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The largest, most-consistent money fueling the climate denial movement are a number of well-funded conservative foundations built with so-called “dark money,” or concealed donations, according to an analysis released Friday afternoon.
The study, by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, is the first academic effort to probe the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the climate denial movement.
It found that the amount of money flowing through third-party, pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funding cannot be traced, has risen dramatically over the past five years.
– Robert Brulle, Drexel University
In all, 140 foundations funneled $558 million to almost 100 climate denial organizations from 2003 to 2010.
Meanwhile the traceable cash flow from more traditional sources, such as Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, has disappeared.
The study was published Friday in the journal Climatic Change.
“The climate change countermovement has had a real political and ecological impact on the failure of the world to act on global warming,” Brulle said in a statement. “Like a play on Broadway, the countermovement has stars in the spotlight – often prominent contrarian scientists or conservative politicians – but behind the stars is an organizational structure of directors, script writers and producers.”
“If you want to understand what’s driving this movement, you have to look at what’s going on behind the scenes.”
To uncover that, Brulle developed a list of 118 influential climate denial organizations in the United States. He then coded data on philanthropic funding for each organization, combining information from the Foundation Center, a database of global philanthropy, with financial data submitted by organizations to the Internal Revenue Service.
According to Brulle, the largest and most consistent funders where a number of conservative foundations promoting “ultra-free-market ideas” in many realms, among them the Searle Freedom Trust, the John Williams Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation.
Another key finding: From 2003 to 2007, Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were “heavily involved” in funding climate change denial efforts. But Exxon hasn’t made a publically traceable contribution since 2008, and Koch’s efforts dramatically declined, Brulle said.
Coinciding with a decline in traceable funding, Brulle found a dramatic rise in the cash flowing to denial organizations from Donors Trust, a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation, the assessment found, now accounts for 25 percent of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations promoting the systematic denial of climate change.
[updated Dec. 24] Jeffrey Zysik, chief financial officer for DonorsTrust, said in an email that neither DonorsTrust nor Donors Capital Fund “take positions with respect to any issue advocated by its grantees.”
“As with all donor-advised fund programs, grant recommendations are received from account holders,” he said. “DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund ensure that recommended grantees are IRS-approved public charities and also require that the grantee charities do not rely on significant amounts of revenue from government sources. DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund do not otherwise drive the selection of grantees, nor conduct in-depth analyses of projects or grantees unless an account holder specifically requests that service.” [end update]
Matter of democracy
In the end, Brulle concluded public records identify only a fraction of the hundreds of millions of dollars supporting climate denial efforts. Some 75 percent of the income of those organizations, he said, comes via unidentifiable sources.
And for Brulle, that’s a matter of democracy. “Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible,” he said. “Money amplifies certain voices above others and, in effect, gives them a megaphone in the public square.”
Powerful funders, he added, are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise doubts about the “roots and remedies” of a threat on which the science is clear.
“At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.”
Originally published at the Daily Climate. The Daily Climate is an independent, foundation-funded news service that covers climate change. Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org.
– Douglas Fischer, the Daily Climate
The Real Numbers Behind America’s Phony Recovery
Wednesday is the big day. Investors are on the edges of their seats, waiting to find out what the Fed will do. Taper? No taper? Or maybe it will taper on the tapering off?
Our guess is the Fed will not commit to a serious program of reducing its support to the bond, equity and housing markets. It’s too dangerous. Ben Bernanke – the man who didn’t see the housing crash coming – won’t want to see the stock market collapse just before he leaves office. He’ll want to go out on a high note…
…and that means guaranteeing more liquidity.
Investors don’t seem worried. On Monday, the Dow rose 130 points. Gold was up $10 an ounce. Most of the reports we read tell us the economy is improving. Unemployment is going down. Meanwhile, manufacturing levels are rising. Compared to Europe, the US is a powerhouse of growth and innovation, they say. Compared to emerging markets, it is a paragon of stability and confidence.
How much do investors love the US? Let us count the ways:
1. GDP per capita is running 7% – ahead of where it was in 2007. Among the world’s major developed economies only Germany can boast of anything close. All the rest are falling behind.
2. The budget deficit – which was running at about 10% of GDP – is now down to just 4% of GDP.
3. Unemployment is going down, too. Heck, just 7 out of 100 Americans are officially jobless. Didn’t Bernanke say he would tighten up when it hit that level?
