Category Archives: Crime & Corruption

NSA secretly collecting phone records, locations of millions of Verizon customers daily

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Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls.

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Guardian | Jun 5, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald

Read the Verizon court order in full here
Obama administration justifies surveillance

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

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The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman

Popes and demons: Mysterious Vatican bank poses problem for new pontiff

The massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.

GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images FilesThe massive round tower, left, is the headquarters of the Institute for Works of Religion, the Vatican’s secretive bank.
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National Post | Mar 8, 2013by Adrian Humphreys
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As the world waits for the Vatican’s conclave to select a new pope to lead 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, and the church’s sex abuse scandals dominate discourse on the incoming pontiff’s priorities, another decidedly worldly issue is also poised to take an immediate toll on the new Holy Father: money.

The public and private woes of the Vatican bank, long shrouded in secrets and whispers, might well prove to be just as challenging, if not as draining, as the lurid, faith-shaking damage of the clergy abuse scandal.

With a two-year probe by Italian authorities into money laundering, poor transparency, inadequate adherence to standards for guarding against criminal and terrorist financing, and questions over sudden changes in its leadership, the bank represents another crisis of morals, legalities and perception.

The importance of the Vatican bank in Pope Benedict XVI’s grand vision can be assumed from the urgency it held with the outgoing pontiff: among the last official acts before his shock retirement was overhauling financial leadership and church oversight.

On Feb. 15, Benedict XVI approved the appointment of Ernst von Freyberg as the new president of the supervisory board of the Institute for Works of Religion, the church agency widely known as the Vatican bank.

The appointment of the German lawyer and businessman came after assessing “a number of candidates of professional and moral excellence,” the Vatican said in a statement.

“The Holy Father has closely followed the entire selection process … and he has expressed his full consent to the choice made by the Commission of Cardinals.”

While the appointment drew immediate criticism over the involvement of Mr. von Freyberg’s Blohm+Voss, an industrial group, in manufacturing German warships, including during the Nazi era, it also raised eyebrows for its timing. Putting money under the baton of a German is not out of step with European policy these days, but for an institution already rife with conspiracy theories the sudden shuffle could not go unnoticed.

“[Benedict’s] decision to retire was so unprecedented, you would think that he would have other things on his mind than replacing the head of the Vatican bank,” said Carlo Calvi, son of Roberto Calvi, who was known as “God’s Banker” because of his close ties to the Vatican before his outlandish death more than 30 years ago.

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg Files

Alessia Pierdomenico/Bloomberg FilesThe city of Rome, in Italy, is seen beyond St. Peter’s Square from the roof of the Basilica in Vatican City.
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Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

Ernst von Freyberg. The Canadian Press Files.

“However, I am more surprised by the sackings — the people who were let go — rather than the appointments,” he said.

Ettore Gotti Tedeschi was chairman of the Vatican bank until he was pushed out in May with a withering assessment of not being up for the job. He had been trying to get the Vatican onto the international banking “white list” of virtuous countries.

Then, on Feb. 22, Monsignor Ettore Balestrero, a key church official pushing for better regulation and controls on the Vatican bank, was suddenly transferred from Rome to Colombia.

That transfer followed the moving of Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who was credited with turning a deficit for the Vatican into a large surplus through greater accountability and controls, from the Vatican to the United States.

One of the leaked documents in the “Vatileaks” scandal was a letter from Archbishop Vigano to Pope Benedict begging he remain in Rome to continue his financial crusade. The Pope was unmoved.

The transfers suggest change is not always welcome.

“Change under the new pope will be easier said than done because they make money on this, it is a source of income that has been used for a lot of purposes,” said Mr. Calvi. To address the problems, “They need, essentially, to do a very drastic reform that would almost certainly mean foregoing a considerable source of revenue.”

The Vatican bank has not always shown such virtuous strength, as Mr. Calvi knows better than most. Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Mr. Calvi, who now lives in Montreal.

Watching the Vatican bank has consumed Mr. Calvi’s adult life and the Calvi name almost consumed the Vatican bank.

