Sunday, December 31, 2017

In 2009 Iranian freedom fighters sent White House an urgent memo asking for help, refuting Obama admin. claim to this day that Iran Green Party asked US not to help. Conversely, nothing could stop Obama supporting Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or radicals in Libya-IBD Editorial, Feb. 2012

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12/31/17, "Ex-Obama State Dept. Spox: We Didn’t Support Iran Protesters in 2009 Because They Asked Us Not To," finkelblogger.com..."Marie Harf, a former Obama State Department spokeswoman, appeared on today’s Fox News Sunday...."The reason we didn’t [support the protesters] was that it was our judgment—and we were hearing from Iranians protesting on the streets that your support will not help us.”"
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Feb. 28, 2012, "Obama ignored Iranian freedom fighters in 2009," IBD Editorial

"Mideast: During their brutally suppressed protests in 2009, Iranian freedom fighters sent the White House an urgent memo calling for help. Under Obama, America ignored it.
 
'So now, at this pivotal point in time, it is up to the countries of the free world to make up their mind," Iranian opposition leaders told the Obama administration in an eight-page memo in 2009. "Will they continue on the track of wishful thinking and push every decision to the future until it is too late, or will they reward the brave people of Iran and simultaneously advance the Western interests and world peace."

President Obama made his choice, and like so often before it was to vote "present."

The memo, written by leaders of Iran's Green Party after the summer 2009 anti-government demonstrations, was obtained by the Washington Examiner.

The document confirms GOP candidate Rick Santorum's charge that the U.S. squandered an opportunity to undermine the government established by the Ayatollah Khomeini three decades ago.

In the Arizona GOP debate last week, Santorum noted that "we did absolutely nothing to help" the Green Revolution. But "when the radicals in Egypt and the radicals in Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood ... rise against either a feckless leader or a friend of ours in Egypt, the president is more than happy to help them out."

The memo refutes claims still being made by the State Department that the Green Party "did not desire financial or other support," because it "would discredit it in the eyes of the Iranian people."

The secret memo's warning that the Islamist regime "with its apocalyptic constitution will never give up the atomic bomb" also contradicts conventional wisdom that the Green movement wants a nuclear Iran.

The Obama administration is oddly proud that it does "not provide financial assistance to any political movement, party or faction in Iran." But Foundation for the Defense of Democracies scholar Michael Ledeen has argued for years that supporting Iran's real opposition can keep it from becoming the first jihadist nuclear power....

The U.S. can also provide satellite phones and laptops to students, religious leaders and others, and fund large-scale strikes and mass demonstrations to bring Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's regime down.

With Iran close to a nuclear weapon, military action may be the only option. But the Green memo is a shameful blemish for a president who could have prevented a threat to the free world of nuclear terror, but didn't."


 

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CNN unable to cover Iran Protests due to giant box truck blocking their view

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12/30/17, "CNN unable to cover Iran Protests due to GIANT box truck blocking their view," Trump Soldier twitter













Added: Commenters credited Matt's Idea Shop for creating the above image






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NY Times again trumpets as fact uncorroborated assertion that exists only in admitted liar Papadopoulos' criminal plea bargain, ie that Russian Mifsud, a professor in Scotland, told him Russia had 'thousands of emails' of Hillary dirt. Mifsud himself denies knowing or discussing anything about emails. Mueller Oct. 30 court documents never state whether anyone in Trump campaign ever received this alleged Russian email news Papadopoulos claimed in his plea bargain about lying to FBI. None of Papadopoulos' many emails to Trump officials mention Russia having "thousands of emails"-Robert Parry, Consortium News

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"Even New York Times correspondent Scott Shane noted late last month – after the criminal complaint against Papadopoulos was unsealed – that A crucial detail is still missing: Whether and when Mr. Papadopoulos told senior Trump campaign officials about Russia’s possession of hacked emails. And it appears that the young aide’s quest for a deeper connection with Russian officials, while he aggressively pursued it, led nowhere.”" Court documents about Papadopoulos criminal lying to FBI in Jan. 27, 2017 interview.

11/20/17, "The Lost Journalistic Standards of Russia-gate," Robert Parry, Consortium News

"Exclusive: The Russia-gate hysteria has witnessed a widespread collapse of journalistic standards as major U.S. news outlets ignore rules about how to treat evidence in dispute, writes Robert Parry." 

"A danger in both journalism and intelligence is to allow an unproven or seriously disputed fact to become part of the accepted narrative where it gets widely repeated and thus misleads policymakers and citizens alike, such as happened during the run-up to war with Iraq and is now recurring amid the frenzy over Russia-gate. 

For instance, in a Russia-gate story on Saturday, The New York Times reported as flat fact that a Kremlin intermediary “told a Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos, that the Russians had ‘dirt’ on Mr. Trump’s rival, Hillary Clinton, in the form of ‘thousands of emails.’ The Times apparently feels that this claim no longer needs attribution even though it apparently comes solely from the 32-year-old Papadopoulos as part of his plea bargain over lying to the FBI.

George Papadopoulos.
Beyond the question of trusting an admitted liar like Papadopoulos, his supposed Kremlin contact, professor Joseph Mifsud, a little-known academic associated with the University of Stirling in Scotlanddenied knowing anything about Democratic emails.

In an interview with the U.K. Daily Telegraph, Mifsud acknowledged meeting with Papadopoulos but disputed having close ties to the Kremlin and rejected how Papadopoulos recounted their conversations. Specifically, he denied the claim that he mentioned emails containing “dirt” on Clinton.

Even New York Times correspondent Scott Shane noted late last month – after the criminal complaint against Papadopoulos was unsealed – that A crucial detail is still missing: Whether and when Mr. Papadopoulos told senior Trump campaign officials about Russia’s possession of hacked emails." And it appears that the young aide’s quest for a deeper connection with Russian officials, while he aggressively pursued it, led nowhere.”

Shane added, “the court documents describe in detail how Mr. Papadopoulos continued to report to senior campaign officials on his efforts to arrange meetings with Russian officials, the documents do not say explicitly whether, and to whom, he passed on his most explosive discovery – that the Russians had what they considered compromising emails on Mr. Trump’s opponent.
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“J.D. Gordon, a former Pentagon official who worked for the Trump campaign as a national security adviser [and who dealt directly with Papadopoulos] said he had known nothing about Mr. Papadopoulos’ discovery that Russia had obtained Democratic emails or of his prolonged pursuit of meetings with Russians.”

Missing Corroboration

But the journalistic question is somewhat different: why does the Times trust the uncorroborated assertion that Mifsud told Papadopoulos about the emails — and trust the claim to such a degree that the newspaper would treat it as flat fact? Absent corroborating evidence, isn’t it just as likely (if not more likely) that Papadopoulos is telling the prosecutors what he thinks they want to hear? 

