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Tilting at Windmills

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June 27, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

EXPOSING SECRET PROGRAMS....As long as I'm asking dumb questions, here's another one. No one is going to believe me when I say that I'm not trying to grind any particular axe here, but....I'm not trying to grind any particular axe here. I'm just curious.

OK. So the New York Times has now exposed two anti-terrorist initiatives: the NSA's domestic spying program and the Treasury Department's financial tracking program. The administration says that exposing these programs is bad because terrorists will stop using telephones and international credit transfers now that they know the U.S. government can monitor these activities. Thus, we have fewer ways of catching bad guys.

Fine. That's true. And yet, isn't there an upside too? If the bad guys stop using telephones and bank transfers, doesn't that reduce their effectiveness considerably? No phone calls, no wire transfers, satellites watching you, drones attacking out of nowhere, websites hacked, no one who can be trusted at some point their whole operation grinds to a halt out of sheer paranoia.

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots. If they think that keeping them secret is a net positive, they're probably right. But nobody even mentions the upside of exposing them. Surely there is one, isn't there?

Kevin Drum 12:43 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (155)

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No phone calls, no wire transfers, satellites watching you, drones attacking out of nowhere, websites hacked, no one who can be trusted at some point their whole operation grinds to a halt out of sheer paranoia.

Welcome to my dating life.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

why do you hate america?

Posted by: a on June 27, 2006 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, it doesn't matter how you spin the liberal New York Times treasonous publication of Bush's anti-terrorist program. Bush standing up to the liberal media for endangering the American public will only convince more Americans that the liberal media doesn't care about protecting the lives of Americans and only care about bashing Bush more.

The left thought that they could hurt Bush by publishing this but the exact opposite is happening. The American people are rallying around our Commander-in-Chief as he takes on the liberals and their terrorist allies. If Democrats had any sense, they would come out in support of Bush and his anti-terrorist program while attacking the liberal media. But Kos has already given out his marching orders to attack Bush rather than defend America. Once again Kos and his blogofacists are the undoing of the liberals and Democratic party.

Posted by: Al on June 27, 2006 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

To be sure, leaking the information on tracking finances or monitoring phone call patterns lets our enemies know how we are watching them and presumably takes these tools away from them. So you are right that there is somewhat of an upside in that financing and managing terrorist groups has presumably become a bigger pain in the butt than it was before (can't use phones or wire transfers let us say).

But we need to balance this against the reality that exposing these programs also makes it harder for us to identify terrorist groups since the easier tools are now useless. It makes it harder for us to track and target those groups. It makes it harder for us to stop future attacks. And it makes it harder for the government to get cooperation from private entities and foreign governments that may not want their cooperation made public.

In short, you may be right that financing and organizing terrorist groups has become say 10% harder thanks to these leaks. But I would assert that finding, tracking, and fighting those groups has become significantly more difficult, say 50% harder. I find that trade-off nothing to be happy about.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

"But nobody even mentions the upside of exposing them. Surely there is one, isn't there?"

In additon, to the points you make about severely limiting the terrorists ability to communicate effectively, there is that other thing about living in a Democracy where informing the public about what its Government is up to as a general rule is not only a good thing but a necessary thing.

The Bush administration cries shame, but to date has yet to offer any real evidence that these reports did anyting to harm the national security interests of the US. They have shown for example that the President lied to the American people repeatedly during the 2004 election campaign when he said because he values the Constitution the government always gets warrants before pursuing wiretaps against terrorists. The Bush administration may see that as a bad thing but the American people deserve to know when their President is lying to them.

These reports may make evil doers paranoid about what the press isnt reporting that the administraiton is doing.

The reporting is bad for GOP politics, and far too many have confused whats good for GOP partisanship and whats good for the country.

Posted by: Catch22 on June 27, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, I think it's a brilliant observation. Cut the lines of communication, force them to work harder. Makes them easier to spot in the long run.

A Burnsian "Exxxcelllent" to you, sir.

Posted by: KW on June 27, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, Damnit, correct this post. You mean well, but you have not only completely bought into the Republican meme, but misrepresented the issue at hand - disasterously!!!

There was a media leak, but there is NO "exposure". This program was public knowledge and has been for years. Period. End of story. Provisions for the program and its basic parameters were spelled out in the PATRIOT Act. President Bush himself has reffered to the program any number of times and in any number of speeches. The NYTimes added a name (SWIFT), some opinions/expressions of worry, and the fact that the program used "a database". That's it. That's the sum total of the "program exposure".

This is a right-wing MYTH. It is inventing reality and it is doing so with a shocking lack of opposition. There was nothing of any consequence "exposed", just a repackaging and collating. The people in the know on the ReThug side are mad at the negative PR, not because of some nonexistant security breach. Terrorists continued to use the banking system before and they will continue, because they have a chance of getting away with it, regardless of Swift. They either have been well aware of the risks for years, or they are paying litterally no attention to both Western Media and the fates of their own comrades.

Jesus Christ, Kevin. You really need to add this perspective to your post here, or retract it. You mean well, but this is a terrible, shoot-your-friends-in-the-face framing.

Posted by: glasnost on June 27, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

That's a bit like saying that sure, murder is bad, but think of all the benefits! It stimulates the economy and the trial provides work to lawyers! Plus, hey.. the public good benefits too, because of the death tax. The best part is that no murder victim has ever complained.

If you're a liberal and you love your country, start killing people. All those abortions were a really good start.

Posted by: American Hawk on June 27, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you must be against America. What are we going to do next? Cut off the sale of weapons like AK47s to the terrorists by Americans?

Posted by: nut on June 27, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

The Bush administration cries shame, but to date has yet to offer any real evidence that these reports did anyting to harm the national security interests of the US.

Better yet, they've yet to offer any evidence that the Bush admin has done anything to help national security. Color coded warnings? The Iraq invasion and occupation has done more harm than the NYT could do in Al's wildest wet dreams.

Posted by: Martin on June 27, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Aviation Week & Space Technology (otherwise known as /Aviation Leak/) just ran a full-page obituary for their long-time investigative reporter. Since 1955 or so he had reported on (i.e. "blown") dozens if not hundreds of secret military avspace projects. Not only was he not prosecuted, but his articles were considered must reads at the aerospace contractors and even inside the DoD (Navy's gotta keep an eye on the Air Force after all).

Of course, a lot of Radical Fighting Keyboarders like to read AW&ST, so they _can't_ be doing anything wrong.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 27, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I really don't think that eliminating terrorist's ability to communicate via phone or make bank transactions is going to "severely" limit anything. The point is that we had a good way of tracking that stuff and now we can't use it anymore. Now the terrorists have to go to some other medium and we have to figure them our there as well. Now the upside here is that we might pigeonhole them to the point where they don't have any way of communicating without us tracking them at all which would be good. The problem is that we can't always track everything, and the bad guys are smart and know this. I don't think this NYT leak changes much, but i'll be damned if it isn't unamerican. And this crap hiding behind free speech laws is getting really tired and nobody believes it but them.

Posted by: smitty on June 27, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

I think you overestimate the perspective of the directors of these programs in two ways. First, what comes out of the mouthpieces of the Bush administration and the unvarnished opinion of program directors are hardly the same thing.

Second, anyone who runs anything usually thinks the current way they are operating is right and necessary. I'm not insinuating some particular bias, but if you have thought through the way you're doing things, you generally think you're right - even when you're not.

Additionally, there are potentialy effective government programs we don't simply don't allow - e.g. forced sterilization, and others we do allow, but only under strict supervision: e.g., the creation of nuclear fuel. Until this administration, invasions into the privacy of ordinary Americans were considered part of that category: they sometimes served functions so important they were permissible, but the determination of those times, and the subsequent invasions of privacy were carefully supervised. With FISA, we did a perfectly good job of both - we quietly did suveillance as necessary, but we could also be certain that there was strict supervision and redress for excess. Had the Bush administration not broken the law, the programs existence would never have made it to the front page - it would have been business as usual. Most of us would be perfectly happy to go back to that state, but are not content to allow hapzard destruction of safeguards to our liberties. Don't fall into the trap of making a dichotomy between effectiveness and oversight; both can and usually do coexist.

Posted by: Eric E on June 27, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty certain that after the administration came out and made their points, the people that wanted to, and already did, think that way about the "liberal" media (the way Al thinks), had it confirmed. As for me, I always assumed that they were monitoring the obvious money channels anyway. I thought that they were previously doing it for tracking drug money so doing it for terrorist activities was a no brainer. Nothing was particularly shocking, it just confirmed it.

Posted by: Rick on June 27, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, my thoughts exactly. If bin Laden had been too scared to send money to the hijackers in the U.S., how would they have paid for flight lessons? How would they have paid for their living arrangements? How would they have paid for anything?

There are no alternatives here, smitty. If you aren't going to use international bank transfers, you are SOL. What, are terrorists going to strap bundles of cash to donkeys, send them out of the caves of Pakistan and hope that they somehow get to terrorists around the world? Get real.

The best security systems work even when they are completely out in the open. CCTV cameras in stores to reduce theft don't need to be hidden to be effective; in fact, it is usually more effective as a deterrent if they aren't hidden. So the terrorists know that we are tracking their finances. If they stop transfering money, we win. If they keep on doing so and we track them, we win. What's wrong with this?

