Thursday, December 9, 2010

WikiLeaks Posts Cables Showing Relationship Between U.S. Government and Credit Card Companies

Following the shutdown by Mastercard and Visa of its services to WikiLeaks, WikiLeaks in their most recent document dump have included U.S. embassy cables showing the close relationship that exists between the major credit card companies and the United States government.

One cable from Istanbul, marked confidential, notes that:
...Mastercard has found itself dealing with a public relations nightmare in recent days following public criticism of inclusion in its [soocer] match city guide of critical commentary about both Turkey and its revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. The offending passages, first publicized in the liberal Islamist daily "Zaman," addressed the issue of Turkish-Kurdish relations and the Armenian tragedy of 1915. Mastercard briefly closed its office following death threats against its General Manager, and has since officially apologized, noting that the offending material had not been reviewed by any company officials, but instead emanated from the "Lonely Planet," which produced the bulk of the publication. The public reaction, which has also included calls for a boycott of the company by Turkish NGO's and the threat of public prosecution from the Istanbul Governor, highlights once again how close to the surface core nationalist reflexes and taboos are in the post-December 17th environment.
The cable closes (my emphasis):
Comment: Given the sensitivities that exist here,inclusion of any material on topics such as Turkey's minority
policy or the Armenian tragedy in a sporting guide was in retrospect a serious mistake. The harsh, instinctive reaction, however, shows the heightened sensitivities and hair-trigger nature of public discourse here since the December 17th EU decision. Post RSO has reached out to Mastercard, which is an active member of the OSAC Advisory Council, to ensure that they are satisfied with the police response they have received and to provide assistance if needed. End Comment.
The OSAC was established by the State Department to provide:
...continuing liaison and to provide for operational security cooperation between State Department security functions and the Private Sector.

• To provide for regular and timely interchange of information between the Private Sector and the State Department concerning developments in the overseas security environment

• To recommend methods and provide material for coordinating security planning and implementation of security programs

• To recommend methods to protect the competitiveness of American businesses operating worldwide
According to the OSAC web site:
The increase in terrorism over the last 25 years and the continuing threat against U.S. interests overseas has forced many American companies to seek advice and assistance from the U.S. Government, particularly the State Department. In 1985, a handful of chief executive officers from prominent American companies met with then Secretary of State George P. Shultz to promote cooperation between the American private sector worldwide and the U.S. Government on security issues. The subsequent establishment of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) has developed into an enormously successful joint venture. Today, members of over 7,500 U.S. companies, educational institutions, faith-based institutions, and non-governmental organizations are OSAC constituents.
A cable from Moscow, also marked confidential, begins:

SUMMARY: The latest version of the Russian draft law "On the National Payment System" contains several provisions that would disadvantage U.S. businesses. The draft law would set up a National Payment Card System (NPCS) including its own payment card that banks and payment card companies could join voluntarily. Most likely to be a consortium of state-owned banks, the NPCS operator would process the domestic payments for all members and collect processing fees estimated at $4 billion per year. The draft also forbids sending abroad any payment data for domestic transactions. Should international payment card companies such as Visa and MasterCard chose not to join the NPCS they would have to set up the infrastructure to do their Russian payment processing domestically. END SUMMARY.

The cable further reports:

According to XXXX, MinFin understands that this MOSCOW 00000228 002 OF 002 would entail so much expense and difficulty for Visa and MasterCard that the two companies might quit the Russian domestic market. XXXX believes that, at least at the Deputy Minister level, MinFin's hands are tied. Implying that Russian security services were behind this decision, XXXX said, "There is some se-cret (government) order that no one has seen, but everyone has to abide by it." As described reftel, credit card company and bank representatives have told us that GOR officials apparently assume that US payment systems routinely share data associated with payment transactions by Russian cardholders with intelligence services in the US and elsewhere...

COMMENT -------

8.(C) This draft law continues to disadvantage U.S. payment card market leaders Visa and MasterCard, whether they join the National Payment Card System or not. If they join, the NPCS operator will collect the fees, leaving them to collect processing fees only when card-holders travel abroad -- a tiny section of the market. If they do not join but choose to compete with NPCS cards, they will have to set up payment processing centers in Russia, a very large investment in itself, and compete against a system likely backed by the largest Russian state banks. While the draft legislation has yet to be submitted to the Duma and can still be amended, post will continue to raise our concerns with senior GOR officials. We recommend that senior USG officials also take advantage of meetings with their Russian counterparts, including through the Bilateral Presidential Commission, to press the GOR to change the draft text to ensure U.S. payment companies are not adversely affected. END COMMENT. Beyrle

No comments:

Post a Comment