Der Generalbundesanwalt wirft Journalisten des Blogs Netzpolitik.org Landesverrat vor und ermittelt. Darüber informierte die oberste Ermittlungsbehörde die Blogger in einem Brief, den Netzpolitik.org am Donnerstag veröffentlichte. (1) Es geht um die Veröffentlichung von Informationen und Dokumenten des Bundesamts für Verfassungsschutz. „Wir lassen uns nicht einschüchtern“, schrieben die Blogger. Der Deutsche Journalisten-Verband (DJV) sprach von einem Angriff auf die Pressefreiheit.
Die Bundesregierung wolle mit den Anzeigen wegen Landesverrats die Wahrheit über die deutsche Verstrickung in den NSA-Skandal unterdrücken, sagte der Gründer von Netzpolitik.org, Markus Beckedahl gegenüber ARD-aktuell. Es werde zunehmend klar, dass die Bundesregierung „knietief im Sumpf von NSA und Co“ stecke.
Seit der “bedingt Abwehrbereit”-Berichterstattung des Spiegels gab es keinen vergleichbaren Fall. Der Generalbundesanwalt Range – der selbe Generalbundesanwalt der weder im Falle der NSA-Schnüffeleien ermittelte noch bei der Untersuchung des Abhörskandals des Kanzlerhandys bereit war die geschädigte Kanzlerin noch den Informanten Snowden zu vernehmen – eben dieser Generalbundesanwalt ermittelt endlich doch. Diesmal wegen Landesverrat. Nicht aber gegen einen der Geheimdienste, sondern gegen den Grimmepreisträger Netzpolitik.org.
Es geht um die Veröffentlichung von Informationen und Dokumenten des Bundesamts für Verfassungsschutz. Sie sollen Staatsgeheimnisse öffentlich gemacht haben. Die Anzeige kommt offenbar vom Verfassungsschutzpräsidenten persönlich. Genau der Behörde die zum Beispiel auch für die Spionageabwehr im eigenen Land zuständig gewesen wäre.
“netzpolitik.org” hat in zwei Artikeln die Pläne des Verfassungsschutzes zum Ausbau der Internet-Überwachung beschrieben und dies mit Auszügen von Dokumenten des Inlandsgeheimdienstes belegt. Die Bundesanwaltschaft war bisher nicht für eine Stellungnahme erreichbar.
Die jüngste Entwicklung ist unter dem wachsenden Druck unter welchem die Geheimdienste neuerlich stehen besonders Bemerkenswert. Die Untersuchung der NSA-Affäre durch den Bundestag entwickelt sich zunehmend zu einer BND-Causa. Der Verfassungsschutz muss mit Kritik wegen möglicher Fehler im Zusammenhang mit Ermittlungen gegen die rechte Terrorgruppe NSU kämpfen. Selbst der kleine Militärische Abschirmdienst ist ins Gerede gekommen, weil ein Waffenhersteller es gerne gesehen hätte, wenn der MAD gegen unliebsame Journalisten vorgeht .
Aber Vielleicht kann man dem Amt für Verfassungsschutz nicht vorwerfen, dass es Anzeige erstattet hat wenn geheime Dokumente aus ihrem Ressort weitergeben werden. Allerdings ist es doch sehr bezeichnend, dass der Generalbundesanwalt bei den brisanten Fällen wie der NSA-Affäre und dem Abhören des Kanzlerinnenhandys jahrelang nur prüft, aber nicht ermittelt, dann aber schon kurz nach einer anderen Anzeige ein Verfahren wegen Landesverrats gegen Journalisten einleitet.
Uns bleibt an dieser Stelle nur eines übrig, zu hoffen dass dieses Verfahren ebenso wie das Ermittlungsverfahren zur Überwachung des Kanzlerhandys ad acta gelegt wird oder wie im Spiegel-Fall damals der Bundesgerichtshof ein Verfahren schließlich ablehnt. Schließlich steht die Pressefreiheit in unserer Verfassung mit Bedacht ziemlich weit vorne, hinter der Gleichheit der Menschen und dem Schutz des Glaubens – noch vor dem Schutz von Ehe und Familie.
Former president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally-syndicated radio show The Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”
Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.
HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy … your thoughts on that?
CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congressmembers. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody’s who’s just a challenger.
(Thanks to Sam Sacks for pointing this out.)
