Bank Shot

Glenn Greenwald has published a post called ” The Bush lynch mob against the nation’s free press” that I recommend highly.

Much of the post discusses calls to prosecute the New York Times for treason because of its recent disclosure of the Bush bank-transaction-tracking program. There are a couple of points I want to add to Glenn’s post.

First off, let’s be clear about what is wrong with the Bush program. Last Friday Jonathan Turley appeared on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown show, and he explained it clearly (emphasis added):

OLBERMANN: Joining me now to assess just how much of a legal thing it is to do, constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley, law professor at George Washington University.

And we meet again on this subject.


OLBERMANN: E-mails, international phone calls, domestic phone calls, databanks of phone records, now bank records. Do you buy the legality of this newest one?

TURLEY: Well, it‘s comforting to know that somewhere in government, each of our lives is organized in a file, from your banking records to your e-mails. I can only hope you get a copy at some point.

But, you know, this raises the same type of questions. Most importantly, the absence of congressional authorization. You know, the president is allowed to enforce the laws, he‘s not allowed to make them. He requires authorization from Congress. This is a constant theme.

And when Secretary Snow says the American people expect us to do things like that, unfortunately, it‘s true that every single week we have a new massive databank or a new, you know, surveillance program being revealed that has not been approved by Congress.

OLBERMANN: Yes, he may have said something, he may have said more than he knew in using that phrase, they—people expect us to do this.

But there‘s one difference with this one, Jon. Some of the banks didn‘t know this was happening. The government‘s not just messing with its own citizens here, it‘s messing with business. And if anybody in this country believes in privacy, and I think they call it proprietary information, it‘s businessmen. Are they going to fight the government in a way that ordinary citizens could not?

TURLEY: You know, Keith, they might, because if you remember, if we go back a couple weeks to an earlier disclosed program, the telecom scandal, that we found out that various telephone companies were giving information, telephone numbers, by American citizens to the United States government. And the response was a considerable backlash. Many customers were not happy, particularly when they found out that one company said, No, said, This is not something you can do under the law, and told the administration, Show me your authority. And the administration simply refused to do so.

Now, you may see a similar backlash from these banks, and saying, you know, We have a business to do here, we have a system of laws. If you‘re going to have some type of massive program like this, then go to Congress, and let‘s talk about it. You can do it in a classified setting.

But in this case, all we know is that some members of the intelligence committees were informed. Under this law they‘re citing, AIEPA (ph), he was only supposed to use this authority for a brief time, in an emergency. He was then supposed to go back to Congress to get real authority. Instead, he just kept on mentioning it to the same oversight members, who did nothing about some of these other programs.

OLBERMANN: Tell me, lastly, here about the term with which we started this segment, the secret administrative subpoena, not even reviewed by a judge nor a grand jury. What‘s the secret administrative subpoena business?

TURLEY: Well, I think they‘re talking about national security letters, which is basically what it sounds like, a letter claiming national security. But the thing I love is that Secretary Snow and his associates have said, Look, we did have oversight. It wasn‘t Congress, it wasn‘t the court. We went out and hired a private company, and they did the oversight, they protected your civil liberties.

This is (INAUDIBLE) outsourcing the Constitution. We—it‘s something that is almost laughable that they believe oversight is that they looked at themselves and felt good about it, and then they hired a private company, and they pretty good too.

OLBERMANN: Well, if you have a low threshold for feeling good about yourself, I guess you can do that, you can get that from a company or from your own picture of yourself, no matter how distorted it might be in the mirror.

George Washington University law professor, constitutional law expert, Jonathan Turley, great thanks for joining us. And I‘m certain we‘re going to be talking about something like this again soon.

TURLEY: Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Thank you, sir.

In sum, I don’t believe this is primarily a civil liberties issue, but more a breach of separation of powers issue. I bring that up because on last night’s Hardball I observed (until the channel was, mercifully, changed) Al Sharpton and some wingnut woman radio personality “debate” this issue, and neither one of them had a clue what he or she was talking about. Sharpton argued that the program violates civil liberties, and I suspect it probably does, but I don’t think we know enough detail to prove that it does. On the other hand, there’s no question the Bushies are in violation of usurping power the Constitution gives to Congress.

