The Military Quietly Gathers Domestic Financial Records

Government agencies use national security letters to snoop through financial records without the bother of a judicially issued warrant. The NY Times reports that the FBI "has issued thousands of national security letters" since 9/11, distressing news that TalkLeft discussed here.

But it was not previously known, even to some senior counterterrorism officials, that the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have been using their own “noncompulsory” versions of the letters. Congress has rejected several attempts by the two agencies since 2001 for authority to issue mandatory letters, in part because of concerns about the dangers of expanding their role in domestic spying.

While assuring us that it only investigates terrorism, the Pentagon won't say why it pokes around in domestic financial records. This statement is nonetheless telling:

“We may find out this person has unexplained wealth for reasons that have nothing to do with being a spy, in which case we’re out of it,” said Thomas A. Gandy, a senior Army counterintelligence official.

If you attain sudden wealth for reasons that aren't immediately apparent to the Pentagon, you're a terrorism suspect? If Aunt Mildred gifts you her fortune before she dies, you'd better drop a note to the Pentagon to explain that your newfound funds weren't contributed by al-Qaeda.

Gandy's assurance that the military is "out of it" if there's an innocent explanation for wealth would be more reassuring if it were true. The military doesn't regard innocence as a reason to discard the financial information it gathers.

But even when the initial suspicions are unproven, the documents have intelligence value, military officials say. In the next year, they plan to incorporate the records into a database at the Counterintelligence Field Activity office at the Pentagon to track possible threats against the military, Pentagon officials said.

A database of domestic financial records of innocent citizens gathered at the military's whim without judicial oversight. Another wonderful idea from the Bush administration. Isn't it time for Congress to supply meaningful safeguards for private information?

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    Just when? (none / 0) (#1)
    by k ols on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 04:13:32 PM EST
    When is someone with the authority to do something going to wake about and do something about all the many levels of spying into our private lives?

    Just when you think you've heard it all something new is over the horizon.

    Truly disgusting!

    I repeat, it's amazing that so many sheeple... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Bill Arnett on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 12:23:45 PM EST
    ...who grew up with a relatively honest government jut shine on the ever-narrowing of our constitutional rights with statements like: If you haven't done anything wrong, why do you care if the bush maladministration listens to your phone calls, reads all your email and, now, your first class mail, maintains a log of all your internet activity, gets copies of your medical records, library records, credit reports, phone records, if they spy on your church group or "terrorist" anti-war Quaker groups or "terrorist" animal rights groups, and who cares that the CIA, whose charter used to prohibit activities here in America, has now teamed up with the Pentagon to spy on Americans within our borders, or that a TSA employee can make remarks about you that put you on a terrorist watch list because of the kind of meal you ordered or maybe even just because the clerk had a bad day and you don't have any right to find out why and no way to petition the government to view or have any such records examined for accuracy or to correct any false information.

    Who care's? In the New American Dark Ages, anything goes.

    its not so much that they trust the government (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jen M on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 01:51:26 PM EST
    its that they trust the legal system.

    They assume that no innocent person ever gets convicted.


    I don't think so, Jen (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 02:02:13 PM EST
    I think it's more that they assume it could never happen to them.

    ah yes (none / 0) (#6)
    by Jen M on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 03:20:12 PM EST
    the outlook of teenagers

    Oh yes... (none / 0) (#7)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 03:38:52 PM EST
    ...immortal too.

    New American Dark Ages (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sun Jan 14, 2007 at 12:32:05 PM EST
    Hooray!! (none / 0) (#8)
    by Slado on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 09:27:53 AM EST
    Good job Bush Administration.  Thanks for keeping us safe inside the U.S. since 9/11.

    Keep up the good work!

    prime training ground for foreign terrorists (none / 0) (#9)
    by Edger on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 09:49:58 AM EST
    Good job Bush Administration.  ...  Keep up the good work!


    "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the prime training ground for foreign terrorists who could travel elsewhere across the globe and wreak havoc, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and classified studies" by the CIA and the Department of State, Warren P. Strobel reported July 4, 2005.
    "Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of 'professionalized' terrorists.

    "Iraq provides terrorists with 'a training ground, a recruitment ground, the opportunity for enhancing technical skills ... There is even, under the best scenario, over time, the likelihood that some of the jihadists who are not killed there will, in a sense, go home, wherever home is, and will therefore disperse to various other countries', ... said David B. Low, the national intelligence officer for transnational threats."

    Thats a knee-slapper Slado.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 10:06:52 AM EST
    I think two large oceans are the reason I'm relatively safe...but Bush is trying his damndest to motivate people to cross those oceans and retaliate for violent acts committed by our govt. in their countries.  

    odd definition of 'safe' (none / 0) (#11)
    by Sailor on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 11:41:19 AM EST
    with 25,000 wounded and 3000+ dead and 140,000 at further risk.

    "Quietly?" (none / 0) (#12)
    by Fredo on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 06:33:34 PM EST
    "When is someone with the authority to do something going to wake about and do something about all the many levels of spying into our private lives?"

    When was the last time they spied into your private life?  Please tell us all about it.  And tell us how that spying injured you.

    For my part, it appears that "they" aren't spying into mine, but they are certainly welcome to do so if that might prevent the murder of a number of my fellow citizens.

    What's with the "quietly?"  Did, for example, Bill Clinton conduct the Echelon program "noisily?"  (Please name a couple of noisy counterespionage programs.)

    And while you're at it, please provide a list of all those innocent Americans who have been harmed by Bush Administration "domestic spying."
    Please identify the persons, and describe in detail the nature of the harm suffered by them.  I will check back here often to inspect the results.  Forgive me, but I am compelled to assume that there will be no results at all.  

    Stop whining.

    Ask John Bolton. (none / 0) (#13)
    by Edger on Tue Jan 16, 2007 at 07:03:49 AM EST