Friday, January 19, 2007

ACLU Raises Objections Over Expanded Military and CIA Domestic Spying

Crossposted from 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.

California Conservative writes:

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.

The group’s new data collection practices were implemented without the
board’s approval or knowledge and were in violation of the ACLU’s privacy policy
at the time, 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.

He objected to the practices, and the next day, the privacy policy on the
group’s Web site was changed. “They took out all the language that would show
that they were violating their own policy,” Meyers said. “In doing so, they
sanctified their procedure while still keeping it secret.”


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.

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