December 14, 2011

Obama Crony-Run LightSquared’s Network Now Shown to Disrupt Plane Safety Gear; How Long Will Media Continue to Ignore?

LightSquaredLogoLate Friday afternoon, Todd Shields at Bloomberg News broke a story about some guy, who happens to be an Obama and Democratic Party donor (but not disclosed), against whom the Securities and Exchange Commission is formally considering an enforcement action (also not disclosed, though it was noted at the New York Times’s Dealbook Blog five hours before Shields’s report), whose “wireless service caused interference to 75 percent of global-positioning system receivers examined in a U.S. government test.” Though it generated a fair amount of center-right blog discussion over the weekend, the establishment press largely ignored the stunning result.

Earlier this evening, Shields and Alan Levin reported even more troubling info (as carried at the San Francisco Chronicle; bolds are mine throughout this post):

Falcone’s LightSquared Disrupts Plane Safety Gear in Testing

Philip Falcone’s LightSquared service disrupted airplane safety equipment in U.S. tests of the proposed wireless network, government officials said.

Signals from LightSquared equipment caused “interference with a flight safety system designed to warn pilots of approaching terrain,” according a statement from the Defense and Transportation departments distributed today by e-mail.

The safety gear relies on the global-positioning system. U.S. officials are testing for interference with GPS devices as they consider whether to let LightSquared operate its network. The service would let clients such as Best Buy Co. offer cheaper wireless services and products, LightSquared Chief Executive Officer Sanjiv Ahuja said in a Dec. 9 interview.

… LightSquared’s effect on the air-safety system was the subject of a separate analysis by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to today’s statement.

… The safety system displays any terrain or man-made obstruction in the path of an aircraft. If a plane flies too close to danger, the system sounds increasingly dire warnings urging a pilot to “Pull up!”

These devices have been required on turbine-powered aircraft since 2005 and are credited with nearly eliminating crashes in which pilots hit the ground in darkness or bad weather, according to the FAA. The system uses GPS to determine a plane’s position, which it matches against a worldwide database of terrain, radio towers, buildings and airports.

Once again, Shields failed to report that Falcone is a heavy Obama and Democratic Party donor, or the existence of the SEC’s consideration of enforcement action against Falcone, described thusly by the Times:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is putting Philip A. Falcone on alert.

Mr. Falcone, a hedge fund manager, received a Wells Notice from the commission on Thursday, according to a filing made by his firm, Harbinger Capital Partners. The agency typically sends those notices when it is considering an enforcement action against someone. Omar Asali and Robin Roger, two Harbinger board members, also received the notices.

The notices stem from possible “violations of the federal securities laws’ anti-fraud provisions in connection with matters previously disclosed and an additional matter regarding the circumstances and disclosure related to agreements with certain fund investors,” according to the filing.

Although the filing does not specify charges or allegations, the notice is likely related to a disclosure Harbinger made to investors. In April, the firm said it was being investigated for possible market manipulation in the trading of undisclosed debt securities from 2006 to 2008. Mr. Falcone has also been investigated over whether a $113 million personal loan he made to himself, using his firm’s funds, was disclosed to investors in a timely manner.

Such trivial matters are not news at all at most establishment press outlets, including the Essential Global News Network known as the Associated Press. A search on Falcone’s last name at the AP’s main national site comes up empty, and Lightsquared’s name is mentioned only in passing in an unrelated AP article about Clearwire.

Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey provided background the press has totally ignored on Saturday (links were in original):

If that was all there was to this story, then this would just be another commercial venture that struck out, with little interest outside the tech fields involved.  However, the overwhelming failure of LightSquared’s test puts allegations from last summer in a new light.  In September, four-star Air Force General William Shelton accused the White House of pressuring him in August to change his Congressional testimony to make his assessment of LightSquared more favorable.  Another Congressional witness told Eli Lake that the White House had “offered guidance” on how to testify favorably towards LightSquared.

Why is this important?  Philip Falcone is a big donor to the Democratic Party, and he has billions of dollars at stake in LightSquared’s approval.  Also, Obama himself was an investor in LightSquared at one point, as were or are a number of his associates.  The resounding failure in this test makes it look like the White House pressured witnesses to back off of exposing LightSquared’s product as exactly the kind of dangerous problem that critics had maintained all along — with the intent to mislead Congress into moving forward with LightSquared’s government contracts.

Is this administration really going to ultimately green-light LightSquared, thereby disrupting the GPS system, and even risking the safety of air travel, in the name of granting favors to a corrupt crony? We may be witnessing a high-tech “All My Sons” scenario conducted in broad daylight.

Is the press, including Bloomberg, which is negligently sticking to the technical details without addressing the corruption — something which certainly would not be happening if a Republican or conservative were in the White House — really going to look the other way while all of this happens? If so, why do they bother coming to work every day?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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BizzyBlog Update: At Hot Air on Monday“LightSquared lobbyists pushing MN legislators to demand action from Klobuchar, Franken”). The whole deal is premised on LightSquared’s administration-sanctioned theft by government grant (that is the right description) of telecom spectrum it should never have been allowed to acquire.

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4 Comments

  1. OK, as a die-hard tea-party member, everybody take a deep breath, exhale and relax. I think this is overblown. If you go back and look at the test reports, they say that the problems start when you are within 100 meters of a tower. HELLOOOOO!!! 109 yards or 327 feet. If a plane is within 100 meters of a tower, I’m thinking it’s too late for the “Pull Up” warning. And what are boats doing that close to the towers unless they are on a trailer being pulled?

    Comment by Noesis — December 15, 2011 @ 7:38 am

  2. Geez, Bloomberg’s reporting wasn’t so nonchalant. And I don’t think Shields or Levin are tea partiers.

    And it sure as hell doesn’t excuse the Obama-protecting non-coverage elsewhere.

    Comment by TBlumer — December 15, 2011 @ 7:40 am

  3. Well Noesis that is because you do not know anything about aviation. Crucial points in a flight is when a aircraft is on short final during a ILS landing. ILS landings by the way are typically during bad weather…fog, rain, snow anything that removes visually seeing the runway. Anyways, the aircraft uses multiply frequencies during this time to direct it to the runway on a safe glide path which at points would cross the 327ft mark and continue down until 0(ground). So yeah it is a big deal.

    Comment by GB — December 15, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  4. Noesis questions airplanes operating in close proximity to towers? Has he never heard of a control tower? Secondly the FAA just announced yesterday approval for iPads in cockpits but not in the cabin. While I don’t totally understand this decision – they did it to err on the side of caution. If the problems start at “327″ feet, would he volunteer to be a passenger on a dark and stormy night within 500′ of a LightSquared tower when his life depended on near perfect accuracy to reach the runway safely? I agree with GB. It IS a big deal.

    Comment by DJordan — December 16, 2011 @ 10:11 am

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