Crossposted at Stop The ACLU
The NY Times continues in their quest to leak out our methods to our enemies.
The Pentagon has been using a little-known power to obtain banking and credit records of hundreds of Americans and others suspected of terrorism or espionage inside the United States, part of an aggressive expansion by the military into domestic intelligence gathering.
The CIA has also been issuing what are known as national security letters to gain access to financial records from American companies, though it has done so only rarely, intelligence officials say.
Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions receiving the letters usually have turned over documents voluntarily, allowing investigators to examine the financial assets and transactions of American military personnel and civilians, officials say.
Notice that the leaked information claims that it was hundreds, not thousands, of people suspected of terrorism or espionage. This seems to me to lean towards the side of restraint rather than abuse.
If we have enemies within, and we can’t trust our own military to investigate the financial history of those that are suspect then we have bigger problems to worry about than paranoia over privacy.
Government lawyers say the legal authority for the Pentagon and the CIA to use national security letters in gathering domestic records dates back nearly three decades and, by their reading, was strengthened by the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act.
I’d further suggest that the credibility of this reporting is suspect because we’re getting this information leaked. If there’s anything that makes me suspicious of a report, it’s when the information was acquired through a snitch with an agenda.
If the government’s lawyers are right that the Patriot Act strengthened the use of national security letters, then it’s reasonable to assume that there’s regular oversight done on this program. If that’s the case, then we don’t need to read about it in the NY Times.
I’d further add that it’s suspicious that Eric Lichtblau, one of the reporters that exposed the NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, another important tool in preventing terrorist attacks, is one of the reporters for this article. Does the NY Times hire Mr. Lichtblau each time they want to tell terrorists about the tools the U.S. is using in preventing terrorist attacks? Or do they just keep such subversives on payroll for use during Republican administrations?
Of course National Security is not the primary concern of the ACLU:
“This country has a long tradition of rejecting the use of the CIA and the Pentagon to spy on Americans, and rightfully so. Today’s published report that the Pentagon and CIA have been relying on “National Security Letters” to collect the financial records of Americans without judicial supervision or Congressional oversight raises a host of questions that need to be answered. What is the legal basis for the government’s action? What safeguards are in place to protect basic privacy rights? How often have the Pentagon and CIA used this claimed authority, based on what criteria, and was compliance truly “voluntary” or effectively coerced?
Notice the way they paint up investigating terror suspects’ finances into ’spying’ on innocent ‘Americans’? They do the same thing with the NSA program. They use the typical scare method on the paranoid exaggeration that the ‘government is flipping through American’s checkbooks. It really isn’t surprising. The ACLU jumped the gun when information was leaked over the SWIFT program as well. In that episode the ACLU cast all kinds of allegations of abuse of power but could not cite any statute or regulation violated. As far as I can tell they can’t in this case either.
During the SWIFT program controversy Captain Ed pointed out:
Not only that, but anyone operating within the US banking system — at least at those facilities insured by the FDIC and FSLIC — the government has access to data on individual banking customers whenever it wants to access it. Any institution insured by the federal government has to give federal regulators access to their records during any extensive examination. Not only that, but since most accounts pay interest, the IRS also gets all of the information on these accounts, including taxpayer numbers and other private information.
I think all of that remains relevant in this case as well.
There really isn’t much to wonder about why the ACLU is so concerned about the government investigating financial records. In my opinion there is plenty to be suspicious about the ACLU’s own financial dealings.
The American Civil Liberties Union and 12 other national non-profit organizations today said they have successfully challenged Office of Personnel Management’s Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) requirements that all participating charities check their employees and expenditures against several government watch lists for ‘terrorist activities’ and that organizations certify that they do not contribute funds to organizations on those lists.
Furthermore the ACLU’s hypocrisy on this issue is astounding. Investigating financial records of people suspected of terrorism for National Security is reasonable, but how about for fundraising issues? The ACLU has ’spied’ on their own members’ financial history for just this reason.
The American Civil Liberties Union is using sophisticated technology to collect a wide variety of information about its members and donors in a fund-raising effort that has ignited a bitter debate over its leaders’ commitment to privacy rights.
Some board members say the extensive data collection makes a mockery of the organization’s frequent criticism of banks, corporations and government agencies for their practice of accumulating data on people for marketing and other purposes.
according to Michael Meyers, vice president of the organization and a frequent internal critic. He said he had learned about the new research by accident Nov. 7 during a meeting of the committee that is organizing the group’s Biennial Conference in July.
So, as the ACLU cries for investigations keep all of this in mind. When it comes to drawing the line between classified information and national security the ACLU’s record has never leaned toward the side of caution or national security. They consistently defend leakers as brave “whistleblowers.” Even after the NY Times leaked details about the vital NSA program, the ACLU wanted more to come out in the open. They have even defended leaks on vital programs like SWIFT, in which we track terror finances, where there was absolutely nothing that even suggested government wrongdoing. They have even fought for accused enemy prisoners to be allowed to see classified evidence against them. The fact that our enemies learn and adjust from such traitorous leaks never seems to phase them.
I think Congress has more important things to investigate, such as who keeps leaking our National Security secrets. This is something they really need to get serious about if we seriously want to win this war on terror. If left up to the ACLU we will be so transparent we are see-through.