Viewed from one perspective the facts that Blackwater has admitted to amount to running guns–precisely the crime that Fast and Furious attempted to combat. Viewed from another perspective, Blackwater’s actions amount to the same kind of thing Viktor Bout is in prison for: making weapons deals with sanctioned entities.
But Blackwater will suffer no more than a wrist slap for such things: a $7.5 million fine, a third of which can be credited to implementing a compliance system that is substantially already in place, as well as a $42 million Consent Agreement fine it signed two years ago. (It has paid two $6 million installments of the $42 million fine it owes to State Department; even while it continues to get contracts with State)
That doesn’t make the Deferred Prosecution Agreement any less funny.
There are the repeated lists of all the aliases of Blackwater–by my count some 37 companies or subsidiaries. Just in case you needed master list of how many times it has tried to change its identity.
There’s the bragging about Blackwater’s new compliance structure (paid for, presumably, as part of this fine), featuring John Ashcroft (the monitor on one of the most corrupt DPAs ever) and former AIG (AIG?!?!?!) compliance whiz Suzanne Folsom.
There’s the way it says Blackwater can’t charge the government any aspect of its fine (what is left after its credit for compliance infrastructure, that is). Only in DPAs is money not fungible, I guess.
There’s the way they try to guard against Blackwater rebranding again (the DPA is written in the name Academi and invokes Xe) by selling itself to someone else. (There’s apparently an Erik Prince declaration I’m going to have to chase down tomorrow.)
And there’s the way that of those who signed this DPA for Blackwater, only the name of the attorney is included in the text.
Now maybe I shouldn’t be laughing so hard. The DPA implies that the US Attorney in North Carolina’s Eastern District, Thomas Walker, is still investigating. Maybe Erik Prince will go to jail? Ha!
But this DPA is more a case study in the myriad ways corporate entities escape all justice in this day and age than any real accountability for the same kind of actions we impose stiff sentences on others for.
As always, the lesson is if you’re going to commit crimes, do it as a corporation.
Congratulations to the NYT, which offers the superlative version of a story everyone seems to be writing today. It describes a whole host of reasons why we should not trust the Saudis.
That collaboration appears to have intensified over the past two years, despite a long history of mistrust rooted in the role of Saudi hijackers in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The relationship was tested again last year when Saudi leaders responded furiously to American endorsement of the revolt that ousted a Saudi ally, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. American diplomats were surprised and angered in turn soon afterward when Saudi Arabia sent troops to help put down unrest in neighboring Bahrain.
The counterterrorism cooperation has not been without bumps, officials from both countries acknowledge.
In 2007, the Federal Bureau of Investigation quietly sent a handful of agents to Saudi Arabia to work with officials there on a classified counterterrorism strategy, according to a senior American official who was briefed on the program. After several months, however, the two sides disagreed on a common strategy, and the F.B.I. agents went home.
Internal State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to several news organizations revealed American frustration with Saudi Arabia in curtailing financial supporters of many extremist activities.
“It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” said a classified cable sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in December 2009, concluding that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”
But ultimately concludes that in spite of all this evidence, our partnership with the Saudis is working just great.
But when it comes to counterterrorism, the Saudis have been crucial partners, not only for the United States but also for an array of other Western powers.
Under pressure from the United States, American officials now say, Saudi Arabia is taking the threat more seriously, holding financiers accountable through prosecutions and making terrorist financing a higher priority.
Like many of these stories, the NYT quotes Mustafa Alani, a counterterrorism analyst at the Gulf Research Center with close ties to the Saudi intelligence establishment, describing the division of labor on counterterrorism: the US conducts electronic surveillance, the Saudis provide HUMINT. And while the NYT gets the prize for the most self-contradictory celebration of US-Saudi counterrorism “cooperation,” my favorite quote from Alani is this one, in the WaPo’s version of the story.
“Even with the drone strikes, the air raids, the Americans need someone on the ground,” Alani said. “The Saudis are the ones who can pinpoint targets for the Americans.”
The Saudis, Alani brags, are responsible for our pinpointed targeting in Yemen. You know? The kind that manages to kill an American teenager but fails to hit its intended target. Or the kind that will become even less pinpointed now that the Saudis have delivered up a bomb plot to convince the President that AQAP is still targeting the US (this CNN story confirms that the bomb plot was delivered up before Obama’s signature strike okay was reported) and therefore needs to be targeted with signature strikes.
