Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thursday Night Catch-Up

The Bush administration was working with AT&T and possibly other companies to build a database of Americans' calling records seven months before 9/11. There goes the national security rationale for the program. And guess what else? The news that the phone call surveillance program predated 9/11 broke on Friday, June 30 -- the Friday before the four-day July 4th weekend.

The U.S. Army today filed three separate charges -- missing movement, contempt toward officials, and conduct unbecoming an officer -- against Lt. Ehren Watabi, who refused to be deployed to Iraq on the grounds that the war was illegal, and that participating in such a war would implicate him in war crimes.

Right-wing bloggers are predictably unsympathetic. Guess "support the troops" really means "support the troops who are supporting Bush's war policies."

It seems that Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, among others who worked in the Nixon administration when Spiro Agnew was vice-president, have been doing a slow burn ever since the Supreme Court's 1971 decision to uphold press freedom by ruling against the government in its attempt to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, and by rejecting Nixon's request for an injunction against the New York Times when that paper began to print excerpts.

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and others in the Nixon-Agnew-Ford orbit left Washington believing that the imperial Presidency had been disastrously hobbled by a now imperial press. When they reappeared in 2001, under the auspices of George W. Bush, the Nixon-Agnew spirit was resurrected with them -- this time without the Joycean wordplay. More than any other White House in history, Bush's has tried to starve, mock, weaken, bypass, devalue, intimidate, and deceive the press, using tactics far more toxic than any prose devised in the name of Spiro Agnew.

Firm in the belief that the press can be gored for easy political gain, the Bush Administration has set about reducing the status of the media (specifically, what it sees as the left-wing, Eastern-establishment media) to that of a pesky yet manageable interest group, nothing more. As Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff at the time, told this magazine's Ken Auletta, "They" -- the media -- don't represent the public any more than other people do. In our democracy, the people who represent the public stood for election. ... I don't believe you have a check-and-balance function."

Larry Johnson absolutely eviscerates the Bush administration's claim that the New York Times article about the supposedly secret monitoring of international banking data harmed national security. We've heard many times already that Pres. Bush has proclaimed loudly and often how assiduously the U.S. is tracking terrorists' money -- but Larry has unearthed transcripts of congressional hearings in which Treasury Department officials describe the government's tracking methods in exquisite detail:

The information provided to the public went well beyond general platitudes. In fact, U.S. officials provided specific information that anybody, including members of Al Qaeda, who read the testimony would learn what the United States Government was doing and how it was doing it. Here is the public record on what the U.S. Government has been doing to track terrorist finances.

First, a Teasury Department official publicly identified on the record how Al Qaeda moved money thru the international financial system. ...
Second, U.S. Government officials provided specific details on what they were doing to track and identify how terrorists were moving their money. ...
Third, U.S. Government officials identified the intelligence community as being an important part of the effort to identify and track terrorist financing. ...
Fourth, the U.S. Government and the International Community, thru the Financial Action Task Force aka FATF, laid out in detail an international plan for tracking and identifying terrorist assets:

At an extraordinary plenary meeting on the financing of terrorism held in Washington, DC on October 29 to October 30 2001, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) agreed to a set of special recommendations to suppress terrorist financing. ...
Finally, the Bush Administration has repeatedly informed the public that they were having great success tracking terrorist financing tracing financial activities "forward" and "backwards". ...
Only people trading clam shells for coconuts would have been unaware that any financial transaction moving through the international financial system--which includes SWIFT, FedWire, and CHIPS—was being scrutinized by the United States Government. As I noted earlier, Bush official, Juan Zarate, was telling Congress in February 2002 that Bin Laden and his crew were taking precautions because traditional banking money movements made them vulnerable to detection.

Via, which has more on what the terrorists have known all along from Gene Lyons, and on the right's irresponsible "rhetoric of treason" from Glenn Greenwald.

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