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Make it happen on purpose, UK private security as terrorism vector

RT | July 18, 2013

The widening of the spiral of fear and increasing demand for ‘protection’ creates an international protection racket cartel indistinguishable, only in that they call themselves ‘legal’, from organized criminal gangs.

UK security firms Serco and G4S, described as ‘indispensable’ to Britain’s criminal justice system, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for criminals who had long finished their sentences or been dead for years.

How many kicks in the teeth, or near misses, can this British Government endure before it sees 21st Century ‘terrorism’ for what it is? An organized assault on our collective peace and safety with the purpose of spawning real terrorist cells.

Profit led policing

On Thursday July 11, 2013 Conservative Justice Secretary Chris Grayling delivered a progress report to the House of Commons on the privatization of UK Criminal Justice. His voice was trembling as though he himself could neither believe nor bear the consequences of what he was reading.

Two firms, he explained, Serco and G4S, have been overcharging the government by ‘tens of millions of pounds’ for electronic tagging of offenders, as well as continuing to charge the taxpayer for criminals who had long finished their sentences and some who had been dead for years.

The same week a London inquest jury delivered its verdict that Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga was unlawfully killed while being restrained by G4S guards. His plane was waiting to take off at London’s Heathrow airport when he died and a series of racist SMS texts were also found on the G4S guards’ phones.

Founded in 2004, G4S employs over 600,000 people in 125 countries with revenue of £7.5bn, making it the world’s largest security company. Despite its size G4S appears to have little regard for international law, taking on private prison work in Palestine/Israel which is alleged to contravene Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Transporting prisoners from the occupied territory into the country of the occupier.

Serco and G4S are now so deep into Britain’s criminal justice system the Guardian recently described them as ‘indispensable’. Serco manage six prisons including Oakwood ‘super-jail’ and two immigration removal centres. G4S manage police custody cells, a 999 emergency response service, county control room, police station and court facilities.

Britain’s criminal justice system is indeed becoming utterly entangled in the G4S web. The initiative is shifting with immense pressure being put on Chief Constables and Police and Crime Commissioners to sign up to G4S privatization deals which promise to slash budgets. In times of ‘austerity’ private security firms are getting the whip hand.

Although the ‘savings’ may look good, privatizing the criminal justice system moves society closer to the abyss. As the profit motive creeps in and accountability leaves by the side door we may as well dispense with the word ‘justice’ entirely. US Judge Mark Ciavarella Jr, for example, was sentenced to 28 years in jail in May 2013’s ‘kids for cash’ scandal where over 4,000 children were given maximum jail terms in exchange for over $2m in bribes from the private firm that ran the jails.

Protection racket cartel

In July of 2012 London prepared to host its first Olympics since 1948. But behind the scenes one thing threatened to spoil it for everyone. The main security firm was playing games with the Olympic Committee and the government.

G4S said it was ready, all the risk assessment boxes were ticked and certified. The trouble was they were lying. With only a month to go until the great show got on the road recruitment was nowhere near the numbers required and training was pitiful.

With only three weeks to go the British army saved the day, stepping in with 3,500 soldiers to replace the senior and mid-ranking G4S staff. How that came about is a cautionary tale about private security that was never fully told by the London press.

The world’s biggest private security firm G4S had a £300m contract to hire 10,500 staff for the games. They made sure it all looked good for police and Olympic organisers on paper … but unbeknown to them media savvy G4S trainee Ben Fellows was busy collecting particulars from his G4S classmates about just what a disaster of a ‘training operation’ was unfolding around them.

On Friday June 22nd, five weeks before the opening ceremony, Ben sensationally broke cover on my Bristol radio show under the pseudonym ‘Lee Hazledean’. With quotes like “If a terrorist wants to get into the Olympics all they have to do is queue up” he detailed the G4S shambles and became an internet sensation, clocking up over 120,000 YouTube views in a little over a week.

But his story presented the London media with a problem: if printed and transmitted tens of thousands of Olympic enthusiasts might stay away. One teenage girl, initially delighted with tickets her parents had bought her, told me after she heard the interview “I don’t want to go the Olympics any more… but I don’t know how to tell my mum”.

Running straight after Fellows’ interview Oxford economist & terrorism expert Martin Summers, reminded us that lawyer Kurt Haskell spotted the 2009 Underpants bomber being allowed onto the plane without a passport… again by private security.

He also pointed out the alleged 9/11 hijackers boarded the doomed planes in Boston via private security firms. If those attacks are being carried out by a private military company ICTS & G4S could, far from preventing, be the facilitators of terror attacks said Summers.

The next week, on Tuesday 26 June 2012 the Director General of MI5 Jonathan Evans appeared on Channel 4 News. Gone was the “wide open to terror” claim. Security correspondent Simon Israel just repeated Evans’ assertion that “the Olympics Games is not an easy target for terrorists”.

