Friday, August 31, 2007

All We Have to Fear is the 'State Secrets' Themselves

August 31, 2007

U.S. Cites ‘Secrets’ Privilege as It Tries to Stop Suit on Banking Records

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 — The Bush administration is signaling that it plans to turn again to a legal tool, the “state secrets” privilege, to try to stop a suit against a Belgian banking cooperative that secretly supplied millions of private financial records to the United States government, court documents show.

The suit against the consortium, known as Swift, threatens to disrupt the operations of a vital national security program and to disclose “highly classified information” if it continues, the Justice Department has said in court filings.

A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The “state secrets” privilege, allowing the government to shut down litigation on national security grounds, was once rarely used. The Bush administration has turned to it more than 30 times in terrorism-related cases, seeking to end public discussion of cases like the claims of an F.B.I. whistle-blower and the abduction of a German terrorism suspect.

Most notably, the administration has sought to use the privilege to kill numerous suits against telecommunications carriers over the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program.

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In order to persevere, a government has to have credibility. This administration has cried 'wolf' so many times (and been caught at it) that they are no longer credible.

Anyone who has transferred money knows what a SWIFT number is and anyone who has used that service has their banking confidentiality potentially open to government scrutiny--without knowing it.

Every issue is judged from credibility. Thus, things that are truly potentially damaging to the national security are likely to be swept out the door, right along with the incredulous claims. The opposite is equally possible. The president is no doubt frustrated by these circumstances and yet he has no one to blame but the blatantly partisan extensions of his own will.

As I recall, false cries of 'wolf,' eventually got the little boy eaten.


* For more in-depth articles by Jim on Washington at Work, check out Opinion-Columns.com