The post Jimmy Carter: The U.S. Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery” appeared first on The Intercept.
The Super PAC supporting the presidential campaign of Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., raised $2.9 million through the end of June, a significant portion of which came from defense contractors that stand to gain from Graham’s advocacy for greater military intervention around the world and increased defense spending.
As Graham tours the early primary states, he tells voters that he is running to boost U.S. defense spending. “My goal is to make sure the next president of the United States, the next generation of war fighters have the capability and capacity to do the job required to keep us free,” Graham said in South Carolina earlier this year.
Graham’s Super PAC, called “Security is Strength,” received $500,000 from billionaire Ron Perelman, whose company MacAndrews & Forbes owns AM General, the manufacturer of Humvees and other products for the military. In December of last year, AM General won a $245.6 million contract with the Army.
The Super PAC also received $25,000 from Jeffrey Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric, another major defense contractor. Notably, Graham has been a stalwart proponent of the Export-Import Bank, a federally charted lending institution that has approved $1 billion in loans to GE in fiscal year 2014.
“If I were a defense contractor, I’d be big time for Lindsey Graham, because I’ve been forward-leaning on rebuilding our military,” Graham told USA Today when asked about why defense contractors have been tapped to help lead his fundraising team. “People come to you because of your positions,” Graham added.
The post Senator Lindsey Graham’s Pro-War Super PAC Bankrolled by Defense Contractors appeared first on The Intercept.
The Obama administration’s central strategy against strong encryption seems to be waging war on the companies that are providing and popularizing it: most notably Apple and Google.
The intimidation campaign got a boost Thursday when a blog that frequently promotes the interests of the national security establishment raised the prospect of Apple being found liable of providing material support to a terrorist.
Benjamin Wittes, editor in chief of the LawFare blog, suggested that Apple could in fact face that liability if it continued to provide encryption services to a suspected terrorist. He noted that the post was in response to an idea raised by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., in a hearing earlier this month.
“In the facts we considered,” wrote Wittes and co-author Harvard law student Zoe Bedell, “A court might—believe it or not—consider Apple as having violated the criminal prohibition against material support for terrorism.”
FBI Director James Comey and others have said that end-to-end encryption makes law enforcement harder because service providers don’t have access to the actual communications, and therefore cannot turn them over when served with a warrant.
Wittes and Bedell argue that for Apple to “move aggressively to implement end-to-end encrypted systems, and indeed to boast about them” after being “publicly and repeatedly warned by law enforcement at the very highest levels that ISIS is recruiting Americans” in part through the use of encrypted messaging apps could make the company liable if “[a]n ISIS recruit uses exactly this pattern to kill some Americans.”
The blog compares Apple’s actions to a bank sending money to a charity supporting Hamas—knowing that it was a listed foreign terrorist organization.
“[T]he question ultimately turns on whether Apple’s conduct in providing encryption services could, under any circumstances, be construed as material support,” Wittes and Bedell write. The answer, they say, “may be unnerving to executives at Apple.”
One way to avoid such liability, Wittes and Bedell argue, would be to end encrypted services to suspected terrorists. But, they acknowledge, “cutting off service may be the last thing investigators want, as it would tip off the suspect that his activity has been noticed.”
In a hearing on July 8 before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Justice Department officials insisted that companies need to be able to provide them with unencrypted, clear access to people’s communications if presented with a warrant.
The problem is that eliminating end-to-end encryption or providing law enforcement with some sort of special key would also create opportunities for hackers.
Within minutes of the Lawfare post going up, privacy advocates and technologists expressed outrage: Chris Soghoian, principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, called it a continuation in Wittes’ “brain-dead jihad against encryption,” while Jake Laperruque, a fellow at the Center for Democracy and Technology, wrote that Wittes’ post “equates selling a phone that’s secure from hackers with giving money to terrorists.”
If Apple and Google did cave under pressure of being likened to terrorist helpers, and stopped making end-to-end encryption, that could be the start of a “slippery slope” that ends the mainstream availability of strong encryption, said Amie Stepanovich, U.S policy director for Access,
But even so, strong encryption will always exist, whether produced by small companies or foreign outlets. Terrorists can take their business elsewhere, while normal Americans will be left without a user friendly, easily accessible way of protecting of their communications. “These tools are available and the government can’t get to all of them,” says Stepanovich.
