FBI Saw Mortgage Fraud Early; Took No Action – The FBI was aware for years of “pervasive and growing” fraud in the mortgage industry that eventually contributed to America’s financial meltdown, but did not take definitive action to stop it.
“It is clear that we had good intelligence on the mortgage-fraud schemes, the corrupt attorneys, the corrupt appraisers, the insider schemes,” said a recently retired, high FBI official. Another retired top FBI official confirmed that such intelligence went back to 2002.
The problem, according to the two FBI retirees and several other current and former bureau colleagues, is that the bureau was stretched so thin that no one noticed when those lenders began packaging bad mortgages into bad securities.
“We knew that the mortgage-brokerage industry was corrupt,” the first of the retired FBI officials told the Seattle P-I. “Where we would have gotten a sense of what was really going on was the point where the mortgage was sold knowing that it was a piece of dung and it would be turned into a security. But the agents with the expertise had been diverted to counterterrorism.”
PBS: NSA Had Information to Prevent 9/11 Hijackings; Took No Action – The National Security Agency (NSA) had been closely monitoring the 9/11 hijackers as they moved freely around the United States and communicated with Osama bin Laden’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA had even tapped bin Laden’s satellite phone, starting in 1996. “The NSA never alerted any other agency that the terrorists were in the United States and moving across the country towards Washington,” James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory told PBS.
In a review of Bamford’s book, former senator and 9/11 Commission member Bob Kerrey wrote, “As the 9/11 Commission later established, U.S. intelligence officials knew that al-Qaeda had held a planning meeting in Malaysia, found out the names of two recruits who had been present — Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi — and suspected that one and maybe both of them had flown to Los Angeles. Bamford reveals that the NSA had been eavesdropping for months on their calls to Yemen, yet the agency ‘never made the effort’ to trace where the calls originated. ‘At any time, had the FBI been notified, they could have found Hazmi in a matter of seconds.'”
The Spy Factory will be shown over most PBS stations on February 3, 2009 at 7 pm CST.
U.S. Infrastructure Identified as Poor in 2005; Administration Took No Action – U.S. roads, airports, schools, levees, dams, and other infrastructure are in overall poor shape and require a $2.2 trillion investment to bring them up to par, an engineering group said on Wednesday. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave infrastructure a grade of “D” as U.S. President Barack Obama seeks $825 billion in extra government spending and tax cuts to ease the economic crisis. Infrastructure earned the same dismal grade in 2005, but the group’s estimated five-year price tag to fix it rose by $600 billion to $2.2 trillion. Earlier this month, the engineers estimated that the president’s stimulus package contained some $90 billion in infrastructure spending. It called that amount a down payment that was long overdue.
FDA Was Informed of Mercury in Much U.S. Corn Syrup; Took No Action – Many common foods made using commercial high fructose corn syrup contain mercury as well, researchers reported, while another study suggested the corn syrup itself is contaminated. Former Food and Drug Administration scientist Renee Dufault and colleagues tested 20 samples of high fructose corn syrup and found detectable mercury in nine of the 20 samples. Dufault said in a statement that she told the FDA about her findings but the agency did not follow up.
Donald Rumsfeld Authorized Torture Despite Warnings From Legal Council of the Navy – Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld clearly authorized torture methods and he was told at that time by Alberto Mora, the legal council of the Navy, ‘Mr. Secretary, what you are actual ordering here amounts to torture.’ A bipartisan Senate report released last month found Rumsfeld and other top administration officials responsible for abuse of Guantanamo detainees in US custody. The coercive measures were based on a document signed by Bush in February, 2002.
Black Church Burned as Payback for the Election of the Country’s First African-American President – Just hours after Barack Obama was elected president last November, three men set ablaze a predominantly African-American church in Massachusetts to “interfere” with the civil rights of its congregants, the U.S. Department of Justice said Tuesday. Macedonia Church of God in Christ was burned to the ground in the early hours of Nov. 5th as payback for the election of the country’s first African-American president, the department’s indictment alleges.
Appeals Court Rules That Schools Can Expel Students That Seem Gay – (The following is another reason why conservatives want privatization of public schools.) A California appeals court ruled Monday that a Christian high school can expel students perceived to be lesbians, upholding a 2008 lower court ruling that there were “no triable” elements to the case. The two 16-year-old girls sued the school for expelling them on the basis of a “bond of intimacy” “characteristic of a lesbian relationship,” under a California discrimination law. “It is almost like it could roll back 20 to 30 years of progress we have made in this area,” Kirk Hanson, said the girls’ attorney. “Basically, this decision gives private schools the license to discriminate.”
Two Judges Make Money by Sending Children to Detention Facilities – (The following is another reason why conservatives want privatization of everything.) Federal authorities say President Judge Mark Ciavarella and Senior Judge Michael Conahan were involved in a $2.6 million scheme to place juvenile offenders into facilities in which the judges had a financial interest. Court documents state that in some cases, Ciavarella ordered children into detention even when juvenile probation officers did not recommend it.
