Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/tbrnew5/public_html/wp-includes/post-template.php on line 284

TBR News October 8, 2016

Oct 08 2016

The Voice of the White House  

 

Washington, D.C.  October 8, 2016:” More hacked Clinton messaging is becoming public and, true to form, her staff is screaming that the Russians are responsible. Actually, Hillary is responsible for her messages, not the Kremlin, and if she was indiscreet, that can only be laid at her feet, not Putin’s. Trump is certainly eccentric at times but Hillary is deliberately dishonest, manipulative, vindictive and physically quite ill. It is a pity that there are not more choices for the increasingly turned-off voting public.”

Postelection destinations for disgruntled Americans

Polls suggest that most Americans won’t get the president they want this year. It’s a big world if they decide to give up on their homeland.

October 8, 2016

DW

The national myth goes that immigrants and malcontents built the United States, which perhaps explains Americans’ quadrennial proclamations of their preparedness to bolt should their candidate not win the presidency. The numbers don’t necessarily bear this out, though. Despite all the promises, there’s no real year-on-year change in US emigration to Canada, for example, following presidential elections. Still, the 2016 campaign has proved more polarizing than most, and plenty of Americans have promised that they’re outta here should Trump or Clinton win. Here are a few places they might go.

Australia

Oceania’s largest island fills its domestic skills gap through a points system that privileges highly trained workers such as barristers, bricklayers and, of course, brain surgeons.

What Americans need to live there: Skills that Australia is looking for. Otherwise, mixed- and same-gender marriages, betrothals and de facto partnerships are recognized for Americans lucky enough to have an Australian love in their lives.

What Trump supporters will like: Naturally big and beautiful, the Pacific Ocean has proved an effective border wall for Australia, which uses the world’s largest body of water to keep out people who have internationally recognized claims to asylum.

What Clinton supporters will like: Even Australia’s right-wing regimes run left of the US Democrats on domestic policy. Gun control? Following a mass shooting in 1996, the federal government bought back or confiscated more than a million firearms nationwide, leading to a gun murder rate of 0.15 per 100,000 population – compared with 3.4 per 100,000 population in the United States. Publicly funded universal health care? Since 1984.

Panama

The US military’s 1989 removal of CIA-installed dictator Manuel Noriega aside, Panamanian leaders have been mostly cozy with their counterparts up north for well over a century. The United States supported the Latin American linchpin’s independence from Colombia in 1903 – and gained sovereign rights to its forthcoming eponymous canal in the process.

What Americans need to live there: A modest savings will support a higher standard of living in Panama than it would in most US states. A monthly income of just $1,000 (900 euros) – say, from Social Security or anything else relatively legitimate – is good enough for a pensioner’s visa, whatever one’s age.

What Trump supporters will like: The mostly Spanish-speaking population aside, Panama is a lot like being in the United States. The dollar is accepted as legal tender, and direct flights leave Panama City daily for destinations like Dallas, deep in the heart of Trump-friendly Texas. Plus, as a haven for shell companies, Panama offers myriad ways to dodge US income taxes. In the first presidential debate, the Republican candidate said evading such collective contributions “makes me smart.”

What Clinton supporters will like: Avoiding taxation is not necessarily partisan, and US media report that a number of Clinton allies used the country to offshore their wealth, as revealed in the Panama Papers this spring. The massive leak even found that Clinton’s senatorial campaign finance manager was connected to a Panamanian bank account that could legally have hidden wealth from the IRS, the US tax agency.

Seychelles

With year-round temperatures hovering around 30 degrees Celsius (85 F), Africa’s least-populated nation is a pleasant spot to ride out the next four to eight years on nearly unspoiled beaches.

What Americans need to live there: Twenty thousand Seychelles rupees (1,350 euros/$1,500) in the bank, about double that for the application fee and the ability to make a “special contribution to the economic, social or cultural life of Seychelles.”

What Trump supporters will like: An investment hub with thriving tourism, the 115-island archipelago is an ideal place for soaking up sun and daydreaming about installing an Indian Ocean version of Atlantic City – and then having a swim instead.

What Clinton supporters will like: Inches south of the Equator and vulnerable to global warming and extreme weather patterns, Seychelles is so serious about fighting climate change that it has assigned a permanent ambassador to the task. It’s one place where they’ll never have to hear a debate about the benefits of carbon emissions.

Singapore

The Southeast Asian city-state is a multilingual economic powerhouse that sucks up labor from around the region and across the world.

What Americans need to live there: Short of having an acceptance letter from a university or a partner, parent or child in Singapore, well, it’s tough. After years of employers looking abroad to solve Singapore’s labor shortage, the “Manpower” Ministry recently instituted new rules to make the hiring of foreigners more difficult. But 50,000 Singapore dollars (32,700 euros/$36,500) and a solid business plan are a good start.

What Trump supporters will like: “I am the law-and-order candidate,” the nominee told the Republican convention in July. Supporters who took Trump at his word will really appreciate Singapore, a tightly run technocracy where order is the law and laws are written to favor businesses. This is the country, after all, where an American 18-year-old was caned after being accused of spray-painting on cars – the US president at the time was Bill Clinton.

What Clinton supporters will like: A history of good relations – at the Clinton administration’s request, the teen was whacked four times with the cane rather than the six he was sentenced to. And, as Obama’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton helped get Singapore to sign on to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact (though she’s less into that now).

United Kingdom

Prime Minister Theresa May intends to begin Brexit talks next spring, which will be the next step in fully withdrawing the most aloof EU member state from the bloc and, some Brits hope, reinvigorating the UK’s special relationship with the US.

What Americans need to live there: Money. Even with its pound diminished by the Brexit vote, the UK is expensive. Annual overseas tuition starts at 15,000 pounds (17,000 euros/$19,000). Foreigners who wish to reside with their UK citizen partners of the same sex or another one need to pair up with someone who pulls in at least 18,600 pounds.

