Privatisation fever takes grip
First the downturn, then the sale of state assets – it is like a rerun of the 1980s.
Privatisation is again sweeping the world, with governments hauling in a record $213bn in revenues last year in a massive sale of everything from ports to phones and gambling companies to gas groups.
The US was the surprise leader in a stellar year for state sell-offs in 2010. It racked up $49bn in revenues, according to Privatisation Barometer, a joint project between KPMG and Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei, a Milan-based research institute.
The trend looks set to continue globally this year with another $150bn on the block so far, suggesting that revenues from privatisation will near the 2010 figure, the highest achieved since governments began offloading assets three decades ago.
Large deals on the table include the $6.3bn auction of Polkomtel, the Polish mobile phone operator, and Mongolia’s 30 per cent IPO of a stake in the mining company Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi, expected to raise as much as $2bn.
The figures have been bolstered by the offloading of stakes acquired in government rescues throughout the financial crisis.
The biggest privatisation this year is expected to be the US Treasury’s estimated $15bn sale of shares in Ally Financial, General Motors’ financial arm, bought when the car manufacturer was bailed out in 2009.
Although revenues from asset sales were technically higher in 2009 than in 2010, almost two-thirds of those sales involved bank repurchases of mostly preferred stock that were acquired through government bail-outs during the financial crisis, according to William Megginson, professor at the University of Oklahoma and the report’s author.
Last year, governments sought to devolve responsibility for infrastructure and assets in almost every political system and country.
Significant deals included Agricultural Bank of China’s $22.1bn IPO, the largest stock offering in history.
The world’s biggest developing economies have emerged as enthusiastic vendors. This year, Russia has authorised the sale of a 7.5 per cent stake in Sberbank, the nation’s largest, as part of a goal to offload $50bn of assets by 2016.
The 27 EU nations have traditionally been slow to privatise but with sell-offs a condition of bail-outs, Spain, Poland, Portugal and Greece are set to unleash a wave of asset sales.
In May, the Portuguese government was forced to commit to selling off residual stakes in the country’s energy company Energias de Portugal and airline TAP Air Portugal. The latest forecast has Greece privatising €50bn of assets over the next four years.
“The economics of privatisation is simple: privatise when your debt soars, nationalise if your fiscal condition allows it,” says Bernardo Bortolotti, founder of Privatisation Barometer.
But he highlights several differences with previous surges in privatisation.
First, many of the largest deals last year were governments rushing to offload stakes in bailed-out companies; more than half of the US total was raised through sales of Citigroup shares.
“The US aren’t big privatisers,” says Mr Megginson. “They have a lot of valuable assets but these won’t be sold. Most airports are still in public hands, as is 90 per cent of Alaskan land.”
Second, the most active purchasers have been big institutional investors and sovereign wealth funds rather than the retail shareholders that bought into denationalised companies in the 1980s.
Third, there were several big infrastructure sales last year but many of the deals involved the sale of long-term contracts rather than entire assets. For example, the Queensland state government auctioned the right to operate the Port of Brisbane for 99 years.
Fourth, the Chinese, Indian and Polish governments were involved in a number of sell-offs, partly aimed at promoting their capital markets. But the government retains a controlling stake in deals such as AgBank’s.
Francesca Cornelli, professor of finance at London Business School, goes as far as to question whether this is privatisation as coined by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s when companies were sold off in their entirety.
“Are they really selling their companies or not? You need to look at whether they are releasing control.”
From the Democracy Now! program of August 3, 2007:
To most people the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing is a closed case. Timothy McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols were the two prime suspects accused. McVeigh was executed in 2001, and Nichols is serving a life sentence. But a Salt Lake City lawyer searching for the truth behind his brother’s death has uncovered a wealth of new information that could implicate the FBI. The documents he dug up through countless Freedom of Information Act requests suggest the FBI knew about the plot to bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in advance but did little to prevent it.
Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America’s Growing Conspiracist Underground. By Jonathan Kay. Harper; 368 pages; $27.99. Buy from Amazon.com
Correction to this article
AMERICA is a country of 310m people for whom free speech is a founding principle. So it should be no surprise that it is inhabited by a large number of individuals with some pretty strange views. Thanks to local radio and the internet, they are able to disseminate them to many others rather than just muttering away to themselves. Jonathan Kay, an editor and columnist at Canada’s National Post, has chosen to shine a spotlight on one particular group of them; the “truthers”, who believe that when America was attacked on September 11th 2001 the American government was in the know, or even staged the whole thing in order (take your pick) to impose draconian social controls in the name of national security or to occupy the oilfields of the Gulf.
Correction: Among the Truthers
Jun 9th 2011
Americans, of course, have no monopoly on eccentric views. One of the looniest is David Icke, an Englishman who believes that the world is secretly run by a group of shape-shifting intergalactic lizards. Nor is there any sign that the truthers are gaining much ground: in fact, they are puny in number compared with those who follow another nutty conspiracy theory, namely the “birthers”, who believe that Barack Obama was born outside the United States and is therefore, they hold, ineligible to be president. A significant minority of Republicans, according to opinion polls, hold this view. Birthers, however, get much less attention in Mr Kay’s book.
A conspiracy theorist, no doubt, would say that the National Post is a paper of the political right, and therefore less likely to worry about the birthers than the truthers, who tend to be on the left. A more plausible reason is that the birther conspiracy is rather a small one, not involving many people beyond Mr Obama’s deceased mother and one or two corrupt (or treacherous?) Hawaii officials.
The truther conspiracy, by contrast, involves a cast of thousands: from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney down through much of the CIA and the demolition teams that planted the explosives that brought the twin towers down and the teams of actors who faked the voices of passengers on board the doomed flights, since the hijackings actually never happened.