The other point is one that Glenn makes — that there is, actually, nothing in the recent news stories that terrorists didn’t already know. Last night on Hardball, before the atrocious Sharpton-Whozits debate, Chris Matthews interviewed Ron Suskind (bless him!), David Ignatius, and Evan Thomas on the finance-tracking program. The transcript isn’t up yet at the MSNBC site, but probably will be in the next couple of hours. Anyway, I gather from the converation that at least some of the “new” information published by the New York Times is also in Suskind’s new book, The One Percent Doctrine. I have only barely started reading it and haven’t gotten to that part yet, but I think the relevant section begins on page 141.

[Update: The MSNBC Hardball transcript is here. The interview with Suskind, Ignatius and Thomas is the first thing in the program. ]

Suskind et al. concurred that the terrorists have known about this program for a long time and have pretty much stopped using financial institutions to transfer money. These days the terrorists are mostly sending cash from here to there by way of couriers, they said. This has slowed them down a bit, but it isn’t stopping them.

For a whole lot more on this topic, read today’s Dan Froomkin column.

Update: Captain Ed misses the point. Again. Nobody is saying that the administration should not have been tracing terrorist financial transfers. (In fact, I am about 98 percent certain that the Clinton Administration tried to get a program like this going in the late 1990s, but Republicans in Congress shot it down. As I remember, Senator Phil Gramm of Texas, now retired, was instrumental in the shootdown.) The problem (and how many times does this have to be explained?) is that the Bushies are operating without proper oversight.


Update update: More from Jonathan Turley at Democracy Now!

22 thoughts on “Bank Shot

  1. So a private firm is now protecting my civil liberties. Well. Nothing to worry about then. I for one welcome our new corporate overlords. “Civil Liberties TM” and “Civil Liberties Lite TM” Two for one this week. Get ’em at Wal-Mart.

  2. Captain ed should stick to stories he can understand …perhaps the “softer side” of rush limbaugh is more at his level.. one can almost imagine our super hero, with his cape blowing in the wind,penis pump in hand rushing to the aid of all his limp heros…

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  5. Maha,

    Put aside the legal arguments (I suspect this is just another example of bu$hco’s overreaching power grab) the sickening thing is how the cable news media is covering the story. They have turned this thing into an argument over whether the NYT’s should be prosecuted for printing the story. What a bunch of misinforming assholes. The story is the program, not how it was published. As usual Faux “News” is leading the charge. The lack of coverage of the program itself speaks volumes as to its legality.

    I have noticed however nobody on cable is covering Rush Limbaugh’s latest run in with the “long hard” arm of the law. What a moral man. Screwing some island girls with the help of a penile stimulant, out of wedlock no less.

  6. Bush will never bring the troops home since having “troops in the field” is the operable excuse for doing every stink thing imaginable and declaring that dissent is treason. Troops in the field are the source of his/their power and dictatorial perogative.

    Meanwhile we all now know why Limpbough is all talk and no action.

  7. these revelations make this a truly international problem as the SWIFT organisation whose records are being scrutinised is the major institution through which billions of dollars of trade payments and transfers for foreign investments are made on a daily basis. can the principals involved in these transactions be assured that details of their business dealings will not be passed on to the business associates of the Bush Administration for other than honest reasons.

    davidm. melbourne australia

  8. Businesses eh? Hedge Funds? Halliburton? Boeing? And the shareholders of the banks themselves, the boards of directors … so rather than infringing on the terrorists’ funding what they may have done with this news is actually now put a scare into the international markets … mmm

  9. I saw King George in an interview yesterday on CNN. Interesting. It was brief; as I recall he hit on 2 main topics. First he was upset about the ‘non-transparent regime’ of N. Korea who seems ready to test an ICBM. Though I am paraphrasing, Georgie seemed upset that they were not willing to announce the capabilities of or intentions for the missile. Stay with me.

    In the next breath, Georgie is all over the New York Times for printing a true story about another surveillance program without court approval, without Congressional oversight. Last time I glanced at the Constitution, oversight was the obligation of Congress and the Freedom of the Press (also in the Constitution) was the only way to go over the head of the President and Congress, taking an issue to the boss, because that’s what I deem the American People to be.