4. And look at prices. Consumer price inflation is running at just 1% over the last 12 months. No threat from inflation, either.
But wait …
What if all these things were delusions… statistical folderol… or outright lies? What if the true measures of the economy were feeble and disappointing? What if the US economy was only barely stumbling and staggering along?
Well, dear reader, you surely expect us to tell that the US economy is a hidden disaster… and we won’t disappoint you. GDP? Carmen Reinhart studied the performance of rich economies following a financial crisis. Her paper, “After the Fall,” showed that, six years after a crisis, per capita GDP was typically 1.5 percentage points lower than in the years before the crisis. But in the US, per capita GDP growth is running 2.1% lower than its pre-crisis level – significantly worse than average.
Deficits? Super-low interest rates have helped debtors everywhere. “Never have American companies brought a greater share of their sales to the bottom line,” writes Bill Gross. How did they do that? Largely by taking advantage of the Fed’s interest rate suppression program. But hey, the US government is the world’s biggest debtor. It is the primary beneficiary of the Fed’s miniscule rates.
That’s part of the reason why deficits are low. Let the yield on the 10-year T-bond return to a “normal” 5%, and we’ll see deficits soar again. (Interest payments, under this scenario, would add an additional $360 billion a year to the deficit.) Besides, it’s not only the deficit that counts. It’s also the total level of debt… and particularly the debt financed with funny money from the Fed.
Only twice in US history has the ratio of US Treasurys held at the Fed gone over 10% – once in 1944 and again today. The first time, it was a national emergency: World War II. Now, the Fed is merely fighting to protect a credit bubble.
Inflation? Yes, consumer price inflation is low. But what that shows is that real demand is still in a deleveraging trough. The money multiplier – the ratio of money supply to the monetary base – collapsed in 2008. It has not come back. Neither has the economy.
Unemployment? The rate has been doctored by removing people from the labor pool. The workforce is now smaller – as a percentage of the eligible pool – than at any time since 1978.
Besides, what is important is not the rate, but what people get from employment. On that score, it is a catastrophe. According to a Brookings Institution study, the average man of working age earns 19% less in real (inflation adjusted) terms today than he did during the Carter administration!
A Strange Kind of Recovery
What kind of economy is it that reduces a man’s wages over a 43-year period? We don’t know. But it’s not likely to win any prizes. But why, with so many strikes against it, does the US economy still have the bat in its hands?
It’s partly because the Fed has pumped up stock, bond and house prices – not to mention net corporate profit margins (by reducing the interest expenses on corporate debt) and consumer spending (through entitlement programs funded through the Treasury with ultra-low interest rates). So, the averages look pretty good… and they mask the ugliness beneath them.
The rich got richer on the Fed’s EZ money. But the average “capita” is actually poorer. The bottom 90% of the population – people in 9 houses out of 10 – have 10% less income than they had 10 years ago.
This is not a success story. It’s a disaster. And not one that tempts us into an overvalued US stock market.
Judicial Watch Defends North Carolina Voter ID Law, Election Integrity
Wouldn’t it be nice if American citizens could depend on the Department of Justice (DOJ) to actually enforce the law? It really doesn’t seem like much to ask of the nation’s top law enforcement agency. And yet, when it comes to a wide range of issues, perhaps most notably election integrity, the DOJ is much worse than a bystander. Under this president, the DOJ has become a partisan tool to undermine the rule of law.
And that’s why Judicial Watch is now in court in North Carolina. We are defending a client who has a very simple mission: to ensure that every vote cast is legitimate. (Unfortunately this mission is at odds with the DOJ’s seeming mandate to ensure that the electoral process remains mired in fraud and chaos.)
JW recently filed a Motion for Intervention with our client Christina Kelley Gallegos-Merrill to defend North Carolina against a DOJ lawsuit. The DOJ seeks to prevent enforcement of HB 589, which requires, among other election integrity measures, that voters present a photo ID before casting a ballot. (Yes, the DOJ is actively fighting in court to “prevent enforcement” of the law.)
In addition to representing Judicial Watch members in North Carolina, the Intervention seeks to protect the interests of Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, a former Republican candidate for local office in North Carolina who likely lost her race because of voting irregularities that would be addressed by the HB 589.
