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The truth about Israel, Iran and 1980s U.S. arms deals

The truth about Israel, Iran and 1980s U.S. arms deals

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Recently declassified Pentagon documents reveal a strange, not to say illicit, 1980s operation called ‘Tipped Kettle,’ in which weapons stolen by Israel from the PLO in Lebanon were transferred to the Contras and to anti-American elements in Iran

IDF soldiers Lebanon war IDF Spokesman's Office

IDF soldiers with weapons captured during the first day of the Lebanon war. Photo by IDF Spokesman’s Office
Amir Oren

Amir Oren

The collection of declassified documents published two weeks ago by the Pentagon reveals infighting among branches of the U.S. administration and intrigues in foreign countries – including 1980s’ Israel. The impression one gets is not especially positive. The Americans are publishing the documents now not because they are trying somehow to suggest to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu how he should behave, but because the law obligates them to reveal records in due course following a review, unless there is a genuine reason to keep them secret. In the aforesaid period Netanyahu served as deputy to Moshe Arens, when he was Israel’s ambassador to Washington, D.C. (1982-83 ). Arens’ staff then also included Gen. Menachem Meron, the military attache in Washington, and spokesman Nachman Shai. Arens and his aides constituted an island of sanity in their relations with the administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, at a time of hostility in the U.S. capital toward the government of Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Defense Minister Ariel Sharon.

The recently revealed documents deal with an operation dubbed “Tipped Kettle,” involving weapons the Israel Defense Forces looted from the Palestine Liberation Organization during Operation Peace for Galilee in Lebanon, and their transfer to the Contras – opponents of the socialistic Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. That was the first episode, of rather questionable legality according to U.S. law, in a more complex story whose second installment, in 1985-1986, became known as the Iran-Contra scandal. Part II was patently illegal – a blatant effort by the White House to violate a Congressional order and to cook up a strange deal involving the sale of American weapons (originally supplied to the IDF ) to anti-American Iran, for use in its war with Iraq; the release of Western hostages being held in Lebanon by Iranian-controlled Hezbollah; and the financing of Contras’ activities thanks to the difference between the sum paid by the Iranians and the true value of the weapons – minus a profit for those engaged in the deal.

By the end of that decade, during the trial of U.S. Marine Col. Oliver North and other officials in the Reagan administration, charged with deceiving Congress and providing false testimony to a special prosecutor, Operation Tipped Kettle was also briefly mentioned in the court proceedings. Now, however, the whole picture has come into view, with its emphasis on the behavior on the Israeli side.

In the fall of 1982, Reagan’s secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger, was trying to implement a policy intended to combat pro-Soviet elements in Latin America, including the Sandinistas. Even more belligerent than he was CIA director William Casey. The CIA had direct intelligence connections with the Mossad, but in the affair of the captured weapons the American agency preferred to hide behind the Pentagon. The system of communication between the CIA and the Pentagon was called Focal Point; it had been used to facilitate connections between them since the mid-1950s. Officially, Israel was unaware then that the weapons taken from the PLO would be used not by the U.S. Army in its training bases, but rather to arm the Contras.

Though the Republicans controlled the White House at the time, the Democrats controlled Congress. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Edward Boland, achieved a majority for a series of bills named for him, which limited the administration’s ability to help the Contras. In one of the bills, passed in the fall of 1984, all U.S. intelligence agencies were prohibited from any such activity. (North tried to outsmart the law, claiming, after he came under investigation, that the National Security Council, which coordinated the operations, was not an intelligence agency. )

The legislation meant, in effect, that without the specific approval of Congress, no money could be formally budgeted in this case. Therefore, Casey, North and their colleagues had to use subterfuge to supply the arms, for example, by way of “donations” from foreign countries – Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Brunei – or circuitous deals with South Korea, Taiwan, China and especially Israel. The loot captured from the PLO during the war, at a cost of hundreds of Israeli dead, was particularly suitable for use by the Contras. And if Kalashnikov rifles fell into the hands of the Sandinistas, there would have been fewer questions about its source.

