Obama trade deal usurps more power, breaks more promises

Editor’s Note – Once again the Obama administration is circumventing Congress and the American people. The ‘king’ keeps adding to his power, and if not for leaks, we may never have known. The Executive Branch grows again…

Here is the document that was leaked: Agreement Terms Document

Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises

By Zach Carter – Huffington Post

WASHINGTON — A critical document from President Barack Obama’s free trade negotiations with eight Pacific nations was leaked online early Wednesday morning, revealing that the administration intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations, contradicting prior promises.

The leaked document has been posted on the website of Public Citizen, a long-time critic of the administration’s trade objectives. The new leak follows substantial controversy surrounding the secrecy of the talks, in which some members of Congress have complained they are not being given the same access to trade documents that corporate officials receive.

Obama with the Pacific area leaders of the new free trade agreement

“The outrageous stuff in this leaked text may well be why U.S. trade officials have been so extremely secretive about these past two years of [trade] negotiations,” said Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch in a written statement.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) has been so incensed by the lack of access as to introduce legislation requiring further disclosure. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) has gone so far as to leak a separate document from the talks on his website. Other Senators are considering writing a letter to Ron Kirk, the top trade negotiator under Obama, demanding more disclosure.

The newly leaked document is one of the most controversial of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. It addresses a broad sweep of regulations governing international investment and reveals the Obama administration’s advocacy for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.

Under the agreement currently being advocated by the Obama administration, American corporations would continue to be subject to domestic laws and regulations on the environment, banking and other issues. But foreign corporations operating within the U.S. would be permitted to appeal key American legal or regulatory rulings to an international tribunal. That international tribunal would be granted the power to overrule American law and impose trade sanctions on the United States for failing to abide by its rulings.

The terms run contrary to campaign promises issued by Obama and the Democratic Party during the 2008 campaign.

“We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; require the privatization of our vital public services; or prevent developing country governments from adopting humanitarian licensing policies to improve access to life-saving medications,” reads the campaign document.

Yet nearly all of those vows are violated by the leaked Trans-Pacific document. The one that is not contravened in the present document — regarding access to life-saving medication — is in conflict with a previously leaked document on intellectual property (IP) standards.

“Bush was better than Obama on this,” said Judit Rius, U.S. manager of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, referring to the medication rules. “It’s pathetic, but it is what it is. The world’s upside-down.”

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative insists that while broad standards require many medical patents and IP rules that would increase the price of medications, the U.S. intends to work with countries involved in the Trans-Pacific talks to ensure that the agreement does not restrict access to life-saving drugs.

USTR was not immediately available to comment on the newly leaked investment chapter of the Trans-Pacific deal, and has previously stated that it cannot comment on the terms of an allegedly leaked document.

That statement is belied somewhat by recent American efforts in other international negotiations to establish controversial medical patents that grant companies long-term monopolies on life-saving medications. Those monopolies increase drug prices, which impede access to medications, particularly in developing nations. The World Health Organization and dozens of nonprofit public health groups have objected to the standards sought by the Obama administration. Two United Nations groups recently urged global governments not to agree to trade terms currently being advocated by the Obama administration, on the grounds that such rules would hurt public health.

Such foreign investment standards have also come under fire at home, from both conservative sovereignty purists and progressive activists for the potential to hamper domestic priorities implemented by democratically elected leaders. The North American Free Trade Agreement, passed by Congress in 1993, and a host of subsequent trade pacts granted corporations new powers that had previously been reserved for sovereign nations and that have allowed companies to sue nations directly over issues.

While the current trade deal could pose a challenge to American sovereignty, large corporations headquartered in the U.S. could potentially benefit from it by using the same terms to oppose the laws of foreign governments. If one of the eight Pacific nations involved in the talks passes a new rule to which an American firm objects, that U.S. company could take the country to court directly in international tribunals.

Public Citizen challenged the independence of these international tribunals, noting that “The tribunals would be staffed by private sector lawyers that rotate between acting as ‘judges’ and as advocates for the investors suing the governments,” according to the text of the agreement.

In early June, a tribunal at the World Bank agreed to hear a case involving similar foreign investment standards, in which El Salvador banned cyanide-based gold mining on the basis of objections from the Catholic Church and environmental activists. If the World Bank rules against El Salvador, it could overturn the nation’s domestic laws at the behest of a foreign corporation.

Speaking to the environmental concerns raised by the leaked document, Margrete Strand Rangnes, Labor and Trade Director for the Sierra Club, an environmental group said, “Our worst fears about the investment chapter have been confirmed by this leaked text … This investment chapter would severely undermine attempts to strengthen environmental law and policy.”