Here’Here’s a squib from Judicial Watch’s motion, which argues that by failing to enforce Voter ID laws and other election integrity measures “impairs or impedes” fair elections:
In 2012, [Gallegos-Merrill] ran for County Commissioner of Buncombe County and lost a very close election. She alleges that this loss was due to same-day registration during early voting and to improperly cast ballots…. Merrill has made concrete plans to run again for that office in 2014 and has taken steps to make that happen…. Any ruling from this Court reversing the repeal of same-day registration during early voting or enjoining the enforcement of North Carolina’s photo ID law, would “impair or impede” Merrill’s interests including her immediate electoral prospects for 2014.
Let’s review the timeline of how we ended up in court on behalf of both our members and Ms. Gallegos-Merrill.
On July 25, 2013, both houses of the North Carolina Legislature passed the Voter Information Verification Act (HB 589), popularly known as the “voter ID law,” overhauling the state’s election laws. The bill’s provisions require photo identification for in-person voting; eliminate same-day registration during early voting; reduce the number of days of early voting; and require provisional ballots to be cast in the proper precinct.
All sensible election integrity measures, wouldn’t you say? Not to Attorney General Holder and his DOJ.
On the day the bill passed, Holder said in a speech to the National Urban League concerning the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby Co. v. Holder, which effectively eliminated a major barrier for election integrity measures in the state, that a DOJ voting rights lawsuit against Texas, “is the Department’s first action to protect voting rights following the Shelby County decision, but it will not be our last.”
This statement was widely seen as a reference to a potential lawsuit against North Carolina over its new photo ID law. Indeed, former Holder spokesman, Matt Miller, said the next day: “From everything I’ve read, the writing’s on the wall that the North Carolina law is going to draw a DOJ challenge.”
On July 29, 2013, a group of political activists were granted an audience at the White House with Attorney General Holder, Labor Secretary (and former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights) Tom Perez, and President Obama. The meeting attendance list represented a “who’s who” of voter fraud apologists and unofficial Obama administration “policy consultants,” including the ACLU, the NAACP, and Rev. Al Sharpton.
Sharpton subsequently told MSNBC that, based upon what he heard at the “unprecedented” meeting, he expected action regarding North Carolina “when this governor signs the bill.” And he was right.
When HB 589 was signed into law on August 12, 2013, two private lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court. A complaint by the National Association of Colored People (NAACP) alleged violations of the 14th and 15th Amendments and the Voting Rights Act (VRA). A complaint by the League of Women Voters also alleged violations of the 14th Amendment and the VRA. On September 30, the DOJ filed its complaint, asking the court to require federal pre-clearance before the state could enforce the HB 589 provisions. On November 26, the DOJ moved to consolidate all three cases.
In our Motion for Intervention, we argue that the negative impact of voter fraud extends beyond the candidates themselves to the voters of North Carolina:
The photo ID law at issue seeks, among other things, to prevent voter fraud. Where there is such fraud, North Carolina voters are harmed by having their votes diluted. In considering Indiana’s photo ID law, the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit noted that “[t]he purpose of the Indiana law is to reduce voting fraud, and voting fraud impairs the right of legitimate voters to vote by diluting their votes – dilution being recognized to be an impairment of the right to vote.”… North Carolina’s voters, including Merrill, are threatened with the same kind of injury.
You’ll note we reference Indiana in our motion. As I mentioned to you in October, JW and its client True the Vote are in court to force Indiana to clean up its dirty voter registration rolls. Our efforts there and in North Carolina are part of our continuing Election Integrity Project, which got a huge boost last month when former DOJ Deputy Chief of the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division Robert Popper joined the team. (Popper is the lead attorney in the North Carolina case, assisted by Christopher Coates, former Chief of the Voting Rights Section of the DOJ and local counsel Gene Johnson. As one election law observer noted, we brought the big guns to this legal fight.)
Our election integrity team certain has its work cut out. As JW has shown through a comprehensive nationwide investigation, many states appear to have problems with inaccurate voter registration lists, including: Mississippi, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alabama, and California. We’ve told election officials in no uncertain terms that they must maintain accurate voter registration lists consistent with Section 8 of the NVRA or face litigation to enforce the federal law. In addition to North Carolina and Indiana, we’ve already taken legal action in Ohio and Florida.
