Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 25, 2015

Yemen: Reuters Sells Unfounded Activist Claims As U.N. Expert Findings

Reuters is supposed to be a high quality news agency but some of its reporting is ridiculously wrong or slated in ways that turn rumors into "facts". Consider this current Reuters piece on Yemen.

Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion, colluded with rebels: U.N. experts

(Reuters) - Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh is suspected of corruptly amassing as much as $60 billion, equivalent to Yemen's annual GDP, during his long rule, and colluding in a militia takeover last year, U.N.-appointed investigators have told the Security Council.

The report by the world body's Panel of Experts on Yemen echoes criticism by his opponents that Saleh's rule from 1978 to 2012 was marred by graft, and that even out of office he is fomenting instability - allegations he has consistently denied.

The headline lets it seem that U.N. experts claim that Saleh amassed up to $60 billion.

But that is wrong. The U.N. experts do not claim such. In their report (Word download) they repeat anonymous allegations which seem unfounded and unsourced. They write:

182. Ali Abdullah Saleh, on the other hand, is in a very different situation. Ali Abdullah Saleh was President of Yemen for 33 years, until 2012, and during that time he is alleged to have amassed assets between $32 billion and $60 billion, most of which are believed to have been transferred abroad under false names or the names of others holding the assets on his behalf. These assets are said to take the form of property, cash, shares, gold and other valuable commodities. At the time of writing this report, these assets were believed to be located in at least 20 countries.

The U.N. experts repeat hear-say without any factual evidence to support it. How do such claims pulled from hot air justify a headline claim of "Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion"?

A footnote in the U.N. expert report point to the possible source on which they may have based the above. It is link to an article written by one Catherine Shakdam for yourmiddleast.com. Shakam writes:

According to Abdul Ghani-Iryani, a Yemeni development analyst, Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his cronies skimmed about $2 billion a year for private gain over the last three decades – money stolen from the fuel-subsidy programme that uses up to 10% of Yemen’s GDP, as well as other ventures involving abuse of power, extortion and embezzlement. It has been estimated that Saleh's family holdings alone run well into tens of billions of dollars, much of it held overseas.

Some $2 billion per year over 30 years and there is your $60 billion claim. But note that this claim, again without any evidence, is not solely about Saleh but includes "his cronies" and various corrupt schemes that may have been used.

In an interview on Democracy Now Abdul Ghani-Iryani, the source of the claim, was introduced as "political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement". The Middle East Institute says says

Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is a businessman and a political consultant based in Sana‘a. He received an MA from Portland State University and an MPH from Boston University.

So Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is U.S. educated, businessman, political consultant, development analyst, political analyst or whatever. But he mainly is an anti-Saleh activist (U.S.paid?) making some unfounded claims about Saleh which are then quoted as pure "allegations" by U.N. experts and turned into U.N. expert findings by Reuters.

The Reuters assertion that the U.N. expert report "echoes criticism by his opponents" is true. But that is not, as readers would assume, because the experts independently confirmed those claims but because their report is solely based on and sourced to those Saleh opponents claims.

The collapse of the government (recommended) in Yemen has many reasons but the main ones are not at all related to Saleh or to corruption. Yemen's oil production has plummeted and the government revenues with it. Yemen lacks water and other resources and has to import much of its food. There is a demographic youth bulge and very high unemployment which pushes the young into the various fighting forces. It is difficult to see how any government, even a non-corrupt one, could have prevented those problems.

A society that is historically based on tribes and patronage simply does not work like a liberal democracy. The real world examples (recom.) of corruption in Yemen do not point to only one man or only one institution that is corrupt but to a "way of life" where disguised bribes need to be paid to whatever entity one needs to work with. Those in positions of power need those funds to pay off those they need to support for family or tribal reasons and to pay off those they need to support their position. They will also skim off some money to allow themselves a more affluent life style.

Those who lose out in these schemes and are not connected to the money flow, and there are many, will of course rally against them and increase the general insecurity.  The corruption problem must be tackled over time through changes in law and new incentive structures. But it will not be done in a day or through a simple change at the top of the pyramid.

To claim that all bad, all corruption and all vanished money in Yemen is somehow to be blamed on the former president Saleh, as his opponents, the U.N. experts and Reuters seem to do, is nonsense. It is not based on facts but on lazy thinking and more dubious motivations. It does not help in understanding Yemen and it does not help in solving Yemen's problems. It can only lead to more misguided and ill advised interferences.

Posted by b on February 25, 2015 at 11:27 AM | Permalink

Comments

thanks b.

i think it is the basis for most media coverage - superficiality.. they rarely if ever go into the details, but instead are allowed to make accusations - true, half true, or false - and a person is left to ponder the relative value found in them. i do believe though that certain countries thrive on chaos and being cynical i can't help but think some of this is created and maintained with the help of the media. as a consequence i am highly critical of information found in these sources.

