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ICG Risk Blog - [ SWIFT response: taking some dolts off the shelf to fill the banking transaction news hole ]

SWIFT response: taking some dolts off the shelf to fill the banking transaction news hole

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Prediction: the arrest of the copeless Miami seven as "home-grown terrorists" was simply an opportunistic red herring to staunch the news hole opening around the SWIFT banking transaction tracking story. My only question is whether this inept band, most of whom were unaware of the implications of their actions, was the only candidate on the shelf or was one that could be prematurely birthed without compromising a legitimate ongoing surveillance of a working group worthy of interdiction.

If one wants US "home-grown terrorists," they have only to look at Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (psychological profile here) or the "single-interest" groups such as the ELF (Earth Liberation Front) and ALF (Animal Liberation Front). Just north into Canada, home-grown Muslim terrorists were planning to storm Parliament, behead officials and attack infrastructure. And for the mother of home-grown movements that will continue to pose threats for quite some time, one only has to look to the UK and its spate of Muslim-inspired bombings.

To attempt to shoehorn the pitiful Miami group into this class of home-grown terrorist groups is ludicrous. This group was so inept (oblivious might be the better word to describe some of its members) that they were effectively on life-support from an FBI informant; going nowhere without FBI sustainment certainly made them a candidate for a takedown without impacting a legitimate evidentiary trail.

Black News Weekly irreverently pierced the hype surrounding the hapless seven in False Positive; Stupid Niggers in Miami charged with "Talking While Black":

In what appears to be a false positive in the case of the Blacks arrested on terrorist charges, and if these crazy Niggers are guilty of anything, it’s "Talking While Black" — TWB — and being stupid!... The men were arrested at a warehouse in Miami, in an undercover operation, and they appear to have been setup by an FBI informer who turned Agent Provocateur...

The group, which was infiltrated by an agent posing as an al-Qaeda member, includes two foreigners - one of them a Haitian and five US citizens. If there is a lesson to be learned for the Black community, it's keep your mouth shut and stay out of the mess with the Sand Niggers [Arabs] and these crackers...

[The US] has been trying to get the Black community in this country involved in his war against terror for over five years, but to a one, the Black community has said no to this fool, so now they’re making up shit!

And again in Families deny US terror plot link : the boys just wanted some shoes:

They didn’t have any money! They didn’t have a plan! They didn’t have guns or bombs; in fact they are poor Blacks trying to live a decent life in a racist country. My God — the seven young men can't even spell al-Qaeda — and they didn’t even have shoes!

"Shoes, that’s all the boys wanted, they just wanted some shoes," a friend of the family said." They are not terrorists like everybody is saying, the boys just wanted some shoes." Relatives of seven men arrested over an alleged plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago and attack FBI offices have been protesting the group's innocence.

Marlene Phanor, sister of one of the accused [Stanley Grant Phanor], said they have been unfairly dubbed terrorists and that they were victims of US scaremongering… Phanor… denied that her brother had any terror links. "They're labeling him something that he's not… He's... no terrorist; he's in a religious group that's trying to support the community… It's all a show, they're scaring people, there's nothing to be scared at all." According to the charges, the men, five from the US and two from Haiti, hoped to wage a "full ground war" on the US. Officials said the men were foiled at an early stage and posed no danger.

RAND's Bruce Hoffman notes that an essential element of a legitimate threat is the capacity to execute the individual's or group's motives:

"Potentially, ... exaggerating the capabilities of the perpetrators risks in a sense undermining public confidence when the terrorists look like Keystone Cops and we've painted them to be Public Enemy Number One."

Beyond inept, they were invisible. Neither the Southern Poverty Law Center or the Anti-Defamation League, both of whom maintain detailed tracking of US extremist groups, had any knowledge of the Miami group. I wonder if ADL's Mark Pitcavage winked when he said, ''It must be a very new, not very established group.''

FBI's John Pistole implicitly acknowledged the group's capabilities to be nil, to be more "aspirational rather than operational," a phrase that has ricocheted around the globe, I think, making the US look foolish and some of its citizens perhaps less attentive to what could be genuine threats. Worse, the nascent stage of the arrest "robs a potential jury of hard evidence" for a conspiracy charge:

''This is the sort of early strike strategy that will invite possible Bill of Rights violations,'' said Nathan Clark, an attorney for one of the defendants, Rotschild Augustine. "If a group doesn't have the means, then it's less likely the government will have enough evidence to sustain the burden of proof.''

DoJ already has a poor record in post 11 September terrorism related convictions, many of which dissolve quietly out of sight of national news media, but the ties this case has to the SWIFT bank tracking story could very well make DoJ look like the Keystone Cops.

