2007/01/14

Noncompulsory, But Warrantless, Is Still A Crime

Another disturbing expansion of illegal domestic spying has the CIA and DoD issuing 'national security letters' to gather domestic intelligence. You'll recall that the FBI has liberally used this power since September 2001, issuing thousands of warrantless requests for information, a practice they claim is legal under the Patriot Act. In fact, Dick Cheney once again took to the airwaves Sunday to defend the indefensible on the conservative's softball network of choice, FOX.

But not to be outdone, the Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon are getting into the game by issuing the letters to obtain banking and credit data from financial institutions. The kicker here is that Congress has expressly turned down requests to make such 'letters' mandatory, thereby limiting Pentagon and CIA expansion into domestic intelligence gathering. So what do the spooks do? They issue 'non-mandatory' letters that adhere to the letter of the law, and most financial institutions roll right over and give them what they want.

So the question arises: If a financial institution exposes private data in response to an illegal, noncompulsory CIA or Pentagon request--given that in many states the legal requirement is to keep such records private--can the institution be charged with a crime? Sued into non-existence through a class action?

12 Comments:

Let's hope so.
Isn't it ironic that the administration that is fighting to keep secret service logs from the American people (so we can't see what type of criminals are visiting the White House)has no problem with going through your checkbook to make sure you're not funding terrorists. So much for innocent until proven guilty. Now, we all are guilty.
It's a good question. Most financial inst's are doing business in more than one state & used to comport themselves in accordance with each state's laws, which in turn were under the aegis of federal rules & regs. Aaah, but then we got the Patriot Act & I think all that went out the window. Still, non-mandatory, non-compulsory, does not equal illegal. If something is illegal in a particular state, there may grounds for suit, even (shudder) class action (which I normally hate to see used as it tends to make a lot of lawyers wealthy). ps, I missed Cheney on Fox today, I'm happy to say. ~~ D.K.
According to my reading on the case law on this one, no.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has ruled that your financial records are not protected under the 4th Ammendment.

In United States Vs. Miller the court held in a 5-4 decision that despite a faulty subpoena...

"We find that there was no intrusion into any area in which respondent had a protected Fourth Amendment interest and that the District Court therefore correctly denied respondent's motion to suppress."

Be sure to read Bremmer's dissent because that is the only thing is this case that makes any sense.

You might have a point that the bank could be sued for violating the bank privacy act of 1970 though.

Good question.
Not while Bush is in office. No one who participates with them is held accountable as that would mean Bushco would be accountable. They are going to do anything they damn please, sadly.
When I think of all the times the Neocons have chanted "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", I wonder why it is that Cheney et. al. are doing everything in their power to hide so many things about maybe-not-illegal-but-certainly-immoral domestic snooping?

I think to myself "If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" - and then I watch them and wonder what ELSE they have to HIDE.
"I wonder why it is that Cheney et. al. are doing everything in their power to hide so many things about maybe-not-illegal-but-certainly-immoral domestic snooping?"

This bothers me more and more. They flat don't need to do most of the things they do that infringe on constitutional rights to get the results they want. Yet they do it anyway. I think it is less that they have other really bad things to hid, and more that they are incredibly arrogant.
As we speak a Frog's financials are being perused by the spooks.

Lot's of mysterious transactions for flies...
I think a lot of the stuff Bush and Co. hide is meaningless. They just think that we don't have the right to doubt their word. Like they are royalty or appointed by the gods. So, I agree with Dave. I do believe that they do have some stuff that would be devastating to them if it came out though.

Will the Republic stand 2 more years?
I seem to remember that it once was illegal for the CIA or the military to do any domestic spying. That was once the special province of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Oh, the good old days....
Unfortunately, the Supreme Court has ruled that your financial records are not protected under the 4th Ammendment.

Praguetwin...I was not aware of that case. Thanks for the pointer. I think though that this is directly in conflict with California law (multiple statutes as a matter of fact) and since the Surpremes didn't rule on the legality of the action, just it's permissibility under the 4th Amendment, then CA law would still apply.

So I guess a bank could still be sued. Perhaps a class action as D.K. suggests. Administration officials, on the other hand, are probably protected by the blanket amnesty included in the Military Commissions Act.
I think the "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear" chanting is a way to divert the attention away from them (those in charge) and onto ourselves (the public) and our own actions. Bastards.

They want to know what I check out at the library, the contents of my e-mail, what I am saying during private phone conversations, and to whom I write checks... one nation, under surveillance. What a bunch of paranoids. I say f*ck 'em!

Because power is what seems to matter above all to these jerks, and because they are still in power, I think they enjoy continually pushing the envelope, seeing how much they can get away with, seeing how long the public will stay asleep and not put up any resistance... And the more we let them get away with, the more they seem to push the envelope. It seems to be a vicious circle, and I'm not sure the country can keep going on like this without things coming to a head during the next two years.

Is the administration pushing for some kind of "constitutional crisis" as a way to test its power? At this point, I am sure the administration really DOESN'T give a crap about the Constitution, and that they probably consider it "irrelevant" (or as Bush supposedly called it, "a goddamned piece of paper").

Somebody really needs to get their act together and point out to Bu$hCo that the Constitution is indeed still relevant, and much of what the administration has been doing goes in direct opposition to what makes our country such a great place to live... that what they do goes in direct opposition to what our troops have fought and died for during our nation's history (which I don't believe was unchecked/unlimited presidential power, but rather something like the opposite... heh...)

Now it's my turn to get all goofy and paranoid: Does anybody but me think that if our Doofus in Chief and his friends overstep the boundaries too much more in major ways, particularly in relation to foreign policy, that our military commanders might band together and do something about him? Does anybody but me think that may be just about the only way he and his cohorts could be removed from office before their term expires?

If so, what would be worse: having the country run temporarily by the military, maybe until the next election and until January of 2009, or having it run for two more years by Bu$hCo? I have to think that at some point there would be sentiment within the military to slow Bush down, particularly given the current state of affairs in Iraq, given Bush's designs on other Middle Eastern nations, and given the Bush tendency toward extending the military to the breaking point in pursuit of goals that are nebulous at best... goals which have done little to curb violence in the world, and which have isolated our country.

I think it would take at least two years to successfully impeach Bush, and maybe take that long to even complete successful investigations. I think there will be enough stonewalling from the administration to keep things such as these on hold until the cows come home.

Anyway, I agree with me4prez in wondering if our country can stand two more years of this stuff. The country is in mortal danger, in my less than humble opinion!
Unfortunately it was a CA law that was overrulled in Miller.

Still, as we agree, there may be some type of civil recourse. Indeed, banks might make privacy one of their selling points. Power of free markets.

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