In Bernie Sanders' State of Vermont, "that giant sucking sound" is not jobs moving to Mexico — it is jobs being concocted in Montpelier. Of course, Governor Scott shields illegal immigrants working in Vermont, and Vermont provides driver's licenses to them. The capital city also grants non-citizen residents the right to vote. It is no surprise that Vermont is #1 in the country for illegal northern border crossings.
Millions of taxpayers dollars trafficked through food stamp fraud went to terrorists who funded their activities at home and abroad, according to an explosive report from the Government Accountability Institute (GAI).
The report from GAI, where Breitbart News Senior-Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer serves as president, highlighted several instances where money obtained through Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits fraud went to fund acts of terrorism, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombings and the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing.
Although this method of using food stamp fraud money for terrorism has been aroundsince the 1980s, it gained notoriety when New York City detectives testified before a Senate subcommittee about the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.
Detectives told the committee that $125 million in food stamp fraud had “unwittingly” gone to terrorist activities.
One of the masterminds of the 1993 World Trade Center bombings, Mahmud Abouhalima, funded the attacks by operating a million-dollar food stamp fraud scheme out of a video store in Brooklyn.
But the U.S. government did not pinpoint how a lot of these terrorists used money from food stamp fraud to fund their attacks until shortly after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
The U.S. Treasury Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) identified that many terrorists would get away with funding their illicit activities by using businesses known as “hawalas” to launder money.
A “hawala”— which is an Arabic term defined in English as transfer (or trust)— is a method of transferring money through informal agents from international networks, and many Muslim immigrants settled in western countries use the “hawala” method to transfer funds to family members.
GAI, citing a U.S. Treasury report, found that more than $7 billion flows into Pakistan alone through hawalas every year.
Because of the informal, simple nature of the transaction, the “hawala” method has also been popular among criminals and terrorists to launder money from the U.S. to the Middle East, Africa, and Asia without a paper trail.
In one such instance in 2015, federal agents discovered couriers for these “hawala” networks traveling with cash-filled suitcases on flights leaving the United States for East Africa out of Sea-Tac Airport in Seattle, according to the report. The act of transporting the cash itself was not illegal, but it raised suspicion among federal authorities.
One federal investigator analyzing the financial records of the hawalas found that ten of the couriers working for those networks had been on federal welfare benefits.
Investigators say it is very difficult to track the money moved around through hawalas, even though the federal government has known about the use of hawalas and their alleged role in financing terrorism for years.
But as federal investigators became more familiar with the welfare fraud mechanisms used to fund terrorist activities after the September 11 attacks, investigators have cracked down on a number of instances where terrorists have used the benefit fraud for such purposes.
In 2006, a judge sentenced a Chicago grocery store owner to more than four years behind bars for defrauding $1.4 million from the nation’s food stamp program and using it to fund terrorist activities carried out by Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
In 2011, the FBI arrested Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, both Iraqi refugees, on federal terrorism charges for sending “money and weapons to Iraqi insurgents from the U.S.” Alwan became a refugee in 2009, citing persecution in his native country, when he settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky. After briefly holding a job in the area, he moved into public housing and collected welfare payouts.
In 2013, federal investigators discovered that Islamic militants Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings, had been receiving more than $100,000 in federal welfare assistance over ten years. The Tsarnaev brothers, who had emigrated to the U.S. from Kyrgyzstan, had been receiving cash, section 8 housing, and food stamps.
Federal lawmakers have also become aware of these illicit means of transferring money, and have introduced bills to stop “hawalas” and similar money laundering activities. In May 2017, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) proposed legislation that would prohibit the practice of money laundering through hawalas.
US ready to blow another arms control treaty to feed its war economy
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
The United States’ economy is a military-industrial complex. Therefore any multilateral arms control treaty that limits weapons and war tensions is by definition incompatible with the functioning of American-style capitalism.
President Donald Trump’s announced intention of withdrawing the US from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is but the latest move by Washington in undoing decades of hard-won arms controls agreements.
The US unilaterally scrapped the Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) Treaty back in 2002 under then-President GW Bush. That breach of a decades-old treaty has led to the installation of American missile systems in Europe ever-closer to Russian territory, as the US-led NATO military alliance relentlessly expanded eastwards.
