...sort of...and oh dear God, the distance between where he's right and where we're all screwed is the difference between the devil and the deep blue sea.
Bear with me. A snip from the top story on the New York Times website:
Cheney Assails Press on Report on Bank Data
Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday vigorously defended a secret program that examines banking records of Americans and others in a vast international database, and harshly criticized the news media for disclosing an operation he said was legal and "absolutely essential" to fighting terrorism.
I had a funny moment today. I was channel-surfing and accidentally staggered across a vat of bad noise called the Abrams Report (I think that was the name, not completely sure) on MSNBC. The discussion was about this new revelation that the government is digging into bank records, and whether that's OK, etc. I didn't recognize the spokestool that was on to defend the administration, but he had that well-scrubbed blue-blazer blow-dried look one usually attaches to the Tucker Carson/white man with money/defend the status quo/GOP infighter set.
Anyway, the host of the show deftly sidestepped the issue of whether this financial spelunking was legal and/or ethical (by saying, simply, "Let's move on to...") and asked, "Can you tell me if this whole process has been around for a while, or did you all just think of this?" The spokestook replied, with his bare earnest face hanging out, "Yes, we just came up with this, it's brand new, bla bla bla..."
...and the lady hosting the show let him get away with that...at which point I nearly terminated my television. Why? Because unlike the nice talking head lady running the show, I remember fairly recent history. Let's take a walk though history...oh, about exactly ten years back...
William Jefferson Clinton's landmark 1996 omnibus terror bill, which included many of the anti-terror measures we now take for granted after September 11, was withered almost to the point of uselessness by attacks from the right; Jesse Helms and Trent Lott were openly dismissive of the threats Clinton spoke of, some of which we now accept as a matter of course, like blue sky and wet water.
Most germaine to this discussion is the fact that Clinton wanted to use this legislation specifically to attack the financial underpinnings of the al-Qaeda network by banning American companies and individuals from dealing with foreign banks and financial institutions that al Qaeda was using for its money-laundering operations. Note well: he wanted to do this in 1996.
This involved, among other things, the kind of financial bird-dogging that has been "exposed" by these recent reports. That's an essential part of the deal, and there's no avoiding it; if you're going to wither their financial networks, you have to dig into financial records, and you're not going to defang them until you kill their funding.
Texas Senator Phil Gramm, chairman of the Banking Committee and a card-carrying Republican, was instrumental in the killing of Clinton's original and super-sharp version of the anti-terror bill, specifically because Gramm objected to the eyes-on attack on the terrorism money trail. Gramm actually called the bill, and the financial aspects specifically, "totalitarian."
But here's the funny part.
In point of fact, Gramm was compelled to kill the bill because his most devoted patrons, the Enron Corporation and its criminal executives in Houston, were using those same terrorist financial networks to launder their own dirty money and rip off the Enron stockholders. If the government had eyeballed the terrorism money-laundering all the way to those offshore clearinghouses, the poor sacks at Enron would have had their stolen-money-made-clean clearinghouses in the Caymans shut off for good.
They just thought of this whole financial tracking thing, said the shiny MSNBC spokestool today. Hmmm...well, I suppose that could fly...sure. These Bush folks aren't too scholastic, for the most part, and proudly so, for the most part. Maybe they never heard of Clinton's Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Bill of 1996...
...or maybe they never bothered to read the original bill with its provisions that legislated exactly this kind of financial hunting...
...and maybe they never saw or read the final revised and redacted and watered-down bill...
...and didn't notice the smouldering hole in the middle of the watered-down bill, the hole that used to have these financial-hunting provisions intact before Gramm called them "totalitarian" and burned them out so he could protect his Enron donors in Houston...
...and maybe some of them even today will make noises about how 9/11 was Clinton's fault, even though they were instrumental in killing his anti-terror bill that would have gone a long way towards making sure 9/11 didn't happen...
...yeah...I can see that...anyway...
There are too many layers of hypocrisy on this onion to peel in one sitting, so let's just finish here:
Cheney is right, on the surface: hunting terrorists and terrorism networks, and their state sponsors, and their private sponsors, and where they are and where they go, etc., is best done by FOLLOWING THE MONEY. At the end of the day, the smartest way to attack this phenomenon is by treating it as a criminal enterprise like the Mafia...and all RICO was in the end was a way to FOLLOW THE MONEY, and attack/destroy/imprison whatever came at the end of FOLLOWING THE MONEY.
Terrorism costs money, just like anything else. Terrorism (real, organized, large-scale terrorism) does not happen without money. The American military can bomb everything wearing a turban, and all they'll do is justify the terrorism on the Arab street by creating stacks of innocent dead.
