The TPP is a bad deal for Internet users. But these tech companies just endorsed it.
Tell tech companies not to support the TPP

Do not betray your users. The TPP lacks transparency, undermines our basic rights, and harms free speech and innovation. Drop your support now.

Tech experts from every major advocacy group working to defend Internet users’ rights vehemently oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, but a trade association that represents major web companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, and Uber just endorsed it.

The TPP was negotiated in complete secrecy by government bureaucrats and corporate lobbyists from industries that hate the Internet—including the ones that wrote terrible censorship bills like SOPA. It’s great for incumbent corporations, but terrible for individual internet users, startups, and the tech economy as a whole.

BREAKING UPDATE: reddit comes out saying they do not support the TPP, distances themselves from Internet Association statement.

The TPP would:

Expand draconian copyright enforcement, undermining our privacy and the public domain without ensuring protections for free speech;
Criminalize common practices like tinkering with or modifying devices, even for fair use purposes;
Enable multi-national corporations to skirt the democratic process and use shadowy international tribunals to undermine Web users’ rights;
Set a precedent that will encourage anti-Internet lobbyists like the ones who wrote SOPA to use trade agreements to push for bad Internet policy.
There are powerful interests pushing to get the TPP passed through U.S. Congress, and it seems like they managed to pull a fast one on these Internet companies and get them to take a position that goes directly against their own interests and the interests of their users.

Congress could vote on the TPP within a matter of weeks, and they’ll be watching closely how the public reacts to these companies’ statement.

If enough of us speak out, we can get these companies to drop their support for this dangerous agreement, and stand up for the rights of their users and the future of the Internet we all love. Please sign the petition and share this widely right now.



Stop Mass Incarceration Network

Here’s the full petition:

Its Right to Protest Murder by Police

Oppose the Convictions of #A14 Protesters
and Drop the Charges

What you can do:

1. Call Mike Feuer (213-978-8100), L.A. City Attorney, TodayDemand Criminal Charges Targeting April 14 Protestors be Dropped

2. Be in court with the defendants.Opening statements by the prosecution and defense could begin as soon as Wednesday or Thursday, April 13 or 14. 10:30 AM Dept. 56, 7th Floor, Clara Shortridge Foltz Criminal Justice Center, 210 W. Temple, Los Angeles, CA 90012. more

3. Contribute funds for the political and legal defense. Organize fundraising parties and activities. Send checks to Stop Mass Incarceration Network / AFGJ. In the memo line write: “Legal Defense – LA April 14 Protests.” Send to:Stop Mass Incarceration Network PO Box 941, Knickerbocker StationNew York City, NY 10002-0900

4. Be part of building this political and legal defense! Contact: 213.840.5348 EMail

5. Endorse this Statement

To arrest, prosecute, intimidate and imprison those who protest against them.Nearly very day, we hear of cases and see videos of police murdering and brutalizing people, disproportionately Black and Latino. Walter Scott: shot in the back as he was running away. Eric Garner: choked to death on a NY City street. Omar Abrego: beaten to death as he was coming home. Michael Brown: shot and killed with his hands up as he was walking to his grandma’s house. John Crawford: shot in a Walmart for holding a toy gun the store was selling.Ezell Ford: shot in the back outside of his home. Tamir Rice: 12 years old, playing with a toy gun in a park, shot within 1.7 seconds by police.

And again and again and again, the police are exonerated and hardly ever investigated, let alone punished. The cops who murdered Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford and Omar Abrego: all got off scot free. It has been over a year since Ezell Ford was murdered and there have still been no legal proceedings against the murderers. It has been a year since Tamir Rice was murdered, and grand jury proceedings are just now beginning.*

What is the government’s answer to these howling and unjust crimes?

In LA, three young revolutionaries were just convicted of serious misdemeanor charges from an arrest at a national protest against police murder on April 14, 2015. They have recently been sentenced.**

Seven others, from different perspectives, are also facing upcoming trials from this arrest. That day, in over 30 U.S. cities, thousands took the streets. In LA, over 1,000 people participated in this protest which included high school walkouts, a march through Skid Row and the shutting down of the Blue Line train for over an hour. This national day of protest helped to keep open the door of mass resistance against murder by police which began in 2014.