And this is what makes Mr Kay’s book enjoyable. He does a fine job of locating the truther movement in the perennial discontent with authority that pervades American (and wider Western) history, showing the psychological links between truthers and those who in earlier days were preoccupied by secret conspiracies of such diverse foes as masons, illuminati, communists and Jews.
The idea that some shadowy group or other is running things for their own benefit, not that of the ordinary working man, is, after all, the constant solace of the unsuccessful. And a national disaster such as Pearl Harbour, the assassination of President Kennedy or the September 11th attacks, he plausibly notes, is likely to call forth particularly wild conspiracy theories, since the alternative explanations, of incompetence or inherent vulnerability, are simply too painful to bear.
Correction: An earlier version of this review wrongly said that “birthers” are not mentioned in Mr Kay’s book. We blame a conspiracy of computer hackers, mind-engineers and reptilians for the mistake. And we are very sorry. This was corrected on June 3rd 2011.
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Guatemalan soldiers searched Tuesday for the culprits of a massacre in a remote province after the country’s president declared a state of siege there, a sign that Guatemala is escalating its own war against drug traffickers as violence spills over from Mexico.
The measures came the day after authorities blamed a Mexican drug cartel called Los Zetas for killing and decapitating 27 people in the remote El Petén province. Under the state of siege, security forces may conduct searches and make arrests without warrants, confiscate weapons and break up groups seen as subversive.
“Guatemala must take on this aggression, aggression which is not just aimed at this country, but also at the entire region,” President Álvaro Colom said in a televised speech announcing the state of siege. In an interview with local radio, the president promised to make “important arrests” related to the massacre in the next 48 hours.
Photographs published by the local press showed a military tank in the El Petén town of Santa Elena as camouflaged soldiers patrolled a nearby street.
The moves marked the second time in recent months that Mr. Colom declared a state of siege in efforts to combat Mexican traffickers, suggesting Guatemala could be gearing up for the kind of fight against gangs that Mexico began in 2006. In that time, nearly 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico.
In December, Mr. Colom ordered 600 soldiers into the central Alta Verapaz province where he said outside drug groups were beginning to operate. The operation ended in February.
Sandino Asturias, a security expert in Guatemala City, warned that El Petén is a far larger and more unstable region than Alta Verapaz, something that could complicate the security forces’ chances of success there. He said warrantless searches and detentions also mean prosecutors often lack evidence when it comes time to prosecute suspected drug traffickers. “The state of siege is not the solution,” he said.
El Petén has long been a hot spot for drug trafficking, say Guatemalan and U.S. authorities, a remote jungle area in the country’s north, home to few security forces or major cities. In recent years, many airstrips and abandoned planes have been found in the region, suspected to be involved in trafficking from Colombia and Venezuela.
Its border with Mexico is largely unpatrolled, making it a prime point for human trafficking, another racket of organized crime groups. On Tuesday, Mexican authorities said they had detained 513 immigrants, many from Central America, on the Mexican side of the border being held in “inhuman conditions” inside a U.S.-bound tractor trailer.
The area is also key to Guatemalan tourism, the home of the popular Mayan ruins like Tikal.
The Sunday killings rocked Guatemala, a violent country, but one where such massacres are rare. Most of the victims had worked as day laborers in a dairy ranch known as “Los Cocos,” according to news reports, and the perpetrators had written messages in blood that they were looking for the ranch owner.
As Mexico has stepped up its crackdown against its own drug cartels, experts say they have expanded their operations into neighboring Guatemala.
“Guatemala possesses many essential features of an ideal transshipment point…accessibility by drug trafficking organizations via air and sea; weak public institutions; endemic corruption; and vast ungoverned spaces along its borders,” according to a 2011 State Department report on drugs.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.
The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.
The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.
“Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.
Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.
“Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”
Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.
Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.
Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.
The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.
Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.
The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.
The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.
At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.
In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.
The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.
The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.
Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.
Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.
In early 2008, Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund controlled by Col. Moammar Gadhafi gave $1.3 billion to Goldman Sachs Group to sink into a currency bet and other complicated trades. The investments lost 98% of their value, internal Goldman documents show.
What happened next may be one of the most peculiar footnotes to the global financial crisis. In an effort to make up for the losses, Goldman offered Libya the chance to become one of its biggest shareholders, according to documents and people familiar with the matter.
Negotiations between Goldman and the Libyan Investment Authority stretched on for months during the summer of 2009. Eventually, the talks fell apart, and nothing more was done about the lost money.
An examination of the strange episode casts light on a period of several years when Goldman and other Western banks scrambled to do business with the oil-rich nation, now an international pariah because of its attacks on civilians during its current conflict. This account of Goldman’s dealings with Libya is based on interviews with close to a dozen people who were involved in the matter, and on Libyan Investment Authority and Goldman documents.
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Col. Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, on left, with Mustafa Zarti, a former executive at Libya’s sovereign-wealth fund.
Libya was furious at Goldman over the nearly total loss of the $1.3 billion it invested in nine equity trades and one currency transaction, people involved in the matter say. A confrontation in Tripoli between a top fund executive and two Goldman officials left the bankers so rattled that they made a panicked phone call to their bosses, these people say. Goldman arranged for a security guard to protect them before they left Libya the next day, they say.
Discussions inside Goldman about how to salvage the fractured relationship included Lloyd C. Blankfein, the company’s chairman and chief executive, David A. Viniar, its finance chief, and Michael Sherwood, Goldman’s top executive in Europe, according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal and people involved in the negotiations. All three executives declined to comment.
