The Obama administration and its critics separately hardened their national security positions this week.
The White House named UN Ambassador Susan Rice and former White House analyst Samantha Power to cabinet-level posts. Meanwhile, the Obama White House suffered embarrassment from major revelations regarding its surveillance of the public, prosecutions of leakers, and its dubious regime-change strategies in the Mideast.
The most recent was the Thursday revelation by the Washington Post of Documents: U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program. The Post story illustrating how the federal government is secretly capturing consumer date from such sites as Google, Facebook, Apple, MSN, Skype, Yahoo! and YouTube followed a Guardian report that Verizon was secretly handing over the federal government data on tens of millions of international calls.
Regarding the administration's team, the president is "ushering out a cautious Washington insider and elevating two long-time proponents of a larger American role in preventing humanitarian crises and protecting human rights," the Washington Post reported in National security team shuffle may signal more activist stance at White House. "The ideological shift signaled by the choices highlights a central dilemma for Obama as he seeks to make a mark on the world at a time of austerity — and war weariness — at home."
Additionally this week, a Defense Department Inspector General's report revealed that former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed classified information that helped boost Zero Dark 30, a Hollywood movie favorable to the administration's messaging. In contrast to Panetta's misstep, the government is seeking draconian punishment for Army Pfc. Bradley Manning for leaks
Also, new information surfaced about the government's ongoing crackdown on the media and its sources.
Update: The Justice Integrity Project published on June 16: Backgrounder on Obama's Big Data Domestic Spying System. The purpose was to resolve conflicting claims about recent revelations about the Obama-Bush domestic spying program.
In other news, Egypt convicted more than 40 defendants, including 16 Americans, of crimes for advocating Western-style democracy procedures. This follows an order by Russia last month expelling such groups. Another setback for the Obama foreign policy team this week was the Syrian government's defeat of rebel fighters backed by the United States in an important battle in a Qusayr, a small city near Lebanon's border. These events are inter-related, often in ways difficult for the public to discern, as indicated below.
Obama's elevation of Rice and Power represents a continuation of the pattern by recent administrations to weave war making, regime change, and national security into civil rights messaging that may attract more U.S. popular support. Foreign policy initiatives marketed as pro-democracy, anti-genocide, pro-woman, and pro-child resonate better with domestic and foreign audiences. Such messages are further enhanced when the U.S. spokesperson is female, holds elite academic credentials, and is a racial minority.
Rice, at right, became too controversial to win nomination as Secretary of State because her remarks on television last September about Benghazi. But she will similarly serve the administration by aggressive foreign policies. This is similar position as that of Condolezza Rice (no relation), the National Security Advisor and then Secretary of State under President George W. Bush.
Power wrote a book opposing genocide, and is a new mother married to first-term White House regulatory advisor Cass Sunstein, also a close friend of the president from their years teaching law at the University of Chicago.
Obama's Support for Citizen Surveillance
The White House photo below by Pete Souza shows President Obama and Chief of Staff Denis McDonough walking June 3 on the South Lawn of the White House.
During two presidential election campaigns, Obama marketed himself as a protector of civil rights and as a reluctant warrior. He has proven more restrained than Bush in ordering new troops into Mideast wars.
But in many other respects he has matched or exceeded Bush's aggressive policies.
Among examples are his use of drones for fatal attacks, and his crackdowns on government leakers. His administration has used spy charges to prosecute at least six government employees or former employees who claim to have been serving the public interest.
The leak prosecutions have targeted the media, both alternative and mainstream.
Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen, a former Navy intelligence analyst who once worked on the Navy probe of the spy Jonathan Pollard, reported June 6 that the Justice Department has kept open for more than a decade an investigation of him and Carl Cameron of Fox News for reporting a claim that Israel had compromised U.S. intelligence. Cameron broke the story in late 2001 in a four-part series. In February the following year, Madsen published a leaked 60-page report bythe Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
This week, Madsen wrote that a continuing investigation of the reporters but no known prosecution of the foreign data thieves sends a clear message: that both the Bush and Obama administrations are more interested in suppressing embarrassment than in permitting reporters to inform the public.