In addition, numerous people from the Black Lives Matter movement and others who filled the streets in the last year and a half to protest police terror are all also facing upcoming trials.

These brave resisters have already faced more time in jail and in the courts than most of the police who murder and brutalize Black and brown people. This is unacceptable.

These arrests and prosecutions are meant to send a message of fear and intimidation to force people to accept the business as usual of murder and brutality by police; they are meant to send a message that “if you act in meaningful and determined political resistance, we will shut you down.” Whether it be the tanks and tear gas in the streets of Ferguson, boycotts and bully threats aimed at silencing prominent voices who speak out or mass arrests in Baltimore, LA or NY. We will not accept this.
We demand:

– Drop the charges on those arrested for protesting murder by police.
– No jail time for political resisters.
– Stop Police Terror.

* The Cleveland police who murdered Tamir Rice have walked free, with no charges filed.
** They were sentenced to two years “summary probation,” large fines and community labor.

Benny Anderson, brother of Johnny Anderson, killed by Lakewood sheriffs, 2015; Rafael Angulo, Clinical Professor, USC School of Social Work; Nicole Berry, sister of John Berry, killed by Lakewood CA Sheriffs, 2015; Paris Bey, cousin of Janisha Fonville, killed by Charlotte, NC police, 2015; Peter Coyote, actor, writer and Zen Buddhist priest; Carl Dix, co-founder, Stop Mass Incarceration Network; Revolutionary Communist Party; Carey Downs, father of James Rivera Jr., killed 2010 by Stockton CA police; Leanne Estrada, mother of 17 year old Hoopa Tribal Member; Richard Fredrick Tis-Mil Estrada, killed by California Highway Patrol on 12-18-2014; Martin Garbus, attorneyKimberly Griffin, mother of Kimoni Davis, killed by Hanging Rock OH police, 2015; Georgia Farrell, mother of Jonathan Ferrell, killed by Charlotte, NC police 2013; Yohana Flores, daughter of Ernesto Flores, murdered by San Bernardino County police, 2015; Chemika Hollis, partner of Nate Wilks, killed by police in Oakland, CA, 2015; Alice Howell, grandmother of Justus Howell, killed by Zion IL police, 2015; Sikivu Hutchinson, author; Tawanda Jones, sister of Tyrone West killed by Baltimore police in 2013; Kevin Kellom, father of Terrence Kellom, killed by Federal ICE agents in Detroit, 2015; Alicia Kirkman, mother of Angelo Miller, 17 years old, killed by Cleveland Police in 2007; Tom Morello, musician, activist; Rev. Cecil L. Murray, Pastor retired at First AME Church, Los Angeles. Professor, Center for Religion and Civic Culture, USC; Edith Obdulio Oliva, father of Carlos Oliva-Sola, killed by LA Sheriffs, September 2013; Erica Parker, sister of Dante Parker, murdered by San Bernardino Sheriffs, 2014; Nate Parker; Marcus Pettiford, son of Anthony Anderson, murdered by Baltimore police, 2012; Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View Newspaper; Ishtyme Robinson, mother of Ahjah Dixon, died in police custody, Corsicana, Texas, 2010; Andre Royo, actor; Chris Silva, brother of David Silva, beat to death by Bakersfield CA police, 2013; Sunsara Taylor, writer, Revolution newspaper,; Terri Thaxton, sister of Michael Nida, killed by Downey CA Police, 2011; Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African American Studies Dept., UCLA; The Lareko Williams family, Lareko Williams was tasered to death by Charlotte, NC police, 2011; Rev. Frank Wulf, Pastor, USC United University Church, Los Angeles

Sign here:



Multiple Clinton Connections Emerge As More “Panama Papers” Names Revealed Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/18/2016 11:33 (SOURCE: ZEROHEDGE)

Multiple Clinton Connections Emerge As More “Panama Papers” Names Revealed
Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/18/2016 11:33
There has been much confusion, at time quite angry, how in the aftermath of the Soros-funded Panama Papers revelations few, if any, prominent U.S. name emerged as a result of the biggest offshore tax leak in history. Now, thanks to McClatchy more U.S. names are finally being revealed and it will probably come as little surprise that many of the newly revealed names have connection to both Bill and Hillary Clinton.

