Gold Gone? Germany baffled as Fed bars access to bullion
Published on Aug 15, 2013
The world is losing trust in the dollar as a safe haven. A major blow came after Germany's Bundesbank demanded the repatriation of a big chunk of its gold being held in the US. Because as RT's Gayane Chichakyan reports, some are concerned the assets of foreign nations in the Federal Reserve are not secure or even there. The Germans were infuriated when the US Federal reserve didn't even let them examine their own assets properly. Peter Boehringer, the founder and chairman of 'German Precious Metal Association', says that's a bad sign.
(Photo: David Lee / Flickr)Washington, DC — Some secrets don’t faze Sen. Dianne Feinstein. She keeps plenty, after all, as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
But the 15-member panel that the California Democrat has led since 2009 is scrambling to catch up with the latest public revelations about government spying.
It’s a potentially awkward position for the 80-year-old lawmaker, who has regularly defended secret surveillance programs that others have knocked, and who now must defend the quality of congressional oversight as well.
On Friday Feinstein faced news reports that a National Security Agency audit had found thousands of violations of privacy rules or legal guidelines designed to protect communications by Americans and others that originated in the United States.
“The committee has been notified, and has held briefings and hearings, in cases where there have been significant . . . compliance issues,” Feinstein said in a statement Friday. “In all such cases, the incidents have been addressed by ending or adapting the activity.”
Ensconced in Lake Tahoe in preparation for a high-level Tahoe environmental meeting Monday, Feinstein hadn’t necessarily planned on dealing with intelligence-related queries this week. That changed when The Washington Post disclosed the previously secret NSA audit, which found more than 2,700 violations over the course of a year.
The Post and Feinstein offered different characterizations of the audit, dated May 2012, leading to markedly different conclusions about congressional oversight of surveillance programs.
The Post’s article, by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Barton Gellman, said Feinstein “did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit until the newspaper asked her staff about it.” The paper’s phrasing created a picture of intelligence agency recalcitrance combined with Senate committee cluelessness, and it drove harsh reactions.
“It’s clear that oversight of the NSA and the broader intelligence community is failing,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. “Congress needs to re-examine its relationship to the intelligence community if we are going to restore confidence that privacy rights are protected in this country.”
A member of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., added in a similar vein that “the administration leans heavily on the claim that there is robust oversight by Congress and the (intelligence) courts, but neither is getting all of the information they need.”
The report centered on the kind of surprise that no political leader likes to see, least of all Feinstein, a senior and influential member of the Senate.
In 2009, for instance, she laid down a marker when she blasted President Barack Obama for failing to consult her before he named former California Congressman Leon Panetta as CIA director.
Feinstein insisted Friday that she and her Intelligence panel members had, in fact, previously had received the relevant information the Post disclosed. The difference, she said, was that the information came “in a more official format rather than as an internal NSA statistical report,” which the Post had obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“As I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes,” Feinstein said.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest referred to Feinstein’s remarks in the administration’s own reaction to the Post story.
Feinstein’s counterpart, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., likewise stressed the sufficiency of current oversight, declaring that his committee “has been apprised of previous incidents, takes seriously each one, and uses the oversight and compliance regime to provide us insight into these operations and whether further adjustments must be made.”
At the same time, Feinstein said her committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate,” and she indicated that there would be “more routine trips” by committee staffers to the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.
Feinstein and a fellow Democrat, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, are the most experienced members of what’s formally called the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Both joined the panel in 2001, giving them years of exposure to the multi-agency intelligence community, whose annual budget has swelled to an estimated $55 billion.
Twice a week, almost always in secret, the Senate panel convenes in its specially protected room on the second floor of the Hart Senate Office Building. The House Intelligence panel meets in the underground Capitol Visitor Center.
In recent months, amid a spate of revelations, the leaders and ranking minority members of both committees have tended to stand together in defense of the intelligence agencies they oversee.