‘No policy problem’

The first of the Pentagon documents concerning Operation Tipped Kettle was sent by Weinberger to Casey on November 17, 1982. The subject: rifles, machine guns and light mortars for infantry fighters “captured by Israeli forces in Lebanon.” The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency “can offer assistance in helping to acquire significant amounts of these types of weapons presently available in Lebanon.” The letter didn’t say from whom exactly the weapons would be purchased – from the Christian Phalange forces, from other organizations or from Palestinians in areas outside IDF control. The State Department, added Weinberger, had “no policy problem with this effort as long as it is not publicized.”

“In a separate action, our efforts to obtain captured weapons directly from the Israeli government have been delayed while their military attache, MG Meron, is out of the Washington area. He should return within the next few days and the subject will be raised at that time … We are prepared to meet your request through the Focal Point System,” wrote Weinberger.

In March 1983, four months later, Weinberger sent Casey a second letter, declaring, “I am glad to report significant progress.” In February, back in Israel, the Kahan Commission of inquiry report on the massacres in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Beirut was submitted, as a consequence of which Ariel Sharon was dismissed as defense minister. At that point, staff from the embassy in Washington took over at the ministry in Tel Aviv: Arens was at the top, Meron became director general, and Shai was media adviser.

Weinberger reported that “a joint DoD/CIA survey team visited Israel and was shown about 300 metric tons of captured weapons and ammunition suitable for your purposes. Shortly after Ambassador Arens became the new Israeli MOD, the DoD was informed that these weapons would be provided to the U.S. at a small percentage of their market value. This charge, which I understand will be agency funded, would only be for packing and handling and is anticipated to be in the neighborhood of $100,000. My staff is in the process of setting up the movement of these weapons to the U.S. Due to the weight and bulk of these items they will have to be moved by surface transport and thereby will not be available until the May/June timeframe.”

That same day, the U.S. Navy was instructed to provide transport for “military items … that will be shipped from the Israeli port of Ashdod … to the East Coast of the United States.”

Weinberger updated Casey: “The shipment will be available for CIA pickup” and “can remain packed in the 34 Land/Sea containers until reaching their destination. The Land/Sea containers are the property of the Government of Israel and will need to be … returned to Israel.”

The shipment included 20,000 rifles and submachine guns, 1,000 machine guns, 90 recoil-less rifles, 110 mortars, 1,000 hand grenades and a large amount of ammunition. “The then newly appointed Israeli minister of defense, Moshe Arens, made the final decision that these weapons were to be provided on a gratis basis to DoD. This was one of MOD Arens’ first actions … and was clearly a signal of his desire to improve U.S./Israel relations,” according to the Pentagon documents.

Israel, with one-time and well-calculated generosity, did not lose much money here: In the 1980s, private arms dealers sold similar Kalashnikov rifles, made in Yugoslavia, for $210 each. The market value of all the Kalashnikovs in the shipment in question was only about $4 million; 60-mm. mortars were sold for about $1,500 and 81-mm. mortars for about $5,000.

Added costs

A year later, the CIA’s appetite was whetted again; now there were additional factors in the equation. Weinberger’s new undersecretary for international security, Richard Armitage, became a close friend and regular visitor of the new military attache, Gen. Uri Simhoni; the same was true of Weinberger’s senior military assistant, Gen. Colin Powell.

In June 1984, Weinberger received a memo from Armitage describing the process by which the looted weapons had been transferred a year earlier. Armitage mentioned that the mission was accomplished as a result of talks between Maj. Gen. Richard Secord and Meron, and a decision by Arens. In February 1984 the Pentagon was asked to find out whether there were additional weapons available in Israel “under the same financial terms” – i.e., “available for operational use at little or no cost.” In contacts with the Israeli government a few months earlier, in March, it turned out that there were additional weapons stolen from the PLO caches, including Katyushas and anti-aircraft weapons, but that they were “for sale.” A joint Pentagon-CIA survey delegation, headed by the liaison officer with Israel (whose name is erased, apparently a Col. Forster ), went to Israel to examine the items.

“Contacts with the GOI,” noted Armitage dryly, “revealed that they had placed a value of over $77M on these weapons, while DoD sources estimated the cost of the weapons at around $27M.” Or, according to another estimate, $35 million. The head of the U.S. Army Museum, an expert on Soviet weapons, estimated the value at only $17 million.