Posted by: james | Feb 25, 2015 12:23:01 PM | 1

Mainstream media lies? In another Arab country that the USSA happens to be periodically sending in special forces and droning?
Say it ain't so, Cold HoleFold!Tell us why in your mind Putin and Russia are no doubt responsible for this!

Posted by: farflungstar | Feb 25, 2015 12:25:44 PM | 2

/Tell us why in your mind Putin and Russia are no doubt responsible for this!/
Putin and Russia as usual are without doubt responsible for all planned CIA sh**t !
Is there anyone can put the CIA's activities under surveillance and legal accountability?
If the answer is no, this means that every American implicitly agree to the criminal nature of CIA being outside the law

Posted by: ALAN | Feb 25, 2015 4:24:36 PM | 3

I'm sure that Salih was hyper-corrupt. $60 billion sounds a lot, but some figure of millions or billions will be true.

The last government under Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was abolished, then he escaped and now redeclares that he is president.

Frankly it's a civil conflict, and we don't have much idea who is right or wrong.

I have sympathy for the Houthis, but I'd like to know how that would work in practice.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 25, 2015 4:53:22 PM | 4

Very good post. I like the way you tracked the sources down. Unfortunately, that is now our lot in life. Wasting hours a day verifying what reporters are paid to verify for us. Pisses me off.

Posted by: MRW | Feb 25, 2015 4:57:19 PM | 5

It seems that the present situation in Yemen is that the Houthis, mainly Zaidi Shi'a, control the capital, San'a. The (former) president, Hadi, has escaped, and now reclaims the presidency.

Who can say what will happen?

The US troops in southern Yemen launching drones may or may not have authorisation.

Posted by: Laguerre | Feb 25, 2015 5:27:26 PM | 6

Unfortunately, that is now our lot in life. Wasting hours a day verifying what reporters are paid to verify for us. Pisses me off.
Posted by: MRW | Feb 25, 2015 4:57:19 PM | 5

It pisses me off, too. This is just like what b describes, although off the track of Yemen or ME…Today at breakfast my better half brought to my attention this article U.S. and British Agencies May Have Tried to Get SIM Encryption Codes, Gemalto Says

I have been interested in the NSA-stole-SIM-card-encryption-keys-from-Gemalto story which I originally saw at The Intercept, so I was interested to see what the lyin'ass Times would have to say and couldn't help but immediately note the subtle wriggling of the word "tried" in the headline. It was as I suspected mealy-mouthed bullshit. But what's this?…under Related Coverage…:

Gemalto to Pay $890 Million for Data Protection Firm

LONDON – The Dutch digital security company Gemalto said on Friday that it had agreed to pay $890 million to acquire SafeNet, a Maryland-based provider of data protection software.

Gemalto’s security products are used for mobile wallets and online banking and in some national identity cards and bank cards.

Gemalto, which is based in Amsterdam, would acquire 100 percent of the share capital of SafeNet from the private equity firm Vector Capital.

The purchase would be funded by cash and existing long-term debt facilities. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter.
The deal is expected to bolster Gemalto’s offerings of software and other products that are used to verify identity and provide encrypted security for financial transactions and other online activities.

SafeNet, based in Belcamp, Md., is a provider of digital information security software to banks, retailers, government agencies and others. Its software is used to protect more than 80 percent of the world’s intrabank transfers, SafeNet said.

Founded in 1983, SafeNet employs more than 1,500 employees and has a presence in 27 countries. It posted revenue of $337 million in 2013...

A couple thoughts crossed my mind.
1. Maryland. That's NSA land.
2. SafeNet has pretty low revenues for a company whose "software is used to protect more than 80 percent of the world’s intrabank transfers"

So I did a goog search for "SafeNet NSA" and what to my wondering eyes should appear…wikipedia says: "It is notably one of the largest suppliers of encryption technology to the United States Government" and continues:

SafeNet, Inc was founded in 1983 as Industrial Resource Engineering by two NSA engineers and one entrepreneur name Anthony A Caputo. In 1989 went public in an IPO. The company is now the fifth largest vendor in the security market and third largest provider of information security solutions in the world with revenues ~$500M…

The firm has an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for its KIV-7 line of commercial off-the-shelf cryptographic devices that provide protection for digital and voice communications through TOP SECRET, used by agencies such as the NSA and the NRO.

Other SafeNet Government Solutions, LLC products include the KOV-14 Fortezza Plus PC card which was developed as part of the NSA's NSSI program and is used on Secure Terminal Equipment. They previously developed the clipper chip.