As McClatchy writes, donors to Clinton foundation used the Panamanian law firm for offshores, adding that the connections come from the more than 40 years Bill and Hillary Clinton have spent in public life. Ironically this comes just days after Hillary criticized those exposed in the Panama Papers, accusing them of looking to hide their wealth.

As McClatchy reports, Hillary Clinton recently blasted the hidden financial dealings exposed in the Panama Papers, but she and her husband have multiple connections with people who have used the besieged law firm Mossack Fonseca to establish offshore entities.

Among them are Gabrielle Fialkoff, finance director for Hillary Clinton’s first campaign for the U.S. Senate; Frank Giustra, a Canadian mining magnate who has traveled the globe with Bill Clinton; the Chagoury family, which pledged $1 billion in projects to the Clinton Global Initiative; and Chinese billionaire Ng Lap Seng, who was at the center of a Democratic fund-raising scandal when Bill Clinton was president. Also using the Panamanian law firm was the company founded by the late billionaire investor Marc Rich, an international fugitive when Bill Clinton pardoned him in the final hours of his presidency.

The ties are both recent and decades old, not surprising for the Democratic presidential front-runner and her husband, who have been in public life since the 1970s.

Each is listed in the massive leak of data from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm with expertise in registering offshore companies, which can have legitimate business purposes, but can also be used to evade taxes and launder money. Several heads of state were found in the leak, leading to the departure of the leader of Iceland and investigations in several other countries.

McClatchy Newspapers and about 350 other journalists working under the umbrella of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists have searched an archive containing more than 11.5 million Mossack Fonseca documents, including passports, financial records and emails. After a series of articles earlier this month revealed how business owners and politicians used offshores, authorities raided the law firm’s offices in Panama. The law firm has denied all accusations of wrongdoing.

Hillary Clinton condemned what she called “outrageous tax havens and loopholes that super-rich people across the world are exploiting.”

“Now, some of this behavior is clearly against the law, and everyone who violates the law anywhere should be held accountable,” she said, speaking at the AFL-CIO convention recently. “But it’s also scandalous how much is actually legal.”

The Clintons themselves do not appear to be in Mossack Fonseca’s database, nor does it appear that their daughter, Chelsea, or her husband, Marc Mezvinsky, who co-founded a hedge fund, are listed. But Bill and Hillary Clinton’s connections to people who have used offshores is fuel for her Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.

Clinton has struggled throughout her campaign to show that she can relate to working Americans, while Sanders has cast her as a wealthy out-of-touch Washington insider who has accepted hefty paychecks for speeches and received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from those tied to big businesses. Her connection to the Panama Papers, even if indirect, could magnify that perception.

Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, said it would draw voters’ attention once again to Clinton’s ties to big money. “It certainly would play into Sanders’ narrative,” he said.

Sanders said Clinton’s support of a free-trade agreement between the U.S. and Panama – one that he claims has allowed the wealthy to avoid paying taxes – should disqualify her from being the Democratic nominee for president.

“I don’t think you are qualified if you supported the Panama free trade agreement, something I very strongly opposed, which has made it easier for wealthy people and corporations all over the world to avoid paying taxes owed to their countries,” Sanders said recently.

To be sure, a long life in politics has allowed the Clintons to accumulate relationships to wealthy people and businesses across the globe.

One such connection is to Jean-Raymond Boulle, a one-time diamond miner from the volcanic island nation of Mauritius whose company was once based in Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope, Ark. In the mid 1990s, Boulle was listed as a director of Auk Limited, a British Virgin Islands offshore company, and Gridco Limited, a Bahamas offshore company.

