Friday, June 23, 2006
Bush v al Qaeda + al NY Times
I learned about the al New York Times front page story giving our enemies aid and comfort 17 minutes after it happened. I haven't been able to write, because I just don't know anymore. What purpose was there for us to have this information?
Do they want us all dead? Is this a ploy to bring out the financiers who will come to transfer their money out of those banks? I don't know, but I do know that I am angry. When we get attacked again, I'm blaming the al Qaeda and the NY Times and all big media for it.
Just in case they remove the story, you can read it here: My Newz 'n Ideas Plus!. You are here. lol.
This is the report from Yahoo News. The NY Times article is beneath it. Actually, the NY Times is beneath many things, but we'll leave that for later. Also included in this mess is the Los Angeles Times, and the destruction goes on...
WASHINGTON [Reuters (actually, Yahoo News)] - U.S. counterterrorism officials gained access to an international database and have examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others under a secret program initiated weeks after the September 11 attacks, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
U.S. government officials said the program was limited to tracing transactions of people suspected of ties to al Qaeda by reviewing records from a Belgian cooperative known as SWIFT, or Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, the "nerve center of the global banking industry," the newspaper reported on its Web site.
"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," it said.
Government officials said SWIFT data helped lead to the capture of Riduan Isamuddin Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombings, the report said.
The records mostly involved wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas or into and out of the United States. Most routine transactions confined to the United States are not in the database.
The program, run out of the CIA and overseen by the U.S. Treasury Department "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, a Treasury undersecretary, told the newspaper.
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.
But the article also quoted several people familiar with the program who said they believed a "gray area" in the law had been exploited and worried about the impact on SWIFT if the program were disclosed.
"There was always concern about this program," an unidentified former government official was quoted as saying.
The New York Times said administration officials had asked it not to publish the article, saying disclosure of the SWIFT program could jeopardize its effectiveness.
After considering the government's request, Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said, "We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."
Shortly after publication of the Times article, Treasury Secretary John Snow issued a statement defending the government's use of the SWIFT program and expressing regret its existence had been made public.
"Let me be clear what this program is, and what it is not. It is an essential tool in the war on terror, based on appropriate legal authorities with effective oversight and safeguards," Snow said.
"It is not 'data mining,' or trolling through the private financial records of Americans. It is not a 'fishing expedition,' but rather a sharp harpoon aimed at the heart of terrorist activity."
SWIFT said on its Web Site that after the September 11 attacks, it responded to compulsory subpoenas for "limited sets of data" from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury.
"Our fundamental principle has been to preserve the confidentiality of our users' data while complying with the lawful obligations in countries where we operate," it said. "Striking that balance has guided SWIFT through this process with the United States Department of the Treasury."
End of Yahoo News.
Beginning of NY Times.
Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror
By Eric Lichtblau and James Risen
Published: June 23, 2006
WASHINGTON, June 22 — 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.
Samantha Sin/Agence France-Presse - Getty Images
Stuart Levey, an undersecretary at the Treasury Department, in a file photo. He said the program "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks."
Data provided by the program helped identify Uzair Paracha, a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2005, officials said.
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, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.
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.
That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.
"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous."
The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.
But all the programs grew out of the Bush administration's desire to exploit technological tools to prevent another terrorist strike, and all reflect attempts to break down longstanding legal or institutional barriers to the government's access to private information about Americans and others inside the United States.
Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing. Much more limited agreements with other companies have provided access to A.T.M. transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments, the officials said.
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.
Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions, Mr. Levey said.
While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.
Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told American officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At that time, new controls were introduced.
There are 4 more pages! Good grief.