But if you cut off the money, if you shut down the gray-area clearinghouses where money flows with no names attached, if you make it impossible for (oh, let's say) some pissed-off Saudi prince with a billion dollars to play with to pay a bunch of Wahabbists on the sly to conduct a suicide attack...if you FOLLOW THE MONEY and CUT OFF THE MONEY, you're 90% of the way towards winning a real, serious, effective, legitimate War on Terror.
Cheney was right. This whole scheme to follow the money, on the surface, is (literally) the first really smart thing these bozos have done in this fight. Natterheads on MSNBC pretending they invented this idea notwithstanding, following the money and then cutting it off is pretty much the first, best way to thwart this stuff. Had they done this starting, mmmmm, five years ago, the planet would be in far better shape. File this under "Duh."
Of course, that's all on the surface. Of course, if following the money leads them to some friends of George (in, say, Saudi Arabia), or some friends of friends of George, or some political donors of George, or some allies of convenience of George, you can rest assured "exceptions" will be made. (---> BANG HEAD HERE <---)
And, of course, it's also funny that these Bush guys have broken so many laws and steamrolled so much of the constitution and generally treated the whole concept of rules as just a bunch of crap to be ignored, that when they finally do something SMART, they get blasted for it.
Poor Cheney. He can't understand why nobody trusts him. That's the irony, though. He's right. Attacking the money is, in fact, absolutely essential to winning a "War on Terror"...and if they'd started doing this five years ago (or ten, thank you Mr. Gramm) instead of invading and occupying and killing and plundering and profiteering and lying oh so very much...
...if they had attacked this thing like it was a criminal enterprise (which it is) and sought international cooperation (which was there) and paralyzed the financial networks that are the lifeblood of international terrorism (which was eminently possible)...
The words of our future vice president -- defending the decision to end Gulf War I without occupying Iraq -- eerily foretell today's morass. Here is what Cheney said in '92:
"I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.
"And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.
"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
6. Oh, this is truly grotesque! "How many American casualties is Saddam
worth?" 2,500 plus, with billions of profits to Halliburton and billions for the war and billions unaccounted for! That makes each American death worth a lot of money.
Wasn't Cheney saying something entirely different behind the scenes at PNAC? I thought that his intent had been to invade Iraq and overthrow Hussein since the late 80's, and he was secretly infuriated with Bush Senior for pulling out of Iraq?
43. And prior to that, Rummie sold Hussein WMD's. Now why isn't
any of this very pertinent history discussed in our Oh so liberal media:sarcasm:, when America and the world knew every minutiae of detail about Monica's dress stain ad nauseum! It obviously not for the protection of children's moral compasses.
...both moral and all other kinds, of sheer evil, is deeper than the Devil *and* the deep blue sea. I mean, we're all sinners, and Dems are capable of cupidity and stupidity. But there is no comparison with today's Repubs. The Clinton administration had smart people running it--emphatically including the top man--and the Busheviks, shall we say, do not... An excellent post. And nice to see you here, Will...
5. I was listening to the BBC news on NPR Friday morning
There was a point made that within the 1st 6 months of 9/11, spying on the bank records was absolutely necessary to see where the money was going. BUT, the bad guys now use different methods and Operation Swift wasn't catching much nowadays.
So why is Bush administration still spying on our bank records?
Maybe someone else heard this same program and can elaborate.
the u.s. corporatist govt is the world's biggest terrorist organization. the idea that cheney is "going after" "the terrorists" is laughable on its face. and it is lamentable because you can be sure he's going to use this "digging" to go after HIS enemies, i.e. us.
we should not concede the official story of "terrorism". because of the corruption and secrecy of the u.s. govt/intelligence agencies/military no one among the general populace knows what bin laden is behind or who is helping him. we only know it's NOT what cheney says it is.
p.s.: hang tough on the rove indictment! i trust you guys.
I'm bitter as hell that Phil Gramm blocked Clinton's proposal tightening up international banking to close the money laundering conduits used by bin Laden and Enron, thus allowing the 9/11 plot to be fully funded with everybody who could have made a difference being forced to look the other way.
I'm bitter that the GOP is now taking credit for DOING EXACTLY THIS, only doing it outside a law that would have proven inconvenient for their big Texas tax cheat donors.
I'm bitter that the Democrats in Congress seem to be having a knee jerk reaction to this, denouncing it instead of PROPERLY TAKING CREDIT FOR THE IDEA and shouting to the world that if Gramm and his buddies hadn't blocked the legislation TEN YEARS AGO, 9/11 might not have occurred.
This is why I'm so disgusted with incumbents, the whole lot of them with very few exceptions. They consistently fight the wrong fight, object to the wrong things on the wrong grounds, and generally have proven themselves to be self serving bunglers at best, anti American at worst.
