If you're surprised in any way that once a month our government downloads so-called secure banking records to monitor the financial transfers of American citizens, please ask your doctor or pharmacist about formaldehyde.
Yesterday the Los Angeles Times bust out on-line with the unauthorized biography of the Treasury Department and its affair with SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), the go-to guys for international money transfers. Once a month since September 11, Treasury downloads a personal-data podcast from SWIFT to share with their buddies the CIA, FBI, and whoever else is hanging around in the basement. But don't worry, says White House spokesman Tony Snow, "If you're not a member of Al Qaeda, you're safe."
Except that Levey also cited the program's value in "tracking lower- and mid-level terrorist operatives and financiers who believe they have not been detected, and militant groups, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, that also operate political and social welfare organizations." So it's not just Al Qaeda types who should worry.
Despite intense lobbying by the Bush administration, both the New York Times and the L.A. Times went ahead with the story, though New York gave the Bushies "the most serious and respectful consideration" and L.A. said they "made a very strong case."
According to L.A. Times bureau chief Doyle McManus, "The key issue here is whether the government has shown that there are adequate safeguards in these in these programs to give American citizens confidence that information that should remain private is being protected."
What're both Times so freaked about? Maybe it's the government and its habit of classifying pacifist, alternative and humanitarian groups as terrorist threats.
Just last March, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent G. Charles Rasner, in his "Counter-Terrorism Efforts in Texas" lecture at University of Texas, identified Food Not Bombs, Indymedia, and the Communist Party of Texas among ten groups with potentially misleading names that could be linked to terrorism. What part of "Not Bombs" doesn't he get?
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Local agents can stake out Food Not Bombs volunteers in Santa Ana every Friday and Saturday at 1 in Anaheim's La Palma Park, Sundays at 12:30 at the Catholic Worker House, 316 Cypress Ave., Santa Ana and at 3 at San Clemente's Max Berg Plaza. Non-fascists are also welcome. Even more so, in fact.
Also: the CIA, privy to all this confidential info, is in a bit of a shambles at the moment. After Porter Goss practically apparated out of office with little warning or explanation, leaving an organization torn by squabbles and turf wars, he was replaced by former NSA chief Gen. Michael Hayden. You may remember Hayden from his architecture of warrantless electronic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens suspected of terrorist ties, which should give him unique experience for this new position. Also, CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, their #3 man, is under investigation for involvement in the Duke Cunningham congressional bribery scandal. That really ought to silence any Doubting Thomases who question the government's integrity in such matters.
On Friday, Treasury Secretary John Snow called the transfer-tapping program "government at its best," claiming it to be "entirely consistent with democratic values, with our best legal traditions." Sure, John. Except for the IVth Amendment.