Armitage’s deputy, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Edward Tixier, Secord’s successor, was traveling to Israel to discuss a different matter and said he would speak privately to director general Meron to discuss transferring the second collection of captured weapons to the Pentagon at little or no cost. If Tixier succeeded, the weapons could arrive in the U.S. at the end of July and be sent immediately to the CIA.

Prior to the Armitage-Simhoni meeting on May 24, Armitage wrote to a liaison officer subordinate to him that “the chances of the U.S. ever obtaining these weapons is poor if they are not in our possession by July 23, 1984 (the date of the upcoming Israeli election ). Our contacts in the Israel MOD (to include both Mr. Arens and Gen. Meron ) could be gone the following day, and establishing relations with new players could be time-consuming.”

According to the recently declassified documents, Israeli activity was frozen at the time, because of “the confusion in the GOI over what direction U.S. policy in Central America is heading and the role that Israel can and should play in relation to the topic. If you feel that timing is right you may which to discuss the issue of payment for these weapons. Because Israeli funds would have to be found to cover specific project related costs (packing, crating, shipping ), we should offer to pay these line items. We should not offer to pay anything for the weapons for two reasons: the weapons will be used to further Western interests, and in the grand scheme of U.S./Israeli relations, a good will gesture on the part of Israel (at a low dollar cost for them ) would be most helpful with the GOI is requesting U.S. assistance on major projects such as funding for the new SAAR-5 missile-attack boat, the Lavi, the F-4 upgrade, the upgrading of the Merkava tank, and the usage of FMS funds off-shore, to mention a few.

“Prior to moving any of this equipment, there needs to be a lead time of several weeks, so that our EOD [explosive ordnance disposal] and logistics people can do the planning required to make this operation work. There is no time to spare if we are to complete this effort prior to Israeli elections.”

In order to save time, Meron suggested that packing of the weaponry begin – this time, over 100 containers were needed – while internal consultation in Israel continued.

The Arens-Meron camp, the Americans reported to their dispatchers, had two problems: IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Levi, eager to speed up the withdrawal of the IDF from Lebanon, gave top priority to establishing a security zone and therefore also arming of the forces of Saad Hadad – which became the South Lebanon Army – with the weapons in question. The IDF’s security assistance unit, headed by Col. (res. ) Zvi Reuter, and foreign relations department, demanded monetary compensation. Above all, the clock was ticking: Soon there would be a new Knesset and perhaps a new defense minister, who would bring in a new director general.

In the last telegram from Tel Aviv, bearing the censored signature of the liaison officer, there is an hour-by-hour description of the consultations, maneuvering and bargaining: hints that the price could be reduced if a way could be found to increase the aid; anger in the Pentagon at the Israeli chutzpah; examination of alternatives; encrypted telegrams from the embassy; bridging proposals; a “gentlemen’s agreement” without signatures.

The elections came and went and the race between Labor, headed by Shimon Peres, and Likud, headed by Yitzhak Shamir, ended in a tie. A week later, before the Peres-Shamir government was formed, Arens signed an approval of the transaction: Weapons worth $30 million to $40 million in exchange for the expectation of an increase in military assistance. Arens was forced to vacate the ministry in favor of Yitzhak Rabin, who like him was pro-American, but Meron remained in the post of director general for two more years.

The Tipped Kettle papers end with an internal memo, with no addressees or signatories, which was written on the day the Iran-Contra affair was exposed, in November 1986. It reports that Reuter, the head of security assistance , complained that the debt for the second transaction had yet to be paid. The complaint was examined in the Pentagon and it revealed an astonishing finding. The Israeli military attache’s office in Washington and the international branch of the Defense Department had reached a secret arrangement: In return for Israel waiving the payment, the U.S. defense contractor Numax was to retain its security clearance and government contracts after being purchased by Israel.

What the officers and ministers, the officials and ambassadors are doing in secret today will be revealed, thanks to the Americans in another 25 years.

CIA Chickens Come Home To Roost–‘Phoenix jihadist’s’ dad claims son worked in Syria for CIA

‘Phoenix jihadist’s’ dad claims son worked in Syria for CIA

Russia-Today

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

As US Army veteran Eric Harroun awaits trial in Virginia for allegedly fighting alongside al-Qaeda supporters, the man’s father claims he was working for the CIA and was reporting back to the agency from Syria.