The Obama administration's growing divide with a once-fawning press corps has been damaged further by its investigations of another Fox News reporter, James Rosen, as well as multiple Associated Press and New York Times reporters.
Many alternative journalists on both the right and left recognize that all of their communications are likely to be monitored under the sweeping, and arguably illegal procedures that the Bush administration launched upon taking office in 2001 even before 9/11. These were apparently continued when Obama, after securing the Democratic presidential nomination in the summer of 2008, switched his campaign position to join with most other leaders of both parties in granting telecom companies immunity from privacy lawsuits by their customers.
Most news organizations have been extremely reluctant to report on the procedures used to monitor private communications, in part because the bipartisan mantra that personal privacy is less important than national security.
Therefore, the front-page treatment of this week's secret court extension of Verizon's spying authority is a break with that tradition of deference. The treatment and the Post's follow-up regarding government procedures to mine data from social media suggest an editorial desire to spank the president as much as new information. Insiders have known about the spying program for years, albeit without access to one of the secret court papers describing it.
Obama's critics are keeping the administration on the defensive in a number of other ways. The long-running attacks on Rice for Benghazi have been an unfair tactic, as recent documents indicate. The CIA initiated the talking points and other State Department officials than Rice performed the bulk of editing for television shows immediately after the fatal attack. Furthermore, critics often blatantly misquote Rice's actual remarks.
However, there appears to be plenty of blame to go around on substantive matters at the State Department, White House, and elsewhere in the foreign policy establishment, including Congress. The strategy of regime change in Syria practiced by the United States and its allies (NATO, Turkey, and the Gulf Arab monarchies at a minimum) appears to be in serious jeopardy in the short term. The rebels in Syria are losing terrain and international support, riots have occurred for nearly a week against the Turkish government, and Russia has announced military support for the embattled current government that is difficult for the United States and its allies to match without creating a direct military confrontation with Russia, which retains a naval base in Syria and a fleet of ships offshore.
Furthermore, Western rhetoric denouncing help by Russian, Iran, and Lebanon to Syria's government, or "regime," are prompting increasing questions about the rebels and their arms supplies. Western media almost always ignore the arms supplies to the rebels from foreign nations, and inclusion in rebel forces of those from foreign lands. These include uncounted numbers of jihadists regarded as far more sympathetic to Al Qaeda than to Western-style democracy.
The longer the war endures, the more dangerous the United States policy becomes. This is because reports could become more widespread that the United States has been violating its own announced policies by facilitating the use of outside troops and weapons.
Another potential danger zone is scrutiny of the so-called "non-government organizations" that the United States encourages to spread democracy, civil rights, and such procedures as voting procedures around the world. The groups claim that they are not controlled by the United States government, even if some admit that they receive direct or indirect government funding. Whatever the case, Egypt and Russia exemplify nations that regard the groups with suspicion and want them to cease operations in their countries.
Amidst these pressures, the President Obama again skipped the annual Radio and Television Congressional Correspondents Dinner June 5, which attracted 1,300 registrants to a black-tie gala in Washington. The dinner chairman and some attendees interpreted his absence especially negatively as a sign of the heightened tension between the administration and conventional media.
Far away in England, the Bilderberg Group held its annual gathering of about 100 of the Western world's most influential figures. The group, named for its first meeting at the Bilderberg Hotel in The Netherlands in 1954, always works in secret. But its deliberations have attracted unusual attention in recent years, including reports of at least invitees to a gathering. Its first guest list was created the Rockefeller and Rothschild financial family.
In England, the Bilderberg Group held its annual gathering of about 100 of the Western world's most influential figures. The scene this year is the small community of Watford. The group's first meeting was in 1954 at the Bilderberg Hotel in The Netherlands. The Rockefeller and Rothschild families reportedly created its first guest list, which included the Queens of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
The Bilderberg group works in secret. The deliberations have attracted unusual attention in recent years, including reports of many of this year's invitees to a gathering.
