Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tony Blair went to war without cabinet consent, senior mandarins say

By Rosa Prince, The Telegraph

Lord Wilson of Dinton and Lord Turnbull both rejected the former prime minister's claim that cabinet ministers "knew the score" and had been aware that he had agreed to invade Iraq soon after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Appearing before the Iraq Inquiry, the two men painted a picture of the "sofa government" in operation under New Labour, and told of their futile attempts to persuade Mr Blair to resume the "classical" structures of cabinet committees.


In some of most damning evidence heard by the inquiry to date, the respected former mandarins rejected claims made by Mr Blair to the committee last week in which he insisted that cabinet ministers were kept informed of the progress to war.

Lord Turnbull said that the cabinet was not asked for their approval until the eve of the invasion in March 2003, by which time they were "imprisoned" and had little choice but to consent – or bring the prime minister down.

His predecessor, Lord Wilson, who retired in September 2002, disclosed that at no point during his time as the country's top civil service was the cabinet aware that a decision had been taken to invade Iraq.

Their evidence contradicts that of Mr Blair who claimed last Friday that he first discussed the likelihood of toppling Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein with United States President George W Bush in November 2001, and that the prospect of war was well known from that point.

~ more... ~

E-mails Suggest Bear Stearns Cheated Clients Out of Billions

By Teri Buhl, The Atlantic

Former Bear Stearns mortgage executives who now run mortgage divisions of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, and Ally Financial have been accused of cheating and defrauding investors through the mortgage securities they created and sold while at Bear. According to e-mails and internal audits, JPMorgan had known about this fraud since the spring of 2008, but hid it from the public eye through legal maneuvering. Last week a lawsuit filed in 2008 by mortgage insurer Ambac Assurance Corp against Bear Stearns and JPMorgan was unsealed. The lawsuit's supporting e-mails, going back as far as 2005, highlight Bear traders telling their superiors they were selling investors like Ambac a "sack of shit."

News of internal whistleblowers coming forward from Bear's mortgage servicing division, EMC, was first reported by The Atlantic in May of last year. Ex-EMC analysts admitted they were sometimes told to falsify loan-level performance data provided to the ratings agencies who blessed Bear's billion-dollar deals. But according to depositions and documents in the Ambac lawsuit, Bear's misdeeds went even deeper. They say senior traders under Tom Marano, who was a Senior Managing Director and Global Head of Mortgages for Bear and is now CEO of Ally's mortgage operations, were pocketing cash that should have gone to securities holders after Bear had already sold them bonds and moved the loans off its books.

Mike Nierenberg, who ran the adjustable-rate mortgage trading desk at Bear and is now the head of mortgages and securitization for Bank of America, was a key player ensuring the defaulting loans Bear was buying would move off their books right after they bought them, with little concern for the firm's due diligence standards. He was joined in this scheme by Jeff Verschleiser, his peer and Senior Managing Director on the mortgage and asset-backed securities trading desk and head of whole loan trading. He is now an executive in Goldman Sachs' mortgage division.

According to the lawsuit, the Bear traders would sell toxic mortgage securities to investors and then sell back the bad loans with early payment defaults to the banks that originated them at a discount. The traders would pocket the refund, and would not pass it on to the mortgage trust, which was where it should have gone to be distributed to the investors who owned the bonds. The Marano-led traders also cut the time allowed for early payment defaults, without telling the bond investors. That way, Bear could quickly securitize defective loans, without leaving enough time for investors to do their own due diligence after the bonds were sold and put-back any bad loans to Bear.

The traders were essentially double-dipping -- getting paid twice on the deal. How was this possible? Once the security was sold, they didn't have a legal claim to get cash back from the bad loans -- that claim belonged to bond investors -- but they did so anyway and kept the money. Thus, Bear was cheating the investors they promised to have sold a safe product out of their cash. According to former Bear Stearns and EMC traders and analysts who spoke with The Atlantic, Nierenberg and Verschleiser were the decision-makers for the double dipping scheme, and thus, are named as individual defendants in the suit.

Bear deal manager Nicolas Smith wrote an e-mail on August 11th, 2006 to Keith Lind, a Managing Director on the trading desk, referring to a particular bond, SACO 2006-8, as "SACK OF SHIT [2006-]8" and said, "I hope your [sic] making a lot of money off this trade."

~ more... ~

Musical Innerlube: Black star - Konstantinos Katomeris - performed by modern e quartet


Music : Konstantinos Katomeris,
Performed by MODERN e QUARTET,
Album: voluntary electrocution,
Label: ekfrasis production.

Why The New World Order Will Fail - Terence Mckenna, Robert Anton Wilson, Noam Chomsky

Undercover police cleared 'to have sex with activists'

Mark Townsend and Tony Thompson report for the Guardian:

Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of "promiscuity" with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years.

The former undercover policeman claims that sexual relationships with activists were sanctioned for both men and women officers infiltrating anarchist, leftwing and environmental groups.

Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists.

The one stipulation, according to the officer from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a secret unit formed to prevent violent disorder on the streets of London, was that falling in love was considered highly unprofessional because it might compromise an investigation. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job".

"Everybody knew it was a very promiscuous lifestyle," said the former officer, who first revealed his life as an undercover agent to the Observer last year. "You cannot not be promiscuous in those groups. Otherwise you'll stand out straightaway."

The claims follow the unmasking of undercover PC Mark Kennedy, who had sexual relationships with several women during the seven years he spent infiltrating a ring of environmental activists. Another two covert officers have been named in the past fortnight who also had sex with the protesters they were sent to spy on, fuelling allegations that senior officers had authorised sleeping around as a legitimate means of gathering intelligence.

~ more... ~

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