Harroun, a 30-year-old American from Phoenix, Arizona, has been charged by the US government for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely a rocket propelled grenade launcher) to conduct an attack against the Syrian government. The US Army veteran dubbed by media ‘Phoenix jihadist’ appeared in numerous videos alongside members of the al-Nusra Front, designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization in December, but which has also been fighting alongside the Syrian opposition to take down the Assad regime. To date, 29 US-backed Syrian opposition groups have linked with al-Nusra, and have signed a petition calling for the support of the Islamist group that the White House believes is a branch of al-Qaeda.

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

According to FBI documents, Harroun traveled to Turkey last November and joined the fight led by the Free Syrian Army shortly thereafter. His father, Darryl Harroun, on Thursday told reporters that he doesn’t understand why the US government arrested his son, who he says was working for the Central Intelligence Agency.

He referred to his son as a ‘patriotic’ American who would never get involved with al-Qaeda, and claims he was  gathering information for the US government.

“I know he was doing some work for the CIA over there,”  the man’s father said. “I know for a fact that he was passing information onto the CIA.”

After seeing the documents regarding his son’s charges, Harroun told a CBS News reporter that it is all inaccurate and misleading and that the truth will eventually come out, since his son was simply gathering intelligence.

“About 99 percent of that stuff that you read on there is a bunch of bull,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any truth in any of this – he’s very patriotic”

The CIA is known to have contributed to the opposition fighters’ initiatives in Syria. Last week, the New York Times published an article describing how the agency has allegedly been helping foreign governments contribute to the Free Syrian Army. Unnamed US officials told the paper that the CIA has been secretly airlifting arms and other military equipment to Arab governments and Turkey, who provided them to the country’s opposition fighters.

With the agency’s alleged involvement in the conflict, some believe it is very possible for the CIA to also have sent their own agents into Syria. Paul Joseph Watson suggests on InfoWars that Harroun’s arrest may have something to do with the lack of communication and rivalry between the FBI and the CIA.

The FBI affidavit makes no mention of Harroun having any sort of connection to the CIA, but includes transcripts of interviews in which the man describes being treated like a prisoner in the al-Nusra camp and eventually being accepted by the members. Soon thereafter, he was helping them conduct several attacks on the Syrian regime. He also recalled being questioned about why the US government designated the group as a terrorist organization.

Photo from facebook.com/eric.harroun

But the FBI is worried that while he may have gone into Syria with good intentions, he may also have become radicalized. A main component of the affidavit focuses on a Facebook status Harroun allegedly posted, in which he states that “the only good Zionist is a dead Zionist.”

But the man did not seem to try to hide any of his acitivities in Syria. He frequently uploaded pictures of himself in the conflict zone and made opinionated statements regarding the Assad regime. He allowed journalists to interview him over Skype and labeled himself as a “freedom fighter”, working on behalf of the opposition movement that the US supports.

His alleged CIA involvement has so far only been mentioned by the man’s father, but could play a major part in the case as Harroun awaits trial. He faces a maximum of life imprisonment.

Minorities in Pakistan and Islam–(deleted from Dawn)

Minorities in Pakistan and Islam

dawn

THE Badami Bagh incident shocked the whole country. A mob radically and illicitly destroyed many houses and shops of Christians on the basis of alleged blasphemy.

Since the implementation of the blasphemy law, many members of minority communities, particularly Christians, have been killed and thousands have been forced to leave the country.

The assassination of Salmaan Taseer was also shocking for the entire world, and even secular Islamic scholars and statesmen preferred not to speak. This further created a situation of complete despondency amongst minorities.

More shockingly the government and authorities concerned did nothing to stop the wrath in the name of blasphemy against the minorities. The government and the media need to stand up and do their respective jobs sincerely.

Islam’s real peaceful image should be implemented and a few countable anti-peace and anti-human people should not be allowed to destroy the image of the country and image of Islam for their vested interests.

Thomas Carlyle in his book Hero and Hero Worship had truly presented the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) as the most exemplary peace-loving personality in the history of mankind.

Hence, we need to present the true picture of Islam and the Holy Prophet, and those countable fanatics should be mutilated and obliterated before they take their roots deep.