Goldman offered the fund an opportunity to invest $3.7 billion in the securities firm. Between May and July of 2009, Goldman executives made three proposals that would have given Libya preferred shares or unsecured debt in Goldman, according to documents prepared by Goldman for the fund. Each proposal promised a stream of payments that would eventually offset the losses.
Deal Journal: Goldman’s ‘Rock Star’ in Libya
Deal Journal: Libya Fund’s Players and Deals
MarketBeat: J.P. Morgan Upgrades Goldman
At the time, U.S. banks were under pressure from the U.S. government about their capital levels, among other things. In September 2008, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. had made a deal to invest $5 billion in Goldman, giving Berkshire a stream of cash and potential ownership of roughly 10% of Goldman. By May 2009, the Federal Reserve had told Goldman it had passed its “stress test,” meaning that the firm wouldn’t be required to raise additional capital. Goldman repaid Berkshire this April.
Michael Sherwood, Goldman’s top executive in Europe.
Efforts to reach Libyan officials for comment were unsuccessful. No one answered the phone at the sovereign-wealth fund’s headquarters in Tripoli, and its website and email aren’t working. In February, the United Nations, U.S. and European Union imposed new sanctions on Col. Gadhafi, family members and most of Libya’s state-owned companies and assets.
In 2004, the U.S. government had lifted an earlier set of sanctions that had prohibited American companies from doing business with or investing in Libya, after Col. Gadhafi pledged to abandon weapons of mass destruction and paid reparations to families of the airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. That opened the door for dozens of U.S. and European banks, hedge funds and other investment firms to pile into the North African nation.
The Libyan Investment Authority set up shop on the 22nd floor of what was then Tripoli’s tallest building and launched in June 2007 with about $40 billion in assets. Libya approached 25 financial institutions, offering each of them a chance to manage at least $150 million, recalls a person familiar with the fund’s plans.
Soon it was spreading chunks of the money to firms around the world. In addition to Goldman, those institutions included Société Générale SA, HSBC Holdings PLC, Carlyle Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Och-Ziff Capital Management Group and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., according to internal fund records reviewed by the Journal. HSBC, Carlyle, J.P. Morgan and Och-Ziff declined to comment. Société Générale said it “complies with all applicable rules and regulations” in its dealings with “many sovereign-wealth funds.”
“The country made a conscious decision to join the major leagues,” says Edwin Truman, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and former assistant Treasury secretary. Until then, the investment fund’s money was held in Libya’s central bank, earning ho-hum returns on high-quality bonds.
Goldman seized the opportunity. In May 2007, several Goldman partners met with the Libyans at Goldman’s London office. Mustafa Zarti, then the fund’s deputy chairman, and Hatem el-Gheriani, its chief investment officer, invited the Goldman partners to see the fund’s Libyan headquarters for themselves. Mr. Zarti was a close associate of one of Col. Gadhafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, and reported to a longtime friend of the Libyan ruler.
When they arrived in Tripoli that July, the Goldman partners got a warm greeting from senior fund officials and a cadre of inexperienced employees who hoped to make the fund one of the largest of its kind in the world. Goldman’s team included its head of fixed-income sales in Europe and its executive in charge of clients in northern Africa.
To the Libyans, though, the main attraction was Driss Ben-Brahim, Goldman’s Arabic-speaking emerging-markets trading chief, who ran one of its most profitable trading desks and was rumored to be among its highest-paid employees.
“We were in awe of Driss,” one former Libyan Investment Authority executive recalls. “He was like a rock star…while we were making peanuts. We felt honored by his presence.”
Goldman subsequently offered the Libyans the opportunity to invest $350 million in two funds run by Goldman’s asset-management unit, according to people involved in the transactions. Access to the funds usually is offered only to the firm’s best clients, along with Goldman partners. The Libyans accepted.
Youssef Kabbaj, the Goldman executive in charge of North Africa, became a frequent presence at the Libyan Investment Authority as the investment bank worked to expand the relationship. He worked with the fund’s management on investment ideas and encouraged younger employees to deepen their financial knowledge by attending Goldman training sessions, these people said.
Goldman soon carved out a new business with the Libyans, in options—investments that give buyers the right to purchase stocks, currencies or other assets on a future date at stipulated prices. Between January and June 2008, the Libyan fund paid $1.3 billion for options on a basket of currencies and on six stocks: Citigroup Inc., Italian bank UniCredit SpA, Spanish bank Banco Santander, German insurance giant Allianz, French energy company Électricité de France and Italian energy company Eni SpA. The fund stood to reap gains if prices of the underlying stocks or currencies rose above the stipulated levels.
But that fall, the credit crisis hit with a vengeance as Lehman Brothers failed and banks all over the world faced financial crises. The $1.3 billion of option investments were hit especially hard. The underlying securities plunged in value and all of the trades lost money, according to an internal Goldman memo reviewed by the Journal. The memo said the investments were worth just $25.1 million as of February 2010—a decline of 98%.
Officials at the sovereign-wealth fund accused Goldman of misrepresenting the investment deals and making trades without proper authorization, according to people familiar with the situation. In July 2008, Mr. Zarti, the fund’s deputy chairman, summoned Mr. Kabbaj, Goldman’s North Africa chief, to a meeting with the fund’s legal and compliance staff, according to Libyan Investment Authority emails reviewed by the Journal.
One person who attended the meeting says Mr. Zarti was “like a raging bull,” cursing and threatening Mr. Kabbaj and another Goldman employee. Goldman arranged for security to protect the employees until they left Libya the next day, according to people familiar with the matter.