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on June 27, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Better yet, they've yet to offer any evidence that the Bush admin has done anything to help national security.

Well, they caught Osama bin Lad...oh, wait. Never mind.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Since this administration has proven their wisdom and effectiveness time and time again, I have to think there's a hidden plan behind such abismal leakage. Maybe by allowing reporters to 'stumble' onto these secret programs and expose them, they actually lure terrorist groups into a methodology and/or technology where we are already lying in wait (?).

This WH is the epitome of secrecy and control. Exposing anything they do can't be completely accidental, can it? Gotta be another reason.

There's some 'benefit of the doubt' for ya, eh?

Posted by: wishIwuz2 on June 27, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots.

What in the world is wrong with you today? That is an utterly ridiculous assumption.

Posted by: skeptic on June 27, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots. If they think that keeping them secret is a net positive, they're probably right.

Karl Rove? Is that you, Karl?

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think that if the GOP were really, truly up in arms about this they'd be going after whoever leaked the information. Naturally, the whole incident begs the question that if the administration hadn't engaged in morally and legally questionable practices as wiretapping American citizens without a warrant, would this article really had ever made the news? As it is, unless the terrorists have a collective IQ of 82, they're already cautious about money transfers and traceable phone calls to begin with. This affair is a tempest in a teapot, and is merely a political tool to divert away from a poor record for the GOP.

Posted by: Quinn on June 27, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The 9-11 commission said that we should look at banking transactions. This is obvious. So, we have two warnings about banking records and the terrorists are now going to change their ways. How many times were we warned about attacks and planes being blown up? Don't tell me they are smarter than we are. Harumph.

Posted by: Go Red Ox on June 27, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots. If they think that keeping them secret is a net positive, they're probably right.

Now, I assume that the people running the Japanese internment camps aren't idiots. If they think that keeping Japanese-Americans locked up is a net positive, they're probably right.

Now, I assume that the people running the Vietnam War aren't idiots. If they think that keeping the Pentagon Papers secret is a net positive, they're probably right.

Now, I assume that the people running the Reagan Administration aren't idiots. If they think that keeping the details of Iran-Contra secret is a net positive, they're probably right.

Beware the assumption of intelligence and good will. A populace that relies on the belief that "oh, our masters probably know what's right" will soon come to regret it.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Dr. Gonzo, let me first say that using that name brings a great deal of responsibility -- comparing onesself to Hunter S. Thompson should not be taken lightly.

I see your point, but the fact remains that there are other ways of transferring money to people around the world. Electronic transfers are the easiest way of doing so, but terrorists will get around it. The problem I have with this whole thing goes more to the NYT deciding, in the face of many requests and pleas by people in the administration, to publish this story anyway

Posted by: smitty on June 27, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Any terrorist worthy of the name HAD to already figure that we were monitoring phone calls, e-mail, bank transactions, etc because that TRAITOR GEORGE W. BUSH and his stooges said that we were tracking them down, going after their financing, etc.

These people who are going after the Times (but not the Wall Street Journal, eh?) seem to think that the terrorists thought our only source of intelligence was our subscription to Terrorism Today.

So, maybe wiretaps and sting operations were a surprise to those 7 nitwits in Florida, but the real enemies already knew this stuff.

This "leak" is akin to telling the Nazis that we were going to use tanks in battle during WWII.

Posted by: tomeck on June 27, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

I have to agree with glasnost that this seems to be a non-story. I always assumed that there was some system of pointing to international criminals by screening bank transactions. I don't think you have to point out the upside of the story being "out" because it was always "out."

The NSA wiretapping program seems far more secret and controversial to me. Am I right about this or am I missing something?

Posted by: erica on June 27, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the NYT knows/suspects that these programs are being used against ordinary Americans - or political opponents of the current Bush junta - and that's what's behind exposing them.

Posted by: Susan Paxton on June 27, 2006 at 1:18 PM | PERMALINK

smitty, this administration admitted in 12/01 that it was tracking financial data, to say nothing about all the other admissions since then. If you want a list, check out this post by Glenn Greenwald. The NYT story is hardly the first admission that this program exists.

Aside from using banks, how else can money be moved around the world? If terrorists are going to resort to using human mules to move cash around the globe, I say let them. Contrary to popular belief, terrorists tend to be idiots, and if the next terrorist plot relies on tens of thousands of dollars being heralded around the world by humans instead of electronically because the terrorists are paranoid now, I think that's just great. They will screw up, just like the pretend terrorists in Miami did.

Unless you can come up with a feasible way that terrorists can move money around the world to avoid tracking, you can't really argue that the NYT story has hurt anything.

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on June 27, 2006 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think that if the GOP were really, truly up in arms about this they'd be going after whoever leaked the information.

Actually, it seems like it's Bush who's the leaker. Here are some comments Bush made at the National Endowment for Democracy in October 2005:

First, we're determined to prevent the attacks of terrorist networks before they occur. We're reorganizing our government to give this nation a broad and coordinated homeland defense. We're reforming our intelligence agencies for the incredibly difficult task of tracking enemy activity, based on information that often comes in small fragments from widely scattered sources, here and abroad. We're acting, along with the governments from many countries, to destroy the terrorist networks and incapacitate their leaders.

Right out in public Bush reveals (a) that we're reorganizing our government, (b) that we're tracking enemy activity based on sources here and abroad, and (c) that we're working with other countries. He's giving away the whole farm! He just revealed our entire strategy to the terrorists, who can use these information to better counter us. They now know, when they didn't before, that we're "tracking [their] activity, based on information that often comes in small fragments from widely scattered sources, here and abroad." The man's leaking like a sieve!

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

I think, at best, the main bone of contention that can be had with this article is that it is not a noteworthy event, continued use of the monitoring is a net positive even if use of transfers is declining, protestations that this was supposed to be a limited use kind of deal fall flat, and therefore it didn't need a front page blast from 3 major newspapers. If this was a second page article, nobody mentions it, not even the administration. So maybe the Times does need a slap on the wrist for making a huge deal of this to begin with.

Posted by: Quinn on June 27, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck, absolutely right. This whole dust up against the NY Times still feels like a White House publicity stunt to paint liberals as having "poor character values" before the election. The Republicans don't have anything else to run on, and so we can expect a lot more of it. The speed with which Ann Coulter and the other Fox Switcheroo Propagandists have promoted the story (but THEY, of course, are not doing further damage to the anti-terrorist cause, by spreading it far and wide!) is the tip-off. And the idea that the terrorists hadn't already figured out these ways of being monitored, is ridiculous.

Posted by: Lee A. Arnold on June 27, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck,

You've managed to ignore the fact that this program is credited with brining down several high profile terrorists. It's one thing to know the U.S. government is tracking finance, quite another to know how they are doing it. Clearly some of these groups thought they had arranged their financing schemes to bypass the U.S. surveillance. Thanks to the NY Times they now know they had not.

The leak is not akin to telling the Nazis that we were going to use tanks in battle during WWII. It is akin to telling the Nazis where, when, and how we were going to use tanks in battle. And that, my friend, is no small difference.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots

They may not be idiots, but they don't seem to be very good at keeping secrets.

Instead of going after the New York Times, why doesn't the administration spend some time investigating how the information was leaked in the first place ?

Posted by: Stephen on June 27, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

This "leak" is akin to telling the Nazis that we were going to use tanks in battle during WWII.

Actually, zat vass a bit of a surbrize to us.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

technically, the Times did not first reveal the monitoring of the SWIFT database.
however, since no one appears to have noticed this when it was first published...one could still question the Times' judgment to have published this on the front page in 2006:

as I posted on the other thread, the monitoring of the SWIFT database by the U.S. was publicly disclosed in December 2002 in a report to the UN Security Council by The UN Al Qaeda and Taliban Monitoring Group

http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N02/725/72/PDF/N0272572.pdf?OpenElement

Posted by: Nathan on June 27, 2006 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah the terrorist knew all this anyway so why not fill in all the missing blanks - and let in any other government who wants us destroyed to know as well.

The upside? What are we doing now, providing cover for the lame MSM? People here go postal thinking the Bush administration leaked one non-undercover CIA agent but just pass off the revelation of two secret projects which will cost American lives?

Hypocrites.

Posted by: Orwell on June 27, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

A great deal of what the so-called "War on Terror" has been about is a testing of how supreme, really, is American technologicial supremacy. It is a celebration / condemnation of high tech American capitalism gone wild.

If Rumsfeld's / cheney's philosphy is correct, there is no need for a large US military, because we can smart bomb / shock and awe the "terrorists" into submission and outsource Tora Bora to Afghan warlords and Iraq reconstruction to Haliburton. the Europeans, greedy for a piece of the Iraq action, would come in and do the post-war scut work, so we could dismantle the Iraqi military. This is cyber war. That's the way American capitalism works, and what we are fighting for.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the "Mission Accomplished" celebration. Osama escaped Tora Bora and the Iraqis did not great us with flowers. The Arabs, being humans, were not shocked and awed but rather humiliated and insulted by the Iraq invasion. The Europeans, fearing American cyber-capitalism (the damn French like their universal health care and other such surrendur-monkey socialist ideals ) and wary of Iraq, stayed out. High tech has not been enough; boots on the ground have been needed. Expensive American boots - not cheap outsourced boots. Human intelligence has been needed, not global satellite listening systems. That means labor not capital has mattered. And that is not the American Way.