His father was chairman of Banco Ambrosiano, an Italian Catholic bank closely linked to the Vatican.

Graham Hughes for National Post

Few outside the Vatican’s inner circle eye church finance as closely as Carlo Calvi, who now lives in Montreal. Graham Hughes for National Post
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The shadowy operations of Vatican finance forced its way into the public’s consciousness when Roberto Calvi was found dead, just as the scandalous operation of church finance was being revealed amid the collapse of Banco Ambrosiano, Italy’s largest private bank, with $1-billion missing.

Since then, his unsolved death, first declared a suicide, then reclassified as a murder, and the cast of powerful figures and secretive organizations linked to it — from the Mafia and the Masonic lodge P2 to the powerful conservative Catholic organization Opus Dei and the Vatican itself — make it one of modern history’s enduring mysteries, Europe’s equal to the Jimmy Hoffa disappearance.

The case was also said to be linked to landmark Cold War politics, with claims Banco Ambrosiano was used by those close to John Paul II, the Polish pope, to fund the anti-Communist Solidarity movement in Poland and by those close to U.S. president Ronald Reagan to fund the Contra rebels of Central America.

The raw puzzle and quirks of Mr. Calvi’s death compel conspiracy theories and befuddlement, with small details that seem to mean much, but with no answer to exactly what.

The banker’s body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge, his feet dangling in the River Thames in the heart of London, on June 18, 1982; he wore two pairs of underwear, had five bricks in his pockets, about $14,00-worth of three different currencies and the business card of a Mafia figure.

It was a death shouting in the symbolic language of Italy’s underworld.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files

Blackfriars Bridge in London, U.K. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg Files
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“I am more of the idea that there are theatrical elements and not necessarily symbolic aspects to it,” said his son. “Hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars were involved — if that is not a motive for murder, I don’t know what is.”

After all, any Catholic cleric would know: Radix malorum est cupiditas, the Latin Biblical quotation meaning greed is the root of evil.

The very notion of a church bank speaks to the awkward interface between the spiritual and temporal, represented by the pope being both leader of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City state.

Unlike many Vatican institutions, the Vatican bank is not of antique origin, having been formed in 1942 by Pius XII, although it had older antecedents. Its purpose is to protect and administer the property and funds intended for the church’s works.

Unlike true national central banks, it does not set monetary policy or involve itself in currency maintenance, as the Vatican uses the euro. Also unlike most banks, its surplus or profit is supposed to go toward religion or charity.

As it is not a true central bank, and with the Vatican not a full member of the European Union, its relationship with strict regulation has been more nebulous and its ends of religion or charity have, likewise, not always been clear.

“One would be surprised at the acceptance of risky relationships and risky behaviour for an organization like the Vatican. But, objectively, I’ve seen it. It is hard to understand, but it is true,” said Mr. Calvi.

Courtesy Carlo Calvi

“God’s Banker” Roberto Calvi, whose body was found hanging from a London bridge in 1982, meets Paul VI in an undated photo. Courtesy Carlo Calvi
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“In many cases, they seem to have little judgment in terms of the arrangements they get themselves into.”

In the fallout of the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, though it claimed no wrongdoing, the Vatican bank paid $250-million to Ambrosiano’s creditors.

Since then, its regulatory framework has still not caught up to modern standards, especially in the post-9/11 world.

Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files

The former head of the Vatican bank, Ettore Gotti Tedeschi, was forced to resign from his post on May 24, 2012 “for failing to carry out duties of primary importance,” the Holy See said in a statement. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/GettyImages Files
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In 2010, Rome magistrates froze ¤23-million ($31-million) the Vatican bank held in an Italian bank. The Vatican said its bank was merely transferring its own funds between its own accounts in Italy and Germany. The money was released in June 2011, but an investigation continues.

In July, a European anti-money laundering committee said the Vatican bank failed to meet all its standards on fighting money laundering, tax evasion and other financial crimes.

The report by Moneyval, a monitoring committee of the 47-nation Council of Europe, found the Vatican passed nine of 16 “key and core” aspects of its financial dealings. The head of the Vatican delegation to the Moneyval committee was Msgr. Balestrero.

