June 23, 2006
Papers Out Classified Financial Surveillance Program
The U.S. government is going after the financial foundation of her Islamist terrorist enemies. This isn't news since the Bush administration has said often they would use diplomatic, military, and financial weapons in the war. What's news is two major U.S. newspapers told the world, including the enemy, how they do it. This from the LA Times:
Under this effort, Treasury routinely acquires information about bank transfers from the world's largest financial communication network, which is run by a consortium of financial institutions called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT.
We know what side the NY Times and LA Times are on. They're neither pro-America nor anti-America. They're each on their own side, a side where their claim of the "public interest" (as they solely define it) transcends mere national borders. The NY Times and LA Times see themselves as above the confines of patriotism. That would be too Red State of them. Too much for the sensibilities of Fly-Over Country. Patterico declares the NY Times "actually dangerous" and "These people are in a race to undermine our national security." It's hard to disagree.
I'm sure there were quite a few rah-rahs in the newsrooms when Dixie Chick Natalie Maines wondered what the big deal is about patriotism. They could relate. The papers have internalized the Mike Wallace notion that they "don't have [a] higher duty... [they're] reporter[s]". Worrying about what harm telling the enemy about our efforts to defeat them is less important than impressing oneself among peers who also drink deeply from the Mike Wallace kool-aid.
There's the possibility of an anti-American European backlash that forces the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) to end its cooperation with U.S. intelligence. It's not out of the realm of possibility even though the NY Times story states, "Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses." Lack of abuse won't stop the anti-American Europeans and domestic Bush Basher from looking to take another shot at the U.S. for her "unlawful," "immoral," "unilateral" foreign policy.
The program has been effective. From the NY Times' story:
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.
I wonder what role Swift data played (if any) in the arrest of the Miami terrorist cell that sought to destroy the Sears Tower.
It would be a grave mistake if the U.S. lost access to a rich source of intelligence just because two newspapers allowed their arrogance to trump national security. There's a time and a place for everything. There is something called History. That's when issues like this could be examined without the fear of tipping off the enemy.
"Bank Data Secretly Reviewed by U.S. to Fight Terror"
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