It seems that there have been stranger things - perhaps in heaven and certainly on earth - than have been dreampt of in our cyber-war philosophies.

As applied to the current squabble over high tech listening devices, we safely may conclude that high tech is no more likely to prevail in this arena than it has anywhere else.

Posted by: Thinker on June 27, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think that if the GOP were really, truly up in arms about this they'd be going after whoever leaked the information.

More Bush leaking:

"Before September the 11th, law enforcement could more easily obtain business and financial records of white-collar criminals than of suspected terrorists. See, part of the way to make sure that we catch terrorists is we chase money trails. And yet it was easier to chase a money trail with a white-collar criminal than it was a terrorist. The Patriot Act ended this double standard and it made it easier for investigators to catch suspected terrorists by following paper trails here in America."

-- September 19th, 2004, Bush campaign speech in Hershey, PA.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

I suspect that any terrorists who were brought down as a result of the program quickly realized that they were found out because their bank transactions were scrutinized. It would be a logical assumption.

Posted by: erica on June 27, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

The leak is not akin to telling the Nazis that we were going to use tanks in battle during WWII. It is akin to telling the Nazis where, when, and how we were going to use tanks in battle. And that, my friend, is no small difference.

Really? So the terrorists know, thanks to Bush running his mouth, that we're chasing money trails and surveilleing their finances. But they're not smart enough to deduce from this that we're checking bank records and wire transfers? Do you really think that passes the laugh test?

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

People here go postal thinking the Bush administration leaked one non-undercover CIA agent but just pass off the revelation of two secret projects which will cost American lives?

The Times didn't leak it, somebody in the administration did.

I never thought that Novak should go to jail for
printing Plame's name, but I always thought that the leak should be investigated.

Posted by: Stephen on June 27, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

A blind person that does not use his/her brain will never see.

http://powerofnarrative.blogspot.com/2006/06/press-that-holds-itself-in-contempt.html

Posted by: POD on June 27, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Gonzo: Unless you can come up with a feasible way that terrorists can move money around the world to avoid tracking, you can't really argue that the NYT story has hurt anything.

Hawala. The administration says we have shut down the US end of hawala, but I don't know if we have been successful. The fact that Bushies say we have doesn't convince me.

http://www.interpol.int/Public/FinancialCrime/MoneyLaundering/hawala/default.asp

Posted by: anandine on June 27, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

ORWELL...
"... People here go postal thinking the Bush administration leaked one non-undercover CIA agent but just pass off the revelation of two secret projects which will cost American lives? Hypocrites..."
Here is the difference...since you seem to have a problem with analytical thinking...in one case an undercover operative (see fitzgerald brief) was exposed for political gain. in the other two cases programs that violate, or have the potential to violate, my civil liberties were exposed. typically the congress and the jusicial would be expected to provide oversight. today the congress can only pass pay raises for themselves and discuss pointless amendments meant to pander to the clowns like you that make up their base. that leaves people like me who care about the constitution looking to the fourth estate for any kind of oversight. maybe the press has finally gotten off the bush kool-aid jag and started to ask questions. if so this country will be better off.


Posted by: j. on June 27, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

KD: But nobody even mentions the upside of exposing them. Surely there is one, isn't there?

Yeah. It's called keeping the American public informed of what its elected representatives are up to. The Bush Administration can do a lot more harm to America than any two-bit terrorist in a Pakistani cave.

Hell, they already have.

Posted by: S Ra on June 27, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Shouldn't terrorists assume everything they do is monitored? Eveything subject to discovery, nothing safe? They know full well the technological capabilities we have and are smart enough to speculate we have a few they don't know about. And won't the most zealous, the most determined terrorist disregard our counter measures no matter what we employ? Some will get through, most will fail, but many will try regardless. If Bush and Cheney really believed the nation would be grievously imperiled by publication why didn't they order the papers closed during those pre-publication discussions we hear of? I read before going to print Bush asked them not to expose the program. He certainly has some sort of emergency powers to employ if an act endangers thousands of citizen's lives. Put up or shut up I say. Close the papers and deal with the consequences. If the public asks what was so important the NY Times had to be shuttered go on national TV and say it's none of the country's business, it's secret and it's gonna stay that way.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 27, 2006 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK
Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots. If they think that keeping them secret is a net positive, they're probably right.

The people running these programs are, at the highest level that sets policy, the people in the White House. It must be remembered that the assessment of a policy as a "net positive" is not an objective fact but is relative to some value proposition. So, unless you are willing to state that you agree wholeheartedly and without reservation with the values of this administration, it is extraordinarily foolish to say that if the decision-makers in this administration think it is a "net positive" to keep some program secret it probably is a "net positive", even if you make the (unwarranted, IMO) assumption that the highest decision-making levels of this administration are free of idiots.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 27, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it ...

Anyone who follows technical developments (AQ is too smart not to) has known for decades that the NSA can *potentially* intercept any communication that goes through the air or over a wire. So much for leaks of [illegal] wiretaps.

When the government announced it would be tracking AQs finances, and busted non-profit organizations for financing terrorism, the cat was out of the bag. Does anyone truly believe that AQ is too stupid to figure that banks use clearinghouses for transfers of funds? Is it a huge intellectual leap to figure out those clearinghouses are the logical place to track funds.

Get real! This was no leak at all. Damage concerns are pure idiocy. Ask any reasonably well-educated 16 year-old and find out how "secret" these methods are.

Righties, stop whining and face the facts. You look like fools because you are.

Posted by: Eclectic Floridian on June 27, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but seems like Bush has lost Richard Cohen of Wa Po. Can David Broder and Chris Mathews be far behind?

Posted by: nut on June 27, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, stripping us of our basic rights might help the war on terrorism. As Georgie put it himself, "If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."

It's about time we asked ourselves if terrorism is really as important as we're making it, or if it's just an excuse to introduce fascism.

Posted by: MillionthMonkey on June 27, 2006 at 1:45 PM | PERMALINK

Why does The Washington Monthly hate America?

Posted by: blogenfreude on June 27, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Hmm. The program was probably more likely to catch drug trafficers and tax evaders, so making the potential terrorists think their every phone call and money transaction is monitored probably is more effective than searching them out through straight data mining.

Posted by: Yes on June 27, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

This whole issue is a publicity stunt.

They're not going to charge the NYT with espionage.

They're just going to posture and harumph and provide FoxNews with more juicy sound bites. Then Americans are going to vote in November for the party they believe is going to protect them. That will be the Republicans.

Honestly, I wish they WOULD go ahead and charge the NYT. I wish they would go balls out with their hard rhetoric. Because then Americans would realize that there are consequences for voting for fascism.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 27, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

You seem to be saying there is no difference between discussion one's intentions ("chasing the money trail") and detailing one's course of action (a multi-paged story on exactly how the administration goes about chasing the money trail). That's plain silly.

Erica, I think they NY Times article itself described how the program helped locate the terrorist behind the Bali bombing. It isn't clear to me that the terrorists would deduce it was financial records as opposed to other intelligence assets that did this.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots.

And I assume that would-be terrorists aren't idiots either.

Suppose you are a member of AQ in a post 9/11 world. Even if you lacked solid evidence, wouldn't you ASSUME that the United States would engage in these sort of anti-terrorist programs (wiretapping, SWIFT), or at least err on the side of caution?

It seems to me that these programs are only going to sweep up the most incompetent terrorists anyway (See, Miami "Sea of David"). True operational terrorists, I suspect, aren't leaving behind the trails that these programs can detect.

Posted by: K Ashford on June 27, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck,

You've managed to ignore the fact that this program is credited with brining down several high profile terrorists. It's one thing to know the U.S. government is tracking finance, quite another to know how they are doing it. Clearly some of these groups thought they had arranged their financing schemes to bypass the U.S. surveillance. Thanks to the NY Times they now know they had not.

This isn't correct, hacksaw. The NyTimes didn't add any operational details to the story. They didn't say anything GWB hasn't already said in speeches except for possibly the name of the program. Exactly how will terrorists use the program's name to avoid having their transactions monitored?

The truth is that this program wasn't 100% effective when it was created and extensively discussed in 2002. It wasn't 100% effective in 2004. It isn't 100% effective now. That's why it has been effective at all - terrorists haven't abandoned the banking system completely because some of them get through the net. And some of them still will after this article. And as long as some of them get through, they'll keep using it. And some of them will keep getting caught.

This article changes nothing. Literally.

The Rethugs are using the idea of the security breach and low public awareness of a program that is nevertheless public knowledge to manipulate you.


Posted by: glasnost on June 27, 2006 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

K. Ashford...very few people were aware of SWIFT...someone in the financial industry had to suggest it..the feds weren't even cognizant of it. so yeah, a terrorist, even a competent one, may not have been fully aware of which financial records were "safe"

Posted by: Nathan on June 27, 2006 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, are you nuts? I suggest you re-read the comment from glasnost up top and also Glenn Greenwald's post about the Bush lynch mobs.

