The Intercept

We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War

50 min 51 sec ago

If you’re anywhere near Washington, D.C. this Memorial Day, I strongly recommend a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. There may be nowhere where American history is more highly concentrated in all its kooky cruel splendor — and so there’s also no better place to ask questions about it.

For instance, the grounds and the mansion at the entrance of Arlington once belonged to Robert E. Lee’s wife. Did we just seize it all during the Civil War, like a normal country? Not exactly: Instead we created a transparent sham where she was required to show up in person to pay her $92.07 in property taxes for 1864, and when she didn’t it was sold off at a public auction, with the U.S. government as the only bidder.

What about John F. Kennedy’s grave: Is all of him in there? No, his brain was removed during his autopsy and his body was buried without it. (The brain then spent some time at the National Archives before vanishing in 1966.)

And are there any Wiccans buried at Arlington? Presumably there always have been. But in 2007 the military added a pentacle to its official list of religious symbols that can be engraved on headstones, so it now can be publicly recognized.

But of course if you spend time with the dead from the Civil War and the Boxer Rebellion and Iwo Jima and Apollo 1, you’ll also find yourself asking larger questions. Every time I’ve gone there, as I’ve looked out from Lee’s hilltop mansion at the hundreds of thousands of soldiers quietly feeding the freshly-mown grass, I’ve wondered why human beings just can’t stop fighting wars.

The fervent pomp of Arlington to me always exudes desperation, as though we’re trying to suppress any acknowledgement that war’s the silliest thing people do. We sort ourselves into teams based on imaginary lines, dress up in costumes, pledge allegiance to pieces of cloth, and then mercilessly slaughter total strangers.

This reality – that waging war is both extremely unpleasant and fundamentally ridiculous, yet we keep doing it – indicates that it must serve some important purpose.

And all the history books I’ve ever read and all the history I’ve lived through suggests what that is: Wars are less about conflicts between societies than about conflicts within societies. Every country has a militaristic right-wing, and nothing helps that right-wing triumph over their domestic enemies more than a state of war. And just like a pharmaceutical company that doesn’t want to cure diseases when managing them is so profitable, their top priority is never bringing the war to an end, but maintaining and expanding their power within the country.

Amazing enough, Donald Trump recently told the National Governors Association exactly this, even if neither he nor they understood what he was saying. “We never win. And we don’t fight to win,” Trump declared. “$6 trillion we’ve spent in the Middle East … and we’re nowhere.”

But obviously Trump himself is somewhere: He’s in the White House. And lots of that $6 trillion is somewhere too, in the bank accounts of defense contractors. So if you understand who the real “we” are, we in fact have won the war on terror and are still winning. U.S. politics have been shoved hard to the right, making Trump possible, and since 2001 the value of Lockheed Martin stock has sextupled. The real we likewise have no interest in “fighting to win” in the sense Trump means — because that would require raising taxes on billionaires and drafting their children out of Stanford and Yale to go die in the sand, something that would quickly lead to the defeat of any president who tried it.

This perspective on the purpose of war was directly expressed by George W. Bush and his circle before he ever became president. Texas journalist and Bush family friend Mickey Herskowitz was hired to write a Bush biography for the 2000 campaign, and spent hours interviewing him. Herskowitz later said that Bush was already thinking about attacking Iraq — because, Bush said, “One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander in chief.” According to Herskowitz, people around Bush, including Dick Cheney, hoped to “Start a small war. Pick a country where there is justification you can jump on, go ahead and invade.” Why? Because, Bush told Herskowitz, that would give him “political capital” that he could use to “get everything passed that I want to get passed.”

In other words, the actual country of Iraq had little to do with the Iraq War. Its main purpose wasn’t beating Saddam Hussein, it was beating Americans who wanted to stop Bush from privatizing Social Security.

Soldiers in the Old Guard walk over a puddle while placing flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during “Flags In” in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Va.

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Meanwhile, the motivations of our official enemies are the same: i.e., they’re consumed with gaining power in their own societies, and from their perspective we exist mainly as bit players in that drama. A key focus of Al Qaeda when planning its 2000 attack on the USS Cole was filming it so the footage could be used in a recruitment video — one needed, as the 9/11 Commission report put it, for “their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.” Unfortunately, the terrorist with the camera overslept and missed his compatriots blowing themselves up. So Al Qaeda then filmed a reenactment and used that tape instead. Thus 17 Americans on the Cole were killed in real life, but zero Americans had to die to create what Al Qaeda truly wanted, a way to consolidate influence in their world.

The same dynamic was involved in the 9/11 operation itself. According to the commission’s report, part of Osama bin Laden’s motivation was that he believed the attack would benefit al Qaeda “by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greater donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logistical assistance.” Just excise the word “suicide” and bin Laden sounds exactly like George W. Bush, planning to inflict spectacular ultra-violence thousands of miles away in hopes of getting bigger campaign contributions.

For Saddam Hussein’s part, all his foreign policy had one goal, keeping him in power for the next week. It’s true his 1990 invasion of Kuwait could easily have led to his overthrow and death in the medium term, and in fact it did in the long term. But that was irrelevant from his perspective, since the invasion eliminated the dire threats he faced in short term. As he explained after he was captured by the U.S., he had created an enormous military establishment during the Iran-Iraq War, something dangerous in a region with a long history of army coups. He went into Kuwait, he said, in part just to keep his generals busy.

What’s most surprising isn’t that politicians start wars to consolidate their own power, but that the people don’t always simply assume that leaders choose war for that reason. Of course, the main calculation for politicians when making decisions is whether or not those decisions will help tighten their grip on the levers of society. From prime ministers to dictators, anyone who doesn’t think about that first and foremost will be, evolutionarily speaking, selected against, and quickly find themselves outside the palace walls.

That’s why we need a Memorial Day, I believe, and so does seemingly every country on earth. At Arlington and at all the world’s solemn military cemeteries you can witness the endless ocean of young men and women who have been shot, gassed, incinerated, ripped limb from limb, shredded, driven to suicide. In the best of situations they died because of talented warmongers in other countries. In the worst it’s because we ourselves were so weak that we handed over power to killers who were delighted to see us die if it gave them a three week bump in their Gallup approval rating. We have to draw a veil of consecration across all of it, because looking at it directly is unbearable.

Top photo: A soldier in the Old Guard places flags at graves in Arlington National Cemetery during “Flags In” in preparation for Memorial Day May 25, 2017 in Arlington, Va.

The post We Need Memorial Day to Obscure the Unbearable Truth About War appeared first on The Intercept.

Bethune-Cookman Had A Reason To Invite Betsy DeVos To Give That Calamatous Commencement Speech

1 hour 48 min ago

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s commencement speech at the historic black university Bethune-Cookman did not go well.

Students turned their backs, and some heckled and booed her. The event was such a disaster that many wondered what the university was thinking to have invited a speaker so opposed by its student body in the first place. What upside could there be in a scenario where the likely downside was so apparent?

But DeVos is not just in charge of giving flowery addresses to colleges and universities. She also administers the nation’s federal student loans — and through that perch holds life-or-death power over many higher-education institutions, particularly for-profit ones.

Bethune-Cookman, as it happens, recently formed a new affiliation with a for-profit school under fire for its practices. If the school, Arizona Summit Law School, loses its ability to take federal loans, the school becomes effectively defunct.

Bethune-Cookman entered into the affiliation agreement with Arizona, a for-profit college based in Phoenix, in March. It is owned by Infilaw Corporation, which also operates law schools in North Carolina and Florida.

Its sister school Charlotte School of Law was put on probation by the American Bar Association late last year over its consistently low bar-passage rates. In December, the Obama administration blocked the school’s ability to accept federal student aid, a potential death knell.

Arizona Summit Law School is plagued by many of the same problems as Charlotte School of Law. In 2016, only 25 percent of its students passed the Arizona bar exam on their first try (at Arizona State University, the rate was 77 percent). Above The Law editor Elie Mistal was critical of the agreement, writing in The New York Times last spring that “encouraging African-American students to attend Arizona Summit will not help them achieve their goals. It will hobble them. Going to a law school that doesn’t prepare most of its students to pass the bar is not an ‘opportunity,’ unless ‘opportunity’ means being saddled with debt that you’ll spend the rest of your life trying to pay back.” And three-quarters of the students will be trying to pay that debt back without the benefit of a law license, if those statistics don’t improve.

Bethune-Cookman will be forming a scholarship program to send its students to the law school, and will also work together on certain marketing and academic support programs. The law school’s president Donald Lively told the Arizona Republic that while the school will maintain its for-profit status in the agreement, it is working towards achieving nonprofit status. The affiliation agreement could be a prelude to a possible acquisition.

David Halperin, a higher education policy expert who has worked on for-profit college accountability, noted that DeVos has the power to hold Arizona Summit Law School accountable — or not.

“The Education Department can’t formally stop one school from acquiring another, but it does control who is eligible for federal student aid and on what terms. The Department has the power to cut off federal aid for abuses, as it did with Charlotte Law,” he said. “It also can declare that a school’s conversion from for-profit to non-profit status is bogus — because the school is still operating like a for-profit and enriching the previous owners — and keep treating the school as a for-profit for purposes of federal law.”

A Bethune spokesperson didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment, but if DeVos’s invitation to speak was more about protecting the school’s ties to an infamous for-profit than it was providing the students at commencement an experience they could recall fondly, at least it makes a little more sense.

Or maybe not. The students in the audience never got the memo, and DeVos left humiliated. Bethune-Cookman leadership is probably wishing they’d found some other way to do DeVos a solid.

Top photo: United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos applauds students as they are introduced during commencement exercises, in Daytona Beach, Fla., on May 10, 2017.

The post Bethune-Cookman Had A Reason To Invite Betsy DeVos To Give That Calamatous Commencement Speech appeared first on The Intercept.

The Democratic Campaign For Georgia Governor Is Being Fought Over Free College

2 hours 9 min ago

Two Georgia Democrats are running for the party’s nomination to seek the governor’s mansion in 2018: House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams and a member of her caucus, House Democrat Stacey Evans.

The two legislators agree on many issues, but Evans, the newest entrant in the race, appears poised to draw her contrast around an issue that has galvanized progressives nationally, and one that led to a bitter feud among Democrats in Georgia just a few years ago: free college.

Underneath it is a debate that is as much about tactics as it is about ideology, a question of whether Republican assaults should be resisted in full or met with compromise in order to mitigate damage.

The issue is HOPE, which in Georgia stands for Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally, the name of the grant and scholarship established by former Georgia Governor Zell Miller in 1993. Miller’s program for students was simple: the newly established state lottery will pay for your public college tuition if you have a “B” average in high school and maintain it in college.

The program was initially offered only to students with a family income below $66,000, but within a couple years, that income cap was abolished. Through 2006, 900,000 Georgia students had received tuition assistance from HOPE.

In 2011, the year after the tea party wave, Georgia faced a shortfall in lottery revenue. Rather than look at ways to raise revenue to pay for HOPE, Georgia’s Republican governor Nathan Deal and his allies in the legislature instead decided they would make it much more difficult to get.

One of the new requirements they enacted was that students would have to hit a 3.7 GPA in high school in order to be eligible for tuition-free scholarships; another was a 1200 score on the SAT. Additionally, they’d have to maintain a 3.3 GPA while in college to keep the full ride, which would be renamed the Zell Miller Scholarship. Those below that threshold would now only receive partial subsidies under HOPE — increasing their tuition costs and thus student debt.

Two Democratic Responses

While many Democrats opposed the governor’s proposal — it targeted the crown jewel program that the party had established in the state, after all — Abrams chose to work with Deal, arguing that it was the only viable path to saving HOPE.

“We are happy to have found a bipartisan solution to save the nation’s most valuable higher education scholarship program,” Abrams said in a news release after meeting with Deal. “We will join with our Republican colleagues by supporting an initiative offered by Gov. Nathan Deal.”

Evans, the daughter of millworkers who used the HOPE Scholarship to be the first in her family to graduate from college, led the opposition to the cuts. She and other Democrats argued that HOPE should be protected for those who need it most — people from working-class and middle-class backgrounds. She proposed a restoration of the income cap at $140,000.This would have ensured that the state would continue to subsidize tuition for students below that threshold while cutting back on subsidies for students from richer families.

Evans, who grew up in rural North Georgia, reminded her colleagues during floor debate that poor Georgians are much less likely to achieve the high GPA and SAT score necessary to meet the stringent new requirements for a tuition-free scholarship.

“I could not make up for the fact that I didn’t have 18 years at a dinner table with educated parents sharing vocabulary, talking about reading, giving me the tools I would need to score high on an SAT,” she said, noting that while she graduated high school with a GPA of 3.8, she did not get a 1200 SAT score.

Evans lost. Abrams won. When Deal signed into law the cuts to HOPE, Abrams stood at his side, offering him Democratic validation for removing the promise of tuition-free education for thousands of students.

Governor Nathan Deal, seated, signs the HOPE Scholarship bill into law at the capitol in Atlanta, on March 15, 2011.

Photo: John Amis/AP

When the cuts were signed into law, the number of students receiving HOPE fell considerably almost immediately. As Politifact notes, the “number of HOPE recipients dropped from about 250,000 in 2010-2011 to about 200,000 in 2013-2014, and scholarship and grant awards in that period were down about $215 million, from $747.6 million to $532.9 million.”

Technical students were hit particularly hard. Between the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 school years, 30 percent fewer HOPE grants were given.

(The legislature partially reversed cuts to technical students in 2014, an election year, thanks to an effort Evans led.)

A December 2016 report from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts looked at the impact the HOPE cuts had on the state’s students. It found that the changes to the program “reduced the average award amount for over 80% of HOPE recipients.”

It also charted the decline in the average HOPE award following 2011’s overhaul. The full-tuition Zell Miller award, as you’ll recall, was gifted to those who achieved the higher benchmark of a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 SAT score:

A HOPE-Focused Campaign?

Abrams’s campaign has little to say about what happened to HOPE. On her campaign website, her biography only briefly seems to allude to her role in the HOPE cuts: “She has brokered compromises that led to progress on transportation, infrastructure, and education.”

In a 2016 interview, however, she continued to defend her endorsement of Deal’s cuts. “I was very proud to work closely with the Republicans and with Governor Deal to figure out ways to preserve the HOPE Scholarship,” she told the interviewer. In the same interview, she explores the idea of expanding need-based aid.

Evans, on the other hand, is making it a cornerstone of her bid for Governor. She is running on making technical colleges tuition-free and touting her opposition to Deal’s overhaul of HOPE.

When she announced her gubernatorial bid on Thursday, the bulk of her message was about HOPE. “Evans has served in the Georgia House of Representatives from Cobb County since 2011 and is known across the state for voraciously fighting against drastic cuts to the HOPE Scholarship. Her work restored affordable and tuition free technical education, making college possible for tens of thousands of Georgians,” her campaign’s statement offers.

“It gutted the program that was responsible for everything that’s good in my life,” Evans told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on the day she announced her bid, speaking of the HOPE cuts of 2011. “The Stacey Evans born today doesn’t have the same opportunity that the Stacey born in 1978 had.”

 

The post The Democratic Campaign For Georgia Governor Is Being Fought Over Free College appeared first on The Intercept.

Villagers Say Yemeni Child Was Shot as He Tried to Flee Navy SEAL Raid

28 May 2017 - 10:18am

Five civilians including a child were killed and another five were wounded in the latest U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen, according to eyewitness accounts gathered by The Intercept.

The raid by U.S. commandos in the hamlet of al Adhlan, in the Yemeni province of Mareb on May 23, also destroyed at least four homes. Navy SEALs, with air support from more than half a dozen attack helicopters and aircraft, were locked in a firefight with Yemeni tribesmen for over an hour, according to local residents.

Details from five eyewitnesses in the village conflict with statements made by the Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command, which have not acknowledged that civilians were harmed. Official military reports claimed seven militants from the Yemen-based Al Qaeda branch, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, were killed “through a combination of small arms fire and precision airstrikes.” Two commandos were also reportedly lightly wounded in the gunfight. Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis told reporters on May 23 there were “no credible indications of civilian casualties.”

Yet village residents gave a list of 10 names of civilians killed and wounded during the raid. Fifteen-year-old Abdullah Saeed Salem al Adhal was shot dead as he fled from his home with women and children. Another child, 12-year-old Othman Mohammed Saleh al Adhal, was injured but survived.

An additional seven men who were guests in one house in the village were also killed, according to a senior figure in al Adhlan whose name is being withheld for fear of reprisals from AQAP. He was not able to identify the guests but they appear to account for the seven Al Qaeda militants Central Command claimed were killed.

College student Murad al Adhal, 22, the elder brother of 15-year-old Abudullah who was shot and killed, described how he woke to the sound of gunfire around 1:30 a.m. as the SEALs took control of buildings on the mountainside overlooking the village.

“I walked out of my house and I saw the nearby hills were filled with the American soldiers,” he said. When Apache helicopter gunships began firing into buildings, women and children started running out of their homes. “My little brother Abdullah ran for his life with the other women and children. They killed him as he was running.” Murad was shot in the leg.

Residents in al Adhlan described to The Intercept how commandos also shot dead unarmed Nasser Ali Mahdi al Adhal, who was at least 70 years-old. An account by Reprieve, a London-based human rights group, said Nasser was partially blind. The elderly man was killed while attempting to greet the Navy SEALs, after apparently mistaking them for visitors, according to Reprieve.