And rather than getting assistance from the nation’s top law enforcement agency, what do we get instead? Obstruction, interference and outright undermining of the law.
The Obama DOJ is clearly hostile to the idea of one person, one vote, one time. It is shameful that the DOJ is now in court trying to stop North Carolina from fulfilling its legal obligation to prevent ineligible voters from committing voter fraud. Candidates, such as our client Ms. Gallegos-Merrill, have a right to expect to compete in clean elections. And we look forward to defending the voting rights of our supporters in North Carolina and throughout the nation. Our work is essential as the rule of law and election integrity are under unprecedented attack from this highly politicized Justice Department and its liberal allies (such as the ACLU).
New Records Show: Panetta Revealed “Top Secret” Information to Hollywood Filmmaker
The Obama administration has a very simple flow chart for the release of government information. Does the information make the administration look good? If “yes,” then release. If “no” then keep secret and stonewall. This policy – certainly not Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or the president’s many promises of transparency – provides the guiding principle for government bureaucrats responding to open records requests.
And this is why we are in federal court so often.
Take, for example, the Obama administration’s “role” in producing the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” This movie, directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and written by Mark Boal, glowingly showed Obama as an in-command president during the bin Laden raid. The film was originally set to hit theaters just prior to the 2012 elections, ostensibly to aid the Obama re-election efforts, but the premiere was delayed after the filmmakers sustained heavy criticism for the apparent political timing of the film’s release.
Of course, the timing of the film aside, there was another key question that dogged the film. Just how did the filmmakers get “top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration”?
This question became the focal point of a JW investigation and was partially answered this week, when we released records from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including a previously unreleased CIA internal report confirming that former CIA Director Leon Panetta revealed classified information at a June 24, 2011, bin Laden assault awards ceremony attended by “Zero Dark Thirty” filmmaker Mark Boal.
The documents were produced in response to a June 21, 2013, FOIA lawsuit against the CIA.
Significantly, the entire transcript of the Panetta speech provided to Judicial Watch by the CIA is classified “Top Secret.” More than 90 lines are redacted for security reasons, further confirming that significant portions of the speech should not have been made in front of the filmmaker who lacked top security clearance.
At the conclusion his speech, the transcript shows Panetta told the audience at the ceremony, “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”
Now, during the speech, according to a draft Pentagon inspector general’s report released earlier this year, “Director Panetta specifically recognized the unit that conducted the raid and identified the ground commander by name.” Subsequent to the ceremony, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said, “CIA was very sloppy and the administration was very sloppy in enforcing security procedures when it came to Hollywood. It almost seems as if they were star-struck.” Significantly, for some reason, the final IG report omitted any reference to Panetta’s disclosure of “TOP SECRET” and other sensitive information at an event.
Also, included in the documents provided to Judicial Watch is an October 22, 2012, internal “Review of UBL Awards Ceremony Attendance” written by the CIA Office of Security (OS) concluding that, “The Agency’s security policy and administrative procedures were not followed in allowing Mr. Boal, a member of the media, access to the classified bin Ladin Operation Award Ceremony.” The three-page review also states, “The review conducted by OS leads to the conclusion that the failure to follow stipulations in ARs [redacted] resulted in the disclosure of classified information to a member of the media, without benefit of any documentation to reflect a waiver to the above policies.”
Here are some other highlights from the records:
- A letter from the Director of Operations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Department of Defense Inspector General stating: “It is my determination, as the Original Classification Authority, that both of these transcripts [from the ceremony] contain SECRET / [REDACTED] information. The information in each transcript was classified at the time each incident occurred.”
- Information revealing that there were actually two classification reviews conducted by the Original Classification Authority (OCA) because the original transcript of Panetta’s speech provided by the CIA to the DOD Inspector General was inaccurate and incomplete: “ISPA [Intelligence and Special Program Assessments] discovered proof of inconsistencies and lack of information on the original transcript received by the CIA in comparison to the video recording. As a result of the inaccurate transcript, OGC determined the OCAs determination are not valid and must been resubmitted for another OCA determination to include the verbatim information.”