What Trump supporters will like: Should they naturalize, they’ll be able to vote for the UK Independence Party to keep further immigrants out. Purely superficially, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s mussy blond mop compares favorably with the Donald’s own do. A Trump-branded golf course is within the UK’s borders, in Balmedie – but supporters may have to get their 18 holes in soon: There’s a chance that Scotland could secede to rejoin the EU.

What Clinton supporters will like: The National Health Service, gun laws that have reduced firearms murders to one-thirtieth of the US’s total, and a ready supply of affordably priced and appropriately spiced curry – because everyone likes that.

Hacked emails appear to reveal excerpts of speech transcripts Clinton refused to release

October 7, 2016

by Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger

Washington Post

Hillary Clinton’s paid closed-door speeches to Wall Street banks apparently included her dreams of “open trade and open borders” and a suggestion that bankers are best positioned to know how the industry should be regulated, according to hacked emails made public Friday by WikiLeaks.

The comments are drawn from an email describing speech transcripts that Clinton has refused to release despite months of intense criticism.

The email, apparently hacked from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, shows a staffer in the early stages of Clinton’s primary campaign against Sen. Bernie Sanders this year flagging speech excerpts that could be politically problematic.

Sanders had questioned what Clinton had said to the financial institutions that paid her hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees between the end of her tenure as secretary of state and the start of her run for the White House.

The excerpts highlighted by the aide included comments on two front-burner election issues — Wall Street regulation and trade — on which Clinton has been on the defensive at times. Both Sanders and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump have attacked Clinton for her past support of global free-trade deals, tapping into a growing sentiment among many voters that such agreements have hurt their communities.

Clinton, for instance, described her free-trade ambitions during a 2013 appearance before the U.S. arm of a Brazilian banking group. Records show the group, Itaú BBA USA Securities, paid her $225,000.

“My dream is a hemispheric common market, with open trade and open borders,” she said, according to an email first reported by BuzzFeed.

The Clinton campaign on Friday night refused to authenticate the hacked emails, instead attacking WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been openly critical of Clinton. The site released hacked Democratic National Committee emails over the summer that U.S. intelligence officials on Friday accused Russia of stealing.

“We are not going to confirm the authenticity of stolen documents released by Julian Assange, who has made no secret of his desire to damage Hillary Clinton,” Clinton spokesman Glen Caplin said. He referred to doctored emails that have appeared on websites linked to Russian intelligence recently as proof that “documents can be faked as part of a sophisticated Russian misinformation campaign,” although Caplin did not say that the emails released Friday concerning Clinton’s speeches had been faked.

The FBI did not immediately say if the Russians were behind the alleged hack.

The new revelations about Clinton’s paid appearances before big banks, coming two days before her next debate faceoff against Trump on Sunday, threaten to revive an issue that has dogged the Democratic candidate for months and hampered her ability to energize some Sanders backers and other liberals she needs to mobilize on Election Day.

Sanders aggressively attacked Clinton during their primary battle for the speaking fees she got from major banks, particularly the $675,000 she was paid by Goldman Sachs for three appearances, bolstering his populist challenge and portraying her as cozy with Wall Street. He repeatedly challenged her to release the speech transcripts.

Clinton, who was paid more than $20 million for speeches between 2013 and 2015, had said she would “look into” releasing the transcripts — but she never has indicated any plans to do so. While Clinton has attacked Trump for refusing to release his tax returns, some critics have pointed to the speeches by Clinton as evidence that she, too, has not been fully transparent with voters.

One possible vulnerability identified in the emails was a 2014 speech to Deutsche Bank in which she gave remarks that a Clinton staffer characterized as suggesting, “Wall Street Insiders are what is needed to fix Wall Street.”

“How do you get to the golden key, how do we figure out what works?” the email indicates that Clinton said in the speech, speaking of Wall Street regulation. “And the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” Records show Clinton was paid $260,000 to address Deutsche Bank in 2014.

In another speech to Goldman Sachs in Arizona in 2013, Clinton fretted that “part of the problem with the political situation, too, is that there is such a bias against people who have led successful and/or complicated lives.” She was paid $225,000 for the Arizona speech, records show.

The campaign staffer cited other worrisome passages that touted Clinton’s relationship to Wall Street, including an acknowledgment that she needed Wall Street’s financial support.

The emails appear to have been hacked from Podesta’s Gmail account and appear to span almost a decade. According to a WikiLeaks tweet, the release represented the first 2,050 documents of 50,000 it has hacked from Podesta.

Podesta, 67, is a longtime aide to Clinton and a powerhouse in Democratic politics. A former White House chief of staff for Bill Clinton, Podesta was a founder of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress and as campaign chairman has been at the center of every major decision as Clinton has dealt with political struggles over her use of a private email server and fundraising by the Clinton Foundation.

The hacked emails appear to offer insights into the campaign’s handling of some of those controversies.

In one October 2015 exchange, staffers appear to discuss ways to capitalize on Sanders’s comment during a Democratic debate that people were sick of hearing about Clinton’s “damn emails.” Adviser Joel Benenson appears to have suggested that Clinton could make a joke about her testimony before a Republican-led committee investigating the attacks in Benghazi, Libya. “I was kind of expecting around hour #8 Bernie Sanders would burst in and shout–’enough about your damn emails Hillary!!’ ” But Podesta nixed the idea. “I defer if others think this buys us good will with Sanders people, but email jokes in Iowa usually end up badly and don’t we want to move on?” he wrote back.

The emails include a series of internal conversations in May 2015 about how to respond to a book by conservative author Peter Schweizer called “Clinton Cash,” which tracked donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees paid to former president Bill Clinton while Hillary Clinton was secretary of state. In one email, Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri told other Clinton staffers that Clinton had raised the topic of the book with her. “It was a difficult conversation,” Palmieri wrote. “My impression is she wants a much stronger response. Which means engaging more on details that we have to date not found in our interest to do so.”

Friday’s WikiLeaks release underscored a rapidly escalating concern among U.S. intelligence officials — and the Clinton campaign — about information hacked by foreign intelligence operations.

The Podesta emails surfaced on the day that the U.S. intelligence community officially accused the Russian government of attempting to interfere in U.S. elections by deliberately leaking the DNC files and other hacked emails.