Basic public health and land-use rules would be subject to challenge before an international tribunal, as would bank regulations at capital levels that might be used to stymie bank runs or financial crises. The IMF has advocated the use of such capital controls, which would be prohibited under the current version of the leaked trade pact. Although several countries have proposed exceptions that would allow them to regulate speculative financial bets, the U.S. has resisted those proposals, according to Public Citizen.

Trans-Pacific negotiations have been taking place throughout the Obama presidency. The deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the top lobbying group for American corporations. Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2012 presidential elections, Mitt Romney, has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as soon as possible.

This post has been updated to include comment from the Sierra Club.

Pentagon Budget – Ripples of Political Gamesmenship

Editor’s Note – At a time when America faces what seems to be a certain conflict with Iran and her allies, along with many other theaters of threat, the Department of Defense budget cuts, and the reason there are to be such deep cuts is coming home to roost. When America, and her politicians chose entitlement avoidance over security, we all lose.

There is deep resentment in many corners, but political expediency rules the day. A common analogy where a stone is thrown in a body of water, sending ripples to all shores, applies here. What you voted for last year, is sending not mere ripples, but shock waves across every shore because our economic woes and debt issues were not properly addressed. Politics reared its ugly head, to the point that we have not even had the Senate pass a budget in over 1,000 days.

The shear lunacy of this whole debacle is going to sink us, if it has not already. How do you feel about hope and change now? Here’s the change we bet you did not bargain for.

Meanwhile the Secretary of Defense begins in a political fashion to describe the new budget as he addressed Congress:

Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and the top U.S. military leader on Tuesday defended the Pentagon’s slimmed-down, $614 billion budget, telling lawmakers it is time to show Congress is serious about reducing the deficit.

[Quick note to Mr. Panetta: You were appointed to run our Department of Defense, not to tell Congress how do its job, that is our duty, sir! Take your White House talking points and liberal agenda and place them squarely where the sun does not shine!]

Additionally, Panetta urges Congress not to “double” the pain:

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta urged Congress today to abandon automatic defense budget cuts of about $500 billion over 10 years that he said would cause “severe damage” to the military.

The politics of it all!

But what we do not see readily, are the political ploys and the many impact points, some of which are unconscionable, and cloaked in rhetoric made for the campaign trail, not the deep and abiding onus to protect this nation. To whit, Carl Levin, a Democrat and John McCain, a Republican found room to question Panetta, Dempsey and the administration’s plans:

The testimony immediately met resistance from members of the committee. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat and the panel’s chairman, insisted that the military look to closing bases in Europe and overseas before targeting installations in the United States.

Sen. John McCain, the committee’s top Republican and Obama’s presidential foe in 2008, expressed reservations with the budget and complained that it “continues the administration’s habit of putting short-term political considerations over our long-term national security interests.”

Then there is the question about our nuclear preparedness and the ability of the world as whole to identify and secure nuclear stockpiles:

Our armaments:

The Obama administration is weighing options for sharp new cuts to the U.S. nuclear force, including a reduction of up to 80 percent in the number of deployed weapons…

Even the most modest option now under consideration would be an historic and politically bold disarmament step in a presidential election year, although the plan is in line with President Barack Obama’s 2009 pledge to pursue the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The world’s stockpiles:

The Obama administration’s Fiscal Year 2013 budget request takes a major step backwards in the fight to prevent nuclear terrorism by slashing key nuclear security budgets in all the major agencies involved in the effort, the Fissile Materials Working Group, a nonpartisan group of nuclear security experts said today.  The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) took the biggest cut at $293 million, while the State Department received an overall 7% reduction and a key Department of Defense effort a $21 million reduction.  These cuts are being proposed on the eve of the March Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea, where over 50 world leaders will come together to consider how to better secure all vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent nuclear terrorism.

This does not equate to a secure America, no matter how the White House, Panetta, and the Chairman of the Joint Chief’s, General Martin Dempsey spin their plans and reasoning. We must question why these cuts and moves are in America’s best interests. Senators, as well as anyone who had a hand in voting to cut the Pentagon so deeply while avoiding the poltical ‘third rail’, are deeply concerned:

The Pentagon’s new, slimmed-down budget is an agent of unity, bringing together Republicans and Democrats alike. Senators of every political stripe on the Armed Services Committee hate the thing — or don’t want to defend it. The only thing they may hate more: the next round of Pentagon cuts, due to take effect in less than 11 months.