Local residents estimated some 40 to 60 commandos stormed the village with the support of eight or nine attack helicopters and other aircraft that repeatedly strafed the villagers’ homes. Dozens of animals — livestock belonging to the villagers — were also killed in the barrage of gunfire and airstrikes.

The Intercept collected these accounts through phone interviews with residents and interpreters who visited the hospital where the wounded were taken. The Pentagon did not respond to a request for comment on The Intercept’s findings and civilian casualties in the raid.

The operation in al Adhlan, a hamlet in the village of al Khathlah in the district of al Jubah in Mareb, is the second U.S. Navy SEAL raid in Yemen acknowledged by the military since Donald Trump took office. The first, on January 29 in al Ghayil, about 40 miles from al Adhlan, left a Navy SEAL dead along with at least 10 children under the age of 13 who were amongst 26 villagers killed in addition to eight apparent Al Qaeda members. Trump billed the operation as “highly successful.” Another raid by Navy SEALs in March on Yemen’s southern coast was aborted at the last minute. There have also been more than 80 drone strikes on Yemen since Trump took office, a significant escalation of a campaign that had tapered off at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term.

“Al Adhlan are not al Qaeda”

The aim of the al Adhlan raid was to gather electronic equipment such as cell phones and laptops in order to gain “insight into AQAP’s disposition, capabilities and intentions,” according to Central Command’s statement. This was also the supposed intention of the January mission, although it later emerged that the actual target of the first raid was AQAP leader Qassem al Raymi. None of the villagers in al Adhlan spoken to by The Intercept were aware of any materials or people taken by commandos on May 23.

The accounts given by al Adhlan residents throw into question the veracity of U.S. official accounts. The eyewitness testimony also raises serious questions about intelligence gathering methods and the ability of decision-makers to determine who is and who is not an Al Qaeda militant amidst Yemen’s multifaceted conflict where loyalties are fluid and pragmatically based.

The senior figure from the village described a long-running confrontation over the issue of locals providing guest-houses for Al Qaeda militants. A tribal dispute began in 2015 after a drone strike in the area, when the senior figure confronted other tribal leaders who were reluctant to ban Al Qaeda members from the area. A recent U.S. drone strike, on April 30, had revived the issue.

The senior villager said that in that attack two brothers were killed who were not Al Qaeda but had been living alongside them. The pair of brothers were also the brothers of Murad al Adhal, who survived the May 23 raid with a gunshot wound. Murad narrowly escaped being killed along with his siblings in the drone strike after getting out of the targeted Toyota Hillux moments before it was hit. (The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which tracks U.S. drone strikes in Yemen, detailed a strike on April 30 in Mareb, which killed four, possibly five, men in a car. Central Command claimed all of the occupants were Al Qaeda militants.)

The April drone attack spurred the senior figure to action.

“I just needed more time to save my own people from this. There was a collective effort to kick out Al Qaeda,” he said. He expressed his anger that rather than being offered support to oust the militants his fellow tribesmen and civilians have instead been killed.

AQAP released a statement in response to the raid through its media channels on May 26, praising the local tribesmen who they said died as “heroes” while denying there was an Al Qaeda camp in the village. The country’s civil war has assisted the militants in one of their main objectives of creating a more seamless existence with local tribal groups.

But the reaction from the villagers after the raid was one of anger toward all sides: Al Qaeda, the U.S. government, the Yemeni government, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Local residents say Emerati forces were involved in the raid alongside U.S. forces, which was also the case in the January operation in al Ghayil. On May 26 al Adhlan tribesman gathered to protest the Navy SEAL mission under the banner “al Adhlan are not Al Qaeda.”

One of those killed in the May 23 raid, Al Khader Saleh Salem al Adhal, was a soldier in the Yemeni army currently fighting on the U.S.-supported side in the country’s complex civil war. Yemen’s conflict pits military units loyal to former president and previous U.S. ally, Ali Abdullah Saleh, along with the predominantly Shia Houthi rebels, against a local Yemeni resistance and anti-Houthi military units backed by a Saudi Arabian-led coalition of regional nations. The coalition is in turn aided by the United States, which has been providing weapons and crucial logistical support to the Saudi Kingdom and its allies in their fight against the Houthi-Saleh forces since March 2015. The Saudis, who view the Houthis as an Iranian proxy, have been the main financial backer and weapons supplier to the military and local tribes fighting in Mareb, including in al Adhlan.

During his visit to Riyadh earlier this month Trump announced a new arms deal, with Saudi Arabia agreeing to buy at least $110 billion of U.S. weapons and equipment. The announcement came despite concerns raised by lawmakers and human rights groups over evidence of apparent war crimes and the high proportion of civilian casualties in the Saudi-led air war, as well as the worsening humanitarian crisis caused by the war. On May 25 U.S. Senators introduced a resolution to block part of the sale.

Yemenis are also experiencing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with seven million people facing the possibility of famine as a direct result of the conflict, in no small part due to restrictions on imports imposed by the Saudi-led coalition that have impacted essential food supplies. Alongside severe food shortages, a rapidly escalating Cholera outbreak has killed more than 400 people this month.

Shuaib Almosawa contributed reporting to this article.

Top photo: Yemeni men walk past a mural depicting a U.S. drone and reading “Why did you kill my family” on December 13, 2013 in the capital Sanaa.

The post Villagers Say Yemeni Child Was Shot as He Tried to Flee Navy SEAL Raid appeared first on The Intercept.

Batalha de perícias: papo entre Temer e Joesley causa racha na grande imprensa

28 May 2017 - 9:15am

Os grandes grupos de mídia entraram em parafuso após a divulgação de áudios que afogaram na lama um presidente ilegítimo que já estava com ela no pescoço. Eles, que andam juntinhos desde Vargas, que apoiaram com entusiasmo o golpe de 64 e sempre estiveram alinhados na maioria dos momentos mais cruciais da história do país, agora parecem não estar falando a mesma língua. O entrosamento no apoio ao governo Temer já não é mais o mesmo, o que ficou evidenciado pela batalha das perícias travada entre Folha e O Globo durante a semana.

Com Temer se segurando na ponta do pé à beira do abismo, o Grupo Bandeirantes fez Boechat ler um editorial confuso, contorcionista, aparentemente indignado com os casos de corrupção envolvendo Temer, mas, ao mesmo tempo, confirmando seu apoio ao governo. O trecho final é um primor:

“(…) se delitos forem confirmados, a impunidade não é uma opção. Mas as dúvidas são muitas e o presidente começa a se defender.

Enquanto isso, o Brasil continua precisando seguir o seu  rumo – finalmente claro e eficiente – adotado pelo atual governo, depois de anos de insensatez. O país quer seguir adiante e não abre mão de persistir na recuperação já iniciada da economia e dos empregos. Esclarecidas todas as dúvidas, a Band espera e acredita que possa o presidente Temer dar sequência às medidas que, de fato, atendam os interesses dos brasileiros.”

Não custa lembrar que, entre julho e agosto de 2016, a Band recebeu 1.129% de aumento de repasses de verba publicitária em relação ao mesmo período de 2015. Esse é disparado o maior aumento de verbas estatais que um veículo recebeu desde a posse de Temer. Fica um pouco mais fácil compreender essa crença de que o país tomou finalmente “um rumo claro e eficiente depois de anos de insensatez”.

E as delações da Lava Jato começam a respingar na imprensa. O jornalista Cláudio Humberto, colunista do Grupo Bandeirantes, apareceu como achacador em uma das caguetagens da Friboi/JBS. Segundo o delator Ricardo Saud, lobista da empresa e mais conhecido agora como o “homem da mala”, o jornalista teria cobrado um mensalão de R$18.000 durante dois anos em troca do compromisso de parar de falar mal da empresa. Humberto, que foi assessor do ex-presidente Collor, garante que tudo é mentira e ajuizou uma queixa-crime contra Saud. Ele garante que o contrato que tinha com a JBS era apenas de publicidade, e não de compra de silêncio. Independentemente da confirmação desses fatos, é curioso que o Grupo Bandeirantes permita que o jornalista siga comentando a política nacional em programas da casa –  inclusive comentários sobre a delação da JBS – como se nada tivesse acontecido. Outros jornalistas da empresa já pressionam pelo afastamento do colega até que tudo fique esclarecido.

 

Globo x Folha

Uma grande treta se iniciou no fim de semana passado. Na sexta-feira (19/05), O Globo publicou editorial pedindo a renúncia do presidente após a revelação da conversa gravada por Joesley. Um espanto! O Grupo Globo descobriu que Temer é corrupto e decidiu abandonar o barco, depois de passar um ano assistindo aos inúmeros casos de corrupção nas quais ele esteve diretamente envolvido. Nunca é tarde para Poliana acordar.

No domingo, o herdeiro da Folha, Otávio Frias Filho, afirmou em sua coluna que “ainda é cedo para dizer que a administração Temer acabou”. Para ele, é “discutível” afirmar que o presidente cometeu crimes. Para mim, discutível é a sanidade auditiva de quem não reconhece pelo menos um crime naquela conversa clandestina na calada da noite. Há tantos crimes no áudio –  de obstrução de justiça até a prevaricação em suborno de procurador – que não é razoável imaginar que ainda faltam provas para alguém formar sua convicção.

Com essas divergências de opiniões expostas e em meio à batalha das perícias, Marcelo Coelho usou sua coluna na Folha para criticar duramente a Globo. Costumeiramente ponderado, Coelho subiu o tom e fez um apanhado de casos históricos em que a Globo abandonou o jornalismo para defender seus interesses e “deu sinais de se recusar a perceber a realidade”. Lembrou das Diretas Já, do Caso Proconsult e do debate Collor x Lula. Esqueceu de falar do apoio ao golpe de 64, mas talvez seja porque os militares contaram também com a fidelidade canina do seu empregador .

Em direito de resposta oferecido pela Folha, o diretor de jornalismo da TV Globo, Ali Kamel, escreveu coluna intitulada “Vamos falar de Coelho?” em que acusa o jornalista de mentir. Kamel mirou no jornalista, mas quis atingir a Folha.

Com o governo largado ferido na estrada, o secretário-geral da Presidência, Moreira Franco, foi ao encontro de João Roberto Marinho para reclamar do súbito abandono – especialmente da TV Globo – e ouviu que a empresa “continuará a fazer jornalismo”. A reunião foi noticiada por Mônica Bergamo na Folha.

No momento em que Temer está mais exposto e frágil do que nunca, me parece que a grande questão por trás desse racha na mídia é se a presença de Temer se tornou ou não um empecilho para a aprovação das reformas draconianas. Se ele cair, o Congresso irá escolher um nome igualmente comprometido com as reformas. Por outro lado, pode ser que sua queda alongue ainda mais a crise política e dificulte a aprovação delas. Talvez esse dilema, somado à briga de egos, que tenha causado a divisão. Mas isso é mais um palpite do que uma opinião. O momento é nebuloso demais para se tirar conclusões.

The post Batalha de perícias: papo entre Temer e Joesley causa racha na grande imprensa appeared first on The Intercept.

Donald Trump’s War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists Are Not His Main Target.

28 May 2017 - 9:02am

Wars are rarely announced in advance, but President Trump provided an abundance of warning about his intention to wage an assault on journalism. During the election campaign, he called journalists an “enemy of the people” and described media organizations he didn’t like as “fake news.” You can pretty much draw a direct line between his words and the actions we’ve seen lately — which include journalists physically prevented from asking questions of officials, arrested when trying to do so, and in a now-famous example from Montana, body-slammed to the ground by a Republican candidate who didn’t want to discuss his party’s position on healthcare.

This is most likely a prelude. From virtually the moment Trump took the oath of office, a deluge of irritating leaks has poured forth about, for instance, his private complaints against senior aides and his late night habits when he is upstairs at the White House without a tweet-blocking retinue of aides. Matters of crucial substance have also been leaked, such as his own disclosure of highly classified information to Russia’s foreign minister, and his obstruction-of-justice-worthy request to James Comey that the FBI restrain its investigation of Michael Flynn. Just a few days ago, there was another leak that wasn’t even Trump-centric, disclosing information about the British investigation into the suicide bombing in Manchester.

“These leaks have been going on for a long time, and my administration will get to the bottom of this,” Trump warned in a statement on Thursday. “The leaks of sensitive information pose a grave threat to our national security. I am asking the Department of Justice and other relevant agencies to launch a complete review of this matter, and if appropriate, the culprit should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

Trump is known for his post-thinking bluster but here he means what he suggests about indictments. Of course he’s using national security as a fig leaf to obscure his principal concern about the damage to his own image, which is being shredded. He is taking advantage of the unfortunate groundwork laid by his predecessor, Barack Obama, who oversaw an unprecedented crackdown on the press by deploying the draconian Espionage Act against leakers. Far worse is almost certainly coming from Trump. One of the recent leaks that embarrassed him revealed, ironically, his demand to Comey that the FBI put journalists in jail if they refuse to disclose their sources.

Director of Oval Office Operations Keith Schiller escorts reporters out of the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, May 16, 2017, during President Donald Trump’s meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

Journalists are not the real target of Trump’s war on journalism, however. We are the highly-visible collateral damage, the broken glasses on the bruised body of free expression. The true targets – the people whom the Trump administration most wants to punish and silence – are the government officials who provide us with the news for our stories. The First Amendment protects journalists but not their sources; there is no constitutional right to tell journalists the truth.

These people, our sources, are incredibly vulnerable, lacking in most cases the financial and legal resources that are available to most journalists. When journalists are threatened by the government, there is a ready-made community to defend them, including advocacy groups that will rise to their aid, and a social network of colleagues who will stand by their side. A government official who leaks to a journalist has almost none of that. Instead of gaining the support of co-workers when punishment is threatened, the likeliest outcome is ostracism, because everyone else fears for their job. If you are a journalist and the government goes after you, the odds are quite good that your employer will strongly support you, but a government leaker faces the opposite predicament – their employer is the one attacking them.

Financial ruin usually comes next. I have written about several of the most notable Espionage Act prosecutions in recent years, including the case of Stephen Kim, a State Department diplomat accused of disclosing classified information to a journalist. (The information about North Korea, according to a State Department official quoted in court documents, was “a nothing burger.”) Facing the possibility of more than a decade in prison if he was convicted by a jury, Kim agreed to a plea deal and a sentence of 13 months. The case drained his finances as well as his relatives’, and he often considered killing himself. “Everything was just a blur,” he told me. “I compare it to losing all five senses at the same time. You don’t see anything, you don’t smell anything, you don’t hear anything. Nothing. That’s the only way I can describe it.”

 

Stephen Kim, a former State Department expert on North Korea, leaves federal court in Washington on April 2, 2014 after a judge sentenced him to 13 months in prison for passing classified information to a journalist.

Photo: Cliff Owen/AP

Here’s a bit of what I wrote about his ordeal:

After devoting more than a decade of his life to preventing North Korea from building a nuclear arsenal, he was now accused of helping Pyongyang. How could he live with the stain of what his government accused him of doing? Espionage. What could he say to his young son? To his elderly parents? “Every single day, I thought about killing myself,” Kim said. He went online to find out how many sleeping pills or Tylenol he would need to swallow to end his life. He considered jumping in front of a train, because that would be quick. He made plans for letting people know he had committed suicide, deciding that he would send a note to a friend and explain that it should be opened on a certain day; inside he would place his house and car keys. “It’s a ruthless calculus — you don’t think like a normal person,” Kim told me. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it, either. Why should I be? Have you gone through what I have?”

Outcomes vary, but none are enviable. Edward Snowden, who leaked a trove of documents from the National Security Agency, has been able to avoid prison by gaining political refuge in Russia. He fled because if you are indicted under the Espionage Act, as he was, you are not allowed to present a public-interest defense — meaning, you are not allowed to justify the crime of leaking by arguing it was done to disclose to the public even greater crimes the government was committing. Chelsea Manning, who as an Army soldier leaked thousands of documents that disclosed U.S. war crimes, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, though she is now free after serving seven years and receiving a pardon from Obama as he left office.

Today’s leakers can expect no mercy from the incensed Trump administration, which is stacked, no surprise, with a murderers’ row of First Amendment antagonists, leading off with Trump. Next to him, there is Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said, when asked in March if there would be indictments, “We’ve never seen this kind of leaking. It’s almost as if people think they have a right to violate the law, and this has got to end, and probably it will take some convictions to put an end to it.”

His number two at the Department of Justice, Rod Rosenstein, was the driving force behind the prosecution last year of Gen. James Cartwright, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about leaking to reporters (Cartwright was later pardoned by Obama and did not go to prison). In a sentencing memo, Rosenstein painted a stark picture, writing that “the need for deterrence is strong. Every day across the United States government, individuals are entrusted with highly sensitive classified information. They must understand that disclosing such information to persons not authorized to receive it has severe consequences.”

For Trump, who himself has disclosed a surprising amount of sensitive intelligence, the national security argument is window dressing. The leaks he truly despises are the ones that embarrass him personally. This points to a key problem of leak crackdowns: a large amount of information is classified mainly because it would embarrass the government if made public. Senior officials routinely exaggerate the national security repercussions and brush aside the benefits to our society. But even former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has acknowledged, for instance, that the consequences of Manning’s leak were “fairly modest.”