After two meetings with Boulle, Bill Clinton, then-governor of Arkansas, signed legislation allowing his company to engage in exploratory mining in the state. Later, Boulle and his wife attended Clinton’s first inauguration. Boulle’s company did not respond to a message.

“Obviously there’s no wrongdoing – it’s a question of perception and values,” said Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. “They’ve been in public life so long; when you enter that sphere you have these connections.”

Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon declined to answer specific questions about her connections but referred to Clinton’s earlier comments that criticized the behavior last week. Bill Clinton’s office and the Clinton Foundation declined to comment.

Also among the Clinton connections is Fialkoff, now a senior adviser to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and director of the city’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. She, her brother, Brett, and her late father, Frank, are listed as shareholders of UPAC Holdings Ltd, a British Virgin Islands offshore company incorporated in June 2012.

Gabrielle Fialkoff said in an email that she has “no knowledge” of the company and referred questions to her brother.

Brett Fialkoff, who serves as chief operating officer at his family’s business, Haskell Jewels, a New York-based designer, marketer and distributor of costume jewelry, initially told McClatchy he didn’t know why his family would be in the documents. Later, he said that someone must have opened an account in their names.

Still, later, he said he set up an offshore company to export accessories from China to the United States. The documents indicate the company’s files are registered in Beijing.

But, he said, he abandoned the new business to give more attention to his family’s jewelry company. He said there’s no money in any bank account overseas and declined to provide details about his compliance with U.S. tax laws.

“I have news for you: There is no money,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re not like Vladimir Putin, trying to hide money.”

The most recent Mossack Fonseca information of December 2015 shows the company remains active, registered on behalf of the Fialkoffs in the British Virgin Islands by a Hong Kong-based consulting company on June 6, 2012. Brett Failkoff acknowledged the company is still “legally alive” but said it does not – nor has it ever – conducted any business.

Gabrielle Fialkoff, a longtime friend of de Blasio, was finance director for Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, which de Blasio managed. After serving as Haskell’s president and chief operating officer, she chaired de Blasio’s inauguration and led New York’s unsuccessful bid to host the Democratic National Convention in 2016.

She has been a regular donor to Democratic candidates, including Clinton, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in politics. She also donated between $250 and $1,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Her father donated to Clinton as well. Her brother contributed money to Republicans, including presidential candidates Ben Carson and Rand Paul.

Another connection is Giustra, the director of UrAsia Energy Ltd, a British Virgin Islands offshore company registered in May 2005.

The company wanted to “conduct uranium exploration, development, production and marketing operations and related activities in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan,” according to a draft of the shareholders’ agreement.

UrAsia, based in British Columbia, Canada, finalized a deal in September 2005 to buy uranium mines for $500 million in Kazakhstan, according to published reports.

The deal came after Giustra joined Bill Clinton in Kazakhstan for the launch of a Clinton Foundation health initiative and dined with him and Kazakhstan’s president, among others. The timing prompted questions about whether Bill Clinton played any role in the agreement. Giustra denied that, saying it came after months of negotiations.

The following year, Giustra, who is also involved in filmmaking and founded Lionsgate Entertainment, made a donation of more than $30 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to published reports.

In total, Giustra has committed $100 million to the foundation, according to at least one report, though foundation records don’t give an exact amount, saying only that he is one of the largest individual donors giving more than $25 million. In 2007, he started an affiliated charity that bears his name and initially kept its donors secret despite a 2008 agreement between the Clintons and the Obama administration to make public foundation contributors.

Bill Clinton has flown around the globe on Giustra’s plane, sometimes with him, including to Kazakhstan.

Messages left for Giustra on his cell phone and by email and at several of his companies were not returned.

Former fugitive billionaire Marc Rich’s name doesn’t appear in the Panama Papers, but his company does. The Bahamas offshore Industrial Petroleum Limited was registered in 1992, established by the commodities firm Glencore International in Switzerland, inactivated in 2001.