44. Absolutely! You know they are doing this, and have been doing so
even prior to the 2004 selections Diebold style. This is so much Worse than Watergate, but you know, Nixon didn't have that little made up and largely manufactured WOT (War on Terror)to use at his disposal!
is how much of Bin Laden's activity wound up getting financed by Kenny-boy's Enron swag (including a chunk of change out of my very own pocket via my electric bill)? And vice versa? Please add TREASON to the charges pending against Lay, Skilling, et al (it already ought to be on the docket for Bush and Cheney).
10. I am glad you are not bitter for a man thinks better with an open mind
This criminal enterprise has been scheming, conniving, planning to be where they are now, for so many years, decades actually, that they have lost sight of the trail, totally lost, wandering in the darkness leading the fools who follow. We suffer
This is precisely the type of work John Kerry was doing in the Senate during Reagan & Poppy. He and his staffers were crafting laws to do this very thing. This was one of the ways the Iran-Contra web was outed and threatened all the Corporazi's under-the-table "off-shore" dealings with rogue regimes.
If the Kerry bills and the '96 act had been implemented, it is quite likely that the WTC would still be standing.
16. Thanks for putting into words what I felt as well
I wasn't quite as well versed in the history of the 1996 bill as you, but I do remember all too well how the GOPee continually snickered at those who weren't willing to wage "war" on terror but, rather, treat it more like a "criminal matter."
Obviously, if we'd been doing the work we needed to do starting ten years ago, there'd never be the justification for the hundreds of billions of dollars that we piss into the sand.
When this banking story broke, I remembered reading something in Clarke's book about how John O'Neill had been trying to follow the money trail, but all roads were leading to Yemen and the Bush administration shut the investigation down soon after they took office. You have put the outrage into words so much better than I could have.
20. I was just thinking about this the other day...
...was going to look up some URLs from when the Repukes poo-poo'd Clinton's anti-terrorism measures -- one of which called for looking into bank records to catch the terrorists laundering their money. Republicans claimed he was over-reacting and that the threat of terrorism was all imaginary, etc...they were very disparaging with Clinton about it and thus, the measures never got implemented.
HAD THEY BEEN implemented, 9-11 may well NOT have happened. The Republicans' #1 priority, as is usual, was and still is covering their OWN asses, NOT protecting this country.
Thanks for posting this Will. As I said, I was thinking of this in the past couple days. UNfrigginbelievable.
25. I read that the terrorists do not use our banks
if they never use cell phones because they can be tracked, why would they be using banks that use electronic transfers that can be tracked; that makes no sense. But think of this, what if there was a good cause, oh say, something like the Tsunami disaster, and say, we had somebody, oh say Pappy Bush, get up and say please send your money to those affected by this terrible disaster, and THEN, they had a mechanism in place when that happened to suck up every particle of data on you, because that is what is on these bank transfers including your home address and phone numbers. HMMMM, think what a tracking tool, what a tracking tool!!!!. Now your basic close friends-all those who are still trying to cheat the Indians, would not be sending their hard conned cash, oh, no, it would be liberals, Demoncrats and Rove haters.
Will Pitt, I believe you were right on the Rove indictment, this has been another successful sleight of hand by this administration.
I think you're right as far as it goes. And yes, it chaps me that they now want to take credit for what a Democratic administration wanted to implement 10 years ago. Yes, there's institutional banking and absurd quantities of cash float around the globe literally in seconds now. And I've no doubt that some operatives are using that.
However, that's only half the story. What about the fact that in the Islamic world, you have a much more informal system of currency exchange that isn't tied to machines and recorded transactions? Under Sharia law you can't charge interest, so people borrow money from other muslims for little or no interest, colleagues, family members, and friends. How are we supposed to track what isn't recorded anywhere? How is money used for terrorism funneled through these (to Western eyes) informal financial networks? From whom to whom and how? :shrug:
I don't see us talking word one about that. It's not even on the Little Dictator's RADAR screen. I don't even see us taking the subject very seriously. No, they're talking about thumbing through your state pension records and TIAA CREF accounts. Yours and mine. Track the money is right, but frankly, I think we're barking up the WRONG (MONEYMAKER) TREE.
27. So, you believe that they are trying to track terror dollars?
Thing is, I don't. Their pattern is to go after their political enemies and call anything they do under that aegis "the war on Terra". More likely they were looking to find something on Iran or on Hugo Chavez or on Hilary. :shrug:
29. So I wonder when the "liberal media" will report on this
Do a little digging, like you did, see that the Repugs killed the very bill they're touting today as their own. I wonder when they'll inform us how it probably would have saved the towers.
Really, I don't wonder, but maybe someone could point this out to some of the high profile Democratic leaders as another huge fuck-up by this mis-administration. I'd love to see Gramm's words thrown back in his face when he's defending what this administration does.