You should be concerned as well, because its not just our security that is in jeopardy, it also shows just how deeply broken and politicized our government has become. In this major election year, perhaps the most important in anyone’s lifetime still breathing today, it is now that you must become engaged. You must educate yourself and teach your neighbor what you have learned. If we do not, and we allow the machines of power to remain intact, and the status quo of the ‘beltway’ is allowed to continue, even they will rue the day!

Then there are the things you will not hear about. Things that will get funded, and maybe, they are needed, but at what cost when we cut so much else. Black budget lines continue to make it by the watchful eye, and the following describes this facet:

$80 Billion Puzzle: The Part Of The Pentagon’s Budget You Won’t See

by Loren Thompson

Forbes

This is the week that the defense department unveils its fiscal 2013 budget request, which Pentagon policymakers have been heralding as a turning point in military spending priorities.  So if you care to listen, you will be able to hear a lot about why weapons outlays are being cut, military healthcare costs are increasing, and land-based forces are losing money to sea-based forces.

However, there are a few items about which you won’t hear anything.

You won’t hear a word about the huge eavesdropping satellites the military has been launching, the biggest satellites ever built.  You won’t hear about the intelligence missions that U.S. submarines are silently conducting in the Eastern Mediterranean and Yellow Sea.  You won’t hear about the sprawling complex near Baltimore that monitors billions of emails every day.  And you won’t hear about the program awarded last year to develop new photo-reconnaissance satellites that can see what Chinese users are looking at on their laptops from over a hundred miles away.

All of these efforts and hundreds more are part of the government’s vast intelligence-gathering enterprise, which is funded to the tune of $80 billion annually.  Although the intelligence community consists of 17 different agencies and organizations scattered across the government, about 85 percent of the funding is hidden in defense department accounts. That’s because most of the technology and personnel costs associated with the intelligence enterprise are incurred by defense agencies.

The activities of the intelligence community are organized under two overarching programs.  The $55 billion National Intelligence Program collects and analyzes strategic information — meaning information relevant to the security of the entire nation — through four defense agencies, intelligence units in other cabinet departments, and the independent Central Intelligence Agency.  The $27 billion Military Intelligence Program collects tactical information through the intelligence commands and field units of the military services relevant to their immediate warfighting needs.

Congress established a Director of National Intelligence in 2004 to oversee the intelligence community and break down the barriers between agencies to sharing information.  However, with so much of the activity carried out by defense agencies and the military services, it is largely a Pentagon show — which helps explain why the current Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, is a former Air Force general who previously served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

Director Clapper told a conference in October that the intelligence community is headed for big spending cuts in the years ahead, but you can forget about trying to find out where the budget axe is falling because the government refuses to disclose details about how funding is allocated.  We know that there are about 200,000 personnel working in the intelligence community — about a quarter of them contractors — and that they are almost evenly divided between the national and service-specific programs.  What we don’t know with any precision is what occupants of the cars filling 18,000 parking spaces at the National Security Agency (NSA) outside Baltimore are doing on any given day.

NSA, one of the four byzantine defense agencies engaged in collecting national intelligence, is emblematic of just how big the secret part of the defense budget really is.  The agency’s mission is to intercept the electronic transmissions of other nations and break codes while protecting U.S. networks from foreign intruders, a job that seems to be growing by leaps and bounds.  NSA is said to operate more supercomputers than any other organization in the world, and rumors are constantly surfacing about how extensively it monitors global telecom traffic.  It doesn’t do that just by tapping into fiber-optic lines, it also listens in from overhead using satellites with antennas as big as football fields — which is one reason it’s “Mentor” series of eavesdropping satellites are the biggest ever built.

The satellites NSA relies on are developed and launched by another defense agency called the National Reconnaissance Office which overseas so-called “black” space programs.  It is that agency which recently awarded a multi-billion-dollar contract to Lockheed Martin to develop a new generation of imaging reconnaissance satellites following the meltdown of a Clinton-era effort that failed to coalesce under a rival contractor.  The award restored Lockheed to the same kind of long-running franchise in photo-reconnaissance satellites that Northrop Grumman enjoys in eavesdropping satellites.  Other companies that seem to be key players in black space includeRaytheon, which fashions ground networks for moving classified data, and Exelis (formerly ITT Defense).

But you have to search far and wide to learn such things, because the government seldom discusses its overhead intelligence assets, and the companies won’t even admit they’re in the business.  The same is true for a host of other airborne, ground-based, and undersea intelligence systems.  For instance, the nation’s fleet of fifty-odd attack submarines spend most of their time on-station in places like the Persian Gulf monitoring the electronic transmissions of other nations, aided by the fact that coastal climate conditions bend the signals of what would normally be line-of-sight communications.  Many of those missions are requested by “national command authorities” such as the White House.