Except perhaps, Evans said, there may be an Iranian, Syrian or Hezbollah attack. What these countries and factions could hope to gain from bombing the Olympics neither Simon Israel, nor Jonathan Evans, who has since been replaced, attempted to explain.

So Ben Fellows was right because with three weeks to go 3,500 British soldiers were drafted in to take charge and the story of the G4S fiasco dominated national headlines for a week. Now the fix was in the London media were safe.

With less of a fanfare, Israeli President Shimon Peres announced he would no longer be coming to London. He and his staff had been promised special permission to stay in the central athletes only Olympic Village so he wouldn’t have to walk far and could observe the Jewish Shabbat. Under the new security regime they would have to stay outside the park like everyone else. You can tell real security, nobody bypasses it.

Back in September 2004, private Israeli software firm Verint Systems were granted privileged security access to the London Underground. This was ten months before the 7/7 London bombings.

Verint won a contract to install and operate ‘smart’ CCTV. So smart in fact that all the hundreds of expected images of July 2005 alleged bombers getting onto or travelling on the three bombed tube trains were ‘lost’.

So what of this company’s bona-fides’? Verint’s parent company Comverse Technologies had an embarrassing chairman. Israeli Kobi Alexander fled the US in 2006 and went straight on to the FBI’s ‘most wanted’ list after stealing from his own firm.

Charged on 35 counts he was chased by Wall Street regulators the Security & Exchange Commission (SEC). Finally being run to ground via Germany to Namibia. In 2010 he paid a fine of $53m to avoid going to court and regain his freedom to travel.

A previous incarnation of Verint Systems, Comverse Infosys, was implicated in the US’s 2001 AmDocs spying scandal where Israeli phone software, installed on US telecom networks, was being used to warn Israeli mafia drug traffickers to switch phones and identities when the FBI were tapping their phones. 200 or so Israelis were arrested and most deported.

But what about the most recent terror attacks? The April 2013 Boston bombings has some of the most serious problems of FBI and mainstream media credibility to date. Not only does there seem to be little to connect the official suspects to the bombing but a private ‘Craft’ security guard at the scene has a black bag that seems to ‘disappear’ around the time the bomb went off.

“Hey Bro, Where’d Your Backpack Go” was one set of images from the finish line circulated to tens of thousands when CBS 60 Minutes’ Twitter account was hacked. Again it appears to anyone with the time to take a look for themselves that private security should be a prime suspect in that bombing.

Neither does mainstream press seem to question why one of the FBI’s two official ‘prime suspects’, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was filmed under arrest, naked, unharmed and being sat down in the back of a police car but then somehow died of horrific wounds sustained when he was previously ‘run over’ by his brother Tamerlan.

If even just a small proportion of these allegations are true then ‘double your money’ private security firms paid for providing security at an event or location may be abusing that privileged access for ‘quid pro quo’ deals. Certainly the mainstream press are simply not asking even the most obvious questions.

Unscrupulous staff, ex mercenaries as some are, can then also be paid for tip-offs, to turn a blind eye, possibly with a nod and a wink from the top. They may even actually plant bombs themselves. A ‘false flag’ attack can have a massive political impact and, if the media oblige and look the other way, be blamed on the enemy of the day.

These dangers should make it clear that secretive and profit motivated private security companies must under no circumstances be allowed to replace publicly accountable police or armed forces.

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, False Flag Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Surveillance Games

By Katitza Rodriguez and Rebecca Bowe | EFF | July 18, 2012

With the opening ceremony of the London Olympics 2012 drawing near, the colossal security apparatus surrounding the Summer Games has come into focus.

For starters, things got messy in London last week when G4S, the private firm that won the contract to provide security for the games, admitted it wouldn’t be able to deliver the promised number of security guards. To make up for the shortfall, the UK government plans to deploy an additional 3,500 soldiers.

Meanwhile, private guards are only half the equation when it comes to safeguarding the world’s most prominent sporting event. Preparations for the Summer Olympic Games amount to Britian’s largest-ever peacetime security operation, replete with warships, ground troops, and security cameras. “Special drones” will even cruise overhead to conduct crowd surveillance, an unnamed salesman at an Israeli company told the Associated Press. All of this is unfolding in a city already famous for its ubiquitous detection equipment, at a time when a bid for increased governmental surveillance powers has privacy advocates up in arms.

Meanwhile, this latest Olympics security production seems to follow a long-term trend that so far has gone largely unexamined. In the past, the Olympic Games have generated millions of dollars in security spending, only to leave the host cities with upgraded surveillance infrastructure in place long after the athletes have departed. In this article EFF’s international privacy team examines this trend of how intensified surveillance of public space can become a lasting legacy for cities that play host to the world’s largest sporting event.