Mr. Zarti declined to comment about his work at the investment fund or his relationship with Col. Gadhafi. He quit in February and now is in Austria. Mr. Kabbaj and emerging-markets trading chief Mr. Ben-Brahim left Goldman later in 2008 to join hedge-fund firm GLG Partners Inc. and were not part of later negotiations.
Following the showdown in Tripoli, the fund demanded restitution and issued vague threats of legal action. After an internal investigation, Goldman disputed Libya’s claims about the trades, citing recorded phone calls, documents signed by Libyan officials and money-transfer records, according to people involved in the dispute. Still, Goldman executives wanted to make amends because of Goldman’s business ties to Libya and worries among some officials that the mess might become public, potentially damaging its reputation with other sovereign-wealth funds, according to people involved in the discussions.
Over the ensuing two years, Goldman made six different proposals designed to generate returns sufficient to offset the nearly $1.3 billion in losses.
In May 2009, Goldman proposed that Libya get $5 billion in preferred Goldman shares in return for pumping $3.7 billion into the company, according to fund and Goldman documents. Goldman offered to pay the Libyan Investment Authority between 4% and 9.25% on the shares annually for more than 40 years, which would amount to billions of dollars more.
Libyan officials prodded Goldman to recoup their losses faster. They also worried about whether it was wise to invest in Goldman given the collapse of Lehman and the resulting panic that swept global financial markets, the fund documents indicate.
After four all-day meetings in July 2009, the two sides agreed to a rejiggered deal that would make back Libya losses in 10 years. Such a deal, which also could have left the fund with a Goldman stake, would have needed to be run past the Federal Reserve. That left both Goldman and fund officials worried about its viability.
Goldman changed its mind a week later, having second thoughts about the terms, according to a person familiar with the situation.
That August, Goldman proposed some other options to Libya, including investing in other U.S. financial firms and in a “special-purpose vehicle” tied to credit-default swaps, a form of insurance against losses on loans and bonds.
The Libyan Investment Authority decided that those options were too risky. Fund officials said they wanted to put the $3.7 billion into high-quality bonds. So Goldman devised another special-purpose vehicle in the Cayman Islands that would own $5 billion of corporate debt, according to a Goldman document prepared for the fund.
The deal would pay Libya an annual return of 6% for 20 years, while also promising a $50 million payment to be made to an outside fund adviser run by the son-in-law of the head of Libya’s state-owned oil company. Officials from Goldman and the sovereign-wealth fund met about the deal in June 2010, but it was never completed.
As of last June, the Libyan Investment Authority had assets of about $53 billion, according to a document reviewed by the Journal. This year, U.S. officials froze about $37 billion in Libyan assets, including some funds still managed by Goldman.
The Homeland Security Department is moving to an abandoned insane asylum.
The department outlined its $4.1 billion plan to consolidate most of its more than 60 Washington-area offices into a massive headquarters complex to be built at St. Elizabeths Hospital compound in Southeast Washington.
Department officials say the move will bring convenience savings and more camaraderie and cooperation among employees.
But employees shouldn’t start packing just yet. Most won’t begin moving to the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital compound in Southeast Washington until 2012 at the earliest, and the entire move won’t be done until 2015.
Homeland Security’s offices are scattered throughout Washington and Northern Virginia, an area that has some of the worst traffic in the nation. Homeland Security decided to start looking for a main headquarters site after a 2005 review ordered by Secretary Michael Chertoff showed people were spending too much time in traffic trying to get to meetings, spokesman Larry Orluskie said.
A headquarters complex “will ensure a unity of effort and command for the secretary, as well as build a culture and a spirit which are essential to having a happy and productive work force,” Undersecretary for Management Paul Schneider told the House Homeland Security subcommittee on management, investigations and oversight at a March 1 hearing.
Senior officials are concerned that a single Homeland Security culture — one that encourages cooperation among components such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Coast Guard — has not yet gelled. Schneider told the committee that grouping most component headquarters together will help foster a “one DHS” culture.
After consulting with the General Services Administration, Homeland Security settled on St. Elizabeths, which at 4.5 million square feet had the most available space in Washington. The District of Columbia will continue to operate the mental health institution on St. Elizabeths east campus. Homeland Security will take over the now-vacant west campus.
Homeland Security considered moving to Walter Reed Hospital, also in Washington, but decided against it because the Pentagon’s planned base closures would not shut it down in time. Homeland Security also rejected other Washington-area locations such as the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium site, which is expected to be demolished, and one of its current headquarters near the Naval Observatory because they either were not under federal control or were not big enough.
But even St. Elizabeths isn’t big enough to house all of Homeland Security’s 22,000 Washington-area employees, who are now housed in 7.1 million square feet.
The Secret Service, US-VISIT, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office, Office of the Inspector General, Citizenship and Immigration Services and science and technology directorate likely will remain off campus, according to an October plan prepared by the department.
Orluskie said that since most component headquarters will move nearly intact to the new compound, little will change about how agency managers work with their employees.
Similar moves have worked in the past. The Federal Emergency Management Agency was scattered among several Washington offices after it was created out of various disaster-related agencies in 1979. Until FEMA’s offices were combined into a single headquarters about 18 months later, the agency was disjointed and employees lacked a strong sense of identity, said Leo Bosner, the American Federation of Government Employees local president for FEMA.
“When they created the C Street headquarters, it did a lot of good,” Bosner said. “People were able to work face-to-face and meld together. . . . You theoretically could do things online [or with teleconferencing], but that doesn’t work all the time. People have got to work together and talk to each other.”
Former Homeland Security inspector general Clark Kent Ervin also applauded the move.“A big problem from Day One has been a lack of cohesion and esprit de corps,” Ervin said. “It’s belated, but it’s better late than never.”