If the prosecutors working for Russia-gate independent counsel Robert Mueller had direct evidence that Mifsud did tell Papadopoulos about the emails, you would assume that they would have included the proof in the criminal filing against Papadopoulos, which was made public on Oct. 30. 

Further, since Papadopoulos was peppering the Trump campaign with news about his Russian outreach in 2016, you might have expected that he would include something about how helpful the Russians had been in obtaining and publicizing the Democratic emails.

But none of Papadopoulos’s many emails to Trump campaign officials about his Russian contacts (as cited by the prosecutors) mentioned the hot news about “dirt” on Clinton or the Russians possessing “thousands of emails.” This lack of back-up would normally raise serious doubts about Papadopoulos’s claim, but – since Papadopoulos was claiming something that the prosecutors and the Times wanted to believe – reasonable skepticism was swept aside.

What the Times seems to have done is to accept a bald assertion by Mueller’s prosecutors as sufficient basis for jumping to the conclusion that this disputed claim is undeniably true. But just because Papadopoulos, a confessed liar, and these self-interested prosecutors claim something is true doesn’t make it true.

Careful journalists would wonder, as Shane did, why Papadopoulos who in 2016 was boasting of his Russian contacts to make himself appear more valuable to the Trump campaign wouldn’t have informed someone about this juicy tidbit of information, that the Russians possessed “thousands of emails” on Clinton.

Yet, the prosecutors’ statement regarding Papadopoulos’s guilty plea is strikingly silent on corroborating evidence that could prove that, first, Russia did possess the Democratic emails (which Russian officials deny) and, second, the Trump campaign was at least knowledgeable about this core fact in the support of the theory about the campaign’s collusion with the Russians (which President Trump and other campaign officials deny).

Of course, it could be that the prosecutors’ “fact” will turn out to be a fact as more evidence emerges, but anyone who has covered court cases or served on a jury knows that prosecutors’ criminal complaints and pre-trial statements should be taken with a large grain of salt. Prosecutors often make assertions based on the claim of a single witness whose credibility gets destroyed when subjected to cross-examination.

That is why reporters are usually careful to use words like “alleged” in dealing with prosecutors’ claims that someone is guilty. However, in Russia-gate, all the usual standards of proof and logic have been jettisoned. If something serves the narrative, no matter how dubious, it is embraced by the U.S. mainstream media, which – for the past year – has taken a lead role in the anti-Trump “Resistance.”"...






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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Obama representatives met with high level government officials in both Iran and Syria during his 2008 presidential campaign. At the time, Iran and the US didn't even have diplomatic relations-AFP, INN, Feb. 2, 2009...(Still waiting for a Special Prosecutor...)

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Added: During his 2008 campaign, prior to his election, Obama representatives colluded with high-level government officials in both Iran and Syria. Agence France Presse didn't report the meetings as "collusion," rather as "secret talks." All parties correctly figured there would be no negative consequences for these treasonous acts-the US and Iran didn't even have diplomatic relations then.

2/2/2009, "Obama Held Secret Talks With Iran, Syria Weeks Before Election," Israel National News, Malkah Fleisher 

"United States President Barack Obama employed representatives and experts to hold secret high-level talks with Iran and Syria months prior to his election as president, organizers of the meetings told Agence France Presse on Monday. 

Over the past few months, Obama campaign and election officials, as well as nuclear non-proliferation experts, had several "very, very high-level" contacts with Iranian leaders, according to Jeffrey Boutwell, executive director for the U.S. branch of the Pugwash group, a Nobel Prize-winning international organization of scientists. Former defense secretary William Perry, who served in Obama's election campaign, also participated in some of the meetings, which included discussions on Iran's nuclear program and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Though Boutwell refused to name other participants, he said they were senior figures in the Iranian and US governments.

The United States and Iran have had no official diplomatic relationship since the overthrow of the Shah and the institution of the Islamic Republic, 30 years ago. The U.S. accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons.

In his first television interview as president, conducted by the Muslim Al-Arabiya television network, Obama called Iranians "a great people," adding "the U.S. has a stake in the well being of the Muslim world." 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad affirmed the reports Monday that Obama officials had repeated contact with his country for some time prior to the U.S. elections.

"Dialogue started some weeks ago in a serious manner through personalities who are close to the administration and who were dispatched by the administration," Assad said."...






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In Dec. 2009 Iran police murdered peaceful citizens in the street as the world watched. In Dec. 2017, President Trump supports peaceful protesters in Iran, condemns their arrest-AFP via UK Telegraph

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12/27/2009, "Police officers in Iran opened fire into crowds of protesters on Sunday, killing at least 10 people." ...."Obama failed them. Trump will not. This is what the leader of the free world sounds like." Pamela Geller, 12/29/2017
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12/30/17, "Donald Trump warns Iran 'world is watching' as he condemns arrest of protesters," AFP via UK Telegraph

"Donald Trump condemned the arrest of protesters in Iran, telling Tehran that "the world is watching" as officials reported fresh demonstrations over the country’s struggling economy.


 









Fifty-two people were arrested in Iran's second city Mashhad on Thursday, the first day of the protests, which also took place in other areas and spread to the capital Tehran as well as Kermanshah the following day.

"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad," the White House added in a statement.

"The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching," it said.

US President Donald Trump has repeatedly taken aim at Iran, denouncing its government as a "fanatical regime" and accusing it of violating an international agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear program, refusing to certify its compliance with the deal. 

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also addressed the protests.

"The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption," she said in a statement."

Above image at UK Telegraph and Donald J. Trump twitter

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Added: Dec. 27, 2009, Iran police fire into crowds of protesters killing at least 10: NY Times, "Police are said to have killed 10 in Iran protests," Robert F. Worth and Nazila Fathi 

"Police officers in Iran opened fire into crowds of protesters on Sunday, killing at least 10 people, witnesses and opposition Web sites said, in a day of chaotic street battles that threatened to deepen the country’s civil unrest."...

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Added: During his 2008 campaign, prior to his election, Obama representatives colluded with high-level government officials in both Iran and Syria. Agence France Presse didn't report the meetings as "collusion," rather as "secret talks." All parties correctly figured there would be no negative consequences for these treasonous acts because at that time the US was no longer the US. It was a joke. The US and Iran didn't even have diplomatic relations then. It remains to be seen if the US will regain itself: 

2/2/2009, "Obama Held Secret Talks With Iran, Syria Weeks Before Election," Israel National News, Malkah Fleisher 

"United States President Barack Obama employed representatives and experts to hold secret high-level talks with Iran and Syria months prior to his election as president, organizers of the meetings told Agence France Presse on Monday. 

Over the past few months, Obama campaign and election officials, as well as nuclear non-proliferation experts, had several "very, very high-level" contacts with Iranian leaders, according to Jeffrey Boutwell, executive director for the U.S. branch of the Pugwash group, a Nobel Prize-winning international organization of scientists. Former defense secretary William Perry, who served in Obama's election campaign, also participated in some of the meetings, which included discussions on Iran's nuclear program and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Though Boutwell refused to name other participants, he said they were senior figures in the Iranian and US governments.