In a few short months, London will take centre stage when it hosts the 2012 Summer Olympics – and while international broadcasting networks aim their lenses at world-class athletes, a proliferation of surveillance technologies and security cameras will track the movements of spectators and residents. With security costs approaching £1 billion (US$1.6 billion), considerably higher than originally estimated, this year’s Olympic Games is on track to be one of the most heavily surveilled in the Games’s history.

With surveillance and security around the Olympics intensifying from country to country, purportedly to prevent terrorism and serious crimes, activists are increasingly concerned about a growing trend: once the Games are finished, authorities rarely cut back on public surveillance. And with the pricey new infrastructure installed for good, individuals’ rights to personal privacy are at risk of being permanently diminished.

London already bears distinction among privacy watchdogs as being one of the most closely surveilled cities in the world, yet routine security practices pale in comparison with the exhaustive measures to be imposed during the 2012 Summer Olympics. Surveillance and security measures were recently described in the UK’s Independent newspaper as the ‘biggest operation since the Second World War’ to be undertaken by UK intelligence agency MI5. Plans call for the installation of a new monitoring and intelligence gathering system, plus the mobilisation of nearly all of MI5’s 3,800 agents. While details of the intelligence-gathering programme remain classified, it appears to be intended for long-term use.

As London beefs up its security infrastructure, meanwhile, Brazil has already begun mapping out a security strategy in anticipation of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The situation there is shaping up to be another cause for concern, particularly because the government seems eager to follow London’s lead –  and Rio is also one of the most surveilled cities in democratic countries around the world. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) reporter Javier Tovar, Brazilian security agencies plan to use surveillance drones, tough border controls and IP-based surveillance systems during the 2016 Olympics.

Brazil will also host the World Cup in 2014, run by the international governing body for football, FIFA. For both competitions, most of the events will take place in poor urban suburbs of Brazilian cities, where the homicide rate is among the highest in South America. Because of rising crime rates, the announcement that Brazil will host these high-profile sporting events led to a spike in Brazil’s video surveillance market, according to market analyst firm 6Wresearch. The surveillance measures are largely going unchallenged – there seems to be little public debate or attention focused on these issues or the privacy implications they present.

Brazil’s video surveillance market generated US$124.96 million in 2011 and is expected to reach $362.69 million by 2016, research analysts predicted, with a compounded annual growth rate of nearly 24 per cent from 2011 to 2016. 6Wresearch expects ‘a shift towards more secured IP-based surveillance systems’ since advantages include ‘low cost, video analytics, remote accessibility and [are] easy to integrate with wireless networks’.

No sooner had Rio been selected for the 2016 Olympic Games than the US government sought to strike a partnership with the Brazilian government on security and information-sharing strategies, according to secret diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks. In December 2009, the US embassy in Brazil sent a cable to the US government entitled, ‘The future is now’. The message encouraged the US to use the Olympic Games to justify the expansion of its influence over Brazil’s critical infrastructure development and cyber security measures. By highlighting concerns about the possibility of power outages or breakdowns in infrastructure, particularly in the months leading up to the Games, the US government could justify a bid for increased co-operation with Brazil on counterterrorism activities. There were ‘opportunities for engagement on infrastructure development’ and ‘possibly cyber security’, the cable stated.  In a second cable, sent on 24 December 2009, the embassy again emphasised  its interest in broadening US objectives in Brazil. ‘Taking advantage of the Games to work security issues should be a priority, as should co-operation on cybercrime and broader information security,’ it read.

In the lengthy diplomatic exchanges between the US embassy in Brazil and the US government, the absence of any reference to the very serious privacy, civil liberties and public accountability implications of widespread surveillance technologies stood out as a glaring omission. The same could be said for current public discourse in Brazil.  So far, there has not been any significant criticism of the security and surveillance measures being introduced – in marked contrast to the UK, where privacy campaigners have been active.

Brazil’s safeguards for privacy in the face of such pressure aren’t especially promising. There is a need for an impact assessment to evaluate whether cameras installed to help combat crime in Rio are actually needed and to ensure that these intrusive measures do not become an Olympic Games legacy, especially if there are less intrusive methods of combatting serious crimes. There is no legislation pertaining to the privacy of personal information in Brazil, but a draft bill that, if introduced, would protect the collection, use and disclosure of this information is under consideration. It remains to be seen whether the bill will bypass privacy protections by allowing exemptions – namely, databases created for the sole purposes of public security, national security or law enforcement activities.

It’s too early to say exactly what security and privacy protocols Brazil will keep once the 2016 Summer Olympic Games end, or to what extent the Brazilian government will agree to go along with an agenda carved out by the US. But if history is any guide, there is reason to believe that a surveillance regime ushered in by the Olympics will continue to pose threats to individual privacy well into the future. Privacy advocates, having assessed the range of measures implemented in connection with previous Olympic Games, warn of a ‘climate of fear and surveillance’ that could have a detrimental effect on ‘democracy, transparency, and international and national human rights law’.

