A law signed into effect byPresident Barack Obama todaywill force the White House Officeof Management and Budget totalk about just how bad thecoming budget cliff will be.TheSequestration TransparencyActwill force OMB to deliver areport about the full effects of more than $1 trillion in defenseand domestic cuts, within the next30 days. With so many unknowns,the major defense contractorshave said they may be forced tosendthousandsof layoff noticesto employees in advance of Jan.1.Though defense industryassociations andadvocacy groupshave launched frighteningprojections about the specter of sequestration, showing over amillion jobs and billions inrevenue on the line, theadministration has so far refusedto release a roadmap showing thefull extent of the cuts and whatprograms will be most affected.In a June 15 letter to the leadersof the House Armed Services,Foreign Affairs, and IntelligenceCommittees, OMB directorJeffrey Zients rebuffed theirinterest in learning what thesequester will do.“Should it get to a point where itappears that Congress will not doits job and the sequester may takeeffect, let me assure youthatOMB, DoD, and the entireAdministration will be prepared,”he wrote.Appearing before the HouseArmed Services Committee lastweek, Zients appeared just asadamant.“The right course is not to movearound rocks at the bottom of acliff to make for a less painfullanding,” he said. “The rightcourse is to avoid driving off acliff altogether.”Despite having only Republicansponsors in the House and theSenate, the SequestrationTransparency Act passed bothbodies of Congress within a seven-day span last month.Obama’s signing of the bill maybe a concession, but theadministration’s party lineappears unchanged. Announcingthe signing, White House DeputyPress Secretary Amy BrundageTweeted, “Congress must act toavoid these devastating cuts & ask wealthiest to pay fair share.”Nonetheless, key Republicanssaid the bill’s signing was a movein the right direction.“Within 30 Days, the Commander-In-Chief will have to do what thisCommittee, the Secretary of Defense, and our commandersaround the world began doing ayear ago- face the catastrophicconsequences of the cuts hesigned into law,”House Armed ServicesCommittee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said in astatement. “House Republicanshave acted. I look forward to thePresident’s leadership in bringingSenate Democrats to the table.”The bill’s co-author, Rep. JebHensarling, said the new lawwould help Congress and theAmerican people understand theenormity of sequestration.“The American people deserve toknow how their commander-in-chief intends to implement half atrillion dollars in cuts to ournational security which his ownSecretary of Defense compared to‘shooting ourselves in the head,’”he said in a statement. “With thesunlight provided by this new law,I look forward to working withmy colleagues in Congress toreplace these damaging defensecuts and expect the president towork with us.”This entry passed through theFull-Text RSSservice — if this isyour content and you're reading iton someone else's site, please readthe FAQ atfivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.FiveFiltersrecommends:IncineratingAssange - The Liberal Media GoTo Work .
ByNate RaymondandSteveSlaterNEW YORK/LONDON| TueAug 7, 2012 7:50pm EDT(Reuters) - A New York bank regulator's broadside againstStandard Chartered Plc overtransactions tied to Iran leftinvestors and the bank questioning the action, which onTuesday wiped $17 billion off thebank's value.The White House signaled itsstrong interest in the case, sayingthe U.S. government takes allegedviolations of economic sanctions"extremely seriously."London-based StandardChartered said it has been in talkswith U.S. authorities over its Irantransactions since early 2010 andsaid the public accusations byNew York came as a shock.The state's banking regulator,Benjamin Lawsky, calledStandard Chartered a "rogueinstitution" and threatened torevoke its state banking license onMonday.Lawsky, head of the state'sDepartment of Financial Services,accused the bank of hiding 60,000secret transactions worth $250billion over nearly a decade. Thetransactions generated hundredsof millions of dollars in fees,Lawsky said.Chief Executive Peter Sandsscrambled back from vacation tohelp the bank plan a defense andlimit damage to its reputation.Shares in Standard Charteredclosed down 16.4 percent at 12.28pounds, taking their losses to 24percent since the news surfaced just before Monday's close. Theyhad earlier slumped as low as10.92 pounds, their lowest forthree years.The White House said it took sanctions violations