The United States and Iran have had no official diplomatic relationship since the overthrow of the Shah and the institution of the Islamic Republic, 30 years ago. The U.S. accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons.

In his first television interview as president, conducted by the Muslim Al-Arabiya television network, Obama called Iranians "a great people," adding "the U.S. has a stake in the well being of the Muslim world." 

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad affirmed the reports Monday that Obama officials had repeated contact with his country for some time prior to the U.S. elections. "Dialogue started some weeks ago in a serious manner through personalities who are close to the administration and who were dispatched by the administration," Assad said."

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Added: More Iran coverage at PamelaGeller.com



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Friday, December 29, 2017

Huma Abedin cousin Omar Amanat jailed for fraud partnered with Russian Vladislav Doronin in $358 million real estate deal that unraveled when Amanat failed to put money down. Another Huma cousin Irfan Amanat also charged with fraud awaits trial. Wrote computer program that tricked Nasdaq-Daily Caller

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"The son of Indian immigrants, [Omar] Amanat grew up in Queens, N.Y., and later New Jersey....He was a man about town, charismatic and dashingwith a trademark scarf draped over his well-cut blazer....Among the accolades recorded on his personal website is being named...one of the Top 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World....Amanat-related websites credit him with co-founding...a television network aimed at countering negative stereotypes of Islam."...




 
12/28/17, "Huma’s Cousin, Who Partnered With ‘Russian Donald Trump,’ Convicted of Fraud, Tampered With Case By Deleting Emails," Daily Caller, Luke Rosiak

"A cousin of Huma Abedin who did a half-billion dollar deal with a man known as the “Russian Donald Trump” was convicted of fraud Tuesday, and the judge ordered him jailed immediately, saying he had demonstrated a “disdain for the courts and legal process” and was a flight risk.

Court documents also depict him trying to destroy potential evidence, saying he emailed his brother to “delete all of my emails from the yahoo site,” expressing “concern about them subp[o]ening yahoo at some point,” while concocting other fake documents to show the jury.

Jurors were barred from hearing a recording of a phone call in which Omar Amanat dropped the name of Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s right-hand woman, to a government witness, with defense lawyers saying the remark was “irrelevant and unfairly prejudicial,” according to the Associated Press.

The indictment charges that Amanat convinced people to invest millions of dollars in a tech company called Kit Digital and lied to them to hide the fact that the company was hemorrhaging cash. “The evidence of their criminal schemes was so overwhelming that Amanat actually tried to fool the jury by introducing fake emails into the record as exculpatory ‘evidence’ in this trial,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said in a statement. Prosecutors said he re-purposed millions of dollars of the company’s money for his own personal use.

Amanat posted to his web site Tuesday a cryptic blog post called “Injustice In America,” saying, “The facts of this case will all be made plain to see shortly. You’ve only seen snippets. You’re only seen what they want you to see. Stay tuned…”

It was just the latest in a long series of allegations that Amanat has built his riches by lying and gaming the system.

In 2013, Amanat partnered with Vladislav Doronin to buy a luxury resort for $358 million.

An in-depth 2014 profile in Fortune magazine says Doronin is “referred to in the British press as the ‘Russian Donald Trump.'” Dorinin was born in what was then Leningrad before moving to Geneva to work for Marc Rich, a financier who fled the U.S. after being indicted for fraud and trading with Iran, and was pardoned by former President Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office.

“Clinton’s motive for pardoning Rich on his last day in office was questioned,” USA Today reports, “because Rich’s ex-wife, Denise Rich, was a wealthy Democratic donor who made a $450,000 donation to Clinton’s presidential library foundation and more than $100,000 to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign.” The pardon was investigated by the FBI in 2001.

After working with Rich, Doronin, with a supposed penchant for sexual jokes, returned to Russia and accumulated billions of dollars of Moscow real estate.

Amanat, for his part, claimed he made more than $200 million selling shares of Twitter. (An account purporting to be his hasn’t tweeted since 2013; its most recent two tweets are about Abedin and a “defense of Islam.”)

Amanat invested in the resort through Peak Ventures, “whose assets include his money as well as that of family and friends,” the Fortune profile reports.

But as in past ventures, problems soon emerged. In 2014, Doronin called Amanat a “serial swindler” and said he forged signatures on documents dealing with millions of dollars.

In 2008, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) had permanently barred Amanat “from associating with any FINRA member firm in any capacity” for repeatedly failing to disclose legal judgments and an SEC investigation.

In 2002, he sold a company called Tradescape for $100 million to E*Trade, which charged that Amanat hid that before it was sold, the company had “no money! Zero. Zilch. Nada… We can’t pay any of our bills,” as one employee wrote in a contemporaneous email, according to the Forbes piece. 

He declared bankruptcy and a creditor tried to seize his house, but Amanat allegedly backdated a document –notarized by his motherclaiming he had sold the house to his brother for $10 the prior year. The creditor prevailed and the house was sold.

In another court case, the judge found that he had refused to comply with six court orders to produce documents.

Amanat will be sentenced April 25. Another cousin of Abedin’s, Irfan Amanat, has been also charged with fraud and will be tried separately. He, too, has a long record of flouting rules: In 2006, the Securities and Exchange Commission said as chief technology officer of a brokerage, he “engaged in a fraudulent scheme” by writing a computer program that tricked the Nasdaq exchange into giving him $50,000 in rebates.

Huma Abedin was vice chair of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign and her deputy chief of staff at the Department of State. She was paid at least $490,000 in one year while she worked at the State Department after Clinton signed off on an unusual staffing arrangement that allowed her to work as a consultant to Teneo, a Clinton-connected company, as well as the Clinton Foundation and Hillary herself, all while also working at State. The Washington Post reports, “her overlapping roles make it difficult to determine when she was working for the public and when her work was benefiting a private interest.”

The New York Times reports, “Abedin did not disclose the arrangement — or how much income she earned — on her financial report. It requires officials to make public any significant sources of income.”

Abedin was interviewed by the FBI as part of its investigation into Clinton’s unofficial email server and stated she “did not learn Clinton was using a private server until after Clinton’s [Department of State] tenure,” though other emails show her involved in discussions about the server, and the aide who set it up told the FBI he discussed it with Abedin."

Top image from Fortune.com

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Added:

9/4/2014, "The global battle for the ultimate luxury hotel chain," Fortune.com, Stacy Perman

"...So last year [2013], when DLF, India’s largest commercial real estate developer, signaled its desire to sell Aman, suitors came calling. The luxury conglomerate LVMH Moët Hennessy, the private equity titans Carlyle Group and Blackstone, and a Chinese state-owned enterprise had all made moves. In the end, however, an unlikely pair—Omar Amanat, a 42-year-old American entrepreneur, and Vladislav Doronin, a Russian property mogul in his early fifties—prevailed with a bid of $358 million.