The department estimates it will cost $4.1 billion to develop St. Elizabeths and relocate the department’s offices there. But Schneider said the move will save the department $64 million a year in leasing costs. Homeland Security now rents 70 percent of its office space.
The Coast Guard will be the first to move in 2010, Orluskie said. Homeland Security’s headquarters functions will follow in 2012, and all remaining components will move between 2012 and 2015.
Mental health activist Dorothea Dix founded St. Elizabeths in 1855, and many Civil War veterans received treatment there. John Hinckley has been at St. Elizabeths since he shot President Reagan in 1981. Charles Guiteau, who killed President Garfield in 1881, and poet Ezra Pound also were committed to the hospital. The facility grounds include a cemetery of about 300 Union and Confederate soldiers who died while at the facility.
Orluskie said GSA insists on preserving the site’s historic value and will either leave historic buildings intact or renovate them from within, he said.
Three former Coast Guard pilots were charged Thursday over so-called death flights during the dictatorship era when drugged political prisoners were thrown from military planes into the Rio de la Plata estuary, court officials said. The indictment came during an investigation into crimes committed at the ESMA Naval Mechanics School from 1976 to 1983. About 5,000 people suspected of being leftist dissidents were held at the clandestine detention center. Many died during the secret death flights, and few bodies were recovered. Prosecutors think the three pilots may have flown the plane from which two French nuns were thrown in 1977 because the body of one was found on a beach several days after the flight was registered.
George HW Bush, The Bay of Pigs and The Kennedy Assassination
A newly discovered FBI document reveals that George [HW] Bush was directly involved in the 1963 murder of President John Kennedy. The document places Bush working with the now-famous CIA agent, Felix Rodriguez, recruiting right-wing Cuban exiles for the invasion of Cuba. It was Bush’s CIA job to organize the Cuban community in Miami for the invasion. The Cubans were trained as marksmen by the CIA. Bush at that time lived in Texas. Hopping from Houston to Miami weekly, Bush spent 1960 and ’61 recruiting Cubans in Miami for the invasion. That is how he met Felix Rodriguez.
You may remember Rodriguez as the Iran-contra CIA agent who received the first phone call telling the world the CIA plane flown by Gene Hasenfus had crashed in Nicaragua. As soon as Rodriguez heard that the plane crashed, he called his long-time CIA supervisor, George Bush. Bush denied being in the contra loop, but investigators recently obtained copies of Oliver North’s diary, which documents Bush’s role as a CIA supervisor of the contra supply network.
In 1988 Bush told Congress he knew nothing about the illegal supply flights until 1987, yet North’s diary shows Bush at the first planning meeting Aug. 6, 1985. Bush’s “official” log placed him somewhere else. Such double sets of logs are intended to hide Bush’s real role in the CIA; to provide him with “plausible deniability.” The problem is, it fell apart because too many people, like North and Rodriguez, have kept records that show Bush’s CIA role back to the 1961 invasion of Cuba. (Source: The Washington Post, 7/10/90).
That is exactly how evidence was uncovered placing George Bush working with Felix Rodriguez when JFK was killed. A memo from FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was found, stating that, “Mr. George Bush of the CIA had been briefed on November 23rd, 1963 about the reaction of anti-Castro Cuban exiles in Miami to the assassination of President Kennedy. (Source: The Nation, 8/13/88).
On the day of the assassination Bush was in Texas, but he denies knowing exactly where he was. Since he had been the supervisor for the secret Cuban teams, headed by former Cuban police commander Felix Rodriguez, since 1960, it is likely Bush was also in Dallas in 1963. Several of the Cubans he was supervising as dirty-tricks teams for Nixon, were photographed in the Zagruder film.
In 1959 Rodriguez was a top cop in the Cuban government under Batista. When Batista was overthrown and fled to Miami, Rodriguez went with him, along with Frank Sturgis and Rafael Quintero. Officially, Rodriguez didn’t join the CIA until 1967, after the CIA invasion of Cuba, in which he participated, and the assassination of JFK. But records recently uncovered show he actually joined the CIA in 1961 for the invasion of Cuba when he was recruited by George Bush. That is how Rodriguez claims he became a “close personal friend of Bush.”
Then “officially” Rodriguez claims he quit the CIA in 1976, just after he was sent to prison for his role in the Watergate burglary. However, according to Rolling Stone reporters Kohn & Monks (11/3/88), Rodriguez still goes to CIA headquarters monthly to receive assignments and have his blue 1987 bulletproof Cadillac serviced. Rodriguez was asked by a Rolling Stone reporter where he was the day JFK was shot, and claims he can’t remember.
George Bush claims he never worked for the CIA until he was appointed director by former Warren Commission director and then President Jerry Ford, in 1976. Logic suggests that is highly unlikely. Of course, Bush has a company duty to deny being in the CIA. The CIA is a secret organization. No one ever admits to being a member. The truth is that Bush has been a top CIA official since before the 1961 invasion of Cuba, working with Felix Rodriguez. Bush may deny his actual role in the CIA in 1959, but there are records in the files of Rodriguez and others involved in the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba that expose Bush’s role. The corporations would not put somebody in charge of all the state secrets held by the CIA unless he was experienced and well trained in the CIA. (Source: Project Censored Report, Feb 1989, Dr Carl Jensen, Sonoma State College).