(For those of you who reflexively disparage wikipedia, check out the References. Looked good to me.)

When I went just now to grab a link to the original article from The Intercept, I noted that Jeremy Scahill had a follow up story Gemalto Doesn't Know What It Doesn't Know addressing Gemalto's weak claims from today's presser. But somehow, like the business writers at the NYT, he is also oddly oblivious to the NSA serpent in the corporate heart of Gemalto.

Gemalto, like RSA and others looks to have been p3ned by NSA. Seems pretty obvious to me.

So I guess Scahill doesn't know what he doesn't know either.

Posted by: Benu | Feb 25, 2015 6:59:10 PM | 7

There seems to be an entire genre of tall tales about corruption. Look at this link

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/30/us-ukraine-crisis-yanukovich-idUSBREA3T0K820140430

Ukraine's Acting Prosecutor General Oleh Makhnitsky listens to a translation during an interview with Reuters at a hotel in London, April 29, 2014.
CREDIT: REUTERS/ANDREW WINNING
(Reuters) - Ukraine's chief prosecutor has accused Viktor Yanukovich of heading a mafia-style syndicate whose crimes cost the former Soviet republic up to $100 billion and said some of the stolen money was now being used to fund Russian-backed separatists.


One thing is that extreme nationalists (a.k.a. banderovtsi) got hold on law enforcement in Ukraine, both prosecutor offices and police which "does not allow to accept their claims with full confidence". The number fly furiously. They documented graft of 350 million dollars (I would like to see that). They project that the total was 100 billions in 4 years. They claim that 32 billions were moved as cash in trucks to Russia. It is not that Yemen and Ukraine were graft free, but the numbers produced by opponents are just pulled from the asses.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Feb 25, 2015 8:32:48 PM | 8

@7 benu.. thanks for that.. good examination on your part. as mrw says - it's unfortunate we are left to do with.. nothing can be trusted news wise anymore.. maybe it never could.. it casts a bad light on 'the intercept' too..

Posted by: james | Feb 25, 2015 8:39:16 PM | 9

@ 8 Piotr

Oh oh oh! That article is hilarious. One joke after the next.

I sometimes wonder if the "journalists" who have to write this shit sneakily insert ironic elements. Because this article subtly undermines itself!

And then this:

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that the United States was determined to help Ukraine find billions of dollars it says were stolen by Yanukovich and his aides.

"We are determined to hold accountable those who were responsible for the theft of these Ukrainian assets," he said.

Holder seems more motivated to hold Ukrainians accountable than Wall Street, which if I may say, seems a bit more "on his beat."

Also, IIRC, the scuttlebutt is that the USofA airlifted out all of Ukraine's gold...and ain't nobuddy seen it since.

Posted by: Benu | Feb 25, 2015 9:22:22 PM | 10

A footnote in the U.N. expert report point to the possible source on which they may have based the above. It is link to an article written by one Catherine Shakdam for yourmiddleast.com

b, maybe you should do as Piotr says and pull some yaya out of your ass and present it as fact and then UN can cite MofA in one of their very serious reports and then Reuters will publish it as true and we barflies all clink glasses and shout our local version of Cheers!

Posted by: Benu | Feb 25, 2015 9:33:51 PM | 11

@b

Well, lazy thinking and less dubious motivations made me glance over the headlines w/o bothering to read the article, let alone question Reuters take (and sources.) Skipped it on "What's new? Just another US-supported, corrupt tin-pot dictator." Thanks for a Basic Reading 101 lesson, very useful.

Posted by: Lone Wolf | Feb 25, 2015 11:42:00 PM | 12

I think it points to the main reason for the downfall of modern media: "sources." Reporters today do not report what they have discovered, they report what they have been told. Reporters do not go on location and see for themselves what is true, they consult with their sources to be told what their sources claim is happening, and then parrot what they have been told.

Posted by: Bill H | Feb 26, 2015 1:39:34 AM | 13

'Reuters is supposed to be a high quality news agency'

since when?reuters has a long history of dodgy reporting

Posted by: brian | Feb 26, 2015 3:46:20 AM | 14

aljazeera (qatar state media) is at it again with a whopping big lie
https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera/posts/10153216798123690

but
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/qatar/11110931/How-Qatar-is-funding-the-rise-of-Islamist-extremists.html

people should go and set AJ straight

Posted by: brian | Feb 26, 2015 3:54:09 AM | 15

Posted by: ALAN | Feb 25, 2015 4:24:36 PM | 3
Quoted:
"Is there anyone can put the CIA's activities under surveillance and legal accountability?Jackson's political opponents castigated Jackson's veto as "the very slang of the leveller and demagogue" believing Jackson was using class warfare to gain support from the common man.
If the answer is no, this means that every American implicitly agree to the criminal nature of CIA"

So how far back in our history does this "deep state" meme go? And when was it ever defeated for long? The Andrew Jackson Bank War?

