It’s a well-known dirty trick in the halls of government: If you want to pass unpopular legislation that you know won’t stand up to scrutiny, just wait until the public isn’t looking. That’s precisely what the Bush administration did Dec. 13, 2003, the day American troops captured Saddam Hussein.
Bush celebrated the occasion by privately signing into law the Intelligence Authorization Act â€“ a controversial expansion of the PATRIOT Act that included items culled from the “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003,” a draft proposal that had been shelved due to public outcry after being leaked.
Specifically, the IAA allows the government to obtain an individual’s financial records without a court order. The law also makes it illegal for institutions to inform anyone that the government has requested those records, or that information has been shared with the authorities.
“The law also broadens the definition of ‘financial institution’ to include insurance companies, travel and real-estate agencies, stockbrokers, the US Postal Service, jewelry stores, casinos, airlines, car dealerships, and any other business ‘whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, or regulatory matters’ “ warned Nikki Swartz in the Information Management Journal. According to Swartz, the definition is now so broad that it could plausibly be used to access even school transcripts or medical records.
“In one fell swoop, this act has decimated our rights to privacy, due process, and freedom of speech,” Anna Samson Miranda wrote in an article for LiP magazine titled “Grave New World” that documented the ways in which the government already employs high-tech, private industry, and everyday citizens as part of a vast web of surveillance.
Miranda warned, “If we are too busy, distracted, or apathetic to fight government and corporate surveillance and data collection, we will find ourselves unable to go anywhere â€“ whether down the street for a cup of coffee or across the country for a protest â€“ without being watched.”
Sources: “PATRIOT Act’s Reach Expanded Despite Part Being Struck Down,” Nikki Swartz, Information Management Journal, March/April 2004; “Grave New World,” Anna Samson Miranda, LiP, Winter 2004; “Where Big Brother Snoops on Americans 24/7,” Teresa Hampton and Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue June 7, 2004.
Censored â€“ or bogus? (see below) was a caveat to caveat offered to the above story. I would like to know what others in our network/community know about this and see if the identity community can uncover what information is actually is being shared with government about our day to day personal transactions without our awareness.
Some stories get ignored by the mainstream media because they’re too controversial, or too much of a challenge to the rich and powerful, or just too hot to handle.
But some stories get dismissed because they’re just not credible â€“ and unfortunately, one of the pieces Project Censored cites this year appears to fall into that category.
Almost everything on the Project Censored list is well sourced and, at the very least, plausible. But one of the stories listed under “Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In” is a piece titled “Where Big Brother Snoops on Americans 24/7.” Written by Teresa Hampton and Doug Thompson, the piece was published on www.capitolhillblue.com, a Virginia Web site that’s been around since 1994.
The piece makes some pretty spectacular allegations. Hampton and Thompson claim not only that the Pentagon is defying Congress and covertly operating the notorious Total Information Awareness program (TIA) (which Congress explicitly killed), but also that the feds now monitor “virtually every financial transaction of every American,” in real time (that is, as it’s happening). They also maintain that the Pentagon uses the information to launch investigations of “persons of interest” and as a basis for adding names to the Transportation Security Administration’s “no fly” lists.
It’s pretty far-fetched to think that the Pentagon could run an operation so vast as to review almost every financial transaction in the country as it happens. But beyond that, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed two suits against the feds trying to pinpoint just how it collates TSA’s “no fly” lists and still hasn’t been able to figure it out.
The principal sources Hampton and Thompson base their story on seem to be an anonymous “security consultant who worked on the … project” and an “Allen Banks” â€“ someone identified simply as a “security expert,” without any detail as to who he is or how he would be privy to such information.
Thompson, who is the site’s publisher, defended the accuracy of the story, saying that he’d spoken with “over 30 sources” â€“ police, banks, credit card agencies â€“ and that he reached his conclusions based on those sources as well as on the fact that there were “too many coincidences.” (None of that is explained in the story.)
“To some extent,” he added, “it was a conclusion by me, looking at the links.” Banks and other private industries had been instructed to e-mail data to the feds under TIA, and they continued sending data to the same places after TIA was killed, because they never received orders to stop, Thompson said. His caveat: “If I had to go into court and prove this, there’s no way I could prove it.”
We’re still dubious.