The allegations against Rich, who died in 2013, ranged from tax evasion to trading with Iran despite bans to selling oil to South Africa’s apartheid government. He fled to Switzerland in 1983, but before the pardon, his ex-wife Denise made a $450,000 donation to Clinton’s presidential library in Little Rock.

Rich’s business partners appear in the data too. And they also give generously to the Clinton Foundation.

Sergei Kurzin, a Russian engineer and investor, appears in a draft shareholders agreement in partnership with Giustra in the British Virgin Islands offshore UrAsia Energy Ltd. Kurzin worked closely with Rich in the 1990s looking for opportunities in the former Soviet Union when it was opened to mining and oil investment.

Kurzin, who has given the Clinton Foundation between $50,000 and $100,000, appears in the Panama Papers as the director and chairman of various oil companies. Kurzin was also a partner in the uranium deal involving Giustra.

In a 2009 interview with Forbes, the British-Russian dual citizen boasted of giving generously to a Clinton-Giustra initiative, noting: “I wrote a check for a million dollars. I don’t think you can call it a small amount.”

Messages left for Kurzin were not returned this weekend.

Also in the Panama Papers is Ronald Chagoury, who along with brother Gilbert leads the Chagoury Group, a Nigerian family-run construction business. The brothers were associated with Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha, who died in 1998, and did business with Glencore and Rich, according to news reports.

Ronald Chagoury appears in the Panama Papers as the main shareholder of Echo Art Ltd. in the British Virgin Islands.

In 2009, the Chagoury Group pledged $1 billion in coastal erosion projects to the Clinton Global Initiative, an offshoot of the foundation, according to the initiative’s website.

The Chagoury Group is building Eko Atlantic, a peninsula city adjacent to Lagos that will be reclaimed from the Atlantic Ocean. The company’s website cites the Clinton Global Initiative’s praise for it as an “environmentally conscious city” under construction.

Gilbert Chagoury’s ties to the Clintons stretch back years. He has given to Bill and Hillary Clinton’s campaigns and has donated between $1 million to $5 million to Clinton Foundation, foundation records show. In 2003 he organized a trip to the Caribbean where Bill Clinton was paid $100,000 for a speech.

Messages left for the Chagourys were not returned this weekend.

Another businessman in the Panama papers, Ng, is listed as a shareholder of two British Virgin Islands companies – South South News International Group Ltd in May 2010 and GOLUCK Ltd. in 2004.

He leads a real estate development company in Macau, China, and is one of the world’s wealthiest people. He was accused in 1996 of sending more than $1.1 million to a Little Rock restaurant owner who then contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Democratic National Committee, according to a 1998 Senate committee investigation.

The restaurant owner, Charlie Trie, pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws. Ng was not charged. Another congressional report criticized Ng and others for failing to cooperate during the investigation.

Published reports say Ng visited the White House 10 times from 1994 to 1996, had his photograph taken with Bill and Hillary Clinton, sat beside Bill Clinton at an event at a Washington hotel, and rode in an elevator with Hillary Clinton.

Last year, Ng was charged with bribing a United Nations official and lying about what he was doing with $4.5 million in cash he brought into the U.S. over two years. Investigators say instead of spending it at casinos or on art, antiques or real estate, he used the money for bribes as he sought investments in Antigua and China. Another man listed in the same criminal complaint is president of the New York-based South South News, the same name of the British Virgin Islands company.

Ng’s lawyer, Kevin Tung, has said that his charges are based on a misunderstanding. Tung, Benjamin Brafman and Hugh Mo, two others who are or have represented Ng, did not respond to requests for comment.

In 2011, Sanders predicted in a Senate speech that the Panama trade deal would make it easier for the wealthy to hide their cash in Panama.

“I wish I had been proven wrong about this, but it has now come to light that the extent of Panama’s tax avoidance scams is even worse than I had feared,” he said in a statement earlier this month.

Hillary Clinton had opposed the deal in 2008 when she was running for president. But later, as secretary of state, she helped push the agreement through Congress. Her supporters, however, say that the trade pact did not open the door to additional tax evasion.