Recently I interviewed former CIA liaison officer L. Fletcher Prouty. He is a consultant for the excellent new movie on how the CIA killed JFK, being made by Oliver Stone. He told me that one of the projects he did for the CIA was in 1961 to deliver US Navy ships from a Navy ship yard to the CIA agents in Guatemala planning the invasion of Cuba. He said he delivered three ships to a CIA agent named George Bush, who had the 3 ships painted to look like they were civilian ships. That CIA agent then named the 3 ships after: his wife, his home town and his oil company. He named the ships: Barbara, Houston & Zapata. Any book on the history of the Bay of Pigs will prove the names of those 3 ships. Again, this is more finger prints of George Bush’s involvement in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Yet Bush denies his role in this great adventure. Why would Bush be so shy about his role in this war? What is the secret? Is there something dirty about this war that Bush & Nixon don’t want the public to know about?
Answer: Yes there is. The same people involved in the Bay of Pigs were the people involved in the Watergate burglary. Why was the Watergate burgalarized [sic]? The CIA was trying to plug up a possible news leak. They were trying to stop the Democrats from publishing the photos of Hunt & Sturgis under arrest for the murder of JFK (May 7, 1977, SF Chronicle.)
Presently, there is a law suit attempting to force the government to release the records about the Bay of Pigs invasion. Why are those documents still secret? Why are they locked in the National Archives along with all the photos from [the] Dallas assassination of JFK? Why are the 4000 hours of Watergate tapes in which Nixon is babbling about the mysterious connections between the Bay of Pigs, Dallas and Watergate also being sealed in the National Archives? Is it because all three incidents are connected?
Yes. We must demand the secret files on these 3 cases be released now. For a copy of the petition to release the files, please write to: Paul Kangas, private investigator, POB 422644, SF, Ca 94142. Thanks to Oliver Stone’s blockbuster new movie on JFK there is now sufficient national movement to reopen all these cases. The White House fears Stone’s new movie so much that they have hired more CIA journalists to slander the movie & Stone. Don’t fall for it. Every serious investigator now agrees that Oswald did not shoot JFK. That James Earl Ray did not shoot Dr. Martin Luther King and that Sirhan Sirhan did not shoot Robert Kennedy. These cases must be reopened so that Sirhan and Ray can be set free. The only bar that keeps Sirhan in prison is the tremendous anti-arab racism in Americans: in both blacks & whites.
According to a biography of Richard Nixon, his close personal and political ties with the Bush family go back to 1941 when Nixon claims he read an ad in an L A. newspaper, placed by a wealthy group of businessmen, led by Prescot Bush, the father of George Bush. They wanted a young, malleable candidate to run for Congress. Nixon applied for the position and won the job. Nixon became a mouthpiece for the Bush group. (Source: Freedom Magazine, 1986, L.F. Prouty).
In fact, Prescot Bush is credited with creating the winning ticket of Eisenhower-Nixon in 1952.(Source: George Bush, F. Green, Hipocrene, 1988).
Newly discovered FBI documents prove that Jack Ruby has been an employee of Richard Nixon since 1947. That that [sic] FBI document Ruby is listed as working as a spy & hit man for Nixon. On Nov. 22, 63 Ruby was seen by a women who knew him well, Julian Ann Mercer, approximately an hour before the arrival of JFK’s motorcade, unloading a man carrying a rifle in a case at the Grassy Knoll from his car. Ruby later was seen on national TV killing a witness who could link Nixon & Bush to the killing of JFK: Oswald. On the Trail of the Assassins, Garrison, p xiii.
Richard Nixon was Vice President from 1952 until 1960. In fact, Nixon was given credit for planning Operation 40, the secret 1961 invasion of Cuba, during his 1959 campaign for President After Batista was kicked out by the starving people of Cuba, and Fidel Castro came to power, Castro began telling American corporations they would have to pay Cuban employees decent wages. Even worse, Pepsi Cola was told it would now have to pay world market prices for Cuban sugar.
Pepsi, Ford Motor Co., Standard Oil and the Mafia drug dealers decided Fidel had to be removed since his policies of requiring corporations to pay market wages was hurting their profits. So the corporations asked then Vice-President Nixon to remove Fidel. Nixon promised he would, just as soon as he’d won the 1960 elections against some underdog, an unknown Democrat named John Kennedy. It would be an easy victory for Nixon. The polls had Nixon winning by a landslide. Besides, Kennedy was a Catholic, and Americans would no more elect a Catholic President than they would elect a woman, a black or a Jew. This was 1959.
Nixon told Pepsi, Standard Oil and other corporations who lost property given back to the farmers of Cuba, that if they would help him win, he would authorize an invasion to remove Castro. To further impress contributors to his campaign, then Vice-President Nixon asked the CIA to create Operation 40, a secret plan to invade Cuba, just as soon as he won.
The CIA put Texas millionaire and CIA agent George Bush in charge of recruiting Cuban exiles into the CIA’s invasion army. Bush was working with another Texas oilman, Jack Crichton, to help him with the invasion. A fellow Texan, Air Force General Charles Cabel, was asked to coordinate the air cover for the invasion.
Most of the CIA leadership around the invasion of Cuba seems to have been people from Texas. A whole Texan branch of the CIA is based in the oil business. If we trace Bush’s background in the Texas oil business we discover his two partners in the oil-barge leasing business: Texan Robert Mosbacher and Texan James Baker. Mosbacher is now Secretary of Commerce and Baker is Secretary of State, the same job Dulles held when JFK was killed. (Source: Common Cause magazine, 3-4/90).
On the Watergate tapes, June 23, 1972, referred to in the media as the “smoking gun” conversation, Nixon and his Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, discussed how to stop the FBI investigation into the CIA Watergate burglary. They were worried that the investigation would expose their conection to “the Bay of Pigs thing.” Haldeman, in his book The Ends of Power, reveals that Nixon always used code words when talking about the 1963 murder of JFK. Haldeman said Nixon would always refer to the assassination as “the Bay of Pigs.”
