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Taibbi writes: "This is the disgrace to end all disgraces. It doesn't even make any sense. There is no reason why the Justice Department couldn't have snatched up everybody at HSBC involved with the trafficking, prosecuted them criminally, and worked with banking regulators to make sure that the bank survived the transition to new management."

Matt Taibbi. (photo: Current TV)
Matt Taibbi. (photo: Current TV)

HSBC Settlement Proves the Drug War Is a Joke

By Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

15 December 12


f you've ever been arrested on a drug charge, if you've ever spent even a day in jail for having a stem of marijuana in your pocket or "drug paraphernalia" in your gym bag, Assistant Attorney General and longtime Bill Clinton pal Lanny Breuer has a message for you: Bite me.

Breuer this week signed off on a settlement deal with the British banking giant HSBC that is the ultimate insult to every ordinary person who's ever had his life altered by a narcotics charge. Despite the fact that HSBC admitted to laundering billions of dollars for Colombian and Mexican drug cartels (among others) and violating a host of important banking laws (from the Bank Secrecy Act to the Trading With the Enemy Act), Breuer and his Justice Department elected not to pursue criminal prosecutions of the bank, opting instead for a "record" financial settlement of $1.9 billion, which as one analyst noted is about five weeks of income for the bank.

The banks' laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC's Mexican branches and "deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows."

This bears repeating: in order to more efficiently move as much illegal money as possible into the "legitimate" banking institution HSBC, drug dealers specifically designed boxes to fit through the bank's teller windows. Tony Montana's henchmen marching dufflebags of cash into the fictional "American City Bank" in Miami was actually more subtle than what the cartels were doing when they washed their cash through one of Britain's most storied financial institutions.


Though this was not stated explicitly, the government's rationale in not pursuing criminal prosecutions against the bank was apparently rooted in concerns that putting executives from a "systemically important institution" in jail for drug laundering would threaten the stability of the financial system. The New York Times put it this way:

Federal and state authorities have chosen not to indict HSBC, the London-based bank, on charges of vast and prolonged money laundering, for fear that criminal prosecution would topple the bank and, in the process, endanger the financial system.

It doesn't take a genius to see that the reasoning here is beyond flawed. When you decide not to prosecute bankers for billion-dollar crimes connected to drug-dealing and terrorism (some of HSBC's Saudi and Bangladeshi clients had terrorist ties, according to a Senate investigation), it doesn't protect the banking system, it does exactly the opposite. It terrifies investors and depositors everywhere, leaving them with the clear impression that even the most "reputable" banks may in fact be captured institutions whose senior executives are in the employ of (this can't be repeated often enough) murderers and terrorists. Even more shocking, the Justice Department's response to learning about all of this was to do exactly the same thing that the HSBC executives did in the first place to get themselves in trouble – they took money to look the other way.

And not only did they sell out to drug dealers, they sold out cheap. You'll hear bragging this week by the Obama administration that they wrested a record penalty from HSBC, but it's a joke. Some of the penalties involved will literally make you laugh out loud. This is from Breuer's announcement:

As a result of the government's investigation, HSBC has . . . "clawed back" deferred compensation bonuses given to some of its most senior U.S. anti-money laundering and compliance officers, and agreed to partially defer bonus compensation for its most senior officials during the five-year period of the deferred prosecution agreement.

Wow. So the executives who spent a decade laundering billions of dollars will have to partially defer their bonuses during the five-year deferred prosecution agreement? Are you fucking kidding me? That's the punishment? The government's negotiators couldn't hold firm on forcing HSBC officials to completely wait to receive their ill-gotten bonuses? They had to settle on making them "partially" wait? Every honest prosecutor in America has to be puking his guts out at such bargaining tactics. What was the Justice Department's opening offer – asking executives to restrict their Caribbean vacation time to nine weeks a year?

So you might ask, what's the appropriate financial penalty for a bank in HSBC's position? Exactly how much money should one extract from a firm that has been shamelessly profiting from business with criminals for years and years? Remember, we're talking about a company that has admitted to a smorgasbord of serious banking crimes. If you're the prosecutor, you've got this bank by the balls. So how much money should you take?

How about all of it? How about every last dollar the bank has made since it started its illegal activity? How about you dive into every bank account of every single executive involved in this mess and take every last bonus dollar they've ever earned? Then take their houses, their cars, the paintings they bought at Sotheby's auctions, the clothes in their closets, the loose change in the jars on their kitchen counters, every last freaking thing. Take it all and don't think twice. And then throw them in jail.