You've got some very basic assumptions dead wrong.


Posted by: JJF on June 27, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not so sure terrorists even have us on their hit list anymore. Dropping the Towers has drained more than a trillion dollars out of our economy and it's not over yet. There's no sign Bush is going to quit signing checks. We're a mortally wounded animal thrashing about in the dirt. Now, if you cut a wolverine badly and knew it was just a matter of time before it bled out why would you bother trying to get close enough for another slash of the knife. Just sit back and let the death throes run their course, no need to further endanger yourself.

Posted by: steve duncan on June 27, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, if you find out there is a spy in your midst, the *last* thing you ever want to do is shut that spy down. The smarter thing to do is feed him false information, follow his movements, and find out who he works for. It's always better to have a spy and know what he's doing, than to be uncertain about whether you are being spied upon or not.

That's why revealing these secret programs could potentially be damaging -- it prevents us from tracking down these people. They'll still be doing things, but we won't be able to watch.

I have no problems with keeping programs secret. I do, however, have problems with illegal spying programs -- leaking them serves the american public by protecting our freedoms, which is more important than monitoring a handful of criminals.

Posted by: Remus Shepherd on June 27, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

glasnost,

I just don't see how you can claim that. Take all the Bush quotes, U.N. report quotes, and other previous citations that folks here have pointed out and lump them together. Then look at the original NY Times story. To suggest that the Times story doesn't take it to a remarkable new level of detail is simply not supportable.

Not only does the Times story piece together the elements and specifics of what the government is doing in a way no one else had before, it also reveals the scope and scale of the effort (the broad surveillance aspect of the program) that most people probably did not think we were capable of. Show me an example of either of these things having been discussed in similar detail by the president or anyone else.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

anandine, thanks for the link on hawala. I've never heard of it, so I've learned something today.

I'm sure that terrorists have been using hawala to transfer money. Fixing that seems to be more of a local law enforcement issue, such as finding the people engaged in these activities and shutting them down.

Maybe more terrorists will use these kinds of arrangements in the wake of the NYT story, maybe they won't. I think the information far outweighs any costs, though.

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo on June 27, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

I'm thinking that if I were a terrorist at the level of say "Osama bin Ladin" that money can be dispersed like sifting sand through a screen. There are so many methods to send money without drawing interest. Dummy corporations or individuals, accounts opened in the names of well known politicians-there's just so many ways that SWIFT would never uncover and I'd use them all. Plus I would consider Bush and what he does as being totally inept. He lost sight of catching Osama and instead attacked a country that had nothing to do with it. If I'm Osama I'm thinking Bush is pretty well doing my job anyway and certainly has no desire to catch me. If he did then he'd loose any hold that he had over morons living in the US. Osama wanted to stress western society in the US and Bush basically does that for him. He can just take an extended vacation and that's probably what he's doing. Osama must get up every morning and laugh about how easy it all is with a comrade like Bush and how now he need do nothing but watch as Bush destroys the US. Bush is doing more damage to the US than Osama could ever expect to do himself. Osama must be laughing his ass off. And Bush can't even catch him.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw (to Stefan):

"You seem to be saying there is no difference between discussion one's intentions ("chasing the money trail") and detailing one's course of action (a multi-paged story on exactly how the administration goes about chasing the money trail). That's plain silly."

There's no difference if you're in the terrorist's shoes. If the Administration says it intends to check money trails through financial institutions (which it said), you don't need to know the operational details. Out of an abundance of caution, you would just avoid the financial institutions altogether.

If I told you that your house was to be bugged (and you knew I had the capability to do so), but didn't tell you how I was going to do that, or where the bug was . . . would you carry on with business as usual, or would you conduct your conversations elsewhere? The latter, of course.

Posted by: K Ashford on June 27, 2006 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

The people running these programs are, at the highest level that sets policy, the people in the White House. It must be remembered that the assessment of a policy as a "net positive" is not an objective fact but is relative to some value proposition. So, unless you are willing to state that you agree wholeheartedly and without reservation with the values of this administration, it is extraordinarily foolish to say that if the decision-makers in this administration think it is a "net positive" to keep some program secret it probably is a "net positive", even if you make the (unwarranted, IMO) assumption that the highest decision-making levels of this administration are free of idiots.
Posted by: cmdicely

Word, Diceman.

Kevin, you're fired.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

"The American people are rallying around our Commander-in-Chief as he takes on the liberals and their terrorist allies."

Al, there are so many moronic assumptions built into this single line of authoritarian idiocy (seen any polls lately?), it should be nominated to some kind of Hall of Blogger's Shame.

Boy, you sure do hate democracy something fierce.
Did it drop you on your head as a child?

Posted by: Kenji on June 27, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

Two things:

First, who in their right mind would believe that the main movers and shakers of al Qaeda aren't aware of the West's ability to track all kinds of wired and wireless communications? Bin Laden was using cell phone misdirection tricks four years ago. Did he suddenly forget something? Or, on the contrary, did we?

Second, doesn't it seem a little odd that news of these programs has been "leaked"? Doesn't the phony outrage of the Bush administration (which has done absolutely nothing except whine about the leaks to stop them or punish the so-called leakers) smack of more manipulation? Let's face it, it's much easier to get the American populace to imagine that some real, effective program has been, oh my!, *compromised* by sympathizers and enemies than it is to actually BUILD a program that could really track and interpret all this data. Anyone who has ever worked with any government agency, especially the moribund spooks, knows damn well that the discovery power attributed to either the NSA or Treasury Dept. technological programs is completely overstated, probably for posturing purposes.

The fact of the matter is, bin Laden isn't even close to being caught, or else (not out of the question) there's an advantage to letting him go free. In either case, let's not imagine that something has actually been compromised that wasn't supposed to be compromised.

Posted by: vampirolog on June 27, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

"this program is credited with brining down several high profile terrorists"

I'm guessing it was the number 2, or was 3, man in AQ? Anyone else?

"just pass off the revelation of two secret projects which will cost American lives?"

How will these so-called revelations cost lives?


You guys just throw this crap at the wall and hope its sticks.

Posted by: Pierre Asciutto on June 27, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

Show me an example of either of these things having been discussed in similar detail by the president or anyone else.


Bush doesn't know. There is nothing secret about this technology. Osama stopped using his sat phone years ago. I can tell you the patents that were used to create the echelon program. Public info. These SIGINT programs began when Radios did.

If any of the Als, or the American Chickenhawks think any of this is new, or that talking about any of these programs is 'secret' then you have no idea of technology and should really just pipe down.
The Als and the Freepers supply propaganda, like Luntz, and they have,as AL, rationalized their lies in the name of GOD. That is to do Gods work and destroy the constitution and create a theocratic country.

Right AL?
Christianity is the enemy of Democracy -Rushdoony

Posted by: AL is a fake Christian on June 27, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

vampirolog,

Bin Laden was using his cell phone and we were tracking it up until our media helpfully wrote that we could do so. Then he started using misdirection. An excellent example of the problems we get when we print this kind of information.

I suppose Kevin could ask if the silver lining is that it became harder for bin Laden to communicate but once again I don't think it was an even trade.

JJF, the only actually interesting thing in Greenwald's blog is the fact that SWIFT was mentioned in an earlier report and that it was among the resources the U.S. was using. Even so, line up the information on SWIFT in that report and the discussion about the program in the NY Times and I think you'll see a significant difference in the level of detail.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

K Ashford...very few people were aware of SWIFT...someone in the financial industry had to suggest it..the feds weren't even cognizant of it. so yeah, a terrorist, even a competent one, may not have been fully aware of which financial records were 'safe'

There's a fallacy of arrogance in there. The right seems to think that if they didn't know about this program, the terrorists may not have either.

Of course, you and I going about our daily lives -- neither engaging in terrorism or counterterrorism -- wouldn't be expected to know about it. But terrorist organizations, who have a vested interest in seeing their plots come to fruition, aren't going to be as lazy as your wishful thinking suggests. It's folly to think that someone within AQ -- somewhere -- hadn't read the Bush speech or the UN Report. The notion that terrorist organizations get all their information from the front pages of major newspapers, is naive -- dangerously naive.

Posted by: K Ashford on June 27, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Osama resides in an area of approximately 200 square miles near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border and with all this snooping for more than 4 years Bush is no where near finding osama or, apparently even bothering to look for him. Perhaps the American people should convince Bush and the repugs that osama is liberal and running for office in the US then perhaps Bush would have enough interest to attempt capture.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Even when a top secret program is exposed, it sometimes remain misunderstood. For example, today Rush Limbaugh was revealed to be the recipient of Viagara prescribed in his doctor's name. We incorrectly conclude that Rush is impotent.

The truth is that because he is such a complete dickhead, he is taking Viagara to enhance his mental performance.

Posted by: trueblue on June 27, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

Ashford:

I'm not sure what the "Bush speech" has to do anything...on September 12, 2001 the government made clear that we would cracking down on terrorist financing...duh!

the fact that no one at the CIA was aware of Swift or precisely what its database contained indicates that it is certainly possible that neither did al - Quaeda (and even if say Bin Laden did, certainly other figures did not). I do think the level of detail disclosed by the Times is worrisome...