A Democrat-controlled Senate approved the trade deal. In October 2012, then-Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., lauded the deal’s “strong language to crack down on tax evasion and money-laundering in Panama.”

Both Clinton and Sanders have vowed to go after Americans who try to hide their wealth.

Clinton said she would shut down what she called the private tax system for the wealthy while Sanders has said he would end the trade deal with Panama within six months and investigate U.S. banks, corporations and individuals stashing their cash in Panama to avoid taxes.

“We’re going after all these scams and make sure that everyone pays their fair share here in America,” she said. “I’m going to hold them accountable, and we’re going to have a special effort to track all these resources wherever they might lead.”

(ZERO HEDGE) Saudi Arabia Threatens To Liquidate Its Treasury Holdings If Congress Probes Its Role In Sept 11 Attacks

Saudi Arabia Threatens To Liquidate Its Treasury Holdings If Congress Probes Its Role In Sept 11 Attacks

Submitted by Tyler Durden on 04/17/2016 09:13

Back in January, when the market was watching in shocked silence as oil prices were crashing to decade lows and as concerns emerged that Saudi Arabia may need to commence selling its vast, if unquantified, USD reserves, we wrote a post titled “Attention Finally Turns To Saudi Arabia’s “Secret” US Treasury Holdings” where we noted something very surprising: whereas we do know that Saudi Arabia is the owner of the world’s third largest USD reserves…

… their actual composition remains as a secret, because while the US discloses the explicit Treasury holdings of all other nations, Saudi Arabia’s holdings, for some unknown reason, are not officially disclosed.

“It’s a secret of the vast U.S. Treasury market, a holdover from an age of oil shortages and mighty petrodollars,” Bloomberg wrote of Saudi Arabia’s US Treasury holdings.

“As a matter of policy, the Treasury has never disclosed the holdings of Saudi Arabia, long a key ally in the volatile Middle East, and instead groups it with 14 other mostly OPEC nations including Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Nigeria,” Bloomberg goes on to note, adding that the rules are different for almost everyone else. Although Saudi Arabia’s “secret” is protected by “an unusual blackout by the U.S. Treasury Department,” for more than a hundred other countries, from China to the Vatican, the Treasury provides a detailed breakdown of how much U.S. debt each holds.”

So who does know how much US paper the Saudis are sitting on? Well, the Saudis of course,”a handful of Treasury officials,” and some bureaucrats at the Fed, Bloomberg says, noting that “for everyone else, it’s a guessing game.”

Yes, a “guessing game,” but one that will very soon have profound consequences for markets and for geopolitics.

We closed with a simple, if suddenly very prophetic question:

“who would be the new patron saint of the US Treasury Department in the event the Saudis drawdown all of their reserves and decide to diversify away from USD assets… Put differently, who will monetize the US deficit if relations between Washington and Riyadh hit the skids over Iran?”
It is this question that has suddenly reemerged with a bang, and could rock the US administration to its core as what until recently was a “fringe conspiracy theory” is suddenly exposed as an all too unpleasant fact, and becomes the biggest political scandal to rock the U.S. in years, in the process maybe even crushing the friendly diplomatic relations the U.S. has held for years with its biggest Mid-East ally, Saudi Arabia.

* * *

First, a quick tangent: we have been greatly surprised by the reemergence of the topic of September 11 in recent weeks, and specifically the taboo – in official circles – issue whether there was a “Saudi connection” in the biggest terrorist attack on US soil. Just last weekend, out of the blue, 60 Minutes held segment on the “28 pages” that were classified in the Congressional investigative report into 9/11 – pages that allegedly confirm the Saudi connection.

To be sure, Saudi officials have long denied that the kingdom had any role in the Sept. 11 plot, and the 9/11 Commission found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization.” But critics have noted that the commission’s narrow wording left open the possibility that less senior officials or parts of the Saudi government could have played a role. Suspicions have lingered, partly because of the conclusions of a 2002 congressional inquiry into the attacks that cited some evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States at the time had a hand in the plot.

