Friday, June 23, 2006

Disarming American Intelligence

Here we go again. Assumption of illegality, disclosure of secret intelligence systems, and a business assuming they have a greater moral right to reveal the program than the government has to defend the country.
The White House vigorously defended today a secret program of combing through a vast international data base containing banking transactions involving thousands of Americans. Vice President Dick Cheney and other officials said the program, whose existence was revealed on Thursday night by The New York Times, was both legal and necessary to deter terrorism.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, in his first public remarks about the program, called it "government at its best." He told reporters that the operation was carefully controlled to trace only those transactions with an identifiable link to possible terrorist activity.

"There can't be any doubt about the fact that the program is an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror," he said. "It's for that reason that these disclosures of the particular sources and methods are so regrettable."

Now, the fact that the US intelligence departments are known to track terrorist financial transactions, just as they are known to track terrorist phone calls. But giving the details of the who and how these things are being tracked is beyond the pale.

Then there are those ranting against the activity:
"I am very concerned that the Bush Administration may be once again violating the Constitutional rights of innocent Americans, as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11th attacks," Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has made privacy a signature issue, said in a statement.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony D. Romero, condemned the program, calling it "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."

Well, these two standing against the program does make one certain that this probably was effective and providing useful information. Markey's assumption that banking records are protected is fascinating in the depth of his lack of knowledge. In fact banking records don't require a warrant even within the country. And these transactions are coming from over-seas..

Counterterroism Blog came out on the topic:
By way of background, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) provides electronic messaging services that direct financial transactions worth trillions of dollars a day among around 7,800 financial institutions throughout the world. As detailed in the various media reports, the Treasury Department has been receiving SWIFT information since shortly after 9/11. Personally, I'm astounded that the program has remained confidential this long. It was an innovative and remarkable program. As custodian of the program, Treasury provided the SWIFT information to the CIA, who managed the program. The FBI, in conjunction with the CIA and Treasury, exploited financial information to thwart terrorists, exposing them to areas of financial vulnerability.

For my colleagues who have been skeptical of the U.S. GovernmentĂ‚’s efforts in terrorist financing, this program, the cooperation with other financial providers, such as First Data Corporation and Western Union, contributed significantly to the A- grade given the Government for Terrorist Financing by the 9/11 Commission. Many of the successes achieved in terrorist financing have not reached the public domain. The anonymity afforded, up until this point, has provided the interagency community the opportunity to continue to exploit terrorists through their financial vulnerabilities.

Nice that at least they can give some details of what is actually happening. Too bad the MSM hasn't been as clear nor as honest in its reporting. Read the rest.

On the topic of terrorism, I found especially disturbing hearing co-workers discussing the Liberty-City Seven. I understand I work in the People's Republic of Massachusetts, but the majority of them believe that this indictment was politically motivated or in reaction to the terrorist arrests in Canada. In addition they seemed to be baffled that they were arrested when they didn't have the means nor any detailed plans to actually commit a terrorist act. I had to ask what they thought law enforcement should do, and didn't they think that there could be a possibility that these young men may just have been trying to move ahead on their intent. I got a good laugh out of them and was called paranoid. I pointed out that there is a difference between being paranoid and being stupid. What is it going to take for people like this to lose their complacency?

Well, at least there was one redeeming part to these reports:
The press secretary made his remarks during a lengthy morning briefing, during which he at times grew uncharacteristically testy. At one point, he accused news organizations like CNN, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times of collecting personal data from visitors to their web sites without disclosing it. At another, he grew exasperated when Helen Thomas, a longtime White House correspondent, interrupted him, and told her to "stop heckling and let me conduct the press conference."
Funny, I'm starting to like Tony Snow more all the time.

1 comment:

Granted said...

I really want to see you at work someday. It'd be fun to have someone who intimidates their co-workers more than I do.