Following the money would be a real "war on terror", unlike this mass murdering we're doing over in Iraq. This administration can't "follow the money" too carefully, I'm sure because a lot of it would point at them, so Cheney's right, I agree, but only in what he says. I'm sure the money they're following isn't the money they should be following, it might be a little too close to home.
36. what people seem to overlook in this whole debate...
...is that there isn't some unique "terrorist financial network" that can be isolated and attacked. The money laundering, funds transfers, blind accounts, untracable back trails, etc are all the same tools that lots of "legitimate" corporations and individuals use to sanitize money, along with garden variety organized criminals, etc. They're the tools that keep the wheels of commerce well greased and humming along. They're the funnels and the pipelines that keep the manna flowing toward the wealthy. Sometimes it's hard to determine who the real criminals are when you start to take a good look at the evidence.
40. My first thought on hearing this was - Oh, Clinton's plan
Just like Homeland Security.
If we had anything approaching honest mainstream journalism in America these things would not go unnoticed. In fact, we would have been hearing about all of it in the fall of 2001. Or even when it happened instead of Monica and sharks and Gary Condit.
As it is, this 'revelation' will only be elevated by the mainsleaze media to the extent that BushCo needs another Clinton fig leaf to deflect criticism.
The leaders of a joint House-Senate Intelligence Committees investigation have vigorously pushed for the release of a classified report that lays out the evidence of the Saudi money flow. But Bush administration officials, led by Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller, have adamantly refused to declassify the evidence upon which the report is based. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Sen. Bob Graham declined to discuss the evidence gathered by the joint inquiry, but he said he was upset over the Bush administration's intransigence. "This one stinks of people using classified information" for political purposes, said Graham.
50. Excellent post. K&R. Clinton used to lay awake at night worried about a
terrorist attack. Junior, on the other hand, seemed to have no problem sleeping even on the night of 9/11. He once told a lobotomized Peggy Noonan that 9/11 ended on a humorous note for him and Laura, with them being rushed downstairs in their sleeping clothes because of a false alarm.
51. What is the enabling legislation for the current program?
As you have reminded us, Clinton unsuccessfully sought legislation to support the same surveillance that is the topic of this discussion. What gives The Decider the right to do it now? Patriot Act? Signing statement? Unitary Executive? Did God speak to Junior in a dream?
52. The neocons, including the freepers who are brain damaged;
And not specifically of the former, defend this and other such programs all the way. Each revalation of a new such program where civil rights have been hijacked, brings fresh attacks from the progressives and puts up the backs of those that want to erode the Constitution. If I were to ask those in power some questions, they would entail something like; 'At what point would you actually declare that you have gone too far?' What line in the sand will you refuse to cross? What else have you done that we, as an opposition party, should know about so we can inform the people in our own way? Why do you hate America?
54. Will, the Feds had "mapped out" AQs global finances by the late 1990s.
The Financial Crimes Information Center (FinCEN)was set up in 1990 as the USG interagency center to track terrorist money flows. By the late 1990s, it had "mapped out" AQ funding and identified that group's major Middle East, European and American funding sources. The problem was, after Bush was elected, the Treasury and Justice Departments put a hold on FINCEN's and the FBI's financial investigations of the domestic sources of foreign terrorist organizations. Rather than shut them down, the Bush Admin. apparently ignored them.
Even after 9/11, most of the big funders with a significant banking presence in Europe and the US weren't publicly added to the terrorist finance list until many months after 9/11. See Greg Palast on this, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy (suppression of FBI investigations pre-911); also, see, www.fas.org/irp/crs/RL32499.pdf (Golden Chain); (Bank al Taqwa/Muslim Brotherhood/Nada/Nasreddin Network - http://www.ustreas.gov/press/releases/po3380.htm)
...I don't mean to change the subject, but as long as our government and our public believes the world works according to some ancient religious powers of right and wrong and that we're right and whoever disagrees with us is wrong (or that we're better and they're worse, or whatever pair of adjectives you prefer), and whoever is right deserves to stomp the people who are wrong down economically, culturally, and militarily, the people we are stomping down are going to find a way to get even one way or another. They will find our greatest weakness and they will attack it. That worked for George Washington, it worked for Ho Chi Minh, and it's worked for every band of rebels who's ever won a war against a vastly superior military force.
Even if the current war of terror was made completely impossible for the terrorists to fight in every conceivable way, all the terrorists would have to do to fight us would be to start supplying guns and drugs to street gangs, and attack America from the inside. Or they could come visit America in the summer, go to southern California, go out hiking in the woods near a lot of expensive houses, and start a forest fire. Or whatever. As long as our economy revolves around a relatively small number of materially wealthy people depending on a much larger number of materially poor people to pick up their trash, mow their lawns, make their coffee, cook their food, drive their cars, clean their houses, and care for their children, they'll never be safe. Hell, any terrorist who can rent a copy of Fight Club can learn all of that.
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