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More warrantless spying, this time financial records

The President The goal of terrorism is to force the target to change their way of life. To take away those things a society treasures. Before the Bush administration, we dealt with terrorism as what it is, a criminal matter. By calling this a war, by using that as an excuse for stealing our nations civil liberties, to bypass our legal and constitutional safeguards on our right to privacy, Bush has given the terrorists victory before we even got started. Before one American soldier died in this conflict, we the citizens of this nation had already lost.

It makes a mockery of every American soldier that has given their life so that we may be free.

Did you know that the Bush administration is now claiming a new right to spy on your financial transactions. They decided that once again, contrary to the law, they are not required to get a search warrant.

Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine “tens of thousands” of financial transactions, Mr. Levey said. Swift routes more than 11 million transactions each day, most of them across borders.

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift’s records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.

Bill Clinton had nothing on this administration, when it comes to redefining the meanings of words or laws.

In response to a Supreme court ruling that Americans had no constitutional right to privacy for records which are held by banks or other financial institutions Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act, which restricted governmental access to our banking records.

In considering the Swift program, some government lawyers were particularly concerned about whether the law prohibited officials from gaining access to records without a warrant or subpoena based on some level of suspicion about each target.

So how did they do it? They redefined the clear intent of the law.

After an initial debate, Treasury Department lawyers, consulting with the Justice Department, concluded that the privacy laws applied to banks, not to a banking cooperative like Swift. They also said the law protected individual customers and small companies, not the major institutions that route money through Swift on behalf of their customers.

Using this twisted rational as justification, the F.B.I. has turned to national security letters (NSL), to demand such records.

Before the Patriot Act, the FBI could use NSLs to obtain records concerning suspected terrorists and spies. The Patriot Act amended the law to allow the use of NSLs to obtain information about anyone at all.

I have personal experience with this but due to the never ending gag order, that these letters place on you, I can not discuss it even today, years later.

We have seen the list of groups under suspicion in the United States the military talon database listed many civil liberty, peace groups, and any group which opposed military recruitment on college campuses.

A sample of about 1,500 “suspicious incidents” out of 13,000 listed in the database included four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, some aimed at military recruiting.

The fact that the TALON database included information on American citizens engaged in peaceful protest activities was first disclosed several months ago by NBC News and researcher Bill Arkin.

Why is this important? Because they admit that anyone in this database is a terrorist suspect, and would be subject to the full weight of American military and justice system.

The TALON system “should be used only to report information regarding international terrorist activity,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England in a March 30 memo

The government can turn their many powers intended for use against terrorists, against any citizen, who dares to speak out against the government’s aims. Even when such opposition is perfectly legal and protected by their constitutional rights.

When the government wants to target a group or individual they can. Due to the complexity of our legal system, you have intentionally or not, violated a myriad of local, state, and federal laws. Any of these can be used to target you, if the government so desires. Remember they got Al Capone for income tax evasion, and not his many criminal misdeeds.

I will end this with a simple quote attributed by some to one of our founding fathers.

They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

Something we should all heed.

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
Bill Larson is  is politically and socially active in the community. Bill is a member of the Friends of Dunbar Cave. You can reach him via telephone at 931-249-0043 or via the email address below.

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