The glow of their triumph wouldn’t last. The partnership between Amanat and Doronin imploded with a velocity exceeded only by the speed at which it was put together. Conflict erupted, with allegations of fraud, conspiracy, extortion, intimidation, breach of contract, and an attempted coup. Relations between the two deteriorated so dramatically that at one point, Doronin told Amanat, according to a claim in the latter’s legal filings, “If I feel you tried to screw me, I will hunt you down and shoot you.” A Doronin spokesperson denies the allegation.

Then came the lawsuits, massing some 30 attorneys in New York and London and featuring an international cast of characters that includes Adrian Zecha, Aman’s 81-year-old Singapore-based founder, and Johan Eliasch, the 52-year-old London-based CEO of sporting goods firm Head. A new hearing, following a series of temporary injunctions that were issued in July, was scheduled for Sept. 15 in the London High Court.

With Amanat and Doronin locked in a nasty feud as each vies for control, Aman—the word means “peace” in Sanskrit—is anything but tranquil. At stake is the future of the company. Beyond that, mysteries abound, most particularly: Who, exactly, are the two men brawling for this prize?

2. The Trader, The Supermodel, and The Poet
 
Omar Amanat believed he was perfectly positioned to make a deal when he heard Aman (the resemblance of the resort’s name to his surname is coincidental) was up for sale in May 2013. A professed Aman junkie who says he has invested in hotels, he notes, “It was a trophy asset, and I was interested in buying it.”


The son of Indian immigrants, Amanat grew up in Queens, N.Y., and later New Jersey. His career originated in his father’s basement. As stock trading—including the rapid in-and-out version known as day trading—became a frenzied pastime for some middle-class types in the 1990s, his dad set up a tiny operation downstairs in the family house.

At age 23, Amanat joined Datek, a well-known day-trading outfit, and he says he later helped build a stock-trading platform that let regular investors track every buy and sell order for a specific stock in real time, just as the professionals at the big brokerage houses did. In 1997 he founded Tradescape, a direct-access brokerage firm. By 2000 the company had acquired four subsidiaries, including MarketXT, and was generating estimated annual revenues of $140 million. Amanat says he fielded numerous acquisition offers. “Tradescape was the biggest day-trading company,” he boasts.

In 2002, Amanat sold Tradescape to E*Trade for $100 million in stock plus an additional $180 million if the company hit certain targets. It seemed a moment of exultation and riches, but the bubble quickly burst, and Amanat became entangled in lengthy litigation (more on that later).

Despite the turmoil of his court fight, Amanat presented a serene face to the world: a glamorous mix of wealth, elegance, and more than a dollop of substance. He was a man about town, charismatic and dashingwith a trademark scarf draped over his well-cut blazer—the sort who could seduce a supermodel (in fact, he married one: Helena Houdová, his second wife, from whom he is separated). Amanat was also fond of quoting the 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.

It’s not clear what Rumi said about self-promotion, but Amanat has not been shy about touting his accomplishments. Among the accolades recorded on his personal website is being named one of Wall Street’s Top 10 Most Influential Technologists and one of the Top 500 Most Influential Muslims in the World. He sat on the boards of Human Rights Watch and Malaria No More. And various Amanat-related websites credit him with co-founding the UN-affiliated Alliance of Civilizations Media Fund and Bridges TV, a television network aimed at countering negative stereotypes of Islam."...




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Thursday, December 28, 2017

FBI negligence allowed 911 to happen, Islamic terrorists romped across the US for a decade–LA Times, Oct. 14, 2001…(US taxpayers are forced to fund a massive, secret bureaucracy unanswerable to us and which we’re told is our moral superior despite evidence to the contrary)

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Oct. 14, 2001, Haunted by Years of Missed Warnings,” LA Times, by Stephen Braun, Bob Drogin, Mark Fineman, Lisa Getter, Greg Krikorian, Robert J. Lopez, Times Staff Writers 

“As suspected terrorists traversed the U.S. over a decade, signs pointing to their plans went unheeded until after the attacks were carried out.”

In the last decade, suspected terrorists have repeatedly slipped in and out of the United States. They have plotted against America while in federal custody. And key evidence that pointed to operatives or their plans was ignored until well after the attacks. 

The missed signals now haunt a generation of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials, who realize that their efforts to track terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden had been undermined at times by bungled investigations and bureaucratic rivalries…. 

The question now is how well U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have learned from their mistakes. 

Evidence has been neglected. Earlier this year, for example, French experts gave an in-depth report on Bin Laden’s financial network to a senior FBI official, according to a source close to the French intelligence community. A month later, the FBI official admitted to his French colleagues that the document still had not been translated into English. 

Patterns have not been detected. The FBI had known for at least three years [since 1998], for example, that at least two Bin Laden operatives trained to be pilots in the United States. One of the pilots, Essam al Ridi, a naturalized U.S. citizen of Egyptian descent, even purchased a used military aircraft in Arizona for Bin Laden in 1993. He flew the Saber-40 twin-engine passenger jet to Sudan after buying it for $210,000. 

Federal authorities also knew that Ramzi Yousef, who masterminded the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, later planned to blow up 12 United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines jumbo jets over the Pacific Ocean.

After the plot was uncovered in 1995, a co-conspirator, Abdul Hakim Murad, told police in the Philippines that he had hoped to hijack a passenger plane and crash it into CIA headquarters outside Washington. Murad had attended four U.S. flight schools. Yet no surveillance was in place to scrutinize aspiring pilots or to raise a warning flag when the men who would eventually hijack four jetliners Sept. 11 trained at flight schools around the country. 

Agents have been slow to recognize suspects.

After the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin was held and questioned by the FBI–and then allowed to leave the country. President Bush last week named Yasin one of the country’s 22 “most wanted” terrorists in connection with his alleged role in that attack. Another would-be bomber in that case used prison telephones 20 times to contact fellow plotters. 

And, in the weeks before Sept. 11, the FBI made only a routine attempt to find two men flagged by the CIA for suspected ties to terrorists. The men later helped hijack the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon. 

Bush said at his news conference Thursday that the FBI “must think differently” than it has in the past. “In a post-Cold War era, they were still chasing spies. Nothing wrong with that, except we have a new enemy.”

The CIA faces a similar challenge. The U.S. satellites and other high-tech surveillance systems were designed to snoop on Cold War governments and armies, not small bands of religious fanatics. 

Bin Laden “was a very small blip” after he launched Al Qaeda in 1989, said William H. Webster, a former head of the FBI and the CIA. Said another former official: “Bin Laden was declaring war on us, but we didn’t get it.”

It wasn’t until 1996 that a special federal grand jury convened in the southern district of New York to investigate what prosecutors called “the structure, goals and operational status of Al Qaeda worldwide
; whether Al Qaeda was involved in planning crimes against American interests and, if so, which ones.” 