Those conclusions, contained in 28 pages of the report, still have not been released publicly. It was the surprising rekindled focus on these 28 pages in recent days that suggested that something may have been afoot.

Something was.

* * *

In a stunning report by the NYT, Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Or mostly Congress, because Obama has remained steadfast in his support of his Wahhabi petrodollar overlords, and has been busy lobbying Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

Deceased Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud presents
Barack Obama with the King Abdul Aziz Order of Merit

By way of background, the Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

Suddenly Saudi Arabia is panicking: its response – if the US does pass this bill it would liquidate hundreds of billion in U.S. denominated assets, and perhaps as much as $750 billion in US Treasurys (the NYT’s estimate of Saudi Treasury holdings).

The NYT rports that none other than Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, “telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts.”

* * *

This stunning threat has caught America off guard, because until now it had largely been speculated that not the Saudis but China would use the “liquidation of Treasurys” as a bargaining chip. As it turns out, Saudi Arabia was the first.

To be sure, the Saudis whose budget deficit has soared in the past year as a result of collapsing oil prices, would stand to benefit from monetizing their US reserves. According to many, it is only a matter of time anyway. However, a dramatic, immediate liquidation would likely spark a market panic. Outside economists are skeptical that the Saudis will follow through, saying that such a sell-off would be difficult to execute and would end up crippling the kingdom’s economy. But the threat is another sign of the escalating tensions between Saudi Arabia and the United States.

The Obama administration, meanwhile, is far less concerned about the market impact of a Saudi liquidation, and far more worried what a real inquiry into the Saudi role of Sept.11 would reveal (and who it would implicate) and as a result is building strawman arguments that the legislation would put Americans at legal risk overseas. In fact, as the NYT reports, “Obama has been lobbying so intently against the bill that some lawmakers and families of Sept. 11 victims are infuriated. In their view, the Obama administration has consistently sided with the kingdom and has thwarted their efforts to learn what they believe to be the truth about the role some Saudi officials played in the terrorist plot.”

“It’s stunning to think that our government would back the Saudis over its own citizens,” said Mindy Kleinberg, whose husband died in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11 and who is part of a group of victims’ family members pushing for the legislation.

Stunning indeed, and yet that’s precisely who the “U.S.” president sides with when attempting to get to the bottom of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Incidentally, Obama will arrive in Riyadh on Wednesday for meetings with King Salman and other Saudi officials. It is unclear whether the dispute over the Sept. 11 legislation will be on the agenda for the talks.

President Obama at a Sept. 11 ceremony in 2015. The Obama administration
argues that the bill would put Americans at legal risk overseas.

* * *

The Saudi threat comes as the dispute comes as bipartisan criticism is growing in Congress about Washington’s alliance with Saudi Arabia, for decades a crucial American ally in the Middle East and half of a partnership that once received little scrutiny from lawmakers. Last week, two senators introduced a resolution that would put restrictions on American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which have expanded during the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, families of the Sept. 11 victims have used the U.S. court system to try to hold members of the Saudi royal family, Saudi banks and charities liable because of what the plaintiffs charged was Saudi financial support for terrorism. These efforts have largely been stymied, in part because of a 1976 law that gives foreign nations some immunity from lawsuits in American courts.

It is this law that the proposed Senate Bill intends to overturn; it is this Bill that Saudi Arabia is suddenly in arms over.

And it is the Saudis that Obama is siding over instead of his own people.

But of course, Obama can’t openly come out and say he would rather keep the truth of Saudi involvement buried than push for a probe, so Obama administration officials counter that “weakening the sovereign immunity provisions would put the American government, along with its citizens and corporations, in legal risk abroad because other nations might retaliate with their own legislation. Secretary of State John Kerry told a Senate panel in February that the bill, in its current form, would “expose the United States of America to lawsuits and take away our sovereign immunity and create a terrible precedent.”

