It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry as the US goes all out to get its hands on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
We’ve got the US leaning on Russia to push him out of his sanctuary in their Moscow airport. We’ve got Obama and the State Department warning countries around the globe not to accept him or allow him to transit their airspace. And now there’s smilin’ Joe Biden, lecturing Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa (threatening would be a better word) about not granting asylum to Snowden, whom the Obama administration and the Republican and Democratic stooges in Congress are branding a “traitor.”
Meanwhile, the real traitors who have done so much to destroy America are buying politicians of both parties, using their undue influence to gut any effort at real regulation, all the while earning fat bonuses in their corner offices at megabanks like Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citi Group, Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo. No need to extradite those guys in order to prosecute ’em. They’re right here in the USA. All that’s lacking is a will to bring charges for things like mortgage fraud, derivative fraud, collusion, lying under oath, etc. But Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, a former corporate lawyer himself, has already declared that he will not prosecute Wall Street’s banks for their frauds in bringing down the US economy.
Even Cyrus Vance Jr., the supposedly tough-as-nails, no-nonsense district attorney of Manhattan, whose jurisdiction encompasses the home offices of most of the biggest “too-big-to-fail” banks, won’t indict any of them or any of their top executives. It’s not that he won’t indict a bank, but instead of going after Goldman or Citi or Chase, he has indicted — ready for this? — a little independently owned community-based Chinatown bank called Abacus Bank, which has total assets of less than $250 million. That’s million. For comparison, the largest US bank, JP Morgan Chase, has total assets of $2.39 trillion dollars, which is almost 10,000 times as big. Worse yet, although Vance, in indicting the bank, claimed its fraud (a bank employee, fired and voluntarily reported to regulators by the bank, had been been falsely inflating loan applicants’ incomes to help them take bigger loans), was “an example of what brought down the US economy,” actually Abacus has a loan default rate of 0.5%, which is just one-tenth of the national average bank loan default rate of 5-6%.
Why hasn’t Vance, at least, indicted some of the big banks, which many knowledgeable analysts and critics have said are little more than giant organized crime syndicates, in some cases such as B of A, Citibank and HSBC actually knowingly laundering vast amounts of drug cartel cash? His deputy says it’s because there is no evidence of prosecutable crimes committed by them! Probably it’s the same reason Washington politicians won’t go after them: it would jeopardize all that banker campaign lucre — and Vance surely has his eye on the New York governor’s mansion in Albany.
And so, back to Snowden, whose only “crime” has been to expose the galloping fascism of the US government, which has, behind our backs, established a national domestic surveillance system so vast and Orwellian that the old East German Stasi or Soviet KGB couldn’t even dream about having such a thing.
So now we have Vice President Joe Biden, who came to his post from a position as Senator of Delaware, the state that is the legal home for some of the most criminal corporations in the country because of its lax oversight laws and its protections against shareholder activism, lecturing Ecuador about the importance of the “rule of law,” and threatening the country with loss of its “most-favored-nation” exemption from import duties on exports to the US if it grants Snowden asylum from US prosecution.
But wait! As President Correa has pointed out, his country has been trying for years to get the US to extradite two bankers, Roberto and William Isaias, to face charges in a bank fraud and collapse of Filanbanko that was at the center of a US-style systemic bank collapse. That collapse ultimately cost the little country’s 15 million people a staggering $8 billion in losses. The two men, who fled to the US in 2000 and have been protected from prosecution by the US since then, were sentenced in absentia to eight years in jail earlier this year.
Double standard you say?
Well, let’s face it, the US has become a kind of haven for international financial criminals, much as Brazil used to be a haven for bank robbers, and Argentina and Chile for Nazi mass murderers. If colossal bank fraud, in practice, is not a crime here in the US, then it’s not extraditable. And as our “Justice” Department head Holder would put it, “We don’t do bank or banker prosecutions, unless perhaps they are tiny banks. We just prosecute whistleblowing traitors.”
DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).