Washington finally set up a secret interagency task force in 1998, led by the CIA, to track and capture Bin Laden after two U.S. embassies in Africa were hit by suicide bombers. 

But that effort has been hamstrung by turf battles among the federal agencies. Although cooperation has improved, rifts remain deep between intelligence and law enforcement officials. 

Competing missions are partly to blame. Intelligence agencies seek to spy on suspected terrorists and prevent future attacks; they need to cloak their sources to do it. The FBI and federal prosecutors seek to expose and punish those who carry out terror attacks; they need public witnesses and documents to do it. 

U.S. law doesn’t always help. If a terrorist enters the United States, the National Security Agency, which intercepts communications overseas, must stop their efforts at the border, as they are barred from spying within the United States. 

“You’re trying to track somebody; the agency [NSA] may have locked on the guy’s cell phone overseas. As soon as he shows up in the United States, they have to turn that off,” a former federal prosecutor in New York explained. 

The miscommunications extend across borders as well.

 French officials, for example, privately criticized U.S. authorities for ignoring their warnings about a Montreal cell of Algerian terrorists, even as members planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport and other sites during New Year’s celebrations in December 1999. The plot was discovered only when one of the bombers panicked and ran at the U.S. border. 

And in February, the U.S. Embassy in London granted a student visa to an unemployed 33-year-old French Moroccan man, Habib Zacarias Moussaoui, even though he was on a special French immigration watch list of suspected Islamic extremists. Moussaoui was detained Aug. 17 on immigration charges after he allegedly told a Minnesota flight school that he wanted to learn to steer jumbo jets, but not learn to land them. Moussaoui remains in FBI custody in New York as a material witness while investigators try to determine whether he was involved with the skyjackers or any other terrorist plot.

“There was something there that the FBI could have done more with, a warning signal that was missed,a French official said.

U.S. officials say the missed signals seem more important in hindsight. They did not miss any specific warning about the events of Sept. 11, they say, because there wasn’t one. 

“The idea of commandeering an aircraft and crashing it into the ground and causing high casualties, sure we’ve thought of it,” said Paul Pillar, the former deputy director of the CIA’s counter-terrorist center. “But in terms of specific tip-offs to Sept. 11, no, we had nothing.” Bill Harlow, a CIA spokesman, agreed: “There’s always lots of stuff that seems more meaningful now than before an event. But is there something that suggests they were going to fly an airplane or two into the World Trade Center ? No. There was nothing specific about time, method or place.” [Nothing specific about “place”? The World Trade Center had been bombed by Islamists in 1993.] Still, Bin Laden hasn’t been shy about sharing his game plan. 

In the summer of 1998, he sent a fax from Afghanistan to Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammed, a London-based Muslim cleric who had dubbed himself the “mouth, eyes and ears of Osama bin Laden.” Bakri later released what he called Bin Laden’s four specific objectives for a holy war against the U.S. 

“Bring down their airliners, read the instruction. “Prevent the safe passage of their ships. Occupy their embassies. Force the closure of their companies and banks.”

It is fair to say he has achieved at least some of his goals. It also is fair to say U.S. authorities had the plotters in their graspor in their sights–in almost every case. Those missed opportunities thus form the backdrop to the country’s current war on terror. 

“Force the Closure of Their Companies” 

The U.S. government was pretty sure Ahmad Mohammad Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on U.S. soil. 

The 26-year-old Palestinian’s suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs and a cheat sheet on how to lie to U.S. immigration inspectors.

And then there were the two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, the six bomb-making manuals, the four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry and the advanced guide to surveillance training. 

But all federal prosecutors charged him with after Ajaj flew into New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport from Pakistan on Sept. 1, 1992, was passport fraud--a crude, photo paste job on a stolen Swedish passport at that. 

The possession of terrorist literature, “believe it or not, was not a crime,” said Eric Bernstein, the former prosecutor who handled the case. [This is not an “either-or” situation despite the smug suggestion of Eric Bernstein. There was much more to this individual than possession of literature.] Ajaj was sentenced to six months in prison for passport violations.

Over the next five months Ajaj would speak frequently over a prison phone with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, who had flown with him to New York. Yousef left the country Feb. 26, 1993, 12 hours after his bomb killed six, injured more than a thousand and caused $550 million worth of damage in the first World Trade Center attack. 

Although prison phone calls are taped, no one monitored Ajaj’s 20 calls to Yousef and other conspirators–or tried to translate them from Arabicuntil long after the blast. And no one traced his plane ticket until after the blast to determine that he and Yousef had sat together on the first leg of their journey to New York. 

The result: No one figured out Ajaj’s plot or identified his co-conspirators until after the attack. Indeed, Ajaj was released from prison three days after the explosion and only later was rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for his role. 

“I think what we’ve gotten really good at is going back and re-creating the trail after an incident,” said Henry DePippo, who eventually prosecuted Ajaj for conspiracy in the bombing. “We need to attack these cases with the same energy before a terrorist attack occurs.” 

For starters, it would have helped to know just what Ajaj actually had in his Arabic-language “terrorist kit.” But his manuals had not been “disseminated to the intelligence community for full translation and exploitation of the information,” nine years after they were seized, L. Paul Bremer III, head of the National Commission on Terrorism, told a Senate committee in June.

“Occupy Their Embassies” 

At first blush, the raid on a modest house in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on Aug. 21, 1997, was a huge success. 

Moving quietly, Kenyan police and veteran FBI agent Daniel Coleman found a trove of computer records and documents belonging to Wadih El-Hage, the former “personal secretary” to Bin Laden, a top Al Qaeda operative and a suspected “money conduit” for terrorist attacks. He was due back that day from visiting Bin Laden in Afghanistan. 

Authorities found crucial data about Harun Fazhl, a Bin Laden operative who directed the operations of a secret cell of terrorists plotting at that moment to bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. 

Despite the intelligence coup, the two embassies were gutted by suicide truck bombs less than a year later; 224 people died, including 12 Americans. 

The CIA and the FBI missed key opportunities to prevent the blasts. They knew from wiretaps on El-Hage’s four Nairobi phones, as well as from the computer files they had seized, that Al Qaeda was forming a terror cell in the Kenyan capital. Indeed, U.S. agents had in hand the names and identities of some of the key Nairobi cell members who would rent the bomb factory, build the bomb, buy the bomb truck, brief the suicide bombers and even escort the bomb truck the day of the attack. 

U.S. authorities nevertheless lagged several steps behind the embassy plotters. They still are behind: So far, 10 suspects, including El-Hage, have been convicted or have pleaded guilty or are in custody awaiting trial. But 13 others, including Bin Laden and Fazhl, are still at large. And last week, Bush included Fazhl on his “most wanted” list of suspected terrorists. 

U.S. investigators “never systematically tried to run down the information they had,” said Carl Herman, a lawyer for Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, one of four men convicted last summer in New York. “Maybe they didn’t have the manpower. Maybe they felt it wasn’t worth the effort.” 