Nonetheless, Trump’s war on journalism is moving ahead. The resistance to it should not be modest.

Top photo: Reporters near the West Wing of The White House in Washington on May, 15, 2017, following news reports that President Trump revealed classified information to visiting Russian officials.

The post Donald Trump’s War on Journalism Has Begun. But Journalists Are Not His Main Target. appeared first on The Intercept.

Trump’s “America First“ Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It

27 May 2017 - 11:26am

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump blasted his rival for taking money from Saudi Arabia, which, he regularly charged, has a horrific human rights record and was behind the attack on September 11.

“You talk about women and women’s rights? So these are people that push gays off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly. And yet you take their money,” he complained.

Trump, of course, has never been married to anything he has said in the past. But even by Trumpian standards, a recent series of deals he struck with Saudi Arabia stand out.

The two that made the news — a $110 billion arms deal and a $100 million gift to an Ivanka Trump-inspired endowment — are remarkable in their own right.

But the third, which was rolled out much more quietly, is no less stunning: The Saudi kingdom joined forces with a top outside adviser to Trump to build a $40 billion war chest to privatize U.S. infrastructure.

The vehicle would employ the same kind of public-private partnerships, known as P3s, the Trump administration has endorsed for its trillion dollar infrastructure plan. The deal hands over control of projects to rebuild American roads and bridges to the private sector and a foreign country.

The Saudi Public Investment Fund announced its $20 billion investment with Blackstone, the private equity giant whose CEO, Stephen Schwarzman, chairs the Strategic and Policy Forum, a key group of private-sector advisers to President Trump. In recent months Schwarzman has become a key adviser to the president, speaking to him “several times a week,” according to Politico. Schwarzman, who has an estate near Mar-a-Lago and has known Trump for years, is a Republican megadonor, giving over $4 million to Super PACs that support conservative candidates in the last election cycle.

The Saudi investment was announced when Trump was in Saudi Arabia and was touted by the White House as part of Trump’s commitment to render deals for outside investment in America. Blackstone described the deal as “the culmination of a year’s discussions” and insisted the White House was not involved.

But the managing director of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, Yasir Al Rumayyan, explicitly said that the deal “reflects our positive views around the ambitious infrastructure initiatives being undertaken in the United States as announced by President Trump.”

The timing was also notable, coming just after Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner negotiated a $110 billion arms sale to the Saudis. Kushner and Blackstone have a long history; Blackstone is one of the largest lenders to Kushner’s business, with over $400 million in financing since 2013.

Schwarzman, of course, is not a disinterested adviser to the president. He and his firm stands to gain massively from public policy decisions, whether Trump’s reversal on Chinese currency manipulation (Blackstone is heavily invested in China and even warned investors that labeling China a currency manipulator would harm the company financially) or the administration’s reticence on closing the carried interest loophole (which not only benefits Blackstone but Schwarzman himself). The loophole generates billions of dollars for Blackstone.

“Donald Trump brokering a deal between Saudi royalty and private equity magnates associated with both the Republican and Democratic Party is about as much corruption and self-dealing as can be squeezed into a single sentence,” said Jeff Hauser, director of the Revolving Door Project. “This deal essentially constitutes the singularity of corruption and represents all that is broken with our global politics.”

Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman, flanked by President Donald Trump and Chris Liddell, the assistant to the president for strategic initiatives, right, speaks during a meeting with business leaders in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on April 11, 2017.

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

This conflict carries over to infrastructure, a business Blackstone has been focused on since last year. They’re looking to capitalize on Trump’s victory, and his long-promised plan to use private money to leverage around $200 billion in public funds over ten years for building projects. The infrastructure plan surprisingly got slipped into Trump’s budget proposal.

“There is broad agreement that the United States urgently needs to invest in its rapidly aging infrastructure,” said Blackstone president Tony James this week. James is a donor to Democratic presidential candidates.

Most Democrats have dismissed Trump’s infrastructure plan as “sleight-of-hand,” because his budget actually cuts transportation spending, more than offsetting the $200 billion investment. The cuts include zeroing out a popular state grant program called TIGER, along with slashes to Amtrak and other transit projects.

In addition to P3s, Trump’s advisers talk of using a model popular in Australia, where proceeds from sales of public assets get funneled into new projects. So under the Trump plan, direct federal investments in infrastructure would be lowered, while private control of projects would ramp up. This benefits Blackstone and Saudi Arabia.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, in a puzzling statement, characterized the Trump budget as not a cut in infrastructure spending, but a “dropoff.”

State and local governments don’t lack private capital for infrastructure; municipal bonds are a $3.7 trillion market. Advocates are concerned that companies like Blackstone want an equity stake in infrastructure that will prove more costly than muni bond funding. P3s could generate high tolls and user fees, as the private sector expects a greater return on investment.

In addition, critics charge that P3s narrow where infrastructure projects happen; replacing water systems for the poor in Flint won’t make back the kind of money that a bridge or toll road connecting an affluent suburb might. P3s more generally have been criticized for limiting democratic control of public assets.

“Why would we take some of the resources we have and hand them away to Wall Street?” asked Donald Cohen of the anti-privatization group In the Public Interest. “And give them control over the asset for 20, 30, 40, 50 years?”

Saudi Arabia put up half of Blackstone total investment in their infrastructure fund. A single investor putting that big a commitment into one private equity fund is atypical, and would essentially have a foreign government profit from fees like toll roads.

When the United Arab Emirates attempted to use the state-owned company Dubai Ports World to buy six U.S. seaports in 2006, it generated significant controversy, stoked by right-wing media figures like Lou Dobbs and Democrats such as Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, was saw an opportunity to damage then-President Bush. The deal eventually fell apart, as Dubai Ports World sold off its stake. By contrast, the Blackstone-Saudi deal has not registered much comment.

But Saudi Arabia’s money will get funneled through a close Trump adviser in a grab for state and local infrastructure, with the expectation of billions of dollars in profits off the roads, bridges, and transit systems the public uses every day. Blackstone expects to use the $40 billion in the infrastructure fund to leverage the purchase of $100 billion in projects, fully 10 percent of Trump’s total commitment.

James told The New York Times that Blackstone could “establish overnight a leadership position” in infrastructure with the Saudi investment. Blackstone’s stock has surged since the Trump election and went up over 7 percent when the Saudi deal was announced.

Schwarzman, whose most recent birthday party featured trapeze artists, live camels, and Gwen Stefani, was in Riyadh last week for a whirlwind of dealmaking known as the U.S.-Saudi CEO Forum.

The private equity titan is hardly the only financier personally benefiting from an advisory position with the Trump administration. For example, legendary trader Carl Icahn, another adviser, has been using his influence to get the administration to change ethanol rules that would save companies he owns hundreds of millions of dollars. Icahn has also been personally speculating on financial instruments related to his push for changes in ethanol rules.

Top photo: President Donald Trump is welcomed by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud upon arrival at King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh on May 20, 2017.

The post Trump’s “America First“ Infrastructure Plan: Let Saudi Arabia and Blackstone Take Care of It appeared first on The Intercept.

Navio de $25 milhões dado à família Erdogan é apenas uma de muitas revelações no Malta Files

27 May 2017 - 9:55am

Qual o presente perfeito para um líder mundial que tem tudo? Que tal comprar um navio petroleiro de 25 milhões de dólares em segredo para a família dele? Foi isso que o bilionário Azeri, Mübariz Mansimov, deu para Recep Tayyip Erdogan, o cada vez mais autoritário presidente turco, em 2008. A descoberta, publicada na sexta no Black Sea, El Mundo e outros veículos, é o resultado de um projeto iniciado há alguns meses pela rede do European Investigative Collaborations (EIC).

Mansimov se tornou um cidadão turco dois anos antes e adotou um nome turco, Mübariz Gurbanoglu, alegadamente por sugestão de Erdogan. Após o acordo ser selado, seus negócios na Turquia deslancharam, incluindo contratos lucrativos com empresas estatais.

Mansimov também é “um amigo” de Donald Trump e compareceu à sua cerimônia de posse. “Quando os 39 andares do bloco residencial e comercial Trump Towers abriram em Istambul em 2009, Mansimov foi o primeiro cliente – comprando oito apartamentos, incluindo a cobertura”, de acordo com a matéria do Black Sea.

O acordo é complexo. Mas, em resumo, funciona assim: Mansimov adquiriu um navio e abriu uma empresa para abrigá-lo em 2007. Em outubro de 2008, outra empresa registrada na Ilha de Man, que pertencia ao cunhado de Erdogan e ao seu filho, comprou todas as ações por 25 milhões de dólares. No dia seguinte, essa firma fez um empréstimo de 18 milhões de dólares arranjado por Mansimov. Normal, até agora. No entanto, documentos mostram que Mansimov se comprometia a cobrir os sete anos de empréstimo para a empresa, mais juros, em troca de direitos de leasing ao longo de 2015 (os 7 milhões restantes do preço da compra foi pago por um amigo próximo de Erdogan por motivos desconhecidos). A empresa de Mansimov, que controla dois terços da produção de petróleo no Mar Negro, estendeu a opção de leasing até 2020 por 1,2 milhões de dólares por ano. Somando tudo, o acordo chega a uma transferência de 21,2 milhões de dólares de Mansimov para a família de Erdogan. Apesar de ter supostamente vendido o navio para o amigo próximo que pagou 7 milhões em 2011, em três instâncias desde então, o cunhado de Erdogan assinou documentos atestando ser o “único proprietário” do petroleiro.

O rastro de papéis dessa rede emaranhada de transações começa no Malta Files, uma investigação liderada pel0 EIC, baseada no vazamento de um tesouro secreto de 150 mil documentos de uma empresa que fornece serviços jurídicos, financeiros e administrativos baseada em Malta, além de uma versão garimpada do registro público das empresas de Malta. No total, mais de 50 mil empresas estão incluídas. O projeto uniu 49 jornalistas de 13 veículos de comunicação em 16 países, incluindo o The Intercept Brasil, Agência Sportlight, L’Espresso, Le Soir, NRC, Der Spiegel, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism/TheBlackSea.eu, Mediapart, Politiken, NewsWeek Sérvia, El Mundo, Expresso, Dagens Nyheter e Malta Today.

Malta, um arquipélago no Mediterrâneo com menos de meio milhão de residentes, apresenta o imposto mais baixo para empresas em toda a União Européia e se tornou um destino preferido para sonegação de impostos nos Estado Unidos. A divulgação dos Arquivos Malta também expôs esquemas internacionais da máfia italiana, o império de empréstimos de um bilionário Russo, o primeiro-ministro da Turquia, Binali Yildrim, estrelas do futebol e oligarcas europeus donos de iates, entre outros.

Enquanto as redes internacionais de empresas e proprietários interligados são bastante complexas, a essência do esquema é fácil de seguir: a taxa do imposto na França é de 33,33%; em Malta, a taxa efetiva para atividades internacionais de empresas de estrangeiros é de apenas 5%; tirando vantagem da política de fronteiras abertas entre países membros da União Europeia, uma firma parisiense pode abrir uma subsidiária em Malta, declarar lucros por aquela subsidiária, pagar 5% ao governo maltês e repatriar o resto dos lucros livre de impostos, enganando legalmente a França sobre qualquer de suas receitas. Malta ganha dinheiro por nada, a empresa economiza 85% de gastos com impostos e os contribuintes franceses perdem milhões.

Uma investigação do jornal Malta Today estima que a política de imposto amigável a negócios rendeu ao país quase 248 milhões de euros em receita em 2015 e custou 4,2 bilhões em perdas na coleta de impostos a outras nações. Essas somas aumentaram em mais de 10 vezes desde 2006. Um estudo patrocinado por Green MEPs no Parlamento Europeu descobriu que 14 bilhões de euros em impostos da União Europeia deixaram de ser pagos entre 2012 e 2015.

O banco central de Malta em Valletta.

Foto: Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty Images

Estruturas corporativas disponíveis em Malta para esconder os proprietários de uma empresa também podem ser utilizadas para facilitar fraudes e atividades ilegais, algo que a nação nega, mas que levou um ministro da fazenda alemão a nomear Malta como “o Panamá da Europa”.

O Ministro da Fazenda de Malta, Edward Scicluna, disse que os Arquivos de Malta são “notícia falsa”, completando que a cobertura “é injusta e ameaça a economia e postos de trabalho”. Outros países da União Européia “querem provar do nosso sucesso, especialmente no mercado de iGaming (jogos digitais)”, afirmou.

O primeiro ministro Joseph Muscat, respondendo às publicações disse que: “eles tentaram dizer que há algo ilegal em nossos serviços financeiros, quando a verdade é que nossos sistemas financeiros são os mesmos de quando nos juntamos à União Européia. Foi aprovado pela EU e pela OCDE e nós estamos dentro dos parâmetros.”

Clique aqui para ver todas as matérias de parceiros d0 EIC sobre o Malta Files (a lista continuará sendo atualizada assim que novas notícias forem publicadas).

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Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies”

27 May 2017 - 8:04am

A shadowy international mercenary and security firm known as TigerSwan targeted the movement opposed to the Dakota Access Pipeline with military-style counterterrorism measures, collaborating closely with police in at least five states, according to internal documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first detailed picture of how TigerSwan, which originated as a U.S. military and State Department contractor helping to execute the global war on terror, worked at the behest of its client Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline, to respond to the indigenous-led movement that sought to stop the project.

Internal TigerSwan communications describe the movement as “an ideologically driven insurgency with a strong religious component” and compare the anti-pipeline water protectors to jihadist fighters. One report, dated February 27, 2017, states that since the movement “generally followed the jihadist insurgency model while active, we can expect the individuals who fought for and supported it to follow a post-insurgency model after its collapse.” Drawing comparisons with post-Soviet Afghanistan, the report warns, “While we can expect to see the continued spread of the anti-DAPL diaspora … aggressive intelligence preparation of the battlefield and active coordination between intelligence and security elements are now a proven method of defeating pipeline insurgencies.”

More than 100 internal documents leaked to The Intercept by a TigerSwan contractor, as well as a set of over 1,000 documents obtained via public records requests, reveal that TigerSwan spearheaded a multifaceted private security operation characterized by sweeping and invasive surveillance of protesters.

As policing continues to be militarized and state legislatures around the country pass laws criminalizing protest, the fact that a private security firm retained by a Fortune 500 oil and gas company coordinated its efforts with local, state, and federal law enforcement to undermine the protest movement has profoundly anti-democratic implications. The leaked materials not only highlight TigerSwan’s militaristic approach to protecting its client’s interests but also the company’s profit-driven imperative to portray the nonviolent water protector movement as unpredictable and menacing enough to justify the continued need for extraordinary security measures. Energy Transfer Partners has continued to retain TigerSwan long after most of the anti-pipeline campers left North Dakota, and the most recent TigerSwan reports emphasize the threat of growing activism around other pipeline projects across the country.

The leaked documents include situation reports prepared by TigerSwan operatives in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, and Texas between September 2016 and May 2017, and delivered to Energy Transfer Partners. They offer a daily snapshot of the security firm’s activities, including detailed summaries of the previous day’s surveillance targeting pipeline opponents, intelligence on upcoming protests, and information harvested from social media. The documents also provide extensive evidence of aerial surveillance and radio eavesdropping, as well as infiltration of camps and activist circles.

TigerSwan did not respond to a request for comment. Energy Transfer Partners declined to comment, telling The Intercept in an email that it does not “discuss details of our security efforts.”

A screen shot taken from one of the “daily intelligence updates” developed by TigerSwan that were shared with members of law enforcement.

Photo: PowerPoint screen grab

Additional documents, obtained via public records requests, consist of communications among agents from the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Justice Department, the Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, as well as state and local police. The “Intel Group,” as its members refer to it, closely monitored anti-Dakota Access protests in real time, scooped up information on the water protectors from social media, and shared intelligence.

Included among the documents obtained via public records requests were “daily intelligence updates” developed by TigerSwan that were shared with law enforcement officers, thus contributing to a broad public-private intelligence dragnet. In the internal situation reports, TigerSwan operatives comment frequently about their routine coordination and intelligence sharing with law enforcement. The intel group went so far as to use a live video feed from a private Dakota Access security helicopter to monitor protesters’ movements. In one report, TigerSwan discusses meeting with investigators from North Dakota’s Attorney General’s Office.

North Dakota’s Attorney General’s Office declined to comment.

TigerSwan’s internal reports and the intelligence briefings shared with law enforcement name dozens of DAPL opponents. Some of those named are well-known activists, while others have minimal public affiliation with the water protector movement. The reports’ authors often comment on camp dynamics, including protester morale and infighting, and speculate about violent or illegal actions specific individuals might take and weapons they might carry. The documents reveal the existence of a “persons of interest” list as well as other databases that included identifying information such as photographs and license plate numbers.

The situation reports also suggest that TigerSwan attempted a counterinformation campaign by creating and distributing content critical of the protests on social media.

The Intercept is publishing a first set of TigerSwan’s situation reports from September 2016, which describe the company’s initial operations. We are also publishing two additional situation reports dated October 16 and November 5, along with PowerPoint presentations shared with law enforcement that correspond to the same dates. The names of private individuals whose actions are not already in the public record, or whose authorization we did not obtain, have been redacted to protect their privacy. The Intercept will publish the remaining situation reports in the coming weeks.