- A CIA Review reference suggesting that former CIA Chief of Staff (then DOD Chief of Staff) Jeremy Bash as the individual responsible for directing the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs to allow Boal to attend the ceremony: “… OS [Office of Security] did speak with an OPA [Office of Public Affairs] representative who was involved in the ceremony, who advised that the ODCIA [Office of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency] directed Mr. Boal to attend the ceremony.” This appears to confirm information provided in the DOD IG report: “[T]he CIA PAO contacted the DOD PAO to state that efforts failed and the ‘Chief of Staff’ directed that the Hollywood executive be given access to the event.”
The inclusion of Boal at the CIA ceremony was not the only instance of the Obama administration apparently attempting to influence the production of the “Zero Dark Thirty” movie.
You may recall, in August 2012, Judicial Watch released records it obtained from the CIA and the Department of Defense pursuant to a FOIA lawsuit regarding meetings and communications between government agencies, Boal, and Bigelow, as they prepared to shoot “Zero Dark Thirty.” According to a June 15, 2011, email from Benjamin Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, the Obama White House was intent on “trying to have visibility into the UBL [Usama bin Laden] projects and this is likely a high profile one.”
Mission accomplished there.
Back to that flow chart. The Obama administration obviously thought that the bin Laden raid details – secret or not – would make them look good, so they released them. Clearly these new internal CIA documents show that CIA Director Panetta breeched national security in order to curry favor with Hollywood filmmakers who the Obama administration hoped would make a pro-Obama film.
And what is particularly infuriating is that, at the same time the administration was releasing these classified secrets to Hollywood, it was stonewalling a JW request for details regarding bin Laden’s burial at sea, as well as images of the raid. Obviously there is something in those records – which do not carry with them the same sensitivity as the identities of those who conducted the raid – that is embarrassing to the president. So “do not release” remains the official Obama policy. (The courts have thus far acquiesced to the administration with the Supreme Court mulling over our petition to hear the case.)
In our view, this new information we uncovered should provide the impetus for a criminal probe of this dangerous leak. But we’re not holding our breath. Our investigation continues, as well as our pursuit of the bin Laden raid records at the Supreme Court.
In the meantime, Americans might wonder why some leakers, such as Edward Snowden, are aggressively pursued for leaks by Obama’s Justice Department while high level political hacks such as Panetta skate by free and clear.
JW Report: ‘U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed “Offensive” to Muslims’
One of the great things about our work at Judicial Watch is that virtually everything we say is backed up by documents and facts. DC is full of fact-free opinion, but our analysis is backed up by documents from the government and other verifiable sources. Judicial Watch has produced a number of special reports over the years that add educational context to our investigations and litigation.
This Monday we released a new special report on a dangerous campaign of political correctness that is ongoing within the federal government that threatens our safety and national security. This report is entitled: “U.S. Government Purges of Law Enforcement Training Material Deemed ‘Offensive’ to Muslims: Documentation and Analysis of Islamist Active Measures and Influence Operations Targeting Anti-terrorism Training.”
At 26 pages, this special report includes a detailed chronology; identifies specific Islamic propaganda organizations; and identifies the five top “Islamist influence operators” associated with the Obama administration. More than 12 years of Judicial Watch work on national security issues is featured in the report, highlighting information from government documents exclusively obtained by JW.
In other words, you will not find this information anywhere else.
The report centers on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) purge of anti-terrorism training material and curricula deemed “offensive” to Muslims. The curricula purge – documented through a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit in June 2013 – occurred following a February 8, 2012, meeting between FBI Director Robert Mueller and various Islamic organizations.
The purge was part of a “broader Islamist influence operation” designed to “influence the opinions and actions of persons, institutions, governments and the public at-large.” The report also documents incidents of “Islamic influence operations” at the Departments of Justice and State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Obama White House.
Check out some of the material deemed “offensive” and the reasons given by the FBI for purging the information:
- “Article is highly inflammatory and inaccurately argues the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.” [Editor’s Note: The Special Report reveals that in 2011, Mueller had described the Muslim Brotherhood as a group that supports terrorism in the U.S. and overseas.]
- “The Qur’an is not the teachings of the Prophet, but the revealed word of God.”
- “Remove sweeping generality of ‘Those who fit the terrorist profile best (for the present at least) are young male immigrants of Middle Eastern appearance.’”