SAJJAD RUSTAMANI
Hyderabad

U.S. Army Veteran Charged For Helping Al-Qaeda Terrorists Try To Overthrow Syrian Regime

U.S. army veteran charged for conspiring with Al-Qaeda group to topple Syrian regime

YouTubeEric Harroun of Phoenix was charged Thursday in federal court in northern Virginia with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S. He appears in an online video in which he celebrates bringing down a helicopter in Syria.

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A U.S. Army veteran is charged with conspiring with an Al-Qaeda group to wage war against the Syrian regime.

Eric Harroun of Phoenix was charged Thursday in federal court in northern Virginia with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction outside the U.S. An affidavit states Harroun has been engaged in military action in Syria, siding with rebel forces against the Syrian government. It says he used rocket-propelled grenades in the fighting earlier this year.

On his Facebook page, he claimed credit for downing a Syrian helicopter.

Prosecutors say one of the groups with which Harroun, dubbed “The American” served is the al-Nusrah Front, which is commonly known as al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Harroun has made an initial court appearance. A public defender was appointed to represent him in a detention hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

Harroun served in the military from 2000 to 2003 and was medically discharged after he was in a car accident, the court affidavit reads. A video posted to YouTube and Facebook, and referenced in the affidavit, appears to show Harroun celebrating shooting down a helicopter in Syria.

Harroun also posted photos to Facebook of himself holding machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

Darryl, Harroun’s father, told FoxNews.com that his son wasn’t raised Muslim and he’s worried he’ll soon receive a phone call telling him his son is dead.

“We scratch our heads and wonder what the hell he’s doing. I told him, ‘You’re never going to change those people’s minds over there,’” Darryl told FoxNews.com from Arizona.

“But he says they treat him like a hero.”

With files from National Post staff

Bloomberg Pushing for Drone-Filled Manhattan Sky

A New York police state of mind: Bloomberg’s vision of a drone-filled city doesn’t fly

the verge

The world’s most powerful mayor welcomes ‘visibility’ — just not in city hall

By Joshua Kopstein

drone lede

Taking a break from his crusade against sugary soft drinks, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg took some time during his weekly radio broadcast last week to downplay an issue that’s been at the forefront of privacy concerns in a growing number of US states: the use of unmanned aerial drones for ubiquitous police surveillance. “What’s the difference whether the drone is up in the air or on the building?” asked an incredulous Bloomberg, now in the final months of his heavily-lobbied third term in office. “I mean, intellectually I have trouble making that distinction.”

The comparison seems especially tone-deaf as lawmakers and citizens in other cities across the US continue efforts to block the use of drones by law enforcement for general surveillance. In Seattle, the public outcry has already derailed plans to introduce police drones, and in Florida, a bill currently sailing through the State Senate would require law enforcement to have probable cause warrants before using drones. 22 other states are in various stages of passing similar legislation; Virginia legislators have even gone as far as approving a bill that will put a two year moratorium on drones altogether.

The furor helps underscore that, yes, there is a huge differences between cameras in the streets and drones in the skies. “Many privacy invasions are abstract and invisible […] Drones, on the other hand, are concrete and real, and the threat requires no explanation,” wrote the ACLU’s Catherine Crump and Jay Stanley. “But they are just the most visible example of a host of new surveillance technologies that have the potential to fundamentally alter the balance of power between individuals and the state.”

The NYPD’s “Domain Awareness System” has around 3,000 cameras

In New York City, that balance has already been disrupted. Currently, the NYPD’s surveillance network is comprised of around 3,000 street-level cameras in Manhattan, connected to its loudly-trumpeted and Orwellian-sounding “Domain Awareness System.” The system combines real-time CCTV feeds with data from various other sources, including 911 calls and CompStat crime prevention software, which uses statistics to algorithmically identify areas where crimes are likely to occur and dispatches police accordingly. NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly announced last week that a citywide license plate reading program will soon be integrated into the $30 million system as well, allowing police to track practically all vehicle movements with unprecedented speed and efficiency. All video footage collected in this way is retained up to 30 days, and all other data can be kept for up to 5 years.