Wittes, while couching his post as a hypothetical, left little doubt about his personal sentiment. “All that said,” he and his coauthor wrote, “it’s a bit of a puzzle how a company that knowingly provides encrypted communications services to a specific person identified to it as engaged in terrorist activity escapes liability if and when that person then kills an American in a terrorist incident that relies on that encryption.”
The authors didn’t say what exactly they wanted Apple to do instead. Wittes tweeted after publishing the post that he is “not sure at all that Apple is doing the right thing by encrypting end to end.”
Photo of Apple store in London.
The post Obama Administration War Against Apple and Google Just Got Uglier appeared first on The Intercept.
Hollywood surprised itself earlier this year by producing an Iraq war movie that was a blockbuster—American Sniper has earned more than half a billion dollars so far, starring Bradley Cooper in the role of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. The film also produced intense cultural criticism about the way it narrowly represented the war, portraying Iraqis as little more than turbaned bullseyes for American valor.
Now comes the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, an action film about the attempt by military contractors working for the CIA to rescue two diplomats from an extremist attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The film, directed by Michael Bay, is being touted as a cross between Black Hawk Down and American Sniper. The early reviews—I mean the early tweets—are highly favorable. If the trailer is an accurate indicator, or the director’s filmography (Bay also brought us Pearl Harbor and Transformers), the star-spangled hype is probably on the money, and we will be the poorer for it.
I haven’t seen the film yet—it comes out in January, so press screenings are months away. I contacted Mitchell Zuckoff, who wrote the nonfiction book on which the film is based, as well as a publicist for the studio that is producing the film, but they declined to say what’s in the movie. The main hints are the attention-getting trailer (please take a look) and the cast of characters on the IMDB site. There is apparently no Libyan character who merits a last name—there is just a “Fareed” and “Fareed’s wife.” The other apparently Libyan characters have no names at all; one of them is described as “Bandolier Militiaman” and another is “Camo Headwrap.” Who knows, perhaps 13 Hours will be loaded with rich historical context, but Bay, whose films have grossed $6.4 billion, according to his Twitter bio, is known for other things.
One of the problems with Hollywood war movies is that they rarely tell us what we need to know about the wars we engage in. It’s certainly true that American soldiers often perform heroically in the wars they fight—I have reported from Iraq as well as Afghanistan and have seen it first-hand. It is also true that American soldiers don’t always behave honorably (I have seen this too), but Hollywood doesn’t often shine a light on it. Studio executives prefer to back movies we are willing to buy tickets for, and crowd-pleasers tend to have heroic narratives in the John Wayne mold, which is why for every Apocalypse Now or Three Kings there seem to be a dozen American Snipers or Lone Survivors.
Yet the real problem with conventional war movies is their historically negligent portrayal of the people Americans fight against. The Iraqis or Afghans or Somalis or Vietnamese in our most popular war movies tend to be stick figures at best, snarling animals at worst. This is not only epically unfair to the people upon whose lands we have chosen to fight our wars, it hurts us as well, because we just consume more of the intellectual junk that leads us to believe we are always the good guys and they are always the bad guys and the people we kill always deserve it.
And there’s a genre twist in the trailer for 13 Hours, which portrays military contractors as heroes. It’s true that some contractors have acted bravely in the warzones where they were lucratively employed to fight, and some have been killed (including two in Benghazi), but their overall record is terrible. Military contractors—traditionally referred to as mercenaries—are one of the poxes of the new American way of warfare. When I was in Baghdad in the early years of the occupation, military contractors were among the greatest perils to human life, because they were all but unaccountable and acted like it. Driving around Baghdad in an unmarked civilian vehicle, I worried more about being shot by one of the Blackwater cowboys than being blown up by a car bomb. Yet now they are being packaged as a new type of American war hero, a sort of mercenary chic.
Yes, it’s only a movie, and one we’re not able to see until January. But movies seem to do more to shape our understanding of warfare, valor and foreigners than any other form of popular culture, and it seems we are heading toward another feel-good brainwash.
The post Benghazi Film by Michael Bay Could Be Next “American Sniper” But Let’s Hope Not appeared first on The Intercept.
One of the most embarrassing aspects of U.S. politics is politicians who deny that money has any impact on what they do. For instance, Tom Corbett, Pennsylvania’s notoriously fracking-friendly former governor, got $1.7 million from oil and gas companies but assured voters that “The contributions don’t affect my decisions.” If you’re trying to get people to vote for you, you can’t tell them that what they want doesn’t matter.