Sound harsh? It does, doesn't it? The only problem is, that's exactly what the government does just about every day to ordinary people involved in ordinary drug cases.

It'd be interesting, for instance, to ask the residents of Tenaha, Texas what they think about the HSBC settlement. That's the town where local police routinely pulled over (mostly black) motorists and, whenever they found cash, offered motorists a choice: They could either allow police to seize the money, or face drug and money laundering charges.

Or we could ask Anthony Smelley, the Indiana resident who won $50,000 in a car accident settlement and was carrying about $17K of that in cash in his car when he got pulled over. Cops searched his car and had drug dogs sniff around: The dogs alerted twice. No drugs were found, but police took the money anyway. Even after Smelley produced documentation proving where he got the money from, Putnam County officials tried to keep the money on the grounds that he could have used the cash to buy drugs in the future.

Seriously, that happened. It happens all the time, and even Lanny Breuer's own Justice Deparment gets into the act. In 2010 alone, U.S. Attorneys' offices deposited nearly $1.8 billion into government accounts as a result of forfeiture cases, most of them drug cases. You can see the Justice Department's own statistics right here:

If you get pulled over in America with cash and the government even thinks it's drug money, that cash is going to be buying your local sheriff or police chief a new Ford Expedition tomorrow afternoon.

And that's just the icing on the cake. The real prize you get for interacting with a law enforcement officer, if you happen to be connected in any way with drugs, is a preposterous, outsized criminal penalty. Right here in New York, one out of every seven cases that ends up in court is a marijuana case.

Just the other day, while Breuer was announcing his slap on the wrist for the world's most prolific drug-launderers, I was in arraignment court in Brooklyn watching how they deal with actual people. A public defender explained the absurdity of drug arrests in this city. New York actually has fairly liberal laws about pot – police aren't supposed to bust you if you possess the drug in private. So how do police work around that to make 50,377 pot-related arrests in a single year, just in this city? Tthat was 2010; the 2009 number was 46,492.)

"What they do is, they stop you on the street and tell you to empty your pockets," the public defender explained. "Then the instant a pipe or a seed is out of the pocket – boom, it's 'public use.' And you get arrested."

People spend nights in jail, or worse. In New York, even if they let you off with a misdemeanor and time served, you have to pay $200 and have your DNA extracted – a process that you have to pay for (it costs 50 bucks). But even beyond that, you won't have search very far for stories of draconian, idiotic sentences for nonviolent drug crimes.

Just ask Cameron Douglas, the son of Michael Douglas, who got five years in jail for simple possession. His jailers kept him in solitary for 23 hours a day for 11 months and denied him visits with family and friends. Although your typical non-violent drug inmate isn't the white child of a celebrity, he's usually a minority user who gets far stiffer sentences than rich white kids would for committing the same crimes – we all remember the crack-versus-coke controversy in which federal and state sentencing guidelines left (predominantly minority) crack users serving sentences up to 100 times harsher than those meted out to the predominantly white users of powdered coke.

The institutional bias in the crack sentencing guidelines was a racist outrage, but this HSBC settlement blows even that away. By eschewing criminal prosecutions of major drug launderers on the grounds (the patently absurd grounds, incidentally) that their prosecution might imperil the world financial system, the government has now formalized the double standard.

They're now saying that if you're not an important cog in the global financial system, you can't get away with anything, not even simple possession. You will be jailed and whatever cash they find on you they'll seize on the spot, and convert into new cruisers or toys for your local SWAT team, which will be deployed to kick in the doors of houses where more such inessential economic cogs as you live. If you don't have a systemically important job, in other words, the government's position is that your assets may be used to finance your own political disenfranchisement.

On the other hand, if you are an important person, and you work for a big international bank, you won't be prosecuted even if you launder nine billion dollars. Even if you actively collude with the people at the very top of the international narcotics trade, your punishment will be far smaller than that of the person at the very bottom of the world drug pyramid. You will be treated with more deference and sympathy than a junkie passing out on a subway car in Manhattan (using two seats of a subway car is a common prosecutable offense in this city). An international drug trafficker is a criminal and usually a murderer; the drug addict walking the street is one of his victims. But thanks to Breuer, we're now in the business, officially, of jailing the victims and enabling the criminals.

This is the disgrace to end all disgraces. It doesn't even make any sense. There is no reason why the Justice Department couldn't have snatched up everybody at HSBC involved with the trafficking, prosecuted them criminally, and worked with banking regulators to make sure that the bank survived the transition to new management. As it is, HSBC has had to replace virtually all of its senior management. The guilty parties were apparently not so important to the stability of the world economy that they all had to be left at their desks.