Intelligence officials have identified WikiLeaks and other sites as among those receiving or publishing information from Russian intelligence, a claim that Assange has dismissed in the past.

Clinton campaign officials have had their hands full responding to questions about hacked emails.

In the previous 24 hours, the website DCLeaks.com had released a batch of communications from the Gmail account of a ­lower-level and longtime Clinton aide Capricia Marshall. She served as the State Department’s chief of protocol under Clinton. Intelligence officials think her email account may have been hacked by Russians as well.

Pound flash crashes to new low as fears of ‘Hard Brexit’ mount

October 7, 2016

RT

The British pound hit its lowest level since 1985 on Friday plunging to $1.1819 against the dollar in early Asia trading. The crash added to sterling’s earlier losses on speculation the UK is heading for a ‘hard Brexit’.

Sterling later bounced back to $1.2386 as of 9:20 GMT, but remained at a 31-year low. Other major currencies were stable on Friday. The euro was down 0.3 percent to $1.1117 while the Japanese yen was 0.15 percent stronger at 103.90 to the dollar.

The pound’s fall sent the FTSE 100 up by 28 points to 7,028 as Britain’s blue-chip index tends to rise when the pound drops. The index consists of the biggest UK companies that earn mostly in dollars, rather than pounds.

Friday’s fall was the most aggressive since results of the Brexit vote emerged on June 24, according to spread betting firm IG.

The plunge left traders confused over the cause, with analysts claiming it might have been ‘fat finger’ error or a technical glitch in response to ‘hard Brexit’ warnings.

This was even a bigger move than what we saw after the Brexit vote. There were almost no offers, no bids when this happened,” said a trader at a European bank in Tokyo.

“What we had was insane – call it a flash crash, but the move of this magnitude really tells you how low the currency can really go. Hard Brexit has haunted sterling,” chief market analyst at Think Markets, Naeem Aslam told The Guardian.

Some experts say the selloff has been triggered by French President Francois Hollande’s comments, who said if the UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May and others want a hard Brexit, they will get a hard Brexit.

The sterling’s ‘flash crash’ was “ostensibly triggered by harsh comments on UK exit terms from French President Hollande,” said Adam Cole at RBC Capital Markets as cited by the Huffington Post.

The British currency has fallen by 13 percent against the US dollar since Britain voted to leave the European Union on June 23. The pound has come under renewed pressure and losses accelerated after Prime Minister Theresa May announced she would trigger article 50 by March, which meant an early start of UK’s formal exit.

The Prime Minister’s words were interpreted as leading to a ‘hard Brexit’, in which Britain would leave the single market causing a significant disruption to the country’s economy.

Are US-Saudi Relations Finally Souring?

Pressure from human rights organizations like Oxfam to victims of the 9/11 attacks are helping erode the bond between these old political allies, but the results of this election season could squander our chance at change.

October 8, 2016

by Alli McCracken

AntiWar

Congress recently passed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) allowing families of victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue other governments, including Saudi Arabia, for possible damages.

Despite threats by the Saudi government to sell billions of dollars’ worth of their assets and reexamine the bilateral relationship with the U.S., Congress snubbed the monarchy and passed the bill, then overturned a presidential veto to it almost unanimously.

This is just one of the most overt pieces of evidence that the historically cozy U.S.-Saudi relationship is on the decline.

A couple years ago, few questioned the decades-old political alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia. But, amidst a heated election season in the US, the bloody Saudi-waged war on Yemen has led to a wave of protest by Capitol Hill lawmakers and human rights organizations who want to reexamine this relationship.

During the Obama administration, a whopping 42 weapons deals have been brokered between the US and the Saudi government, worth over $110 billion. However, the latest deal, amounting to $1.15 billion, was met with unprecedented opposition over concerns of apparent Saudi war crimes in Yemen.

In a letter to the White House, 64 members of the House of Representatives asked President Obama to withdraw the weapons deal, and 27 Senators voted in favor of a resolution opposing the deal.

Humanitarian and human rights organizations like Oxfam, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch got involved in the opposition movement too, pointing to the nearly 10,000 deaths and injuries caused by the Saudi war on Yemen using U.S.-made weapons.

Major media outlets like The New York Times penned editorials slamming the deal.

This is a welcome and overdue change for many who believe that Saudi Arabia’s war crimes in Yemen shouldn’t go unpunished, but it’s also an important moment to rethink the entirety of the US alliance with Saudi Arabia and the US’ role in the Middle East.

The tension between the US and the Saudi monarchy isn’t just manifesting in the legislative branch of the government – the executive branch has also sent clear signals that the tides are turning.

In 2015, President Obama, along with Secretary of State John Kerry, orchestrated one of the most successful diplomatic wins of the administration: the Iran nuclear deal. The Saudi monarchy, nervous about the geopolitical and sectarian trends in the Middle East apparently aligning against them, felt threatened by the deal and lobbied in Washington against it.

This didn’t stop the White House and State Department from pushing the deal through, much to the chagrin of the Saudi royal family.

While this eroding relationship is a much welcomed change after years of watching the US government turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed by Saudi Arabia and other regional allies, the path forward isn’t clear.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both have problematic visions for the United States’ future relationship with the regime.

Trump, a notorious Islamophobe who called for an open ban on Muslims coming to the United States (and who’s blamed Saudi Arabia for 9/11), hasn’t proposed a clear vision in terms of the future relationship between the two countries.

On the other hand, a Clinton administration will likely opt to continue the business-as-usual blank check support to our traditional allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia.

So while it seems like we’re entering a new moment of opportunity to change US policy regarding the regime, real change won’t come in the next few weeks and months.

It’ll take years of hard work to persuade the next administration how rethinking our role abroad is in the best interest of America, nations in the Middle East, and the innocent victims of violence between the two.

Watch Your Back

Chicago Police Bosses Targeted Cops Who Exposed Corruption

October 6, 2016

by Jamie Kalven

The Intercept

Part 4

After Chicago police officers Shannon Spalding and Danny Echeverria filed a whistleblower lawsuit, retaliation against them only intensified.