Posted by: Nathan on June 27, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Are there any real secrets? When it comes to money.....really, now naive. The info goes thru too many hands, eyes, transactions..........

Following is a link to a discussion if you feel like joining in.

Bush and Cheney Assault the Gray Lady
http://scoop.epluribusmedia.org/story/2006/6/27/91421/8321

Posted by: avahome on June 27, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

> Bin Laden was using his cell phone and we were
> tracking it up until our media helpfully wrote
> that we could do so. Then he started using
> misdirection. An excellent example of the
> problems we get when we print this kind of
> information.

It was widely reported back in the Reagan era that the United States scored an intelligence coup by seeding cell phone technology into the Soviet Union, then parking a satellite right over Moscow to pick up the resulting breathless calls to the mistresses at the dachas. So if bin Laden didn't know that in 2001 he isn't smart enough to do the United States any lasting harm.

Oh wait, I forgot about one example of a not-very-smart person who has done the United States tremendous harm.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on June 27, 2006 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. I'd think people who happily criticize the term "war on terror" on linguistic lines would be more careful about the terms they themselves use.

Anyway, since you seem to know where Osama is, maybe you should email that information to the White House.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

What you describe may not stop the professional terrorists, but it will likely stop the amateurs like those recently arrested in Toronto and Miami.

The real terrorists don't wait for the media to tell them what they can trust. They figured this out long before any reporter even goot a whiff of it.


Posted by: Valdis on June 27, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Results matter. If all of these techniques were really that effective and totally unknown by the terrorists then why does Osama walk the planet a free man today?

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Bin Laden was using his cell phone and we were tracking it up until our media helpfully wrote that we could do so. Then he started using misdirection. An excellent example of the problems we get when we print this kind of information.

wrong. Bin Laden was a freedom fighter and he wa trained in the use of these by REAGAN.
TIM OSMAN was the name given the Freedom Fighter Osama. He was TRAINED in technology by our very own

yeh Reagan trained them,you freepers know he did. I know he did.

Posted by: Crapsaw Hacknot on June 27, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

Even when a top secret program is exposed, it sometimes remain misunderstood. For example, today Rush Limbaugh was revealed to be the recipient of Viagara prescribed in his doctor's name. We incorrectly conclude that Rush is impotent.Posted by: trueblue

Give Rush a break. You'd be impotent, too, if you were overweight, 50+, and had been gobbling synthetic opiates for years.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Posted by nathan: "K. Ashford...very few people were aware of SWIFT...someone in the financial industry had to suggest it..the feds weren't even cognizant of it. so yeah, a terrorist, even a competent one, may not have been fully aware of which financial records were "safe"."

A simple search of SWIFT and terrorism on FirstGov.com pulls up all kinds of information about SWIFT, as well as monitoring of money laundering and possible terrorist activities. The notion that terrorists will now circumvent SWIFT is misleading. They will have to stop international wire transfers altogether, which poses its own difficulties.

Posted by: Quinn on June 27, 2006 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK

I have thought what Steve Duncan said ever since we invaded Iraq; Osama just got everything he ever wanted. The Soviet economy collapsed after ten years in Afghanistan (yes, there were other factors), ours will take longer but we are headed that way. Our lives have already been changed for the worse. I can see AQ attacks against our few remaining allies in Iraq to remove any help we are getting, but why try to improve on 9/11? High risk with little reward.

Posted by: td on June 27, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that Bush claimed in his 2004 campaign that the U.S. tracked financial transactions might have tipped a few terrorists long before the NY Times article. So Bush didn't go into as much detail. But he basically made public what the NYT made public and nobody's calling him a traitor. The level of political debate in this country is dangerously unhinged.

Posted by: JJF on June 27, 2006 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

Osama must be laughing his ass off. And Bush can't even catch him.
Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

And Bush's worshippers don't care.

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on June 27, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

We incorrectly conclude that Rush is impotent.

We?
WTF? Don't speak for me Pal. I could care less about Rush and his Viagra.

The man is an drug addict,Period.
End of Rush. I see no Rush, Hear no Rush. speak no Rush.

Posted by: Al lies on June 27, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's embarrassing to the WH, not because of the leak concerning the faux WOT, but because of international business.

We spy on the UN, we spy on our allies, we spy on our business adversaries, and we spy on ourselves.

This is news? Hardly. Treason? Ridiculous.

Posted by: ww on June 27, 2006 at 2:32 PM | PERMALINK

Even if I knew where osama was exactly why would I email it to the white house when it's really rather obvious that it is something that they don't want to know, all ready know or don't want to act upon it anyway.

"if you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan" Ha, ha, now that shows really huge levels of inductive reasoning. Your ready for college level algebra now.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that Bush claimed in his 2004 campaign that the U.S. tracked financial transactions might have tipped a few terrorists long before the NY Times article.

Yeah, I'm sure they were all over the transactions of member of KSA and UAE's royal families, and those of the Bush Crime Family.

Posted by: Pink on June 27, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Posted by: Hacksaw

Where have you been for the last 200 years or so? Even the last 20 years? Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan exerts any political or security control over the "tribal regions" where the people think of themselves almost exclusively as Pashtun, not Pakistani or Afghani, and their tribal group within that general grouping being even more important.

Yes. We could, should have gone in and just "scoured" the border regions by the Spring of 2002 and completely elminated any remenants of the Taliban or al Qaeda there. However, the Bush administration wouldn't commit regular combat troops, and even pulled some special ops people out of the region, redeploying them to Kuwait for the build-up prior to the invasion of Iraq.

That being said, we might have ended up "confronting" our bestest ally in the region, Pakistan, if you had done this.

You seem to have forgotten these details.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

It has reported over and over that terrorists use clandestine methods to transfer money ie., hawalas, diamonds, honey, gold, etc. So, they have known for a long time that their money was being watched, just as they have known that their calls have been monitored.
Furthermore, just cause Bsuh says we're only tracking terrorists through bank transfers doesn't make it so. These types of programs need oversight.
Lastly, the war on terror is nothing but a scam anyway. A thinly veiled attempt by neocons and their powerful backers to advance financial agendas throughout the world.

Posted by: j_ny on June 27, 2006 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

"The problem I have with this whole thing goes more to the NYT deciding, in the face of many requests and pleas by people in the administration ..."

Maybe if people in this administration responded themselves to requests and pleas -- to say what they knew about bin Laden's plans before 9/11; to say what they knew about aluminum tubes; to say who leaked Valerie Plame's name and why -- maybe then they would deserve to have their requests and pleas listened to.

But the Bush administration's Big Brother, fear-based, funnel-bucks approach to government and their smear-happy politics make them totally undeserving of respect.

No, as patriots we should NOT defer to these, these, I can't come up with a word to describe them. How loathsome they are. What a danger they pose to our freedom and our stature in the world.

We need to reject everything they do and hold them up to the ridicule they deserve until they leave office disgraced, hanging their heads at what they've done. The only lesson they learned from Vietnam was how to destroy a village (our country) in order to "save" it.

Posted by: Cal Gal on June 27, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw:

Please provide me an example or two of the "level of detail" in the Times story which you believe to be inappropriate.

I don't see a lot here, frankly. The Bank Secrecy Act has been U.S. law since 1970, and it has always allowed the government to track all kinds of financial transactions (including wires). The revelation here appears to be that the government is stepping outside the U.S. to tap into an international program (SWIFT) where the legalities are hazier. But "detail"? I don't see it. Any employee of a financial institution can give you more detail than is provided here.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 27, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

That's rich-you state neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan exert any political or security control over this area but still it would somehow risk the loss of the ally Pakistan to attempt to find the person responsible for 9/11. You seem to have forgotten a few details also. Is awol such a chickenshit that he fears Pakistan this much? Pakistan was interested in helping us find osama at first but it would seem that since awol lost interest then so did they. I'm totally aware of the area's history and general political situation but with alleged warmongers like awol and rummy then Pakistan problems with respect to finding osama should have been meaningless. Should we not have attacked the Japanese after Pearl Harbor because it might make them mad? Pakistan being an ally is a very poor excuse when considering an invasion of Iraq in context. At one time even Iran was helpful and wanted to aid in our desire to find osama. If catching osama had ever been a real goal here then Pakistan problems could have been resolved but instead osama remains free.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

As a FYI, Bush said that quote on April 19, 2004, not September 19.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040419-4.html

Posted by: Robert on June 27, 2006 at 2:57 PM | PERMALINK

The following was published in 1995. Nobody was upset about this information being publicized when the focus was on international drug cartels and their money laundering schemes. Face it, repugs, the NYT didn't reveal anything that couldn't already be researched via the internet or in a college library.

"So when you deal in cash, expect to give a note to the government, a crumb to the friendly FinCEN AI. But AI has a voracious appetite, so the reporting doesn't stop with cash. The heart of any modern monetary system is the digital transfer of electronic money through the telecommunication links among bank computers. Internationally, banks are connected by a computer messaging system operated by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT). Domestically, banks within a country use equivalents of the U.S. clearing systems operated by the Federal Reserve (Fedwire) and the Clearing House Interbank Payments System (CHIPS). A Federal Reserve Policy Statement of December 23, 1992 asks financial institutions to include (if possible) complete information on the sender and recipient of large payment orders sent through Fedwire, CHIPS and SWIFT. "Historically, law enforcement efforts to curtail money laundering activities have focused on the identification and documentation of currency-based transactions; however, recent investigations have focused on the use of funds transfer systems," the statement notes.

