Posts tagged DR. RICHARD SENNA



The six men – four Syrians, a Tunisian and a Palestinian – are the first prisoners transferred to South America from the U.S. base in Cuba, part of a flurry of recent releases amid a renewed push by President Barack Obama to close the prison.


The U.S. Embassy in Montevideo is beefing up security, but the Obama administration insists the six former detainees released to Uruguay pose no danger. Republicans beg to differ.
There are growing concerns in some corners of the American government that six former Guantanamo Bay detainees freed by the Obama administration could pose a threat to the safety of U.S. personnel.

Those detainees were sent to Uruguay in December. And in recent months, the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo has substantially expanded its defenses against a possible threat, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

The embassy has increased the number of guards present, as well as the size of the embassy’s Marine Guard detachment, adding two more men to the handful who were there previously.

The embassy has also taken steps to heighten security for employees. All local hires have been ordered to park two to three blocks from the building so that embassy guards can conduct surveillance more easily over American cars and passengers parked nearby. Some local staff have taken that order as disregard for the safety of foreign nationals working at the embassy.

In the past month, the receptionist at the embassy’s front desk has been replaced with a guard, said a source familiar with the matter. And embassy employees have received a training session on how to react if an attacker managed to enter the embassy.

One State Department official characterized the increased security presence as more or less routine, similar to steps taken at U.S. diplomatic missions around the world following the 2012 Benghazi attacks. And the Obama administration has insisted that the former Guantanamo detainees do not represent a security threat.

But Republican lawmakers have been drawing attention to the six men, arguing that they could present a threat to U.S. interests. The lawmakers note that the six were released to Uruguay under refugee status, which means that under Uruguayan law, government officials are barred from monitoring or imposing travel restrictions on the former detainees.

“All six of them are hardened terrorists, who should…still be at Guantanamo,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has become one of the most outspoken opponents of shutting down the Guantanamo facility. “It was a mistake to transfer them there, it was certainly a mistake to transfer them to a country that apparently did not give us adequate, if any, security guarantees.”

The tiny South American country of Uruguay, population 3.3 million, has become a flashpoint in the larger political battle over the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

President Obama has been dedicated to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo from the day he set foot in the White House. But the release of the six men has become a nagging question his administration must now fend off. For Republicans opposed to Guantanamo’s closure, the situation in Uruguay has become the vehicle for criticizing the administration’s larger policy of releasing cleared detainees to third countries.

And the questions Republicans have raised about national security complicate efforts to close Guantanamo by creating doubts about whether future transfers of detainees is wise.

The former detainees now in Uruguay were previously accused of having been fighters with ties to terrorist groups. A Bush administration assessment, concluded in 2008 and made public by WikiLeaks, said five of them posed a “high risk” because they were “likely to pose a threat to the U.S., its interests and allies.” The sixth posed a “medium risk.”

“Surely we didn’t release six hardened Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay without a memorandum of understanding.”

After Obama was elected, he ordered a review of every detainee at Guantanamo. The six men were approved for transfer upon the unanimous approval of the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the director of national intelligence, and the State Department.

This Obama administration review, which involved a larger number of federal agencies and was arguably more thorough, found in essence that the intelligence used to draw conclusions for the Bush-era assessments was not credible.

“It was the unanimous decision of six departments and agencies…that these individuals should be transferred from Guantanamo, and could be transferred in a manner that protects our national security and is consistent with our humane treatment obligations,” said Ian Moss, the spokesman for the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure at the State Department.

Beyond that, the Obama administration is hampered by how little it is able or willing to say about the men. Many of the surrounding details about these six former detainees are classified at the highest levels.

In a private meeting of the Senate Armed Services Committee in May, closed to the public to allow for the discussion of sensititve national security matters, the discussion turned to the future of Guantanamo and the recidivism rate of former detainees.

One senator cited the detainees released to Uruguay as a prime example of why lawmakers should be concerned about terrorists re-engaging in hostilities and trying to plot attacks after their release, according to multiple congressional sources.

But the discussion of Gitmo detainees released to Uruguay was swiftly shut down. Even in a session closed to the public, the cases involved information that was so highly classified, some aides in the room had not been cleared to hear about it.

So far, there is no public indication that the men have done anything nefarious since their release in December 2014.

Several of the detainees camped out for several weeks this spring in front of the U.S. Embassy in Montevideo to demand more compensation from the Uruguayan government. And former detainee Jihad Ahmed Mujstafa Diyab traveled to neighboring Argentina in February to urge that country to take in Gitmo detainees, rankling Republicans.

In an April letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Edward Royce raised concerns about the former detainees’ threat to the U.S. Embassy.

After the detainees arrived in Uruguay, they were given housing six blocks away from the embassy.