In June, for instance, Feinstein joined with her ranking member, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, to offer public support for the mass collection of telephone records called “metadata.” On Aug. 1, the two committees’ leaders joined arm in arm in attacking the “inaccurate and reckless way” in which a certain intelligence program had been characterized.
But other lawmakers, exposed to the same information because of their oversight positions, have reached different conclusions.
“We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged,” Senate Intelligence Committee members Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., said in a joint statement Friday, “and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.”
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There may be little the United States can do to end the savage bloodletting in Egypt, but at least our nation can be loyal to its ideals by bearing witness and telling the truth. In this, President Obama has failed.
A day after Egypt’s military-backed “interim” government slaughtered hundreds of protesters and assumed sweeping emergency powers, Obama still could not bring himself to call what is happening a coup d’etat. Speaking from Martha’s Vineyard, he described it as an “intervention.” In Cairo, meanwhile, authorities were still counting the bodies of those slain in Wednesday’s massacre.
As of this writing, the government has acknowledged 638 dead. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose protest encampments were targeted in the crackdown, claims there are more than 2,000 victims. There was no estimate of how many Brotherhood activists throughout Egypt have been rounded up.
Images of the brutal assault were shocking. Troops opened fire on unarmed demonstrators without warning. The interior minister’s claim that soldiers did not use live ammunition was the kind of bald-faced lie that only repressive governments think they can get away with; Western correspondents described seeing protesters cut down by sniper fire, as well as coming under fire themselves.
A Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed el-Beltagi, spoke defiantly to reporters shortly after learning that his 17-year-old daughter, Asmaa, was among the dead. An unidentified woman stood in front of a government bulldozer, blocking its way and protecting an injured young man, in a tableau reminiscent of the famous photograph from Tiananmen Square in which a man faced down a line of tanks.
I can think of many words to describe such scenes. “Intervention” is not one of them.
The same rationale keeps Obama from calling what has happened to Egypt by its proper name. Using the word “coup” would require the United States to cut off $1.3 billion in military aid — and thus surrender the usefulness of long-standing military-to-military relationships.
But it should be clear by now that this policy is chasing a mirage. Those back-channel connections with the Egyptian generals didn’t stop them from deposing President Mohamed Morsi, which the United States had warned against. Those old-boy relationships didn’t prevent Wednesday’s assault to clear the protest camps, which the United States had also warned against. When is the administration going to realize that Cairo isn’t listening?
Even some supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood acknowledge that Morsi was not a very good president. As Obama noted Thursday, “His government was not inclusive and did not respect the views of all Egyptians.” It is likely that a majority wanted someone else in office who would take the country’s nascent democracy in a different direction.
But the way to oust elected leaders is with ballots, not bullets. How can the United States claim to stand for democracy and ignore this fundamental precept? How could Secretary of State John F. Kerry say, as he did earlier this month, that the Egyptian military was “in effect . . . restoring democracy” by seizing power and throwing the president in jail?
Since the most Westernized segments of Egyptian society were among Morsi’s opponents — and were calling for a coup — perhaps U.S. officials had some reason to hope that there would be a quick return to democracy and even that the next elected government would be more to the administration’s liking.
But such an outcome — which was never likely, history shows — would have required the interim government and its military strongman, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, to rule in the spirit of reconciliation. It would have required renewing the Muslim Brotherhood’s faith in the political process, which would have meant making accommodations and concessions.
Instead, the new government chose the iron fist.
With Wednesday’s carnage, the military — perhaps deliberately — has weakened Muslim Brotherhood moderates who favored giving democracy a chance, while strengthening extremists who advocate violence. When there are more church burnings, when there are more attacks on police stations and army outposts, the military will use such atrocities as excuses for ever more brutal repression.
U.S. officials can no longer harbor illusions about the nature of the Egyptian coup or the prospects for genuine democracy. Obama should speak the truth and cut off military aid.