In autumn of 2012, the code of silence was very much in the news in Chicago. The trial of the civil suit brought against the city by Karolina Obrycka, the bartender struck and kicked by off-duty Officer Anthony Abbate in 2007, was unfolding before a jury in the federal courtroom of Judge Amy St. Eve.

One of Obrycka’s central claims was that Abbate assaulted her, secure in the knowledge he would be protected by the code of silence within the Chicago Police Department. In support of this claim, her lawyers presented expert testimony to demonstrate the department’s failure to adequately investigate and discipline police misconduct. On November 13, 2012, the jury returned a verdict in Obrycka’s favor. It awarded her $850,000 in damages and found that a pervasive code of silence within the CPD had allowed Abbate to attack her without fear of punishment.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in his second year in office. In retrospect, the Obrycka verdict afforded him an opportunity to pivot away from Daley-era abuses and declare a new day for police accountability in Chicago. Instead, his administration, in an unusual move, sought to erase the precedent represented by the jury’s finding that a code of silence exists within the CPD. The city entered into an agreement with Obrycka under which it would not appeal the verdict and would pay the award and attorney’s fees immediately. Obrycka, in turn, joined the city in asking the judge to vacate the code of silence judgment.

The joint motion created a situation in which the public interest was unrepresented. Two law professors who specialize in police abuse cases — Craig Futterman of the University of Chicago and Locke Bowman of Northwestern University — intervened on behalf of the public. They argued that if the city was allowed to “buy its way out of” the judgment, it would have no incentive to make the necessary reforms. Judge St. Eve ruled against the city, holding that the jury verdict regarding the code of silence “has a social value to the judicial system and public at large.”

In their effort to have the code of silence verdict set aside, city lawyers argued that the CPD had enacted significant reforms since the 2007 bar incident. And they emphasized that the department was now led by a new superintendent who would not permit such behavior to go unpunished.

Superintendent Garry McCarthy reinforced the point by issuing a statement in which he asserted with characteristic bluntness, “I will never tolerate a code of silence in a department for which I am responsible.”

Two weeks before McCarthy uttered those words, Shannon Spalding and Danny Echeverria filed a whistleblower suit, claiming they had suffered retaliation for reporting and investigating criminal activity within the department. The defendants named in the lawsuit included CPD brass serving directly under McCarthy, among them, Nick Roti, chief of the organized crime bureau; James O’Grady, commander of the narcotics division; and Juan Rivera, chief of the internal affairs division.

The common understanding of the code of silence is that it is a peer-to-peer phenomenon — I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine — within the rank and file. Senior officials are implicated to the extent they do not take affirmative steps to discourage operation of the code. The thesis of the Spalding case, by contrast, is that high-ranking officials ordered retaliation against the officers for violating the code.

When Spalding and Echeverria filed their lawsuit in the fall of 2012, they had an immediate aim. They hoped that, whatever the ultimate outcome of the suit, the fact of a pending case would serve to deter the retaliation against them that had only intensified after the conclusion of Operation Brass Tax, a joint investigation conducted with the FBI into a drug ring controlled by longtime Chicago police officer Ronald Watts.

After Watts and his partner, Kallatt Mohammed, were indicted, Spalding and Echeverria had returned to the inspections unit where they continued to be ostracized and denied meaningful work. IAD Chief Juan Rivera again refused to file a retaliation complaint on their behalf. (As noted earlier, Rivera in his deposition denied that he ever received a formal request from Spalding and Echeverrria. )

Barred by Chief Roti from returning to any unit in organized crime, they met with Thomas Byrne, chief of detectives, for whom they had worked when he was commander of the 1st District. A year or so earlier, he had asked them to come work for him in the fugitive apprehension unit, but they had been unable to do so because Rivera said they were still needed for the Watts investigation. Now fugitives seemed like a good fit. Both Rivera and Tina Skahill provided letters of recommendation for them. Byrne said he would place them on the U.S. Marshals Task Force Team and that as soon as spots opened up they would be deputized as U.S. Marshals. He assured them they would not encounter retaliation in his unit.

On March 20, 2012, they joined the U.S. Marshals Task Force Team. Despite all they had been through, said Spalding, “all we wanted to do was get back to doing real police work.”

It wasn’t to be. “We’re not there for 15 minutes,” recalled Spalding, “and we’re called IAD rats.”

From the start at the fugitives unit, they were in a Catch-22. They were taken off major cases and given low-level assignments like finding unknown turnstile jumpers or people who had been drunk in public. They were told to do only their assigned cases — a limited number of relatively trivial cases — and then were told they were not producing. When they reported to Rivera what was happening, said Spalding, he observed that “that’s what they do”: They give you dead-end work you can’t do, then blame you for not doing it.

Spalding said Rivera advised them to “record, record, record,” but again refused to issue a complaint register for retaliation or intervene on their behalf.

Amid the hostility in the fugitives unit, there was one seemingly sympathetic presence — Sgt. Thomas Mills, who had been in the confidential section of IAD when Rivera was a lieutenant there. Rivera told Spalding and Echeverria to have Mills call him. Mills later reported to them that Rivera had told him they were great officers. Mills reflected back at Spalding the seriousness of her situation.

“The only thing,” he said, “between those bosses and federal prison is you. If I were you, I’d wear my vest at all times, even coming and going to work.”

By way of illustrating the political realities at internal affairs, Spalding recounted a story Mills had told them. Soon after he came to the confidential section, he was given the assignment of investigating a deputy superintendent. The allegation was that the official lived outside the city. Mills worked on the case for months and concluded the allegation was true. He produced a thick file in support of that conclusion and presented it to his supervisor. The next day, the file came back to him. There was a yellow Post-it on it with the handwritten message: “Make it unfounded.”

Upset, he took the matter up with his supervisor, who replied that he should have known how to handle the investigation “because of who it was.” In other words: The outcome should have been clear, because the accused was a boss with clout.