    But I digress. In King George’s reality, ‘transparent’ as it applies to his administration refers to a one-way mirror. He believes he is entitled to data from business and even foreign governments on demand. But nobody – not Congress or the Press is allowed to look (critically) at what’s happening in the White House. Interesting.

  10. Neo-Zion have spied on SWIFT, the system the rich use to move their money out of taxreach.
    I predict this is the end for Neo-Zion. Old Money needs its secret offshore accounts, nobody fucks with them.
    Old Money is content to co-exist with NarcoThugs, they wont allow SWIFT to be tapped. Cheney is running scared now the NYT has blown the whistle

  11. My fear is that these “scandals” (which are coming out on an oddly regular basis) are being leaked by this administration to drum-up outrage at the press, and when the appropriate level of outrage is reached, they will use all these examples to attempt to silence the press. Maybe because they despise these “liberal” news organizations, or maybe they are setting the stage to allow even worse scandals to remain hidden…

    Most people are not taking the time to understand the truth (such as, the terrorists already knew we were monitoring their phone lines and bank records, and the administration has already discussed these activities in the past), and are being whipped into a frenzy by the ever negligently complicit MSM – this administration understands this and uses it to their advantage on a daily basis…

    Wow…when did I get so cynical?

  12. What a great post, and what great comments! Limbaugh needs a penile pump and Bush needs a credibility pump.

  13. I think the attack on the media is totally bogus. Notice that the administration didn’t really strike out until Monday. Notice also that the administration didn’t get much bounce out of the arrests of the “Miami 7”. Even the MSM quickly figured out quickly how bogus that nonsense was and it was virtually dead by noon on Saturday.

    In the past the administration has used these type of tactics when they are trying to divert attention from something else. So the real question is what nefarious behavior is being hidden by this bogus crap?

  14. #12 EAP when did you become so cynical?
    “My fear is that these scandals are being leaked to drum up outrage at the press”. Your not cynical your right. That is exactly the point of these so called “scandals”. Karl Rove is hard at work brainwashing the dirty minds. (And throwing a stink bomb at everyone else). Setting them straight for the next election, how that little moon faced bastard isn’t standing trial is beyond me. Take a look at the polls; the democrats have not managed the truth against this little bastard. And we will all pay in the end.

  15. Bush & Co are only concerned that the disclosure of this program will screw them in the eyes of the international business world. They have never been too concerned about how they are viewed politically by the international community (if they had we wouldn’t be in this mess in the first place). But now they have screwed around with the true major players of the world. If the banking industry truly didn’t know about this ‘secret’ program, they will be pissed, and if they did know and were assured that nobody would find out, then they will be really pissed. Bush might just have bitten off more than he can chew.

    Suskind, etal. had better watch out or they’ll be the next to be called unpatriotic and threatened with lawsuits – they just exposed that the terrorists are transporting money by courier – a fact that the administration was trying to keep secret!

  16. 1998: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 1999: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2000: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2001: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2002: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2003: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2004: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2005: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. 2006: liberal media, liberal media, liberal media. Is it any wonder? We let this happen. Our media hates itself. Hate sells commercials.

  17. And, uncledad, #19, the media need to sell lots of political ads in election years……it is part of their bottom-line income projection. So, amp that rhetoric, ’cause getting more and more ad money into politics means more and more $ for media.

  18. What I meant to add was this: the media would, eyeing their own bottom line, BE AGAINST public financing of candidates…..

  19. It’s interesting to look at the attacks that have risen to the surface since Karl thinks he skated out from under Fitz … the attack on Kos, the attack on Murtha, flag burning, attack on Suskind … etc. Karl has a singular focus and that’s to run Rep on a discredit agenda so he can inflame his base enough so they won’t stay home for Fall elections. Clearly, having the base stay home in the fall is a big deal and since his Bush policy cup does not runnith over all he has is this scare, enrage, attack family values, national security … all will be lost … if you can’t stomach to vote for Bush, come out and vote against the Dems … It’s all he’s got.

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