I’m not sure how who is stupider here: Tom Kean, the people from the Treasury Department who briefed him, or Jake Tapper for not asking the logical follow-up question.
To help understand the controversy about the New York Times reporting of the CIA/Treasury counterterrorism program that accessed the database of the European banking consortium “Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication,” called SWIFT, I phoned up former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, chair of the 9/11 Commission.
What I wanted to understand: what would terrorists and those who wish the US harm know now, with the Friday disclosure of the program, that they wouldn’t have already known from the first few weeks after 9/11 WHEN PRESIDENT BUSH ANNOUNCED that the administration would do everything it could to get all data from every bank around the world.
(Bush on 9/24/01:”We’re putting banks and financial institutions around the world on notice, we will work with their governments, ask them to freeze or block terrorist’s ability to access funds in foreign accounts. If they fail to help us by sharing information or freezing accounts, the Department of the Treasury now has the authority to freeze their bank’s assets and transactions in the United States.”)
Kean said that when he was briefed by the Treasury Department on the program, “I was told very few people knew about this facility,” which provides transaction processing services for over 7,000 financial organizations located in 194 countries worldwide.
“I was told that very few financial houses in this country knew about it; it was not well known even by people in banking,” Kean said. “The terrorists didn’t know the financial transactions went through this one group. Treasury told me, this was a method of financial tracking that people didn’t understand, that nobody knew this was how things were done. Top-notch people in the US didn’t even know.” (my emphasis)
Then Treasury sold Tom Kean a time-share in Candyland, USA which Kean flipped and sold to Tapper for a tidy profit.
People in banking don’t just shuffle papers through to some magical …something…that processes financial transactions. I was in banking over thirty years ago and even as a lowly teller I knew how wire transfers worked, who they went through, lead and lag times, and what was looked at and what wasn’t. Large transactions are scrutinized; from depositing an escrow check to the transfer of millions. They have been doing it for eons in an effort to track money laundering or the movement of drug money. There is nothing new here. It’s not magic.