Turns out, not only was the Bush administration illegally wiretapping citizens without a subpoena, not only are they tracking all internet traffic, but they are also receiving bank transaction information without a subpoena.
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.
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.
Given that these are the same jackasses that linked Saddam, Jose Padilla, Keanu Reeves, the deceased Hume Cronin, and the imaginary Bob Terwilliger to al Qaeda, does anyone actually believe this operation is limited in scope at all? The same guys who take pleasure in ratfucking anyone who disagrees with them, the same organizations that put yours truly on the no-fly list (jigga wha?)… yeah, I’m sure it’s a very limited program.
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 these are ongoing without subpoenas just goes to (further) show the disregard these authoritarians have for the Rule of Law. If there’s a consensual sexual relationship involved and they’re out of power, then they’re all for the Rule of Law, but when they’re in power and the issue effects our civil liberties… who needs it?
Simply put, the State cannot demonstrate probable cause for a warrant when they are asking for millions of records. Without a specific, and narrowly-defined, goal no judge should approve this request. Which no judge did, it turns out, because they used administrative subpoenas. Secret administrative subpoenas that were not reviewed by either judge nor grand jury.
If there is a valid reason to look at business records, then the government should have no problem obtaining a warrant. A public, even FISA, warrant. Their refusal to try or inability to obtain them says a lot about the program. That the government asks for and expects this information without a subpoena is horrible. That a corporation (Belgian or otherwise) would give them up without requiring a subpoena is tragic. Compare this to librarians nationwide who have been sticking to the Rule of Law and requiring a court order to reveal private information (and, of course, being attacked for it, of course). Librarians are now the front line defenders of our civil liberties. Amazing, isn’t it?
The one conviction that has come from any of this, and one the article refers to repeatedly is of Uzair Paracha. The same Paracha who was tortured with food and sleep deprivation. The same Paracha who has repeatedly said he issued a false confession under duress. The same Paracha who was denied the ability to call witnesses to the stand in his defense because the government would not let them out of Guantanimo. The same Paracha whose father is being held without charges in Guantanimo because the government says he was laundering money.
The American citizen Uzair Paracha.
That is the result of our current cruel, arbitrary, cruel, and lawless government. Doesn’t it just make you feel proud?
Current and former U.S. officials say the effort has only been marginally successful against al-Qaida, which long ago began transferring money through other means, including the highly informal banking system common in Islamic countries.
There’s an old saying about how you can tell more about a person by how they treat people when they’re on the way up. I think we can all agree that the current administration deserves every bad thing that happens to them for the rest of their lives.
Bonus points for making analysts worried that this disclosure may undermine the integrity of SWIFT, and thus severely impacting the financial markets. Nice job, GOoPers!
Double extra bonus points for the administration trying to can the story before it went to print. “National security” my ass.
Update: SWIFT’s feeble CYA press release