“From now on,” Mills told the supervisor, “just give me my assignment with the Post-it note already on it telling me what the outcome is before I waste my time.”

After recounting this story, Spalding observed, “It’s like Mike Barz said about the bosses: ‘It’s your job to report to them. It’s their job to say what happened.’ Our problem is that we took the investigation seriously. We never saw the Post-it.”

palding and Echeverria’s account of the retaliation they endured after joining the fugitive apprehension unit is corroborated by an affidavit and deposition provided in their case by Officer Janet Hanna. Now retired, Hanna was the personal administrator for Cmdr. Joseph Salemme and Lt. Robert Cesario of fugitives. She stated that before Spalding and Echeverria joined fugitives, Cesario warned his administrative staff in the unit that they were “IAD rats” and should not be trusted. He told sergeants under his command, in her words, “to instruct their teams of officers to not provide any backup for Shannon or Danny and to not work with them at all.” Further, Hanna stated that Cesario ordered her to give them only dead-end cases that would not result in arrests, that he personally reviewed their assignments, and that he instructed her to destroy their overtime requests. She also testified that they were denied access to the databases required to do their jobs.

On June 20, 2012, Spalding and Echeverria were ordered to meet with their direct supervisors — Sgt. Maurice Barnes, Cesario, and Salemme. Cesario informed them they were being taken off the task force because they had too few arrests and priority cases. When Spalding and Echeverria challenged Cesario about their lack of activity, Spalding recounted to me, Salemme demanded to know whether they were working for internal affairs. “You brought this baggage on yourselves,” he said. “You want to investigate bosses, you want to put bosses in jail, you should have known this would happen to you.”

“It’s a safety issue,” said Barnes, addressing himself to Spalding. “I don’t want to tell your daughter you’re coming home in a box because the team won’t help you on the street.”

Cesario spelled it out for them: They were being shifted from days to nights and reassigned to a nighttime fugitive apprehension team on the North Side. They would never be deputized by the U.S. Marshals, get a take-home car, or overtime pay.

“That will never happen for you,” he said to Spalding.

At the end of the meeting, Spalding asked, “If we had never worked on an internal corruption investigation with the FBI, would any of this be happening right now?”

“No,” replied Salemme.

Again they asked Rivera to issue a CR. Again he refused.

“I can’t help you anymore,” he said. “The ship is sinking. The bell has rung. It’s over. You have to make it work at fugitives. This is your last stop. There’s nowhere else in CPD for you.”

Spalding and Echeverria had hoped that by filing their whistleblower lawsuit they would gain the protection of the Illinois Whistleblower Act and the abuse would relent. If anything, it intensified. The one person within fugitives they believed to be an ally, Mills, also turned against them. He rode Spalding hard.

“This is a numbers unit, and you’re not producing,” he told her. “There is no way you can redeem yourself.”

“I could have come in with Jimmy Hoffa,” Spalding observed, “and it wouldn’t have made any difference.”

Mills spoke openly about their lawsuit to other officers in front of Spalding and Echeverria. “I don’t know why they left you in this unit after you filed,” he said. “They should have launched you.”

“This isn’t good for you,” he warned Spalding. “God forbid you should have to shoot someone out there.” He pointed to Cesario’s office. “He’s your lieutenant. How do you think that’s going to go for you? He’s going to screw you. It’s dangerous for you to remain here. The bosses are actively working against you. You need to consider your options.”

She interpreted this as a suggestion she leave the department for her own safety.

“I began second-guessing everything I did,” she said.

On one occasion, as she and Echeverria set out in pursuit of a fugitive who had to be tased three times to subdue him the last time he had been brought in, they were told by Mills that the team would be there to back them up. When no one showed up, Spalding contacted Mills. He responded with a text: “Be careful.”

“My worst fear was now my reality,” Spalding recalled. “I was an officer without a department.”

When it seemed things could not get worse, they did. On April 11, 2013, Sgt. Barz and Sgt. Robert Muscolino of internal affairs came to the fugitives unit and arrested Spalding. They took her into a room, closed the door, and held her for over half an hour. Barz read her constitutional rights and informed her that she was the subject of a criminal investigation on federal eavesdropping charges. He said they had an eyewitness who stated that she recorded conversations with Mills and then played them for others.

She would later learn from Janet Hanna that the complaint against her stated that Hanna was the person for whom she played the recording of Mills. In her affidavit, Hanna recounted being pressed by Muscolino to confirm the complaint. “I repeated that the complaint was untrue,” she stated, “that the alleged conversation never happened, and that at no time ever did Shannon play for me any recording from her phone.”

Spalding was distraught. Having failed to protect her, IAD was now, she realized, turning its investigative machinery against her and actively participating in the retaliation.

Barz suggested that the charges would go away if she dropped her lawsuit.

“This is retaliation,” she said. “What are you guys doing about Watts?”

“They can’t let him go to trial,” he said. “It’s not in the best interest of the department. They’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“Yeah,” said Spalding, “and I’m going to jail on trumped-up charges.”

He tried to mollify her. “This is all going to disappear,” he said. “None of it happened.”

(In an interview, Barz vigorously contested Spalding’s account. Specifically, he asserted that there was no arrest and that he never said the CR was “going to disappear.”)

After the IAD officers left, Spalding said, Echeverria walked her to her car. In his deposition, Echeverria recalled how agitated she was. “It was hard to have a conversation with her immediately because she was not in the right frame of mind to speak. She was very upset,” he testified. “She was crying. Shit, it made me want to cry.”

Spalding had never understood why it was that Chewbacca and countless others pleaded guilty and cut deals when falsely arrested by the likes of Watts. Now she grasped what it was like to be caught in the machinery of a system, indifferent to your welfare and to the truth, that was dedicated to imposing its own version of reality. The collapse of her faith in the institution to which she had pledged her life was now complete.

Looking back, Spalding sees this as the moment she broke. “When you work undercover,” she told me at the time, “you learn to keep it together, even when someone has a gun to your head. I’m keeping it together on the outside, but I’m dying inside.”