Dsc_5443

Before 9/11, the prelude to this massive surveillance expansion was VIPER, a collaboration in the late 90s between the NYPD and New York City Housing Authority which installed hundreds of police surveillance cameras inside low-income public housing. In the following years, police triumphantly cited a 36 percent reduction in crime in the housing projects they monitored. The stats were largely accepted, but a wider look revealed that crime had actually fallen overall in New York City during that decade, and so this drop might be the result of macro factors, not the new cameras. Further investigation by the Government Accountability Office was also unable to establish a direct link between surveillance cameras and reduced crime.

Even in the heavily-monitored UK, the country whose 2012 Olympic mascot was a cartoon surveillance camera, evidence has been spotty. In 2008, Scotland Yard solved only one crime for every 1,000 CCTV cameras within London’s infamous “Ring of Steel,” which was created to combat a series of IRA bombings in the early 90s. The most commonly-cited independent study counts one CCTV camera for every 14 people in England (with the British Home Office estimating much lower). However, numerous factors have complicated any attempt at proving whether they are an effective deterrent. Some research has suggested that surveillance cameras often displace crime into the space outside of their influence rather than help solve or prevent it. David Davies, a Conservative Member of the British Parliament, has lamented that London’s massive camera population “creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security.”

Whether or not these systems are truly effective, their potential effects on privacy vastly differ from those of a surveillance drone hovering above a city. For one, the NYPD’s system does not include the vast majority of the city’s cameras, the privately owned units commonly affixed to the outsides of buildings. And even then, it’s difficult to make the argument that a network of stationary street-level cameras compares to “wide-area persistent surveillance” technologies like ARGUS-IS, the DARPA-developed drone surveillance system made from hacked-together cellphone camera sensors which can identify and track a person as they move across an entire city (the NYPD is already employing a lesser form of Argus camera in their CCTV network).

“I just don’t see how you can stop them.”

Bloomberg, one of the world’s richest men who rules over one of the most intensely policed cities on earth, should know this more than anyone. But with a strategically placed “fuggedaboutit,” he disregards civil problems regarding privacy that his police force has probably long seen as administrative solutions.

“We’re going to have more visibility and less privacy […] you can’t keep the tide from coming in,” he said ominously, resigned to a supposedly inevitable scenario where drones constantly patrol the skies. “It’s not a matter of whether I think it’s good or bad. I just don’t see how you can stop them.”

Nypd_drone_posters

The sudden doom-and-gloom is ironic, considering how just last September, the NYPD spared no expense in tracking down and arresting Essam Attia, the street artist who posted fake NYPD “drone” billboards across the city, hoping to start a conversation about this very issue. The case was pursued vigorously by NYPD forensics and counter-terrorism teams, eventually serving Attia with 56 felony counts for the short-lived, politically-motivated vandalism. It’s as if somewhere in the past few months, we’ve gone from please remove your tin-foil hats to Bloomberg’s constant droning is inevitable — get used to it.

Is the situation really so hopeless? Perhaps. But it’s certainly easier to think so when you preside over a paramilitary police force that frequently receives healthy doses of grant money from the US Department of Homeland Security to implement such surveillance programs. For years the NYPD has been using those resources to do things like infiltrate Muslim communities, employing alarmingly aggressive tactics in an attempt to ensnare average citizens as “terrorist suspects.” More recently, the department has come under fire for its infamous “Stop and Frisk” program, which establishes quotas for officers to search random passersby, and overwhelmingly antagonizes black and hispanic men in low-income neighborhoods.

When Bloomberg predicts “more visibility,” he means visibility of the citizenry, not the police

But for all these various strains of snooping, Bloomberg’s NYPD has never been receptive to criticism, or demands for its own transparency. Just last week, the Mayor promised to veto a bill which would create new independent oversight of the department to investigate police misconduct. Why? According to Bloomberg, the increased oversight would “put the lives of New Yorkers and our police officers at risk,” a claim which he made no attempt to prove. So it’s again ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that when Bloomberg predicts “more visibility,” he only means more visibility of the citizenry, not the police. By its nature, police surveillance is never “transparency” — it’s a black box.

