .
An unfortunate pattern can be seen in how having the power to act with impunity leads to the abuse of that power, using it in ways that are immoral, unethical, and/or illegal, with the expectation that there will be no accountability for the action. (Lord Acton’s dictum: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.) Some examples of this pattern in recent reports:
- Law enforcement actions against hostages in Atticus uprising and against John F. Edland, reported here.
- US government in its drone warfare program in terms of killing civilians and bystanders.
- Wells Fargo scam of secretly opening multiple accounts for customers, which continued for years despite internal complaints and whistle-blowing. See also this report in the NY Times.
Each of the above exemplifies the idea that might makes right; additional examples are easy to find when you look at the actions of the powerful.