Friday, June 23, 2006

Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror

NYT Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials. The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database. Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said....

The program is limited, vital to our national defense, and save guards have been implemented. Why did the NYT feel that it had to print a large expose of this secret program in the middle of a war? Does Al Qaeda own the NYT?
Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.....
Several people familiar with what the NYT has published believe that they are committing treason by printing national secrets in a time of war, and they believe the reporters, editors, and publisher should be tried and imprisoned.
Officials realized the potential for abuse, and narrowed the program's targets and put in more safeguards. Among them were the auditing firm, an electronic record of every search and a requirement that analysts involved in the operation document the intelligence that justified each data search. Mr. Levey said the program was used only to examine records of individuals or entities, not for broader data searches.
But even with the safeguards, the NYT decided to publish it.
CQ blogged The New York Times Eric Lichtblau and James Risen have exposed yet another clandestine method used by American intelligence to track terrorists at home and abroad. This time, the pair has revealed a complex surveillance system in the international banking system that traced financial transactions of people suspected of terrorist ties. The system, called Swift, has resulted in at least one capture of a high-value target, al-Qaeda's leader in Southeast Asia.... The White House sent a bipartisan team of officials to ask the Times not to print the story....

The administration has told us on many occasions that one of the main fronts in the war on terror would be the financial systems. We have seen plenty of coverage on how the US has pressured various banking systems into revealing their records in order for us to freeze terrorist assets. If anyone wondered whether our efforts had any effect, all they needed to read was the stories of Hamas officials having to smuggle cash in valises in order to get spot funding for the Palestinian Authority. Their neighboring Arab nations pledged upwards of $150 million in direct aid, which banks would not transfer lest the US discover the transactions and lock them out of the global banking system.

Did no one read that and understand that the US has an extensive surveillance system on financial transactions around the world? Perhaps Keller, Lichtblau, and Risen need facts spelled out for them using crayon and words of two syllables and less, but the thinking world already understood that American intelligence had thoroughly penetrated global finance -- exactly like we said we would do in the wake of 9/11.

This story is only good for one thing, and that is an attempt to blow the program and stop our ability to follow the money. The New York Times apparently wants to stage itself as a publication written by traitors for an audience of idiots.

Bryan Preston blogged Call me crazy, but since the program is legal and since the administration argues it has helped stop terror attacks, isn’t the weight of the public’s interest in this story on the side of keeping the program under wraps so that it can continue to stop terrorists? When the terrorists finally do succeed, will the Times rush out with an apology for having outed two major anti-terror programs that just might have helped stop it–if they had remained secret? Of course not. We all know what the Times will do–blame Bush.

StopTheACLU blogged Tracking the finances of terrorist organizations is one of THE best tools we have to cut at the roots of terror. The NY Times doesn’t care. After specifically being asked not to release this information by our government because it might jeapordize its effectiveness. The NY Times doesn’t care how it effects National Security, they are leaking it to the public. Classified information? What’s that? We are in a transparent nation. Too transparent.

Michelle Malkin blogged Dammit. These people don't know when to stop. The anonymous leak-addicted NYTimes tag team of Eric Lichtblau and James Risen is at it again. Their front-page, splashy piece posted on the web tonight and top-linked on Drudge

All Things Beautiful blogged The "Bush Spied Privacy Died" Hysterics At The NYT Are Back.... It is transparent that these two newspapers are out on the loose, motivated only by a combination of greed and Bush hatred, reaching dizzying new heights in journalistic and civic contempt, for the traditions of our nation and their once proud heritage. It seems that they really do hate the President more than they fear al-Qaeda, relentlessly working for the enemy's detestable cause. Keep telling yourself that they are protecting your civil liberties. "We are a transparent nation". Yeah right. And finally, they belong in jail...there...I said it, I feel better now.

Macker blogged One of these days, it’s gonna happen where America’s Pravda (there, that’s much more fitting, don’t you agree? After all, in Truth there is No News) will be forcibly shut down for leaking too damn many secrets. And I, for one, wouldn’t even shed a tear.

IowaVoice blogged Damn it! Will someone PLEASE find the person responsible for these leaks to the press and have them arrested for violating national security???


Alexandra said...

Don, Just blogrolled you, well overdue, I know... Please delete this comment, and send me an e-mail so I have your address.
Alexandra @All Things Beautiful

Anonymous said...

From The Right Valley:

The New York Times has delighted in revealing confidential information about the methods our security services are using in the war on terror. These disclosures naturally compromise our efforts to fight terrorists by making the terrorists alert as to how we track them, making the terrorist plots harder to discover and increasing the risk that terrorist attacks against the US will be undiscovered. In other words, their disclosures potentially put lives in danger.

But the Times seems to feel that the public's "right to know" outweighs all this. If the public's "right to know" is so strong, I think the public also has a "right to know" more about the New York Times. I think the government should do the following:

o) Tap the phones of all columnists of the New York Times and then print the names of all their sources in their articles (if these sources actually exist). The public has a "right to know" who these anonymous sources are, to better judge the credibility of their statements. This might inhibit people from giving off-the-record information to the times, but hey, the public has a right to know.

o) Print the income, net worth, and credit card and bank account numbers and balances of all editors and reporters for the New York Times. Sure, people could misuse this information, but the public's right to this information is more important.

o) Publish the net worth and distributions from the Sulzberger trust fund. Again, this is private financial information, but the public has a right to know who is funding the Times and where the money is going. And besides, once this disclosure is made, we can find out how much the Sulzberger's are giving to "the poor" every year!

o) Publish the political affiliations and political donations of all reporters and editors of the times, as well as political organizations they belong to. A small invasion of privacy, but that still doesn't trump our "right to know". If this information is displayed in a pictorial format, we can play "Where's Waldo" to find the single Republican!

Don Singleton said...


bank said...

I have heard Their neighboring Arab nations pledged upwards of $150 million in direct aid, which banks would not transfer lest the US discover the transactions and lock them out of the global banking system.

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