Sam Schmidt, El-Hage’s lawyer, said his client insisted that U.S. investigators and prosecutors “shared some responsibility for the tragedy.” El-Hage contended the government was well aware a year before the embassy attacks “of Harun Fazhl’s involvement in the ‘Al Qaeda cell’ in Nairobi,” Schmidt said during a pretrial hearing. 

Others say the CIA and the FBI missed crucial signals–or failed to understand the ones they had. “I don’t think it’s a problem with intelligence gathering,” a lawyer familiar with the case said. 

“It’s a problem with intelligence analysis.”

To be sure, tracking cell members wasn’t easy. They met regularly in mosques and on busy streets to throw off U.S. agents. They changed identities with false passports and visas. They moved sensitive documents from house to house to avoid detection. 

On the other hand, they wandered in and out of the U.S. Embassy, scanning for weak points and undefended areas in the downtown building.

Bob Blitzer, who headed the FBI’s international terrorism section until 1997, said the CIA didn’t have enough field agents who spoke local languages and could blend in well enough to conduct close-up surveillance without being detected.

“One of our biggest problems is we still haven’t found the key to penetrating those cells with human sources,” Blitzer said. 

Instead, U.S. agents relied heavily on high-tech surveillance, especially wiretaps and intercepts of satellite phone calls by Bin Laden and his lieutenants in Afghanistan.

The wiretaps and intercepts produced tens of thousands of pages of transcripts over two years. Yet they did little good. U.S. officials often didn’t know who was speaking to whom.

“This wasn’t like Mafia wiretaps, where you know who’s calling the boss; who’s who all the way down through the organization,” a federal official familiar with the evidence said. “These were just voices. And in most cases, they were talking in code. It only became clear to us after the bombings.” 

The FBI discovered only then, for example, that Fazhl had replaced El-Hage as the mastermind and had directed the construction of the bomb.

“In a mob case, like a John Gotti case, you know where their hangouts are, where you can find them,” the official said. “Here, we had only a limited feel for where they operated. We didn’t have a line on all the players, and even the ones we did have, like Fazhl, it was unclear who they really were, where they were, and what they were up to day by day.”

On Feb. 28, 1998, Bin Laden issued his most violent fatwa, expanding his holy war from U.S. soldiers to include U.S. civilians.

That same day, Fazhl–who had been shuttling back and forth between Sudan and Kenya–bought a plane ticket for Nairobi.

The Kenyan capital would remain his base until the deadly explosions six months later. A defense lawyer argues that Fazhl should have been a key target for surveillance. “At that point, they should have picked him up full time,” the lawyer insisted. 

Nor is there any evidence that U.S. officials tried to work through the Kenyan government to break up the cell, rather than simply try to watch it. Police, after all, had assisted the FBI in the raid on El-Hage’s home.

Instead, prosecutors hauled El-Hage before a federal grand jury in New York in September 1997. They pressured him to divulge what he knew about the plotting underway in Africa. He denied any knowledge.

Some defense lawyers compared the effort to pressure El-Hage to the tactics federal agents long have used to get Mafia underlings and drug traffickers to inform. 

Al Qaeda does share some similarities with organized crime networks–an “omerta-like” emphasis on silence, a pyramidic hierarchy headed by a feared patriarchal figure, and an intermingling of legitimate and criminal enterprises. But Bin Laden’s operatives have proved far more difficult to crack.

“What makes it so much harder to turn these guys is their blind dedication. No one in the mob is that willing to die for the cause,” Blitzer said.

Not all the plotters died, of course. A week after the bombings, Fazhl flew to his Comoros Islands home. After a brief stay, he packed his clothes, travel documents and the passports belonging to the two suicide bombers.

Then, still as untouchable as he had been from the start, Fazhl followed his long-planned escape route by air to Pakistan and then into the rugged Afghan interior.

Among the victims of the attacks, anger against Al Queda is accompanied by bitter thoughts of the negligence that likely contributed to the tragedy. 

A civil suit filed in Washington on behalf of the Kenyan victims is accompanied by documents showing that warnings that the building was “a soft target” went unheeded. 

Prudence Bushnell, the U.S. ambassador to Kenya at the time of the bombings, wrote in a 1999 cable filed in the civil case: “Let me be blunt. Last year, when this mission raised the vulnerability of the previous embassy building, we received informal feedback that ‘some’ in Washington thought we were ‘overreacting.’ “

“Bring Down Their Airliners, Their Ships” 

A CIA cable, or message, to FBI headquarters in Washington on Aug. 23 was not marked urgent. That was the first mistake. 

Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, the cable advised, were in the United States, and Almihdhar might have evidence regarding last year’s attack on the warship Cole in Yemen.

The Cole, a guided missile destroyer, was refueling in the Yemeni port of Aden on Oct. 12, 2000, when two men motored alongside in a small skiff and detonated hundreds of pounds of C-4 military explosive. The blast killed 17 sailors and nearly sank one of the U.S.’ most modern warships. 

The Pentagon had ordered no special security precautions for the Cole even though Yemen, Bin Laden’s ancestral home, was a hotbed of militant Islam. U.S. intelligence had failed even to detect an attempted attack on another U.S. warship, the Sullivans, in Aden harbor 10 months earlier.

In that case, the attack boat was so overloaded with explosives that it sank in the harbor. The Cole attackers learned from that mistake. 

After the Cole was hit, the FBI rushed dozens of agents to Yemen. But a yearlong investigation into the attack produced no indictments or prosecutions. 

So the CIA cable should have triggered some action. A routine check of public records would have shown the men’s last known addresses. A search of credit card transactions would have shown the purchase of airline tickets for Sept. 11. Neither apparently was done. 

Instead, Almihdhar and Alhazmi were located only after they and three other conspirators had boarded American Airlines Flight 77 at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, seized control of the cockpit in flight and crashed the aircraft into the side of the Pentagon, killing 189 people.

It’s impossible to know whether their capture before Sept. 11 would have provided enough information to unravel the conspiracy and thwart the deadly attacks. What is clear is that the foremost terrorist-hunting agencies in the U.S. missed a crucial opportunity. 

The case dates from January 2000, when a group of men with suspected terrorist ties met in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. The CIA obtained a surveillance videotape about a month later that shows men arriving at the meeting, according to a U.S. intelligence official. The tape, he said, has no sound and wasn’t viewed as very significant at the time. 

“We knew who some of the people were, and worked on identifying them,” the official said. “At the time, it was interesting video of a bunch of guys with shaky backgrounds getting together for unknown reasons.” 

Then, last summer, Yemeni authorities interrogated a suspect in the Cole case. He allegedly told them that an Al Qaeda operative had masterminded the attack. The same man already was being sought for questioning in the 1998 embassy bombing case.

“We go back and dust off everything we have on this guy,” the intelligence official said. “We discover he’s at this meeting in Kuala Lumpur a year or more before. We see who else is there. We determine that among the group is Khalid Almihdhar. That raises our interest in him.”

