Pay Attention Folks — It Was the GOP that Demanded AP be Investigated!

— by Vickie Rock, NV Rural Democratic Caucus, 2013-05-14

Have you been paying attention?  The GOP doesn’t think so and they’re trying to pull the wool over everybody’s eyes with this “AP phone records” announcement, as though their fingerprints weren’t anywhere near this “fiasco.”  Let me refresh your memory by referring back to a few items of note, that happened just about one year ago, when GOP legislators were up in arms about security information published in the media — by the AP — that was way too accurate for their comfort.  In fact, were claiming treasonous breaches in security had been committed and that the security leaks led all the way to the White House.  Thus, they were demanding that a special prosecutor be appointed and that maybe, just maybe, impeachment of Obama was in order for this egregious act :

“This administration cannot be trusted to investigate itself,” Sen John Cornyn (R-TX), said during a Capitol Hill press conference Tuesday. “You cannot investigate yourself and not have a conflict of interest.” Sen John McCain (R-AZ) declared:  “I continue to call on the president to immediately appoint a special counsel to fully investigate, and where necessary, prosecute these gravely serious breaches of our national security.”

Here’s a couple of articles to refresh your memories:

Thirty-one GOP senators call for special counsel to investigate security leaks
— by Alexander Bolton, The Hill  – 06/26/12 11:09 AM ET

“The numerous national-security leaks reportedly originating out of the executive branch in recent months have been stunning,” they wrote to Holder.

“If true, they reveal details of some of our nation’s most highly classified and sensitive military and intelligence matters, thereby risking our national security, as well as the lives of American citizens and our allies. If there were ever a case requiring an outside special counsel with bipartisan acceptance and widespread public trust, this is it,” they wrote.

GOP lawmakers even went so far as to name just ‘who’ might be responsible — National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon.  Among those signing the letter circulated by Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) were Senators:  John McCain (AZ), Mitch McConnell (KY), Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Kelley Ayotte (NH), Roy Blunt (MO), John Barrasso (WY), Saxby Chambliss (GA), Susan Collins (Maine), Jim DeMint (SC), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Marco Rubio (Fla.) and John Thune (SD).

GOP senators press Holder for special prosecutor into potential national security leaks
Published June 26, 2012, FoxNews.com

Fox’s take on just exactly ‘who’ might be at fault was a bit higher on the food chain, claiming that GOP senators were urging “AG Eric Holder to appoint a special counsel to investigate whether the White House is responsible for national security leaks.”

Oh, and let’s not forget — the GOP’s letter to AG Eric Holder was sent right around the same time that the GOP-led House was “expected to vote on whether to hold him in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with subpoena requests to provide more documents regarding the Justice Department’s failed Fast and Furious gun-tracking operation.”

Holder launches probe into possible national security leaks
— b
y David Jackson, USA TODAY, 2012-06-09 6:15 AM

AG Eric Holder Friday appointed two U.S. attorneys [Ronald Machen, the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland] to lead a pair of criminal investigations into possible national security leaks of classified information.  For Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), that wasn’t quite good enough, he wanted a special counsel who could pursue impeachment, if they could snag enough evidence.

So now, advance forward to today, when some of the fruits of their demand for an investigation have reached fruition — and once again — they’re playing yet another game of “pin the blame on the donkey.”

Under sweeping subpoenas, Justice Department obtained AP phone records in leak investigation
— by
Sari Horwitz, Published: May 13. 2013

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months’ worth of telephone records of journalists working for the Associated Press as part of a year-long investigation into the disclosure of classified information about a failed al-Qaeda plot last year.  The aggressive investigation into the possible disclosure of classified information to the AP is part of a pattern in which the Obama administration has pursued current and former government officials suspected of releasing secret material. Six officials have been prosecuted, more than under all previous administrations combined.

You’d think the GOP would be jumping for joy.  NOPE!  They’re pissed that the Administration, particularly, that other black guy, you know, Eric Holder, actually managed to get the job done.

“We take seriously our obligations to follow all applicable laws, federal regulations, and Department of Justice policies when issuing subpoenas for phone records of media organizations,” said a statement from Bill Miller, spokesman for the office. “Those regulations require us to make every reasonable effort to obtain information through alternative means before even considering a subpoena for the phone records of a member of the media.”

The story at issue included details of a CIA operation in Yemen that foiled an al-Qaeda plot in the spring of 2012 to set off a bomb on an airplane headed to the United States. The April and May 2012 phone records of the reporters and editor of the story were among the material seized by the Justice Department.

But, those phone records aren’t all that were pursued in the leak investigation.  Numerous senior government officials have been interviewed in connection with the investigation into the AP story. Among those questioned was John O. Brennan, who served as Obama’s counterterrorism adviser before becoming CIA director this year.

The GOP is hoping you won’t remember their fingerprints are all over this one.  So now they’re going to jump up and down, screaming that journalists 1st Amendment rights have been rudely violated as a smokescreen to cover up what they themselves demanded.  And then, they’ll look to see what other impediments they can enact and throw out there to prevent him and any other attorney general from being able to get their jobs done so they can appease their base.

