Civil Liberties

Bush: Breaking the Law, Again and Again

The Bush administration is using the Treasury Department and the CIA to mine American banking records, all in an effort to find the next terra cell.

Yes, I know, seven people were arrested -- five Americans -- in a strange thought-crime plot to bomb the Sears Tower.



In other news, the Bush administration has apparently been doing more illegal domestic surveillance, this time of banking records.



Is it a coincidence that news of the first supposed terra-folks located within the United States since the attacks of 2001 would come on the same day as this damning story?
Perhaps, but this is after all an administration that writes its own news and disseminates it. While it is easy to dismiss such questioning as simply cynicism, the reality is far too ugly to ignore -- namely, that people who have already violated Federal and international law and repeatedly lied despite evidence contrary to their assertions would abuse their powers yet again for such an obvious and naked ploy.



According to a ten-page article in the New York Times this past Thursday, in case you missed it due to the lack of a functioning and independent fourth estate, the Bush administration is using the Treasury Department and the CIA to mine American banking records, all in an effort to find the next terra cell, which by the way they just happened to do the very day this news broke.



What the NYT describes can only be seen as illegal and far-reaching, leaving any reasonable person laughing in horror at the idea of John Snow and Porter Goss -- or now General Hayden -- working together to sift through our finances, all looking for the ghost of Osama Bin Laden. Chances are that looking for the actual Osama might yield better results, but this is not an administration searching for Osama, when the myth of him is so much more politically potent. Osama won't be "found" until he is needed for a victory dance that will neatly tie Iraq, Iran, WMD and 911 together in some fantasy story, delivered just in time for political purposes. Will Osama's head too be splashed all over the news and displayed at press briefings in a large wooden frame?



But back to Snow, who appears terribly concerned about locating the terrorists via bank files, our bank files that is. There is of course a good reason to track suspected terrorists and drug traffickers by following the money, as it will, of course, lead to the culprits eventually. But somehow I don't think Snow is looking for that kind of information.



After all, was it not John Snow who approved the Dubai Ports deal, allegedly without notifying the President of the United States, the Defense Department, or the Tsar of Homeland Security?



Not only that, Snow continued to argue despite these facts that the proper people were briefed and assured us that we were all snug and safe in our beds. But aside from the obvious questions surrounding Snow's alleged involvement in some shady business dealings, what is most fascinating is the contradiction of the Dubai Ports deal juxtaposed against the backdrop of these newest revelations of domestic surveillance.



Dubai is the hub for the banking needs of terrorists, drug dealers, and all manner of criminals who wish to launder, transfer, or simply hide large amounts of cash. In fact, Dubai is directly connected to the events of 911 and directly connected to the 911 hijackers' money transfers.



Forgive me if this is an ignorant question, but why is a man who approves access to 21 sensitive and unprotected points of interest in the United States for the very people who helped fund the 911 hijackers given carte blanche to look for terrorists in our bank records? Am I missing something here?



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"The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records."



"The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift." (NYT)


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Emergency economic powers? What emergency economic powers would those be? I guess those powers granted to the Decider by the voices in his head and on his payroll.



According to the Times' article, not only is the Treasury Department running this scam, but it is doing so along with the CIA, which is prohibited from domestic surveillance by the way. But as with Watergate and the CIA operatives who broke into that apartment complex on the orders of an out-of-control White House, all laws are meant to be broken when the one breaking those laws is also in charge of deciding the definition of those laws. In other words Nixon's "Well, when the President does it, that means that it's not illegal," is exactly what Bush said when he simplified that statement into a tantrum of "I am the Decider."



The appointment of General Hayden (yes, the same person who failed to translate an intercept on September 10 describing the attack that was to take place the next day), to head the CIA suddenly makes a great deal of sense given this new context. It would appear that since Hayden was already operating an illegal surveillance program at the NSA, his appointment to head the CIA was simply a logistics move to make the process of domestic surveillance that much more streamlined. I am speculating of course, because I am given no answers as a tax payer and citizen of this country.



But, moving on -- this would be farcical if it were not so criminal -- exactly what safeguards against "unwarranted searches of Americans' records" did the CIA and the Department of Treasury impose on this black op?



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"Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific Congressional approval or formal authorization." (NYT)

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No Congressional authorization or oversight? Is this a new type of safeguard that we little people are just too stupid to grasp? Anyone feel comfortable with this type of safeguard? Does Congress even know?



In any case, one would hope that the law would serve some balance here, even if just as an institutional failsafe, and that perhaps the Justice Department would attempt to work within the law when this kind of program is being used by Snow and his friends. Right?



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"We are not on a fishing expedition," Mr. Levey said. "We're not just turning on a vacuum cleaner and sucking in all the information that we can."



Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution." (NYT)



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Now let me see if I understand this: Although the administration claims "safeguards are in place" they have no Congressional approval or oversight and the company handling this is exempt from American laws. Is that about right?



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"Among the program's safeguards, government officials said, is an outside auditing firm that verifies that the data searches are based on a link to terrorism intelligence. Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Mr. Levey, the Treasury official, said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate." (NYT)

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Outside auditing? Like the kind that Arthur Anderson provided to Enron? Again, pardon my girlish ignorance, but why would a man like John Snow -- someone who thinks it is a good idea to give over our ports to the very peopled tied to 911 funding -- be in a position or have the clearances to oversee something this corruptible? Anyone care to venture a guess? Moreover, why would it be okay for him to use the services of the CIA domestically, when the CIA cannot operate legally within the United States to begin with?



And why would a company not subject to US laws be permitted near the records of countless US citizens and how is that any form of safeguard? Anyone think this sounds a bit too much like BCCI affair (see if you can spot any familiar names) of using American banks to stash drug money and proceeds from illegal arms sales? Or perhaps this might remind some of Iran Contra's banking operation using all sorts of trustworthy players from such high regarded organizations as the mafia and South American drug-lords?



Baffling, but perhaps it is best to approach the question of what this program may truly be used for from the most obvious direction -- that is, from the standpoint of greed.



Let me try my hand at guessing what could be done with such an operation:



*How about using this type of setup because it would be a convenient way to move around a great deal of money that perhaps went missing in Iraq, oh say billions?



Of course I am just speculating here for lack of any government transparency.



*Perhaps this program is being/could be used for covert funding of the terrorists that we like, such as the MEK?



*Or how about this type of operation being used to blackmail members of Congress who may have taken one too many golf filled trips to a foreign resort?



I can come up with an arsenal of possible uses for this type of operation and all of them would be more plausible than the nonsense of an explanation provided to us by these people, who have incidentally lied over and over and over already.



And how does this story hold up over on the other side of the aisle? Well, the right wing blogs have become crazed and want a full investigation and a public execution for treasonable offenses. That is, they are calling for the heads of the reporters and the sources. It is amazing what fear will do to small souls and how easily they will hand over things they cherish the most in exchange for a safe little corner far away from the boogeyman. Some call this stupidity. I call it cowardice and I call the Bush administration criminal. But I am also a strong adherent to reason and such reasonable and provable assertions that 2 + 2 does in fact equal 4.



What else is there to say or to own at this point, other than our own thoughts? So keep telling yourself that 2 + 2 = 4 and cling to it at all costs, because that is the only thing that stands between reason and revolution.