Tuesday, July 04, 2006
HYPOCRITE: If Bush Releases Information GOOD; If Newspapers Report the Information BAD. Remember He's the Dictator... oops the Decider.
Bush originally trumpeted anti-terror plan's details
By JULIE MASON
WASHINGTON - President Bush's sustained outrage last week about newspaper reports on a program tracking terrorists' financial records may have seemed odd considering how urgently the administration once publicized the program's broad concepts.
Thirteen days after Sept. 11, Bush signed an executive order expanding the Treasury Department's authority to track the bank activities of those with suspected ties to terrorism. The White House sent reporters a detailed fact sheet on the new powers.
For good measure, Bush summoned the news media to the Rose Garden to trumpet the program alongside the secretaries of state and treasury.
"We're putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice, we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorists' ability to access funds in foreign accounts," Bush said. "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."
The information was still on the White House Web site as of Saturday.
One of the first organizations shut down with the new powers was in Texas. With great fanfare, the Justice Department's Terrorist Financing Task Force busted the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, an organization operating from a Richardson storefront.
Last week, the New York Times and others reported some of the details of how the Bush administration has been monitoring financial transactions since Sept. 11.
The program uses far-reaching government subpoenas to obtain financial records from a cooperative in Belgium called Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Communication, according to the articles. (The Times story was quickly matched by the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal).
Bush reacted swiftly, calling the reports disgraceful and a compromising of national security. Vice President Dick Cheney followed suit.
"The New York Times has now made it more difficult for us to prevent attacks in the future," Cheney told supporters at a fundraiser in Nebraska.
The difference between disclosures in the Rose Garden and in the newspaper is that the Times and others are reporting operational details, according to the White House.
At a fundraiser in Missouri, Bush intensified his rhetoric, earning a sustained, standing ovation when he said, "There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it and no excuse for any newspaper to print it."
Last week the Times added an article saying that some officials thought disclosures about the intelligence program actually could stem terrorism financing by forcing suspects to use a more informal, less reliable way to move bank funds.
U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, a Kentucky Republican, accused the Times of treason for reporting on the program, while other Republicans on Capitol Hill called for an investigation and urged the Justice Department to pursue charges in the matter.
The House passed a resolution Thursday supporting the financial tracking program and condemning news organizations that report on secret surveillance programs. The action came three months after Congress reauthorized the Patriot Act.