“I remain concerned that this close proximity to the Embassy, combined with the apparent lack of host country mitigation measures, poses a potential risk to the safety and security of our Embassy and its employees, including local hires,” Royce wrote.

“The February 2015 travel of one of the individuals to Argentina underscores the ease of travel afforded the former detainees now that they are characterized as refugees in Uruguay,” Royce added. “This freedom of widespread movement would seem to make effective mitigation, if attempted, near impossible.”

Moss, the State Department spokesman, said he was unable to provide The Daily Beast with additional information about steps taken to mitigate potential security risks.

“I cannot discuss the specific assurances we receive from foreign governments,” said Moss, who stressed that transfers only occur after “detailed, specific conversations” with the receiving country about the security threat a detainee could pose and the measures the country will take to mitigate that threat.

Lawmakers have been lobbying the Obama administration publicly and privately to release more details about the release of the detainees.

“Surely we didn’t release six hardened Guantanamo detainees to Uruguay without a memorandum of understanding—without definite and specific criteria under which the Uruguayan government was going to monitor these detainees,” Cotton said.

Before Royce’s April letter, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) wrote to Kerry in January, asking for the government to release a written agreement between the U.S. government and the Uruguayan government indicating “what security measures…have been put into place to prevent their engaging in terrorism related activities.”

And last week, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker sent another letter to Kerry—this time, a private one.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, Corker likened the Uruguay transfers to the former Taliban fighters sent to Qatar in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s freedom.

“Our office is conducting its proper oversight role to ensure the administration provides—as it did in the case of Qatar—documentation describing any commitments, understandings or agreements between the United States and other countries relating to the transfer of Guantanamo Bay detainees,” Corker said.

The displeasure at the release of the six former detainees to Uruguay is not confined to the United States. Longtime Uruguayan lawmaker Jaime Trobo, who belongs to a center-right opposition party, said coordination between the Uruguayan and American governments occurred through Uruguay’s president, without official approval from the country’s congress.

“All the initial process and the procedure related to the arrival of the ex-prisoners from Guantanamo to Uruguay has lacked transparency,” Trobo told The Daily Beast. “The information provided does not fulfill the minimum requirement of substance for such a delicate situation.”

Trobo also questioned U.S. officials’ assurances that the ex-detainees pose no national security threats.

“The United States has said publicly that these people are not a threat,” Trobo said. “If so, why aren’t they able to enter the U.S.? That’s what we ask ourselves here [in Uruguay].”

Corker, Cotton, and their staffs all declined to comment on or corroborate details regarding embassy force protection measures and intelligence methods.





The Federal indictment of former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, J Dennis Hastert, on charges of Structuring to Avoid Reporting Requirements, and lying to Federal law enforcement agents, reminds us that the bank accounts of politicians, even former or retired ones, deserve special attention from compliance. Here, Hastert was engaged in paying off an individual against whom he had committed some unspecified misconduct, probably while a high school teacher or coach, but the payments could very well have involved criminal activities.

Hastert’s conduct, which occurred after he had left the House of Representatives, for a lucrative new career as a lobbyist, was discovered after the FBI & IRS investigated the possibility that he was the target of a criminal extortion plot. Apparently, he was paying the money, said to be a total of $3.5m, on a voluntary basis, but we do not know what the details are at this point.

The real crime here:

(1) Hastert withdrew $50,000, fifteen times, from his US bank accounts, over two years, before his bankers raised any questions about the circumstances of the withdrawals. This sounds like compliance malpractice, in my book.

(2) Then, in response to their inquiries, he structured his future, regular withdrawals, so that each one would be under the $10,000 threshold for reporting. However, his bankers still let this happen for an additional two years, before a criminal investigation was initiated. What happened here, I wonder ?

One wonders whether there was a special relationship between Hastert, and his bankers, that interfered with the filing of CTRs, or with immediate notification of his actions to bank counsel for investigation, and also to law enforcement. Prominent former politicians often are coveted by bankers, not just for their business, but for the potential referral of lucrative business of their lobbying clientele. Did customer relationship managers trump compliance concerns here ?




(CNN Philippines) – Abdul Basit Usman, the country’s most wanted terrorist who was reportedly killed in a clash with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members in Maguindanao on Sunday (May 3), was instead allegedly slain by his own bodyguards in pursuit of a US$1 million bounty on him, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Monday (May 4).

In a press briefing at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, AFP Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said: “There was in-fighting among his (Usman) group… Reports reaching this headquarters revealed that Usman and five of his unidentified cohorts were killed in a shoot-out allegedly with fellow members of his group.”

Catapang said he had information that Usman’s followers had turned on him because of a $1 million bounty offered by the U.S. State Department, without elaborating.


Catapang’s account, however, was contradicted by the MILF, which said its fighters killed the renegade Usman.

