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June 28, 2006

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And according to Kevin Drum, handing over transactional data may have violated European financial privacy laws.

Will this be part of the damage assessment requested by Kansas sycophant Pat Roberts?

Apologies? Of course not. The damage is done. A few more Americans now believe that The New York Times is filled with nothing but traitors.

Thanks Mimi for an, as per usual, fine post. I just caught on Hardball an old clip (2001 ?) of fearless leader Bush making a speech about tracking assets. I guess when Bush leaks classified information to enhance his image, it's ok. When the NYT's informs their readers about the latest trampling of the Bill of Rights , it's treason.

The administration has been telling the world publicly it was tracking organizations by financing, including the administration working with its allies where some of the banking activity was routed. Bush himself has spoken of this numerous times in 2002 and afterward. The European worries likely were managed in of secret accords. Glance at this in the Boston Globe about the many public portions of the bank monitoring system over the past few years. Also, somewhat related this article about a letter DoJ sent to Specter one week ago opposing reporter privacy provisions in draft law S.2831. Bush's public remonstrations targeting the NY Times were theatrics not news; the real story is the attempt to tar the NYTimes.

I wonder if vice president Cheney's advisors originated this plan; Bush himself must recall his public statements about having gained cooperation from international banks to trace the money in front organizations.

Of course I was not seriously suggesting that the RWNM would apologize. Being Republican means never having to say you're sorry. But I do think that it is getting like the boy who cried wolf. I don't think they are gaining adherents.

Polls show Democrats much more enthusiastic about voting this fall, and swing voters are heading our way.

But I'm an optimist.

Let me ask this - does anyone think that the enhanced airport security searches are unknown to the terrorists?

Have we caught many terrorists at airports lately?

I think the answers are "no", and "no" - does that mean we should suspend all airport searches?

Let's try a different tack - if we can believe Bill Keller, the Admin only pushed weakly the idea that this program was a secret:

A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. It has been widely reported — indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department — that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash.

What was the Admin worried about? Per Keller, and as exemplified by Drum above, the concern was that a public hue and cry would force Europeans to back out of the program. In tha tcase, the terrorists would regain access to an easy way to move cash, and make tracking them a bit harder.

As an easy analogy - suppose I lock my front door, and arrest everyone who comes in the back door. Would it make sense to argue that the front door may as well be unlocked, since no one is ever arrested there?

Or let me quote from Ron Suskind's book (oddly, I deduced this chain of reasoning independently - what were the odds?) - the topic of discussion is electronic surveilance, and I have to thank the MaHablog, who utterly missed the point:

Eventually, and not surprisingly, our opponents figured it out. It was a matter, really, of deduction. Enough people get caught and a view of which activities they had in common provides clues as to how they have have been identified and apprehended.

“We were surprised it took them so long,” said one senior intelligence official. …

…The al Qaeda playbook, employed by what was left of the network, its affiliates and imitators, started to stress the necessity of using couriers to carry cash and hand-delivered letters. This slows the pace of operations, if not necessarily their scale, and that was, indeed, a victory. …

Should we give that victory back due to public pressure in Europe?

OK, maybe the Euros won't drop out. So tell me why it is Bill Keller's decision as to whether we should take that risk. Then tell me how to un-elect him, or otherwise make him accountable.

"So tell me why it is Bill Keller's decision as to whether we should take that risk."
It's Bill's responsibility to provide his readers with the accurate information about issues that interest them. A lot of his readers think the Bill of Rights and the separation of powers are very important.


"Then tell me how to un-elect him, or otherwise make him accountable."
Bill is accountable to the NYT's readers, advertisers, and stock holders.

"Then tell me how to un-elect him, or otherwise make him accountable."
Bill is accountable to the NYT's readers, advertisers, and stock holders.

Hmm - so if a small minority of our populace can support the Times (or some other paper) financially, there is no other limit on what they can publish - no national security considerations at all?

A government of laws, not of men, sort of takes a hit when Scaife or Soros decides to start a paper and publish national security info intended to embarrass the other side.

A couple of months ago I had an incoming SWIFT transfer.

When I asked CitiBank about processing time, they told me that all SWIFT transfers now go though Homeland Security first and wait until they're cleared. This was a "low level" operative at CitiBank, they must have thought I was CIA.

Seems like this is a great big secret!

Sic the FBI on the New York Times, for sure!

ArtShu-
I transfer money internationally through SWIFT once a month. The money shows up in my account within hours of making the request. If all transfers have to "wait until they're cleared" it is obviously a computerized operation because the sheer volume would be overwhelming otherwise. I actually doubt the reality of what you say this Citibank person told you and it actually is not consistent with what the NYTs reported. Furthermore, I don't think someone using a SWIFT transfer from say, Pakistan to Hong Kong would be told their transaction is going through US Homeland Security.
Any transfer, domestically or internationally, of more than $10,000 is monitored for money laundering and has been for decades.

***Any transfer, domestically or internationally of more than $10,000**

I should clarify that by "international" I meant a transfer between a foreign bank and a US bank. Obviously, other countries will have their own regulations.

``And according to Kevin Drum, handing over transactional data may have violated European financial privacy laws.''

If so, Tom MacGuire, then ``a government of laws, not of men'', has already taken a hit. Or can't you see that?

What a beautiful collection, Tom. If those had been mine I don't think I could have brought myself to torch the straw men and let loose the red herrings. I would have put them in a lighted glass case in my living room...

does that mean we should suspend all airport searches?