So there is absolutely no reason they couldn't all face criminal penalties. That they are not being prosecuted is cowardice and pure corruption, nothing else. And by approving this settlement, Breuer removed the government's moral authority to prosecute anyone for any other drug offense. Not that most people didn't already know that the drug war is a joke, but this makes it official. your social media marketing partner


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+155 # DPM 2012-12-15 16:11
In the past 15 or 20 years, I have become so tired at reacting to the outrages perpetrated upon us by big business and our government, I am almost out of outrage. Voting doesn't seem to help. Protesting doesn't seem to help. Hiding doesn't do it. Now what?
+83 # Malcolm 2012-12-15 16:36
I presume it's not POSSIBLE that the folks who perpetrated this travesty could have-COULD HAVE-profited in some way?

Kickbacks come to mind.

I won't make that accusation, of course, valuing my freedom, but one has to wonder, don't we?

Or maybe there's no kickbacks, no payola, no "look the other way" drugs changing hands. Maybe it's just sort of like "Professional Courtesy".
+43 # Smiley 2012-12-15 18:40
Or offers you can't refuse?
+38 # Scotty44 2012-12-15 21:13
It really makes it look like the Obama administration is part of the Mafia.
+38 # DemocracyNeedsDefenders 2012-12-16 03:06
If this happened in Russia or China all would be loudly proclaiming that the prosecutor and the judge who signed off have both been bought. It's brazen. Where is the FBI's anti-corruption squad?
+34 # DemocracyNeedsDefenders 2012-12-16 03:07
And sickest of all US Servicemen are dying fighting the same terrorists that are protected by Breuer and his friends.
+2 # 2012-12-15 21:13
What the Mattabbi has it right don't be like a Rollingstone snifferdog the Drug dealers stay off it keep their girls sniffing and dress respectable as they bank billions, then pay USA a cheap bribe $1.9 abour 1% tax equivalent for cheap peace. HSBC into laundry of drugs and gun-runners alike and libor scams to boot. They well know lawyers cost more for a maybe loss, but early settlement by bribing administrations is cheaper than the tax 15% even Corps pay.
+15 # RLF 2012-12-16 07:32
Even the CIA needs a bank!
+12 # STEVEBONZAI 2012-12-15 23:44
READ- The Strength of the Wolf: The Secret History of America's War on Drugs. Douglas Valentine (Author)
One of the best books i have ever read.
+13 # Surflar 2012-12-16 12:21
It seems pointless because the government is relentless in taking our rights away and destroying our country from within. When did cash become illegal? Is all money drug money in the eyes of the government? This is truly disgraceful.
+12 # wrknight 2012-12-16 19:08
You shouldn't be outraged at big business. After all, they are only predators doing what predators do naturally. And government only does what Congress tells it to do. And members of Congress only do what voters allow them to do. (Never forget, you get a chance to fire those idiots every other year.)

Your outrage should be directed at
1) voters whose heads are placed squarely where they can't see daylight when they vote blindly for the same tired politicians that gave us this shit in the first place and
2) voters who are too lazy to get out and vote.

These are the people who set us up for failure.
+11 # myungbluth 2012-12-17 10:22
If a "solution" was easy, I'm sure we all would suggest one. Truth be told, the issue is a very complex one, given real world realities. But how about shining a small ray of light by naming all the senators and congresspersons who are in the pockets of HSBC? How about asking some of our oh-so-noble elected "leaders" a few difficult questions?
+107 # Guy 2012-12-15 16:30
"This is the disgrace to end all disgraces."

So very well said.A Nation descending into depravity .
+35 # Anarchist 23 2012-12-15 19:20
A nation wallowing in it.
+93 # Gnome de Pluehm 2012-12-15 16:39
I feel no loyalty to this government at all. This is not related to the current president, but to the entire government. I have held the highest security clearance in the military and I owe no foreign allegiance. This is too disgusting for words.
+84 # Adoregon 2012-12-15 16:53
Unless impartial, law is not just and justice is not at all.

The Controlled Substances Act (which prohibits cannabis, but does not subject alcohol and tobacco to its scheduling criteria, is not impartial law.