In addition, The Intercept is publishing a selection of communications, obtained by public records requests, detailing coordination between a wide range of local, state, and federal agencies, which confirm that the FBI participated in core Dakota Access-related law enforcement operations starting soon after protests began last summer. Finally, we are publishing two additional documents, also in the public record, that detail TigerSwan’s role spearheading Energy Transfer Partner’s multipronged security operation.

The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.

Police guard a bridge near Oceti Sakowin Camp on the edge of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation outside Cannon Ball, N.D., on Dec. 3, 2016.

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

A Public-Private Partnership

Beginning in April of last year, indigenous activists calling themselves water protectors and their allies spent months attempting to block construction of the 1,172-mile Dakota Access Pipeline, which runs near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota and traverses three other states. DAPL opponents were met with a heavily militarized police apparatus including local and out of state police and sheriff’s deputies, as well as Bureau of Indian Affairs police and National Guard troops. The police became notorious for their use of so-called less than lethal weapons against demonstrators, including rubber bullets, bean bag pellets, LRAD sound devices, and water cannons.

But it was the brutality of private security officers that first provoked widespread outrage concerning the pipeline project. On Labor Day weekend of 2016, Democracy Now! captured footage of pipeline security guards attacking peaceful protesters with dogs.

In the aftermath of that incident, Energy Transfer Partners turned to TigerSwan — a company with a deep background in counterterrorism operations — to oversee the work of the other security companies contracted to protect the pipeline. Other security firms working along the pipeline included Silverton, Russell Group of Texas, 10 Code LLC, Per Mar, SRC, OnPoint, and Leighton, documents show.

Based in Apex, North Carolina, TigerSwan was created by retired Army Col. James Reese during the height of the war in Iraq. Reese, a former commander in the elite Army special operations unit known as Delta, entered into the exploding private security and intelligence industry hoping to compete with Blackwater, then the most successful of the private military companies supporting U.S. war efforts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. TigerSwan has an estimated 350 employees and maintains offices in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, India, Latin America, and Japan.

Records from the North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board show that TigerSwan has operated without a license in North Dakota for the entirety of the pipeline security operation, claiming in a communication with the board, “We are doing management and IT consulting for our client and doing no security work.” In September, the licensing board learned about the company’s position as a Dakota Access contractor and wrote a letter to its North Carolina headquarters requesting that it submit a license application.

TigerSwan then did so, but the board denied the application on December 19. After James Reese wrote a letter objecting to the decision, the security board’s executive director responded on January 10 that “one reason for the denial concerns your failure to respond to the Board’s request for information as to TigerSwan’s and James Reese’s activities within the State of North Dakota.” Neither TigerSwan nor the board responded to questions regarding the current status of the company’s license.

The leaked situation reports indicate that during the company’s first weeks working on the pipeline, TigerSwan operatives met with law enforcement in Iowa and North Dakota, including Sheriff Dean Danzeisen of Mercer County, North Dakota, who “agreed to sharing of information.” (In the report, TigerSwan misspells the sheriff’s name as “Denzinger.”) By September 13, the documents indicate, TigerSwan had placed a liaison inside the law enforcement “joint operation command” in North Dakota. The fusion of public and private intelligence operations targeting water protectors was underway.

One of TigerSwan’s lines of communication with law enforcement was via intelligence briefings that echo the company’s internal situation reports. The briefings obtained by The Intercept were sent by TigerSwan’s deputy security director Al Ornoski to a variety of recipients, including the Gmail account of Sheriff Danzeisen. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, who was regularly involved in policing the protests, also received at least one of the TigerSwan briefings.

Danzeisen did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for the Morton County Sheriff’s Department wrote in an email to The Intercept that the department “did maintain communication with TigerSwan security in order to understand when and where DAPL construction activities were taking place. This gave law enforcement situational awareness in order to monitor and respond to illegal protest activity.”

TigerSwan also aided prosecutors in building cases against pipeline opponents. According to an October 16 document obtained via a records request, the security team’s responsibilities included collecting “information of an evidentiary level” that would ultimately “aid in prosecution” of protesters.

A leaked report dated September 14, 2016, indicates that TigerSwan met with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation “regarding video and still photo evidence collected for prosecution.” The same document describes plans to “continue building Person of Interest (POI) folders and coordination with [law enforcement] intelligence.” TigerSwan’s situation reports also describe conversations between the company’s operatives and FBI agents on at least four occasions.

Activists on the ground were tracked by a Dakota Access helicopter that provided live video coverage to their observers in police agencies, according to an October 12 email thread that included officers from the FBI, DHS, BIA, state, and local police. In one email, National Security Intelligence Specialist Terry Van Horn of the U.S. attorney’s office acknowledges his direct access to the helicopter video feed, which was tracking protesters’ movements during a demonstration. “Watching a live feed from DAPL Helicopter, pending arrival at site(s),” he wrote. Cecily Fong, a spokesperson for law enforcement throughout the protests, acknowledged that an operations center in Bismarck had access to the feed, stating in an email to The Intercept that “the video was provided as a courtesy so we had eyes on the situation.”

Asked about the intel group, Fong replied, “The Intelligence Group was formed from virtually the beginning. It involved personnel from our [State and Local Intelligence Center], the BIA, FBI, and Justice” consisting of “around 7 people who monitored social media in particular, in this case, because that was the medium most if not all of the protestors were using.”

“I’m honored that they felt that we were a big enough threat to go to this level of intervention,” Ed Fallon, an activist mentioned several times in the TigerSwan documents, told The Intercept.

As the water protector movement expanded from North Dakota to other states, so did the surveillance. A report dated March 29, for instance, points to a meeting between TigerSwan and “the Des Moines Field Office of the FBI, with the Omaha and Sioux Falls offices joining by conference call. Also in attendance were representatives of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, Department of Homeland Security, Iowa Department of Emergency Services, Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Iowa Department of Wildlife. Topics covered included the current threat assessment of the pipeline, the layout of current security assets and persons of interest. The FBI seemed were [sic] very receptive to the information presented to them, and follow-up meetings with individuals will be scheduled soon.”

TigerSwan’s relationship with public police agencies was not always harmonious. The situation reports describe TigerSwan’s frustration with the amount of leeway some law enforcement gave protesters in Iowa and the company’s efforts to convince officers to use more punitive tactics.

In a situation report dated October 16, TigerSwan applauds Lee County, Iowa’s recent increase in bail, calling it “significant because this may impede protestors from risking arrest due to the high cost to be released from bail.” The document contrasts that county’s tactics to those used by others. “Calhoun, Boone and Webster county law enforcement are not supportive of DAPL Security’s mission” the report says, noting those agencies’ “reluctance to arrest or cite trespassing individuals.”

“We need to work closer with Calhoun, Boone, and Webster county [law enforcement] to ensure future protestors will at least be fined, if not arrested,” the analyst notes. “Alternatively, we could request Lee County LE speak to other counties about tactics that are working.”

Contacted for comment, recently elected Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber said he hadn’t discussed TigerSwan with the previous sheriff. “As far as I knew, the protest stuff was over with, and we haven’t had any protests since,” he said. In fact, Weber hadn’t heard of the company until earlier this week, when a TigerSwan program manager named Don Felt stopped by the office. “He dropped his card off and said he wanted to say hello,” Weber said.

An image on the homepage of the TigerSwan website headlined “Security & Safety: Vulnerability Management.”

Photo: TigerSwan.com

Find, Fix, Eliminate

TigerSwan’s internal files describe its utilization of aerial surveillance, including use of helicopters and drones to photograph and monitor the pipeline opponents. The September 12 situation report notes that an operation by construction workers was “over-watched by a predator on loan to the JEJOC from Oklahoma.” The TigerSwan contractor who provided the Intercept with the situation reports said he did not believe the company ever operated a predator drone, but metadata in images he shared pointed to a camera used by a commercially available Phantom 4 drone. One of the daily intelligence updates notes plans to obtain night-vision goggles, LRADs, body armor, and FLIR (forward looking infrared) cameras.

The reports also reveal a widespread and sustained campaign of infiltration of protest camps and activist circles. Throughout the leaked documents, TigerSwan makes reference to its intelligence-gathering teams, which infiltrated protest camps and activist groups in various states. TigerSwan agents using false names and identities regularly sought to obtain the trust of protesters, which they used to gather information they reported back to their employer, according to the TigerSwan contractor.

The September documents make numerous references to Silverton personnel, who were overseen by TigerSwan, attending protests in Iowa. Silverton did not respond to a request for comment.

Covert operations are implicit in many of the other situation reports, which are filled with details that only individuals with close and consistent access to the protesters’ communities could have gathered. On a few occasions, however, the reports make that presence more explicit, for instance by referring to “sources in the camp.”

For example, the November 5 situation report describes the “exploitation of documents found at Camp 1.” Apparently, they didn’t contain much revealing material. “Of most concern,” the situation report says, “were the ‘Earth First’ magazines found on the camp. These magazines promote and provide TTP’s [tactics, techniques, and procedures] for violent activity.”

In an October 3 report, TigerSwan discusses how to use its knowledge of internal camp dynamics: “Exploitation of ongoing native versus non-native rifts, and tribal rifts between peaceful and violent elements is critical in our effort to delegitimize the anti-DAPL movement.” On February 19, TigerSwan makes explicit its plans to infiltrate a Chicago protest group. “TigerSwan collections team will make contact with event organizers to embed within the structure of the demonstration to develop a trusted agent status to be cultivated for future collection efforts,” the report notes, later repeating its intent to “covertly make contact with event organizers.”

“At every action I went to, they had their own people walking around with a video camera getting in people’s faces,” Ian Souter, a protester who was described as a “person of interest” in a TigerSwan report, told The Intercept.

Perhaps one of the most striking revelations of the documents is the level of hostility displayed by TigerSwan toward the water protectors. TigerSwan consistently describes the peaceful demonstrators using military and tactical language more appropriate for counterterrorism operations in an armed conflict zone. At times, the military language verges on parody, as when agents write of protesters “stockpiling signs” or when they discuss the “caliber” of paintball pellets. More often, however, the way TigerSwan discusses protesters as “terrorists,” their direct actions as “attacks,” and the camps as a “battlefield,” reveals how the protesters’ dissent was not only criminalized but treated as a national security threat. A March 1 report states that protesters’ “operational weakness allows TS elements to further develop and dictate the battlespace.”

In one internal report dated May 4, a TigerSwan operative describes an effort to amass digital and ground intelligence that would allow the company to “find, fix, and eliminate” threats to the pipeline — an eerie echo of “find, fix, finish,” a military term used by special forces in the U.S. government’s assassination campaign against terrorist targets.

TigerSwan pays particular attention to protesters of Middle Eastern descent. A September 22 situation report argues that “the presence of additional Palestinians in the camp, and the movement’s involvement with Islamic individuals is a dynamic that requires further examination.” The report acknowledges that “currently there is no information to suggest terrorist type tactics or operations,” but nonetheless warns that “with the current limitation on information flow out of the camp, it cannot be ruled out.”

Haithem El-Zabri, a Palestinian-American activist singled out in the reports, was shocked to hear his name mentioned in that context. “As indigenous people, Palestinians stand in solidarity with other indigenous people and their right to land, water, and sovereignty,” he told The Intercept. “To insinuate that our assumed faith is a red flag for terrorist tactics is another example of willful ignorance and the establishment’s continued attempts to criminalize nonviolent protest and justify violence against it.”

Such ethnic and religious profiling of protesters was not unusual. An October 12 email thread shared among members of the intel group provides a striking example of how TigerSwan was able to cast suspicion on specific individuals and communicate it to law enforcement officials. Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Tonya Jahner emailed several other officers, including two FBI agents, with an overview of information evidently provided by “company intel.” The information pertained to a woman whom Jahner labeled as a “strong Shia Islamic” with a “strong female Shia following.” The woman had “made several trips overseas,” Jahner wrote.

TigerSwan agents also regularly tracked individuals’ movements across state lines.

On November 4, according to one of TigerSwan’s internal documents, a white SUV pulled up to a pipeline valve site in South Dakota. Approached by a security guard, the driver introduced himself as Gary Tomlin and informed the official that he was a freelance reporter covering the pipeline. In an interview, 63-year-old Tomlin, who covers the local school board for the Galesburg, Illinois, Register-Mail, said he had set out to travel the length of the pipeline and write a story about it as a freelancer. “I had time and the ability to do it, and I thought, well, I’ll go look at that sucker,” he said.

A situation report from that day notes, “This is the same individual identified in the SITREP a few days ago in Illinois and Iowa.” The security company, OnPoint, quickly contacted TigerSwan Intel “for an assessment of Gary Tomlin” and notified the guard in the next “sector” that Tomlin was on his way. “Movement of Spread Team 6 was conducted so as to intercept and/or observe Gary Tomlin’s movement throughout the South Dakota Sector,” the document states. “It is my belief,” the analyst adds, “that Gary Tomlin is hiding his true intentions and that he has a plethora of information to provide to the protesters. It is estimated that he will arrive in North Dakota on the evening of the 4th or morning of the 5th.”

Tomlin laughed at the notion that he was working with protesters. When he arrived at the camps in North Dakota, few people would talk openly with him. “They were highly aware of infiltrators,” he said. “I fit the profile of those security people — I’m a white old man.”

Cody Hall, a prominent native activist whose movements are tracked closely in the TigerSwan reports, told The Intercept he knew he was being followed whenever he left the camp.

“It was obvious, they were driving in trucks, SUVs, they would be right behind me, right next to me … it was like, damn, man, it’s like you’re getting an escort,” he said. “That was always the scary thing: How did they know that I was coming?”

Robert Rice hosted a series of videos critical of the pipeline protest movement without disclosing that he was working for TigerSwan. The videos, which were posted on two Facebook pages, were taken down after The Intercept reached out to the firm for comment.

Social Engagement Plan

A document dated October 17, obtained via a public records request, lays out the mission of the TigerSwan-led security team working in North Dakota: In addition to protecting the pipeline workers, machinery, and construction material, the company was also expected to “protect the reputation of DAPL.” The public relations mission quickly became a priority for the firm, documents show. As a leaked situation report from early September puts it, success would require “strategic messaging from the client that drives the message that we are the good guys, tell the real story and address the negative messaging with good counter messaging.”

On numerous occasions, TigerSwan agents stressed the need to change the public narrative established by protestors and to swing public support in favor of the pipeline. As accounts of protest repression garnered nationwide support for the NoDAPL movement, the firm’s agents painstakingly collected and analyzed media coverage, warning their client about how certain incidents might be received by the public.

“This article is only in the Huffington post, but the expansion of the tribe’s narrative outside of the Native American community media outlets is of concern,” an October 3 report notes. TigerSwan agents regularly describe protesters’ accounts of events as “propaganda.”

But TigerSwan personnel did not limit themselves to monitoring the narrative — they also tried to change it.

In a report dated September 7, TigerSwan agents discuss the need for a “Social Engagement Plan.” On September 22, they discuss the development of an information operations campaign run by the company’s North Carolina-based intel team and Robert Rice, who without disclosing his TigerSwan affiliation posed as “Allen Rice” in a series of amateurish videos in which he provided commentary critical of the protests. The videos, posted on the Facebook pages “Defend Iowa” and “Netizens for Progress and Justice,” were removed after The Intercept contacted TigerSwan, Rice, and the pages’ administrators for comment. None responded.

With the Dakota Access Pipeline construction nearing completion, TigerSwan might have found itself out of a lucrative contract. But in the months leading up to the first oil delivery through the pipeline, the company made sure to stress the continued need for security.

“Everyone must be concerned of the lone wolf,” a TigerSwan operative writes in a March 7 report. “Should we slip from that conscience, we may all be amiss. I cannot afford this in my duties, nor will We/I allow or accept this. I cannot thank everyone for enough for their support during this entire process, However, the movement continues, and We/I will not stop. That’s not in my vocabulary. We will always over-watch as the protectors what is in the best interest for ETP, as we are the guardians.”

In recent weeks, the company’s role has expanded to include the surveillance of activist networks marginally related to the pipeline, with TigerSwan agents monitoring “anti-Trump” protests from Chicago to Washington, D.C., as well as warning its client of growing dissent around other pipelines across the country.

In a March 24 report discussing the likely revival of protests as summer approaches, TigerSwan writes, “Much like Afghanistan and Iraq, the ‘Fighting Season’ will soon be here with the coming warming temperatures.”

Documents published with this story:

The post Leaked Documents Reveal Counterterrorism Tactics Used at Standing Rock to “Defeat Pipeline Insurgencies” appeared first on The Intercept.

$25 Million Oil Tanker Gifted to Erdogan’s Family Is Just One of Many Revelations in the Malta Files

26 May 2017 - 6:21pm

What’s the perfect gift for a world leader who has everything? How about secretly buying a $25 million oil tanker for his family? That’s what Azeri billionaire Mübariz Mansimov did for Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the increasingly authoritarian Turkish president, back in 2008. The discovery, published Friday by the Black Sea, El Mundo and other outlets, is the result of a monthslong project by the European Investigative Collaboration network.

Mansimov became a Turkish citizen two years earlier and adopted a Turkish name, Mübariz Gurbanoglu, allegedly at Erdogan’s suggestion. After the deal was struck, his business dealings in Turkey took off, including lucrative contracts with state firms.