Msgr. Balestrero said the report was a call for the Vatican to push forward with “efforts to marry moral commitments to technical excellence” to prove “the Holy See’s and Vatican City state’s desire to be a reliable partner in the international community.”

Seven months later, he was reassigned to South America.

“The Moneyval report was one of the rare bits of good news for the Vatican last year. Balestrero was the one who dealt with Moneyval and they send him to Colombia. That doesn’t sound like the way to reward someone,” said Mr. Calvi.

This week, the widely read Italian Catholic weekly Famiglia Cristiana, which is distributed free in Italian parishes on Sundays, carried an article calling for the bank to be closed on the grounds the pontificate should not have direct links to the world of finance.

It argued there are plenty of ethically minded commercial banks in Italy and elsewhere that could be trusted to manage the Holy See’s assets.

In January, René Bruelhart, the new director of the Vatican’s Financial Information Authority, said the church was on the right track.

“Considering the particular nature of the Vatican City state, adequate measures have been adopted for vigilance, prevention, and fighting money laundering and financing terrorism,” he told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.

How much further the Vatican bank will go and how quickly it can get there, under both the new chairman and a new pope, is being anxiously watched by the world’s financial community. And by Mr. Calvi.

Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files

Then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, left, now former Pope Benedict XVI, looks on as late Pope John Paul II celebrates Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican in 2002. Pier Paolo Cito / The Associated Press Files
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National Post, with files from news services

Judge slams speed camera scam

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Judge Robert Ruehlman of Hamilton County Common Pleas Court said Elmwood Place’s speed cameras are unfair to motorists.(Photo: Amie Dworecki, The Cincinnnati Enquirer)

“It is a scam the motorist cannot win,” the judge wrote in invalidating the ordinance.

Cincinnati Enquirer | Mar 8, 2013

by Kimball Perry

ELMWOOD PLACE, Ohio — In a scathing ruling, a Hamilton County judge ruled that an ordinance allowing this village of 2,000 to install speed cameras is invalid and unenforceable.

Critics have said those cameras, which already have generated about $1.5 million in fines, have more to do with revenue enhancement than safety in this Cincinnati suburb nearly surrounded by the city.

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“Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of Three-card Monty,” Common Pleas Court Judge Robert Ruehlman wrote in his Thursday decision. “It is a scam the motorist cannot win.”

Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have speed cameras operating in at least one location, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Ohio has 13 other jurisdictions that use them, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.

A dozen states have laws prohibiting them.

The village put the cameras in place in July to slow speeders — not to rake in revenue — officials there have said. About half of the fines go to the village as new revenue.

The village hired Maryland-based Optotraffic LLC to install the cameras and bill offenders, allowing the company to keep part of the fine money.

When motorists began receiving the $105 speeding tickets in the mail, they exploded in anger. Many have said they now go out of their way to avoid driving here, and many business owners say the cameras and the fallout are hurting business.

Many hired lawyer Mike Allen to fight the cameras.

“It is obvious that the village of Elmwood is motivated by financial considerations and not public safety,” Allen said. “This is a victory for the common man and woman who does not have $105 to give to the village of Elmwood.”

Allen added that Ruehlman’s ruling could be the nation’s first to address the specific constitutional challenge — whether a driver’s due-process rights were violated.

“I think the preliminary injunction is pretty much the whole case,” Allen said.

Village Solicitor Anita Vizedom couldn’t be reached for comment.

The judge was particularly biting in writing his decision, blasting the village for taking from its residents instead of providing services to those who pay for them.

“The entire case against the motorist is stacked because the speed monitoring device is calibrated and controlled by Optotraffic,” the judge wrote.

If motorists receiving tickets wanted to contest them, they had to request an administrative hearing that came with a $25 fee.

“The hearing is nothing more than a sham,” the judge wrote.

While Ohio law allows such cameras, Allen argued successfully that the village didn’t display the proper signage that must accompany them.