It is politically preferential law.
The prohibition of cannabis is bogus.
+31 # SlowFuse 2012-12-15 17:05
clean , right at ya, drive the point home writing
+87 # Belt Buckle 2012-12-15 17:21
Sorry, Matt, but there are many reasons why prosecution didn't happen, but they all come under the heading: "Corporations are Special People."
+37 # fredboy 2012-12-15 17:35
Of course it's a joke. And a huge, influential and co-dependent industry. Go to any community, identify the big players, and start snooping. It is the foundation of the financial and legal communities.
+53 # Lao Tzu 2012-12-15 17:38
This a complete farce. Partially deferred bonuses, ETC. If the White House responds to petitions with 25,000 signatures lets see if we can reach take number. Be a thorn in their sides until something happens. Crime on this scale must be prosecuted
+22 # Alexis Fecteau 2012-12-15 19:36
Maybe they'll agree to defer the dividend bonus loot another couple days with 25,000 signatures
+59 # Kathymoi 2012-12-15 18:45
Once again, I have to say that corporations are not people. A corporation (a bank in this case) does not commit a crime. A person commits a crime. A person in the management of the bank committed crimes. Several people in the management of the bank committed crimes. These people (and not a bank) need to be tried for the crimes that they committed, and if found guilty of crimes, need to be sentenced to appropriate punishment. It seems that appropriate punishment for laundering money and for trafficking with known terrorists would involve time in prison and a fine commenserate with the salaries of the people committing the crimes. Failure to charge the people who committed crimes with the crimes that they obviously committed is beyond immoral. How can it be allowed?????
+21 # Malcolm 2012-12-15 20:44
Money laundering. Nice and clean. Maybe some of these thugs need to be locked in their vaults, where they can eat lettuce.
+45 # Scotty44 2012-12-15 21:17
When crime is part of the corporation's culture, the corporation is a criminal interprise and should be closed down.
+60 # 2012-12-15 18:50
No Matt, it proves that some banks are too big to jail. Along with their avaricious leaders, their influence is beyond the media's, public's and possibly the government's powers to control. That is what you get from eight years of deregulation, lax enforcement and cozy Congressional Relationships with the financial industry. Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush; with Congress' passiveness created these monsters. It is up to them to tame them. We need legislation - not from the White House - initiated by Congress to break up these banks like they broke up Standard Oil and AT&T. We need President Obama to use the Bully Pulpit to go over Congress' head, as Reagan did, to the American people to force the hand of Congress to pass such legislation. I am sure President Obama would sign same.
+17 # Malcolm 2012-12-15 20:50
I gave you an upward bound, green, thumb. But i'm not holding my breath.

I think that the 1% and the federal "leaders" are m/l one and the same. WTF do they do with all their ill gotten money? A friend of mine bought a huge schooner, down in Eureka, CA. Some (presumably 1 percenter had bought it, paid the slip fee for DECADES. He never even set foot on it. This schooner eventually got enough rot that it sank.

My buddy went down in scuba gear, and filled the ship with air, to refloat it. He then rebuilt the whole thing, which took a couple of years.

My point: what do these rich fux need all that money for? To waste it, like in the case of this schooner?
+33 # wrknight 2012-12-15 21:47
No, they don't waste it. They use it to buy stocks and bigger shares of corporations. They buy bonds that pay back interest. And if they can't think of anything better, they lend the government money in exchange for Treasury notes that pay interest. Everything they invest in is intended to bring in more money. That's how the rich get richer, and you and I are paying for it.

Soon there will be no middle class left in this country because we allowed the rich to buy the politicians who make the rules that help the rich get richer.
+12 # Malcolm 2012-12-16 12:59
I see your point, but I'm less concerned with their having "money" (which is, after all, mostly fictitious-just numbers on a computer). I'm more concerned about the waste of real THINGS, such as the schooner, such as owning several huge homes, cars, and all the other crap that some like to accumulate. I'm also concerned about such things a school budgets, cost of health, &c. These jerks are affecting all this stuff, by their greed.
+5 # SMoonz 2012-12-17 03:59
Obama won't sign such legislation and Congress wouldn't either. Reread the article and realize one thing and that is the politicians are in bed with the banking and drug industry.
+31 # sociserg 2012-12-15 18:55
It's difficult for the U.S. Department of Justice to have legitimacy (LEGITIMACY) if it's unwilling/incap able to do its basic job of punishing criminal bankers. This reminds me of El Salvadoran government in the 1980s. God bless the U.S.
+21 # Malcolm 2012-12-15 20:51
Or Presidente Pinochet...

Or George W. Bush.

