Patterico's Pontifications


L.A. Times Distorts Crucial Details of Anti-Terror Program

Filed under: Dog Trainer,General,Scum,Terrorism — Patterico @ 5:49 pm

Everyone following the controversy over the recently disclosed anti-terror program needs to understand the way that the L.A. Times has distorted basic facts of the story. The distortions make the program sound both more menacing and less effective than it actually is.

For example, today’s article says:

In a major departure from traditional methods of obtaining financial records, the Treasury Department uses a little-known power — administrative subpoenas — to collect data from the SWIFT network, which has operations in the U.S., including a main computer hub in Manassas, Va.

Let’s compare the paper’s assertion of how “little-known” administrative subpoenas are to the 2004 testimony of Rachel Brand, Principal Deputy Attorney General of the United States:

Administrative subpoenas are a well-established investigative tool, currently available in a wide range of civil and criminal investigations. A 2002 study by the Office of Legal Policy identified approximately 335 administrative subpoena authorities existing in current law.

But what does the Principal Deputy Attorney General of the United States know about criminal procedures? The Los Angeles Times says these subpoenas are a “little-known power.”

The paper also says:

The subpoenas are secret and not reviewed by judges or grand juries, as are most criminal subpoenas.

Really? They are? That’s news to me!

My office issues subpoenas every day — hundreds of them. People appear in court pursuant to them. Police deliver records pursuant to them. We subpoena cellular phone records, hospital records, and all sorts of other records with them, all the time — and judges almost never look at them. The subpoenaed parties simply comply.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys reading this blog, feel free to chime in. Tell me if I’m wrong.

I’d be fascinated to know the source of these reporters’ contention that “most criminal subpoenas” are “reviewed by judges or grand juries.” I have a hunch that the source is “the reporter’s ass.”

Finally, as I told you before, the paper does not give a full picture of the successes of the program. The New York Times and Washington Post managed to find officials who would disclose specific successes of the program, including confirming the identity of a major Iraqi terror facilitator, and the capture of the mastermind of the 2002 Bali bombing, which killed 202 people. Yet the Los Angeles Times says:

Current and former U.S. officials familiar with the SWIFT program described it as one of the most valuable weapons in the financial war on terrorism, but declined to provide even anecdotal evidence of its successes.

(False) implication: the program really isn’t all that important.

All of these distortions mesh to make the program seem less important and more threatening than it really is.

I just want to make sure you recognize what the paper is doing, and why.

15 Responses to “L.A. Times Distorts Crucial Details of Anti-Terror Program”

  1. Geez, imagine that, the LA Times couldn’t find a governmental official who would disclose national security information by describing anecdotal successes of a secret program.

    Something wrong MUST be going on here.

    CalFed (14162d)

  2. Something is odd when the NYT could find several officials willing to, but the LAT could not find one — even though they interviewed the same guy (Levey) that the NYT and WaPo talked to.

    Patterico (50c3cd)

  3. Perhaps yourself, Hugh Hewitt and the Powerline Boys can file a class-action civil lawsuit on behalf of the US taxpayers. After washing NYT and Tribune through Chapter 11, the creditors would become new equity and the papers really would be owned by the people.

    phreshone (97c8ce)

  4. They do this all the time. On the current “death tax” bill, they simultaneously say that only the filthy rich pay it AND it will cost $282 billion over 5 years to limit it to estates over $5 million.

    Kevin Murphy (0b2493)

  5. The LA Times is really quite pathetic. When they’re not being intentionally dishonest, they’re just incompetent.

    And, no, you’re not wrong about subpoenas. In my experience, the only time a judge gets involved is when the recipient doesn’t comply; or to simply release subpoenaed documents to the ADA for copying and discovery to the defense, never having done more than glance in the file to see that they’re present.

    Mike Lief (e9d57e)

  6. On subpoenas: In my jurisdiction, the attorney prepares them, the Clerk of the Court stamps them with the Court seal, and the attorney is then responsible for having them served. No judge is involved. Regardless of what kind of case it is. I remember speculation whether non-compliance could be subject to contempt of court since they are not actually signed by a judge, only by the Clerk of the Court, but I don’t know if it ever got resolved. The LAT is FOS.

    nk (4cd0c2)

  7. Pattrico said, “I just want to make sure you recognize what the paper is doing, and why.”

    I’m fully aware the LA Times is working for Al Qaeda, and they’re happy to do it free of charge. Same with the NY Times, WaPo, and most other big city papers: MSM. Why they do it is another kettle of fish entirely. Why are they doing it? Now, that’s an honest question, and it cries out for a satisfactory answer, a comprehensive answer, a truthful answer.