seriously butmade no direct reference toLawsky's action."Sanctions violations aresomething that this administrationtakes extremely seriously and hasa strong record of action to thisend," White House PressSecretary Jay Carney toldreporters. "The TreasuryDepartment remains in closecontact with both federal and stateauthorities on this matter."The inquiry into StandardChartered is not the first timeLawsky has been involved in astate investigation of allegedconduct traditionally probed byfederal investigators.When he worked at the NewYork Attorney General's office,Lawsky helped spearhead a stillunresolved 2010 lawsuit againstBank of America Corp over itsacquisition of Merrill Lynch &Co, even while that bank wassettling a similar case by the U.S.Securities and ExchangeCommission.Marc Greenwald, a formerfederal prosecutor who is now apartner at Quinn EmanuelUrquhart & Sullivan, said it is"not completely surprising" thatLawsky might press ahead now if he felt other regulators weremoving too slowly.Lawsky did not respond toseveral requests for comment.The bank had been one of theleast tarnished during the financialcrisis because of its focus onemerging markets andconservative approach to capitaland liquidity. It said Lawsky'sorder does not present "a full andaccurate picture.""Some people were walkingaround under the illusion thatStandard Chartered was theworld's first riskless bank, and it'snot," said Gareth Hunt, financialsanalyst at Canaccord Genuity,who rates the stock a "sell.""We've discovered that StandardChartered is a mortal bank -- asthey all are."Standard Chartered has hired twoprominent law firms -- Sullivan &Cromwell in New York andSlaughter and May in London --to represent it in its dealings withvarious U.S. authorities overtransactions linked to Iran.Among the Sullivan & Cromwellpartners working for StandardChartered is Rodgin Cohen, oneof the best-known U.S. corporatelawyers, a person familiar withthe matter said.Sullivan & Cromwell hasrepresented other non-U.S. banksprobed for allegedly ignoring U.S.sanctions against countries.Lawsky, in his order, describedhow officials at StandardChartered had debated whether tocontinue its Iranian dealings,which he said exposed the U.S.banking system to terrorists, drugtraffickers and corrupt states.He said that on October 2006, thetop official for business in theAmericas warned in a "panickedmessage" that the Iranian dealingscould cause "catastrophicreputational damage" and "seriouscriminal liability."A group executive director inLondon shot back, according to aNew York branch officer quotedin the order: "You f---ingAmericans. Who are you to tellus, the rest of the world, that we'renot going to deal with Iranians."The reply showed "obviouscontempt for U.S. bankingregulations," the order said.At that time the bank had fiveexecutive directors: Sands, nowchief executive; RichardMeddings, now finance director;Mervyn Davies, a British LabourParty peer; Kai Nargolwala, wholater joined Credit Suisse GroupAG and left the Swiss bank lastyear; and Mike DeNoma, who thismonth departed as CEO of Chinatrust Financial Holding Co.Standard Chartered's AmericasCEO was Ray Ferguson, who isnow its Singapore CEO.These people either declined tocomment or could notimmediately be reached forcomment.U.S. RULES "UNCLEAR"The loss of a New York bankinglicense would be a devastatingblow for a foreign bank,effectively cutting off directaccess to the U.S. bank market.Lawsky said Standard Charteredprocesses $190 billion every dayfor global clients.The United States imposedeconomic sanctions on Iran in1979. Until November 2008 U.S.banks could process sometransactions for Iranian banks orindividuals provided they wereinitiated offshore by non-Iranianforeign banks and were on theway to other non-Iranian foreignbanks. Such transactions wereknown as "U-turns."David Proctor, who worked forStandard Chartered from 1999until 2006 and who oversaw theIran business briefly in 2006
U.S. Secretary of State HillaryClinton (L) and Afghan PresidentHamid Karzai hold a joint newsconference in Kabul July 7, 2012.Credit: Reuters/Omar SobhaniByMissy RyanWASHINGTON| Tue Aug 7,2012 8:01pm EDT(Reuters) - The Obamaadministration, in a move aimedat reviving Afghan peace talks,has sweetened a proposed dealunder which it would transferTaliban detainees fromGuantanamo Bay prison inexchange for a U.S. soldier heldby Taliban allies in Pakistan.The revised proposal, aconcession from an earlier U.S.offer, would alter the sequence of the move of five senior Talibanfigures held for years at the U.S.military prison to the Gulf state of Qatar, sources familiar with theissue said.U.S. officials