Yes, Put the Traitors on Trial
By Jake Tapper at Political Punch:
To help understand the controversy about the New York Times reporting of the CIA/Treasury counterterrorism program that accessed the database of the European banking consortium "Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication," called SWIFT, I phoned up former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, chair of the 9/11 Commission.
What I wanted to understand: what would terrorists and those who wish the US harm know now, with the Friday disclosure of the program, that they wouldn't have already known from the first few weeks after 9/11 when President Bush announced that the administration would do everything it could to get all data from every bank around the world.
(Bush on 9/24/01:"We're putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice, we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorist's ability to access funds in foreign accounts. If they fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts, the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their bank's assets and transactions in the United States.")
Kean said that when he was briefed by the Treasury Department on the program, "I was told very few people knew about this facility," which provides transaction processing services for over 7,000 financial organizations located in 194 countries worldwide.
"I was told that very few financial houses in this country knew about it; it was not well known even by people in banking," Kean said. "The terrorists didn't know the financial transactions went through this one group. Treasury told me, this was a method of financial tracking that people didn't understand, that nobody knew this was how things were done. Top-notch people in the US didn't even know."
"The second thing is that it took a long time to get this program set up. SWIFT is not US-controlled; we had to persuade them to cooperate, convince them that this was so important to the war on terrorism. It was a great coup when all these other countries agreed to go along."
So for even those terrorists who might know of SWIFT, "the idea of the U.S. and CIA having a tap into it is something people would find impossible to believe."
Don't miss yesterday's Vent: Hot Air Films: Changing Times.
And don't miss yesterday's WSJ editorial, in which the journalists at NYT get slapped silly:
.... According to Tony Fratto, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, he first contacted the Times some two months ago. He had heard Times reporters were asking questions about the highly classified program involving Swift, an international banking consortium that has cooperated with the U.S. to follow the money making its way to the likes of al Qaeda or Hezbollah. Mr. Fratto went on to ask the Times not to publish such a story on grounds that it would damage this useful terror-tracking method.
Sometime later, Secretary John Snow invited Times Executive Editor Bill Keller to his Treasury office to deliver the same message. Later still, Mr. Fratto says, Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, the leaders of the 9/11 Commission, made the same request of Mr. Keller. Democratic Congressman John Murtha and Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte also urged the newspaper not to publish the story.
The Times decided to publish anyway, letting Mr. Fratto know about its decision a week ago Wednesday [i.e., Jun. 21]. The Times agreed to delay publishing by a day to give Mr. Fratto a chance to bring the appropriate Treasury official home from overseas. Based on his own discussions with Times reporters and editors, Mr. Fratto says he believed "they had about 80% of the story, but they had about 30% of it wrong." So the Administration decided that, in the interest of telling a more complete and accurate story, they would declassify a series of talking points about the program. They discussed those with the Times the next day, June 22.
Around the same time, Treasury contacted Journal reporter Glenn Simpson to offer him the same declassified information. Mr. Simpson has been working the terror finance beat for some time, including asking questions about the operations of Swift, and it is a common practice in Washington for government officials to disclose a story that is going to become public anyway to more than one reporter. Our guess is that Treasury also felt Mr. Simpson would write a straighter story than the Times, which was pushing a violation-of-privacy angle; on our reading of the two June 23 stories, he did....
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Sat. 07/01/06 07:02:41 AM
Categorized as Media & Political.