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Human beings will be happier - not when they cure cancer or get to Mars or eliminate racial prejudice or flush Lake Erie but when they find ways to inhabit primitive communities again. That's my utopia.
~Kurt Vonnegut
Monday, June 26, 2006

Selective Moral Outrage

I used to blog about this kind of thing fairly often. I do it less, now, partly because so many other people are doing a fine job themselves. This time, I am not writing in order to make a significant contribution to public debate. Rather, I am writing it in order to feel better.

Several newspapers reported on the Administration's use of information from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) to track financial transactions. The reported intent is to track terrorist financing.

President Bush and Vice-President Cheney issued condemnations (NYT, WaPo). Representative called for prosecution of the newspersons involved in the report.

The Administration protested the reports, because, in the words of President Bush:

And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.

There is no evidence of harm, nor is there a plausible explanation for how this harm would come about. It rings false, because it is already common knowledge that the Administration tracks financial information. In fact, if the Administration is to be believed, they have already seized something like two hundred million dollars in suspected terrorist funds. There's even a book about it.

All the newspapers did, was to reveal some additional details. Most of their disclosure pertained to the question of whether the program is legal.

Personally, I don't think that al-Qaeda (or any other terrorist organization) cares if the program is legal. They are not exactly constitutional scholars. Furthermore, I should think that if millions of dollars have already been seized, the fact that the money is now gone just might have tipped them off to the existence of the program.

Which is the better clue: someone took millions of dollars out of their bank account, or someone published a story in a newspaper? I don't know about you, but the disappearance of millions of dollars from my bank account probably would be the thing I would notice first.

BTW, the title of the post comes from a post on Booman Tribune, which is more thorough than this one. So maybe others have covered this more comprehensively that I did, but I feel better now for having posted this.
posted by : Joseph j7uy5 | link | | |


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