The focus on funds transfer brings in the resources of the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA). The NSA has been monitoring civilian communications ever since it installed IBM computers at Menwith Hill in the U.K. in the early 60s to keep track of international telex messages. NSA tentacles are now ensconced not only in transatlantic communications, but also in Pacific satellite transmissions, the regional Bell System offices, the SWIFT messaging system, the CHIPS clearing computers in Manhattan, and Fedwire. In addition, a satellite surveillance system picks up high frequency transmissions of specially constructed computer chips which are activated by certain types of transactions-oriented financial software. U.S. agencies are not alone in financial monitoring. As a trivial additional example, the Council of Europe has recommended Interpol be given access to SWIFT to assist in money-laundering detection [11]."

Posted by: ooo scary on June 27, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

I'm totally aware of the area's history and general political situation . . .Posted by: Where's osama

Gee. I thought I was responding to some poster who goes by the name of "Hacksaw." Tough to keep your handles straight, good buddy?

How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Posted by: Hacksaw

Bin Laden has tens of thousands of supporters in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is easily more popular than Mussharif, who is seen as being insufficiently religious, as well as our puppet in poppyland. In other words, don't ask the general population of Pakistan to choose.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Drum; this is your most inane post ever. You should attach an update:

"NEVERMIND; I DID NOT GET ENOUGH SLEEP." [OR SOME SUCH.]

TOH

Posted by: The Objective Historian on June 27, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

OK. So the New York Times has now exposed two anti-terrorist initiatives

Uh, not really, unless you're being really loose with the meaning of the word "expose." They sat on the NSA thing because they'd been told it was legal, and went public when that was no longer certain. The later "expose" was of something already known by anyone who wanted to look into it. The debates, at least in the British press, were front and center in the year before the report to the UNSC in December 2002.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 27, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bin Laden was using his cell phone and we were tracking it up until our media helpfully wrote that we could do so. Then he started using misdirection. An excellent example of the problems we get when we print this kind of information.

The media told them? Or was it leaker-in-chief Bush? Here again from Glen Greenwald:

"Similar calls have issued in response to the Times' oh-so-shocking disclosure that the U.S. Government eavesdrops on the telephone calls of terrorists, even though the President himself ran around for several years boasting about -- and detailing -- our efforts to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls of terrorists. Here is George Bush, on June 9, 2005, in Columbus, Ohio, disclosing to the terrorists that they can no longer change cell phones as a means to evade our surveillance:

One tool that has been especially important to law enforcement is called a roving wiretap. Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge, and they have been used for years to catch drug dealers and other criminals.

Yet, before the Patriot Act, agents investigating terrorists had to get a separate authorization for each phone they wanted to tap. That means terrorists could elude law enforcement by simply purchasing a new cell phone. The Patriot Act fixed the problem by allowing terrorism investigators to use the same wiretaps that were already being using against drug kingpins and mob bosses.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Alek,

Fair enough. For starters, the article makes clear that this heretofore classified program "is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records." In other words, it reveals that the government has acquired authorities beyond that that everyone knew about (i.e. the ones you cited). The article goes on to discuss what they are - "broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records" rather than the individual subpoenas for specific transaction that most people think of when it comes to this type of investigation.

The article provides a rich discussion of how SWIFT data is used, what can be tracked, and how it is tracked. It makes clear that officials don't really need to have all the information to track a transaction but can conduct broad searches of data (again breaking from the tradition method). The article not only goes into details about SWIFT, it also discusses the program's ability to tap into "A.T.M. transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments." Not sure that we all knew the government had broad access to these things (of course I'm not a paranoid as the tinfoil-hat crowd).

The article describes where the program has been successful. "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." In other words, you can do a lot more with it than simply track a transaction. And it indicates that the government had been able to get a tremendous amount of relevant information from the program.

More than anything, the article pulls together these aspects to provide a good picture of how, where, and to what level of detail the goverment is taking steps to follow the money trail. It is therefore by far a more comprehensive and illuminating discussion of counter-terrorist tactis than anything that came before. By revealing so much about the program, it has decimated the program's utility. And by exposing the cooperation of non-U.S. entities like SWIFT it has made it harder to get further cooperation from them. All in all a pretty devastating blow to our efforts to track and target the terrorists we are fighting.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

Christ, that's funny. Read that sentence over a few times. Hopefully, with a few more readings, you'll recognize the idiotic mistake you made.

Here's a hint: if you live in San Diego, do you reside in "an area near the US/Mexico border" even though you live in the US? If not, why?

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 3:14 PM | PERMALINK

"Now, I assume that the people running these programs aren't idiots. If they think that keeping them secret is a net positive, they're probably right."

Why on earth would you make that assumption?

Posted by: Ekim on June 27, 2006 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

I live in Washington state near the border between Canada and the United States. Therefore, it doesn't seem idiotic to me to say I live near the US/Canada border. If I live in Kansas I live in the US but not near either border. If I live near the border, I'm near the border whether I'm in the US or Canada.

Posted by: Ekim on June 27, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.

This can easily be determined by finding out where they pay their taxes.

Posted by: Bandsaw on June 27, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

This can easily be determined by finding out where they pay their taxes.

Yes, just look at their latest 1040s.

Posted by: nut on June 27, 2006 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

Jeez, hadn't intended that little comment to go anywhere. I just thought a little specificity was in order. Then again, algebra never was my strong suit, where's_osama.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw: How can you reside in an area "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border"? If you are near the border than you are either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. I'd think people who happily criticize the term "war on terror" on linguistic lines would be more careful about the terms they themselves use.

Ah, it's always funny when someone who preens as if he's just scored a snide intellectual point has actually just managed to embarrass himself. You'd think people who happily criticize the term "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border" would be more careful about the stupid mistakes they themselves make.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

All in all a pretty devastating blow to our efforts to track and target the terrorists we are fighting.

Bullshit.

Posted by: why do hate free speech on June 27, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

We WANT them to keep using know physical addresses. That way we can find them & kill them. Understand?

Posted by: cagey1 on June 27, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

By revealing so much about the program, it has decimated the program's utility. And by exposing the cooperation of non-U.S. entities like SWIFT it has made it harder to get further cooperation from them. All in all a pretty devastating blow to our efforts to track and target the terrorists we are fighting.

Sorry, I remain unconvinced. Terrorists (and those who financially support them) will still have to move money around - and there aren't too many ways of doing that that don't involve a paper trail (especially where large amounts are concerned).

The kind of "detail" I'm thinking of, that might actually compromise national security, would be information on the specific kinds of transactions that are scrutinized - in other words, what are the criteria? They can't possibly look at all these millions of transactions; there has to be some kind of weeding-out process. I don't see any of that revealed in the story.

Terrorists (and all money launderers, for that matter) are well aware that wire transfers and other transactions are tracked; their hope is that the laundering is concealed well enough so that it doesn't arouse suspicion. The Times doesn't tell me what the criteria are for arousing suspicion, so if I were a terrorist (who, as I say, still needs to send or receive money for my operations), I wouldn't know what I needed to do to conceal my purposes.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 27, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

You'd think people who happily criticize the term "near the Pakistan/Afghanistan border" would be more careful about the stupid mistakes they themselves make.Posted by: Stefan

Hey! It's damned hard work posting under two or more names. Give him a break, Stefan.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Alek,

While I agree the article doesn't give you specific criteria or other information at that level of detail, I think that the article helps the terrorists narrow down the scope of what the U.S. is doing. By describing the level of information the U.S. is able to collect and providing examples of how we use that information to track terrorist groups, if provides an insight into the process that they might not previously know. Certainly it would let they know that previous efforts to conceal transactions had not worked, something the Times article makes clear the U.S. government was trying to hide from the terrorists by masking the source of information in trials for the folks that the program helped identify. These groups can look at the financing arrangements that were used to piece together their vulnerabilities.

I also think it is dangerous for the press to discuss the capabilities the U.S. has with reagrd to the ability to shift through volumes of data and identify trends and patterns to help locate terrorist activity. Part of the strategy of laundering these transaction lies in the sheer volume of data you try to hide the transaction in. Letting the world know that the U.S. can tap into that huge volume of information and successfully piece together clues about terrorist groups, their activities, and the locations of key individuals is surely something that will drive our enemies to be even more careful in their financing arrangements and thus make them harder to track and target.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

Most money transfers state right on the back that money of more then X will be reported to the Gov. But I'm sure they would not know this.This is just another Karl Rove scheme.By the way Al, Bush is in the low 20's the repiglicans are in the low teens and the V.P. is in the single digits.That is one hell of a rally.

Posted by: Consevative and Ugly on June 27, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

One name is enough for me JeffII. Anyway, I'm glad to make Stefan happy at what he sees as my expense. After all, he started this thread with a damned funny line.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

"broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records" rather than the individual subpoenas for specific transaction that most people think of when it comes to this type of investigation."