But the proliferation of surveillance technology around the Olympics is hardly new. Greece’s contract with technology company SAIC called for the creation and support of a C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) system to ‘allow Greek authorities to collect, analyse, and disseminate information’ by leveraging SAIC’s expertise in telecommunications, wireless communications and video surveillance. The technology blends the use of data-mining, data-matching, and profiling capabilities. Those researching this area have referred to the adoption of such security measures as an emergence of a ‘super-panopticon’ and a ‘marriage of camera, computers and databases’.

One report revealed that Greek law enforcement and intelligence agencies installed more than 1,000 surveillance cameras in Athens in advance of the 2004 Summer Olympics – and then continued to make use of them for policing purposes long after athletes and spectators had packed up and left. While the stated purpose for the continued use of the cameras in Greece was to monitor high-traffic roadways, the report found that they were actually employed to monitor public spaces – including during political demonstrations. This revelation triggered heated exchanges between law enforcement officials and the Greek Data Protection Authority, leading to  the resignation of the authority’s head, Dimitris Gourgourakis, and his deputies. At the time, Gourgourakis stated that police use of surveillance cameras ‘directly breached’ privacy regulations. In 2007, the country’s data protection law was amended to exempt surveillance cameras from its privacy provisions.

The use of surveillance cameras in Athens barely registers in comparison with the all-out monitoring campaign Chinese authorities implemented in 2008, when the Olympic Games were held in Beijing. Chinese authorities installed a whopping 200,000 cameras and employed other surveillance measures in an effort to make Beijing secure. And, in a move that drew widespread condemnation, the Chinese government ordered foreign-owned hotels to install internet monitoring equipment to spy on hotel guests.

When it was announced that Vancouver had won the bid for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Canadian civil society organisations feared a repeat of the privacy-invading security measures adopted by Greece and China. Privacy advocates called for the government to remain open and transparent about the necessary security and surveillance practices that were planned; they called for a full, independent public assessment of these measures after the Games and sought to prevent ‘a permanent legacy of increased video surveillance’ and other security measures. ‘It is already clear that the event allowed for new surveillance technologies to gain a foothold in Vancouver that would never otherwise have been accepted,’ noted Tamir Israel of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic.

The message appeared to get through. In the run up to the Games, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, in conjunction with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of British Columbia, issued recommendations to prevent security measures from unduly infringing on individual’s rights. ‘The duty of governments to provide for the security of citizens must, in democratic societies, be tempered by the values that underpin our way of life,’ said Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. ‘The right to privacy must be upheld, even during mega-events like the Olympic games, where the threat to security is higher than usual. ’ At this critical juncture, the agencies seeking to implement security measures in London and Rio would do well to heed her words.

Violations of individuals’ privacy can range from the loss of anonymity in public places to the inability to communicate and associate freely with others. The capabilities of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) have risen dramatically, and due to the technology’s relative affordability, street cameras are now everywhere. Technological advances make it possible for CCTV to perform surveillance tasks similar to electronic wiretapping, intelligence sharing and identification systems that link images not stored on databases with images that have actually been archived. Given the prevalence of this technology and how easy it’s become to identify one unnamed face amidst thousands, individuals who care about anonymity will have a very difficult time protecting their identity in the imminent future.

While it’s important to take security precautions prior to the Olympics, these actions should not result in the implementation of public surveillance without regard for personal privacy. It’s crucial that the public scrutinise the security and privacy measures the Brazilian government is considering. There must be an informed and open debate about privacy and security.

Most importantly, the public has a right to know whether enhanced security measures will be reversed after the games. The true spirit of the Olympics as an opportunity for cultural exchange ought to be preserved. Using the Games as an excuse for trampling civil liberties violates this spirit.

July 19, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Surveillance Games

Greece: What Can be Done?

By James Petras | 06.16.2012

Introduction

Greece faces the unenviable choice between accepting the terms of “the Troika” and facing the continuation and deepening of a socio-economic crisis, which includes five years of negative growth, over 23% unemployment, an astronomical rise in poverty (from less than 15% to over 40%) and mounting suicides, or a rejection of the “memorandum”, and a likely cut-off of Eurozone funding and capital markets with virtually few reserves to cover salaries, pensions or public services.

While the immediate cost of a break with catastrophic conditions imposed by Eurozone bankers may be high, it opens up the possibility of transforming the internal and external relations and structures which led Greece to ground zero.

Crises as Opportunity?