If Trump goes ahead with pulling the US out of the INF, that will leave only one remaining pillar in the arms control architecture, the START Treaty limiting the deployment of all types of nuclear weapons. START is due to expire in 2021 and several hawkish US politicians are urging no replacement.
No wonder then that Trump’s unravelling of the nuclear non-proliferation regime is unnerving many people, including NATO allies in Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly phoned Trump, imploring that the INF is vital for European security. Macron’s views were reiterated by German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas.
Moscow and Beijing said the anticipated US move will undermine the strategic balance and unleash a new arms race, reminiscent of the Cold War.
“Mankind is facing full chaos in the nuclear weapon sphere,” Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev said.
Another senior Russian lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, slammed the Trump administration for “pushing the world to another Cuban missile crisis.”
That standoff in October 1962 saw the US and Soviet Union on the brink of nuclear war. The disaster was averted by President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, who then paved the way for beginning arms controls.
By undoing the INF, the ABM and possibly START, the United States is returning the world to “ground zero,” said Pushkov.
That deregulated global situation will inevitably greatly increase the risk of a nuclear war.
First, it seems domestic US political infighting is a factor. Trump made his announced repudiation of the INF at a political campaign rally in Nevada at the weekend. There are only around three weeks before US mid-term congressional elections, in which the rival Democrats are vying to take control of the Senate. By talking tough over the INF, claiming that Moscow is in violation of the treaty and the US “won’t stand for it,” Trump is trying to neutralize the long-held charge from Democrats that he is “soft on Russia.”
It is lamentable that international security is being sacrificed because of internal US politicking.
Another factor is that the US needs to abandon the INF if it wants to pursue its ambitions of unipolar military dominance, and in particular its effort to subjugate Russia and China. Several strategic planning papers out of Washington over the past two years openly target Russia and China as “great power rivals.”
By abandoning the INF, the US will have license to expand missile forces towards Russian and Chinese territory. Such an aggressive move could not be done openly for political reasons. Therefore, Washington is finding a pretext for its own violations by accusing Moscow of breaching the INF. Russia has repeatedly rejected US claims that it has violated the treaty, pointing out that the American side has never presented evidence to back up its claims.
A third factor is the bigger picture of the US economy as a war-driven system. With an annual spend of over $700 billion on military – about half the total discretionary US budget and multiples more than any other foreign nation – the American economy is dependent on its military-industrial complex. That monstrous deformation of American capitalism, first warnedby President Eisenhower in 1961, can only exist in the realm of relentless weapons production. That, in turn, relies on the US constantly creating global tensions and uncertainty, even to the point of inciting war.
An arms race is not only a lucrative boon for the Pentagon and American weapons manufacturers – who are the biggest lobby group in Washington – but there is an added strategic objective. By dragging Russia and China into an arms race, it serves as a way for US imperial planners to weaken these rivals.
Out of necessity to counter US military aggression, Moscow and Beijing will be compelled to devote ever-more of their economic resources to weapons procurement. Such a pursuit of militarism, it is calculated, will end up breaking the economies of Russia and China.
Arguably, the Soviet Union’s downfall in the late 1980s was largely brought about by decades of inordinate spending on military instead of resources strengthening the civilian economy and society. It seems Trump wants to re-run the Cold War for this purpose of hobbling Russia and China.
Such a limitation does not apply to US capitalism, which gives itself the privilege of racking up endless debt. That privilege is partly due to the unique position of the US dollar as the main global reserve currency. Eventually, however, such profligacy is unsustainable, and when the American collapse comes there will be much gnashing of teeth. However, in the nearer term, the excesses of an arms race can be disguised by seemingly endless American debt.
The various arms control treaties that the US seems bent on unravelling have up to now afforded a certain security from nuclear war. The treaties worked because there was a level of multilateral mutualism between Washington and Moscow.
Not any more, it seems. Washington, especially under Trump, has reduced the art of diplomacy to Twitter tirades and reckless threats, such as when the US ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, earlier this month warned that the American military would “take out” Russian missiles deemed to be in violation of the INF. She later backtracked on that incendiary comment, but the first impression of preemptive gung-ho mentality is not easily remedied.