So are submarine intelligence missions part of the National Intelligence Program or the Military Intelligence Program?  Darned if I know.  The Pentagon’s budget is so opaque on such matters that you can’t even figure out where a lot of the money is located.  It seems to be distributed in roughly equal thirds across R&D, procurement and readiness accounts — although much of the personnel spending is probably also for military intelligence specialists.  As Aviation Week & Space Technology expert Bill Sweetman has pointed out, add it all up and the secret part of the Pentagon’s budget is similar in size to the entire defense budget of other big military powers.

However, don’t expect to hear about any of that this week from the Pentagon.  This may be budget week for the rest of the federal government, but for the intelligence community, it’s just another week of hiding in the shadows.

Holder says its political while DoJ bribe allegations emerge

Editor’s Note – Now its bribery allegations, all while Eric Holder testifies again over the Fast & Furious scandal.

Almost daily now, and it certainly won’t end soon, the Department of Justice is exposed again, and again for failing the American people. Regardless whether Eric Holder thinks this is just political, and the White House and Congressional Democrat Party Caucus post their own reports to muddy the waters, Americans deserve to know the entire story, and heads must role.

“This has become political, that’s fine,” Holder said later at the hearing, but there is no attempt “at a cover-up.” The Justice Department, Holder insisted, “will continue to share huge amounts of information.” (CBS News)

It is easy to point the political finger, and when the tables were turned in other instances, the same tactics were employed on all sides, but in this case, a boondoggle that has political roots at its very foundation resulted in the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December of 2010. That was a full year after the DoJ and its subsidiaries could have made a significant set of arrests which were never carried out that would have certainly meant that Terry would still be with us today.

Border Agent Brian Terry

Agents could have arrested one of the suspects in December 2009 and used his arrest to work their way up the ladder to the two cartel associates, the staff memo said.

“Instead, ATF wanted to get its own federal wiretaps and create its own big case,” said the GOP memo. “This decision ensured that Fast and Furious lasted nearly a year longer, with 1,500 more guns being purchased — including the guns bought by another of the suspects in January 2010” found at the Terry murder scene. (CBS News)

Now, yet another boondoggle is exposed, one that casts an even larger shadow over the oversight of the DoJ by Eric Holder. This much belies his protestations today and request for “some credit” he mentioned while testifying today in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

SUA is glad to give you credit Mr. Holder – credit for malfeasance, dereliction of duty, and a whole host of other transgressions and crimes. Not the least of which is the threatened citation for Contempt of Congress as was reiterated this morning by Dan Burton (R) Indiana:

“I think you’re hiding behind something here,” Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., told Holder. “You ought to give us the documents. … It appears we’re being stonewalled.”

Burton, a former chairman of the committee, said he would urge Issa to seek a contempt of Congress citation if the Justice Department does not produce the congressionally subpoenaed documents. (CBS News)

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Bribery, compromised officials leave indicted financial-crime suspects free from prosecution under Holder’s DOJ

By Matthew Boyle

Daily Caller (TheDC)

A U.S. Justice Department source has told The Daily Caller that at least two DOJ prosecutors accepted cash bribes from allegedly corrupt finance executives who were indicted under court seal within the past 13 months, but never arrested or prosecuted.

The sitting governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands, his attorney general and an unspecified number of Virgin Islands legislators also accepted bribes, the source said, adding that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is aware prosecutors and elected officials were bribed and otherwise compromised, but has not held anyone accountable.

The bribed officials, an attorney with knowledge of the investigation told TheDC, remain on the taxpayers’ payroll at the Justice Department without any accountability. The DOJ source said Holder does not want to admit public officials accepted bribes while under his leadership.

That source said that until the summer of 2011, the two compromised prosecutors were part of a team of more than 25 federal prosecutors pursuing a financial crime ring, and at least five other prosecutors tasked to the case were also compromised by the criminal suspects they were investigating, without being bribed.

TheDC is withholding the name of the source, a knowledgeable government official who served on the Justice Department’s arrest team and was involved in the investigation, in order to prevent career retaliation from political figures in the Obama administration.

A former high-level elected official vouches for the government source’s veracity. “[The source] was trustworthy … and you could tell [the source] information or [the source] could hear information and [the source] would keep things close to [the source’s] chest,” that former official told TheDC. “You could trust [the source] with your life.”

The identities of the prosecutors who accepted bribes and others who were compromised have not yet been made public, and TheDC has not yet independently confirmed their identities. The prosecutors themselves are now cooperating with Justice Department investigators.