Republican Leadership Opposing Stimulus Plan That Most Economists Say Should Work – Economists think the stimulus plan that the House of Representatives will vote on Wednesday, while far from perfect, will help stimulate the moribund U.S. economy. There’s no panacea for what ails the economy. A stimulus plan will work only in combination with other actions, such as more aid to the banking system to spark lending and boost consumer confidence, and the implementation of any plan will be as important as what’s in it. However, most leading economists who are experienced in public policy generally favor the stimulus plan that the House is considering because through it the government will step up spending at a time when private-sector spending has fallen off sharply. “I think it’s a reasonably well-designed package,” said Mark Zandi, the chief economist for forecaster Moody’s Economy.com and a former adviser to the presidential campaign of Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain. The key to the plan’s success won’t be its design, but its implementation, he cautioned, particularly the public works spending on roads, schools, ports and military bases.
Car Companies Take Bailout Money And Sue Government To Prevent Stricter Fuel-Efficiency Standards
It might be hard to find a better example of biting the hand that feeds you. American automakers, the subject of much attention and beneficiaries of a major financial bailout, are suing the federal government to prevent stricter fuel standards. In a telephone interview, Charles Territo, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which is a party to two of the lawsuits now in federal court, said that the association had no intention of altering its strategy just because some of its members had recently received billions in public money.
Bailout Recipients Hosted Call To Defeat Key Labor Bill – Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority. Participants on the October 17 call — including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill. Bernie Marcus, the charismatic co-founder of Home Depot, led the call along with Rick Berman, an aggressive EFCA opponent and founder of the Center for Union Facts. Over the course of an hour, the two framed the legislation as an existential threat to American capitalism, or worse. “This is the demise of a civilization,” said Marcus.
Bill O’Reilly Says Officials Not Guilty of Torture Because It’s Not in a Book – According to Bill O’Reilly, there is now a tell-all-book standard for determining whether or not political officials should be investigated. If it’s not in the tell-all books available, it’s not there. And according to Tammy Bruce, “enhanced interrogation” is really not much different than a bad shopping day in West Hollywood.
Discussing the “far left” push to look into potential prosecutions of Bush administration officials for war crimes and various other misdeeds, O’Reilly argued that the absence of any evidence of criminal wrongdoing in books by Scott McLellan and Bob Woodward about insiders’ views of the White House pretty much means there isn’t any evidence to be had.
Border Cameras Allocated $2 Million, Only $625 Thousand Spent, Results: 3 Arrests – A virtual border surveillance program Gov. Rick Perry has committed millions of taxpayer dollars to fell far short of expectations during the first six months of operation. The Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, who Perry gave $2 million to line the Texas-Mexico border with hundreds of Web cameras, installed only about a dozen and made just three arrests as a result of tips from online viewers. In the first six months of the grant period, the coalition spent $625,000 to get the cameras running.
Of some 4,500 suspected immigration violations they expected to report to U.S. Border Patrol in the year, the first six months produced only six. The plan originally called for 200 cameras, the equivalent of one camera for every six miles of the Texas-Mexico border. Now, they will likely install about 15 cameras for public viewing, the equivalent of one camera every 80 miles. A previous month-long test with 21 cameras in November 2006 resulted in the apprehension of 10 undocumented immigrants, one drug bust and interruption of one smuggling route.
The El Paso Times states, “A good part of that failure might be due to the lackluster participation of the Border Sheriffs Coalition. … The theory of a virtual border fence has a lot of merit, but it must be given a chance to work. There must be long-term testing involving more than a couple of cameras here and there. Cameras are not nearly as obtrusive as a towering, ugly, rusting border fence — or wall.” Virtual border surveillance program ineffective, cost millions
John Cornyn Makes Unethical Demands to Protect the Bush Administration – Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) tried to muscle Atty. Gen.-designate Eric H. Holder Jr. into promising not to conduct “witch hunts”– code language for criminal prosecutions — of intelligence operatives who engaged in torture during the Bush administration. It’s an outrageous demand, and it would be unethical for Holder to accede to it. Cornyn is free to endorse torture and to vote against Holder’s confirmation in the Judiciary Committee (which is expected to vote today) or in the full Senate. But asking that a prospective attorney general commit in advance to prosecute — or not prosecute — potential defendants crosses an ethical line. Cornyn, a former state Supreme Court justice, should know that. No less than a nominee for the federal courts, a prospective attorney general shouldn’t put himself in the position of prejudging cases in exchange for Senate confirmation.
Judge OKs Continued Holding of Taliban Cook At Guantanamo After Seven Years in Confinement – A Guantanamo Bay prisoner who says he merely cooked meals for Taliban forces and never fired a shot in battle lost his petition to be released Wednesday after being held for more than seven years. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said that Ghaleb Nassar Al Bihani’s work as an assistant cook with Taliban fighters made him an enemy combatant of the United States, nevertheless, and is reason enough for the U.S. military to continue holding him.
Former Taliban Kitchen Slave Also Held at Guantanamo – The United States Guantanamo Bay detainment camps in Cuba contains a dozen or more American prisoners who were also Taliban prisoners. Some examples:
Ilkham Turdbyavich Batayev – Used as a kitchen slave by the Taliban.
Adil Uqla Hassan Al Nusayri – A Saudi police officer, who visited Afghanistan shortly before 9-11, was thrown into prison by the Taliban, only to be sold, for a bounty, by the Taliban to the Americans.
Jamal Udeen Al-Harith – Paid a driver to take him from Pakistan to Iran, without realizing that his driver would take him near the Afghanistan border, where the Taliban seized him as an American spy, based on his British passport. Went directly from custody in a Taliban jail to US custody.