Mansimov is also “a friend” of Donald Trump and attended his presidential inauguration. “When the 39 floors of residential and office block Trump Towers opened in Istanbul in 2009, Mansimov was the first customer — buying eight apartments, including the penthouse,” according to the Black Sea.

The deal is complex but, in a nutshell, goes like this: Mansimov purchased a ship and opened a Maltese holding company for it in 2007. In October 2008, another company registered in the Isle of Man that belonged to Erdogan’s brother-in-law and his son purchased all shares for $25 million. The next day, that firm took out a $18.4 million loan arranged by Mansimov. Normal, so far. However, documents show that Mansimov pledged to pay off the entire seven-year loan plus interest in exchange for leasing rights through 2015 (the remaining $7 million of the purchase price was paid by a close personal friend of Erdogan for reasons unknown). Mansimov’s company, which controls two-thirds of Black Sea oil shipping, extended the leasing option through 2020 for $1.2 million a year. All told, the deal amounts to a $21.2 million cash transfer from Mansimov to Erdogan’s family. Despite having supposedly sold the ship to the close friend who paid $7 million in 2011, in three instances since then, Erdogan’s brother-in-law signed documents attesting to be the “sole beneficial owner” of the tanker.

Design: Corino Dragomir

The paper trail for this tangled web of transactions begins in the Malta Files, an investigation led by the EIC, based on a leaked cache of 150,000 documents from Credence Corporate & Advisory Services, a Malta-based “provider of a full range of legal, financial and corporate services,” as well as a scraped version of the Malta Public Register of companies. In total, more than 50,000 companies are included. The project brought together 49 journalists from 13 media organizations in 16 countries, including The Intercept Brasil, L’Espresso, Le Soir, NRC, Der Spiegel, the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism / TheBlackSea.eu, Mediapart, Politiken, NewsWeek Serbia, El Mundo, Expresso, Dagens Nyheter, Malta Today, and Agência Sportlight.

Malta, a Mediterranean archipelago with less than half a million residents, boasts the lowest effective corporate tax rate in the European Union and has become a preferred destination for tax avoidance in the EU. Malta Files reporting has also exposed offshoring schemes of the Italian mafia, a Russian billionaire’s payday loan empire, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, soccer stars, and yacht-owning European oligarchs, among others.

While the international webs of interlocking companies and owners are often quite convoluted, the gist of the main scheme is easy to follow: The French corporate tax rate is 33.33 percent; in Malta, the effective rate for the overseas activities of foreign-owned companies is only 5 percent; taking advantage of the open border policies afforded to EU member states, a Parisian firm can open a subsidiary in Malta, declare profits under that subsidiary, pay 5 percent to the Maltese government, and repatriate the rest of the profits back home tax-free, legally stiffing France of any revenues. Malta gets money for nothing, the firm saves 85 percent on its tax bill, and the French taxpayers lose out on millions.

An investigation by the Malta Today newspaper estimates that the business-friendly tax policy netted the country nearly 248 million euros in revenue in 2015 and cost other nations 4.2 billion euros in lost tax income. Those figures increased more than tenfold from 2006. A study commissioned by Green MEPs in the European Parliament found that 14 billion euros in EU taxes went unpaid from 2012 to 2015.

Corporate structures available in Malta that obscure a firm’s owners can also be utilized to facilitate fraud and illegal activities, something the nation denies, but which led a German financial minister to label Malta the “Panama of Europe.”

Malta’s Finance Minister Edward Scicluna said that the Malta Files are “fake news,” adding that the reporting is “unfair and endangers the economy and jobs.” Other EU countries “want to taste our success, especially in the iGaming industry,” he said.

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, responding to the reporting, said, “They tried to say that there is something illegal in our financial services, when the truth is that our financial systems are the same as when we joined the European Union. It is approved by the EU and OECD and we are compliant.”

A superyacht in The Grand Harbor in Vittoriosa, Malta.

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Brazil’s Malta Connections

Articles published by The Intercept Brasil in collaboration with Agência Sportlight found that multiple individuals implicated in Brazil’s sprawling Operation Car Wash corruption investigation have opened companies in Malta. Notably, two brothers who confessed to laundering $100 million on behalf of disgraced former Rio de Janeiro Gov. Sérgio Cabral opened two companies in Malta just months before signing plea agreements with federal prosecutors. The brothers, Marcelo and Renato Chebar, used Saint Kitts and Neves passports and did not mention the companies in their sworn testimony.

Last week, Ricardo Saud became a household name in Brazil when clandestine video recordings emerged of him delivering briefcases loaded with half a million reals ($152,000) each to representatives of Sen. Aécio Neves and President Michel Temer. Saud, a top executive at the world’s largest meat processor, JBS, opened two companies in Malta in 2010 with the son of Paraguay’s ex-president and a Brazilian real estate investor once convicted for election tampering. The three have a long history of deals in the cattle business, but this enterprise appears to be an attempt to launch an online gambling site just as it was expected that the Brazilian government would legalize the industry. The vote did not pass — a major argument against it at the time was that it would facilitate money laundering — and the site is no longer active.

A Maltese company is also at the center of an alleged influence peddling and kickback scheme related to the 3.7 billion euro sale of 22.4 percent of Brazilian firm Oi to Portugal Telecom in 2010. José Dirceu, a disgraced former top adviser to ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is being investigated by Portuguese authorities as part of an operation that landed the former Portuguese prime minister in jail.

A full list of individuals and firms with connections to Brazil who appear in the Malta Files can been seen here.

Click here to see all Malta Files articles from EIC partners (the list will continue to be updated as new stories are published).

The post $25 Million Oil Tanker Gifted to Erdogan’s Family Is Just One of Many Revelations in the Malta Files appeared first on The Intercept.

A conveniente ausência de Henrique Meirelles na delação da JBS

26 May 2017 - 11:34am

Dos nomes cogitados até aqui para suceder Michel Temer, como nome de “consenso” – ou, se preferir, com a chancela do mercado –, não apenas já disputou eleições, esteve no comando de parte importante da economia do país por quase uma década e, apesar de ostentar uma farda de tecnocrata, sempre teve ambições políticas. Ele já passou por três partidos (PSDB, PMDB e PSD) e, em sua única incursão eleitoral, mostrou força: foi eleito deputado federal por Goiás, com a maior votação no Estado. Seu nome é Henrique Meirelles.

A solução Meirelles agrada a muitos atores relevantes numa possível queda de Michel Temer: o empresariado, o setor financeiro, o PMDB, o PSDB, aqueles que empunham a bandeira do “Brasil não pode parar”. Agrada, de certa forma, até mesmo ao ex-presidente Lula – depois de comandar o Banco Central durante os oito anos de governo do petista, ainda foi alvo de lobby do ex-presidente junto a Dilma Rousseff para que ele voltasse a ocupar um cargo de relevo na área econômica.

Depois da eclosão da crise política na semana passada, Meirelles limitou-se a dizer a empresários e investidores algo que, ao menos, já serviu de alívio: mesmo num mandato-tampão ou num novo governo até 2018, ele está disposto e confortável para seguir no comando do Ministério da Fazenda, ditando os rumos da economia do país.

Num cenário de eventual estabilização econômica e política, Meirelles fica em condições de disputar o comando do país no voto direto, seguindo, 24 anos depois, o caminho de outro de seus avalistas, o ex-presidente Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

Se alguma coisa nessa linha se concretizar, Meirelles terá alguém a agradecer: Joesley Batista e outros integrantes do grupo JBS.

O nome do ministro da Fazenda passou incólume nas 41 delações narradas a procuradores pelo alto escalão da JBS. A única exceção é a conversa que Joesley gravou com o presidente Michel Temer, no porão do Palácio do Jaburu, na noite de 7 de março. Naquilo que é possível discernir do áudio de péssima qualidade, Joesley relata intimidade e acesso fácil a Henrique Meirelles. Temer não se mostra surpreso. Mais que isso, o empresário conta para o presidente da República sobre suas agruras na tentativa de emplacar nomes de interesse do grupo J&F em postos-chave de órgãos de controle da atividade econômica.

Temer, em um de seus potenciais crimes praticados naqueles 30 minutos de conversa e agora investigados pela Procuradoria-Geral da República, diz para Joesley que, se Meirelles ficasse resistente aos pleitos, poderia usar seu nome e dizer ao ministro que ele, Temer, dera aval para que os pedidos da JBS e outras empresas do grupo J&F fossem considerados.

Batista – É só isso que eu queria, ter esse alinhamento. Pra gente não ficar e pra ele perceber que nós temos

Temer – (Inaudível)

Batista – Uhum, uhum. Quando eu digo de ir mais firme no Henrique é isso, é falar “Henrique, você vai levar, vai fazer isso? Então tá bom”. Porque aí ele vem, então pronto, é esse alinhamento só que eu queria ter.

Temer – Pode fazer isso.

A origem dessa proximidade entre Joesley e Henrique Meirelles vem de 2012. Apesar de toda essa relação de mais de cinco anos com o ministro da Fazenda, que poderia fazer brilhar os olhos de procuradores interessados em limpar a administração pública, ela sequer é questionada pelos membros do Ministério Público que tomaram os depoimentos de Joesley.

Em uma semana, Meirelles respondia apenas a Joesley e demais integrantes da família Batista. Na semana seguinte, seu chefe passou a ser Michel Temer.

No início de 2012, o dono da JBS convenceu o homem que presidiu o Banco Central ao longo de todos os oito anos de governo Lula a assumir o cargo de presidente do conselho consultivo do grupo J&F – a cabeça de um império que se estende do processamento de carnes até materiais de limpeza.

Em entrevista à revista Exame na época, Joesley Batista tratou de explicar que o posto de Meirelles em sua empresa estava longe de ser o de rainha da Inglaterra. “O Meirelles não vai ser apenas um consultor. Vai cobrar resultados dos executivos e traçar estratégias para a expansão do negócio.”

Dito e feito. Meirelles comandou o crescimento da companhia ao longo dos quatro anos seguintes. Banqueiro de origem, em 2016 assumiu a presidência do Banco Original, também do grupo J&F, com a ousada promessa de transformar a instituição no primeiro banco brasileiro 100% digital.

Não teve tempo de cumprir a promessa porque, em maio de 2016, cedeu às investidas de Michel Temer e aceitou retornar ao governo federal – desta vez para assumir o Ministério da Fazenda em meio à maior crise econômica da história do país.

Em uma semana, Meirelles respondia apenas a Joesley e demais integrantes da família Batista. Na semana seguinte, seu chefe passou a ser Michel Temer. As menções a Meirelles não escapariam, evidentemente, de uma conversa entre os dois patrões do banqueiro.

Uma leitura que se poderia fazer dessa conversa é que o atual ministro da Fazenda seria incorruptível. De fato, não existem evidências de que Meirelles tenha recebido propina. Mas isso também não foi investigado com profundidade pelo Ministério Público. Convém lembrar que, se a desconfiança sobre o governo do presidente Michel Temer provocou um curto-circuito financeiro na Bolsa de Valores, imagine o que poderia acontecer se Meirelles, o ponto de sustentação da parca confiança do empresariado na retomada econômica, também constasse como delatado.

Ou Joesley mente ao dizer que tem falado com Meirelles, ou a atribulada agenda de compromissos oficiais de Henrique Meirelles não é transparente.

Essa imagem de distanciamento pode ser reforçada pelo fato de que, oficialmente, não existe registro, desde que assumiu o Ministério da Fazenda, de nem um único encontro entre Henrique Meirelles e Joesley ou com quaisquer outros representantes de uma das maiores empresas do Brasil ou do grupo J&F. A rigor, a única vez que um representante da JBS pisou no Ministério da Fazenda durante o governo Temer foi, conforme os registros oficiais, disponíveis ao público, em 20 de outubro de 2016, quando um integrante do terceiro escalão do governo, o subsecretário de Crédito e Garantias às Exportações, Guilherme Laux, recebeu “representantes da JBS”.

Mas a conversa com Temer indica algo bem diferente.

O já histórico diálogo traz uma confirmação do trânsito de Joesley junto ao ministro da Fazenda e dos contatos que mantinha com Henrique Meirelles, a quem se refere como “Henrique”. O empresário diz ao presidente que “tem uma relação ótima comigo” e que “já andei falando com ele alguns assuntos”, dando a entender que isso havia acontecido recentemente.

Isso já é indicativo de que, ou Joesley mente ao dizer que tem falado com Meirelles, ou a atribulada agenda de compromissos oficiais de Henrique Meirelles não é transparente. Se seguiu o exemplo de Michel Temer, que recebeu Joesley Batista em sua residência oficial tarde da noite e ainda fez questão de orientá-lo a não se identificar na guarita do Palácio do Jaburu, não é implausível que Meirelles possa ter feito o mesmo.

Entre as defesas de Temer no caso, está a afirmação de que Joesley não conseguiu o que queria junto a Meirelles e ao governo. O diálogo entre Temer e o empresário indica que o presidente do Cade (Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica), que, segundo Joesley, deveria ser um “ponta firme”, já tinha sido trocado em janeiro deste ano. Mas, na verdade, o novo presidente do órgão somente foi indicado pelo presidente Temer em 20 de abril, cinco semanas após a conversa entre os dois, junto com a indicação de mais um nome para o conselho. Não há evidências de que esses novos integrantes do Cade, que ainda serão sabatinados, sejam “abençoados” pela JBS.

Uma outra mudança importante pleiteada por Joesley a Meirelles e a Temer, e ainda em aberto, é no comando da CVM, órgão responsável por coibir fraudes na bolsa de valores. O atual presidente do órgão está no cargo desde 2012. Seu mandato termina em julho deste ano.

Banqueiro político

A ausência de perguntas sobre Meirelles nos depoimentos prestados por Joesley e outros integrantes da JBS aos procuradores da República chama a atenção. Em parte porque o ministro é nominalmente citado no áudio mais importante da delação – a conversa entre Joesley e Temer – como alguém que estaria em vias de ser corrompido para usar seu cargo em defesa de interesses do grupo J&F. Meirelles não está em nenhum dos anexos da delação. Também não foi alvo, ao que se sabe, de nenhuma gravação do empresário, nem antes nem depois do início da ação controlada.

Complementarmente, está o fato de que o ministro, embora muito respeitado pelo setor financeiro, está longe também de ser simplesmente um “nome técnico”. Ele sempre teve aspirações políticas clássicas, e circulou com frequência em meio a um universo em que a regra é caixa dois, como as delações da JBS e da Odebrecht deixaram claro.

Em 2002, foi eleito o deputado federal mais votado por Goiás, pelo PSDB. Meirelles sequer exerceu o mandato legislativo, no entanto. Em janeiro de 2003, já tinha na mão as chaves do Banco Central, dando respaldo ao então presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva junto a um desconfiado setor financeiro.

Em 2010, com a era Lula chegando ao fim, Meirelles se filiou ao PMDB e cogitou concorrer ao governo de Goiás, onde fatalmente iria se expor à indústria do caixa dois – alimentada por empresas como a JBS. Acabou seguindo à frente do Banco Central. Anos depois, já como presidente do conselho da J&F, voltou a trocar de partido. Assinou a ficha de filiação do PSD de Gilberto Kassab (que, segundo a JBS, recebeu durante cerca de dois anos, um “mensalinho” de R$ 350 mil). Disputaria uma vaga no Senado, mas, novamente, acabou desistindo e optou por seguir na vida privada.

Agora, no ocaso da gestão Temer, ele aparece como nome preferido do mercado para, na eventualidade de uma eleição indireta, surgir como consenso para assumir o comando do país ou, ao menos, como ele mesmo já disse a investidores e empresários, permanecer à frente do Ministério da Fazenda.

Ao preservar Meirelles, o grupo J&F mantém potencialmente aberto um canal de diálogo na hipótese de Michel Temer deixar o governo. Figuras como ele e o ex-presidente da Câmara Eduardo Cunha provavelmente nunca mais comprarão um bife da Friboi, mas Meirelles não teria muito do que reclamar. A delação de Joesley Batista, ao preservá-lo, pode elevá-lo de patamar no cenário político brasileiro.

Mantega

Se o material das delações não traz mais detalhes sobre a relação entre a JBS e o atual Ministério da Fazenda, de Henrique Meirelles, o mesmo não pode ser dito sobre a relação da empresa com a pasta nos governos anteriores, de Lula e Dilma, sob o controle do ex-ministro Guido Mantega.

Ex-ministro Guido Mantega.

Foto: AFP/Getty Images

Conforme o Termo de Colaboração de Joesley Batista ao Ministério Público Federal, a partir de 2004 a JBS passou a pagar propina a um intermediário de Mantega, Victor Sandri, para obter grandes financiamentos. Na época, Mantega ainda era Ministro do Planejamento – ao qual o BNDES é vinculado. Ao assumir a Fazenda, o esquema de corrupção adquiriu proporções ainda maiores.

Joesley Batista cita financiamento do BNDES de US$ 80 milhões, em 2005, para a JBS; US$ 580 milhões em 2007; US$ 500 milhões em 2008; US$ 2 bilhões por aquisição de debêntures, em 2009; e US$ 2 bilhões em favor da empresa Eldorado, em 2011.

