The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Globe: finance monitoring was part of public record

I've actually been a little surprised at how quickly the accusations against the New York Times (but none of the other press outlets that wrote about it simultaneously) have spread, and how violent they've become. Sure, the White House started the ball rolling with strong rhetoric, but the right rapidly moved from calling for an investigation, to demands that their White House press credentials be revoked, to calls for murder. Even Hardball featured a straight-faced debate on whether the New York Times staff was guilty of treason.

Aside from the fact that other papers, including the Wall Street Journal, reported the same information at the same time, (and ignoring the mind-bending fact that the conservatives ar essentially calling for a government-controlled media) there are strong indications that the program was no secret to begin with. Not least because even the administration has bragged about it in the past. Even an executive order by Fearless Leader, who called the Times' reporting "disgraceful," cites the plan to monitor financial records.

But a search of public records -- government documents posted on the Internet, congressional testimony, guidelines for bank examiners, and even an executive order President Bush signed in September 2001 -- describe how US authorities have openly sought new tools to track terrorist financing since 2001. That includes getting access to information about terrorist-linked wire transfers and other transactions, including those that travel through SWIFT. (. . .)

Indeed, a report that [Victor D. Comras , a former US diplomat who oversaw efforts at the United Nations to improve international measures to combat terror financing] co-authored in 2002 for the UN Security Council specifically mentioned SWIFT as a source of financial information that the United States had tapped into. The system, which handles trillions of dollars in worldwide transactions each day, serves as a main hub for banks and other financial institutions that move money around the world. (. . .)

Less than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Bush signed an executive order calling for greater cooperation with foreign entities to monitor money that might be headed to terrorist groups. The executive order was posted on the White House website.

The document called for "cooperation with, and sharing information by, United States and foreign financial institutions as an additional tool to enable the United States to combat the financing of terrorism."

If there was ever a time for journalists to stand up to their accusers on the right, this is it. Why, instead, are they airing demands for their own imprisonment by goofy right-wing radio hosts? Maybe it's just another tragic example of the new "objectivity" that calls for equal time to flat-earthers.

UPDATE: I mentioned yesterday how odd it is that there are none of the administration's usual calls to punish leakers in their own midst, and Kevin Drum has found another reason why that might be-- both the NY Times and the LA Times say their respective stories had more than a dozen government sources.