This pose is also popular with a certain prominent breed of pundits, who love to tell us “Don’t Follow the Money” (New York Times columnist David Brooks), or “Money does not buy elections” (Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner on public radio’s Marketplace), or “Money won’t buy you votes” (Yale Law School professor Peter H. Schuck in the Los Angeles Times).
Meanwhile, 85 percent of Americans say we need to either “completely rebuild” or make “fundamental changes” to the campaign finance system. Just 13 percent think “only minor changes are necessary,” less than the 18 percent of Americans who believe they’ve been in the presence of a ghost.
So we’ve decided that it would be useful to collect examples of actual politicians acknowledging the glaringly obvious reality. Here’s a start; I’m sure there must be many others, so if you have suggestions, please leave them in the comments or email me. I’d also love to speak directly to current or former politicians who have an opinion about it.
• “You have to go where the money is. Now where the money is, there’s almost always implicitly some string attached. … It’s awful hard to take a whole lot of money from a group you know has a particular position then you conclude they’re wrong [and] vote no.” — Vice President Joe Biden in 2015.Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in 2015.
• “When you start to connect the actual access to money, and the access involves law enforcement officials, you have clearly crossed a line. What is going on is shocking, terrible.” – James E. Tierney, former attorney general of Maine, in 2014.
• “Allowing people and corporate interest groups and others to spend an unlimited amount of unidentified money has enabled certain individuals to swing any and all elections, whether they are congressional, federal, local, state … Unfortunately and rarely are these people having goals which are in line with those of the general public. History well shows that there is a very selfish game that’s going on and that our government has largely been put up for sale.” – John Dingell, 29-term Democratic congressman from Michigan, in 2014 just before he retired.
• “When some think tank comes up with the legislation and tells you not to fool with it, why are you even a legislator anymore? You just sit there and take votes and you’re kind of a feudal serf for folks with a lot of money.” — Dale Schultz, 32-year Republican state legislator in Wisconsin and former state Senate Majority Leader, in 2013 before retiring rather than face a primary challenger backed by Americans for Prosperity.
• “The alliance of money and the interests that it represents, the access that it affords to those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda that it changes or sets by virtue of its power is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans … The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is – it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.” – Secretary of State John Kerry, in 2013 farewell speech to the Senate.
• “I think it is because of the corrupt paradigm that has become Washington, D.C., whereby votes continually are bought rather than representatives voting the will of their constituents. … That’s the voice that’s been missing at the table in Washington, D.C. — the people’s voice has been missing.” — Michele Bachmann, four-term Republican congresswoman from Minnesota and founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, in 2011.Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., in 2009.
• “There is no question in the world that money has control.” — Barry Goldwater, 1964 GOP Presidential nominee, just before retiring from the Senate in 1986.
• ”When these political action committees give money, they expect something in return other than good government. … Poor people don’t make political contributions. You might get a different result if there were a poor-PAC up here.” — Bob Dole, former Republican Senate Majority Leader and 1996 GOP Presidential nominee, in 1983.
• “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” — Jesse Unruh, Speaker of the California Assembly in the 1960s and California State Treasurer in the 1970s and 80s.
• “There are two things that are important in politics. The first is money and I can’t remember what the second one is.” — Mark Hanna, William McKinley’s 1896 presidential campaign manager and later senator from Ohio, in 1895.
Again, please leave other good examples in the comments or email them to me at any time — I’ll keep updating this indefinitely. I’m looking specifically for working politicians (rather than pundits or activists) who describe a tight linkage between money and political outcomes (as opposed to something vaguer).
The post “Yes, We’re Corrupt”: A List of Politicians Admitting That Money Controls Politics appeared first on The Intercept.
The fanatical Israel-devoted group Christians United for Israel, which calls itself “the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States with over two million members,” yesterday held an off-the-record call to formulate strategies for defeating the pending nuclear deal with Iran. The star of the show was the Wall Street Journal’s longtime foreign affairs columnist and deputy editorial page editor Bret Stephens, who spoke for roughly 30 minutes. A recording of this call was provided to The Intercept and is posted here.