The prolonged and unending downward spiral of the Greek economy and living standards, the disastrous and destructive policies pursued by the formerly dominant two parties (PASOK and New Democracy) has conclusively demonstrated that Greek “capitalism” and EEC integration has been an unmitigated disaster; tried tested and failed to meet the minimum standards of human existence. Only dogmatic true believers in the innate virtues of ‘capitalism’ and the EEC can continue to prattle about the “need” to continue the same “austerity” policies which have devastated the lives of 80% of the people, closed half the business establishments in the country and failed to provide jobs for half of the young labor force (under 30 years of age).

The profound crisis demonstrates the need for basic changes in the organization of the economy, the urgency for new political leadership and the desire for a new political system responsive to the vast majority.

The old ruling oligarchies are totally discredited. The existing links to the EEC only bleed the economy: providing loans which deepen debt and which pass through the economy to overseas bankers. EEC ‘integration’ is in fact a great suction pump which depresses the economy and living standards in order to extract wealth for overseas bondholders.

No capitalist or politician of the old order provides any redeeming argument. In the past they plundered the economy; in the present they extract and transfer wealth abroad; and for the future they can only promise more of the same.

The basic challenge is not the abysmal conditions of the present but the opportunity that exists for a fundamental transformation. The problem is fashioning a transition from an unmitigated disaster to an equitable, dynamic and participatory economy. The problem facing a transition is the flawed structural and behavioral features of contemporary Greek society, polity and economy. Greece is deeply embedded with the legacy of a culture of pervasive state-party corruption and kleptocracy and bloated expenditures for the military and cliental bureaucracies. Most important Greece is dominated by rent seeking economic elites which pretend to be capitalists, but profit from state and overseas handouts from the Eurozone bankers and states.

To effect a transition requires that we first face the negative legacy of the past in order to see what proposals are viable and necessary.

The Negative Legacy and Debt Default: Greece is not Argentina

Many radical critics of the ‘austerity’ and debt crises in Greece cite the “Argentine example” of debt default, (over $100 billion dollars) and its ability to fashion a successful recovery and growth model based on ‘self-financing’. The critical advocates ignore the profound differences in the economic and social structures of the two countries as well as their respective locations in the regional economies.

Argentina, at the bottom of its crisis, was actually in a worse situation than Greece today. Unemployment hovered between 25% – 30% and over 50% in many working class districts, compared to 24% in Greece. Poverty levels in Argentina exceeded 45%; in Greece they exceed 35%. The depression in Argentina led to a negative growth rate of approximately 20% over the 3 year duration, equal to the loss in Greece over the past 5 years.

Despite starting from a more difficult and worse situation Argentina had several strategic advantages.

In the first place, in Argentina the ouster from power of the crises driven ruling elite was affected by a mass popular uprising (December 2001 – January 2002). In Greece, while mass demonstrations have certainly politicized, mobilized and radicalized a part of the electorate, the radical coalition vying for power (SYRIZA), has taken the electoral route. Secondly, the Argentine upheaval was a continuous process as mass unemployed picketers (piqueteros) blocked all roads and transport as a negotiating tool to ensure that resources were transferred from debt payments to unemployed workers’ family allowances and in reviving the economy. In Greece the vast army of unemployed has neither the organized capacity to sustain constant transport blockage nor can they count on neighborhood and trade union organizations for anything more than repeated one day work stoppages and marches.

Argentina immediately drastically devalued its currency – eliminating the dollar peg – from one to one, to three to one and vastly increased the competitiveness of Argentine export products. The center-left regime encouraged the substitution of local products for costly imports. Argentina, unlike Greece was not part of a currency union and could set its own currency rate. Greece, is bound to the euro and will have to convert to the drachma in order to take control over its finances, currency rate and monetary and investment policy tools.

Argentina possessed a substantial industrial – manufacturing sector, idled by the crisis, but with the worker-engineering-management capacity to respond to a new stimulus program. In addition, Argentina had a dynamic highly competitive agro-business sector, a world leader in beef, grains and soya, as well as energy (oil) and mineral wealth, which the center-left regime could activate.

Greece, during its 30 year membership in the European Union actually saw its meager and backward manufacturing and agricultural base shrink, in the face of cheap and better imports from developed capitalist countries like Germany, France, Holland and elsewhere. Unlike Argentina, Greece received billions of dollars in “transfers”, compensation funds to upgrade its economy and competitiveness and prepare it for full integration (lowering of tariff barriers). However, the “transfers” were not channeled into productive activity either by the two ruling parties or by the ‘capitalists’ and ‘farmers’. The ruling parties used the transfers to build extensive electoral patronage machines; they squandered funds for overpriced state contracts to provide builders engaged in non-productive building projects (including the multi-billion dollar swindle around the Olympic Games). Tens of thousands of unemployed graduates and party loyalists bloated the national, regional and local bureaucracy, increasing consumption, blocking any meaningful productive activity.