- “[A]uthor seems to conflate ‘Islamic Militancy’ with ‘terrorism’ and needs to define the difference and use it in their analysis.”
So now our government is supposed to endorse the idea that the Qur’an is the “revealed word of God?” (This at a time when the U.S. military is banning Bibles and persecuting Christians for their beliefs.)
With respect to the “Chronology of Recent Developments in Influence Operations” the report details the following incidents, among others:
- July 2011: State Department and OIC meetings on “Istanbul Process,” Secretary Hillary Clinton tells Organization of Islamic Cooperation that U.S. government will use “old fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming” against “Islamophobia.”
- October 2011: 57 Muslim groups send a letter to White House demanding “purge” of all counterterrorism training materials and “re-education” of all FBI agents exposed to “Islamophobic” training.
- October 2011: DOJ Civil Rights Division meeting with Islamic groups to discuss criminalizing criticism of Islam as “discrimination.”
- November 2011: White House responds to Muslim groups’ “purge” demand letter, agrees to set up inter-agency task force, including extremist Muslim groups, to oversee FBI counterterrorism training development.
- February 2012: Islamic groups meet with FBI to ensure compliance with demanded “Islamophobia” purge.
The report also shows how this purge campaign is possible: “The Obama administration has been penetrated by Islamist influence operators, seeking to advance an ideological agenda completely at odds with our constitutional system. The penetration is, in many cases, by the Obama administration’s invitation.” Some of the more public and controversial figures associated with the Obama administration have included:
- “Rashad Hussain – U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC … has a history of participating in events connected with the Muslim Brotherhood.
- “Huma Abedin – Long-time personal aide to former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [whose] late-father, mother and brother are all connected to Muslim Brotherhood organizations or operatives.
- “Daliah Mogahed – An advisor to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Mogahed’s 2009 book Who Speaks for Islam? is viewed by many as an apologia for the growing power and influence of radical Islamists. Mogahed is an unapologetic defender of unindicted terrorist conspirator organizations such as CAIR and ISNA.
- “Momamed Elibiary – A Texas-based security consultant and Islamic cleric who was named to President Obama’s Homeland Security Advisory Council in 2010. He has close ties to a convicted Hamas fundraiser and other radical Islamist causes ….
- “Mohamed Magid – … President of the ISNA, an unindicted terrorist conspirator organization. Magid was appointed by President Obama to the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. From that position, Magid was key in influencing and directing the purge of training materials and policies in the FBI and other federal agencies.”
The Report includes a riveting section on Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen and militant imam who has been described as the “spiritual leader” and inspiration of the 9/11 hijackers; the Fort Hood murderer, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hassan; and the 2009 Christmas Day (attempted) airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abudulmutallab of Nigeria, and others. Killed by a U.S. drone strike in September 2011, al-Aulaqi had been the subject of Judicial Watch litigation resulting in the release of more than 1,800 pages of records revealing a highly questionable relationship between the terrorist leader and the U.S. government.
Our report hit a nerve and your Judicial Watch was called a “hate group” by a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is one of the terrorist-front groups we further expose in our new report.
Rest assured we will continue to investigate, analyze and pursue additional lines of inquiry concerning Islamist influence operations targeting the law enforcement and intelligence agencies, the Defense Department and the media. This Report is a steppingstone for further inquiries by Congress, government watchdogs, and the media. The American people deserve complete, accurate, factual information concerning the threats of subversion and terror posed to our country. And that’s what we intend to provide.
In the meantime, please get the word out about this report and demand from your elected representatives that our federal national security establishment start dealing with the truth rather than politically-correct fantasies about the Islamic basis for the terrorist threat.
Until next week…
James Fitz-Morris has been reporting from Parliament Hill for more than a decade and joined the CBC’s parliamentary bureau in 2006, covering finance and foreign affairs among his beats. Fluent in English and French, he has also worked in Beirut and is still grappling with Arabic.
Starting next July, Canadian banks will be required to ask anyone opening a new account if they are now, or ever have been, an American “person.”
It comes at the behest of the U.S. government and its efforts to “smoke out” tax dodgers.
The Foreign Accounts Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, was passed by the U.S. Congress in 2010 and comes into force July 1, 2014.
The law forces all banks and other financial institutions outside the U.S. to search for customers who have certain “indicia.” Those are markers that show the person may be a U.S. citizen or a former permanent resident who, under U.S. law, must file income tax returns to Uncle Sam no matter where they reside in the world.