Broad administrative subpoenas! Thank you, liberal NYTimes! If it wasn't for allies like you, we wouldn't know to employ our "broad-administrative-subpoena-avoiding techniques!" Until now, we had only been using our "individual-subpoena-avoinding techniques." Thenk you liberal press for giving us the level of specificity needed to avoid capture! You are truly our BFF! Sincerely, The Terrorists

PS - Please make sure that the estate tax is not repealed, then all of our plans will be for naught! The repeal of the estate tax would be a devastating blow to our mission!

Posted by: Jimmy D on June 27, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Not one terrorist has been caught with this program. THIS IS A KARL ROVE SPEACIAL THE RIGHT HAS NOTHING LEFT TO RUN ON THEY ARE DESPERATE PERIOD.

Posted by: Consevative and Ugly on June 27, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Unless you can come up with a feasible way that terrorists can move money around the world to avoid tracking, you can't really argue that the NYT story has hurt anything.

Posted by: Doctor Gonzo

What about electronic stock transfers? Anybody monitoring those?

Posted by: slanted tom on June 27, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

I appreciate your rational opinion. I'll continue to disagree with you on the significance of this thing - if for no other reason than that the government's track record over he last 35 to 40 years is pretty tawdry when it comes to claiming something is harming "national security." Almost always, what it really is is something they know would be politically embarrassing if it were revealed. Every administration in my lifetime (I was born during LBJ's presidency) has tried to weasel out of something or other using the "national security" fig leaf.

But thanks for keeping the dialogue on an adult level. I do wonder if conservatives will be so sanguine about it (and the NSA program) when a Democrat is in the White House.

Posted by: Alek Hidell on June 27, 2006 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe the programs are not so much about tracking terrorists abroad as about increasing and solidifying presidential power and the ability to track opponents in the U.S., political and, I would add, personal ones? Yes this is the realm of total control: you are in my sights! You might also call it the world of total paranoia.

Posted by: Quentin on June 27, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks Alek,

I think it's pretty clear that if the political roles were reversed, there would be just as much political manipulation and the rest from Republicans decrying the abuses of a Democrat administration. Unfortunately that's where we are today.

I would hasten to add that I do believe the press plays an important role as one of our checks against the government abusing power. It just seems to me that before the press decides to expose a classified program like this one, there ought to be some sort of known negative affect associated with it (i.e. it is illegal or is being used for political gain or something). That doesn't appear to be the case here, by the Times' own admission.

We can disagree on the impact of course. My general sense is that we of course don't know what the terrorists do and do not know about our capabilities. It makes little sense to help them understand more, particularly is not only the president but also members of the 9-11 commission including Democrats told the Times not to do so. Without some compelling evidence that the program was illegal or being improperly used, they should have listened to these folks.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

What about electronic stock transfers? Anybody monitoring those? Posted by: slanted tom

You all seem to be forgetting that there are lots of very wealthy people in the ME that have been funding extremists for several decades. "Laundered money? We don't need no stinking laundered money We pay cash, and have sympathetic bankers."

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK

Jeffll,

You've changed the subject without answering.

Posted by: slanted tom on June 27, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The whole Bush agenda is about consolidating wealth and power for the rich and powerful. The so-called GWOT is just a device for psychologically manipulating the domestic audience.

It's not like Bush is trying to end the war. It's the goose that lays the golden egg for a slew of Repbulican interest groups.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on June 27, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose I am posting to a dead thread--and I won't pretend to have read all of my 120 plus predecessors.

But what are the chance that in fact we have no such program--and we have let the disinfo leak so is to scare them into doing just what Kevin suggests? Establishment press in cahoots with the Bush admin once again.

Posted by: Buce on June 27, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

The problem I have with this whole thing goes more to the NYT deciding, in the face of many requests and pleas by people in the administration ..

The Wall Street Journal also ran the story against the administrations wishes. Why don't you hear any of the Conservative talking heads scream about that ?

Posted by: Stephen on June 27, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

I think it's pretty clear that if the political roles were reversed, there would be just as much political manipulation and the rest from Republicans decrying the abuses of a Democrat administration. Unfortunately that's where we are today.Posted by: Hacksaw

Nice try. For one thing, the 9/11 attacks might actually have been foiled all together as duly elected President Gore would not have ignored the briefing made in August of 2001 as the Clinton administration was primarily responsible for its contents.

Furthermore, in all likelihood, if the 9/11 attacks occurred in spite of the Gore administration paying much greater atttention to the threat, Gore would not have gone looking for a bullshit reason to attack Iraq because he wouldn't have forced Richard Clarke out, wouldn't have arm-twisted Tenent into trumping up flimsy "intelligence," and Secretary of Defense Clark wouldn't have been lobbying for war anywhere other than Afghanistan.

So, no. You're lame if-the-shoe-was-on-the-other-foot attempt to back yourself out of the corner means nothing because the situation would have been radically different because we would have had a competent adminstration in place.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

Some times I wonder who this administration fears the most; Al Qaeda or the American public.

Posted by: Ray Waldren on June 27, 2006 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

You've changed the subject without answering.
Posted by: slanted tom

I wasn't changing the subject. I was dismissing your contribution, such as it was.

Stock transfers are fine, though they still need to be sold to raise cash (ever try to buy groceries with shares of IBM?), and large sales are just as obvious as large bank transfers. They could do it this way. Just seems a little complicated - as buying stocks, selling stocks, transfering stocks. That leaves a more pronounced paper trail than cash through sympathetic banks.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Very well said, JeffII.

Posted by: Where's osama on June 27, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

Stock transfers are fine, though they still need to be sold to raise cash (ever try to buy groceries with shares of IBM?), and large sales are just as obvious as large bank transfers. They could do it this way. Just seems a little complicated - as buying stocks, selling stocks, transfering stocks. That leaves a more pronounced paper trail than cash through sympathetic banks.
Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

It's also possible to "launder" in the form of derivatives, put options, etc. Betting to lose, and a pre-arranged seller will win - if you're dealing with large amounts of cash in limited markets.

Posted by: Rush Limbaugh on June 27, 2006 at 5:10 PM | PERMALINK

The Wall Street Journal also ran the story against the administrations wishes. Why don't you hear any of the Conservative talking heads scream about that ?

That's because they weren't told to. They aren't very bright, but they're very obedient.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 27, 2006 at 5:12 PM | PERMALINK

JeffII,

Seems to me you misunderstood both Alek's question and my response. And I'm not sure my answer that Republicans would be as likely to criticize a Democrat president instituting programs like this financial tracking represent me backing out of anything.

If you actually believe Al Gore could have prevented 9/11 had he been president, well then I truly don't know what to say. As for Iraq, well Iraq has nothing to do with a program that tracks terrorist financing so, while I agree Al Gore would not have invaded Iraq, it's not clear to me why that matters in this case. In fact, if Al Gore was going to be paying much greater attention to the terrorist threat, I imagine he too would have developed tools to track terrorist financing. Just as he and Clinton developed new tools to deal with domestic terrorism following the Oklahoma City attack.

But as I say, if you really believe that Gore could have stopped 9/11 then I guess you can just imagine away terrorism as a threat in any regard in the utopian fantasy world of a President Gore.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Stephen,

Both the Journal and the LA Times ran their stories after the NY Times decided to run their story. That is why the NY Times is getting the criticism.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

For starters, the article makes clear that this heretofore classified program "is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records." In other words, it reveals that the government has acquired authorities beyond that that everyone knew about (i.e. the ones you cited).

Non-sequitur.

You keep assuming what you can't argue. I compared the Dec. 2002 report to the UNSC and other info with the NYT article and the only difference was that the NYT article took the time to explain what things like SWIFT are to people who don't do this every day.

There's nothing here but the desperation of the administration and the ignorance of those who still support them.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 27, 2006 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

If you actually believe Al Gore could have prevented 9/11 had he been president, well then I truly don't know what to say.

I'm not surprised. You might begin by looking at what the Bush administration changed about demoting and ignoring counterterrorism efforts. Then you would have to argue why a Gore administration would look more like the Bush administration than the Clinton administration.

Terror just wasn't a priority for Bush.
.

Posted by: Grand Moff Texan on June 27, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Right, because the Clinton administration's record on combatting terrorism was so great.

Gimme a break.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

But as I say, if you really believe that Gore could have stopped 9/11 then I guess you can just imagine away terrorism as a threat in any regard in the utopian fantasy world of a President Gore.

The "utopian fantasy world" belonged, on the contrary, to Bush and his enablers, particularly Rice, who ignored the terrorist threat that Clinton and Gore warned them would be their greatest priority until it was too late. As TIME magazine says:

[Clinton National Security Advisor Sandy] Berger says he told [his successor, Bushs Condoleezza Rice], I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.

The terrorism briefing was delivered by Richard Clarke, [] who had served in the first Bush Administration and risen [] to become the White Houses point man on terrorism. [He was] chair of the interagency Counter-Terrorism Security Group (CSG)[]. Since the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole [] he had been working on an aggressive plan to take the fight to al-Qaeda. [] Berger and the principals decided to shelve the plan and let the next Administration take it up. With less than a month left in office, they did not think it appropriate to launch a major initiative against Osama bin Laden. We would be handing [the Bush Administration] a war when they took office on Jan. 20, says a former senior Clinton aide. That wasnt going to happen. Now it was up to Rices team to consider what Clarke had put together.