Capitalists designed “productive projects” and then transferred EU- loans and handouts to local and overseas real estate investments and luxury purchases. The Greek elite transferred loans to London, Swiss and Cypriot bank accounts – while the government signed off as ultimate guarantor.

In the agriculture sector, many property holders were doctors, dentists, lawyers and high officials who used the ownership of a few dozen olive or orange trees to receive low interest loans, import tax free luxury 4 x 4 vehicle imports and to build second or third vacation houses. Many farmers who received loans and grants, purchased land for homes for their married children or for extra room to rent to tourists or to send their sons and daughters to overseas universities.

Most important, the economic elite – bankers, ship owners, construction-real estate – politicians, speculators skimmed off billions from the EEC transfers in the form of illicit loans to cronies and in the form of fees, management charges for credit dealings and pension funding.

The European bankers, government officials and exporters were acutely aware that the “transfers” were being pillaged – but they went along, for obvious reasons of economic and political gain: lucrative interest payments flowed into their coffers; exporters took over Greek consumer markets; bankers and investment houses found willing pension fund manager’s ‘open’ to dubious investments. Even tourists enjoyed the sun and imports which reminded them of home: wiener schnitzel, English ale, Dutch feta. Moreover, Greece spent 15% of its budget on the military, serving NATO goals and bases.

Contrary to superficial appearances, Greece was not ruled by capitalists, small business people and farmers’ as some political scientists claim. Greece was ruled by an extensive class of kleptocrats, tax evaders and rentiers who pillaged, borrowed, consumed and invested overseas. Technologically Greece was among the most backward agro-manufacturing countries. Its overseas trained and educated professionals, returned and ‘adapted’ to the kleptocratic-rentier culture: most held several positions in public-private activities, guaranteeing a mediocre performance and conflicts of interests.

In summary Greece is not Argentina. A Greek default is an absolute necessity to begin the process of transition toward a productive and equitable economy. But the horrendous Greek legacy raises a whole series of new problems and challenges with few economic resources and in the absence of leading productive classes.

The Difficult Road Out of Crises

Any road map out of the Greek crises will be difficult, complex, and arduous – given the “scorched earth” economy which a left government (LG) will inherit. The first and most basic concern of a LG is to end the policies and especially the agreements with the “Troika” that demand further mass firings of public employees, the reduction in social services, the cuts in minimum wages and pensions. A new LG needs to impose a series of emergency measures to avoid economic bankruptcy.

It is absolutely clear that European bankers and regimes want to punish Greece for transgressions of their “austerity pact”. If Greece should succeed in renouncing the austerity pact, the Euro bankers fear that other countries – Spain, Portugal, Italy, Cyprus and Ireland might follow suite.

Greece should suspend debt payments, impose tight capital controls and freeze bank deposits to avoid capital flight, in the face of the Troika cut-off of funding. The LG should convoke a series of emergency commissions to (1) secure alternative sources of emergency financing from several reserve funds with Euro holdings. They must seek loans from Russia, Iran, Venezuela, China and other states not beholden to the Troika (2) make an inventory of available and potential productive enterprises – bankrupt or troubled firms, indebted enterprises – and convert them into state sponsored worker-employee operated co-operatives (3) investigate public debt to determine what can be classified as ‘legitimate’ (loans channeled into productive employment) or illegitimate (loans that enriched speculators, corrupt contractors, political leaders) (4) investigate and attach overseas holdings of wealthy Greeks who were engaged in multi-year multi-million tax evasion and who accumulated illicit income via unpaid loans and money laundering. Greek auditors should proceed to demand that Eurozone creditors should collect debt payments from the bank accounts of wealthy Greeks who laundered and deposited funds in London, Zurich, Frankfurt, New York and elsewhere.

The principle of the LG should be “those who borrowed the loans and profited, should pay them”. The European bankers who lent to corrupt politicians and business kleptocrats must assume the loss, for failing to exercise “due diligence” – oversight into the viability of the activity they were financing. After all private business ‘justifies’ its profits by the “risks” it takes. In the case of Greece, Euro-bankers’ demands that private bank loans and repayments be “guaranteed” by the state (no matter how badly they were managed) risk ‘moral hazard’: Guaranteeing bankers’ profits, irrespective of their ‘soundness’, encourages a repetition of reckless speculation such as had transpired in Greece over the past 30 years.

The LG should repudiate illegal debts (the vast majority) and renegotiate and roll-over the rest over an extended time frame, pending an economic recovery.

What should be recognized is that past Greek governments (despite being formally elected) engaged in illegitimate activity which prejudiced the sovereignty, productive capacity and livelihood of an entire people.

What is not acceptable is to force an entire people to sacrifice their lives because a minority of Greeks borrowed and didn’t invest or pay their debts to overseas creditors. Currently the kleptocratic millionaires are given “cover” and their illicit multi-billion Euro bank accounts and real-estate holdings are protected by the banks demanding payments from the Greek government. Their current demands are based on a savage demolition of living standards for a whole people. For outstanding obligations, the Greek LG can transfer tax debts of Greek tax evaders to creditors, letting them attach the overseas accounts of their Greek clients.