Or, sad to say, Barack Obama?
+69 # GerryBD 2012-12-15 18:55
There will surely be more to this story than is being told. Given the known links between drug suppliers, international distribution through CIA/DEA etc, political leaders, and bankers, it clear that HSBC's actions is just a small showing of a systemic hornets nest. No HSBC exec would go to jail without telling stories that implicated the other institutional players afore mentioned. The decision wasn't taking care of the bankers. I'm betting it covered ass much closer to home.
+15 # Malcolm 2012-12-15 20:51
Excellent points, sir.
+22 # 2012-12-15 21:16
You got that right HSBC staffers could sink more than a government. Much the same as fixing JFK or Lincoln, silencing Stevens with a Petraeus sex story what a joke the truth must never be allowed out of a CIA bag.
+12 # treadlightly 2012-12-16 00:27
Cha Ching!! You nailed it. The freakin government IS organized crime. Who went to jail for the Sub Prime Mortgage Scam ? Nobody..Our only hope is that vigilantes all over the world start doling out the justice that our governments refuse to. Oh no wait, that would be terrorism, what was I thinking !
+3 # 2012-12-17 22:41
Far better this way the Banks had caused World Great Depression the experts claim. So this time they robbed you the citizens, cheated the taxes of your government and borrowed cheap bailouts. US Treasury reported profit $2bn from more than one of their bailouts, I think a car company and an Insurance group? a billion or two here and there from Subprimes and a billion or few from libor scams, a billion or few from laundering and drug money deals etc etc. At this rate both UK and USA will clear their debt anbd defits sooner. And all settled without costly court process aand judges not asked to warp constitutions. Great grab the $$$$$ as a funny tax then think about fixing the preventative laws later and congress slowness. They will probably still compromise new law to suit the big payers not the majority voters. But get the dosh easy way first then think of new law. I suggest people's SCOTUS to replace Capitalist lackies first.
+11 # Serious 2012-12-15 19:07
Remarkably, this story line was anticipated decades ago by an episode of "Miami Vice" entitled "Too Big to Fail." The first five minutes of this YouTube clip shows the relevant action, unfortunately dubbed in Italian. Life imitates art once again!
+33 # PeterSee 2012-12-15 19:08
Excellent, well-argued article. The outrage is appropriate. Will enough people see it, share it, to make a difference? An absolute outrage: men in suits with plenty of money are above the law-- own the law-- and everyday folks without power get their lives trashed.
+28 # JSRaleigh 2012-12-15 19:19
Actually, the $1.9 billion "settlement" is a net operating loss the bank can carry forward to reduce future tax liabilities.
+14 # bsmith 2012-12-15 19:28
+26 # cordleycoit 2012-12-15 19:30
Remember when the Russians emptied the Bank of New York? Did they pay back the thousands of investors with trust accounts even though they paid a fine not one penny went the victims.This reminds me of the Denver connection where the Bush family walked form Silverado.Neil Bush was too big to fail.
+16 # pamelawy 2012-12-15 19:37
Shew. Your first few sentences pulled me up short. Well, yes I have. After building a life in Africa as a late-middle-age d white woman, it was a total surprise one day when I got busted for having a little bit of weed, was thrown into an African jail for a week and then taken directly to the airport with a deportation order. Never saw my house or my friends again. So, yes, I know what it's like.
Now I'll read the rest of your article - as always with a mixture of pleasure and outrage.
+25 # tutu 2012-12-15 19:46
there is no justice in our justice dept.
+19 # uncbros 2012-12-15 20:00
This is nothing new it has been going on forever.The rich and powerful work tirelessly to stack the deck in their favor.Money talks and BS walks . Heard that before? Since the founding Fathers set up this country to escape these Greedy Bastards. The Greedy have been working overtime to destroy what they have created.Right now unless working America stop looking at their Brothers and Sisters who fought and died to get their due through Unions etc [United we stand divided we fall and were falling]instead of looking at the real welfare Queens at the top. I'm afraid these injustices will continue.The key to people power again is getting the money out of the political system,and a free press.If money is classified as free speech isn't a Gun If you think not. Ask a Bank teller when it's stuck in Her face.Money is not Free. True it is speech it speaks loud and clear. Give me what I want and I will reward you handsomely. It used to be called Bribery.
+12 # Scotty44 2012-12-15 21:27
The founding fathers set this country up to protect the rich. That is the argument made in "An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States."
+9 # Interested Observer 2012-12-16 07:42
The sort of thing Rockefeller must have meant when he said "I have ways of making money you know nothing of."
+6 # RHytonen 2012-12-17 01:02
I belive the key is stopping the energy corporations and bankers.
+13 # L H 2012-12-15 21:17
This is the collapsing of a society, like the fall of Rome. POWER just can't cut it before the system times out. It doesn't work, ever.