Among those convening for the secret policy discussions, listed here in alphabetical order, were: Washington Post Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham; Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Managing Director, Lazard Freres & Co.; Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.; Henry R. Kravis, Co-Chairman and Co-CEO Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, Harvard Law School Lawrence Lessig, a prominent advocate of congressional reform; Richard N. Perle, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. Global Institute Chairman David H. Petraeus, General, U.S. Army (Retired); Robert E. Rubin, Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations and former Secretary of the Treasury; and Peter A. Thiel, President, Thiel Capital and a leading funder of social media companies and political campaigns.
Many other names of attendees have been published by the Bilderberg Group or independent observers. The names above are not necessarily the most important attendees. I selected them to illustrate that the attendees have ties to both U.S. major parties, and cross generations.
This week's events are summarized in news reports excerpted below. My book Presidential Puppetry, to be published later this month, provides a more historical treatment of the topics.
Related News Coverage
Washington Post, Obama defends sweeping surveillance efforts, Philip Rucker, Sean Sullivan and and Aaron Blake, June 7, 2013. President Obama strongly defended the government’s secret surveillance of people’s phone records and Internet activities Friday, saying there are “a whole bunch of safeguards involved” and that Congress has repeatedly authorized the programs. Commenting on the surveillance for the first time since news organizations revealed the sweeping National Security Agency programs this week, Obama highlighted limits to the programs to protect the privacy of U.S. citizens and said the surveillance has helped the government thwart terrorist attacks. “They make a difference in our capacity to anticipate and prevent possible terrorist activity,” Obama said. He added that the programs are “under very strict supervision by all three branches of government and they do not involve listening to people’s phone calls, do not involve reading the e-mails of U.S. citizens and U.S. residents.”
Government Surveillance of Public
Washington Post, Documents: U.S. intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program, Barton Gellman and Laura Poitras, June 6, 2013. The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track one target or trace a whole network of associates, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
Washington Post, NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program, Staff report, June 6, 2013. Through a top-secret program authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. intelligence community can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data. Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by The Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. These slides, annotated by The Washington Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted.
Guardian, NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily, Glenn Greenwald, June 5, 2013. Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama. Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an "ongoing, daily basis" to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries. The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing. The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19. Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.
Washington Post, Verizon ordered to provide NSA with all call data, Ellen Nakashima June 5, 2013. Administration official says purported court order “does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls” and only relates to data, including phone number and call length.
White House Appointments
Washington Post, National security team shuffle may signal more activist stance at White House, Scott Wilson, June 5, 2013. President Obama announced a major shuffle of his national security team on Wednesday, ushering out a cautious Washington insider and elevating two long-time proponents of a larger American role in preventing humanitarian crises and protecting human rights. The ideological shift signaled by the choices highlights a central dilemma for Obama as he seeks to make a mark on the world at a time of austerity — and war weariness — at home. How ambitious Obama intends to be abroad at a time of stiff challenges on the domestic front has remained an open question well into his second term. Samatha Power, Obama’s pick for U.N. ambassador, is a longtime foreign and national security adviser to Obama. She has been called a Harvard brainiac with both a Pulitzer Prize and a mean jump shot. Here are a few facts about her. Susan E. Rice, named by Obama Wednesday to succeed Thomas E. Donilon as national security adviser, and Samantha Power, nominated to follow Rice as U.N. ambassador, will have the opportunity to provide an answer as the administration reviews its policy in Syria, winds down the war in Afghanistan and seeks to stop Iran’s nuclear-enrichment program. In a Rose Garden announcement, Obama called Rice, who does not need Senate confirmation, a “a fierce champion for justice and human dignity.” Video: President Obama named Susan Rice to replace Tom Donilon as his national security adviser and Samantha Power to replace Rice at the United Nations in the Rose Garden Wednesday.
Washington Post, What you need to know about Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who will be the next national security adviser, Staff report, June 5, 2013.
Politico, Opening Statements Paint Two Pictures Of Manning, Stephanie Gaskell, June 3, 2013. Prosecutors opened the Army’s court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning on Monday by charging that the former intelligence analyst knew full well the 700,000 classified documents he has admitted giving to WikiLeaks could fall into the hands of America’s enemies. During opening statements in the biggest leak case in U.S. military history, prosecutors said they have evidence that Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden asked for the WikiLeaks files after they were released and the information was found on computers inside his Pakistan compound when it was raided by Navy Seals two years ago.