Joesley conta que pagava uma porcentagem do valor dos financiamentos como propina, depositada em contas no exterior destinadas a Lula e Dilma. Em 2009, passou a negociar as tratativas diretamente com o então ministro Guido Mantega, com quem tinha contato frequente – a exemplo de Meirelles, raramente registrado em agenda oficial.

Os homens do presidente

Maiores aliados de Michel Temer, os ministros da Casa Civil, Eliseu Padilha, e da Secretaria-Geral da Presidência, Moreira Franco, também não são alvos das delações da JBS. Ambos os ministros são investigados pelo Ministério Público Federal na Lava Jato, suspeitos de cobrarem propina da Odebrecht para o PMDB.

Conforme os delatores da Odebrecht, Eliseu Padilha era importante nas tratativas criminosas com a empreiteira e participou de negociações nos governo de Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Lula e Dilma – nos quais abocanhou ministérios – tendo arrecadado R$ 11,5 milhões em propina.

Moreira Franco, também conforme os delatores, cometeu crime de corrupção ao favorecer a empreiteira por meio de edital de concessões aeroportuárias, na época em que comandava a Secretaria de Aviação Civil, tendo recebido em troca R$ 4 milhões em propina.

Ambos os ministros, que possuem foro privilegiado em função do cargo, são os maiores defensores da permanência de Michel Temer na Presidência, e divulgaram vídeos com mensagens alinhadas à de Temer ao destacar melhorias na economia e enfatizar que “o Brasil não pode parar”.

Ao ficarem preservados da delação da Odebrecht, poderiam seguir, num governo tampão, atuando como articuladores políticos de um eventual novo governo no Congresso – especialmente Eliseu Padilha, que assumiu toda a condução política da reforma da Previdência.

A falta de informações a respeito da relação entre Eliseu Padilha e a JBS é questionável, levando em consideração que o ministro é criador de gado e foi fornecedor da empresa recentemente. Conforme reportagens publicadas na imprensa de Mato Grosso em março deste ano, a JBS teria desrespeitado um Termo de Ajustamento de Conduta (TAC) e comprado 240 cabeças de gado da Fazenda Cachoeira, da qual Padilha é um dos sócios e que está embargada por crime ambiental desde o ano passado.

The post A conveniente ausência de Henrique Meirelles na delação da JBS appeared first on The Intercept.

In Montana Race, Rob Quist Had To Fight Off Both the Republicans and the GOP-Aligned Local Media

25 May 2017 - 11:30pm

In a surprisingly competitive race in a state that went heavily for Donald Trump, Republican candidate Greg Gianforte looks poised to eke out a win over his Democratic opponent Rob Quist, with Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks pulling in some six percent.

With roughly a third of the vote counted, Gianforte is leading Quist by five points. 

Quist had to fight off not just and ambivalent national Democratic Party and millions of dollars in attacks from the GOP, but also a local media that was aligned with them.

Earlier this month, a trio of Montana’s largest newspapers — The Missoulian, the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette — all endorsed Gianforte. And a string of local TV stations recently purchased by the arch-conservative Sinclair Broadcast Group offered some unusual coverage of the explosive story of Gianforte’s famous Wednesday night assault of a reporter.

The papers all share a single owner, the Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, whose board is stacked with Republican donors, and all three were dropped on the same day, May 14, as Republicans began to panic that the race might genuinely be in play. All three endorsements made similar arguments — deep reservations about his more extreme ideological positions, such as his rejection of evolution, coupled with optimism that he will set those bizarre views aside and do right by Montana in Washington.

The Lee board includes a number of Republican donors and other conservatives. The enterprise owns two other local newspapers in the state as well; neither explicitly endorsed, though they run copy from their sister publications.

Nancy Donovan, a founding partner of the Circle Financial Group, has been on the Lee Enterprises board since 2003. She gave $1,000 to support former Republican House Leader’s John Boehner’s re-election in 2010, and $2,400 to former Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s campaign.

Gregory P. Schermer, who spent 27 years with Lee before retiring and remains a member of the board, donated to the presidential bids of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio. Herb Moloney, who is a Lead Director on the board, was previously a publisher of the conservative Washington Examiner.

In addition to the endorsements, the three papers focused their reporting heavily on Quist’s debt and financial woes.

On the Wednesday night before the election, a reporter for the Guardian, which is headquartered in London, Ben Jacobs, was interviewing Gianforte about his evolving position on Trump’s health care plan when the Republican candidate slammed him to the ground, according to Jacobs, backed up by audio of the encounter. The Billings Gazette led its story: “A foreign correspondent from the Guardian has accused GOP U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte of assaulting him during an interview.”

Eventually, all three papers revoked their endorsements of Gianforte but did not ask voters to back Quist or Wicks.

But it wasn’t just Lee Enterprises that proved a headache for Quist.

In April, Sinclair Broadcast Group, a conservative local news operator, bought three NBC stations in Montana. The stations’ coverage of the assault was deeply generous to Gianforte on Wednesday night. “Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin announced Wednesday evening that he is investigating an alleged altercation between Special Congressional Election candidate Greg Gianforte and a reporter from The Guardian,” the networks reported on their collective website. “Gootkin also said there is no evidence of a video to verify the incident as previously reported by other news outlets. NBC Montana takes pride in reporting only verifiable facts from independent reliable sources, officials and documents, regardless of what is reported by other media outlets. The only verifiable facts are what is being stated by the Gallatin County sheriff at this time,” the networks wrote.

A New York Magazine article published late Thursday reports that Julie Weindel, the news director for KECI, one of the NBC stations, refused to cover the audio of the Gianforte-Jacobs encounter. The source claims Weindel argued that “The person that tweeted [Jacobs] and was allegedly body slammed is a reporter for a politically biased publication.”

“There is a pretty long history of papers breaking toward business interests in this state,” said Lee Banville, an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana. “Endorsements came from publishers and they often skewed pro-business. So, the fact that the papers editorialized that way is not too shocking.”

Last week, Chris Rush, the publisher of The World, a local paper in Oregon owned by Lee Enterprises, stepped down from his job, and offered a blunt assessment in his goodbye column.

The industry’s economic fortunes have changed for the worse since the ‘great recession’ of 2008. Corporate ownership by publicly-traded companies like Gannett, Gatehouse, McClatchy and Lee Enterprises (which owns this newspaper) has become the norm. Independent and family-owned newspapers with deep roots in their local communities are disappearing from the landscape.

At the same time, I have watched the autonomy of the local newspaper being eroded day by day and replaced with central planning from remote corporate offices. More and more decisions about your local newspaper — from its national news and feature content to how much you pay for your subscription — are being determined in boardrooms far away.

The column was picked up by a former reporter running a blog in Montana. He thought he noticed something familiar.

Top photo: The three candidates, Republican Greg Gianforte, from left, Democrat Rob Quist, and Libertarian Mark Wicks vying to fill Montana’s only congressional seat await the start of the only televised debate ahead of the May 25 special election, on April 29, 2017, in Great Falls, Mont.

The post In Montana Race, Rob Quist Had To Fight Off Both the Republicans and the GOP-Aligned Local Media appeared first on The Intercept.

Russia Is On TV, But Health Care Was The Central Issue In Montana’s Election

25 May 2017 - 10:43pm

When the now-famous Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs approached the now-infamous Greg Gianforte on Wednesday night, he had a specific question he wanted to pose to the Republican candidate for Montana’s open House seat. It was about health care.

Jacobs had been following the race closely, and knew that Democrat Rob Quist, in the race’s final stretch, put health care at the center of his closing argument.

In March, early in the campaign, the Billings Gazette set tone for the race with a close look at Quist’s troubled finances over the years. Montanans may have assumed Quist, a legendary local musician and a rancher, was well off, but his music career never brought him that kind of money. He had been the opening act to the Grateful Dead many times — but never the Grateful Dead.

He told the Gazette that gall bladder surgery gone wrong had derailed his music career and set in motion the string of financial setbacks. The day before the Gazette story ran, House Republicans in Washington had decided to pull their repeal-and-replace bill from the floor, aware they didn’t have the votes to pass it. The problem wasn’t just that support was anemic in Congress. The bill had the backing of just 17 percent of Americans, and GOP leadership appeared happy to move on. “Sorry that didn’t work out,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in his best effort to pretend he was mourning the demise of the politically toxic legislation.

But a klatch of House Republicans insisted on bringing the thing back to life. And in Montana, Gianforte decided it would be a wise move to attack Quist on health care. The conservative outlets PJ Media and the Washington Free Beacon dug into a lawsuit Quist filed after the botched surgery and dug out an unusual nugget they saw fit to share with the world: Quist had genital herpes.

The Republican National Committee promptly forwarded the breaking news around to national reporters. On what possible ethical grounds could a journalist — or anyone, for that matter — decide that publicizing (in the headline, no less) a person’s genital herpes is an acceptable thing to do? Let PJ Media explain:

“Normally, medical records should be kept private. But given Quist’s history of default on debt and taxes, and his use of the 1992 surgery to excuse it, the case is a legitimate issue, especially as the candidate slams health care as a major issue.”

Early in his red-state race, Quist’s campaign strategy was dominated by ads showing him firing off a weapon at a television. But in the wake of the attacks on his gallbladder-surgery-related debts, Quist decided to lean into the issue of pre-existing conditions. That’s when the race got real. “Russia is on TV all day long and it’s what people in Washington are hyperventilating about, but healthcare is what’s on people’s minds and what they care about, because it’s personal,” said a Democratic source connected to the Quist campaign. “The outside spending was 10-1 on the Republican side, and as soon as the race turned to healthcare — and Quist owned that — that’s when the race started to tighten.”

This wasn’t a race that was supposed to be close. While Democrats have managed to win at the statewide level in Senate and gubernatorial elections, the lone House seat has proven elusive for two decades. Ryan Zinke won reelection in 2016 by 16 points, with Trump carrying the state by 20 points — and with Libertarian Gary Johnson picking up another 5.6. Just 35 percent of the state voted for Hillary Clinton. A close race spells trouble for Republicans in 2018. “A 4-8 point win for Gianforte would fall somewhere between a pretty good/very good political environment for Dems,” offered the forecasters at FiveThirtyEight.

Quist’s closing ad focused on the issue, noting that more than half of Montanans have pre-existing conditions. The weekend before the election, he crisscrossed the state with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, with both Sanders and Quist telling voters that health care is a right, not a privilege, advocating for Medicare for All. An ad from the super PAC tied to House Democrats ran one attacking Gianforte on his waffling stance.

The Republicans Party couldn’t have chosen a worse man to make its case. Gianforte, a New Jersey businessman, had moved to Montana to expand his firm, which made software making it easier for U.S. companies to offshore jobs.

Worth more than $300 million, according to his campaign disclosures, he was never clear where he stood on the issue of health insurance. He said publicly that he was against the House repeal-and-replace bill, but after the House passed it, he told a conference call full of lobbyists he was “thankful” it had gone through. The bill would have saved him hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes per year — enough in a year to solve Quist’s financial woes for the rest of his life.

That health care could move votes in this race — even if not enough to swing it — wouldn’t surprise Geoff Garin at Hart Research Associates. His firm recently finished a national survey, which was provided to The Intercept, showing that health care is now voters top concern — with 55 percent of independents citing it as the most important priority. Overall, it outpaces the second-place finisher, the economy, by 21 points.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, the Congressional Budget Office released its report saying that more than 20 million people would lose insurance if the GOP plan were enacted, and premiums would soar for older people. Gianforte had been declining to state a firm position, citing the lack of a CBO score.

Gianforte was at his campaign headquarters, chit-chatting with a crew from Fox News that would soon be doing an interview for Bret Baier’s show. Jacobs, the Guardian reporter, spotted him, and approached with a recorder. He said he wanted to ask about “The CBO score, because, you know, you were waiting to make your decision about health care until you saw the bill and it just came out…”

Here’s the rest of the encounter, per the audio:

Gianforte: Yeah, we’ll talk to you about that later.

Jacobs: Yeah, but there’s not going to be time. I’m just curious—

Gianforte: Okay, speak with Shane, please.

[bedlam]

Gianforte: I’m sick and tired of you guys!

Jacobs: Jesus!

Gianforte: The last guy that came in here, you did the same thing! Get the hell out of here!

Jacobs: Jesus!

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here! The last guy did the same thing! You with The Guardian?

Jacobs: Yes! And you just broke my glasses.

Gianforte: The last guy did the same damn thing.

Jacobs: You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses.

Gianforte: Get the hell out of here.

Jacobs: You’d like me to get the hell out of here, I’d also like to call the police. Can I get you guys’ names?

The guys whose names he asked for stayed silent in the moment, they later said. But the Fox News crew told their story to the police.

Top photo: Democratic U.S. Congressional candidate Rob Quist looks on during a gathering with supporters at Darkhorse Hall and Wine Snug on May 22, 2017 in Great Falls, Montana.

The post Russia Is On TV, But Health Care Was The Central Issue In Montana’s Election appeared first on The Intercept.

Caos generalizado transforma escândalos em notícias de pé de página

25 May 2017 - 5:16pm

“Tá difícil competir”, tuitou o pessoal da série americana House of Cards, aquela em que um presidente golpista faz de tudo para se manter no poder, inclusive matar um ou outro opositor. Pois eles têm razão, a coisa empenou de vez, e não há ficção que dê conta dos nossos acontecimentos políticos recentes. Mesmo porque, algo muito caro à indústria do entretenimento se perdeu em Brasília: a verossimilhança. Um roteiro que narrasse os fatos políticos recentes dificilmente iria adiante. “Um tanto forçado, não?”, diria qualquer produtor de respeito, antes de jogar o calhamaço de duas mil páginas no lixo.

Nos últimos dias vimos, por exemplo, o (ainda) senador Aécio Neves fazer beicinho em vídeo, pagando de pobre injustiçado depois de pedir R$ 2 milhões de propina para pagar advogados. Vimos os bilionários  Joesley e Wesley Batista, darem a volta em uma nação e partirem felizes com sua fortuna para os EUA, levando a reboque um iate de R$ 20 milhões (curiosamente o mesmo valor que haviam pago pela aprovação de uma lei). Vimos formadores de opinião de esquerda saírem em defesa de Reinaldo Azevedo, um dos mais reacionários e virulentos comentaristas político do país, que teve conversas ao telefone tornadas públicas indevidamente. Vimos, por fim, uma figura de linguagem se tornar realidade: Brasília em chamas.

Ou, melhor dizendo, e o que deixou de ser tão absurdo?

Seria possível passar semanas, meses a fio, elencando os absurdos da política atual. Mas não é preciso, os jornais estão aí pra isso. Agora, e o que não é tão absurdo? Ou, melhor dizendo, e o que deixou de ser tão absurdo? Os assuntos de relevância que a imprensa deixou de cobrir para correr em zigue-zague, apagando um incêndio depois do outro? Eles têm alguma chance diante de manchetes como “Brasília em chamas, exército nas ruas”?

Uma breve folheadas nos jornais mostra que não. Notícias sérias e importantes, que seriam manchete em qualquer país minimamente civilizado (não, os EUA de Trump não entram na conta), têm sido relegadas aos pés de página de edições que esfriam antes de chegarem às bancas.

Na busca por exemplos, seria interessante partirmos do centro do poder político. O ex…, perdão, o presidente Michel Temer recentemente foi pego em conversa comprometedora que poderia muito bem motivar um pedido de impeachment. “Ah, mas o Joesley de novo?”, protestará o leitor impaciente. Não. Soa absurdo, mas Conde Temer foi flagrado em outra conversa pra lá de suspeita com Rodrigo Rocha Loures (sim, o homem da mala). Por conta disso, o procurador-geral da República, Rodrigo Janot, estuda pedir a abertura de inquérito, mais um, para investigar a conduta do mandatário.

Na conversa, Conde Temer passava a seu cupincha informações sobre um decreto que assinaria dali a seis dias, aumentando de 35 para 70 anos o tempo das concessões no porto de Santos. “Aquela coisa dos 70 anos lá para todo mundo parece que está acertado aquilo lá”, disse.

Rocha Lourdes recebeu a informação privilegiada, desligou, e, minutos depois bateu um fio para um empresário do setor, um claro beneficiário da medida. “É isso aí”, festejou do outro lado da linha Ricardo Conrado Mesquita, diretor da Rodrimar, “você é o pai da criança”, disse a Loures.

O caso é pra lá de sério. Mais ainda porque o presidente já tinha sido investigado pela hipótese de ter recebido R$ 640 mil de propina por negociatas no mesmo porto de Santos. Fossem em tempos normais, o busílis iria direto para as manchetes e haveria um enxame de repórteres debruçados sobre ele, escarafunchando documentos, pressionando autoridades por mais informações. Nos dias de hoje? Não ganhou nem chamada na capa dos três principais jornais do país.

Com a ausência de antagonistas, as coisas fluíram como nunca. Foram sete medidas provisórias aprovadas num piscar de olhos.

O principal problema diante dessa constatação é que políticos são como crianças pequenas: quando se reúnem sem supervisão de um responsável acabam esfregando o conteúdo das fraldas nas paredes. Ontem, por exemplo, quando a capital federal passou a arder em chamas, o presidente achou por bem colocar o exército na rua. O clima de 1964 arrepiou a nuca de políticos da oposição e, como ato de protesto, eles deixaram o plenário da Câmara.