But since we’re discussing Saudi pinpointed targeting, let’s look more closely at two other Saudi pinpoints. First, there’s the Saudi strike on a Houthi medical clinic in 2009-2010, which they used to ask for Predator drones. Almost the whole cable is worth reading to see the multiple ways in which Saudi Prince Khaled bin Sultan manipulated us.
USG CONCERNS ABOUT POSSIBLE STRIKES ON CIVILIAN TARGETS
¶2. (S/NF) Ambassador Smith delivered points in reftel to Prince Khaled on February 6, 2010. The Ambassador highlighted USG concerns about providing Saudi Arabia with satellite imagery of the Yemen border area absent greater certainty that Saudi Arabia was and would remain fully in compliance with the laws of armed conflict during the conduct of military operations, particularly regarding attacks on civilian targets. The Ambassador noted the USG’s specific concern about an apparent Saudi air strike on a building that the U.S. believed to be a Yemeni medical clinic. The Ambassador showed Prince Khaled a satellite image of the bomb-damaged building in question.
IF WE HAD THE PREDATOR, THIS MIGHT NOT HAVE HAPPENED
¶3. (S/NF) Upon seeing the photograph, Prince Khalid remarked, “This looks familiar,” and added, “if we had the Predator, maybe we would not have this problem.” Continue reading
Judy Miller, first amendment martyr, has finally found an assertion that she distrusts enough to diminish by using the word “claim:”
NYPD’s critics have complained about potential invasions of privacy and disruptions of New Yorkers’ civil liberties. During the Occupy Wall Street protests, several reporters and citizens claimed to have been abused and arrested without justifiable cause. [my emphasis]
Now, to her credit, she also modified Ray Kelly’s assertion that those who have Occupied Wall Street are anarchists.
He defended the NYPD’s dismantlement of the Occupy Wall Street encampment at Zuccotti Park last fall and its handling of the protests that threatened to block vehicular and foot traffic on city streets. Handling such demonstrations, said Kelly, was “a contact sport.” “Sometimes we overreact,” he conceded. “We make mistakes.” But by and large, he concluded, the department had done a “good job” of enabling social protest while also protecting the city against violent disruptions caused by a minority of what he called “anarchists.” [my emphasis]
Not to get all Truth Vigilante on an esteemed journalist like Judy Miller, but these are both testable assertions. There are videos clearly showing journalists being pushed around and arrested even though they were properly credentialed. And any discussion of the treatment of journalists at Occupy Wall Street must go further, to talk about how journalists were managed to ensure they couldn’t cover certain things, and how more generally the NYPD refused to credential journalists so they could cover it. And while you’re at it, it might be nice to mention that regular people also were abused and arrested without justifiable cause, not just journalists.
But then you might also have to go further when challenging Kelly’s claims than simply scare-quoting them. In fact, in most cases, violent disruptions were caused by the NYPD, not protestors.
Though, I guess if Ray Kelly wants to call his force a bunch of anarchists, he would know.
The other day I summarized a National Consumer Law Center report showing how some banks–particularly US Bank and JP Morgan–are screwing those who receive unemployment funds on debit cards with exorbitant fees. WSJ did a story on the report, too, with this appalling detail.
Banks are barreling into the business, led by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the second-biggest U.S. bank in assets, which has contracts with 21 states. U.S. Bancorp, based in Minneapolis, has contracts with 16 U.S. states. The nation’s largest bank by assets, Bank of America Corp., has deals in five states and will start issuing debit cards for California’s unemployment benefits in July.
One reason why financial institutions like prepaid debit cards: They largely escaped the recent crackdown by U.S. lawmakers and regulators on fees, interest rates and billing practices for credit and debit cards.
Last year, 10 state treasurers successfully prodded lawmakers to shield prepaid debit cards from part of the Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law that limits so-called “swipe fees” charged to retailers. Prepaid debit cards also are exempt from a 2009 law that outlawed fees for infrequent card use. In addition, most of those cards aren’t subject to Federal Reserve rules requiring debit-card users to agree before banks can charge them for overdrawing the balance in their account.
Richard Davis, U.S. Bancorp’s chairman, president and chief executive, said last month that prepaid debit cards and other products will help the company recover roughly half of the revenue likely to be lost from swipe-fee rules being written by regulators. The banking industry is lobbying to repeal or delay the rules.
That is, US Bancorp (which the report showed was charging overdraft fees up to $20) plans to make up what it’ll lose in profits if swipe fees in Dodd-Frank remain in the law by screwing the unemployed even worse.
No wonder the bankster bailouts aren’t leading to any new jobs: they’re using the unemployed as a captive profit center.