Allen expects Elmwood Place to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Russia puts murdered whistleblower on trial

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A woman holds a placard with a portrait of Sergei Magnitsky during an unauthorised rally in central Moscow December 15, 2012.. REUTERS/Tatyana MakeyevaView Photo

His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.

Reuters | Mar 10, 2013

By Alissa de Carbonnel

MOSCOW (Reuters) – A whistleblowing Russian lawyer whose death in custody became a symbol of rights abuses and strained relations with the United States will go on posthumous trial on Monday in what relatives say is revenge by the Kremlin.

Sergei Magnitsky, who died while in pre-trial custody in 2009, is being prosecuted for defrauding the state in what will be the first time Russia has ever tried a dead person, a development Amnesty International says sets a “dangerous precedent”.

Magnitsky had been jailed after accusing police and tax officials of multimillion dollar tax fraud. His employer says the charges against him were a reprisal and he was murdered, and the Kremlin’s own human rights council aired suspicions he was beaten to death.

The circumstances of his demise led the United States last year to bar entry to Russians accused of involvement in his case or in other rights abuses.

Critics say the trial – more than three years after he died and despite pleas by relatives to drop the case – is an attempt by President Vladimir Putin’s government to hit back at Washington and show the public Magnitsky was a crook not a hero.

“It’s inhuman to try a dead man. If I take part in this circus, I become an accomplice to this,” Magnitsky’s mother Natalya told Reuters. “I won’t take part in the hearings.”

Russia took the highly unusual step of reopening the investigation against Magnitsky in 2011, as international criticism of Russia over his death mounted.

“First they killed him, now they are dancing on his grave,” said a lawyer for Magnitsky’s family, Nikolai Gorokhov.

After Magnitsky’s lawyers boycotted pre-trial hearings, the court appointed a lawyer to defend him.

Contacted by Reuters, the court-appointed lawyer, Nikolai Guerasimov, declined to comment on the case. Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also declined to comment.

Magnitsky died at the age of 37 after he said he was denied medical care over 358 days in jail.

DEAD MAN IN THE DOCK

Putin said Magnitsky died of heart failure, but his former employer, London-based investment fund Hermitage Capital, says he was killed for testifying against officials he accused of a $230 million theft through fraudulent tax refunds.

Hermitage owner William Browder is being tried in absentia alongside his former employee. He also faces new fraud charges filed last week over dealings a decade ago in shares in state gas firm Gazprom.

Browder has said the charges are an “absurdity” meant as revenge for his campaigning for the U.S. rights legislations named after Magnitsky.

Pro-Kremlin television channel NTV showed a documentary alleging Browder exploited his late employee’s death for his own ends. Critics say NTV often airs such programs to influence public opinion before charges are filed against government foes.

Rights watchdog Amnesty International has called Russia’s first posthumous trial a “dangerous precedent.”

Authorities say recent legal changes make it possible. But Magnitsky’s family lawyers say the law allows such cases only at the request of the deceased’s relatives for the purpose of clearing their reputations.

No one has been held accountable for Magnitsky’s death. One prison official was tried last year but prosecutors asked the court to clear him.

“Something happened in that prison that no one wants to talk about,” Zoya Svetova, an investigator for the independent prison watchdog, the Public Oversight Commission, that probed his death.

“Magnitsky became a symbol of the fight against corruption, and the goal of this trial is to show he is no symbol but just a criminal who didn’t pay his taxes,” she said.

“It is pure state propaganda because there is no point in trying a dead man.”

The case has weighed heavily on U.S.-Russian relations.

Moscow retaliated against the U.S. Magnitsky Act with its own visa ban against Americans suspected of violating the rights of Russians abroad. It also banned U.S. families from adopting Russian children.

Chinese ex-police locked up for fighting corruption

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Chinese soldiers march past the Great Hall of the People after a pre-opening session of the National People’s Congress, China’s parliament, on March 4, 2013 in Beijing, China.  Getty Images

NBC News | Mar 5, 2013

By Le Li

BEIJING — The call came late on Monday night.

“More than 70 police raided our (guest house),” said former policeman He Zuhua. “Police are everywhere.”

