Sunday, July 02, 2006


The SWIFT Spying Program

I have thus far resisted the urge to make a swift-boat joke or a not so swift joke. I think I shall continue resisting -- if only 'cause I cannot think of a good joke that is even vaguely funny here.

Anyway, a thought has occurred to me. Remember how Bush & CO were so upset by the leaking of their main domestic spying programs and claimed that this leaking would damage our national security and fight against terrorism? Remember how some of us pointed out that there were bona fide reasons for Bush & CO to claim this: after all, generally in the ME, they tend to overestimate US intelligence capabilities not underestimate our capabilities (indeed, some have suggested the Saddam Hussein figured, maybe correctly, that we knew he did not have any real nuclear program, but was bluffing to scare the Iranians and did not want to reveal his hand to them but figured we knew his hand, so there was no reason for him to reveal his hand to us and thus potentially tip off the Iranians as to his lack of a nuclear program). Presumably, the terrorists figured out that we were tracking them even before the existence of the phone surveillance program was leaked. However, the terrorists probably presumed we had a general idea of who they were and by leaking the phone surveillance program, the fact that we in fact really did not know enough about the terrorists to seek warrants to pursue them but rather were resorting to needle-in-haystack approaches, we tipped our hand to the terrorists about how un-successful we have been in our pursuit of leads on terrorists.

Perhaps, in revealing our spying associated with SWIFT, the New York Times inadvertently revealed not that we are doing something against terrorists that we said we would do but rather they revealed some hole in the program? Perhaps they revealed, without realizing it, some absence of knowledge in this administration about terrorist networks? Perhaps before hand terrorists may have assumed something specific about how their financials were being tracked and now they know not what we know but what we do not know? (Aha! There's the joke -- the NY Times maybe has inadvertantly revealed that this is really a Not-So-SWIFT spying program? Or am I giving Bush & CO too much credit for having bona fide reasons, e.g. covering up their incompetence, for being so secretive? Is Bush & CO's penchant for secrecy merely just their hope for a refuge for themselves as scoundrels, cf. Bentham or is it worse, is it really all about the power?)

In general, this administration's penchant for secrecy in its methods for pursuing terrorists is otherwise puzzling. Assuming the administration has an interest in preventing terrorist attacks (rather than just punishing those who might attack us) -- an interest the administration at least expressed in its criticism of a "law enforcement approach" to fighting terrorism (they falsely claimed that you can only pursue criminals after they commit a crime; apparently they never have heard of conspiracy charges, which might be wishful thinking on their part, if you catch my drift ;) ) -- you would think they would want to be somewhat public about their methods for catching terrorists as a deterrent. At the very least, you would think that an administration so dedicated to the idea that government regulation interferes with business would think that, even if terrorists know exactly how we can pursue them, just trying to work around our safeguards would cause an undue burden on terrorists, nu? Of course, you would think an administration so attuned to the cultural aspects of our heartland and southern frontier would be aware enough of the hatred of scalawags and carpetbaggers to have handled the reconstruction of Iraq a bit differently. Unless the whole point of our activities is not that they should welcome us as liberators but to create new enemies for future profitable wars. Ya know, this administration's craziness makes a person paranoid, don't it?

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