The only other country with similar tax rules for expats is Eritrea.
When announcing the law, U.S. President Barack Obama said, “if financial institutions won’t cooperate with us, we will assume they are sheltering money in tax-havens and act accordingly.”
The threat is a withholding tax of 30 per cent levied on every transaction a non-compliant bank has coming from, or even passing through, the U.S.
“Bottom line is: there is absolutely no way that a large, modern financial institution like a Canadian bank or a large credit union could escape FATCA,” says Marion Wrobel, vice-president of policy and operations at the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA).
Wrobel says his organization has been fighting FATCA since it was announced, calling it the “extra-territorial” application of American law.
“The only reason the Americans can do it is because it is a large economy, financial markets are integrated globally,” Wrobel adds, “and it is virtually impossible for a large institution like a Canadian bank, an insurance company, a securities dealer, a large credit union to avoid being caught up in a FATCA net.”
Starting July 1, 2014, banks will be required to scour the records of all of their customers with more than $50,000 in an account.
They will be looking indicators such as: place of birth, alternate addresses and phone numbers, and past residency in the United Sates. Every file with at least one indicia marker will be flagged as a “U.S. Reportable Account.”
At the same time, anyone wanting to open a new account will be asked directly if they are a “U.S. person” as defined by the IRS. Anyone who answers affirmatively will be flagged.
Wrobel says refusing to answer the question could also land any Canadian in trouble.
“If you refuse to answer it you could be considered recalcitrant and your information could be reported.”
So far the banks’ protests have changed little. The best they have been able to do is take some of the heat off themselves directly. Canada is close to negotiating an Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) with the U.S. to implement FATCA.
Once in place, the bank would no longer be required to send private customer information directly to a foreign government agency. Instead, Canadian banks will flag their customers to the Canada Revenue Agency, and — under the terms of the agreement — the CRA will be the one that automatically transmits all the information to the IRS.
‘Infringement of liberty and privacy’
To enact the IGA, the Canadian government would almost certainly need to introduce a new law or amend existing ones to allow financial institutions to breach the privacy of Canadian citizens and residents.
It’s not clear how that can be done without running afoul of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Constitutional lawyer and expert Peter Hogg wrote to the Finance Department to express his concerns about the proposed deal.
In a copy of the letter released under Access to Information, he says: “To impose on financial institutions the duty to report to CRA (en route to the IRS) the names, addresses, place of birth and date of birth and details of the bank accounts of account-holders identified only by their place of birth in or citizenship of the United States, and all under the implicit threat of taxes, penalties or prosecutions by the IRS, seems to me to be a clear case of discrimination in contravention of [Section] 15 [of the Charter].”
He goes on to say: “There is no mechanism in the Model IGA whereby individuals who are suspected to be U.S. citizens would even know that their personal information was provided, “ Hogg’s letter argues, “thus there may be no opportunity to provide additional information or take other steps in order to prevent the transmission of this information from Canada.”
At best, Hogg believes, it is an infringement “of liberty and privacy,” but possibly also violations of at least three sections of the Charter.
The plan has critics around the world.
“I don’t think it’s pejorative to use the term ‘fishing expedition,’ that term has been used by the U.S. government already and people talking about FATCA — that’s exactly what this is,” says Allison Christians, the Stikeman Chair of Tax Law at McGill University.
She points out Canada and the U.S. already have a tax treaty that’s been in place for almost 20 years, which allows the IRS to obtain information on specific individuals from the CRA automatically.
“But FATCA wants more,” Christians adds. “They want not just the ones we have already identified; they want to, in the words of a former treasury secretary, ‘smoke out’ the Americans who are hiding.”
And this is where many experts believe FATCA might not just be unconstitutional, but also misguided.
“It’s not risk-based, it’s not targeting known tax havens. It’s looking at places like Canada, you know — Americans do not come to Canada for the low taxes,” says Wrobel.
Perhaps to add insult to injury, the individual Canadian financial institutions being deputized by the IRS to sniff out wayward U.S. taxpayers need to cover the cost of the added scrutiny, monitoring, and reporting themselves.
The CBA estimates it will likely cost the big banks $100 million each to comply with FATCA.
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