The Bush administration has been secretly monitoring thousands of international bank transactions without court-approval. The secret program was enacted shortly after the 9/11 attacks in what government officials say is a crucial weapon in tracking the financing of terrorist activity. The information has been obtained from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or SWIFT. The organization helps direct trillions of dollars in daily international bank transfers. Officials told the Los Angeles Times the program has been "marginally successful" in tracking the financial activity of al Qaeda. SWIFT executives apparently tried to withdraw from the program after becoming concerned over its legality. The executives were persuaded to continue their cooperation only after the intervention of top government officials, including former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan.
Papers Detail Bank Program Over White House Objection
Major stories on the bank-monitoring program appeared in today's editions of the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Wall Street Journal. Both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times say the Bush administration lobbied them to withhold publication on the grounds public disclosure would harm national security.
Senate Rejects Iraq Withdrawal
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, the Senate rejected two separate measures calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.
- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "None of us know for sure exactly how the democratic reform in Iraq will turn out as we stay committed. But, we do know it will fail if it is abandoned prematurely by the United States. Withdrawal is not an option. Surrender is not a solution."
- Senator John Kerry: "Why on earth would senators come to the floor and argue 'Let's just stay the course and do the same old thing' when our own generals have told us the same old thing is part of the part of the problem? The same old thing is attracting terrorists. The same old thing is losing us allies. The same old thing is costing us unbelievable sums of money and lives unnecessarily."
In privacy news, AT&T has introduced a new policy that says the company owns customers' account information and can share it with government agencies. Under the new policy, AT&T will collect customers' user names, passwords, charges, payments, and online purchases. It will also track their activity while on sites that AT&T operates in a partnership with Yahoo. The changes come as AT&T is embroiled in a lawsuit brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation over the company's involvement in the NSA spy program.
The above four items are from today's Democracy Now! Headlines and were selected by Joan, Charlie, Dominick and Sabina. Democracy Now! ("always informing you," as Marcia says):
Headlines for June 23, 2006
- Secret Bush Admin Program Monitors International Bank Records
- Papers Detail Bank Program Over White House Objection
- Iraq Declares State of Emergency; More Than 2 Dozen Killed
- Report: Iraq Prepares Sweeping Amnesty Offer
- Senate Rejects Iraq Withdrawal
- House Rolls Back Estate Tax
- 7 Arrested in Alleged Terror Plot
- Study: Recent Climate Change Unprecedented
- UN Warns Hurricanes Could Devastate Haiti
- "My Name Is Rachel Corrie" Finds New York Home
Army Lies to Mother of Slain Guardsman for Two Years, Says Killed by Insurgents Instead of Allied Iraqi Soldiers
Two years after National Guardsmen Spc. Patrick McCaffrey and 1st Lt. Andre Tyson were killed in Iraq, the truth about their deaths has been exposed. Military officials initially told the families that the two men had been killed in an ambush by insurgents but an Army investigation concluded that they were in fact murdered by members of the allied Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The military only told the families the truth this week. We speak with Nadia McCaffrey -- the mother of Spc. Patrick McCaffrey -- who is accusing the Pentagon of a deliberate cover-up.
AMY GOODMAN: But no member of his unit came to you and said, "It's not as the Army has told you. I was there."
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes. Yes, two or three people did.
AMY GOODMAN: And did they tell you this?
NADIA McCAFFREY: They told me, yes, what they saw and what they have heard. As a matter of fact, just after Patrick and Andre were killed, one of the soldiers made his own report. And very complete, I may say. And this report was actually sent to the Sacramento Bee in Sacramento, newspaper. And this article was actually published by the Sacramento Bee. Immediately after that, this article was all over the world, because when Patrick's body returned to the airport in San Francisco, I called the media, and that made a huge fire within the news and so on, since the Pentagon had a ban on that.
AMY GOODMAN: Let's explain the idea that you called the national press to be at Sacramento airport, international airport, when Patrick's body came home, because President Bush had issued this executive order, saying that you shouldn't videotape, photograph, film the flag-draped coffins of the soldiers coming home. But you defied that?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes, yes. I didn't want to. That was my son. Frankly, I didn’t really care, you know. I needed to do it this way for us, and I wanted to honor my son. I was not going to pass him in the dark, returning home, no. He didn't leave in the dark; why should I do that when he comes back? No. But because of that, immediately after this, this article took off and was everywhere. What happened was, the soldier who wrote this article was threatened to be court-martialed immediately. And the only reason that the court-martial didn't happen is because it became too public too fast. But he nonetheless was in serious trouble. I know that through his mother, and she was extremely worried about it. So I talked to other soldiers in his unit, and I called, you know, [inaudible] in San Francisco that I know. I needed advice from just in case something would turn ugly. He's okay. But it was not easy for him for quite a long time.
