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Feds shutdown CBOE 9/11 put trade investigation, data erased

Posted in the database on Saturday, July 23rd, 2005 @ 15:19:23 MST (6371 views)
by Jack Rain    Strike The Root  

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I'm back in Chicago. It's one of my favorite cities in the late spring to early summer. There's a lot to do and the city is teeming with people.

I arrived Saturday around noon at O'Hare airport from Los Angeles. I didn't have much luggage with me so I decided to bypass the taxi line and take the subway from the airport to downtown.

The subway is usually the fastest and quickest way to get downtown from O'Hare. Not this time, though. As the train pulled out of the O'Hare station, it stopped after about two minutes of travel inside the tunnel. The train stood still for about ten minutes before it began to move again. When the train pulled into the next station, the Rosemont stop, there were about 15 uniformed police at the station and three or four police who looked to be undercover cops.

I was sitting in the first car and heard one of the cops remark, "Number 3110, this is the train." 3110 was the number of the first car. Four of the cops entered through the car while all the other subway car doors were kept closed. They went through the first car and every other car. Every time they came across a Hispanic man wearing a white shirt, they asked the man to step out. The police outside asked them all for ID's and had them all step to the side. After doing this to about five Hispanics, they came across someone who was wearing a white shirt and appeared to be Pakistani. He got the same treatment. Then it was another Hispanic and then a Middle Eastern-looking man. They were all ordered out and all ID's were checked, then they were all told they could re-board.

Of course, while all this was going on, the others on board were surmising that the police were looking for a terrorist.

Whatever it was, it certainly was strange. Someone had the power to stop the train almost as it left the station and then was able to get 15 police to the next station to search for Hispanic, Pakistani and Middle Eastern men wearing white shirts. Did the FBI bungle a surveillance operation? Was the FBI tailing someone at the airport and he managed to give them the slip while they were buying fare cards? Who knows? The police obviously had a description of who they were looking for and also a name. Now what's curiouser is that the police weren't able to find whoever they were looking for. The O'Hare station is the start of that subway line, so if the police were looking for someone, that someone would have had to have gotten on at that station. The train was stopped in the tunnel and no doors were open until the Rosemont stop, so it would have been very unlikely anyone could have gotten off before the Rosemont stop, yet the police couldn't find whoever they were looking for.

Strange, very strange.

I wondered to myself what would have happened in this day and age of "material witnesses" and "military combatants" if one of the poor souls taken off the train didn't have ID with him?

After that episode, I did get downtown, checked into my hotel, took a short nap and then headed out for a night on the town. My first stop was at the Hotel W where, at the bar, I ran into a woman that I have been bumping into, it seems, every time I am in Chicago. Her name is Jennifer and to describe her as a bleeding-heart liberal is certainly not overstating her worldview.

The last time we spoke, she was calling for more aid to African countries where poverty was "everywhere." At that time I gave her a standard libertarian reply that a lot of the problem was the result of a lack of property rights, so people had no incentive to farm because others could take the produce.

This time when she saw me she said, "You know, I thought about what you said about property rights. I think you are right. You know, I think you are a complete thinker. I think about things but then I let my emotions get in the way and don't think things through."

She then told me what the United States needed was what she called "Grandma Economics." Grandma Economics, according to her, seemed to be a combination of price controls, higher minimum wage laws and a redistribution of any profits earned by corporations. I told her it sounded more like Grandma Totalitarianism to me.

Although Jennifer is a Stanford grad, she seems to be having trouble landing a job, and I get the sense she is real low on cash. I bought her a dinner at the bar. Our conversation continued on for a couple of hours. She really has the left-wing arguments down, and it is a pretty good workout to spar with her and understand why her left-wing intervention proposal of the minute will lead to disaster.

It was now around midnight, so it was much later than she planned to be out, so instead of her taking the subway, I put her in a taxi home. From outside, I took the five or six block walk to a club named Narcisse. It's one of my favorites in Chicago when it's humming. But the crowd is unpredictable, sometimes it is a good crowd, sometimes it is a boring crowd and sometimes there is no crowd.

On this particular night the crowd looked promising. I introduced myself to two women there, and after a short while, one of the women told me she worked for the CBOE. The CBOE is the Chicago Board Options Exchange. It is the exchange that handles trading in, among other things, stock options. I half-jokingly asked her, "Whatever happened to the CBOE investigation of all the profits made by those who bought put options on airlines stocks before 9-11?" (You make money on put options when a stock goes down in price.)

Her answered floored me. She said, "It probably would have been easy for us to find out who was behind the trades, but the government came in and told the CBOE president to stop the investigation."

Just to make sure I heard her right, I said to her, "The government came in and told the CBOE president not to investigate?" She said, "Yeah, it was really strange."

The conversation changed for a minute, but I wanted to get back to the government not wanting an investigation. I said to her again, a third time, making sure I heard right, "The government didn't want you to investigate?" She looked at me said "Yes, that's right." Then she looked at me a little longer, she knew I had interest in this topic, she looked a little nervous and then blurted out to me, "We erased the data. Our data on the trades is gone."

I am not an investigative reporter, but if someone reading this is, this certainly looks like something that should be investigated further.

After a day filled with a bizarre police action, my left liberal friend's Grandma Economics and now a scary story from a CBOE employee, I decided to call it a night.

The next day I had a leisurely brunch, took a walk along Chicago's beautiful lakeshore and headed back to my hotel room. I turned on C-Span, which was broadcasting a panel discussion that included John Dean, Oliver Stone and Arianna Huffington. Stone related that any filmmaker who wanted to use official US government military equipment in a movie had to tow the complete Pentagon line. He said the movies "Blackhawk Down" and "We Were There" were nothing more than acted out military video games. "When you get Pentagon cooperation, they require approval of every line in the movie, and you can't veer from that approved script at all. They have a handbook of how soldiers are supposed to act in various military situations, and you can't portray a soldier as acting any differently from what is in the manual," he said.

By Sunday evening, I was contemplating the weekend. The weekend was kind of a twilight zone experience for me. Everywhere I turned from subway, to clubs to television, I experienced some reminder of the power, mystery and secretiveness that government can be. In between these experiences was Jennifer who seemed to want to naively expand the power of government at every turn. The only sane thing that seemed to happen the entire weekend was when she admitted to me that she reacted, often, on emotion and not thinking things completely through. Jennifer's admission seems to be where a lot of Americans are today in what they're thinking. They are not thinking things through but reacting at an emotional level to the sometimes-choreographed events they see unfold in front of them. They then they go to movies that Oliver Stone points out are scripted with the obligatory use of manuals created by the Pentagon.

"Maybe, just maybe, I had a bad weekend," I thought by Sunday evening. All this mysterious government flexing of power was just a bad coincidence. It will be back to reality on Monday, I thought. Well it is Monday as I write this and the newspapers and TV are announcing the 30th anniversary of Watergate and that infamous abuse of power by President Nixon and his cronies.

Watergate was an abuse of power that all condemn. Yet, government power, that can be readily abused, is obviously expanding everywhere far beyond the power that existed during the Watergate era. I can only hope that this expansion does not create abuses far greater than those of the Watergate era. I truly fear, though, that this weekend in Chicago was just a tiny precursor of what we may all experience in the years ahead if things don't change very dramatically, very soon. If ever there was a time to strike at the root of government expansion, before it is too late, that time is surely now.



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