Darrell Issa (R-CA),chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee was particularly displeased, saying:  “Coming within a week of revelations that the White House lied to the American people about the Benghazi attacks and the IRS targeted conservative Americans for their political beliefs, Americans should take notice that top Obama administration officials increasingly see themselves as above the law and emboldened by the belief that they don’t have to answer to anyone,”

Pardon me, but, the Administration (meaning President Obama) didn’t lie about Benghazi and in particular, in the Rose Garden, on nationwide TV actually characterized the events occurring in Benghazi as “acts of terror.”  But apparently the the GOP Dictionary, “acts of terror” and “TERRORISM” are two totally unrelated terms describing events.  In addition, the IRS was merely doing it’s job.  501c3 and 501c4 social service agencies are tax-exempt agencies that do NOT have to disclose their donors.  Given the proliferation of the number of applications the IRS was receiving with either “TEA PARTY” or “PATRIOTS” in their official organizational NAME, and given that the TEA PARTY is a official sub-division of the REPUBLICAN PARTY, the IRS had and has and obligation to assess whether those organizations should be exempted from our nation’s tax laws because of the nature of the social services they provide to our society.  Frankly, in my personal opinion, I believe they erred in a large number of cases, as I’ve seen NO social services being offered, but one helluva lot of partisan-biased political advertising pass across my television screen.

The AP story is related to  just one of the investigations demanded by the GOP  The second “leak investigation” ordered by AG Eric Holder, at their request, involves a New York Times report about the Stuxnet computer worm, which was developed jointly by the United States and Israel to damage nuclear centrifuges at Iran’s main uranium-enrichment plant.

So standby … it ain’t over yet. I can hardly wait to hear what the GOP has to say should one of their precious donors or propagandists are found to have “leaked” sensitive security information and are prosecuted for, of all things, treason!

Too Big to Jail?

— an Op-Ed by Senator Bernie Sanders

We are supposed to be a country of laws. The laws should apply to Wall Street as well as everybody else. So I was stunned when our country’s top law enforcement official recently suggested it might be difficult to prosecute financial institutions that commit crimes because it may destabilize the financial system of our country and the world.

“I am concerned,” Attorney General Eric Holder told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if we do prosecute — if we do bring a criminal charge — it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy.”

The attorney general was talking about some of the same financial institutions that received billions, and in some cases trillions, of dollars in taxpayer bailouts after their greed, recklessness and illegal behavior plunged the country into a terrible recession. Over my opposition, Congress approved a $700 billion taxpayer bailout of financial institutions that were on the brink of collapse which some in Congress considered “too big to fail.”

In addition, the Federal Reserve provided over $16 trillion in total financial assistance to these same institutions during the financial crisis (which only became public after an amendment I inserted into the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act requiring the Fed to disclose this information).

The attorney general’s view seems to be that if you are just a regular person and you commit a crime, you go to jail. But if you are the head of a Wall Street company, your power is so great that a prosecution could have destabilizing consequences with national or even worldwide implications.

In other words, we have a situation now where Wall Street banks are not only too big to fail, they are too big to jail. That view is unacceptable.

The attorney general’s troubling acknowledgement has revived interest in an idea that is drawing more and more support. It is time to break up too big to fail financial institutions.

The 10 largest banks in the United States are bigger today than they were before a taxpayer bailout following the 2008 financial crisis.

U.S. banks have become so big that the six largest financial institutions in this country (J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) today have assets of nearly $9.6 trillion, a figure equal to about two-thirds of the nation’s gross domestic product. These six financial institutions issue more than two-thirds of all credit cards, over half of all mortgages, control 95 percent of all derivatives held in financial institutions and hold more than 40 percent of all bank deposits in the United States.

I will soon introduce legislation that would give the Treasury secretary 90 days to compile a list of commercial banks, investment banks, hedge funds and insurance companies that the Treasury Department determines are too big to fail. The affected financial institutions would include “any entity that has grown so large that its failure would have a catastrophic effect on the stability of either the financial system or the United States economy without substantial government assistance.” Within one year after the legislation becomes law, the Treasury Department would be required to break up those banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions identified by the secretary.

Breaking up the too big to fail financial institutions is a notion that has drawn support from some leading figures in the financial community. Richard Fisher, president of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, wrote this: “The safer the individual banks, the safer the financial system. The ultimate destination — an economy relatively free from financial crises — won’t be reached until we have the fortitude to break up the giant banks.” James Bullard, the head of the St. Louis Fed, also weighed in. “I do kind of agree that ‘too big to fail’ is ‘too big to exist.'” Thomas Hoenig, the former Kansas City Fed president, was an early supporter of the idea of breaking up big U.S. banks. “I think [too big to fail banks] should be broken up. And in doing so, I think you’ll make the financial system itself more stable. I think you will make it more competitive, and I think you will have long-run benefits over our current system, which leads to bailouts when crises occur.”

In my view, no single financial institution should be so large that its failure would cause catastrophic risk to millions of American jobs or to our nation’s economic well-being. No single financial institution should have holdings so extensive that its failure could send the world economy into crisis. And, perhaps most importantly, no institution in America should be above the law. We need to break up these institutions because of the tremendous damage they have done to our economy.

If an institution is too big to fail, it is too big to exist.