In a closed-door briefing on Capitol Hill on March 4, Anne W. Patterson, an assistant secretary of state, and Andrew Exum, a top Pentagon official on Middle East policy, told staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that American troops and civilians could be in legal jeopardy if other nations decide to retaliate and strip Americans of immunity abroad. They also discussed the Saudi threats specifically, laying out the impacts if Saudi Arabia made good on its economic threats.
In other words, the logic is that if the US pursues a full-blown inquiry into the Saudi role behind 9/11, the US itself would be subject to a comparable stripping of immunity – with respect to alleged U.S. terrorist attacks – and “create a terrible precedent.” In effect, the US government is defending its position by saying that if one can get to the bottom of Saudi terrorism in the U.S., the world may next learn about U.S. terrorism across the globe.

And that just can’t be allowed to happen.

Meanwhile, even as Obama fights tooth and nail to protect the Saudi’s dirty laundry, the administration pretends to side with US citizens: “John Kirby, a State Department spokesman, said in a statement that the administration stands by the victims of terrorism, “especially those who suffered and sacrificed so much on 9/11.” It just refuses to reveal those who are truly responsible for their death.

* * *

But back to the Saudi (mostly hollow) threat of dumping US Treasuries should the proposed Bill be passed, which indeed is nothing more than just that, especially since the Fed or BOJ would be delighted to have found a willing seller who has as much as three quarter of a trillion in US paper lying around.

Edwin M. Truman, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said he thought the Saudis were most likely making an “empty threat.” Selling hundreds of billions of dollars in American assets would not only be technically difficult to pull off, he said, but would also very likely cause global market turmoil for which the Saudis would be blamed.

Moreover, he said, it could destabilize the American dollar — the currency to which the Saudi riyal is pegged.

“The only way they could punish us is by punishing themselves,” Mr. Truman said.

Well, they would also punish the Fed, because suddenly the Petrodollar would re-emerge as the main driving force behind the value of the greenback.

* * *

And yet, perhaps the Saudis have reason to panic: the Senate bill is an anomaly in a Congress fractured by bitter partisanship, especially during an election year. It is sponsored by Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas, and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York. It has the support of an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative senators, including Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, and Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas. It passed through the Judiciary Committee in January without dissent.

“As our nation confronts new and expanding terror networks that are targeting our citizens, stopping the funding source for terrorists becomes even more important,” Mr. Cornyn said last month.

It is almost as if Congress has decided to end the long-running alliance the U.S. has had with Saudi Arabia, despite the bitter protests of the administration; it has decided to use the Sept.11 disclosure as its own bargaining chip.

To be sure, as the NYT notes, the alliance with Saudi Arabia has frayed in recent years as the White House has tried to thaw ties with Iran — Saudi Arabia’s bitter enemy— in the midst of recriminations between American and Saudi officials about the role that both countries should play in the stability of the Middle East. But the administration has supported Saudi Arabia on other fronts, including providing the country with targeting intelligence and logistical support for its war in Yemen. The Saudi military is flying jets and dropping bombs it bought from the United States — part of the billions of dollars in arms deals that have been negotiated with Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations during the Obama administration.

The war has been a humanitarian disaster and fueled a resurgence of Al Qaeda in Yemen, leading to the resolution in Congress to put new restrictions on arms deals to the kingdom. Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, one of the resolution’s sponsors and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Congress has been “feckless” in conducting oversight of arms sales, especially those destined for Saudi Arabia.
“My first desire is for our relationship with Saudi Arabia to come with a greater degree of conditionality than it currently does,” he said.

That also appears to be Obama’s last desire; while the only desire Saudi Arabia has is to maintain the status quo, one where nobody looks at who pulled the strings behind Sept. 11 and in exchange for which the Saudis would continue dutifully recycling petrodollars, or if they don’t get their way, they will simply proceed to launch the biggest liquidation of US Treasurys in history. Or such is their stunning threat..

Which brings us to the original question: why the Saudi panic, and why immediately threaten with the “nuclear option”, namely liquidating US Treasurys, if the Saudis have nothing to hide?

The question is, of course, rhetorical.