E os governistas fizeram o quê? Suspenderam os trabalhos? Passaram a discutir saídas para o escalonamento da crise? Nada disso. Resolveram simplesmente aprovar leis. Com a ausência de antagonistas, as coisas fluíram como nunca. Foram sete medidas provisórias aprovadas num piscar de olhos.

Entre elas, como não podia deixar de ser, estava uma que autorizava reajustes salariais para servidores públicos. Mas havia assuntos dos mais díspares. De regras para o desconto ao consumidor à carência para concessão de auxílio-doença, passando pela regularização fundiária na Amazônia.

Aliás, sim, Amazônia. A região já não é das mais queridas entre os editores da imprensa tradicional, mas, ao menos essa semana, ofereceu motivos de sobra para ganhar destaque no noticiário. Na terça (23), o Senado aprovou uma medida provisória que, como se nada fosse, diminuiu a proteção ambiental de vastas áreas, colocando em risco 320 mil hectares de floresta, ou o equivalente a duas vezes a capital paulista. Pouco se falou no assunto, mas, vá lá, o texto depende de sanção presidencial e quem sabe o presidente Temer, que indicou o ruralista Osmar Serraglio para cuidar de questões indígenas, não tenha um súbito ataque de sensatez e barre o disparate.

Há uma pequena guerra civil instalada em um Estado brasileiro, mas, diante de toda uma nação à deriva, pouco se fala no assunto.

Mas essa foi só uma das notícias amazônicas. Ontem a região voltou a oferecer um farto e trágico material jornalístico. Dez pessoas foram mortas na cidade de Pau d’Arco, no Pará, após uma ação conjunta das polícias civil e militar, numa suposta briga fundiária que ecoou o massacre de Eldorado dos Carajás.

Autoridades e imprensa local afirmaram que policiais estavam à cata de suspeitos de terem matado o segurança de uma fazenda, palco de disputa por terra. Na versão oficial eles teriam sido recebidos à bala e reagido em legítima defesa. Já a Comissão Pastoral da Terra disse que houve uma ação de despejo mal-sucedida e ilegal – uma vez que, desde o massacre de Eldorado dos Carajás, operações do tipo devem ser efetuadas por equipes policiais especializadas.

A chacina era uma tragédia anunciada. Entre 2007 e 2016, foram 103 assassinatos similares, o que, ainda segundo a Pastoral da Terra, coloca o Pará como o Estado com mais mortes no campo. A situação, além de tudo, vinha recrudescendo. De acordo com a entidade, ao menos 26 pessoas morreram em 2017 por questões agrárias.

Ou seja, há uma pequena guerra civil instalada em um Estado brasileiro, mas, diante de toda uma nação à deriva, pouco se fala no assunto. A normatização da insanidade coletiva torna ordinárias as insanidades locais.

A boa notícia nisso tudo é que o caos tende a ser passageiro. Há notícias de que José Sarney já traça planos para que o PMDB siga no poder, Maluf ainda não foi preso e o PT articula saídas negociadas pelos bastidores enquanto, em público, veste-se de revolucionário. Sinais claros de que ainda resta alguma normalidade na nação.

The post Caos generalizado transforma escândalos em notícias de pé de página appeared first on The Intercept.

Senators From Both Parties Blast “Outrageous” Trump Call Praising Duterte for Anti-Drug Killing Spree

25 May 2017 - 12:12pm

Donald Trump’s praise for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous anti-drug campaign drew condemnation from leading foreign policy voices in both parties Wednesday, who were shocked the president would encourage what the State Department describes as “extrajudicial killings.”

The Intercept reported Tuesday that Trump told Duterte in a private call that he endorsed the murderous anti-drug campaign, which has killed well over 7,000 people. Duterte has unapologetically compared himself to Hitler and said he would “be happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts in the Philippines.

According to the transcript of an April phone call obtained and authenticated by The Intercept, Trump had nothing but kind words for Duterte’s policy.

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a rising star on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, condemned what Trump said. “He’s essentially congratulating Duterte on murdering 4,000 [sic] of his own citizens. That’s outrageous,” said Murphy. “The reason you get briefed before these phone calls is so that you don’t say something as dumb as that.”

Following the release of the transcript, 14 Democratic senators also signed onto a letter by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., calling on President Trump to delay his invitation for Duterte to visit the White House until his human rights record improved. The letter’s signatories included Sens. Ben Cardin, Tim Kaine, Jeff Merkley, Sherrod Brown, Cory Booker, Ron Wyden, Dick Durbin, Chris Van Hollen, Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator and former Democratic presidential candidate from Vermont, told The Intercept by email that he found the transcript “shocking,” and that it would encourage further abuses.

“This sends a horrible signal to human rights violators all over the world, giving them a green light to increase their abuses,” said Sanders. “Unfortunately, as we’ve seen with his comments about Vladimir Putin and in his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, enthusiastic praise for authoritarian leaders is the norm rather than the exception for this president.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Intercept that he didn’t understand why Trump would praise Duterte’s campaign. “I don’t understand why he would say such a thing to a guy who’s practicing extrajudicial executions.”

Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Intercept that Trump’s remarks were “outrageous” and “totally against American values.”

“A person who commits extrajudicial killings is not a person we admire,” said Cardin.

Cardin has been a vocal critic of Duterte’s human rights record. In November, the State Department halted a planned sale of more than 20,000 assault rifles to the Philippines national police after Cardin threatened to block it, and earlier this month, he introduced a bill along with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.,that would place restrictions on similar weapons transfers.

Rubio would not discuss the transcript, saying he would not “comment on a transcript produced by a foreign government.”

Earlier in the day Wednesday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., another prominent Republican voice in foreign policy, told The Intercept that Duterte “is not a guy we want to empower.”

Murphy and Markey are co-sponsors of Cardin and Rubio’s bill. Graham, a powerful subcommittee chair, said he was considering signing on as well.

Top photo: President Donald Trump is seen during a joint press conference with the Palestinian leader at the presidential palace in the West Bank city of Bethlehem on May 23, 2017.

The post Senators From Both Parties Blast “Outrageous” Trump Call Praising Duterte for Anti-Drug Killing Spree appeared first on The Intercept.

Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist Trained Senior U.S. Marshal, National Guard Members, Documents Show

25 May 2017 - 11:23am

A former FBI agent with a penchant for spreading anti-Muslim conspiracy theories trained a senior U.S. marshal, five federal contractors, and five National Guard members at a three-day event in Louisiana, according to documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information request.

John Guandolo, a prominent figure in what has become a cottage industry of ex-national security professionals exploiting fear of terrorism for cash, ran the March training on behalf of his firm, Understanding the Threat. Guandolo was paid $12,500 for the seminar, sponsored by the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office in Alexandria, which promised to show how “jihadis” operate in the United States, why understanding sharia is important to law enforcement agents, and how to “find and research jihadi organizations and leaders” in local communities. At a previous event, Guandolo labeled a local Muslim community leader as a religious extremist with no proof.

The documents obtained by The Intercept underscore how federal law enforcement and members of the military continue to frequent anti-Muslim trainings, despite past attempts to stop Islamophobic instructors from teaching soldiers and federal officers. Advocates have long expressed concern that such events encourage racial profiling and further corrode trust between government agencies and Muslim communities already weary of surveillance and infiltration by informants. They say these trainings are particularly troublesome at a time of rising anti-Muslim sentiment — sentiment that has been blessed by members of the Trump administration.

“Under no circumstances should federal law enforcement agents gain credit for attending anti-Muslim trainings, or be under the impression that it could be a legitimate part of their duties,” said Lindsay Schubiner, senior program manager at the Center for New Community, a Chicago-based group that tracks anti-Muslim trainings, referring to the continuing education credits often required of law enforcement officers. “Federal law enforcement agencies have to clearly send the message to their agents that anti-Muslim bigotry is unacceptable and that anti-Muslim conspiracy theories that Guandolo promotes should not be driving the implementation of federal law.”

Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, resigned from the bureau in 2008 while he was being investigated by the FBI for affairs with female agents. The following year, he confirmed to the FBI that he had a sexual relationship with a key witness in a corruption case against a Democratic lawmaker in Louisiana.

But instead of fading into obscurity, Guandolo has leveraged his status as a former FBI agent into a lucrative career. Guandolo has made tens of thousands of dollars in recent years giving dozens of law enforcement trainings, many of them taxpayer funded. Sheriffs’ departments or police associations that put on conferences for local law enforcement sponsor most of Guandolo’s events. But the trainings are usually open to federal agents as well.

Guandolo has said that all American Muslim groups share the “same ideology as ISIS” and that President Obama committed “treason” by working with Muslim groups to combat terrorism. He has also called for the majority of mosques in the U.S. to be shut down and for the arrest of leaders of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim American civil rights group.

“Guandolo’s training is basically terror porn for people who want to be scared into fearing segments of society,” said Imraan Siddiqi, the executive director of CAIR in Arizona, a state in which Guandolo has given multiple trainings.

Guandolo and the Rapides Parish District Attorney’s Office did not return The Intercept’s requests for comment.

John Guandolo, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, speaks to audience members in the Warroad Baptist Church in Warroad, Minn., Oct. 17, 2016.

Photo: Monika Lawrence

The Louisiana seminar was one of nine trainings Guandolo has given in 2017 alone. He is scheduled to give two more in June, according to the Center for New Community. Sign-in sheets for the Alexandria training obtained by The Intercept indicate that officers from nearly two dozen state and local law enforcement agencies attended, in addition to the federal employees and contractors.

Bernard McLaughlin, a mediator and former U.S. Army colonel who attended the seminar, said the training could prove especially useful for local law enforcement officers. “They don’t get taught a course on Islam or domestic terror or how radicals may plan attacks,” McLaughlin told The Intercept. “So you have to look at an introductory training just to get people oriented so they have a better understanding of Islam, what it is and what its proponents are.”

However, as critics of Guandolo have pointed out, he does not speak Arabic — the original language of the Quran — and has no scholarly expertise in Islam.

The most senior federal officer who attended the Alexandria seminar was Drew Koschny, chief inspector of the U.S. Marshals Service and deputy assistant director of Interpol Washington, the U.S. branch of the global police force Interpol.

U.S. Marshals are required to get approval from the Marshals Service before attending external trainings. But for the Guandolo training, Koschny “accepted the invitation and attended the event without completing the required USMS request for external training; therefore, the training course was not vetted and approved by the USMS,” said Drew Wade, a U.S. Marshals spokesperson. “Mr. Koschny felt the training would support his work at Interpol. He was not aware of any views attributed to individuals conducting the training.”

Four employees of Centerra, a security contractor that guards government facilities across the country, also went to the training. Three of the Centerra employees were listed in the documents as working for the Department of Energy. Another federal contractor who works for Fluor Federal Petroleum, the sole company guarding the U.S. government’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, attended the training. The Department of Energy, Centerra, and Fluor did not respond to The Intercept’s requests for comment.

In addition, five Louisiana National Guard members, including an anti-terrorism officer, went to Guandolo’s three-day training.

“It is very commonplace, and very typical for us as a statewide organization, to get invited to attend and participate in training that is being conducted by any number of our various partner agencies,” Col. Ed Bush, a spokesperson for the Louisiana National Guard, told The Intercept. “The fact that we attended this training is a best practice for us, and whenever possible we always try to have representation at these training events, just for our own situational awareness and to maintain those partnerships that are key to our ability to respond as a state.” He added: “Attendance isn’t an endorsement.”

This was not the first time members of the military attended a Guandolo class. In an email obtained by The Intercept through a separate public records request, Guandolo told a local detective planning an upcoming training that Department of Defense employees had signed up for his February 2014 event in Culpeper County, Virginia. And in July 2011, he gave a guest lecture at the Joint Forces Staff College to a class for captains, colonels, and commanders. In that class, Guandolo used material that justified the Crusades and claimed that Muslims were enemies of the West and commanded to hate Jews and Christians.

After Wired exposed that class and other anti-Muslim material given to FBI agents, the Obama administration ordered government agencies to review their counterterrorism trainings. The FBI purged hundreds of anti-Muslim documents from its training material.

The “Understanding the Jihadi Threat” event at the Warroad Baptist Church in Warroad, Minn., Oct. 17, 2016.

Photo: Monika Lawrence

But the problem of anti-Muslim counterterrorism training persists. The documents related to Guandolo’s seminar in Louisiana suggest that federal government workers have attended locally sponsored anti-Muslim events with little oversight.

And the problem isn’t limited to Guandolo. In March, CAIR asked the U.S. Air Force to cut its ties with Patrick Dunleavy, an instructor who lectures at the United States Air Force Special Operations School in Florida. Dunleavy has written that the values of religious freedom and free speech are “contrary to the moral code of Islam” and that “to many Muslim parents, visions of violence and death” are the future they aspire to.

“It doesn’t look like this is an area where the federal government is doing its job and ensuring that its employees don’t participate in bigoted trainings,” said Farhana Khera, the executive director of Muslim Advocates.

In 2011, Khera secured a commitment from John Brennan, then President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, to create an interagency task force to ensure that law enforcement training material was not biased. But in 2014, after The Intercept published a document showing anti-Muslim bias in National Security Agency training documents, Muslim Advocates and dozens of other organizations called on the Obama administration to go beyond that task force. They asked the administration to be more transparent about how pervasive anti-Muslim trainings were and to ensure that the officials responsible were disciplined and the participants in those trainings were retrained. It is unclear if the Obama administration took any of those steps.

While biased trainings for federal employees are not a new issue, civil rights groups say they are especially disturbing in light of the election of Donald Trump, who has brought anti-Muslim activists like White House strategist Steve Bannon — who hosted Guandolo on his Breitbart radio show — into the halls of power.

“It’s even more troubling today because we now have a president and senior members of his administration who traffic in anti-Muslim bigotry,” said Khera. “So our concern is that you have the senior most official in the U.S. government giving a wink-wink, nod-nod to exactly this kind of bigotry.”

Top photo: John Guandolo, a former FBI agent, speaks to the audience in the Warroad Baptist Church in Warroad, Minn., Oct. 17, 2016.

The post Anti-Muslim Conspiracy Theorist Trained Senior U.S. Marshal, National Guard Members, Documents Show appeared first on The Intercept.

Join The Intercept in Documenting the Conflicts of Interest of Hundreds of Trump Appointees

25 May 2017 - 9:57am

The Trump administration has faced a growing clamor over the glaring conflicts of interest of many of its high-level appointees.

Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s former national security adviser, is currently under investigation for his failure to report $45,000 in fees for a speech given in Moscow to RT, the Russian state media outlet. The billionaire investor Carl Icahn has been criticized for serving as an informal and unpaid adviser to Trump, including on areas in which Icahn has a direct financial interest.

What’s more difficult to track, however, are the conflicts of interest of lower-level appointees — the personnel who execute Trump administration policy on a day to day basis.

To shed light on these appointees’ backgrounds, The Intercept and the Center for Media and Democracy have requested the Office of Government Ethics Form 278, the standard financial disclosure document, for hundreds of Trump officials. We have now received over 150 of them and compiled them in a public Google Documents table, and will be adding more as they arrive.

As seen below, we have begun examining these appointees’ previous lives in the D.C. swamp, including stints as lobbyists and trips through the industry-government revolving door.

We invite readers to join us in combing through the pasts of these appointees, as well as informing us of any officials whose disclosure forms we have not obtained. Many appointments are made without announcements and are not identified on the relevant agency websites.

We will credit you if we use any of your work in future stories. We can be contacted by email at lee.fang@theintercept.com (encryption key available here) and nick@prwatch.org, or via Twitter at @LHFang and @NickSurgey. Instructions for communicating with The Intercept anonymously and with additional security are available here.


The documents show numerous potential conflicts of interest:

Anthony DeMartino, appointed as deputy chief of staff to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, previously consulted for defense contractor Palantir, helping the firm cultivate “government relationships,” according to his ethics disclosure. DeMartino’s consulting work was conducted through “SBD Advisors,” a firm with ties to high-level military officials. Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter previously worked for SBD Advisors, and the its current advisory board includes retired Adm. Michael Mullen, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Barack Obama. The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Anthony DeMartino Office of the Secretary of Defense
Deputy Chief of Staff Form 278

Travis Scott Fisher and Daniel Simmons, two appointees at the Department of Energy, previously worked for the Institute for Energy Research, a pro-fossil fuel think tank founded by oil and gas billionaire Charles Koch. The Department of Energy is deeply involved in the approval of liquified natural gas export projects, a field in which Koch’s business has deep involvement. The Department of Energy did not respond to a request for comment.

Travis Scott Fisher Department of Energy
Assistant to the Secretary Form 278 Daniel Simmons Department of Energy
Assistant to the Secretary Form 278

In other cases, Trump officials appear to have failed to follow the instructions for Form 278, which state that filers must name any source that paid more than $5,000 for their services. This is designed to force attorneys and lobbyists to disclose their significant clients.

Nathan Miller, appointed as a senior adviser to the Small Business Administration, is a former corporate lobbyist at a company called Public Strategies Washington. According to the required lobbying disclosure forms, Miller and other PSW staff met with Senate officials on behalf of clients including Bain Capital, Lockheed Martin, and Liberty Mutual last year in return for payments to his firm far over $5,000. However, none of these clients are listed in Miller’s presidential appointee disclosure form. Carol Wilkerson, the spokesperson for the SBA, sent us the following statement: “Utilizing our normal review processes, we have determined that appropriate disclosures were made with respect to Mr. Miller’s New Entrant OGE 278e Report.”