The next day, she initiated the process of going on medical leave, as did Echeverria. In May 2013, both went on medical leave. After seven months, Echeverria returned to the fugitives unit. Spalding remained on leave. She has been diagnosed by a psychiatrist for the city, as well as her own therapists, as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder due to the trauma of having her identity exposed within the department. This condition prevents her from working in law enforcement.

On June 6, 2014, Spalding turned in her badge and gun. It was, she said at the time, “the saddest day of my life.” Two years later, she speaks with raw emotion of being denied her “calling,” while some of those they investigated are still on the force. “I can’t be on the job, but they are.”

“I’m grieving a loss like a death. When they took my badge, they took my soul.”

Spalding’s story, as it unfolds, gathers force and gains credibility, through its complexity, coherence, and detail, as well as our knowledge of what the telling has cost her. It is a challenging narrative, because the consequences of believing it are so demanding. It is also incomplete. Things she knows with absolute certainty shade into things she can only speculate about. Understandably, she inhabits an existential space where it’s tempting to organize all available data around thesis and plot: to make things cohere more tightly than messy reality allows. In my interviews with her, she has consistently resisted that temptation. She remains aware of contingencies, what-ifs, competing explanations. She continues to work the puzzle she is enmeshed in. It’s not hard to see why she is a good investigator.

While there is much we do not yet know about the dynamics that determined the course of the Watts investigation and the fate of the investigators, what is clear are certain outcomes:

Kallatt Mohammed, Watts’s partner, pleaded guilty in August 2012 and was sentenced to 18 months. He admitted in his plea agreement that he extorted protection money from drug dealers at the Ida B. Wells development “beginning no later than December 11, 2007, and continuing through at least May 22, 2008” — six months out of his long career working with Watts. He said he acted under orders from Watts. In the spring of 2014, Mohammed emerged from prison, having served his sentence.

Ronald Watts initially pleaded not guilty. Then, on July 19, 2013, on the eve of trial, he changed his plea to guilty to one count of theft of government funds. Nothing is known about the substance of negotiations with prosecutors, if any; and there is no indication in the public record that he provided any information about members of his team and others within the department who participated in his crimes.

On October 9, 2013, Watts came before Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman for sentencing. The courtroom gallery was sparsely populated — a few reporters, a couple of family members. Broad shouldered and stocky, the expressionless Watts sat at the defendant’s table in a dark business suit with his fingers tightly laced in front of him.

Judge Coleman was severely constrained in what she could do within the framework presented to her. Although the maximum possible sentence was 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, a sentence of 10-16 months was indicated under the federal guidelines. The government asked for 36 months. The defense asked for a sentence in line with the federal guidelines.

Watts’s lawyer, Thomas Glasgow, emphasized his client’s military service, his long career of public service, his role in his family, and the fact that he had no criminal record. In a remarkable passage in the sentencing memorandum he submitted to the court, Glasgow argued that Watts’s crime should, for the purpose of sentencing, be treated as less grave than “pick pocketing or non-forcible purse snatching” because it was not “a theft from another person against that person’s will” and did not involve “increased risk of physical injury” due to the fact that “the ‘taking’ was both discussed and agreed upon” by Watts and Chewbacca prior to it occurring.

By contrast, the government lawyer used strong language to describe the harms that flowed from Watts’s criminal enterprise. Citing Mohammed’s plea statement, she said that Watts had committed crimes such as the one he was charged with many times.

Judge Coleman gave Watts an opportunity to address the court. He declined.

Coleman characterized Watts’s crimes as “unconscionable” and “a betrayal.” She seized on the government’s description of the Wells development as a community “plagued” with crime, drug dealing, and gang activity: “The place was rampant with poverty, unemployment, addictions. The crime stuff comes after. … You were there to protect those people, and you didn’t.”

She also spoke of the impact corrupt officers such as Watts have on children in the community. “They’re taught not to respect anything,” she said. “What else are they supposed to think?”

After a long pause, Coleman announced a sentence of 22 months, followed by one year of mandatory supervision, and restitution of $5,200 — the amount Watts had taken in the sting.

Watts left the courtroom smiling broadly.

He has since served his sentence and relocated to Las Vegas. Apart from the $5,200 from the final sting, he retained all assets he may have obtained through criminal activities.

The other members of Watts’s team — Al Jones, Brian Bolton, and Bobby Gonzalez — remain on the force. Not long after the arrest of Watts and Mohammed, Jones was promoted to sergeant. (Spalding: “They promote you for your silence.”) Gonzalez has been in the news recently due to his involvement in three separate police shootings of young black men over the last two years. None of the officers responded to requests for comment.

As the whistleblower lawsuit moved forward in court, various of the “bosses” named as defendants or alleged to have conspired with Watts retired from the CPD, claimed their six-figure pensions, and in most instances, moved on to other positions in law enforcement. James O’Grady and Nick Roti took leadership positions with the Illinois State Police. Ernie Brown became police chief of Darien, Illinois, and is now executive director of the Cook County Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. Debra Kirby took a job with the Garda Siochana Inspectorate, the Irish police, and now works for a Chicago-based risk management firm. And Juan Rivera took his leave in the fall of 2015, as the whistleblower suit moved toward trial.

By virtue of Chicago’s demolition of its public housing developments, the scene of the crimes committed by Watts and his team has disappeared. So too have most of their victims as characterized by Judge Coleman at Watts’s sentencing hearing — the vulnerable public housing residents the team exploited rather than protecting, including children in the community who grew up seeing them as the face of civil authority — “invisible people,” as Spalding puts it, whose lack of standing as citizens is a major factor conferring impunity on predatory officers such as Watts.

At various points in this story, individuals have emerged from that invisible world — a world abandoned then, obliterated now — intent on bringing down the criminal enterprise of Watts & Co. Above all, Chewbacca. Also, Spalding and Echeverria’s informant from the Ickes Homes. Perhaps, too, Big Shorty and Monk Fears.

More recently, a man named Ben Baker, against long odds, established to the satisfaction of the judge who had tried him and the State’s Attorney’s Office that had prosecuted him that he had been wrongly convicted, having been falsely arrested by members of Watts’s team.