His voice shook and he soon hung up, fearing that authorities would trace the call to the public telephone on the capital’s ragged outskirts. NBC News has been unable to reach him since.

He says he and a handful of former police officers are being pursued and detained by authorities after traveling to the capital to help shine a light on corruption within their ranks. The officers have joined droves of unhappy citizens who annually converge on Beijing in the hopes of petitioning their leaders for help during the annual National People’s Congress which started Monday. Each spring scores of petitioners are pulled from buses, trains, sidewalks, and simple hotels and locked up in secret locations, known as “black jails.”

The police stand out because all were once part of the justice system they seek to reform. According to two members of the group of 14 hoping to press for change, all of them are former police officers claiming to be themselves victims of pervasive corruption.

Their plight underscores how hard it is to combat patronage and graft in China, and how easy it was for insiders to fall from grace, said Hu Xingdou, a professor at Beijing Institute of Technology.

“In a country that lacks legal protection, it is not safe for anyone,” he said. “In China the judiciary, which is the base of anti-corruption, is not just.”

“Anyone can fall into a disadvantaged group from an advantaged group,” he added.

The crackdown on police petitioners came after China’s new leader Xi Jinping declared war on corruption, staking his name to promises that he would root out graft that infests everything from kindergarten admissions to the highest levels of government. He has called for anti-corruption campaigns ranging from banning luxury banquets to prohibiting floral displays and red carpet treatment for the official delegations.

According to He, he and the other former police officers from around the country were first rounded up on Feb. 24 as they ate together in a restaurant in Beijing. After 24 hours, three of the petitioners were taken from the detention facility with officials from their home provinces, He said. The rest “escaped,” he said.

“Corruption in the judicial system is the cause of all corruption,” he said before the Feb. 24 incident. “If we cannot change this, then China will collapse.”

Police officials contacted by NBC News denied any knowledge of a raid involving former officers.

He says he had worked in a county investigation unit in China’s central Henan province until 2002 when he refused to give false evidence in a trial involving local officials. He was sentenced to a year in prison on charges of corruption, He says.

Senior officials in Henan told him that his case lacked the proper evidence and promised a new investigation, He says. A decade after He lost his job and nothing had been done about the case.

Both of the police officers NBC News interviewed said they had traveled to Beijing to protest corruption within the judicial system, and hoped to present an open letter asking the delegates of the NPC to address the issue.

The NPC, made up of nearly 3,000 candidates is vested with lawmaking powers. In reality, it has acted mainly as a rubber stamp for the ruling Communist Party decisions. Over time, however, votes on measures or candidates nominated by the party have stopped being unanimous, signaling growing diversity if not the emergence of an opposition. Petitioners come from all over the country seeking redress for wrongs.

Tian Lan says she was once an award-winning senior police officer. After exposing a corruption scandal among local police in Northern Hebei province in 2002, Tian says she was jailed and tortured for a year. A Guangping court in Hebei charged Tian with six crimes including passing on states secrets, but the court failed to present evidence.

Since then Tian says she has been a petitioner. She says that to prevent her from petitioning, the local government has refused to renew her national identity card, which she needs to apply for a new job. Sometimes Tian has had to beg for food, she says.

“If people like me, who are inside the system, are mistreated like this, can you imagine how average citizens are treated?” Tian asked in tears.

Tian and He are not unique.

In the vast central city of Chonqqing, over 1,000 policemen, were recently given back their jobs as redress for mistreatment suffered at the hands of notoriously heavy-handed deposed police chief Wang Lijun. Wang has since been charged with crimes of abuse power for his role in a scandal that brought down charismatic Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai.

Before their arrest Tian and He told NBC they knew they might be detained before their demonstration.

“We are not here out of personal interest, but to fight against this nation’s corruption,” said He. “This country must change.”

Hillary Clinton to charge ‘$200,000 a speech’… which is more than her whole YEAR’S salary as Secretary of State

Hillary Billary Show Me The Money
Next gig: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signed up with a talent agency and is commanding $200,000 per lecture, each of which will only last between one and two hours

Now she has signed up to earn whopping fees on the lecture circuit

Daily Mail | Feb 20, 2013

By Meghan Keneally

Hillary Clinton has wasted no time cashing in on the lecture circuit as it was revealed today that she will be charging $200,000 per speech.