The LG can self-finance a recovery by drastically changing budget priorities: mainly by slashing its military budgets. Greece’s military expenditures as a percentage of its total budget, is one of the highest in the European Union. By eliminating expenditures for NATO operations, overseas military expeditions and numerous military bases, a LG can prioritize industrial and service investments.

Greece needs a (1) growth tax – a flat tax on the self-employed – professions, shop keepers, hotels, etc. – to ensure that they pay their share in financing the new economy. While the very rich engaged in mega swindles and evasions, it was also the case that the 50% self-employed sector imitated their behavior at the micro-level (2) a tourist tax – at airports, ferry-docks, tour ships stops – with tight oversight and or replacement of corrupt tax inspectors/collectors and customs officials who take a big cut of proceeds. Incarceration of corrupt officials should be mandatory. (3) A real estate tax which reflects the real value of land and property, especially of unused or uncultivated lands. (4) A tax on financial transactions and an end to tax exemptions for major banks, corporations and so-called property developers.

Exploiting Unused or Underutilized Human Resources

The new government has many sources of ‘human capital’ – hundreds of thousands of unemployed young educated people who can be mobilized for work in productive activity through selective public investments in priority areas, especially outside of the “greater Athens region”.

There are many regions and islands which have the potential to provide income and employment, properly addressed. One of the most salient is in food processing; one of the many perversities of the Greek economy is the production and export of apples and citrus products to Germany and the import of juices. Another is the failure to link local food and manufacturing to the 14 million tourist sector. Most food and furniture is imported; most vacation packages benefit overseas multi-nationals and foreign transport agencies. As a result the Greek economy and labor force derives a small share of total income from its “leading sector”.

The New Economy Cannot be Built with Kleptocrats of the Past

As mentioned above, Greece had few if any real entrepreneurs, who invested their own profits, invested in research and development and modernized their plant.

Public sector enterprises were overloaded with the unemployed ‘party members’, many virtually ‘no shows’; and many public sector unions engaged in nepotism and multiple-employment at the expense of efficient services, profitability and long-term development strategies. Public sector enterprises require a kind of re-nationalization’, to generate revenues and income to finance new jobs in new enterprises. Management of public enterprises should be transferred from the hands of stagnant ‘life time job-holders’ to dynamic workers – entrepreneurial – engineering management teams looking to broaden the scope and quality of activity within the new economy.

Pension funds and other savings must be mobilized alongside the billions retained by the state’s debt default to pay current expenses (pensions, salaries, basic imports etc.), to stimulate the revival of production among enterprises which show a willingness to rebuild the economy and collaborate in activating production and employment. Public profits should finance worker takeovers of factories and services abandoned by their previous owners, of which there are thousands.

The public sector must take the lead in investing, servicing and producing to create “confidence” among the small and medium size producers. The public sector must take the lead in negotiating with potential lenders and economic partners outside the Eurozone: new markets and financial arrangements will be necessary if the Eurozone cuts off all funding as a consequence of debt default or a moratorium.

The danger is that SYRIZA follows through on the default and has no alternative emergency plan in place to respond to a Eurozone cut-off. In the face of an EU/IMF offensive and lacking an alternative, a sector of SYRIZA (ex. PASOK public sector unionists) may back-track and seek to accept some form of “renegotiated” pact … which would divide and undermine the prospects for a truly viable and radical transformation and condemn Greece to its catastrophic downward spiral.

Conclusion

SYRIZA has been raised to a serious contender for state power by the most devastating capitalist crisis to affect a Western European country since WWII. It gained adherence through its dynamic grass roots organizing and the relative cohesion of its disparate components. It’s clear and forthright exposé of the corruption and pillage of the dominant parties and its image as a party with ‘clean hands’ has propelled it forward among a broad spectrum of classes, regions and generational groups. However, the very depth of the crisis, the total pillage and emptying of the treasury by the kleptocratic political-business class and the dismantling of the entire productive sector and the transfer of billions of Euros abroad by the millionaire rentier class, has created an immensely difficult terrain from which to launch the necessary transformation. The new government can and must guarantee the sovereignty of the nation by rejecting imperial dictates and end any further degradation (“austerity”) of the Greek people. Emancipation requires that first and foremost the new leadership takes the lead in making sacrifices: cutting out all the perks of office, salaries and overseas commitments. The new social priorities demand severe cuts in military budgets – bases, NATO, arms purchases. The new leaders must tell the Euro-bankers to collect payments from the accounts of the overseas billionaires who borrowed, bled the country and are now sheltered in the same banks.