Any attempt at diplomacy by Trump seems confounded by a deplorable lack of logic or intelligence. After tearing into the INF, the president appeared to leave the door open for a replacement treaty with Russia and China.
“We’ll have to develop those [short, intermediate-range] weapons, unless Russia comes to us and China comes to us and they all come to us and say, ‘Let’s really get smart and let’s none of us develop those weapons’.”he said.
Here’s what Trump and the rest of Washington don’t understand. The INF treaty has been continually eroded because US military forces insist on stationing their missiles thousands of kilometers from American territory on the doorstep of both Russia and China.
If Trump really wanted to find an accord on this arms control, he would withdraw America’s so-called “anti-missile systems” from Poland, Romania and the Black Sea, as well as from South Korea and near China’s maritime territory.
Ultimately, though, the best arms control mechanism is for Americans to overhaul their economy away from the warmongering system it is.
Trump threatens to build up US nuclear arsenal until Russia, China 'come to their senses'
US President Donald Trump threatned Russia and China that Washington intends to build up its nuclear arsenal until “people come to their senses.”
The president said his words were directed towards Moscow and Beijing, as he prepared to unilaterally leave the Intermediate Nuclear Forces in Europe (INF) treaty. The US president implied China should be part of any new nuclear arms control treaty.
“Russia has not adhered to the agreement,” neither in form or in spirit, Trump told reporters outside the White House on Monday, before departing for a campaign rally in Texas.
Until people come to their senses, we will build it up
he said, referring to the US nuclear arsenal. “When they do, we will all be smart and we’ll stop. Not only stop, but we’ll reduce, which I’d love to do.”
Asked if this should be taken as a threat, Trump said yes.
It’s a threat to whoever you want. It includes China, it includes Russia
The US has “more money than anyone else by far,” Trump added, implying an arms race wouldn’t come as a burden. “You can’t play that game on me.”
The treaty, which went into effect in June 1988, was a major achievement of Cold War detente and helped defuse nuclear fears in Europe. If Trump goes ahead and withdraws from the INF, that would leave the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) as the last obstacle to uncontrolled nuclear proliferation. The treaty will expire in 2021, and Washington has not yet decided on renewing it, Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton said during his visit to Moscow.
Over the years, Moscow and Washington have repeatedly accused each other of violating the deal. While the US has alleged that Russia has developed missiles prohibited by the INF, Moscow has pointed out that the US anti-missile systems deployed in Eastern Europe can actually be used to launch intermediate-range cruise missiles. Those systems were deployed after Washington unilaterally left the anti-ballistic missile (ABM) treaty in 2002.
In his impromptu press conference, Trump implied that China should be part of any new nuclear arms control treaty. He did not say how his administration intended to achieve that, given the current poor state of affairs between Beijing and Washington, propelled by a trade war and military tensions in the South China Sea.
Trump’s hardline approach to trade deals has worked, with Canada, Mexico and the EU quickly coming around to his point of view. His repudiation of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, however, has not produced another nonproliferation agreement with Tehran.
“For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!” he said Oct. 16.
Trump has no investments in Saudi Arabia, but he has done business with the Saudis over the years.
Before Trump became president, he stepped down from the Trump Organization, a conglomerate of roughly 500 businesses that operate globally. He retains ownership and a financial stake in the company despite claims by some that this could lead to conflicts of interest.
The issue came to the forefront in the wake of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents, as some speculated that Trump’s cautious response to Khashoggi’s death may be linked to his financial interests in the country.
“I’m very concerned that U.S. national security policy is for sale and that the business connection between the Saudi royal family and the Trump family may explain why this administration has been so soft on the Saudis throughout the past two years, but especially the past week,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told Business Insider.
Nearly a dozen Senate Democrats, including Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy and Elizabeth Warren, signed a letter calling for the president to release more information about his company’s potential business dealings with Saudi Arabia, citing “significant concerns about financial conflicts of interest.”
But The Daily Caller News Foundation could find no instances in which the Trump Organization has had business investments in Saudi Arabia.
