For bank privacy, try Switzerland

And so we learn of yet another secret Bush Administration program eavesdropping on activities many Americans might have thought beyond the government’s snooping ability absent a warrant, in this case, secret monitoring of bank wire transactions, which (naturally) the Vice-President was quick to condemn (the disclosure of, that is, not the program, which he obviously likes, having approved it and all).
This is an interesting area, because, of course, unlike the apparent monitoring of tens of millions of telephone records, one would ordinarily think that people might just have a tad less of a privacy interest in this kind of transaction, particularly international wired money transactions. On the other hand, such transactions often involve the rich. So, it’s a balancing game, between the twin aims of the modern Republican Party, protecting the interests (including privacy) of the super-rich, and crapping on the interests of everyone else… Tough one, all things told.
I’m also a bit less troubled by the disclosed program because unlike looking at everyone’s telephone records, looking at international money wire transactions is actually rationally related to tracing the kind of financial transactions that might be used to fund terrorism. In short, it reflects the kind of clear thinking and arguable competence that I have just come not to expect from the Bush Administration. (While the program is supposed to have led to the discovery and thwarting of at least some terrorist activity, I take such a claim with a grain of salt; still, it’s at least possible, unlike the telephone records dodge, which seems mostly about an excuse to let an expensive contract to Choicepoint and to have the ability to potentially abuse political opponents, this bank monitoring program is arguably related to the subject at hand, and who in their right mind really thinks that an international money transfer will truly be “private” when any part of the transaction involves the United States?)
Anyway, I contrast this with the revelation of the Miami Seven indictments; one would think that if it were a really serious anti-terrorism operation (as opposed to a public relations operation), blasting the story all over the media would be the last thing we’d want to do. We’d want to roll the would-be Qaeda members into ongoing informants, so we could get, you know, actual useful intelligence on Qaeda operations, so we could thwart any threats.
Just saying…