The Left must move from criticism to practical deeds; from theorizing to creating jobs! Greece with a new government can put an end to open-ended austerity and decay. It can and must change its place in the international economy. In the final analysis, it is Greece’s last best hope.

June 16, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , , , | Comments Off on Greece: What Can be Done?

Peculiar Security: UK hires human rights abusers to protect Olympics

The British government is up for questioning from Parliament over why it has handed over the Olympic Games’ security to a company accused of human rights abuses in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. ­The UK-based G4S, which describes itself as the “world’s leading international security solutions group,” was selected as the “official provider of security and cash services for the Olympics.”

Tony Gosling, investigative journalist talks to RT. He says it is unclear how a company with such a questionable reputation could have been chosen to provide security during the London Olympics. “G4S is about the worst you could pick in the world to do this job.”

June 10, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | , , , , , | Comments Off on Peculiar Security: UK hires human rights abusers to protect Olympics

Obama’s Secret War Against Iran Dooms Diplomacy and Imperils American Interests

By  Flynt Leverett and Hillary Mann Leverett | Race for Iran | June 1st, 2012

In May 2009, we published an op-ed in The New York Times, see here, in which we argued that “President Obama’s Iran policy has, in all likelihood already failed”—largely because “Obama is backing away from the bold steps required to achieve strategic, Nixon-to-China type rapprochement with Tehran.”  Indeed,

“The Obama Administration has done nothing to cancel or repudiate an ostensibly covert but well-publicized program begun in George W. Bush’s second term, to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destabilize the Islamic Republic.  Under these circumstances, the Iranian government—regardless of who wins the presidential elections on June12—will continue to suspect that American intentions toward the Islamic Republic remain, ultimately, hostile.”

Now, in an article by David Sanger, “Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran,” see here, The New York Times informs that

“From his first months in office, President Obama secretly ordered increasingly sophisticated attacks on the computer systems that run Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities, significantly expanding America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons, according to participants in the program.

Mr. Obama decided to accelerate the attacks—begun in the Bush administration and code-named Olympic Games—even after an element of the program accidentally became public in the summer of 2010 because of a programming error that allowed it to escape Iran’s Natanz plant and sent it around the world on the Internet.  Computer security experts who began studying the worm, which had been developed by the United States and Israel, gave it a name:  Stuxnet.”

The article goes on to describe multiple details about Stuxnet and the President’s decision-making as to its use.  We, however, are most interested in the report for what it confirms about Obama’s approach to Iran—in particular, that Obama’s aggressiveness toward the Islamic Republic extended to a significant expansion of “America’s first sustained use of cyberweapons.  Consider what Sanger writes about the motives for Obama’s decision-making in this regard:

“Mr. Obama, according to participants in the many Situation Room meetings on Olympic Games, was acutely aware that with every attack he was pushing the United States into new territory, much as his predecessors had with the first use of atomic weapons in the 1940s, of intercontinental missiles in the 1950s and of drones in the past decade.  He repeatedly expressed concerns that any American acknowledgment that it was using cyberweapons—even under the most careful and limited circumstances—could enable other countries, terrorists or hackers to justify their own attacks.

‘We discussed the irony, more than once,’ one of his aides said.  Another said that the administration was resistant to developing a ‘grand theory for a weapon whose possibilities they were still discovering.’  Yet Mr. Obama concluded that when it came to stopping Iran, the United States had no other choice.

If Olympic Games failed, he told aides, there would be no time for sanctions and diplomacy with Iran to work.  Israel could carry out a conventional military attack, prompting a conflict that could spread throughout the region.”

The perceived imperative “to dissuade the Israelis from carrying out their own preemptive strike against the Iranian nuclear facilities” also reportedly motivated the Administration to have Israel “deeply involved in every aspect” of Olympic Games.

Two things strike us as significant here.  First, our May 2009 analysis was right on the money.  If anything, we may have underestimated the degree to which Obama was prepared to let half-baked schemes undermine any chance he might have had, at least in theory, to pursue serious diplomacy with Iran.  Obama apologists, see for example here, want us to believe that the President meant well on engaging Tehran, but that what they describe (with no evidence whatsoever) as the Islamic Republic’s “fraudulent” 2009 presidential election and the resulting “disarray” within the Iranian leadership stymied Obama’s benevolent efforts.  This is utterly false.

Second, the Sanger article makes undeniably clear—if it were not sufficiently evident already—that the reason for the President’s hostility toward Iran has nothing to do with American security.  Rather, Obama’s aggressiveness—which carries with it a willingness to put significant long-term American interests at risk—is motivated by a perceived imperative to prevent the Israelis from doing something that they cannot credibly do in the first place:  namely, strike and destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

June 1, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Comments Off on Obama’s Secret War Against Iran Dooms Diplomacy and Imperils American Interests