On that transcript we find Nixon discussing the role of George Bush’s partner, Robert Mosbacher, as one of the Texas fundraisers for Nixon. On the tapes Nixon keeps refering to the “Cubans” and the “Texans.” The “Texans” were Bush, Mosbacher and Baker. This is another direct link between Bush and evidence linking Nixon and Bush to the Kennedy assassination.
In the same discussion Nixon links “the Cubans,” “the Texans,” “Helms,” “Hunt,” “Bernard Barker,” Robert “Mosbacher” and “the Bay of Pigs.” Over and over on the Watergate tapes, these names come up around the discussion of the photos from Dallas that Nixon was trying to obtain when he ordered the CIA to burglarize the Watergate. (Source: Three Men and a Barge”, Teresa Riordan, Common Cause magazine, March/April 1990, and San Francisco Chronicle, May 7,1977, interview with Frank Sturgis in which he stated that “the reason we burglarized the Watergate was because Nixon was interested in stopping news leaking related to the photos of our role in the assassination of President John Kennedy.”)
After Nixon’s landslide victory in 1972, he knew he had to centralize all power into the White House to keep his faction in power, not only to hold power, but to prevent the media from digging into how he secretly shot his way into the White House, just like Hitler shot his way into control of Germany. The first thing Nixon did was to demand signed resignations of his entire government. “Eliminate everyone,” he told John Ehrlichman about reappointment, “except George Bush. Bush will do anything for our cause.” (Source: Pledging Allegiance, Sidney Blumenthal.)
The reason why Bush will ‘do anything” is because his hands have as much of Kennedy’s blood on them as do Nixon’s, Hunt’s, Sturgis’s, Felix Rodriguez’s and Gerald Ford’s. This White House gang fears that if the public ever realizes how they shot their way into power it could set off a spark that would destroy their fragile fraud and land them in jail.
Other famous Watergate members of the CIA invasion that Bush recruited were Frank Sturgis, E. Howard Hunt, Bernard Barker and Rafael Quintero. Quintero has said publicly that if he ever told what he knew about Dallas and the Bay of Pigs, “It would be the biggest scandal ever to rock the nation.”
Meanwhile, in 1960, Prescot Bush was running Nixon’s campaign. Nixon was sent to South Vietnam to assure the French-connection government there that if France pulled out, the U.S. would step in to protect the drug trade from the GoIden Triangle. (Source: Frontline, 1988, “Guns. Drugs and the CIA”; Alexander Cockburn; “Cocaine, the CIA and Air America,” S.F. Examiner, Feb. 2, ’91; The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, Alfred McCoy, 1972.)
In 1959, Vice President Nixon was flying all over the world, acting just like presidential material. It was an easy race for Nixon. Congressman Jerry Ford was doing a great job fundraising for Nixon, as was George Bush. The rich loved Nixon. The media picked up every bone Nixon tossed out to them. The biggest problem was that Nixon was afraid to speak openly of his plan to invade Cuba. The plan was a secret. No sense in alerting Cuba to the coming invasion. But Kennedy was taking a harder line on Cuba than Nixon, because Kennedy was not aware of the corporate/CIA planned invasion.
Nixon lost the 1960 race by the smallest margin in history. At first Bush, Nixon, Cabel and Hunt decided to just go ahead with the invasion, without informing President Kennedy. Then, at the last second, at 4 a.m., just two hours before the invasion was set to go, General Cabel called JFK and asked for permission to provide U.S. air cover for the CIA invasion. Kennedy said no.
The CIA was furious with JFK but decided to go ahead with their private invasion anyway. Due to poor intelligence, the CIA landed at the worst possible beach. A swamp. The invasion failed. The CIA lost 15 of its best men, killed, with another 1100 in Cuban prisons. It was the worst single blow the CIA ever suffered. (Source: F. Howard Hunt, Give Us This Day.)
Bush, Nixon and Hunt blamed Cabel for asking Kennedy and blamed Kennedy for saying no. They were livid with anger. Nixon’s corporate sponsors ordered JFK to make any deal necessary to recover the 1100 CIA agents imprisoned in Cuba. JFK did. Once the CIA had its well-trained Cubans back, they decided to continue the invasion of Cuba just as soon as they could get rid of that S.O.B. Kennedy.
The 1964 election was fast approaching. Nixon was running against Kennedy again. Bush, Ford and Nixon knew that they had to get rid of JFK now, or else the Kennedy clan, with Robert and Ted in the wings, could control the White House until 1984. They decided not to wait until ’84 to get back in the White House. The Cuban teams of “shooters” began following Kennedy from city to city looking for a window of opportunity to shoot from. They came close in Chicago, but couldn’t get the cooperation of Mayor Daley.
But in Dallas they had an ace. The mayor was the brother of General Cabel, whom the CIA blamed for the failure of the invasion. The general prevailed on his brother, Earl, and the motorcade was changed to pass the grassy knoll at 7 m.p.h. Hunt and Sturgis shot JFK from the grassy knoll. They were arrested, photographed and seen by 15 witnesses. But the media turned a blind eye to the photos, and for 25 years the world has been searching for the truth.
On the day JFK was murdered, Nixon, Hunt and some of the Watergate crew were photographed in Dallas, as were a group of Cubans, one holding an umbrella up, like a signal, next to the President’s limo just as Kennedy was shot. The Cubans can be seen holding up the signal umbrella in the Zapruder film and dozens of stills taken during the assassination. After the murder they can be seen calmly walking away.