The agency then did what it calls “link analysis.” “We see who’s there, who’s meeting whom, where do they live, who did they travel with, who lived together, that sort of thing,” a second intelligence official said.

One flight record showed Almihdhar traveling together with Alhazmi. The CIA also determined that Almihdhar had attended one of Bin Laden’s terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. 

On Aug. 21, [2001] the CIA recommended to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that both men be added to a special “watch list” kept to bar people with suspected terrorist ties from entering the United States. But the INS determined that both men already were here. 

On Aug. 23, the CIA sent the cable to the FBI. 

Almihdhar had listed “Marriott hotel” as his planned address when he flew into New York, so the FBI started there. The New York field office got the case Aug. 27. 

“Something like that is so common, it really doesn’t have any bells attached to it,” said a former FBI agent who worked counter-terrorism cases. “Just to say there are two possible Arab terrorists in the United States is ho-hum. You could have 10 more people you are working that day with hotter leads.” 

Another week passed. Shortly after Labor Day, the FBI in New York advised Washington that they could not find the two men. Agents went back to the INS. Almihdhar had listed a Sheraton hotel on his previous trip to Los Angeles. So the case was passed to the Los Angeles field office Sept. 9 or Sept. 10. 

“It was like trying to find two rats in a crowded stadium. We didn’t have a chance,” one FBI agent recalled. Added another, “If we get word five weeks after someone gets into the country that they’re here and we should find them, that’s kind of a cold trail.” 

But a routine check of addresses and records from the California Department of Motor Vehicles would have shown that Almihdhar and Alhazmi had been living at a series of addresses in and around San Diego. 

And a check with credit card companies would have shown that Alhazmi used a Visa card in his name on the Internet to purchase a ticket on Flight 77 for Sept. 11. He bought the ticket Aug. 27 and gave an address in Fort Lee, N.J., according to law enforcement records. 

If the FBI had provided the airlines with the two men’s names, then the airlines could have alerted authorities to their travel plans and prevented them from boarding. Since the attacks, airlines have been receiving watch list names and checking them against ticketed passengers.

Senior intelligence and law enforcement officials insist they acted appropriately given the scant information they had. 

“Suppose [U.S. immigration] had the name before and Almihdhar had shown up at the airport to come to the United States,” one official said. “They would have excluded him. They wouldn’t have anything to charge him with. And it’s unlikely he would have blabbed about the World Trade Center. That would not have been the spark to roll up the organization.” 

A law enforcement official similarly defended the FBI. He said the bureau was asked only to locate the two men and had no grounds to detain or arrest them. 

“Even if we had established surveillance on them from day one in this country . . . and we had been notified in a timely manner, there was nothing to arrest these guys on when they entered the country,” the official said. 

Not everyone agrees. Loch Johnson, a University of Georgia professor of political science and an expert on terrorism, said the case appears to be “a double failure: a failure on behalf of the CIA not emphasizing the importance of tracking these two, and a failure on behalf of the FBI in light of other bombings.”

_ _ _ 

“Times staff writers Josh Meyer and Judy Pasternak in Washington, Sebastian Rotella in Paris, and researchers Lianne Hart in Houston and Janet Lundblad in Los Angeles contributed to this report.”

……….. 

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Mexico's proximity to the US gave it advantages under NAFTA that no other Third World nation had. Yet after two decades the model was a failure in can't-lose Mexico, thus unlikely to work anywhere.The same global elites that forced NAFTA through Congress later successfully lobbied the US to sponsor China's full entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), where workers could be had for 1/8 of Mexican wage-American Prospect, June 2003

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"Of all the world's developing countries, Mexico was by far in the best position to exploit the neoliberal model. Its proximity to the US market and a domestic U.S. constituency of millions of Mexican American voters gave Mexico advantages under NAFTA that no other Third World nation had. The testimony of hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers each year making the hard and dangerous trip north is evidence that, after two decades, the model is not working in Mexico. If it is not working there, it is unlikely to work anywhere."
 
June 2003 article (Vicente Fox was president of Mexico 2000-2006. President Carlos Salinas, in office 1988-1994, negotiated NAFTA)

June 16, 2003, "How NAFTA failed Mexico," American Prospect, Jeff Faux 

"For Mexico's oligarchs, the public focus on the condition of Mexican workers in the United States has the great virtue of diverting political attention from the condition of Mexican workers in Mexico. (Vicente) Fox has been eloquent on the maltreatment of undocumented migrants at U.S. farms and factories. Rightly so. But he has been silent about the harsh and brutal conditions suffered by Mexico's own domestic migrants, including those as young as 11 years old who were found -- after Fox's election -- to be working in his own vegetable packing plant....

During the 1993 battle over the North American Free Trade Agreement, the proposal's promoters' most politically effective argument was that NAFTA would keep Mexicans out of the United States. As political writer Elizabeth Drew later observed, "Anti-immigration was a sub-theme used, usually sotto voce, by the treaty's supporters."

The voce was not always sotto. "We don't want a huge flow of illegal immigrants into the United States from Mexico," said former President Gerald Ford, speaking at one of then-President Bill Clinton's pro-NAFTA rallies. "If you defeat NAFTA, you have to share the responsibility for increased immigration into the United States, where they want jobs that are presently being held by Americans."

Leaving aside the xenophobia, Ford's argument made economic sense: If NAFTA were to create more jobs in Mexico, fewer Mexican workers would leave. When people can earn a decent living in their own country, they would generally rather stay put....

NAFTA proponents...claimed that merely opening Mexico to free trade and unregulated foreign investment would produce the job growth and rising incomes needed to create a stay-at-home middle class. It was the capstone on an effort begun in the early 1980s by a group of U.S.-educated economists and businesspeople who took over the ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in order to build a privatized, deregulated and globalized Mexican economy. Among their chief objectives was tearing up the old corporatist social contract in which the benefits of growth were shared with workers, farmers and small-business people through an elaborate set of institutions connected to the PRI.

NAFTA provided no social contract. It offered neither aid for Mexico nor labor, health or environmental standards. The agreement protected corporate investors; everyone else was on his or her own. Indeed, NAFTA is the nation-building template imposed on developing countries by recent corporate-dominated U.S. administrations and their client international finance agencies. It is the model for the proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, as well as for the Bush administration's development plans for Iraq.

Americans' understanding of NAFTA's impact on the Mexican people is obscured in part by the gap between what Mexican elites tell U.S. elites and what Mexicans tell one another. Last December former Mexican President Carlos Salinas, who negotiated NAFTA, told a Washington conference of applauding corporate lobbyists, government officials and free-market think tankers that NAFTA was a great success. "The level of trade and type of products that cross the borders," he said, "silenced even the most ardent critics."