Consortium News, Moral Imperative of Bradley Manning, Ray McGovern, June 3, 2013. Exclusive: Official Washington still glorifies George W. Bush’s “successful surge” in Iraq while ignoring the wanton slaughter inflicted on Iraqis. So, there remains a high-level desire to harshly punish Pvt. Bradley Manning for exposing the horrific truth about that and other war crimes, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern. He writes: "Although we had to swelter in the Maryland sun on Saturday, I found the pre-trial rally at Ft. Meade to support Bradley Manning particularly spirit-filled. It seemed there was an unspoken but widely shared consciousness that Manning is as much Biblical prophet as Army private. I think Manning can be seen as a classic prophet in the Abrahamic tradition. Such prophets take risks to expose injustice and challenge the rest of us to do the same. They also are a very large pain to those who oppress – and a pain, as well, to those of us who would prefer not to have to bother about such things."
Leak Investigations & Prosecutions
Politico, Report: Leon Panetta revealed classified SEAL unit info, Josh Gerstein, June 5, 2013. Former CIA Director Leon Panetta, right, revealed the name of the Navy SEAL unit that carried out the Osama bin Laden raid and named the unit’s ground commander at a 2011 ceremony attended by Zero Dark Thirty filmmaker Mark Boal. Panetta also discussed classified information designated as “top secret” and “secret” during his presentation at the awards ceremony, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report published Wednesday by the Project on Government Oversight. A source close to Panetta said Wednesday evening that he was unaware anyone without the proper security clearances was present at the event, which included both CIA and military personnel. “He has no idea who all is in the audience.
Fox, IG report says Panetta disclosed sensitive info on bin Laden raid, rep decries 'hypocrisy' June 6, 2013. A top House Republican is accusing the Obama administration of “hypocrisy” after a draft watchdog report claimed former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta disclosed sensitive information on the Usama bin Laden raid to a Hollywood filmmaker -- even as the Justice Department aggressively pursued other security leaks. Rep. Peter King, R-NY, sharply criticized the White House for letting the Panetta disclosure slide. "There is definitely a hypocrisy here," King fumed. "The administration is cracking down on every leak. But here, they themselves are orchestrating leaks. But here you have the White House cooperating with Hollywood. And as a result of that, we have security breaches."
Truthdig via OpEdNews, 'We Steal Secrets': State Agitprop, Chris Hedges, June 3, 2013. Alex Gibney's new film, We Steal Secrets, is about WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange. It dutifully peddles the state's contention that WikiLeaks is not a legitimate publisher and that Bradley Manning, who allegedly passed half a million classified Pentagon and State Department documents to WikiLeaks, is not a legitimate whistle-blower. It interprets acts of conscience and heroism by Assange and Manning as misguided or criminal. It holds up the powerful -- who are responsible for the plethora of war crimes Manning and Assange exposed -- as, by comparison, trustworthy and reasonable. Manning is portrayed as a pitiful, naive and sexually confused young man. Assange, who created the WikiLeaks site so whistle-blowers could post information without fear of being traced, is presented as a paranoid, vindictive megalomaniac and a sexual deviant. "We Steal Secrets" is agitprop for the security and surveillance state
Guardian, Bradley Manning Trial Focuses on His Database Access, Ed Pilkington, June 5, 2013. Bradley Manning, the source of the largest intelligence leak in US history, was allowed by his superiors to surf massive closed databases of secret information without any official restrictions, as well as download classified files to CDs and play music, movies and video games on his secure computer, his court martial has heard.
Day three of the trial, the highest-profile prosecution of an official leaker in at least a generation, focused on a tussle between the US government and Manning's defence lawyers over the environment in which the soldier worked as an intelligence analyst. The prosecution attempted to depict his unit within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division as meticulously trained in the handling and safeguarding of classified information.