Usman’s death on Sunday could boost the ongoing peace efforts between the government and the MILF – a pact that could end about 45 years of conflict that has killed 120,000 people and displaced 2 million in war-torn Mindanao.

Related: Who is Basit Usman?

Catapang said Usman was travelling with seven bodyguards towards a rebel camp in Guindulungan town in Maguindano when a firefight erupted within his group.

“The bodies were discovered by Moro Islamic Liberation Front rebels,” he said, adding army and police units were trying to establish the identities of the slain militants.

The MILF’s chief peace negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, told Reuters that Usman was killed by its forces when he resisted arrest.

He said Usman’s group was intercepted by rebel forces near a creek at around 10:30 a.m. Sunday, but chose to shoot it out rather than be taken to the guerrilla’s main camp, he said.

Despite the different versions on Usman’s death, both Catapang and Iqbal, however, said his death would be a boost to the peace efforts.

“Our security operations will continue until we get all the potential spoilers to the peace process,” Catapang said, adding there were still 10 foreign Islamist militants and about 100 local renegade Islamist militants in Mindanao.



From top, L to R) former French Labour minister Eric Woerth, L’Oreal heiress French Liliane Bettencourt, French lawyer Pascal Wilhelm, former financial advisor of Liliane Bettencourt, Patrice de Maistre, French tax lawyer Carlos Vejarano, French businessman Stephane Courbit, French photographer and writer Francois-Marie Banier and Banier’s partner photographer Martin d’Orgeval.  Photo: AFP/Getty


A society photographer was on Thursday sentenced to three years in prison for bamboozling Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal cosmetics empire and France’s wealthiest woman, out of hundreds of millions of pounds.

A string of her former advisers were also convicted but the Bordeaux court cleared Eric Woerth, Nicolas Sarkozy’s former presidential campaign treasurer and budget minister, of taking donations of cash from Mrs Bettencourt before Mr Sarkozy’s 2007 election. Mr Woerth was also cleared of charges of influence-peddling.

Photographer François-Marie Banier, 67, former “confidant” of the ailing Mrs Bettencourt – who once said he was the only man who made her laugh – was found guilty of “abusing the weakness” of the doyenne, now 92 and suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

Banier was sentenced to three years in prison, with six months suspended, a £250,000 fine and £100 million in damages.

Liliane Bettencourt

Mr Woerth had also been accused of misusing his position of influence to secure favours from Mrs Bettencourt’s wealth manager, by urging him to employ his wife in exchange for receiving the Legion of Honour, France’s highest decoration. He was cleared of all charges.

The Bettencourt affair erupted more than seven years ago in the form of a family feud between mother and daughter, but it morphed into a political scandal amid allegations of tax evasion and illegal party funding.

These came to the fore after Mrs Bettencourt’s butler secretly recorded her conversations with her entourage. In one, the deaf and confused heiress was asked by Patrice de Maistre, her wealth manager, to hand over a million euros for “the yacht of my dreams”.

In 2007, Mrs Bettencourt’s daughter, Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers, launched legal action against Banier, a Paris socialite, saying he had taken advantage of her mother’s confused state to get her to hand over €1 billion in art – including works by Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian – insurance policies and cash.

The case went on to smear Mr Sarkozy, who was placed under formal investigation for illegal campaign financing and taking advantage of Mrs Bettencourt. The charges were later dropped in October 2013 due to lack of evidence.

Banier first met Mrs Bettencourt, 25 years his senior, when he photographed her for a magazine. In court, he claimed he enjoyed her company and had no need of the money.

When her daughter first claimed he was manipulating her, Mrs Bettencourt insisted she could spend her time and money on who she saw fit, briefly making Banier sole heir to her fortune, estimated to be €33 billion (£24 billion), by Forbes magazine.

In court, Banier’s lawyer conceded he was “drowning in gold” and the photographer admitted the sums gave even him “vertigo” but it “gave her immense pleasure” to shower him with gifts and she got angry when he refused.

The presiding judge, Denis Roucou, said Banier had a “real psychological and moral hold” over Mrs Bettencourt, whose critical faculties doctors warned were failing as early as 2006.

“She found herself at the mercy of men in whom she placed her trust,” said the judge.

He had stern words for Mr Woerth despite his acquittal, saying there remained a “strong suspicion that money was handed over” but that it could not be “demonstrated”.

Mr de Mestre was sentenced to 18 months in prison for exploiting Mrs Bettencourt’s frailty and for money laundering, as was her former lawyer.

Martin d’Orgeval, Banier’s partner, was found guilty on the same charges and received a suspended sentence.

After the verdict, Mrs Bettencourt-Meyers said : “My first thought naturally goes to my mother, for her honour and dignity, and then to all her family – ours.”

Banier and de Mestre will appeal against the verdicts.