Mike has studied these guys for so long. You can "hear" the exasperated tone in his words.

Our hope and survival have to be much different than our world. Our "test" could be just around the corner. These guys are "takers" and won't pass the test.

But, the Salt of the Earth has a good chance.
+14 # angelfish 2012-12-15 21:41
One more time: WHERE is Justice in America?
+9 # uncbros 2012-12-16 00:14
As bad as things are justice is still in the hands of the people
+21 # wrknight 2012-12-15 22:02
The first thing that has to be done is to get big money out of politics. If you want to help, get on the "Corporations are not People" constitutional amendment bandwagon. Write to your senators and representatives . And in 2014, make sure that the candidate you vote for supports the amendment.

Google "Overturn Citizens United" or "Corporations are not People" to find activities in your area and join the movement.

Don't just complain. Act!
+7 # Malcolm 2012-12-16 13:01
Better to at least try to get the state legislators to order a constitutional convention. The federales are NOT going to go along with any meaningful amendment.

+6 # RHytonen 2012-12-17 01:01
Quoting Malcolm:
Better to at least try to get the state legislators to order a constitutional convention. The federales are NOT going to go along with any meaningful amendment.


Which is why the corporate dictators of this country decided to start at the state level to cement fascism.
+17 # WallStWallFlowerGirl 2012-12-15 22:38
As big as this story is, it's been lost in the what happened in Newton, Connecticut. The old political trick of suppressing a story until August, in the waning days of summer- when nobody is home to watch the news- is how news isn't news.

Anybody heard of LIBOR (London Interstate Banking something, something)? It was HUGE news also regarding the banks (perhaps related?). It was coming out in snippets until... ta-da! The Olympics came to family rooms across the globe and LIBOR couldn't compete, never to be bombshell of news it was destined to be.

Money is the only language people full of avarice understand and when more people don't have it than do, our options are limited; but that's not what I sense to be futile. We could boycott the banks into bankruptcy but everybody, and I mean e-v-e-r-y-b-o-d -y, must be on board... alas, therein lay the futility in ever bringing these bastards down.

Ironically enough, I refer back to one of my favorite quotes from "Once Upon a Time in Mexico." As Johnny says: "What this country needs is one giant enema to clean out the system."

+19 # Robert Cohen 2012-12-15 23:25
Taibbi's article suggests a new slogan, that the sacred financial people are "too big to jail".

The disgraceful outrage of DOJ's selective criminal prosecutions is, unfortunately, all too credible, in view of the legalized corruption of our political leaders by their receiving bribes in the form of campaign contributions.

The only remedy to save our nation is to get the money-givers out of national politics. A likely way of doing so is to file class-action lawsuits seeking to reverse two absurd Supreme Court decisions: Santa Clara (corporate personhood), and Buckley ("money is speech"). Success will require one of the five conservative Justices to again step forward and go down in history as a true American patriot, as did Chief Justice Roberts recently in upholding Obamneycare.

As the cases advance toward the Supreme Court, widening public awareness of them will propel a tsunami of public pressure, outcry, and support. Polls indicate that ~80% of Americans are disgusted with the legalized corruption of our politicians.

Once those decisions are reversed, the liberated Congress would be enabled to enact legislation in the public interest, such as to provide for public financing of elections, free airtime for candidates, universal health care, raising needed revenue from those who can best afford to provide it, and exerting world leadership in preventing and mitigating global warming.

Write me at
+9 # hoodwinkednomore 2012-12-16 00:31
Yes, WallStWallFlowe rGirl, excellent point: One large enema and Woosh! Wa La! (don't know how to speak French, much less spell French...what can I say, I'm from the U.S...) And, as always, Matt Taibbi, excellent article. Unf**kingbeliev able that I can get thrown into jail for stealing a lousy candy bar BUT not these moneymongering A**holes. More to the story...lots to hide...I do agree that a particularly effective strategy would be to bankrupt the banks. It would take ALL of us, as Wallflower says!
+9 # Malcolm 2012-12-16 13:06
Hey, I don't know about you, but any money I have in my bank "earns" me only about 1/4% annual interest. In other words, it's worth less when I withdraw it than it was when I deposited it-after inflation. Maybe we should all simply withdraw all our money, and put it in a mattress, or a tin can. Or simply in our pockets, in some cases :)
+9 # earwaves369 2012-12-16 01:09
Two tiered Justice System....