Nixon denied he was in Dallas that day, but new photos and stories prove he was there. Nixon claimed to the FBI he couldn’t remember where he was when JFK was killed. (Source: FBI memo, Feb. 23, 1964, published in Coup d’etat in America, Weberman & Canfield). Bush, too, claims he can’t remember where he was. Jack Anderson did a TV special in 1988 proving beyond any shadow of doubt that two of the tramps arrested in Dallas behind the grassy knoll were Hunt and Sturgis.
After the murder, former Vice President Nixon asked President Lyndon Johnson to appoint Nixon’s friend, former FBI agent Jerry Ford, to run the Warren Commission. Nixon also asked LBJ to appoint Nixon’s long-time supporter, Judge Earl Warren, to head the Commission. LBJ agreed. Ford interviewed all the witnesses and decided which ones would be heard and which ones eliminated. It is no coincidence that Nixon selected Ford as his Vice President after Spiro Agnew was ousted. When Nixon himself got busted in the Watergate scandal, Earl Warren offered to set up another special commission if it would help get him out of trouble again. Ford, of course, pardoned Nixon for the Watergate burglary but Nixon is still not out of the woods. There are 4000 hours of Watergate tape. On the June 23, 1972, discussions with John Ehrlichman and Haldeman there is clear evidence that Nixon is openly “confessing” to hiring Hunt to kill JFK. That is why the Watergate “investigation” went into secret session after Congress heard some of the tapes. This is why only 12 hours of 4000 hours have been released to the public.
Did Congress realize that Nixon and Bush had openly discussed killing JFK for stopping the air cover for the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba? Remember, Nixon taped virtually every discussion he had with anyone in his inner circle, including Bush, in order to blackmail people later. There is a photo of Bush reporting to Nixon in the White House in 1968. It will be interesting to see what they were talking about on that day, when the full 4000 hours are finally released. The key to unlocking the secrets behind the 1963 murder of JFK is hidden in the 3988 hours of unreleased White House tapes. Bush was in Dallas the day Reagan was shot. (Source: George Bush, F. Green, 1988.) That must have given Bush a flashback to November 22,1963.
Blame the Baby Boomers: Shallow, Greedy and Corrupt
The Baby Boom Generation will never be mistaken for the Greatest Generation that survived the Great Depression and defeated evil in a World War that killed 72 million people. I hate to tell you Boomers, but putting a yellow ribbon on the back of your $50,000 SUV is not sacrifice.
Our claim to fame is living way beyond our means for the last three decades… Baby Boomers have been occupying the White House for the last sixteen years. The majority of Congress is Baby Boomers. The CEOs and top executives of Wall Street firms are Baby Boomers. The media is dominated by Baby Boom executives and on-air stars. We have no one to blame but ourselves for the current predicament. Blaming Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson for our dire situation is a cop out. Baby Boomers had the time, power, and ability to change our course. We have chosen to leave the heavy lifting to future generations in order to live the good life today.
Of course, not all Baby Boomers are shallow, greedy, and corrupt. Mostly Boomers with power and wealth fall into this category. There were 76 million Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1963. They now make up 28% of the U.S. population. Their impact on America is undeniable. The defining events of their generation have been the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, Kent State, Woodstock, the 1st man on the moon, and now the collapse of our Ponzi scheme financial system. They rebelled against their parents, protested the Vietnam War, and settled down in 2,300 square foot cookie cutter McMansions with perfectly manicured lawns, in mall infested suburbia. They have raised overscheduled spoiled children, moved up the corporate ladder by pushing paper rather than making things, lived above their means in order to keep up with their neighbors, bought whatever they wanted using debt, and never worried about the future. Over optimism, unrealistic assumptions, selfishness and conspicuous consumption have been their defining characteristics.
Early in the 1st Reagan administration, Americans saved 12% of their income and household debt as a percentage of GDP was 63%. In 1980, the oldest Baby Boomers turned 34. They entered their prime earnings and spending years. This is when something went haywire with our great country. Deficit spending became fashionable for government, corporations and individuals. Dick “deficits don’t matter” Cheney was probably in his glory as the country ran up deficits of money, morals, and brains. The Boomers and our government chose to try and borrow and spend their way to prosperity. As we now know, Mr. Cheney’s advice about deficits not mattering was about as good as his belief that you can fire a shotgun in any direction without implications. The Boomer generation has freely made choices over the last quarter century that has brought us to the brink of a second Great Depression.
What the data proves is that Boomers love to shop and eat, whether they have the money or not. The top 100 retailers in the U.S. have 250,000 stores that generated $1.7 trillion of sales last year. How could America function without 31,000 McDonalds, 35,000 KFCs, Taco Bells, & Pizza Huts, 15,000 Starbucks, 7,000 Wal-Marts, 2,000 Home Depots, 4,000 K-Marts/Sears, and 8,000 Blockbusters? There are 91,000 shopping centers in the United States. The Advertising industry spends $275 billion per year to convince you to spend money you don’t have for things you don’t need. This generation lacks self control, morals, a work ethic, and savings ethic. Based on the recent actions of our government and corporate leaders, we seem to lack any ethics at all. It is immoral for the Boomer generation to run up $53 trillion in unfunded future liabilities in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to leave as our gift to future generations, while we live it up today. Optimists like to point out that Europe and Japan have much worse unfunded liability problems than the U.S. That is like taking pride in being the best looking horse at the glue factory. In the end, we’ll all still be glue.
The 25 year Boomer borrowing and spending binge is coming to an end. The hangover will be really bad. The Federal Reserve and Treasury are trying to keep the frat party going, but everyone is passed out on the floor.