Tennessee Schedules Five Executions for June 28
The state of Tennessee has announced that five death row prisoners are scheduled to be executed this Wednesday, June 28th. Tennessee has carried out only one execution since 1960. We speak with the executive director of the Tennessee Coalition to Abolish State Killing.
Julia Wright, Daughter of Famed Writer Richard Wright, on Mumia Abu Jamal
We take a look at case of death row case prisoner, Mumia Abu Jamal. with Julia Wright, daughter of the late, famed writer Richard Wright. We also play a tribute to Julia Wright that Mumia Abu Jamal recorded from death row.
Chaos and violence continue.
The ten day old "crackdown" in Baghdad, which has had little measurable impact on stopping violence, sprouted a new development today: "State of emergency." As Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) noted this morning, "Earlier today, insurgents set up roadblocks and opened fire on U.S. and Iraqi troops close to the US-run Green Zone." The Associated Press reports this was done as fighting forces seemed intent on breaching "the heavily fortified Green Zone." As Sandra Lupien noted on KPFA's The Morning Show, amidst the violence, US troops "rushed to the area." Current prime minister Nouri al-Maliki has "ordered everyone off the streets" of Baghdad, provided "broader arrest powers" and placed "a ban on carrying weapons."
Iraq last declared a state of emergency (or martial law) in November of 2004 for the entire country (exempting only Kurdish areas in the north).Then prime minister Iyad Allawi declared it when violence broke out through much of the country as US forces geared up for their attack on/slaughter of Falluja. Current prime minister al-Maliki has declared a state of emergency for Baghdad only. A state of emergency was declared for the city of Basra in May of this year. Euronews notes that the Basra state of emergency "has not deterred militants." Omar al-Ibadi and Haider Salahaddin (Reuters) report that today in Basra a car bomb went off (police say ten killed, hospital says five).
Sam Knight (Times of London) reports that "the 5 million inhabitants of the Iraqi capital [were] given just two hours notice of a curfew" (started at 2:00 pm in Baghdad, as Knight notes, but it was set to end at 5:00 pm and not, as Knight reports, on Saturday -- since Knight filed, al-Maliki shortened the curfew). Knight notes the paper's Baghdad correspondent Ned Parker terming the "extended gun battle . . . just north of the fortified Green Zone" a "free-for-all." Along with gunfire and mortars, Reuters reports that two US troops died today "when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb southeast of Baghdad."
In Hibhib, the Associated Press notes the bombing of a Sunni mosque resulted in at least ten dead and fifteen wounded. Reuters notes two police officers shot to death in Hilla. The AFP reports that five corpses were found in Mishada.
In peace news, Will Hoover (The Honolulu Advertiser) reports on Ehren Watada's refusal to ship to Iraq when his unit left Fort Lewis, Washington yesterday (6:45 am), he refused to board. Ehren's father Bob Watada tells Hoover of the three officers that spent hours on Wednesday trying to convince Ehren to change his mind: "They put the full-court press on him. They were telling him, 'You know, you're facing 10 to 15 years in jail, and do you want to do all of that?'" The Army issued a statement saying that charges wouldn't be filed "until the commander has had a chance to review all of the facts of the case and consult with the Staff Judge Advocate." Gregg K. Kakesako (Honolulu Star-Bulletin) reports that the gag order placed on Watada has been "rescinded . . . allowing Watada to talk to anyone." As Alex Fryer (Seattle Times) notes, "Peace groups around the nation plan a day of protests and vigils in support of Watada on Tuesday." For more information, click here.
Elsewhere, Australia's ABC reports that the Australian government "is playing down reports" of a threat to future trade arrangments with Iraq as a result of Australian troops shooting bodyguards of Abdel Falah al-Sudany (Iraqi Trade Minister) -- one died "at least three others [were] injured." Despite John Howard (prime minister of Australia) continuing to downplay the issue (he won't apologize at present), ABC notes "reports [that] the Iraqi Trade Minister is threatening to ditch all trade deals".
The AFP reports that the United States Senate "unanimously approved a $707 billion defence bill for the next financial year that includes almost $70 billion in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan."
In news of future wars, Col. Dan Smith reports, for CounterPunch, on a little known development from June 20, 2006. As the 2007 Defense Department Appropriations bill was being addressed, Representative Maurice Hinchey attempted to attach the following amendment: "None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to initiate military operations against Iran except in accordance with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States." Though the amendment was only underscoring the true powers of the U.S. Congress, it failed on a 215/47 vote. Unlike Michael R. Gordon, war pornographer and his "Iran Aiding Shiite Attacks Inside Iraq, General Says" (New York Times), the AFP notes of George W. Casey's allegations against Iran: "The White House and Pentagon have repeatedly accused elements in Tehran of arming Iraqi insurgent groups. But they concede they have no clear proof that the Iranian government is sponsoring the activities."
Remember that Giuliana Sgrena will be in New York City Friday June 23rd for an event with Amy Goodman at Columbia University. (Event starts at 7:30 p.m.) That's tonight.
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