On January 14 of this year, having served 10 years of a 14-year sentence, Baker was released from prison, after the state’s attorney dropped all charges against him for possession of a controlled substance. At his trial in 2006, Baker had testified that the Watts team planted drugs on him and falsely arrested him, because he had refused to pay them off. At the time, the judge did not find credible Baker’s description of the protection racket the Watts team operated at the Ida B. Wells development.

With help and guidance from Spalding, attorney Josh Tepfer of the Exoneration Project successfully challenged Baker’s conviction on the grounds that Baker’s allegations against the Watts team were corroborated by investigative materials available at the time of his trial but withheld from his attorneys. Tepfer supported this claim with FBI documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act. Although heavily redacted, these documents establish that the FBI, IAD, and State’s Attorney’s Office were engaged in an “ongoing joint investigation” of Watts and his team for more than a decade.

Beyond achieving a measure of justice for Baker, the case is important for what it portends. Tepfer and his colleagues have brought a lawsuit against the FBI challenging the redactions under the Freedom of Information Act. They have also brought a civil suit on behalf of Ben Baker. And they are representing a man named Lionel White who is seeking to have his conviction vacated on the ground that he was framed by Watts’s team. Given the evidence that the team routinely used the threat of false arrest to coerce cooperation, how many others have shared Ben Baker’s fate of being wrongfully convicted?

Nine years after contacting the FBI, six years after being outed within the department, and 4 1/2 years after filing their lawsuit, Spalding and Echeverria finally approached their day in court. The trial was set to begin on May 31.

As the day approached, Spalding was a singular combination of strength and fragility. Financially ruined, emotionally depleted, and grief-stricken over loss of the job that gave her life purpose and used every part of her, she prepared to tell her story in court in the face of the mutually reinforcing denials of the city and the individual defendants.

Moments before the trial was to begin, the judge announced from the bench that the parties had reached a settlement. Addressing the press in the lobby of the federal courthouse, Spalding expressed the hope that the impact of the case would be that no other officer “has to walk one day in our shoes.”

The settlement means the issues presented by the case will not be adjudicated. It does not resolve those issues. If anything, it sharpens them. At a time when the Department of Justice is investigating the Chicago Police Department, a time when debate about how best to achieve fundamental police reform dominates Chicago politics, the questions bequeathed by the case demand sustained attention.

One set of questions relates to the criminal careers of Watts and his alleged co-conspirators. For the better part of those careers, they were under investigation by internal affairs and the FBI, as well as other law enforcement agencies (the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State’s Attorney’s Office). How is it that all there is to show for those multi-target investigations over more than a decade are the convictions of Watts and Mohammed on a single count of stealing government funds in the amount of $5,200? Was this an instance of investigation-as-cover-up? Was the prosecution the capstone of a massive cover-up, designed not to secure information about Watts’s crimes and co-conspirators but to buy his silence? The DOJ team has the means to answer these questions. It can also assess how it is that members of Watts’s team — Al Jones, Brian Bolton, Bobby Gonzalez, and others — remain on the force. Did the investigation in fact clear them? More generally, what can be learned from the history of the Watts investigation for the purpose of diagnosing the changes required in the operation of internal affairs?

Another set of questions centers on the nature of the code of silence. The city has now irreversibly passed over a threshold: The code of silence about the code of silence has been broken. No longer can police officials on the witness stand or in depositions dismiss the term as “TV and movie related” or, in a favorite formulation oft repeated over the years, as “the title of a Chuck Norris movie.”

Mayor Emanuel in his speech to the City Council last December spoke of the code as a problem “at the very heart of the policing profession.” Then several months later, a police accountability task force he had appointed described “a deeply entrenched code of silence supported not just by individual officers, but by the very institution itself.” Elsewhere in the report, the task force called the code “official policy.”

The settlement means the issues presented by the case will not be adjudicated. It does not resolve those issues. If anything, it sharpens them. At a time when the Department of Justice is investigating the Chicago Police Department, a time when debate about how best to achieve fundamental police reform dominates Chicago politics, the questions bequeathed by the case demand sustained attention.

One set of questions relates to the criminal careers of Watts and his alleged co-conspirators. For the better part of those careers, they were under investigation by internal affairs and the FBI, as well as other law enforcement agencies (the Drug Enforcement Administration, the State’s Attorney’s Office). How is it that all there is to show for those multi-target investigations over more than a decade are the convictions of Watts and Mohammed on a single count of stealing government funds in the amount of $5,200? Was this an instance of investigation-as-cover-up? Was the prosecution the capstone of a massive cover-up, designed not to secure information about Watts’s crimes and co-conspirators but to buy his silence? The DOJ team has the means to answer these questions. It can also assess how it is that members of Watts’s team — Al Jones, Brian Bolton, Bobby Gonzalez, and others — remain on the force. Did the investigation in fact clear them? More generally, what can be learned from the history of the Watts investigation for the purpose of diagnosing the changes required in the operation of internal affairs?

Another set of questions centers on the nature of the code of silence. The city has now irreversibly passed over a threshold: The code of silence about the code of silence has been broken. No longer can police officials on the witness stand or in depositions dismiss the term as “TV and movie related” or, in a favorite formulation oft repeated over the years, as “the title of a Chuck Norris movie.”

Mayor Emanuel in his speech to the City Council last December spoke of the code as a problem “at the very heart of the policing profession.” Then several months later, a police accountability task force he had appointed described “a deeply entrenched code of silence supported not just by individual officers, but by the very institution itself.” Elsewhere in the report, the task force called the code “official policy.”

For Britain’s ‘Brexit’ Bunch, the Party Just Ended

October 7, 2016

by Peter S. Goodman

New York Times

LONDON — For those blithely inclined toward the view that Britain would somehow find a way to sever its relationship with the European Union free of drama or financial consequences — like canceling a car rental reservation, with a tad more paperwork — Friday was a sobering day of reckoning.