Yes, two distinct divisions of the Justice Department. For years, this has been going on. Not new indeed. One is tied to the Drug, Gun Running, Military feeding trough Mafia....and the other...well, that's for you and me. Banking, Drugs, Guns run this country. Period. No question if you ever needed a better example. B of A, Wells Fargo, they're all drug launderers. Who is anyone kidding?
+6 # jimmythelark 2012-12-16 02:42
Great Article Matt!!! What we need is a "DEXTER" out there to really clean up Washington. The Corporations, Washington- the politicians , the 1%--- Make them pay for their misdeeds!!! Our justice system protects the RICH and POWERFUL !!!
+12 # Mrcead 2012-12-16 04:11
Brilliant. Now I have to apologise to my conspiracy theorist brother-in-law.
+6 # rradiof 2012-12-16 07:11
Mena, Arkansas. Barry Seal. Hillary Clinton passes out, falls, and is concussed. Ooops, I just remembered her answer to a question posed by a Mexican journalist in 2011, here is the Q & A: Denise Maerker (Televista) "In Mexico, there are those who propose not keeping going with this battle and legalize drug trafficking and consumption What is your opinion? Hillary Clinton: I don't think that will work. I mean, I hear the same debate. I hear it in my country. It is not likely to work. There is just too much money in it, and I don't think that-you can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped." The Drug War started during the First Opium War in the 1830s and has never stopped. Today American junkies get the world's best heroin from Afghanistan. During the 1970s American junkies got their heroin from the Golden Triangle, courtesy of our late-departed Burmese friend, Khun Sa. Sort of eerie that Obomber visited Burma prior to our exit from Afghanistan. Oops, Kharzai's brother may be the world largest heroin dealer. Sharpen the guillotine. To the barricades. Dieu nous aide tous. Over and out.
+11 # zornorff 2012-12-16 07:47
And god help the poor schnook who withdraws cash for a vacation or to give to his brother and has to fill out a CTR so the bank can report a possible money launderer. Justice is a fucking joke...belongin g only to those with the most money.
+6 # 2012-12-16 08:09
Good points, Matt.

Since WWII, any time the government "declares war"; it will costs the taxpayers billions of dollars and the war will be lost. War aga. drugs, aga. poverty, aga. poor healthcare. You watch greater costs, and a cause lost. It's the gov't way.
+10 # gdp1 2012-12-16 08:48
...and, I spent 21 months in Viet Nam to arrive at this fascist state of affairs.....Ame rica: go fuck yourself
+5 # RHytonen 2012-12-17 00:55
Quoting gdp1:
...and, I spent 21 months in Viet Nam to arrive at this fascist state of affairs.....America: go fuck yourself

If we were under 30 we would already be out of here. In fact I would have to say, if we were under 45. Many of the kids of whom I know, and in the family, HAVE left - for England, France, Sweden.
+11 # wrknight 2012-12-16 09:18
No, Matt. The drug war is not a joke. It's part of a very serious war waged by the 1% to acquire all the wealth there is at the expense of anyone who's not a member of the "1% club". Making drugs illegal is just one way the 1% use the political system to extract wealth from those who can't defend themselves.
+9 # Gnome de Pluehm 2012-12-16 10:29
Remember when Dick Cheney argued that "principles are ok 'up to a point'?" That means they are strategies and not principles. Therein lies the rub; the only working principle is "America first and foremost in power and wealth." Those in power will sacrifice anything and everything if it is necessary or advisable to preserve this position. NOTHING stands in the way of that./
+3 # 2012-12-16 10:31
Breur absolutely could not make a decision like that on his own. THAT decision came from the very top. Why aren't the millions who voted for him protesting in the streets? At least, they could protest his A.G. Holder.

Yes, money was laundered for terrorists, and the terrorists used the money to buy weaponry to kill Americans.

THAT decision about HSBC came from the very top....the very top.
+6 # fresh aire 2012-12-16 10:53
dec. 16, 2012
U bring up an excellent point about, NSA "The banks' laundering transactions were so brazen that the NSA probably could have spotted them from space. Breuer admitted that drug dealers would sometimes come to HSBC's Mexican branches and "deposit hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, in a single day, into a single account, using boxes designed to fit the precise dimensions of the teller windows." "

It's pretty clear to me that fleecing a nation of it's wealth ($'s) brings about its downfall. ERGO, that is an attack on that nation. What's needed to have America's communications (audio, visual, electronic, etc) intercept be applied to all forms of financial institutions when there is "probable cause" to suspect wrong-doing?
Doesn't the American government already do that for American Citizens?
+9 # wrknight 2012-12-16 12:02
Quoting gdp1:
...and, I spent 21 months in Viet Nam to arrive at this fascist state of affairs.....America: go fuck yourself

Don't go there gdp1. This war has been going on everywhere forever. Greed knows no bounds. If you want to do something about it, your chances of success are better here than anywhere else. But to do that, you have to take action to cure the sickness that we have allowed to infect our political system. And to do that, support the reform movements, write your letters to members of Congress and most important, choose carefully who you vote for in 2014. If they don't support reform, let them know they lost your vote and vote for someone who will. Then reach out to everyone you know and get them to do the same.