Yet it is this tie, this timeline coincidence to the SWIFT story, along with the knowledge that the Administration and DoJ knew that the Times and others had the story, that those newsgroups were going to run the story and that the administration was going to get another black eye at the end of the week before going into Saturday, the least read news day of the week, that makes me believe that federal authorities were instructed to see what they had as a potential 'shake and bake' domestic terrorism revelation to crowd the SWIFT story and its implications for domestic surveillance (also here) off the page.

I do not think that it has worked. Quite the reverse, actually. Nor has it been the deathblow to national security as many of my Republican colleagues claim. I concur with John Robb's view that it has been:

more of an embarrassment in that it pushes our allies away (they don't like the US snooping on global systems that they rely upon) and harms the image of the US as a safe financial system for global investors (for anyone that is worried that the US can and will target them in the future, and this list is getting longer). Domestically, it is shaping up to be an us vs. them political issue...

I would add, however, knowing how states such as France aggressively pursue terrorist targets, that some of them may have achieved the same endgame either legally or illegally (as the CIA first proposed to do by tapping the SWIFT transfer system). It is just not in the press yet.

Going after the NYTimes
John Robb
John Robb's Weblog
June 28, 2006

After Londonistan
By CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL
New York Times
June 25, 2006

False Positive; Stupid Niggers in Miami charged with "Talking While Black"
By Sinclere Lee
Black News Weekly
June 2006

Families deny US terror plot link : the boys just wanted some shoes
By Sinclere Lee
Black News Weekly
June 2006

Group denies violent doctrine
An associate of one of the South Florida terrorism suspects said the group practiced a religion that blends Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
BY CHARLES RABIN AND ALEXANDRA ALTER
Knight Ridder
Posted on Sat, Jun. 24, 2006

Rights groups wary of case
The indictment of seven men on charges that they wanted to wage war against America contains little hard evidence beyond their commentary about their plot.
BY MARISA TAYLOR AND LESLEY CLARK
Knight Ridder
Posted on Sat, Jun. 24, 2006

F.B.I. Killed Plot in Talking Stage, a Top Aide Says
By SCOTT SHANE and ANDREA ZARATE
New York Times
June 24, 2006

FBI: Suspects Sought Help From al-Qaida
By CURT ANDERSON
Associated Press
June 24, 2006 - 12:17 p.m. EDT

U.S. Government Monitors International Banking for Counterterrorism
JEFFREY BROWN interview with STUART LEVEY, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence
NewsHour
23 June, 2006

Terror suspects appear in court
By LARRY LEBOWITZ, LESLEY CLARK AND MARTIN MERZER
Knight Ridder
Posted on Fri, Jun. 23, 2006

US faces uphill fight convicting 7 Miami suspects By Caroline Drees, Security Correspondent
Reuters
Fri Jun 23, 2:57 PM ET

Seven Charged in Alleged Terror Plot on Chicago Tower (Update5)
Robert Schmidt in Washington at rschmidt5@bloomberg.net; Bill Arthur in Washington at barthur@bloomberg.net
Bloomberg
Last Updated: June 23, 2006 13:49 EDT

Miami group charged with Sears Tower bomb plot
By Tom Brown
Reuters AlertNet
23 Jun 2006 23:21:33 GMT
More (Adds sister of suspect denying terrorism link, paragraphs 18-19; edits)

PLOT MORE ASPIRATIONAL THAN OPERATIONAL
Qatar News Agency
23 June, 2006

Miami men planned "war" against U.S.
By Tom Brown
Reuters
Fri Jun 23, 2006 9:05 PM BST

7 Indicted in Sears Tower Plot
By Peter Whoriskey, Dan Eggen and Daniela Deane
Washington Post
June 23, 2006; 12:18 PM

SWIFT statement on compliance policy
Chairman, Deputy Chairman and CEO provide statement to SWIFT community
SWIFT

Published on 23 June 2006

Statement on compliance
SWIFT

Bank Records Secretly Tapped
Administration Began Using Global Database Shortly After 2001 Attacks
By Barton Gellman, Paul Blustein and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post
June 23, 2006

Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror
By ERIC LICHTBLAU and JAMES RISEN
New York Times
June 23, 2006

Canada Saw Plot to Seize Officials
By ANTHONY DePALMA
New York Times
June 7, 2006

Crown vs. Fahim Ahmad, et al.
From FindLaw

Terrorism Allegations Detailed In Canada
Parliament Among Group's Targets, Summary Indicates
By Doug Struck
Washington Post
June 7, 2006

Arrests Shake Image of Harmony
Muslims in Canada Brace for a Backlash After Foiled Bomb Plot
By Doug Struck
Washington Post
June 5, 2006

Gordon Housworth



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