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28 June 2006 Blog Home : June 2006 : Permalink

Keller answers Keller

The NY Slimes' edirtor Bill Kellor defended himself to Howard Kurtz as follows:

"I always start with the premise that the question is, why should we not publish? Publishing information is our job. What you really need is a reason to withhold information."

Well heck, since he's confused about why not to publish here is a reason:

Organizing the hijacking of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon took significant sums of money. The cost of these plots suggests that putting Osama bin Laden and other international terrorists out of business will require more than diplomatic coalitions and military action. Washington and its allies must also disable the financial networks used by terrorists.

The Bush administration is preparing new laws to help track terrorists through their money-laundering activity and is readying an executive order freezing the assets of known terrorists. Much more is needed, including stricter regulations, the recruitment of specialized investigators and greater cooperation with foreign banking authorities. There must also must be closer coordination among America's law enforcement, national security and financial regulatory agencies.[...]

Washington should revive international efforts begun during the Clinton administration to pressure countries with dangerously loose banking regulations to adopt and enforce stricter rules. These need to be accompanied by strong sanctions against doing business with financial institutions based in these nations. The Bush administration initially opposed such measures. But after the events of Sept. 11, it appears ready to embrace them.

The Treasury Department also needs new domestic legal weapons to crack down on money laundering by terrorists. The new laws should mandate the identification of all account owners, prohibit transactions with "shell banks" that have no physical premises and require closer monitoring of accounts coming from countries with lax banking laws. Prosecutors, meanwhile, should be able to freeze more easily the assets of suspected terrorists. The Senate Banking Committee plans to hold hearings this week on a bill providing for such measures. It should be approved and signed into law by President Bush.

New regulations requiring money service businesses like the hawala banks to register and imposing criminal penalties on those that do not are scheduled to come into force late next year. The effective date should be moved up to this fall, and rules should be strictly enforced the moment they take effect. If America is going to wage a new kind of war against terrorism, it must act on all fronts, including the financial one.

written in some minor New York paper in September 2001.

Now you might say that actions to freeze accounts / transfers etc is not the same as sifting through zillions of bank transfer records but that is clearly a case of illogical thinking. The goal, according to the NY Slimes is to "disable the financial networks used by terrorists". In order to do that the NY Slimes indicates, and I agree, it is necessary to freeze the accounts and transfers that are suspicious - i.e. the ones that appear to be related to terrorism. But here we come to the problem for Bill. How, without sifting through zillions of bank transfer records, are you supposed to isolate the suspicious acocunts, transfers etc.?

Again I can see the argument coming that publicizing the fact that bank records have been examined does not mean per se that you are against the practice, although the fact that you seem keen to point out that "there were officials who talked to us who were uncomfortable with the legality of this program" makes it look like you are in some agreement with their position and thus think that sifting zillions of bank records is bad. The second justification:

[O]thers ... were uncomfortable with the sense that what started as a temporary program had acquired a kind of permanence.

seems to further indicate that you are against the program. Now if it were indeed the case that Osama had been killed or captured and Islamic terrorism had stopped in say 2002 this might be a reasonable position, but the fact is that Islamic terrorism has not in fact stopped and Bin L has not shuffled off this mortal coil. Hence if one believed in 2001 that it was important to "disable the financial networks used by terrorists" consistency would seme to indiate that one would still be in favour of this in 2006 and hence that one would not blurt out details about it when asked not to, especially when know (and reported) that it was successfull in identifying some terrorists.

I despise l'Escroc and Vile Pin