As the British pound plunged some 6 percent against the American dollar in the span of two minutes in early trading in Asia, the markets offered a reminder that divorce tends to be messy, expensive and laced with uncertainties. It rarely ends happily.

The selling was so frenzied and swift that those who swap currencies for a living spoke of computerized transactions going haywire, rogue algorithms at work or a data entry error. The drop in the value of the pound appeared excessive, and it soon recovered some losses, though the British currency was down about 17 percent — around 25 cents — since June 23, the day Britain voted to abandon Europe.

More than anything, though, the precipitous drop seemed to attest to an increasingly unmistakable reality: Britain’s vote to exit the European Union — Brexit, in common parlance — has put its commercial relationships with the world on uncertain and potentially perilous ground. That poses risks for the British economy, making its money less attractive to hold.

“The world believes that the U.K. is going to be poorer in the future, and find it more expensive to trade,” said Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an independent research institution in London. “Essentially, the world is betting against the pound.” And against the British economy.

The immediate cause of the plunge appeared to be a speech by the French president, François Hollande, on Thursday evening in Paris, in which he endorsed the view that Britain must be forced to swallow unpalatable terms of departure to discourage other European Union members from eyeing the exits.

“The U.K. has decided to do a Brexit, I believe even a hard Brexit,” Mr. Hollande said. “Well, then, we must go all the way through the U.K.’s willingness to leave the E.U. We have to have this firmness.

“If not,” he continued, “we would jeopardize the fundamental principles of the E.U. Other countries would want to leave the E.U. to get the supposed advantages without the obligations.”

Hard Brexit, Soft Brexit, Brexit Over Easy. No one really knows what these terms mean (and the last one is made up). But, crudely, they divide potential outcomes into the ones in which Britain maintains effective inclusion within Europe’s single market — a realm sprawling from Ireland to Romania, holding some 500 million people — and the ones in which Britain winds up outside.

Mr. Hollande’s line echoed a speech given by  Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany earlier that day.

The week began with an admission from Britain’s new Conservative prime minister, Theresa May, that access to the European market is likely to be a casualty of Britain’s pursuit of a primary aspiration expressed in the Brexit vote: imposing limits on immigration.

European leaders have been resolute that free movement of people across the borders of member nations is a nonnegotiable cost of admission in the common market.

But Brexiteers had steadfastly maintained the illusion that Britain could have it both ways — that it could retain access to the European market while still controlling immigration. In destroying that idea, the prime minister’s admission badly rattled the markets.

The stakes are considerable. Britain ships nearly half its exports to other European Union members. The giants of global banking have turned London into a financial center rivaling New York, using hubs here to extend their reach across the rest of the European market.

Investment has poured into Britain from around the world, as major manufacturers have set up factories so they can sell their wares across Europe without incurring tariffs.

To one degree or another — and no one really knows how much — Brexit puts all of this in play.

Negotiations between Britain and Europe are expected to commence sometime early next year. Whatever settlement results must be ratified by the remaining members of the European Union, meaning that Britain’s economic prospects are now tethered to the vagaries of domestic politics in 27 other countries.

None of these risks were unforeseen. During a fractious campaign leading up to the referendum, great reams of paper were released sketching out the potential effects on the British economy should voters opt to leave. Reports varied on details and degree, but they nearly unanimously concluded that Brexit would entail economic pain.

The British Treasury surveyed the trading arrangements the government might strike with Europe after a Brexit vote and concluded it could lop some 6.2 percent off the gross domestic product by 2030. That would leave the average household worse off by about 4,300 pounds a year (at the current, depressed exchange rate, about $5,300).

But those campaigning to leave dismissed such talk as fearmongering. They described a swashbuckling and reinvigorated Britain that would break free from a stagnating Europe — the land of unemployed children moving in with their parents — to instead focus on improving trade with faster-growing countries like China, India and the United States.

Since the vote, those who urged leaving Europe have pointed to the facts that the sun still rises and the earth still spins to declare validation.

Even as the pound has fallen against the dollar, consumer spending has generally held up along with employment. Economic growth has yet to be hit. Boutiques and high-end restaurants in London remain packed.

Some have focused on the upsides of a declining pound, which makes British exports cheaper on world markets and renders Britain a more affordable tourist destination.

But this misses the fact that nearly one-third of the goods and services consumed in Britain are imported. In dollar terms, the price of those goods and services is spiking. Eventually, economists assume, this inflation will work its way through the economy, further depressing growth by crimping consumer spending and potentially sowing unemployment.

During the campaign, those in favor of leaving offered assurance that, whatever resulted, Britain would ultimately secure a beneficial trade deal with Europe. Germany sells vast quantities of cars to British consumers, giving it every incentive to keep trade flowing unimpeded by tariffs. As the largest economy in the union, Germany would hold the cards.

But in her speech on Thursday, Ms. Merkel took direct aim at that argument, telling a gathering of industry leaders that any wavering on the principle of free movement of people would pose “a systemic challenge for the entire European Union.”

The sudden plummeting of the pound appeared to signal that investors were absorbing the intricacies of this dynamic, and seeing through the Brexiteers’ claims that Britain could impose limits on immigration while also negotiating a settlement with Europe that would maintain access to the common market.

Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who campaigned for leaving the European Union and is now foreign secretary, managed last week to maintain the government line while simultaneously making fun of the charade.

“Our policy is having our cake and eating it,” he told the British tabloid, The Sun.

But on Sunday, as Prime Minister May addressed a gathering of her governing Conservative Party in Birmingham, she essentially dumped the cake in the bin.

“We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully independent, sovereign country,” Mrs. May declared. “We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration.”

In short, a “hard Brexit” appeared to be in Britain’s future.

“Somehow, a whole combination of people were in denial up until now,” said Adam S. Posen, a former member of the rate-setting committee at the Bank of England, and now president of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

“There were the people who thought Brexit would be reversed,” he continued. “There were the people who delusionally thought there would be a soft Brexit, and all the northern Europeans would be nice to them. And there were people who believed that this crew in charge of the British negotiations were somehow going to strike a good deal. All of the delusions have run out of material.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No responses yet

Leave a Reply