We can win this war, but not by sitting on our asses and complaining.
+2 # RHytonen 2012-12-18 18:05
Quoting wrknight:
Quoting gdp1:
...and, I spent 21 months in Viet Nam to arrive at this fascist state of affairs.....America: go fuck yourself

Don't go there gdp1. This war has been going on everywhere forever. Greed knows no bounds. If you want to do something about it, your chances of success are better here than anywhere else.

Then why are their laws and governments so much better, i.e. responsive to, and supportive of, the people; than ours?
+10 # 1984 2012-12-16 13:04
I don't see why they still can't be charged criminally
A petition should be sent around by one of the big political sites Perhaps we can pressure the justice department to go ahead and file charges.
+12 # wleming 2012-12-16 13:39
matt does it again: gives you what the corporate media can't: the truth. amazing how the truth doesn't get media time, is it that these sycophant corporate newsreaders have investment portfolios with the people who never get prosecuted? bravo matt
+6 # sajjad hussain 2012-12-17 09:43
Hellooooooo.Any body remembers BCCI(Bank of Credit And Commerce International)a nd just for the unfound claim of laundering like 14 million(that claim too through sting operation)how many peoples were jailed and for how many years.pls note more then 5000 families suffered and still suffering.Laund ering LAWS HA just a joke.
+4 # 2012-12-17 11:23

YOU ARE VERY CLOSE TO THE WHOLE TRUTH BY CITING BCCI. One of the reasons they didn't go to jail was that one of their wives was Linda Carter (Wonder Woman of television).

To get to the full truth, you should read a copy of Hot Money: The Politics of Debt by R.T. Naylor. Easy read and very truthfully documented.
+2 # sajjad hussain 2012-12-18 03:34
Bob Altman (Husband of Linda Carter) was not implicated in drug charges. For Bob it was more of a political situation with First American Bank in New York/ Washington. BCCI and it's employees were - through an entrapment sting operation. In other words BCCI and it's staff were not actually involved in drug laundering .... entrapment defense in Florida is no no, but it would have been a different story if the trial was held in California at that time.
0 # Michael_K 2012-12-18 14:48
United States vs, Little Red Corvette... The absurdities of unconstitutiona l asset forfeiture!

The thing is, why would these gangsters refrain from doing such things, if "the people" let them?

In a so-called Democracy, you get what you friggin' deserve!
0 # DickC 2012-12-18 21:40
The mainstream news media will never give this news any life. It would harm their dog leash holders. Besides, the government would censor anything that smelt of the exposure of corruption in Washinton, D.C.

I have long extolled the ending of the "War On Drugs", but have been marginalized by law enforcement, religion and government (CIA, DEA, NSA and the other letter acronym bureaucracies that profit from drug sales in America).

We the people have very little compared to the banking industry to try and fight this imbecilic system.

Remember, the banking industry went down and the government turned right around and gave them taxpayer dollars as a 'bailout'. The federal reserve practically demanded that government bail out the banking industry and as a 'reward', demanded that Goldman and Sachs be put in charge of the financial matters for government to cover up the absolute corruption that goes on in Washington, D.C.

There is so much more to this story, but space is limited. I'm amazed the Matt hasn't been assassinated yet.

We the people are the biggest suckers, with our pants down around our ankles and no lube in sight.
+1 # Painter 2012-12-19 01:34
I was moved by this article to contact the Criminal Justice Division of the Department of Justice with the note that follows. We may not be able to change things, but I don't want the quacks to imagine we believe them to be doctors.

Dear Assistant Attorney General Breuer,

I have to agree with those who are saying that the 1.9 billion dollar settlement you reached
with HSBC, an amount the bank makes in about five weeks, is an affront to the idea of proportional justice. And any argument that criminal charges, which could easily have been brought against bank officers, would threaten the stability of the banking system is laughable on its face.

But this settlement was brought to us by the same government department that has failed to prosecute those who started an illegal war of aggression and authorize torture, so I suppose we should expect nothing different.

Proportional justice does not exist in this country.


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