The massive fee means that she will be making more from a two-hour lecture than she did in a year as Secretary of State.

The announcement that Mrs Clinton has hired a top talent agency to represent her as she begins to give paid speeches following her departure from the State Department came earlier this week, but her $200,000 asking price was only reported on Wednesday.

According to Buzzfeed, that puts her in the same league as her husband former President Bill Clinton who is so in-demand that he can command the six-figure fee.

The volume of the sum is made clear when looked at in comparison to her salary for a year as Secretary of State, which was $186,000.

Hillary DevilHornsMrs Clinton is now represented by the Harry Walker Agency which is known for getting famous politicians and newsmakers plum gigs on the lecture circuit.

The venture is her first formal decision about what she is going to do now that she is no longer working, though she is widely considered to be the Democratic front runner should she decide to run for the presidency in 2016.

Her decision to attach her name to his particular New York-based agency comes as little surprise since her husband former President Bill Clinton has long been represented by the group since he left office in 2000.

The move was clearly a lucrative one, as he made $75.6million from 2001 to 2010 from speaking engagements, making $10.7million in just 2010 alone.

President Clinton is not the only big name with the agency, as his former Vice President Al Gore has been booking $175,000 gigs through their connections, and former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani regularly brings in $100,000 per event.

Former vice president Dick Cheney, former Senators Olympia Snowe and Joe Lieberman, Obama campaign strategist Jim Messina and former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan are all represented by The Harry Walker Agency as well.

Her exact asking price has not been reported, but Politico asserts that she ‘will likely do some speeches for no fee for causes she champions, and expects to occasionally donate her fees for charitable purposes’.

While keeping mum about any future presidential plans, Mrs Clinton has said that she plans to write another book, this time about her work as Secretary of State.

Publishing house Simon & Schuster reportedly paid the former first lady an $8million advance on her first book, Living History, which she published in December 2000.

With any and all positions that she decides to take, she will have to weigh the optics of if it would look appropriate for a presidential candidate.

That said, another concern is shoring up a steady income, because it doesn’t come cheap to live like the Clintons and six-figure speaking fees will certainly help.

Though there were early reports that they might buy a house in the Hamptons area of Long Island, it appears now that they will hustle between their current residences in Washington, D.C. and Chappaqua, a quiet town in the suburbs of New York City.

She is also expected to either work with her husband’s Clinton Foundation or start her own, though no decisions about that have been made at this point.

The only thing that Mrs Clinton has publicly confirmed is that she plans to rest after a very taxing four years of traveling to 112 different countries.

As Mrs Clinton remains coy about her political prospects, her potential competitors are being very blatant in their fundraising attempts.

On the Republican side, both New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Florida Senator Marco Rubio have raised significant sums for their campaign war chests in recent weeks.

Mr Christie attended a fundraiser in his honor at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s California home, and Mr Rubio raised $100,000 by selling water bottles with his name on them, playing on his thirst-quenching gaffe during the State of the Union rebuttal.

Vatican: Pope to enjoy immunity from presecution for his role in child rape scandal coverups

Reuters | Feb 15, 2013

By Philip Pullella

Pope_Benedict_XVI-evilVATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

“His continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn’t have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else,” said one Vatican official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is absolutely necessary” that he stays in the Vatican, said the source, adding that Benedict should have a “dignified existence” in his remaining years.

Vatican sources said officials had three main considerations in deciding that Benedict should live in a convent in the Vatican after he resigns on February 28.

Vatican police, who already know the pope and his habits, will be able to guarantee his privacy and security and not have to entrust it to a foreign police force, which would be necessary if he moved to another country.

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“I see a big problem if he would go anywhere else. I’m thinking in terms of his personal security, his safety. We don’t have a secret service that can devote huge resources (like they do) to ex-presidents,” the official said.

Another consideration was that if the pope did move permanently to another country, living in seclusion in a monastery in his native Germany, for example, the location might become a place of pilgrimage.

