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Profile: William Bergman
William Bergman was a participant or observer in the following events:
William Bergman. [Source: Publicity photo]An unexplained significant increase in the amount of US currency in circulation causes one economist to later consider whether some individuals might have had foreknowledge of the impending September 11 attacks. Between June and August 2001, the currency component of the “M1 aggregate”—which includes currency in circulation and demand deposits—reported by the US Federal Reserve, increases by the greatest amount over the June-August period since 1947, the first year for which this data is reported. [Sanders Research Associates, 9/16/2005; Devine and Miles, 1/20/2006 ] Economist William Bergman, who works at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1990 to 2004, will later point out: “The August increase alone was the third largest single monthly increase since 1947, trailing only December 1999 (with pre-Y2K concern as well as terrorism threats) and January 1991 (the onset of US military action in Iraq, and an important enforcement month in the BCCI money laundering scandal).… The above-average growth in currency in July and August 2001 totaled over $5 billion.” Bergman will suggest the spike in currency growth might indicate some people possessing foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks: “[A]nyone mindful that their financial assets might be seized or otherwise at risk after the attacks converted their bank accounts to a more liquid asset before the attacks.” He will explain: “Under money laundering and other laws, including those applied in a time of war or a declared national emergency, assets in the banking system can be frozen and seized. The implied incentives help explain a related phenomenon called ‘wartime hoarding.’ Historically, in wartime, currency in circulation outside of banks has tended to rise relative to other forms of money like bank deposits.… Was ‘wartime hoarding’ at work right before 9/11? The conversion of bank accounts into currency could have been responsible for the surge in currency in July and August 2001.” A less sinister alternative explanation for the currency surge might possibly be the currently deteriorating banking conditions in Argentina. [Sanders Research Associates, 1/4/2006] There is also a high level of fear within the US government and intelligence community around this time, about the threat in general of an imminent terrorist attack (see Summer 2001, June-July 2001, June 28, 2001, and June 28, 2001). As the Government Accountability Project will in 2006 write: “The [Federal Reserve’s] failure to date to publicly address the growth in currency in mid-2001 is conspicuous. If a benign explanation exists, or if for whatever reasons the currency growth is irrelevant, the Fed should say so publicly, and explain why this is the case. A failure to do so raises… troubling questions.” [Devine and Miles, 1/20/2006 ] Also around this time, on August 2, 2001, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors issues—without explanation—a letter to Federal Reserve banks, which emphasizes the importance of monitoring suspicious activity reports (see August 2, 2001). [Spillenkothen, 8/2/2001]
The Federal Reserve Board of Governors issues a non-routine supervisory letter to Federal Reserve banks, emphasizing the need to continue monitoring suspicious activity reports (SARs). The letter gives no explanation why it has been sent out at this particular time, but states, “Reserve banks must continue to conduct a thorough and timely review of all material SARs filed by supervised financial institutions in their districts.” It adds, “A periodic, comprehensive review of SARs will assist Reserve banks in identifying suspicious or suspected criminal activity occurring at or through supervised financial institutions; provide the information necessary to assess the procedures and controls used by the reporting institutions to identify, monitor, and report violations and suspicious illicit activities; and assist in the assessment of the adequacy of anti-money laundering programs.” [Spillenkothen, 8/2/2001] While the letter does not say if there are specific reasons why the banks should currently be watching for suspicious activities, William Bergman, an economist who works at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago from 1990 to 2004, will later point out, “Intelligence warnings on terrorism were rising significantly in mid-2001.” He will therefore question whether, “with terrorism and its financing already recognized as an important element of the national money laundering strategy,” this letter is “related to these warnings.” He will also point out, “negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of the United States over energy production issues in Afghanistan ended on August 2, 2001” (see August 2, 2001), and that, “Four days later, President Bush received a ‘PDB’—a presidential daily brief—with a headline warning that bin Laden was ‘determined to strike in US,’ and the body text of the PDB referred to ‘patterns of suspicious activity’” (see August 6, 2001). [Sanders Research Associates, 1/4/2006] When, in December 2003, Bergman asks the Board of Governors staff why it issued the August 2 letter, and if the letter was related to intelligence about heightened terrorist threats, he will receive no reply and subsequently be told he has “committed an egregious breach of protocol in calling the Board staff and asking the question.” [Veteran Affairs Whistleblowers Coalition, 5/14/2006] Also around this time, between June and August 2001, there is an unexplained surge in the amount of US currency in circulation (see June-August 2001). [Sanders Research Associates, 9/16/2005]
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