Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Spitzer: Kid Stays In The Picture?

The Sun reports a rumor that Spitzer might not resign after all.

I'll stipulate right off the bat that he hired a hooker(s), and we can all agree that is wrong on several levels.

However, what is troubling me is HOW he came to be ensnared in this investigation. First blush was, he was caught up in a vice takedown of a high-class callgirl operation. Now we come to find, the investigation centered on Spitzer from the beginning, which led to the prostitution ring. Scott Horton has a look at the shifting story in Harper's.

So far, the explanations (anti-money laundering audits) don't add up to me. I worked in banking for 5 years. I wasn't a compliance officer, but we did have regular KYC (Know Your Customer) training. And something about this whole thing just seems fishy.

Again, I'm not going to defend Spitzer's actions. But I am highly concerned about the possibility of a politically motivated prosecution. Particularly in light of the US Attorney scandals and most egregious of all, the railroading of Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. 60 Minutes had a piece on Siegelman that is worth a watch.

With the Bush Administration conducting warrantless wiretapping on American citizens, is there any privacy left? Mindblowing is this story from yesterday's Wall Street Journal, which was buried under the Spitzer circus:

According to current and former intelligence officials, the spy agency now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic emails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel and telephone records. The NSA receives this so-called "transactional" data from other agencies or private companies, and its sophisticated software programs analyze the various transactions for suspicious patterns. Then they spit out leads to be explored by counterterrorism programs across the U.S. government, such as the NSA's own Terrorist Surveillance Program, formed to intercept phone calls and emails between the U.S. and overseas without a judge's approval when a link to al Qaeda is suspected.

The NSA's enterprise involves a cluster of powerful intelligence-gathering programs, all of which sparked civil-liberties complaints when they came to light. They include a Federal Bureau of Investigation program to track telecommunications data once known as Carnivore, now called the Digital Collection System, and a U.S. arrangement with the world's main international banking clearinghouse to track money movements.

The effort also ties into data from an ad-hoc collection of so-called "black programs" whose existence is undisclosed, the current and former officials say. Many of the programs in various agencies began years before the 9/11 attacks but have since been given greater reach. Among them, current and former intelligence officials say, is a longstanding Treasury Department program to collect individual financial data including wire transfers and credit-card transactions.

Do you trust the Bush administration with this program? I sure as hell do not. You can ignore that phrase "al Qaeda" in that second bolded phrase; the lack of ANY judicial oversight whatsoever ensures that no one will ever ask if there were suspicions of al Qaeda. Theoretically, you have to have suspicions of al Qaeda links, but no one will ever ask you. See how nicely that works?

This cannot continue. For that reason alone, I'm looking forward to a bare-knuckle brawl between Spitzer and the Justice Department, with full discovery as to just how this investigation came about. Spitzer has hired the firm Paul, Weiss to defend him in this matter, and they are no lightweights. Get your popcorn ready.

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