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Tsk! Tsk! E. D. Hill Tells a Fib on National TV!

Reported by Marie Therese - June 26, 2006 -

This morning on FOX & Friends host E. D. Hill made the following remark during a passionate spin-spiel in which she defended the recently disclosed NSA international monetary spying program

HILL: "... No one, including The New York Times, is suggesting there are any concerns about the legality of this at all. It was simply a successful secret program."

Oops! Your nose is growing longer, E. D.!

In its initial article disclosing the existence of the program, The New York Times made the following statements about issues of domestic and foreign legality (pertinent portions in bold face.)

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

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Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told American officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At that time, new controls were introduced.

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Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Mr. Levey, the Treasury official, said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate

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But at the outset of the operation, Treasury and Justice Department lawyers debated whether the program had to comply with such laws before concluding that it did not, people with knowledge of the debate said. Several outside banking experts, however, say that financial privacy laws are murky and sometimes contradictory and that the program raises difficult legal and public policy questions.

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Because Swift is based overseas and has offices in the United States, it is governed by European and American laws. Several international regulations and policies impose privacy restrictions on companies that are generally regarded as more stringent than those in this country. United States law establishes some protections for the privacy of Americans' financial data, but they are not ironclad. A 1978 measure, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, has a limited scope and a number of exceptions, and its role in national security cases remains largely untested.

Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.

"There was always concern about this program," a former official said.

So much for Ms. Hill's little white lie!

COMMENT
Throughout FOX's coverage of this story, not once have they mentioned the very real possibility that both the management of SWIFT in Belgium and the Treasury Department of the United States trampled on a variety of laws in OTHER countries!! Two of the most spied-upon were good allies of ours: Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Perhaps their laws frown on such open-ended warrants?

It remains to be seen how many lawsuits are filed against the United States in the next few months by individuals and corporate entities that feel that their right to privacy has been seriously violated.

And then there is the nagging question of exactly how the Bush administration defines a "terrorist".

We have all assumed that in its spying programs the Bush administration has adhered to monitoring only groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah et al.

However, if we take a cue from the way FOX News, the GOP's propaganda arm, defines a "terrorist enabler", it would be no great stretch to imagine that people like Bill Keller, Michael Moore, Paul Krugman, George Clooney, John Murtha, Hillary Clinton and others could become targets of opportunity for a paranoid, insular, secetive administration.

Additionally, there are those who are implicated in the Oil for Food scandal, covered extensively on FOX News by the overheated and pugnacious Jonathan Hunt. If the administration labeled the OFF suspects as "terrorist enablers", wouldn't it have been possible that high-profile individuals like Kofi Annan, Benon Savan and Marc Rich had their phones, faxes and emails tapped and their financial transactions monitored for five years under a loose definition of the word "terrorist"?

That is the crux of the problem. A unilateral snooping program that has little or no oversight by an impartial, outside agency is a playground for less-than-honest individuals to abuse the public trust by using their positions of power to engage in illegal activities like blackmail, political dirty tricks, financial market manipulation, etc.

For that reason alone, such programs must be revealed, reviewed and revamped to bring them into conformity with the Bill of Rights.