“Like many global real estate companies, we have explored opportunities in many markets, that said, we do not have any plans for expansion into Saudi Arabia,” a Trump Organization spokesperson told TheDCNF in a statement.
This statement is supported by Trump’s financial disclosure reports. The documents show that there were eight Trump businesses with the name “Jeddah”, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia, in their title at one point, but all were inactive by Nov. 15, 2016.
Eric Trump, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, reiterated his father’s tweet during an appearance on “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning.
“There’s zero investments in Russia. There’s zero investments in Saudi. We have absolutely nothing to do with those countries,” he told the hosts.
While Trump doesn’t currently have any interests in Saudi Arabia, he has frequently done business with the Saudis.
Trump sold a yacht to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in 1991 for $20 million, and Alwaleed was one of multiple investors who bought Trump’s Plaza Hotel for $325 million in 1995. A decade later, Trump sold an entire floor of the Trump World Tower in Manhattan to the Saudi government for $4.5 million.
More recently, the Trump Organization has profited from Saudi stays at its hotels in the U.S.
WaPo reported that Trump’s luxury hotel in Chicago has seen a 169 percent increase in Saudi stays in 2018 compared to the same period in 2016, and the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan received a 13 percent revenue increase in room rentals for the first three months of 2018 after a five-day visit by associates of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.
A public relations firm working for the Saudi government also spent $270,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., in 2017, as reported by The Daily Caller.
The attorneys general from D.C. and Maryland to filed a lawsuit against Trump in June 2017 alleging that foreign payments to his D.C. hotel constitute a violation of the Emoluments Clause, a section of the constitution which states that no person holding office may accept gifts or payments from any foreign government without the consent of Congress.
“It’s unprecedented that the American people must question day after day whether decisions are made or actions are taken to benefit the United States or to benefit President Trump,” Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a news conference.
The Trump Organization has pushed back on the notion that any of these dealings have had political underpinnings.
“The renting of a hotel room from one of the Trump businesses is not correlated to President Trump’s performance of the duties of the Office of President,” Bobby Burchfield, an ethics lawyer for the Trump Organization, argued in the Texas Review of Law and Politics. “The Trump businesses rented hotel rooms before the President took office, and presumably they will do so after he leaves office, just as they are doing while he is in office. Those transactions are not derived from his performance of the Office of President.”
"I doubt that
Trump understands -- or cares about -- what message he's sending. Wealthy
Saudis, including members of the extended royal family, have been his patrons
for years, buying his distressed properties when he needed money. In the early
1990s, a Saudi prince purchased Trump's flashy yacht so that the
then-struggling businessman could come up with cash to stave off personal
bankruptcy, and later, the prince bought a share of the Plaza Hotel, one of
Trump's many business deals gone bad. Trump also sold an entire floor of his
landmark Trump Tower condominium to the Saudi government in 2001."
From blackmailing princes to murdering journalists: how Saudi Arabia’s spy network has expanded under Mohammed bin Salman
Inside the Georgian mansion in Mayfair that houses Saudi Arabia’s embassy in London, two offices of Saudi intelligence operatives are busy at work.
The first office belongs to the General Intelligence Presidency, Saudi Arabia’s foreign intelligence agency. Its staff are engaged in the “normal” work of spies, meeting with MI6 to discuss Britain and Saudi Arabia’s shared fight against al-Qaeda or to swap secrets on Iran.
The second office has a darker purpose. There the staff of the Mabahith, Saudi Arabia’s secret police, are tracking people of interest inside the UK.
But they are also keeping tabs on Arab businessmen and the decadent lives of Gulf royals living the UK. The Mabahith’s spies are especially interested in compromising material they can use as blackmail to further Riyadh’s interests.
“These guys gather the dirt and they hold it until directed,” said a former Saudi embassy employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They want to know who is sleeping with who, who is drinking and doing drugs, who is spending money they don’t have.”
The set-up in the London embassy is replicated at Saudi diplomatic posts around the world, forming a vast web of spies watching the kingdom’s enemies and surveilling its own people.
While this apparatus has existed for years, it has become more aggressive and more violent under Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, who controls the Saudi security services.
His ambition to silence critics abroad and stomp out political rivals at home has depended on a new ferocity in the intelligence agencies. The murder of Jamal Khashoggi is just the most extreme example.