    MSM’s repeated betrayals of national security, their ceaseless crusade against all thing Bush, their opposition to military success, their abject worship of lunatics like Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, and Nancy Pilosi, to name only a very few of their demi gods, is incomprehensible at first glance, second glance, and every glance thereafter.

    Incomprehensible in terms of the damage done to financial underpinnings of the enterprise itself. Incomprehensible in terms of the common good, and incomprehensible in terms of the careers of current employees. Oh yeah, there’s a hefty tab coming due for such blindness to the realities of running a business, and the bill collectors are already in line.

    First, there are stockholders with some very real interests involved. Those who run MSM’s publicly owned franchises owe those shareholders a fiduciary responsibility. If the corporate officers knowingly allow the enterprise to be run into the ground they will be held accountable, personally, directly, and unambiguously. Anyone who thinks they can kill the golden goose and hide behind a corporate charter isn’t keeping up with current events. That shield has been pierced. Enron anybody?

    Subscribers vote with their feet, and MSM is selling a product the market rejects. Liberals aren’t in a position to subsidize MSM like they do NPR or Air America. Even in company towns, like Los Angeles, the American people will not keep on endlessly paying for something they don’t want, and as every stringer knows, declining sales equal declining ad revenues.

    When they can’t sell anti-Bush/Republican propaganda anymore, they won’t be able to sell ads either. Then, what does MSM have to offer? Sockpuppets, cartoons, puff pieces on the usual Lefty lunatics, the latest recipe for watermelon salsa, breathless reviews of Hollywood’s current flop, tips on how to find true love among the organic carrots, or how to correspond with a third world, same sex, pen pal?

    No, it’s not going to be pretty when music stops and the time comes for “journalists” to pay the piper. And, howl as they might, the ones who have to pony up will be the lucky ones who escaped going to prison for revealing classified information.

    So, why do they do it? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Black Jack (d8da01)

  8. Good lord … I personally print out reams of subpoenas every day for prelim hearings (not counting those that are subpoenaing for jury trials, restitution hearings, etc)

    If a judge had to see ’em for approval our already over-burdened office would grind to a complete halt.

    Darleen (81f712)

  9. I’m fully aware the LA Times is working for Al Qaeda, and they’re happy to do it free of charge

    Great stuff there.

    actus (6234ee)

  10. When I was a legal assistant, we had a stack of subpenas, sent them down to court with a process server, who I guess got them stamped and then served them. No judge involved. Pro forma paperwork.

    Patricia (2cc180)

  11. Even in the Federal system, Grand Jury subpoenas are normally prepared by the US Attorney’s Office, at the request of the individual agents, who then serve them, all without any “review” or “approval” by the Grand Jury.

    While it is true that documents recieved through a subpoena duces tecum have to either be produced to the FGJ by the recipient of the subpoena or “returned” by the agent, acting as an agent for the FGJ, this still involves no prior authorization or approval by the Grand Jury.

    CalFed (14162d)

  12. Down here in Texas, I can issue a subpoena under my signature only. (I am speaking to civil matters) No clerk of court stamp, seal, or authorization. Just a form on my computer that I change the name and cause number on for the present case, print it off, sign it, give it to my process server so he can deliver my “invitation” personally. The only time I see a judge is when the witness refuses to comply or gets his own lawyer to file a Motion to Quash.

    Athena (f5cbde)

  13. […] Read it ALL. Maybe you consider the safeguards thin because you don’t understand them, Mr. McManus. In your reporters’ story, they describe administrative subpoenas as “a little-known power,” and claim: “The subpoenas are secret and not reviewed by judges or grand juries, as are most criminal subpoenas.” As I have shown in this post, these subpoenas are not “little-known” to law enforcement, but are actually quite common — and your assumption that “most criminal subpoenas” are “reviewed by judges or grand juries” is quite wrong. Trust me on this. Criminal subpoenas are almost never reviewed by judges or grand juries. When I read this sentence of the article to working prosecutors, they laugh out loud. That’s how wrong it is. […]

    FullosseousFlap’s Dental Blog » Global War on Terror Watch: President Bush Condemns Disclosure and Publishing Details of SWIFT Anti-Terrorism Finance Program (baa0b4)

  14. […] Over at Patterico’s Pontifications, Patrick Frey — who happens to actually practice law — shot down that ludicrous claim last week. […]

    Hoystory » Blog Archive » Massachusetts can pick ‘em (322185)

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