Tag Archives: ProPublica

On Becoming an Opt-Out

Danny Schechter (Al Jazeera) | RS_News | February 10 2012

TSA's body scanners allow security personnel to view people naked 'for security reasons.' (photo: Gallo/Getty Images)

OPINION | I had been debating with myself, and a few friends, about whether or not to accept an invitation to attend a film conference in Iran. The argument against going is that by travelling there, you validate a dictatorial police state.

But with so few American journalists going to Tehran these days, I felt a higher duty to attend.

The first step in the long trip from New York was getting in line for an inspection by that uniformed Army called the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), a $5bn agency that insists it is only there to keep us safe.

Talk about a police state.

There is no question that one consequence of its rigorous procedures is to teach the public how to be compliant and follow orders. It’s a manifestation of a certain “friendly fascism” ushered in by 9/11, what the Right denounces in other areas as a nanny state.

Never mind that on that day of infamy in 2001, Boston’s airport was run by an Israeli expert known for the highest security standards, or that security detectors at Newark found knives on hijackers, but they gave them back because they were legal at the time.

George W Bush’s decision to establish the TSA was about visibly reassuring the public to keep them flying. It was also a way to create lots of jobs without his own party objecting. It was justified as “at least we are doing something!”

This Big Government hiring programme was driven by fear – but rarely criticised.

Back in the line at JFK airport, I noticed that in this class society of ours, the TSA permits shorter lines for First Class and Business Class passengers, ensuring that the 99 per cent/1 per cent divide is alive and well in our airports.

A very sweet black woman helped me schlep my plastic containers overflowing with a bulky winter coat, a sweatshirt with a zipper, belt, coins, pens, sneakers, iPad and computer.

I surprised the officer by telling her that in England they don’t take computers out of bags anymore, and that Germany doesn’t require belts and shoes to be taken off.

Her response: “I hope someday soon that we can end all this. It is a big drag for everyone.”

Amen, sister.

I am sure she wouldn’t want to be quoted by name because, as I soon found out, the TSA does not like people who are “negative”.

Yet there have been many “negative” incidents – like old women being strip-searched, TSA agents asleep on the job and even reports of luggage being stolen.

Humiliation or Retaliation?

While all my stuff was going through one machine, I was steered to another, one of those supposedly safe body scanners where I was supposed to stand, hands up, as if I were being busted or guilty of something.

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Big Banks Keep Paying a Pittance to Settle Fraud Charges

By Pat Garofalo | Nation Of Change
October 23 2011

This week, Citigroup announced that it had settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission over charges that the mega-bank misled investors in a derivatives deal and then bet against them. Under the terms of the settlement, Citi agreed to pay $285 million.

Citi is not the first bank to settle these sorts of charges with the SEC. Previously, Goldman Sachs had agreed to a $550 million settlement, while JP Morgan Chase paid $154 million. (Goldman’s settlement was over the now infamous “shitty deal.”)

Having to fork over hundreds of millions of dollars may seem like a lot, but it’s chump change to these banks. Citigroup, for instance, just announced profits of $3.8 billion for the last quarter alone, while JP Morgan made $4.2 billion. Goldman Sachs this week announced just the second losing quarter since the bank went public in 1999, but it paid its SEC settlement in 2010, a year in which the bank made $39.2 billion overall.

And as ProPublica pointed out, Citi’s settlement will not only cost it a pittance, but ends the SEC’s inquiries into the vast multitude of junk the bank peddled onto its unwitting customers:

The bank says it has settled all of its potential liability to a key regulator – the Securities and Exchange Commission — with a $285 million payment that covers a single transaction, Class V Funding III. ProPublica first raised questions about the deal [1] in August 2010. In announcing a case, the SEC said it had identified one low-level employee, Brian Stoker, as responsible for the bank’s misconduct.

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