By contrast, the defence team led by civilian lawyer David Coombs extracted answers from prosecution witnesses under cross-examination that presented the unit as an ill-disciplined group that operated under lapse security guidelines, even though they were stationed on active duty at a US military base outside Baghdad. Two of Manning's supervisors at Forward Operating Base Hammer were called to the stand, Jihrleah Showman and chief warrant officer Kyle Balonek, and grilled in similar fashion.
WMR, FBI issued subpoenas on leak of DEA's Israeli spying memo, Wayne Madsen, June 6, 2013 (Subscription required). WMR has learned from a primary source that the U.S. Justice Department sought and received subpoenas to force testimony from and monitor the phone conversations and emails of journalists who received parts of or the entirety of a Drug Enforcement Administration report in December 2002 documenting Israeli "art student" espionage directed at U.S. government facilities and homes of U.S. government employees in the years and months leading up to the 9/11 attack. Although the 60-page and undated DEA report, titled "Suspicious Activities Involving Israeli Art Students at DEA Facilities," was not marked with any security classifications, WMR learned that it was and continues to be viewed as "classified" by the Justice Department, of which the DEA is a component. Fox News's Carl Cameron broke the Israeli espionage story in December 2001.This editor was the first to reveal the details contained in the DEA report in a report run by the French website Intelligence Online on February 28, 2002. The report was then picked up by Le Monde and Washington ABC 7's investigative reporter Dale Solly on March 5.
FireDogLake, Surveillance State Secrecy & the Top Secret Court Order to Hand Over Verizon Call Data to NSA, Kevin Gosztola, June 6, 2013. A court order that was classified as top secret indicates Verizon was ordered by a US secret surveillance court to provide call data of millions of communications of Americans on an “ongoing, daily basis” to the National Security Agency (NSA) from April 25 to July 19. The order authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was published by The Guardian and columnist, Glenn Greenwald, wrote about the order for the media organization, concluding that it showed for “the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.”
Washington Post, Administration, lawmakers defend NSA program to collect phone records, Ellen Nakashima and Ed O’Keefe, June 6, 2013. The Obama administration and key U.S. lawmakers on Thursday defended a secret National Security Agency telephone surveillance program that one congressman said had helped avert a terrorist attack in recent years. The program apparently has collected the telephone records of tens of millions of American customers of Verizon, one of the nation’s largest phone companies, under a top-secret court order. The government has built a national security and intelligence system so big, so complex and so hard to manage, no one really knows if it's fulfilling its most important purpose: keeping its citizens safe. The National Security Agency secretly collected phone records of millions of Verizon customers. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who chairs the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the court order, issued in April, appears to be “the exact three-month renewal” of the program that has been underway for the past seven years. She said the program is “lawful.”
Syrian, Egyptian and Russian News
AP via Huffington Post, Egypt Sentences NGO Workers To Prison, Including 16 Americans, Hamza Hendawi, June 4, 2013. An Egyptian court on Tuesday sentenced 43 non-profit workers, including the son of the U.S. secretary of transportation and 15 other Americans, to prison in a case against foreign-funded pro-democracy groups. The ruling and heavy jail time of up to five years deepen worries over the operations of non-governmental organizations in Egypt as parliament considers a bill proposed by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi that critics warn will profoundly restrict their activities.
Reuters, Council of Europe tells Putin of concern over Russian NGO law, Denis Dyomkin, May 20, 2013. The head of the Council of Europe told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday he was concerned a law requiring non-governmental organizations which received funding from abroad to register as foreign agents could have a "chilling effect." Prosecutors have conducted a wave of inspections at the offices of all kinds of NGOs in Russia this year citing the law which critics say is part of a campaign to smother dissent against Putin during his third term as president. It requires NGOs who receive finding from abroad to register as "foreign agents" if they are involved in political activity. Russia's only independent pollster, Levada Center, said on Monday its future was in doubt after prosecutors warned it was in violation of the law. Comments by Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, suggested he shared the concerns of groups which say they are being penalized even though they are not involved in politics, and also about the use of the term foreign agent which critics say evokes Soviet-era spy hunts.
