Sunday, November 29, 2015

Old campaign money flows to former intelligence chair’s new group, and former staffers

As they await January 2, 2016 — the day they can legally become lobbyists — former Rep. Mike Rogers(R-Mich.) and his former chief of staff, along with two more of Rogers’ onetime staffers, have found a use for some of the lawmaker’s $1.3 million leftover campaign funds.

It doesn’t involve many contributions to other candidates or the Republican party — two of the more common deployments of unneeded election money.

So far this year, the staffers and a new Rogers-led nonprofit have received $272,644 from his old campaign account, most of which was raised last cycle from industry political action committees. Rogers was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when he announced his retirement in March 2014, declaring he’d serve out the rest of his term and leave Congress to do a radio show.

But he also became honorary chairman of a new group called Americans for Peace, Prosperity and Security (APPS), which received $200,000 of the campaign funds this year.

Back in January, Rogers converted his principal campaign committee into a PAC called Securing America’s Future. Securing America’s Future hasn’t raised a dime of its own in 2015 (as of June 30) but has spent more than $413,000 of the money raised while Rogers was in office — including the $200,000 to APPS, which is labeled “donations.”...

Big banks accused of interest rate-swap fixing in U.S. class action suit

NEW YORK (IFR/Reuters) - A class action lawsuit, filed Wednesday, accuses 10 of Wall Street’s biggest banks and two trading platforms of conspiring to limit competition in the $320 trillion market for interest rate swaps.

The class action lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, accuses Goldman Sachs Group (GS.N), Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC.N), JPMorgan Chase(JPM.N), Citigroup(C.N), Credit Suisse Group (CSGN.VX), Barclays Plc (BARC.L), BNP Paribas SA (BNPP.PA), UBS (UBSG.VX), Deutsche Bank AG (DBKGn.DE), and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L) of colluding to prevent the trading of interest rate swaps on electronic exchanges, like the ones on which stocks are traded.

As a result, the lawsuit alleges, banks have successfully prevented new competition from non-banks in the lucrative market for dealing interest rate swaps, the world’s most commonly traded derivative.

The banks “have been able to extract billions of dollars in monopoly rents, year after year, from the class members in this case,” the lawsuit alleged.

Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America, BNP Paribas, Credit Suisse and Royal Bank of Scotland declined to comment.

JP Morgan, Barclays, Deutsche Bank and UBS were not immediately available to comment...

Personal wealth: a nation of extremes, and a Congress, too

Wealth inequality in the United States is pervasive — so much so that it’s apparent even in Congress.

The House and Senate have their own form of inequality within their ranks. Of the 534 current members, the 53 richest owned nearly 80 percent of the estimated wealth held by all federal lawmakers in 2014, a Center for Responsive Politics analysis shows. That concentration resembles the inequality that exists in the United States more broadly, where 76 percent of the country’s wealth is held by the top 10 percent of households.

Granted, no tears should be shed for those elected few. The median wealth for a member of Congress, about $1.1 million in 2014, still far outpaces that of the typical American family, worth about $56,355 in 2013 (a 2014 figure is not available). And no member of Congress can be said to live in poverty: Congressional salaries alone remain at $174,000 at the least, placing members firmly in the top 10 percent of American wage earners, with an enviable pension for those who stay in office for at least five years.

But a close look at members’ personal financial disclosure statements covering 2014 shows that Congress is a body of extremes — extreme wealth and a bit of extreme debt. Even though Congress may be a sample of particularly well-off Americans, its richest members are staggeringly wealthy — though none, so far, appear to be billionaires...

Four senior KPMG partners arrested in HMRC tax evasion inquiry

Four senior executives from the Belfast office of accountancy firm KPMG have been arrested in Belfast on alleged tax evasion charges.

The four partners were visited by officials from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs in the city on Wednesday, it emerged today.

In a statement, KPMG said it is cooperating with the HMRC investigation and that the four men have been placed on “administrative leave”.

KPMG said: “Pending further information and enquiry, we can confirm that four partners in our Belfast office are on administrative leave. As the matter is ongoing, KPMG is not in a position to make any further comments at this stage.”

The men in question have been named as Jon D’Arcy, Eamonn Donaghy, Arthur O’Brien and Paul Hollway, and constitute KPMG’s most senior staff in Northern Ireland...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Could 'A Good American' William Binney Have Prevented 9/11 and Other Terrorist Attacks?

These are questions that have been raised in recent years in Madrid, in London, and in the US after 9/11.

So in a tragic way, the latest atrocity makes the documentary “A Good American” even more timely. The film had its North American premiere at DOC NYC and hit theaters this weekend. For many it will make upsetting viewing.

Directed by Austrian Friedrich Moser, it charts the former NSA analyst William Binney’s development of ThinThread, a targeted surveillance system that Binney and his colleagues claim would have categorically prevented 9/11 – had the agency not sidelined their work in favor of a rival system that was generating huge amounts of income for both the agency and the private sector, but proved to be a disaster.

The film further deals with the NSA’s mass surveillance post 9/11, exposed by Binney himself when he turned whistleblower, and more controversially by Edward Snowdon, with the assertion that ThinThread would still answer the terrorist threat without snooping on innocent citizens...

Mass Surveillance Isn’t the Answer to Fighting Terrorism

It’s a wretched yet predictable ritual after each new terrorist attack: Certain politicians and government officials waste no time exploiting the tragedy for their own ends. The remarks on Monday by John Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, took that to a new and disgraceful low.

Speaking less than three days after coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris killed 129 and injured hundreds more, Mr. Brennan complained about “a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists.”

What he calls “hand-wringing” was the sustained national outrage following the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, that the agency was using provisions of the Patriot Act to secretly collect information on millions of Americans’ phone records. In June, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which ends bulk collection of domestic phone data by the government (but not the collection of other data, like emails and the content of Americans’ international phone calls) and requires the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to make its most significant rulings available to the public.

These reforms are only a modest improvement on the Patriot Act, but the intelligence community saw them as a grave impediment to antiterror efforts. In his comments Monday, Mr. Brennan called the attacks in Paris a “wake-up call,” and claimed that recent “policy and legal” actions “make our ability collectively, internationally, to find these terrorists much more challenging.”

It is hard to believe anything Mr. Brennan says. Last year, he bluntly denied that the C.I.A. had illegally hacked into the computers of Senate staff members conducting an investigation into the agency’s detention and torture programs when, in fact, it did. In 2011, when he was President Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, he claimed that American drone strikes had not killed any civilians, despite clear evidence that they had. And his boss, James Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, has admitted lying to the Senate on the N.S.A.’s bulk collection of data. Even putting this lack of credibility aside, it’s not clear what extra powers Mr. Brennan is seeking...

Exclusive Interview with Former NSA Technical Director: William Binney

Protect Yourself from FBI Manipulation (w/attorney Harvey Silverglate)