Stephens, who previously served as editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post from 2002 to 2004 (where he anointed Paul Wolfowitz “Man of the (Jewish) Year”), is essentially a standard-issue neocon and warmonger, which is why his mentality is worth hearing. He begins the strategy call with an attempt to sound rational and sober, but becomes increasingly unhinged and hysterical as he progresses. Here, for instance, is Stephens’ message that he believes should be delivered to wavering members of Congress:
Someone should say, “this is going to be like your vote for the Iraq War. This is going to come back to haunt you. Mark my words, it will come back to haunt you. Because as Iran cheats, as Iran becomes more powerful, and Iran will be both of those things, you will be held to account. This vote will be a stain. You will have to walk away from it at some point or another. You will have to explain it. And some of you may in fact lose your seats because of your vote for this deal. You’ll certainly lose a lot of financial support from some of your previous supporters.”
[listen to this clip here]
First, note the bizarre equation of support for the war in Iraq with support for a peace deal with Iran. Second, since when do neocons like Stephens talk about the Iraq War as something shameful, as a “stain” on one’s legacy? Stephens was a vehement advocate for the attack on Iraq, as was the paper for which he works, and never once suggested that he was wrong to do so. Third, yet again we find journalists at newspapers claiming the pretense of objectivity who are in fact full-on activists: here, to the point of colluding with a right-wing group to sink the Iran Deal — there’s nothing wrong with that on its own terms, other than the conceit that journalism is distinct from activism.
If the Iran deal is defeated in the U.S., what’s the alternative? The relatively honest neocons admit, as Norm Podhoretz did today in Stephens’ paper, that the alternative is the one they really seek: full-on war with Iran. Here is Stephens’ attempt to answer to that question:
Look, there is an argument — and I am sometimes tempted by it — that if Congress were to reject this deal and then Iran were to start enriching uranium at huge rates once again, that President Obama would simply sit on his hands out of spite. That’s an option. Knowing the way this President operates, it doesn’t entirely surprise me. That being said, because this deal is effectively giving Iran a legal as well as a covert pathway to the bomb, I would still prefer that. At least it gives the next president more options than he does [sic] now.
[listen to this clip here]
This argument is just bizarre. Obama isn’t leaving office until January 2017: one-and-a-half years away. Neocons have continuously claimed that Iran’s “breakout” time for developing nuclear weapons was measured in months — at the most a year away. If you actually believe that, and really think that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear weapons (a claim negated by the U.S.’s own intelligence analysis), how could you be content to purposely wait one-and-a-half years?
The answer to that question illustrates why the surface “debate” over the Iran deal is so illusory and pointless: As usual with neocons, they are being deceitful about their actual intent. They don’t want a “better deal”: at least not one that’s plausible. They want to keep Iran isolated and demonized and ultimately to depose its leadership through war or other means of aggression. They hate the Iran deal precisely because it’s likely to avert that aggression and normalize the world’s relations with that country, making the war they’ve long craved much less likely.
It’s worth listening to Stephens speak in a setting where (he thought) the rules ensured that he would never be heard. It gives some insight into how neocons actually think and what they’re saying when talking only to one another.
Photo caption: Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., a candidate for the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States, shares his thoughts on Israel and the Middle East. CUFI Candidates Forum, Washington D.C., July 13, 2015.
The post Listen to WSJ’s Bret Stephens Secretly Plot With “Pro-Israel” Evangelical Group Against Iran Deal appeared first on The Intercept.
Wir haben in der Nacht zum 30.07.2015 das türkische Konsulat in Hannover mit Farbe angegriffen. Dies ist eine unserer Reaktionen auf die Angriffe des türkischen Staats gegen unsere kurdischen und türkischen Genoss*innen in der Türkei, Syrien und im Irak.
Fifty years ago today, on July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the bill creating Medicare.
Two years before Medicare’s enactment, only 54 percent of Americans 65 and over had insurance that covered hospital expenses, and private insurance companies regularly terminated coverage for older “customers” who’d become too expensive. The elderly faced not just their bodies breaking down, but the simultaneous terror of financial ruin.
Within three years of Medicare’s creation, 96 percent of people 65 and over had hospital insurance, and it could never be cancelled. It’s hard to overstate how large a boon Medicare has been for the whole country.
But it’s worth remembering that this gigantic step forward in Americans’ quality of life was rabidly opposed by — among many others — Ronald Reagan. In 1961, Reagan, then known just as an actor, now the ultimate iconic Republican, was hired by the American Medical Association to record an LP record called “Ronald Reagan Speaks Out Against Socialized Medicine.”