"Jackson's political opponents castigated Jackson's veto as "the very slang of the leveller and demagogue", believing he was using class warfare to gain support from the common man"

Posted by: gersen | Feb 26, 2015 8:51:36 AM | 16

"It can only lead to more misguided and ill advised interferences"

Gee, that's exactly what is encouraged and planned for
Strategic locale- check
Chokepoint location- check
Presence of the NATO backed AQ- check
Phony democracy groups- check
Promoting media- check

Looks like the ducks are in a row

Posted by: Penny | Feb 26, 2015 9:28:03 AM | 17

"The last government under Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi was abolished, then he escaped and now redeclares that he is president"

The last government was not abolished- they all quit
Every last one of them

Posted by: Penny | Feb 26, 2015 9:30:13 AM | 18

This seems to be typical US behavior towards a dictator who no longer serves our purposes and now after decades of blind support must be discredited. Saleh's corruption and aid to AQAP were not secrets nor is the fact that this level of corruption must come from the highest levels of government.

The real question is, why now, could it be because Saleh is back in Yemen building museums to glorify his rule and may be preparing to rule again. I hope this post is not an attempt to rehabilitate Saleh who is one nasty character.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 26, 2015 11:07:04 AM | 19

Saleh was outed in a so called 'arab spring'
Hadi is the western backed new kid in town

Posted by: Penny | Feb 26, 2015 11:54:51 AM | 20

Since we are discussing the aftermath of the Arab Spring and US backed dictators, people may want to read Omar Kassem's "The Cairo Fiasco" at Counterpunch.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 26, 2015 12:27:46 PM | 21

@7 Benu, and @9 james,

Thanks for the heads-up, Benu. It's going o be a keeper for me because FOREVER MORE, the US get has no leg to stand on bitching about cybercrime--and justifying that our liberties should be curtained some more--when it allows a foreign company to purchase SoftNet USA 100%.

SafeNet, based in Belcamp, Md., is a provider of digital information security software to banks, retailers, government agencies and others. Its software is used to protect more than 80 percent of the world’s intrabank transfers, SafeNet said.

You frickin' kidding me?

Posted by: MRW | Feb 26, 2015 6:46:26 PM | 22

All the Democratic presidents after Jackson and before the Civil War supported Jackson's policies, which included both support of slavery and opposition to the banksters. The Whig Party which opposed the Democrats was the party of business. Until 1860, the Democrats were the dominant party, and the Whigs only held the presidency sporadically.

However, once the Republicans succeeded the Whigs as the party of business and the Democrats were severely weakened by the Civil War, thereafter business was in the driver's seat. There was only one Democratic president between 1861 and 1913, namely, Grover Cleveland. All the others were Republicans.

Posted by: lysias | Feb 26, 2015 6:51:25 PM | 23

@10 Benu,

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday that the United States was determined to help Ukraine find billions of dollars it says were stolen by Yanukovich and his aides.

HERE IS THE FYI, PEOPLE. (Which is why I bitch and moan on so many sites about understanding how the goddam US monetary system works . . . for real. Not 'The Fed is a private corporation' smokescreen designed to keep people piss-ass dumb.)

No US dollars can leave the US banking system. None. Nunque. Zero. BY LAW. (Only a max 10Gs that a tourist can take out at one time; reason why there's a magnetic strip in the bills.)

So unless Yanukovich filled a private plane to the gas tanks with $100 bills to the tune of $100 billion (a nine-mile stack), then the only place on planet earth where those US dollars can be located is at the NY Fed in the Ukraine Central Bank's checking account. . . . OR . . . . $100 billion has been moved from the Ukraine Central Bank's checking account at the NY Fed to the checking account of the foreign bank at the NY Fed where Yanukovich banks for onward forwarding to Yanukovich's personal account.

That's it. As long as that money is denominated in US dollars it's on a spreadsheet in Lower Manhattan. PERIOD. And the only way that Yanukovich can get that money in another currency and wired home is that he has to do what you and I do when we want foreign currency: go on the open market and exchange it.

Posted by: MRW | Feb 26, 2015 7:03:36 PM | 24

@23 lysias,

Until 1910 the Democrats were like today's tea-partiers.

Posted by: MRW | Feb 26, 2015 7:29:24 PM | 25

MRW@24

I'm sure you have heard of something called 'Money Laundering' where dirty cash and e-cash is made respectable and ready for legal investment. The best banks perform this service and depend on these funds more than anyone wants to admit.

Posted by: Wayoutwest | Feb 27, 2015 1:04:50 PM | 26

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