Friday, June 23, 2006

Kudos to the New York Times

Well, Demon Princess wasn't going to blog the rest of the week, having spent her wrath on the minimum wage hike that wasn't & related matters, but she's reconsidered. Inspired to keep on by the news early today that the New York Times has had the courage to keep on getting in the Bushco Administration's face by publishing information that Bushco doesn't want you to know.

Plus, these kinds of matters--the freedom of the press to provide information about the extent of the snooping & spying programs in place, & whether they're being administered in accord with Constitutional & other legal requirements--have been a favorite issue that she has no intention of failing to bring to your attention & hammer upon every single opportunity she gets.

For instance, to save her readers the effort of wading back through her blog, here's a reprise excerpted from a May 13th post about a poll showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans favored spying (discredited shortly thereafter):

"Demon Princess takes some comfort in the fact that responses to polls have a great deal to do with how the pollsters frame their questions. Maybe these were framed without pointing out that the point of the database was not necessarily tracking terrorists, but a revival of the really scary (long ago discredited & supposedly abandoned) "Total Information Awareness" program.

I quoted an "editorial in a Chicago paper whose conservative columnist reminds us what that was all about":
'At first blush this program carries troubling echoes of Total Information Awareness, a proposed Defense Department 'data-mining' expedition into a mass of personal information on individuals' driver's licenses, passports, credit card purchases, car rentals, medical prescriptions, banking transactions and
more. That was curbed by Congress after a public outcry. It seems the people who wanted to bring you TIA didn't get the message.'
"Or maybe they didn't ask, 'Doesn't it bug you even a bit that we've been told officially, over & over again, that the only Americans being monitored are those who have overseas connections (bad enough, in my opinion), and the only reason this new information has come out on such a scale is that a newspaper (USA Today) chose to dig deeper? Into those reports of suits brought by the ACLU & the Electronic Freedom Foundation which have apparently been flying under the general public's radar.

"Hell, people, the signs have been there all along--it's just taken several newspapers to connect the dots. The fact that the Bush Administration does all it can to quash our 'free press' when it is no longer behaving like a complacent lapdog seems also to be a bit of irrelevant info to most people. American public, pay attention, lest history prove you really were too distracted, docile or just plain stupid to govern yourselves & the great American experiment in democratic government collapses in the flames of self-absorption, narcissism & preoccupied consumerism. If George & Hayden have their way, we certainly won't be a 'free country' anymore."

(Ok, I was experiencing a moment of high dudgeon & extreme angst at the time, but still, it's true. Like my railing about that had any effect.)

I bring all it up again to remind us all that the "Total Information Awareness" program is not just a delusional paranoid liberal fantasy. And to point out, again, the role a free press has to play in fact that "sunshine is the best disinfectant" of a truly democratically-run nation.

What strikes me as interesting here in the more recent report is that, again, the program was instituted shortly after 911, and but we've known nothing about it, again, the Administration is patently scrambling to come up with a legal rationale that takes the debate outside established channels of pre-existing law (thanks, ‘Berto!) because, in Demon Princess’s opinion, they’re eager to avoid a confrontation & possible defeat on those legal fronts.

So, another excuse to keep us in the dark & unable to make informed comment. In the same position as Congress, in other words.

“WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

"The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

“Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

“The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, ‘has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities,’ Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.

“The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records…

"The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

"That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues."

Bushco lost no time appealing its highly invasive programs to the court of public opinion—only because, as the NYT article (title bar) points out, they’d been outed by the Times’ refusal to keep a lid on it, just as they'd refused to keep a lid on earlier stories about domestic surveillance. (The Administration is waging a blatant war on the NYT & all newspapers that would air its workings, by the way.)

According to an AP report that succeeded NYT news:

“A secret CIA-Treasury program to track financial records of millions of Americans is the latest installment in an expansion of executive authority in the name of fighting terrorism.

“The administration doesn't apologize for President Bush's aggressive take on presidential powers. Vice President Dick Cheney even boasts about it.

“Bush has made broad use of his powers, authorizing warrantless wiretaps, possibly collecting telephone records on millions of Americans, holding suspected terrorists overseas without legal protections and using up to 6,000 National Guard members to help patrol the border with Mexico.

“That's in addition to the vast anti-terrorism powers Congress granted him in the recently extended Patriot Act.

“Civil liberties activists, joined by congressional Democrats and some members of Bush's own party, suggest the president has pushed the envelope too far — usurping authority from Congress and abusing individual privacy rights in the process.

“So far, the administration has been unapologetic. ‘It's responsible government, it's effective government, it's government that works,’ outgoing Treasury Secretary John Snow asserted Friday at a news conference as he cknowledged, and defended, the far-reaching surveillance of banking transactions. He dismissed criticism that the program amounted to ‘data mining’ on thousands of Americans.

“Still, Bush's war on terrorism is an open-ended one. Constitutional scholars suggest there are limits. ‘"At some point, the Constitution can't bear the kind of continued strains that are being imposed by the demands of the fight on terrorism,’ said Harold J. Krent, dean and professor of law at Kent College of Law in Chicago. ‘What I am worried about is that there is a potential for amassing huge databases of individuals — linked by phone records, linked by financial records — that can be kept and used without any kind of real oversight. It's frightening,’ Krent said.

“Many in both parties point to Cheney as the engine behind Bush's power plays. At a Republican luncheon in Chicago on Friday, Cheney defended the financial-data tracking and earlier surveillance programs as ‘good, solid, sound programs’ and castigated the news media for disclosing them.

“When Cheney in the 1970s was chief of staff to then-President Ford, he saw presidential authority at a low point, eroded by the unpopular Vietnam War and the Watergate scandals. The balance of power was still tilted in favor of Congress when he and Bush took office in January 2001, Cheney contends. He and Bush thus believed it was important to ‘have the balance righted, if you will,’ Cheney told a National Press Club audience in Washington this week. ‘And I think we've done that successfully.’"

“One reason the administration is engaging in so much secret surveillance is that current technology makes it so easy, suggested Paul Light, a public policy professor at New York University. ‘It's almost a case where the technology is leading the policy. If you can do it, why not do it? Bush and his advisers just don't see privacy rights as a particularly balancing test in making the decision to go ahead with these techniques,’" Light said. http://,,-5907444,00.html

And now, since you've made it this far, pause to ponder the Big Brother's Pizza Delivery scenario, courtesy of the ACLU:


Blogger dusty said...

My fear has always been what they do with the info they have on all of us. It gives them the ability to start coming into our homes and taking us away because we dissent. I am on the news all the time here in my red county of Kern. I hold their feet to the fire and bring their transgressions into the light of day. I would be one of the first picked up for being unpatriot if they felt so inclined. And anyone that says its not possible need only look at how many laws this President and his minions have broken to realize anything is possible under our current regime.

8:21 AM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Frankly, Dusty, it scares the shit out of me, too, & that's why I devote SO much print to it. It's unprecedented (well outside the Nixon era--have we, as a nation, learned NOTHING??).

And in today's very early news, Arlen Specter says he's confident that his really shitty bill, which would legalize all this warrantless spying, is going to go through!! Oh HELL NO!

It's so wrong on SO many levels.

8:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Demon Princess...
Looks like Rumfield is'll still have the pleaure of watching Bush suffer (or Bush make us suffer?) while we endure 2 more years of the MoronCowboy et al....

11:41 AM  
Blogger Demon Princess said...

Yes, indeed, Anon! I happened to be watching C-Span when George himself announced Rummy's "resignation." O happy day for DP! Jubilation. And Tester, the Democrat, won in Montana. I'll have plenty to continue to blog about...

1:55 PM  

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