And it was completely nuts. Here are some of the highlights; a complete transcript is here.
“Back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism. But he said under the name of liberalism the American people will adopt every fragment of the socialist program.”
This is the very beginning of Reagan’s recording, and, appropriately enough, is completely made up. Norman Thomas never said this.
“One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.”
Medicine has never anywhere in history been a method of imposing communism (what Reagan means by “statism or socialism”). Communism was established in the Soviet Union, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba via armed revolution, not national health care.
“From [Medicare] it’s a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school where he will go or what he will do for a living.”
Yes, I well remember when I received my orders to report to the Patrice Lumumba Pod to begin my career as People’s Blogpost Writer 9784B.
“Write those letters now [to Congress] and call your friends and them to write … If you don’t do this and I don’t do this, one of these days we are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.”
Here Reagan did have a point, given that there are a fair number of old people doing this now. They are generally white, watch Fox News, and are strong supporters of Medicare.
Caption: Reagan in 1952 film “Bonzo Goes to College”
The post Medicare Celebrates Its 50th Birthday, Despite Ronald Reagan appeared first on The Intercept.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren publicly challenged presidential candidates two weeks ago to support a bill intended to limit the revolving door between Washington and Wall Street.
The Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act would prohibit government officials from accepting “golden parachutes” from their former employers for entering public service.
Within days, Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley endorsed the legislation, and Sen. Bernie Sanders became a co-sponsor. But presumed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton has not said where she stands.
One possible explanation for Clinton’s lack of interest in banning golden parachutes is that she tolerated them when she ran the State Department — for two of her top aides. Robert Hormats and Thomas Nides previously worked as executives for financial firms Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, respectively. Both received benefits tied to their Wall Street employment contracts for entering public service.
Hormats, who served as undersecretary for economics, energy and agricultural affairs from 2009 to 2013, was a managing director for Goldman Sachs for over 25 years. As he wrote in his 2009 letter to the Office of Government Ethics, “Before I assume the duties of the position of Under Secretary, Goldman Sachs will accelerate and pay out my restricted stock units, pursuant to written company policy.” Those unvested restricted stock units, which would have been forfeited had Hormats left Goldman for another Wall Street firm, are valued at between $250,000 and $500,000 on Hormats’ disclosure form.
Nides, a six-figure bundler in Clinton’s past and present presidential campaigns, worked for Fannie Mae, Credit Suisse and as a top executive at Morgan Stanley from 2005 to 2010. He became deputy secretary of state for management and resources in January 2011, replacing Jack Lew, who had himself received a golden parachute from Citigroup for entering government service. Nides received a payout on Morgan Stanley restricted stock units worth between $5 million and $25 million, according to his financial disclosure. His Morgan Stanley compensation plan “allows for acceleration of payout … if employee is required to divest of interest in order to comply with federal, state or local government conflict of interest requirements.”
Nides and Hormats are not alone in what has become a depressingly standard practice in recent years. But Clinton’s unusual control over staffing at the State Department makes her directly responsible for these particular golden parachutes, at a time when she wants to gain control over staffing of the entire executive branch.
“I would say these are textbook examples,” said Michael Smallberg of the Project on Government Oversight, which has closely followed this issue. “I would raise concerns on how these payments affect the officials’ views, not only toward their former employers but the industry more broadly.”
Sometimes Wall Street firms tie bonuses explicitly to entering government, as in Jack Lew’s case. But often the inducement to executives is subtler, as through accelerating their deferred compensation, which would be forfeited if they joined a rival.
Deferred compensation takes a long time to vest and is used to keep executives from leaving their firms. But several companies have explicit policies, described in their SEC disclosures, that allow unvested stock options and other deferred benefits to automatically pay off if executives leave for government service.
In the wake of the Enron scandal, when executives siphoned $53 million from their stock plans before the company collapsed, a 2004 tax law banned the acceleration of deferred compensation. But Congress made an exception for public service. This makes it easier for private-sector candidates for executive branch positions to divest from their firms and comply with federal ethics laws.
Critics charge that this incentive leads to a disproportionate number of former financial executives in policymaking positions. “It’s a subtle effort at regulatory capture,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen, who has endorsed the legislation to ban golden parachutes. “It’s about making sure the regulator has a positive view of the bank, making sure they have the obligation of indebtedness.”