Bloomberg of all people should know that attitude won’t fly. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, usually a staunch ally of Bloomberg’s, recently declared that she has the votes to override the veto on the NYPD oversight bill. And if the legislation running through various states right now is any indication, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Bloomberg, embracing a drone-infested surveillance state for what remains of his term, will find himself in the minority. Transparency, at very minimum, needs to be a two-way street — not an ever-present, top-down panopticon.

Cypriots patient as banks reopen, 300 Euro Limit On Withdrawals

Cypriots patient as banks reopen

news-com-au

  • AFP
cyprus banks

People gather in front of Laiki (Popula) Bank as the country’s banks re-open following 12 days of closure.

PATIENT Cypriots formed orderly queues and waited in the sun for their banks to reopen after nearly two cash-starved weeks.

Despite fears of a bank run that led the island to impose harsh capital controls, some Cypriots were even depositing money instead of withdrawing it following the closure of the banks on March 16.

The calm held despite some branches opening later than the scheduled time of 10am, with packs of foreign journalists, who in some cases outnumbered those in the queues, showing more signs of agitation than the locals themselves.

Kyriakos Vourghouri, owner of a minimarket, waved a yellow deposit slip showing an amount of 678 euros ($869) as he emerged from the bank.

“I didn’t withdraw any money. I deposited money,” he said. “The problem is not in Cyprus, it is in Europe, which has become gangrenous.”

Dozens of people queued outside the banks in Nicosia for about an hour before the opening time, which was finally announced late on Wednesday after repeated delays while Cypriot authorities tried to avert financial meltdown.

Banks posted armed guards outside many branches while tellers, who unlike in other European countries are not housed behind glass security, urged customers not to vent their frustrations on them.

Guards dished out Greek-language copies of a decree issued by Finance Minister Michalis Sarris, which imposes limits on how much of their capital they can touch, including a daily 300 euro withdrawal limit.

The calm after the storm defied the sombre predictions of one Cypriot queuing outside a branch of Laiki, or Popular bank, which will be wound up as part of the bailout deal Cyprus negotiated with its creditors.

“It will be a very bad day – there will be swearing and a lot of anger,” Philippos Philippou, an unemployed electrician wearing a purple sweatshirt, said outside Laiki in Nicosia’s Makarios Street.

But when he emerged from the bank along with his mother, Mr Philippou flashed a smile and said: “There is confidence, everything was fine.”

Around 30 people queued up outside the branch, many of them women in comfortable walking shoes ready for a long wait.

A bearded man, wearing a blue sweatshirt, who would not give his name, said: “I will take all my money slowly, slowly.”

Depositors face severe restrictions to prevent a run on the banks that could wreak havoc on the island’s already fragile economy but most put on a brave face saying there was no point in queuing when the amounts involved were so small.

“I’m not going to the bank today. I have to be in the shop these hours. There’s going to be queues so I’m not going to spend so many hours there to get 300 euros,” said Roula Spyrou, 50, a jewellery shop owner.

But along Makarios Avenue, where many designer shops and cafes have closed in the past months as the island’s debt crisis intensified, stores remained mostly empty on Thursday.

Under a deal agreed in Brussels on Monday, Cyprus must raise 5.8 billion euros to qualify for a 10-billion-euro bailout from the “troika” of the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Depositors with more than 100,000 euros in the top two banks – Bank of Cyprus (BoC) and Laiki – face losing a large chunk of their money. Laiki will be wrapped up and largely absorbed by the larger BoC.

Many customers were angry with the EU – and particularly its economic powerhouse Germany.

“Yesterday my house, tomorrow your house,” said one man.

“It’s not the European Union, it’s a German union to destroy us, everyone wants to destroy Cyprus,” said Giorgiano, a kiosk owner.

“It’s the first time I feel like this since 1974,” he added, referring to the occupation of northern Cyprus by Turkish troops.

An elderly man with white hair added: “I have a Mercedes but from now on I will never again buy anything from Germany.”

Mr Vourghouri predicted that Germany will be the biggest loser because Chancellor Angela Merkel “ignited the fire.”

“Look on the streets and you will see that 70 per cent of the cars are Mercedes and BMWs. People will stop buying them and dealerships will close one by one,” he said, adding he too will stop buying German products. “From now on I will buy from Afghanistan or Nicaragua if I have to.”

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