Somebody was suggesting that we should suspend all law enforcement access to bank records? Oh... Not even one reasonably well-known blogger made that suggestion? Oh... Well then, I guess your argument remains unrefuted. Bravo for you.

the concern was that a public hue and cry would force Europeans to back out of the program.

Okay class, let's put on our thinking caps and see if we can help Tom figure out why there would be a public hue and cry. Because this administration has been awe-inspiringly duplicitous and shown virtually no respect for the rule of law? Because there's was nothing impeding law enforcement access to SWIFT records before Sept. 11, and there is as of yet no clear explanation for why the US needed to hoover it all up willy nilly instead of simply asking SWIFT to retrieve the records in question? Because the actions of the SWIFT board of governors were quite possibly illegal in Europe and Europeans are less tolerant of self-appointed monarchs than we are?

Nah.

The only reasonable explanation is that most of the world's population are irrational Bush-hating moonbats.

Should we give that victory back due to public pressure in Europe?

Excuse me? That doesn't even make sense. Are you saying that this victory was dependent on the hoover method? Are you suggesting that a more traditional (non-hoover) approach to tracking illegal financial transaction would not have led to the victory? Are you suggesting that it's more valuable to have the data than to prevent terrorism? Spell it out for me. Because I'm having trouble interpreting this.

So tell me why it is Bill Keller's decision as to whether we should take that risk.

Because of a musty old thing called The Conftitution of the Unites States of America, Tom. You may be more frightened of the terrorists than you are committed to retaining your rights and those of your fellow citizens, but my rights they're gonna have to pry out of my cold dead fingers.

...no national security considerations at all?

This used to be called begging the question, but I have no idea what it's called now. In any event, you seem to have concluded that there was some sort of breach of national security here, which is a fact not in evidence.

A government of laws, not of men, sort of takes a hit when Scaife or Soros decides to start a paper and publish national security info intended to embarrass the other side.

Indeed. Funny how only one of those men has done anything remotely like what you describe, isn't it?

So... which do you prefer Tom, a government of laws or a government of men?

"no national security considerations at all?"
No, that clause is inaccurate. Based on other statements you have written, I think you were aware of that before you wrote it.
Since you brought up airport security, one of the most egregious errors (by Hatch IIRC) was letting slip the hand made knives that the 9/11 perps used to commandeer the plances. If Hatch had not let that detail out, airport searches, alerted to this threat, probably could have caught a lot more other hijackers. I'd invite you to read up on Allied anti-submarine warfare in WWII. The same radio transmissions that made the wolfpacks so effective before 1943 were precisely what doomed them after 1943. It was the Allies ability to hide their technical innovations, e.g. "Huff Duff," that made that stunning turnaround possible.

Individual techniques, however, always occur within a large defensive context, such as airport detectors and searches. Advertising your defenses is in itself a deterrent, albeit not perfect.

If you are truly concerned about our national security, could you explain to me what we are doing in Iraq. Osama could not operate in Iraq, before our occupation, now it is a training ground.
What is our military objective in Iraq and Afghanistan?
Do you want to make Iran and Russia even more influential in the region than they already are? We're borrowing to finance all sides of their civil war, destabilizing the entire region, and seriously injuring what used to be a terrific fighting force, our's. All that creates uncertainty and the markets abhor uncertainty. Is a lot of your portfolio in oil stocks?

John Casper- you make an excellent case for not publishing details of defense and intelligence programs, even if the broader idea of the program is known.

My brother-in-law ran the PR for SWIFT for five years. I'm sure he will be happy to know how badly he failed to publicize its operations.

"A government of laws, not of men, sort of takes a hit when Scaife or Soros decides to start a paper and publish national security info intended to embarrass the other side."

I'm sorry. Isn't that the untidy house in which a democracy with a free press, lives? Attmpts to darken the shades of grey in what
some Jurist's uphold on the 1st(Yelling 'Fire' in a crowded theatre) do not blacken the unequivocal "Congress shall make no Law...)

MayBee, the "decision" to publish "classified" information only becomes an issue for the traditional media when it tramples the Bill of Rights. In our system, the separation of powers between the three branches of government trumps everything else. "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
Intentionally disclosing the location, strength, or mission of a U.S. combat unit to the enemy is treason, because that is "classified."

That's completely different, however, than when the government, using my tax dollars, violates the 4th Amendment:
"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

Has anybopdy wondered lately what would happen to the US if the power brokers in Europe finally had enough of Bu$hCo's spying and lawbreaking? I think they probably don't care if we get our rights thrown out and stampeded, but they may have to answer to other Europeans who still believe in privacy rights. To me it would be like the bully in a schoolyard. After a while, all the kids who have been "beaten up" by the bully simply get together and beat up the bully. Strength in numbers, ya know? Everybody (even nations) get fed up eventually. Europeans may want to let us die on the civil rights vine, but I doubt they want to go along for the ride.

Tom, imo, Europe is scared silly of Russia.

On the opinion page of the NYT today Richard Clarke and Roger Cressey---in the article about the SWIFT matter---ask:

``How gullible does the administration take the American citizenry to be?''

Answer, pretty damned gullible. As far as I can see Karl Rove thinks that there is one born every minute, and George Bush et al agree with him. Judging by the reaction of some of the R congress critters and other cogs in the right-wing screech machine and dept of hissy fits, I would say that he is probably right. (Of course, some of them may be more cynical than gullible.:-)

Supplemental remark: it sometimes seems to me that Rove and GWB are the Barnum and Bailey of national politics. Alternately put, GWB is a fraud upon the public. (And see Paul Waldman's 2004 book: Fraud: the strategy behind the Bush lies and what the media didn't tell you :-)

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