Clinton did not force her aides to give up these accelerated payments, unlike President Obama, who did ask his now-U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to surrender the $4 million in bonuses he received from Citigroup for joining the government. As secretary of state, Clinton fought to choose her own staff, bringing in several campaign loyalists, including these former Wall Street executives.
When Clinton left the State Department, Nides returned to Morgan Stanley as a vice chairman. He is reportedly a leading candidate for a high-level position in a Hillary Clinton White House. “The fact that (Nides) came from Morgan Stanley, went back, and is now rumored for a senior position shows how concerns about the revolving door aren’t just hypothetical,” said Smallberg. Hormats, also a fundraiser for Clinton’s prior presidential campaign, now works for Henry Kissinger’s consulting firm.
Progressive groups find Clinton’s association with Nides and Hormats concerning. Nides once served as chairman for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, one of Wall Street’s top lobbying groups and a fierce opponent of the Dodd-Frank financial reform. He also helped then-president Bill Clinton sell NAFTA to Congress in 1993. Hormats, an advocate for Social Security privatization and deregulation of the financial sector, was part of a small group of economists and policymakers who met with Clinton last December to discuss her campaign’s economic strategy. He has been called Clinton’s “economic guru,” and used his position at the State Department to advocate for U.S. multinationals.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to repeated requests to clarify their position on the Financial Services Conflict of Interest Act, or to address concerns about Nides, Hormats and their golden parachute payouts.
In addition to banning golden parachute payments, the bill, introduced by Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., would extend the lobbying “cooling-off” period for officials rotating out of government from one to two years, and force policymakers to recuse themselves from decisions that would benefit their former employers.
Warren issued her dare during an address to progressives attending the annual Netroots Nation convention. “It’s a bill any presidential candidate should be able to cheer for,” she said. “We don’t run this country for Wall Street and mega corporations, we run it for people.”
Kurt Walters of Rootstrikers, a progressive anti-corruption group that has endorsed the revolving door bill, said Clinton “should give a clear answer on whether she still believes it’s okay for Wall Street executives to receive golden parachutes worth millions of dollars for going into government positions.”
Two other Democratic presidential candidates, Jim Webb and Lincoln Chafee, also declined to comment on the legislation. Republican candidate Jeb Bush has proposed extending the lobbying ban for members of Congress to six years, though he did not include executive branch officials in that prohibition.
Clinton has attempted to disassociate herself from the banking industry in recent speeches, decrying “quarterly capitalism” and promising crackdowns on financial fraud. In a Facebook chat last week, she vowed to appoint “tough, independent-minded regulators.”
But her history with Nides and Hormats “complicates Clinton’s statements about Wall Street and her ability to distance herself from powerhouse firms,” Smallberg said. Holman, of Public Citizen, said Clinton could help herself by endorsing the revolving-door legislation. “She’s got a real image problem,” Holman said. “If she were to support this bill, it would go a long way.”
This week, Martin O’Malley criticized Clinton’s Wall Street ties in a radio interview in New Hampshire. “Her closeness with big banks on Wall Street is sincere, its heartfelt, long-established and well-known,” O’Malley told Concord News Radio. “I don’t have those ties. I am independent of those big banks on Wall Street.”
The post Two Big Reasons Hillary Clinton Isn’t Taking Elizabeth Warren’s Revolving-Door Dare appeared first on The Intercept.
Russland hat die Einsetzung eines unabhängigen UN-Tribunals zum Absturz des Fluges MH17 vor einem Jahr über der Ukraine mit einem Veto blockiert. Bislang ist ungeklärt, wer den Absturz herbeiführte, Russland und die Separatisten in der Ostukraine beschuldigen die ukrainische Regierung, diese wiederum beschuldigt die Separatisten und Moskau.
Moskaus Botschafter Witali Tschurkin legte am Mittwoch im UN-Sicherheitsrat das Veto seines Landes gegen eine Resolution ein. Russland sorgt sich offenbar um die Unabhängigkeit der Untersuchung. Angesichts des "aggressiven Propagandahintergrunds in den Medien" sei eine faire Untersuchung unwahrscheinlich, so Tschurkin. Man werde „auch weiterhin denkbar energisch Bemühungen zu einer umfassenden Unterstützung der Ermittlungen beizutragen“,