Foreign Policy, After weeks of fighting, Syrian forces overtake the strategic town of Qusayr, Mary Casey and Jennifer Parker, June 5, 2013. The Syrian army, along with pro-government Hezbollah forces, overtook the strategic town of Qusayr on Wednesday after over two weeks of fighting. Syrian state news agency SANA reported the "heroic armed forces have returned security and stability to all of the town." The regime and allied forces reportedly overtook the town after an overnight offensive. According to one Hezbollah fighter, "We did a sudden surprise attack in the early hours and entered the town. They escaped." Opposition forces said they had pulled out of Qusayr. The loss of the town, which is located about six miles from the border with Lebanon, will be a significant blow to the opposition as it lies on an important supply route.
Washington Post, Message from the ruins of Qusair, Charles Krauthammer, June 6, 2013. On Wednesday, Qusair fell to the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. Qusair is a strategic town that connects Damascus with Assad’s Alawite heartland on the Mediterranean, with its ports and Russian naval base. It’s a major strategic shift. Assad’s forces can now advance on rebel-dominated areas in central and northern Syria, including Aleppo. For the rebels, it’s a devastating loss of territory, morale and their supply corridor to Lebanon. No one knows if this reversal of fortune will be the last, but everyone knows that Assad now has the upper hand.
Annual Bilderberg Group Meeting
Zero Hedge, The Full List Of 2013's Bilderberg Attendees, Tyler Durden, June 3, 2013. Selected attendees from the 2013 annual Bilderberg conference in the United Kingdom, chaired this year by Henri de Castries, Chairman and CEO of the AXA Group. Other attendees of special stature include Her Royal Highnesss Princess Beatrix of The Netherlands and J. Michael Evans, Vice Chairman, Goldman Sachs & Co., which reportedly helps funds the annual conference along with the BP [according to cables released by the hacker group Anonymous].
The Guardian, The week ahead: Bilderberg 2013 comes to … the Grove Hotel, Watford, Charlie Skelton, June 2, 2013. The Bilderberg group's meeting will receive greater scrutiny than usual as journalists and bloggers converge on Watford. When you're picking a spot to hold the world's most powerful policy summit, there's really only one place that will do: Watford. On Thursday afternoon, a heady mix of politicians, bank bosses, billionaires, chief executives and European royalty will swoop up the elegant drive of the Grove hotel, north of Watford, to begin the annual Bilderberg conference It's a remarkable spectacle – one of nature's wonders – and the most exciting thing to happen to Watford since that roundabout on the A412 got traffic lights. The area round the hotel is in lockdown: locals are having to show their passports to get to their homes. It's exciting too for the delegates. The CEO of Royal Dutch Shell will hop from his limo, delighted to be spending three solid days in policy talks with the head of HSBC, the president of Dow Chemical, his favourite European finance ministers and US intelligence chiefs. The conference is the highlight of every plutocrat's year and has been since 1954. The only time Bilderberg skipped a year was 1976, after the group's founding chairman, Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, was caught taking bribes from Lockheed Martin.
Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Peter H. Stone, Huffington Post, Sheldon Adelson's Woes Mount With Grand Jury In Las Vegas Sands Money-Laundering Probe, June 5, 2013. The legal headaches besetting billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corp. now include a grand jury in Los Angeles, part of a federal money-laundering probe of his Nevada-based casinos, the Huffington Post has learned. The involvement of a federal grand jury, not previously reported, suggests an escalation of the money-laundering investigation into Sands and one of its executives, being led by the U.S. attorney for Los Angeles, according to a person with direct knowledge of the inquiry. Investigators are probing whether Sands broke money-laundering laws by failing to report millions in potentially questionable transfers of money several years ago by two-high rollers at its casinos. Both men have separately been charged with other crimes and one has since been sentenced to jail for accepting illegal kickbacks. Adelson, CEO of the Sands, is shown at left in a photo via Wikipedia. The Wall Street Journal, in a lengthy story last summer, first disclosed that Sands was a subject of a federal money-laundering inquiry and that some of its executives were also under scrutiny. The Journal reported in October that possible settlement discussions with government officials were underway. Those talks were focused on a possible deal, which, to avoid charges, may have included a fine of $100 million or more and would've required Sands to institute new internal controls for customer deposits.