have hoped theprisoner exchange, proposed as agood-faith move in initialdiscussions between U.S.negotiators and Taliban officials,would open the door to peacetalks between militants and thegovernment of Afghan PresidentHamid Karzai.The revised proposal would sendall five Taliban prisoners to Qatarfirst, said sources who spoke oncondition of anonymity. Onlythen would the Taliban berequired to release Sergeant BoweBergdahl, the only U.S. prisonerof war.Previously, U.S. officials hadproposed dividing the Talibanprisoners into two groups, andrequiring Bergdahl's release as agood-faith gesture to come beforethe second group of prisonerswould be moved out of Guantanamo.Bergdahl, now 26 years old,disappeared from his base insouthern Afghanistan in June2009 and is believed to be beingheld by Taliban militants innorthwestern Pakistan.The White House and theBergdahl family declined tocomment on the revised proposalfor a deal.The altered transfer plans werediscussed with Qatari officialsduring a visit in mid-June byMarc Grossman, U.S. PresidentBarack Obama's specialrepresentative for Afghanistanand Pakistan, the sources said. Itwas unclear if the altered proposalhad been put forward before thosediscussions.Qatar, which is hosting a numberof Taliban officials, has played akey role in almost two years of initial, secret discussions betweenU.S. officials and representativesof the shadowy militant group,which remains a formidableenemy in Afghanistan even asU.S. and NATO troops begin towithdraw.As part of a process the Obamaadministration hoped would leadto substantive talks onAfghanistan's future, the Taliban'sleadership had planned toformally open a political office inDoha. But the Taliban announcedin March it would withdraw fromthe talks, citing what it said wereinconsistencies in the U.S.negotiating position.U.S. officials are now cautiouslyseeking to prepare the ground fora resumption in talks. But anynegotiations involving theTaliban, even preliminary ones,could pose a political risk forObama months before the U.S.presidential election.The proposed prisoner transferwas first reported in December byReuters.The Taliban detainees are seen asamong the most dangerousremaining at Guantanamo, and thetransfer idea drew strongopposition on Capitol Hill evenbefore it was formally proposed.Many lawmakers fretted thattransferred detainees wouldreappear on the battlefield, andobjected to the possible release of prisoners blamed for bloodycrimes in Afghanistan.U.S. officials stress that thetransfer, if it occurs, will be donein accordance with U.S. law,which requires Congress to benotified before any detainees aremoved from Guantanamo.NECESSARY EVILThe transfer of the prisoners haslong been seen as a necessary evilby U.S. negotiators in their effortto coax the Taliban into talks.The militant group has longdemanded their release, but thePentagon, which handles detaineetransfers, is particularly skepticalof a move officials there fearmight not only fail to bring theTaliban to the negotiating tablebut also lead to the departmentbeing blamed for movingdangerous militants out of prison.According to a report releasedearly this year from the HouseArmed Services Committee, morethan one in four of the 600 formerdetainees moved fromGuantanamo to countries likeAfghanistan, Saudi Arabia, orYemen were confirmed orsuspected to subsequently beengaged in 'terrorist activities.'Democrats accused thecommittee's majority Republicansof fear-mongering when theyreleased that report.Of the five senior Talibanfigures, many officials andlawmakers are particularlynervous about transferring MullahMohammed Fazl, a "high-risk detainee" who was in the firstgroup sent to Guantanamo inearly 2002, under what could beonly loose security and travelrestrictions.A former Taliban deputy ministerof defense, Fazl is alleged to beresponsible for the massacre of thousands of minority Shi'ites.The group also includesNoorullah Noori, a former topmilitary commander; formerdeputy intelligence ministerAbdul Haq Wasiq; and KhairullahKhairkhwa, a former interiorminister.The identity of the fifth detaineeremains unclear.While a debate continues to ragewithin the U.S. administrationabout the wisdom of peace talkswith the Taliban, Afghanistanexperts see few other options forachieving even a modicum of stability in a region plagued bycivil conflict for decades.The Taliban may have beenweakened by Obama's 2009-2010troop surge into Afghanistan, butit remains a potent enemy as theforeign force grows smaller. It isalso deeply mistrustful of U.S.overtures and has appeared thisyear to grapple with its owndivisions.In early 2012, Western officials