The next day, in Mexico City, a large group of very ardent Mexican farmers broke down the door of the lower house of the Mexican Congress to denounce NAFTA and demand that it be renegotiated. Similar demonstrations -- joined by teachers, utility workers and others -- have erupted throughout the country, closing bridges and highways and taking over government offices. Polls show that most Mexicans think NAFTA was bad for Mexico. Largely because of the agreement, Salinas is the most unpopular ex-president in modern Mexican history.

NAFTA's critics did not doubt that it would stimulate more trade; that was, after all, its function. Rather, they predicted that any benefits would go largely to the rich while the middle class and the poor would pay the costs, and that the promised growth would not materialize. They were right. 

NAFTA is not the cause of all Mexico's economic troubles, but it has clearly made them worse. Since NAFTA's inception in 1994 -- indeed, for the 20 years of neoliberal "reform" -- the Mexican middle class has shrunk and the number of poor has expanded. Economic growth has been below the old corporatist economy's performance and substantially less than what is needed to generate jobs for Mexico's growing labor force. During his 2000 campaign, Mexican President Vicente Fox promised that under his six-year term the country would grow 7 percent per year. Two and a half years after his inauguration, growth has averaged less than 1 percent.

So the northward migration continues

Between the U.S. censuses of 1990 and 2000, the number of Mexican-born residents in the United States increased by more than 80 percent. Border-crossings diminished temporarily after September 11, but they are now as great as ever. Some half-million Mexicans come to the United States every year; roughly 60 percent of them are undocumented. The massive investments in both border guards and detection equipment have not diminished the migrant flow; they have just made it more dangerous. In the past five years, more than 1,600 Mexican migrants have died on the journey to the north, including 19 people who were found asphyxiated in a truck near Houston in May. Still, as a neighbor of one of the 19 who left told The Washington Post, "If you're going to improve your life, you have to go to the United States."

The failure of NAFTA to deliver on its promise of a better life for Mexicans represents more than just a misplaced faith in free trade. Behind the laissez-faire rhetoric, Mexico's neoliberals were pursuing a large-scale program of government social engineering aimed at forcing Mexico's rural population off the land and into the cities, where it could provide cheap labor for the foreign investment that the new open economy would attract.

Salinas and the PRI reformers did not, of course, announce that they intended to depopulate rural Mexico.. The Mexican government promised that as tariffs on U.S. agriculture products fell, generous financial and technical assistance would enable small farms to increase their productivity in order to meet the new competition. But, after the treaty was signed, the reformers pulled the rug out from under the rural peasantry. Funding for farm programs dropped from $2 billion in 1994 to $500 million by 2000.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress massively increased subsidies for corn, wheat, livestock, dairy products and other farm products exported to Mexico. American farmers now receive 7.5 to 12 times more in government help than Mexican farmers do. This "comparative advantage" enabled U.S. agribusiness to blow thousands of Mexican farmers out of their own markets.

But when the displaced campesinos arrived in nearby cities, few jobs were waiting. NAFTA concentrated growth along Mexico's northern border, where factories -- called maquiladoras -- processed and assembled goods for the then-booming U.S. consumer market. Between 1994 and 2000, maquiladora employment doubled while employment in the rest of the country stagnated.

Neoliberalism was supposed to reduce the income gap between Mexico's relatively rich border states and the poorer ones in the country's middle and south. Supporters claimed that privatizing banks and opening them to foreign ownership would make more capital available for domestic firms in domestic markets. But -- in the depressingly familiar pattern of privatization the world over -- the PRI reformers sold off the banks to friends, then bailed out the new owners when the peso collapsed a year after NAFTA was passed.

Made whole with more than $60 billion of the taxpayers' money, these crony capitalists resold their banks at a handsome markup to foreign investors. For example, an investment group headed by the well-connected Roberto Hernandez bought Mexico's second-largest commercial bank for $3.2 billion and sold it to CitiGroup for $12.5 billion. Yet, as 85 percent of the country's banking system was being turned over to foreigners, lending to Mexican business actually dropped from 10 percent of the country's gross domestic product in 1994 to 0.3 percent in 2000. The global bankers were more interested in taking deposits and making high-interest-rate consumer loans than in developing Mexico's internal economy. 

Meanwhile, booming investment in the exporting sweatshops of the north has created a social and ecological nightmare. Rural migrants have overwhelmed the already inadequate housing, health and public-safety infrastructures, spreading shantytowns, pollution and crime. Maquiladora managers often hire large numbers of women, whom they believe are more docile and more dexterous than men at assembly work. Earnings are typically about $55 a week for 45 hours -- poverty wages in an area where acute shortages of basic services have raised the cost of living. Families break up as men cross the border in search of jobs, leaving women vulnerable to the social chaos.

An Amnesty International report on the border town of Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds of young women have been killed, quotes the director of the city's only rape crisis center (annual budget: $4,500): "This city has become a place to murder and dump women. [Authorities] are not interested in solving these cases because these women are young and poor and dispensable."

As the U.S. economy slowed down after 2000, the number of jobs in the maquiladoras stopped growing. Moreover, the privileged access that Mexicans thought NAFTA had given them began to erode. The same global corporate coalition that forced NAFTA through Congress later successfully lobbied for the United States to sponsor China's full entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), paving the way for a huge increase in Chinese exports to the United States. In the last two years, an estimated 200,000 maquiladora jobs have left Mexico for China, where workers can be had for one-eighth the Mexican wage. In a deregulated world, there is always someone who will work for less.  
 
Hope that NAFTA would enable Mexico to export its way to prosperity has largely vanished. In order to relieve the pressures of unemployment, (then pres. Vicente) Fox has been badgering George W. Bush to liberalize migration, create guest-worker programs, and provide Mexican migrants with civil rights and social benefits. The Mexican president regularly refers to migrants in the United States as "heroes," and their remittances have become one of the country's most important sources of foreign earnings....

It is an odd notion of economic development that rests on the meager savings of low-wage Mexican workers in America while wealthy Mexicans regularly ship their capital to New York, London and Zurich.... 

As in many developing countries, the largest part of Mexico's economic problem lies not in restricted export markets but in the stifling maldistribution of wealth and power that restricts internal growth. The gap between Mexico's rich and poor is among the worst in the Western Hemisphere. The rich hardly pay any taxes....Mexico -- even more than did the poorest nations of Western Europe -- needs substantial investment in education, health and infrastructure to create sufficient jobs for its people. A contribution to that investment by the United States and Canada equivalent to the EU's cohesion funds would approach $100 billion....Anything near that level would require, among other things, a dramatic democratic reform of Mexico's corrupt and inefficient public sector....

One lesson is already clear: Of all the world's developing countries, Mexico was by far in the best position to exploit the neoliberal model. Its proximity to the U.S. market and a domestic U.S. constituency of millions of Mexican American voters gave Mexico advantages under NAFTA that no other Third World nation had. The testimony of hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers each year making the hard and dangerous trip north is evidence that, after two decades, the model is not working in Mexico. If it is not working there, it is unlikely to work anywhere."

..............