Nathan Miller Small Business Administration
Senior Adviser Form 278

Anthony Pugliese, a senior White House adviser to the Department of Transportation, previously worked as a state-based lobbyist in Pennsylvania. Pugliese’s state lobbying disclosure shows clients including John Deere and Luxottica Retail North America. But Pugliese’s federal ethics disclosure reveals no client information. The Department of Transportation press office did not respond to a request for comment.

Anthony Pugliese Department of Transportation
Senior White House Adviser Form 278

Michael Egan, appointed as the special assistant to Department of Defense White House liaison, previously worked for the Boston Consulting Group. Egan lists three consulting clients but does not disclose their identities, instead writing “Not specified” and the city where each client is headquartered. The Defense Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Michael Egan Department of Defense
Special Assistant to the White House Liaison, OSD Form 278

Justin Schwab, a senior attorney appointed to the Environmental Protection Agency, initially only listed his former law firm Baker Hostetler and did not disclose any clients. After being contacted by reporters, Schwab refiled his disclosure, revealing that he previously worked for Southern Co., a major utility that is directly affected by the Clean Power Plan climate change regulation. “We decline to comment,” wrote Enesta Jones, EPA spokesperson, when reached for a response.

Justin Schwab EPA
Senior Adviser Form 278

The post Join The Intercept in Documenting the Conflicts of Interest of Hundreds of Trump Appointees appeared first on The Intercept.

A Chain Of Corporate Newspapers Could Make The Difference In Montana’s Special Election

24 May 2017 - 10:33pm

As Montana’s voters decide who will represent them in Congress in Thursday’s special election, their choice will be heavily informed by their local newspapers. That bodes well for Republican Greg Gianforte.

Earlier this month, a trio of Montana’s largest newspapers — The Missoulian, the Helena Independent Record, and the Billings Gazette — all endorsed Republican businessman Greg Gianforte over Democratic musician turned candidate Rob Quist.

The papers all share a single owner, the Iowa-based Lee Enterprises, whose board is stacked with Republican donors, and all three were dropped on the same day, May 14th, as Republicans began to panic that the race might genuinely be in play. All three endorsements made similar arguments — deep reservations about his more extreme ideological positions, such as his rejection of evolution, coupled with optimism that he will set those bizarre views aside and do right by Montana in Washington.

In addition to the endorsements, the three papers have focused their reporting heavily on Quist’s debt and financial woes. On the Wednesday night before the election, a reporter for the Guardian, which is headquartered in London, Ben Jacobs, was interviewing Gianforte about his evolving position on Trump’s health care plan when the Republican candidate slammed him to the ground, according to Jacobs, backed up by audio of the encounter. The Billings Gazette led its story: “A foreign correspondent from the Guardian has accused GOP U.S. House candidate Greg Gianforte of assaulting him during an interview.”

Jacobs is American and lives in the United States.

“There is a pretty long history of papers breaking toward business interests in this state,” said Lee Banville, an Associate Professor of Journalism at the University of Montana. “Endorsements came from publishers and they often skewed pro-business. So, the fact that the papers editorialized that way is not too shocking.”

The Lee board includes a number of Republican donors and other conservatives. The enterprise owns two other local newspapers in the state as well; neither explicitly endorsed, though they run copy from their sister publications.

Nancy Donovan, a founding partner of the Circle Financial Group, has been on the Lee Enterprises board since 2003. She gave $1,000 to support former Republican House Leader’s John Boehner’s re-election in 2010, and $2,400 to former Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk’s campaign.

Gregory P. Schermer, who spent 27 years with Lee before retiring and remains a member of the board, donated to the presidential bids of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Marco Rubio.

Herb Moloney, who is a Lead Director on the board, was previously a publisher of the conservative Washington Examiner.

Other members of the board, such as Frank Magid, have given to both Democrats and Republicans.  Leanord Elmore gave $450 to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

“The one that is really interesting is here in Missoula. Missoula is basically the Berkley of Montana, a liberal college town with lots of your people and intellectual progressive types. This is not a town or county Greg Gianforte will win,” said Banville. “And so the paper backing the Republican caught a lot of flak from the community because it did not represent the town. And if you read it, the paper is justifying its decision throughout rather than outlining a positive case for the Republican. It is written in a defensive crouch; I think because of the reaction they knew they would get.”

The Missoulian editorial is indeed titled “Our endorsement in the special election (with some reservations),” and those reservations are obvious in the writing. The paper writes that Gianforte has “the education, experience, brains and abilities to be successful in Congress. But only if he holds firm to his promise to set aside his own personal ideology whenever necessary in order to uphold Montana values.” It notes that the candidate “assured the Missoulian editorial board that he can and will do just that. The people of Montana must hold him to that pledge.”

Last week, Chris Rush, the publisher of The World, a local paper in Oregon owned by Lee Enterprises, stepped down from his job, and offered a blunt assessment in his goodbye column.

The industry’s economic fortunes have changed for the worse since the ‘great recession’ of 2008. Corporate ownership by publicly-traded companies like Gannett, Gatehouse, McClatchy and Lee Enterprises (which owns this newspaper) has become the norm. Independent and family-owned newspapers with deep roots in their local communities are disappearing from the landscape.

At the same time, I have watched the autonomy of the local newspaper being eroded day by day and replaced with central planning from remote corporate offices. More and more decisions about your local newspaper — from its national news and feature content to how much you pay for your subscription — are being determined in boardrooms far away.

The column was picked up by a former reporter running a blog in Montana. He thought he noticed something familiar.

Top photo: The three candidates, Republican Greg Gianforte, from left, Democrat Rob Quist and Libertarian Mark Wicks vying to fill Montana’s only congressional seat await the start of the only televised debate ahead of the May 25 special election, on April 29, 2017, in Great Falls, Mont.

The post A Chain Of Corporate Newspapers Could Make The Difference In Montana’s Special Election appeared first on The Intercept.

Governo que pedia unificação nacional é responsável agora por um país em chamas

24 May 2017 - 5:51pm

O Brasil não é um país de metáforas, costuma dizer uma amiga. Por aqui, mar de lama são resíduos de barragem rompida, zica é questão de saúde pública e o partido da Ponte para o Futuro é o mesmo que derruba ciclovia em sua administração.Desta vez a não metáfora é uma manchete de portal: “Brasília está em chamas”.

E não só porque, um ano depois do impeachment, a capital é o cartão-postal de um país longe de ser pacificado, como garantiam os arquitetos da nova (nova?) ordem. Ou porque uma rebelião de partidos aliados promete deixar um presidente rejeitado pela opinião pública sangrando sozinho enquanto tenta, de forma patética, se defender da acusação de corrupção passiva, obstrução de Justiça e organização criminosa. Ou porque um (outro) auxiliar do mandatário está preso junto com dois ex-governadores acusados de desvios nas obras do estádio Mané Garrincha, um elefante branco que recebeu mais recursos do que torcedores após a Copa do Mundo de inaceitáveis 12 sedes. Ou porque o Congresso tenta aprovar na marra as reformas igualmente rejeitadas pela população que não escolheu a agenda adotada pelo presidente que não foi eleito para o posto.

Brasília ficou literalmente em chamas após mais de 35 mil manifestantes se reunirem contra o governo e as reformas Trabalhista e da Previdência. Até onde se sabe, um grupo com cerca de 50 pessoas, após confusão com a polícia, promoveu quebra-quebra, incendiou os ministérios da Agricultura, da Fazenda e da Cultura e depredou outros dois prédios, segundo o UOL. Todos os prédios da Esplanada foram evacuados, e as imagens de documentos em chamas e de vidraças, persianas, paradas de ônibus, placas de trânsito, orelhões, banheiros químicos arrebentados no entorno de Brasília se espalharam como num rastilho.

Fogo no Ministério da Agricultura durante protestos na Esplanada.

Foto: AFP/Getty Images

Michel Temer decretou ação de garantia de lei e da ordem e, como se confirmasse o delírio de saudosos da ditadura que se multiplicaram em outras manifestações recentes pelo país, tropas federais cercaram o Palácio do Planalto e o Itamaraty.

A ação acontece no pior momento do governo Temer, que nos últimos dias parecia finalmente unificar a nação no sentido da rejeição.

Quem até ontem era chamado de revanchista por gritar “Fora, Temer” e acusar o chamado golpe parlamentar ganhava a companhia de parte da opinião pública que fatalmente acompanhou revoltada a escalada do noticiário contra um governo cercado por delinquentes de todo tipo.

Acuado e prestes a cair de maduro, Temer fatalmente usará as cenas como argumento político da ordem (a que ajudou a degringolar) contra o caos – este supostamente provocado por partidários interessados em sua queda. Sabe que, em boa parte da opinião pública, apenas o medo da “baderna”, citada há pouco pelo seu ministro da Defesa, Raul Jungmann, é maior do que a sua rejeição.

Em seu pronunciamento, o ministro justificou a convocação das tropas federais dizendo que a marcha, “prevista como pacífica, degringolou para a violência, desrespeito, ameaça às pessoas”. Segundo ele, “o presidente da República faz questão de ressaltar que é inaceitável a baderna e o descontrole. E que ele não permitirá que atos como esse venham a turbar um processo que se desenvolve de forma democrática e com respeito às instituições”.

Sem força política, Temer ganhou uma brecha para fazer o que governantes impopulares fazem nas horas de desespero: apelar para o medo. Não faltará quem veja nessa brecha a chance de alimentar o seu próprio Reichstag. O mais provável, porém, é que as cenas do incêndio e da pancadaria em Brasília sirvam como epígrafe de um governo que prometeu pacificar o país e o devolveu em chamas.

The post Governo que pedia unificação nacional é responsável agora por um país em chamas appeared first on The Intercept.

Reações ao atentado após show de Ariana Grande mostram como antimuçulmanos são “idiotas úteis” para o ISIS

24 May 2017 - 5:13pm

Se você quiser  derrotar o Estado Islâmico, ouça o ex-refém Nicolas Henin. O grupo é “encorajado por qualquer sinal de reação exagerada, divisão, medo, racismo, xenofobia… [e] atraído por qualquer exemplo de podridão em redes sociais”, escreveu o jornalista francês em novembro de 2015, no início dos ataques em Paris. “Um ponto central em sua visão de mundo é a crença de que outras comunidades não podem conviver com muçulmanos, e todos os dias suas antenas estarão ligadas para encontrar evidências de apoio”.

Entenderam? A islamofobia dá vantagem ao ISIS. Consciente ou inconscientemente, intolerantes antimuçulmanos tornaram-se sargentos de recrutamento para um grupo que dizem odiar e querer destruir. Os islamofóbicos, parafraseando Lenin, são os “idiotas úteis” da ISIS.

Consideremos sua reação à atrocidade terrorista mais recente: o atentado suicida após o show de Ariana Grande, em Manchester, Inglaterra, que matou 22 pessoas, incluindo uma menina de 8 anos nessa segunda-feira (22). O ISIS, que assumiu autoria do terrível ataque, poderia esperar uma melhor resposta dos seus idiotas úteis da direita britânica?

A colunista do MailOnline e apresentadora de rádio Katie Hopkins – podemos chamá-la de Ann Coulter do Reino Unido, mas com um QI muito menor – tem um longo histórico de demonização dos muçulmanos e foi ao Twitter horas depois do atentado exigir uma “solução final” (mais tarde ela deletou seu tweet com requintes nazistas, ao ser denunciada à polícia). Hopkins, que já disse que “o Islã é o problema” porque é uma “religião atrasada”, também twittou que “os homens ocidentais” deveriam: “Levantar-se. Erguer-se. Exigir ações”.

Allison Pearson, colunista do jornal britânico mais vendido, The Daily Telegraph, que no passado descreveu os imigrantes muçulmanos como vindos de  “alguma cultura atrasada”, também se juntou às vozes. “Precisamos de um estado de emergência, assim como a França”, ela twittou em resposta ao massacre de Manchester. “Precisamos prender os milhares de suspeitos de terrorismo agora para proteger nossas crianças”. Inocente até que se prove o contrário? Por favor.

Há, também, Tommy Robinson, ex-líder da Liga de Defesa Inglesa, de extrema-direita (pense em um Richard Spencer britânico; contudo, também, com um menor intelecto e um longo histórico de criminalidade e violência). Robinson chegou a Manchester na terça para acusar moradores britânico-muçulmanos da cidade de serem “combatentes inimigos”. Eles querem “matá-lo, mutilá-lo e destruí-lo”, ele disse aos seus seguidores no YouTube, companheiros intolerantes de extrema-direita.

Pode-se quase ouvi-los celebrando em Raqqa. O ISIS quer colocar lenha na fogueira entre as comunidades muçulmanas e a sociedade ocidental como um todo; quer colocar muçulmanos contra não muçulmanos. Isso também não é segredo: os líderes do grupo o admitiram em suas próprias publicações. Mais de dois anos atrás, em fevereiro de 2015, a revista online do ISIS, Dabiq, tornou claro que um dos principais objetivos dos ataques brutais do grupo no Ocidente foi destruir a “zona cinzenta” — de coexistência pacífica entre muçulmanos e não muçulmanos — e provocar uma reação em massa. “Os muçulmanos no Ocidente rapidamente se verão entre duas opções: ou desertam sua religião e adotam a  religião [infiel]… ou eles… [emigram] para o Estado Islâmico e, assim, escapam da perseguição dos governos e cidadãos cruzados”.

Esse grande plano do ISIS sempre precisou do apoio  (talvez inconsciente) de seus idiotas úteis no Ocidente, os islamofóbicos, cujas retóricas e ações duras ajudam a levar muçulmanos marginalizados e alienados aos braços abertos dos jihadistas.

Os incitadores de ódio anti-muçulmano não estão, obviamente, dispostos a admitir o papel central que desempenham no processo de radicalização. “Os terroristas não estão nem aí para o que eu twitto, escrevo ou digo”, insiste Hopkins em sua coluna no MailOnline no dia seguinte ao atentado em Manchester. “Eles não dão a mínima se nos dividimos ou fingimos estar unidos”.

Antes fosse verdade. Esqueçamos Dabiq. Consideremos, em vez disso, o que Arie Kruglanski, professor de psicologia da Universidade de Maryland que estuda radicalização, disse após os ataques a Paris em novembro de 2015. Um crescente clima de islamofobia é o que o ISIS está “aspirando — provocar comunidades para que cometam ações contra os muçulmanos”, disse ao Washington Post. “Então, o ISIS poderá dizer: ‘Eu avisei. Estes são nossos inimigos, inimigos do Islã’”.

Outro professor de psicologia que estuda os extremistas muçulmanos, Jocelyn Bélanger, da Universidade de Quebec em Montreal, concorda. “Quando as pessoas sentem uma perda de significância — quando são humilhadas —, isso as estimula a se unirem a um grupo radical”, declarou ao The Washington Post.

Os islamofóbicos se veem como porta-vozes politicamente incorretos da verdade; como oponentes audaciosos e contundentes dos radicais e dos extremistas. A realidade é que eles são os cúmplices, os agentes não remunerados daqueles mesmos radicais e extremistas. Todo terrorista precisa de uma Katie Hopkins. É uma das grandes ironias dos nossos tempos — aqueles que bradam mais alto sobre a ameaça representada pelo ISIS são, muitas vezes, os maiores propagandistas da ISIS.

Conforme meu colega Murtaza Hussain observou, é “perverso e contraproducente relacionar [os muçulmanos ocidentais] ao ISIS e os culparem pelas ações do grupo”. Fazer tal coisa é “conceder ao Estado Islâmico um golpe de propaganda, endossando implicitamente a narrativa do grupo de que muçulmanos e ocidentais estão em guerra coletiva uns contra os outros”.

Quando o ISIS alega que representa o Islã “verdadeiro”, descreve a religião islâmica como violenta ou sugere que os muçulmanos ocidentais devem sua lealdade a eles e não ao Ocidente, os islamofóbicos se atropelam para endossar cada um desses pontos. Lamentavelmente, estes últimos não dão a mínima atenção, por exemplo, aos motoristas de táxi muçulmanos que transportaram os sobreviventes para casa da Arena de Manchester gratuitamente, ou aos médicos muçulmanos de hospitais que trabalharam madrugada adentro cuidando dos feridos. O fato de que deve ter havido jovens fãs muçulmanos no show de Ariana Grande em Manchester, na noite de segunda-feira, quando a bomba explodiu, também parece estar além de sua compreensão.

O fato é que o ISIS quer semear divisão e discórdia nas sociedades ocidentais, e seus idiotas úteis no Ocidente estão muito felizes em ajudá-los a fazê-lo. “Coesão, tolerância – não é isso que [o ISIS] quer ver”, aponta o ex-refém Henin, em 2015. “O que eles temem”, ele conclui, “é a união”.

Foto no topo: Um policial protege a cena perto do Manchester Arena em 23 de maio de 2017 em Manchester, Inglaterra. Uma explosão ocorreu enquanto o público deixava a arena após uma performance de Ariana Grande.

Tradução: Fernando Fico

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