POTENTIAL EXPOSURE

This could be complicated for the Church, particularly in the unlikely event that the next pope makes decisions that may displease conservatives, who could then go to Benedict’s place of residence to pay tribute to him.

“That would be very problematic,” another Vatican official said.

The final key consideration is the pope’s potential exposure to legal claims over the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandals.

In 2010, for example, Benedict was named as a defendant in a law suit alleging that he failed to take action as a cardinal in 1995 when he was allegedly told about a priest who had abused boys at a U.S. school for the deaf decades earlier. The lawyers withdrew the case last year and the Vatican said it was a major victory that proved the pope could not be held liable for the actions of abusive priests.

Benedict is currently not named specifically in any other case. The Vatican does not expect any more but is not ruling out the possibility.

“(If he lived anywhere else) then we might have those crazies who are filing lawsuits, or some magistrate might arrest him like other (former) heads of state have been for alleged acts while he was head of state,” one source said.

Another official said: “While this was not the main consideration, it certainly is a corollary, a natural result.”

After he resigns, Benedict will no longer be the sovereign monarch of the State of Vatican City, which is surrounded by Rome, but will retain Vatican citizenship and residency.

LATERAN PACTS

That would continue to provide him immunity under the provisions of the Lateran Pacts while he is in the Vatican and even if he makes jaunts into Italy as a Vatican citizen.

The 1929 Lateran Pacts between Italy and the Holy See, which established Vatican City as a sovereign state, said Vatican City would be “invariably and in every event considered as neutral and inviolable territory”.

There have been repeated calls for Benedict’s arrest over sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

When Benedict went to Britain in 2010, British author and atheist campaigner Richard Dawkins asked authorities to arrest the pope to face questions over the Church’s child abuse scandal.

Dawkins and the late British-American journalist Christopher Hitchens commissioned lawyers to explore ways of taking legal action against the pope. Their efforts came to nothing because the pope was a head of state and so enjoyed diplomatic immunity.

In 2011, victims of sexual abuse by the clergy asked the International Criminal Court to investigate the pope and three Vatican officials over sexual abuse.

The New York-based rights group Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and another group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), filed a complaint with the ICC alleging that Vatican officials committed crimes against humanity because they tolerated and enabled sex crimes.

The ICC has not taken up the case but has never said why. It generally does not comment on why it does not take up cases.

NOT LIKE A CEO

The Vatican has consistently said that a pope cannot be held accountable for cases of abuse committed by others because priests are employees of individual dioceses around the world and not direct employees of the Vatican. It says the head of the church cannot be compared to the CEO of a company.

Victims groups have said Benedict, particularly in his previous job at the head of the Vatican’s doctrinal department, turned a blind eye to the overall policies of local Churches, which moved abusers from parish to parish instead of defrocking them and handing them over to authorities.

The Vatican has denied this. The pope has apologized for abuse in the Church, has met with abuse victims on many of his trips, and ordered a major investigation into abuse in Ireland.

But groups representing some of the victims say the Pope will leave office with a stain on his legacy because he was in positions of power in the Vatican for more than three decades, first as a cardinal and then as pope, and should have done more.

The scandals began years before the then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected pope in 2005 but the issue has overshadowed his papacy from the beginning, as more and more cases came to light in dioceses across the world.

As recently as last month, the former archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Roger Mahony, was stripped by his successor of all public and administrative duties after a thousands of pages of files detailing abuse in the 1980s were made public.

Mahony, who was archbishop of Los Angeles from 1985 until 2011, has apologized for “mistakes” he made as archbishop, saying he had not been equipped to deal with the problem of sexual misconduct involving children. The pope was not named in that case.

In 2007, the Los Angeles archdiocese, which serves 4 million Catholics, reached a $660 million civil settlement with more than 500 victims of child molestation, the biggest agreement of its kind in the United States.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said the pope “gave the fight against sexual abuse a new impulse, ensuring that new rules were put in place to prevent future abuse and to listen to victims. That was a great merit of his papacy and for that we will be grateful”.

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