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Laundering Numbers

by J. Orlin Grabbe

Back in June, in "How to Launder Money in the Copper Market (I)", I reported that Sumitomo had fired its trader for $2.6 billion in "copper trading" losses. Sumitomo itself, The Wall Street Journal, and other financial publications reported only $1.8 billion in losses, and continued to report that figure in the following months. Today Sumitomo announced that it had "revised upward" its estimate of losses from $1.8 billion to $2.6 billion. Ho hum.

Now maybe the media will revise upward its estimate of 900 FBI files in the White House "Big Brother" data base (WHODB) to the proper figure of about 2045. The WHODB is connected to the FBI data base just as it is connected to the Secret Service data base and FinCEN. But when the White House requested an FBI file (and these requests were always honored), the White House would place the request in the front end of the FBI system. (There is a barrier that prevents further access.) A designated FBI agent would consider the request, approve it (automatically in the case of the Clinton White House), and then upload the file from the FBI data base directly into the WHODB. An audit trail keeps track of who requested the file, and who uploaded it.

Then, over at the White House, if Craig Livingstone wanted a hard copy of the FBI file, he would hit the print button and print the file out on a laser printer.

The files could also be transferred by sending a computer disk over to the White House by courier, but this was not the normal procedure. (Many people have an image of FBI files being collections of bulging manila folders, which someone would have to type into the WHODB for them to appear there. This image is not correct. The equation actually reads

"requested FBI file"=="file turned over to White House"=="file found in the WHODB").

September 19, 1996
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