“For many decades Saudi Arabia had a system in which the king sought to develop a policy consensus within the royal family, the clerical establishment, and the entrepreneur elite,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who now heads the Intelligence Project at the Brookings Institute.
“That has changed profoundly in the last few years. Instead of a consensual system they have moved to a very autocratic system, which relies much more on the intelligence services hounding out dissent at home and abroad.”
Mr Khashoggi was no stranger to the craft of the secret police or how its methods changed over time. In the mid-2000s he worked at the Saudi embassy in London as an advisor to the ambassador, Prince Turki bin Faisal. The prince was Saudi Arabia’s spy chief before moving to the UK.
One of Mr Khashoggi’s embassy colleagues was Maher Mutreb, a Saudi intelligence officer stationed in London. Mr Mutreb is now under arrest in Saudi Arabia as part of the 15-man squad accused of Mr Khashoggi’s murder.
In his Washington Post column, Mr Khashoggi noted the aggression of Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to Crown Prince Mohammed who was sacked over the weekend amid the fallout out of the killing. The prince’s aide made no secret of his hatred for dissidents and once asked his 1.35 million Twitter followers to give him names for a blacklist.
Mr Khashoggi pointed to the tweet as an example of how unrestrained Saudi repression had become in the last two years. “Writers like me, whose criticism is offered respectfully, seem to be considered more dangerous than the more strident Saudi opposition based in London.”
Saudi Arabia’s spies have always focused on the UK, which has given safe harbour to many Saudi dissidents as well as Islamists and anti-monarchists from across the Middle East.
One of their targets has been Sa’ad al-Faqih, the leader of Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia, a UK-based Saudi opposition group that campaigns to replace with the royal family with an Islamic government.
Dr Faqih was attacked at his home in Willesden Green, northwest London, in June 2003 by two men who he said claimed to be plumbers. They tried to spray chemicals in his face and then attacked him with a spanner but he was able to fight them off.
He believes the two white men were British gangsters hired by Saudi Arabia to kidnap him, a claim that the kingdom has always denied.
Dr Faqih has not faced any more physical attacks since 2003. But he has felt a heightened threat since Crown Prince Mohammed began to gather power three years ago and he started taking new security precautions. “We feel extra danger because we know that this boy is reckless and impulsive,” he said.
Saudi dissidents were rattled by an incident in August this year on the pavement outside Harrods in central London. Ghanem al-Masarir, a popular Saudi political satirist who often mocks Crown Prince Mohammed, was confronted and attacked by two Saudi men.
“They were shouting about the king and Mohammed bin Salman and they said: ‘how dare you insult al-Saud?’” Mr Dosari said. He is convinced that the men were put up to the attack by Saudi intelligence.
“I don’t think they were trying to kill me or kidnap me but they wanted to insult me and to send a message that I was not safe where I was,” he said. Video footage of the attack was widely shared by pro-Saudi Twitter accounts under a hashtag celebrating the attack.
The Saudi embassy in London did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Saudi Arabia insists that Mr Khashoggi's death was the result of "a rogue operation" which was not ordered by the government.
Before the killing in Istanbul made global headlines, the starkest example of the Saudi intelligence's new aggression was an apparent campaign to kidnap rebel princes in Europe and bring them back to Saudi Arabia.
According to the BBC, three princes who had fallen out with the royal family have been captured since 2015. One, Prince Sultan bin Turki, a grandson of King Abdulaziz, accepted a flight on a Saudi government private jet from Paris to Cairo in January 2016.
The prince went to sleep on the flight and when he awoke he realised the jet was in fact heading Saudi Arabia. He was dragged off the plane by Saudi agents and is believed to be under house arrest to this day.
Saudi dissidents joke darkly that Mr Khashoggi’s death probably means they are safer now than they have been in years because Riyadh will be unwilling to risk another international scandal. But none believe the danger has fully passed.
Over the weekend, King Salman ordered his ministers to prepare reforms of the Saudi intelligence services to prevent another incident like Mr Khashoggi’s death. No one should expect sweeping changes: the head of the reform committee is none other Crown Prince Mohammed himself.