And what did Bush and Rice do? Fuck all.

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

GMT,

Leaving aside the obvious difference between a front page NY Times article and a paragraph buried in a UN report, I think there is a difference between saying the U.S. has monitoring techniques that look at international transaction (which is what the UN report says) and the more detailed discussion of how the US is using this and other techniques to track terrorists and their finances. I don't believe that this:

"The settlement of international transactions is usually handled through correspondent banking relationships or large-value message and payment systems, such as the SWIFT, Fedwire or CHIPS systems in the United States of America. Such international clearance centres are critical to processing international banking transactions and are rich with payment information. The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions."

is no different that the multi-page expose written by the Times which quite clearly goes beyond the very basic information in the UN report.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Yes yes I know it's evil Fox News, but this background briefing Clarke gave in 2002 shed a lot of light on what exactly the Clinton team had and had not developed in their last several years in office and what they had presented to the new Bush administration.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,115085,00.html

The whole things is pretty interesting but here is Clarke's introduction:

RICHARD CLARKE: Actually, I've got about seven points, let me just go through them quickly. Um, the first point, I think the overall point is, there was no plan on Al Qaeda that was passed from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

Second point is that the Clinton administration had a strategy in place, effectively dating from 1998. And there were a number of issues on the table since 1998. And they remained on the table when that administration went out of office issues like aiding the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan, changing our Pakistan policy -- uh, changing our policy toward Uzbekistan. And in January 2001, the incoming Bush administration was briefed on the existing strategy. They were also briefed on these series of issues that had not been decided on in a couple of years.

And the third point is the Bush administration decided then, you know, in late January, to do two things. One, vigorously pursue the existing policy, including all of the lethal covert action findings, which we've now made public to some extent.

And the point is, while this big review was going on, there were still in effect, the lethal findings were still in effect. The second thing the administration decided to do is to initiate a process to look at those issues which had been on the table for a couple of years and get them decided.

So, point five, that process which was initiated in the first week in February, uh, decided in principle, uh in the spring to add to the existing Clinton strategy and to increase CIA resources, for example, for covert action, five-fold, to go after Al Qaeda.

The sixth point, the newly-appointed deputies and you had to remember, the deputies didn't get into office until late March, early April. The deputies then tasked the development of the implementation details, uh, of these new decisions that they were endorsing, and sending out to the principals.

Over the course of the summer last point they developed implementation details, the principals met at the end of the summer, approved them in their first meeting, changed the strategy by authorizing the increase in funding five-fold, changing the policy on Pakistan, changing the policy on Uzbekistan, changing the policy on the Northern Alliance assistance.

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline.

Posted by: Hacksaw on June 27, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline. Posted by: Hacksaw

On the eighth day, Shrub went fishing, and it was good (or so he told the press).

Moral of the story: You can lead a wastrel, half-wit drunk to knowledge, but you can't make him take it seriously.

Hack, you can spin this seven ways to Sunday, but the fact of the matter is that 'ol ADA Shrub just couldn't be bothered. Remember his comment after being briefed by Rice and others was, and I admittedly paraphrase, "What's for dinner?" or something just as inappropriate.

And since you're relatively new here, don't bother trying to impress us by using FOX News as your source for anything. They lie and distort so much as a matter of policy that they could report that the sky is blue, and I'd have to look up just to make sure they weren't making that up as well.

Posted by: JeffII on June 27, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

I suppose it would slow down traffic. But like the canard that these guys had no idea that the US would be sying on them until the NYT told them about it, consider. Most of these bad guys come from some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

They have grown up with government spying, secret police, torture, goverments being able to get anyone to do anything it wants including bank managers.

On both sides of the issue I doubt it makes much difference. They are pros and know how to set up alternate systems of communication.

Posted by: paul on June 27, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

And then changed the strategy from one of rollback with Al Qaeda over the course of five years, which it had been, to a new strategy that called for the rapid elimination of Al Qaeda. That is in fact the timeline. Posted by: Hacksaw

So, more than five years later, how's that rapid elimination going? Funny, isn't it, that the "rapid elimination" is taking longer than the initial rollback over five years which was rejected because it would have taken too long?

Posted by: Stefan on June 27, 2006 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

No phone calls, no wire transfers, Not a single luxury! LOL.
As far as fermenting their paranoia, that sounds great. Here's one place to start with...
http://www.strategypage.com/htmw/htecm/articles/20060610.aspx
At least this way we will have the clean terrorists if nothing else!
Fun for all at:
Islamic Terrorists, Zaqarwi...

Posted by: Ronald Rutherford on June 27, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you show a certain cleverness at this stuff. That's a good point. To see some very in depth, hard-working commentary about the secrecy issue, check out http://glenngreenwald.blogspot.com/2006/06/bush-lynch-mob-against-nations-free.html

(PS - I quit trying HTML in this comment system since writing the orthodox tags didn't seem to work. Any suggestions as to whether there's really something off with this comment engine?)

Posted by: Neil' on June 27, 2006 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK
PS - I quit trying HTML in this comment system since writing the orthodox tags didn't seem to work. Any suggestions as to whether there's really something off with this comment engine?)

There is only a limited and undocumented set of tags that work at all here, but most of the ones that work work in the standard manner; particular <a href="http://www.foo.com/bar.html">The Foo Bar Website</a> works exactly the way you'd expect.

Unfortunately, though, html entity references get replaced with the normal characters in the edit box when you preview, which is particularly bad when you are trying to provide samples that illustrate the use of HTML.

Posted by: cmdicely on June 27, 2006 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Right, because the Clinton administration's record on combatting terrorism was so great. Gimme a break. Posted by: Hacksaw

Open your eyes.

http://forwardamerica.blogspot.com/2004/10/who-can-believe-condi-bush.html

"At their December 19, 2000 meeting, Bill Clinton told President-elect Bush , "I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is bin Laden and the al-Qaeda." There is no evidence Bush heeded the warning."
Posted by: obscure on June 27, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Hacksaw,

you've moved pretty far from your original tone. It's pretty clear that even the argument that the article provided a higher level of detail than previously publicly available, is open to question (my personal opinion is "not true"). But either way, this is nothing like the out-of-the-blue leak story that it's being spun as.

The only really solid allegation left is that the NYTimes raised the level of public awareness of the a low-profile government program.

You really want that to be illegal?

Posted by: glasnost on June 27, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

Astute observations, Kevin. Let me just add that the exposure does even more good if the administration pretends to be outraged by it.

Imagine if the president simply announced that we have the ability to track all of Al Qaeda's financial transactions. They would probably assume that it was a bluff. But have The New York Times *expose* the program, and it's much more scary.

Posted by: Kyle McCullough on June 28, 2006 at 12:24 AM | PERMALINK

There's always a silver lining. That's what I love about Americans - their perennial optimism.

Did the thought ever occur to you that the terrorists whose actions were monitored by means of Treasury Dept. program will simply change their tactics, thereby forcing the IC back to square one? I suppose it probably didn't, otherwise you wouldn't have posted this entry.

Posted by: Sirius Familiaris on June 28, 2006 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

The NYTimes didn't expose the Treasury Department's financial tracking program. The Treasury Department has been doing a pretty good job of that itself for at least the last three years. Root around on their web site.

Posted by: raj on June 28, 2006 at 8:14 AM | PERMALINK

That's a bit like saying that sure, murder is bad, but think of all the benefits!

Sure, in the sense that it isn't like saying that at all. Sheesh, AH is just phoning it in...

Posted by: Gregory on June 28, 2006 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't the Richard Clarke background briefing used to try to rebut his 9/11 Commission testimony? Didn't Clarke explain that he was working for Bush when he gave the briefing and it was his job to make the Bush administration look as good as possible? Didn't he disavow much of what he said at the briefing? I remember that the transcript of the briefing was released without his permission even though he was promised anonymity. Maybe that answers the prior question about burning sources.

Posted by: ted on June 28, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not exactly sure why everybody thinks this was some great secret. SWIFT, the organization, is by its very nature, a public entity. What it does is a matter of public record, and has been since its inception(it would have to be). And it is surely known that we could get financial records. What was unusual, and news, was the apparent generalized scope of the requests to SWIFT, and the administrations rather specious arguments(what else is new) that the bank privacy laws dont apply to SWIFT because it doesn't actually handle money. Of course, SWIFT advertises itself as a messenging service, so how these aren't illegal wiretaps is beyond me.

Posted by: Phil on June 28, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

hacksaw: Right, because the Clinton administration's record on combatting terrorism was so great.

did you know...

...the Clinton White House held meetings on Osama bin Laden no less than every 2-weeks;

enter the Bush era: first meeting held Sept. 7, 2001.

Clinton National Security Advisor Berger hands off anti-terrorism folder to incoming NSA Rice; it "sits unopened" on her desk until Sept. 12, 2001, by her own admission.

.....Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver a speech on national security on September 11, 2001 that was void of any mention of Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda or Islamic terrorist organizations.

and the ultimate bottom line:

more americans have died from "terror attacks" when bush has been in office...even if you only start counting after 9-11-2001


Posted by: thisspaceavailable on June 28, 2006 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: john on July 1, 2006 at 2:04 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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