by Tom Burghardt
December 8, 2010
Tom Burghardt is a researcher
and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to
publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research , his
articles can be read on Dissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily,
Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing
He is the editor of Police State America: U.S.
Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press and
has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global
Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.
Confidential State Department documents released by the whistleblowing web
site WikiLeaks, revealed that a European Parliamentary vote earlier this
year that suspended participation in a U.S. government program that secretly
monitored international bank transactions, surprised and angered the Obama
In a stunning rebuke of U.S. policies the February 2010 memo, "Chancellor
Merkel Angered by Lack of German MEP Support for TFTP,"
new evidence that the
Terrorist Finance Tracking Program (also known as
Swift) is viewed skeptically by the European public and their
Distrust of the Swift program runs deep and its "War on Terror" pedigree is
considered little more than a pretext for American spies to carry out
economic espionage on behalf of U.S. multinationals.
Alarmed over privacy breaches by American firms and criminal acts, such as
the illegal U.S. transfer of prisoners on CIA "black flights," aided and
abetted by European intelligence agencies, outraged public opinion forced
the hand of parliamentarians, who voted overwhelming to suspend the program.
German opposition to Swift,
"was particularly damaging" The New York Times
reported, "because the country was among a handful of allies that, according
to a 2006 cable, made up a 'coalition of the constructive' organized to
ensure that the Swift operation was not 'ruined by privacy experts'."
Launched shortly after the
9/11 provocation by the
Bush administration, the
secret program handed American officials unprecedented access to global
financial information on bank transactions routed through a vast database
administered by the Swift consortium in Brussels.
Access to such unique data would be particularly valuable to U.S.
corporations. In light of evidence published in a 2001 European Parliament
report that the
National Security Agency's
ECHELON program was a cover for
economic espionage, such fears are not unfounded.
Since the program's disclosure in 2006 by The New York Times, criticism over
its operations have mounted steadily.
CIA and Treasury Department officials secretly poured over records of some
$6 trillion dollars in daily financial transactions flowing through global
banks and brokerage houses.
"European Union regulators," the ACLU reported, "found that the mass
financial prying was not legally authorized, was conducted without proper
checks and balances, and violated several important rules established to
protect the privacy of Europeans."
Increasing the "creep factor" amongst EU officials, the ACLU disclosed that
Booz Allen Hamilton corporation had been hired to "oversee"
the program by the federal government.
Concluding that the firm was not an "independent check" on Swift
surveillance, the civil liberties' watchdogs wrote that,
"Booz Allen is one
of the largest U.S. Government contractors, with hundreds of millions of
dollars in U.S. Government contracts awarded each year. Booz Allen has a
history of working closely with U.S. Government agencies on electronic
surveillance, including the Total Information Awareness program."
Initial misgivings amongst the public and privacy advocates have since
blossomed into outright hostility, thus setting the stage for last summer's
Noting that the American-led "War on Terror" coalition is fraying at the
seams, U.S. Ambassador to Berlin Philip Murphy, wrote that,
particularly irritated with German MEPs from her Christian Democratic Union
(CDU) and sister Christian Social Union (CSU) parties, most of whom
reportedly voted against the agreement despite previously indicating they
would support it."
The ambassador claimed that,
"public German reactions" to the European
Parliament's vote, "have come exclusively from TFTP detractors who portrayed
the veto as a sign that the European Parliament has won a victory over an
arrogant Commission/Council, as well as delivering a rebuke to U.S.
counterterrorism policies that undervalue data privacy."
Free Democratic Party (FDP) Federal Justice Minister
Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a member of Merkel's coalition, was derided by
"a strong proponent of data privacy rights," who had welcomed the
vote saying that "'the citizens of Europe have won a victory today that
strengthened not just data protection, but democracy in all of Europe."
That's certainly a "diplomatic" way of saying they don't trust their
Undeterred however, Murphy recommended that the U.S. crank up the "Mighty
Wurlitzer" disinformation machine a decibel or two.
"These events," the ambassador wrote, "suggest the need to intensify our
engagement with German government interlocutors, Bundestag and European
parliamentarians, and opinion makers to demonstrate that the U.S. has strong
data privacy measures in place."
Murphy said this,
"debate was not just about TFTP;" the ambassador averred
that "paranoia runs deep especially about U.S. intelligence agencies."
Those quaint denizens of "old Europe," where do they ever get such fanciful
U.S. Embassies -
Global Spy Nets
In the Cablegate file, "Reporting and Collection Needs: The United Nations,"
09STATE80163, dated July 31, 2009 and classified SECRET/NOFORN ("no foreign
distribution") we learned last week that under America's revised National HUMINT Collection Directive (NCHD) U.S. diplomats and State Department
employees under CIA cover are directed to
spy on key UN personnel, including
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
State Department documents revealed that diplomats have been ordered to
"as much of the following information as possible when they have
information relating to persons linked to: office and organizational titles;
names, position titles and other information on business cards; numbers of
telephones, cell phones, pagers and faxes; compendia of contact information,
such as telephone directories (in compact disc or electronic format if
available) and e-mail listings; internet and intranet 'handles', internet
e-mail addresses, web site identification-URLs; credit card account numbers;
frequent flyer account numbers; work schedules, and other relevant
U.S. overlords demanded that their diplomat-spies collect relevant data on,
"about current and future use of communications systems and technologies by
officials or organizations, including cellular phone networks, mobile
satellite phones, very small aperture terminals (VSAT), trunked and mobile
radios, pagers, prepaid calling cards, firewalls, encryption, international
connectivity, use of electronic data interchange, Voice-over-Internet
protocol (VoIP), Worldwide interoperability for microwave access (Wi-Max),
and cable and fiber networks."
Documents released so far have revealed that similar "diplomatic" spying
operations are underway globally and target,
African Great Lakes
Denouncing WikiLeaks for the embarrassing disclosures, not for U.S.
duplicity and deceit, Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton, who authorized the
surreptitious collection programs, said last week that covert action by its
"is the role our diplomats play in serving America."
A "Well-Placed Source"
Despite full knowledge,
"we were astonished to learn" ambassador Murphy
wrote, "how quickly rumors about alleged U.S. economic espionage - at first
associated with the new U.S. air passenger registration system (ESTA), then
with TFTP - gained currency among German parliamentarians in the run-up to
the February 11 vote in Strasbourg."
Are there legitimate reasons perhaps, why "paranoia" would "run deep" among
the public, or the German government for that matter, considering the track
record of "U.S. intelligence agencies"?
Last Friday, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle's chief of staff,
Helmut Metzner, was sacked after he confessed he was the "young,
up-and-coming party loyalist" who served as an American asset inside the
Free Democratic Party, a coalition partner of Chancellor Angela Merkel's
Der Spiegel reported that Metzner was the,
"top-level national party employee
responsible for passing secret information on to US diplomats during the
negotiations to form the current German government in 2009."
According to the 2009 Cablegate file
"Westerwelle Firm on
Removal of Nuclear Weapons," Metzner is described therein as "a well-placed
From his perch, Metzner was privy to sensitive information that he passed on
to his American handlers; in fact the go-getter was,
"the head of
international relations for the national party."
Rather conveniently, one
Indeed, the strategist-spy,
"shared with Emboffs and visiting Senior Germany
Desk Officer October 7 information on issues discussed during the first two
days of these negotiations as well as the negotiations schedule and working
group make-up. Source serves as his party's notetaker for the negotiations
and has been a long-standing close Embassy contact."
"It's now clear," Der Spiegel reported, "why the US ambassador appeared so
pleased in his cables back to Washington--after all, his mole had the ear of
the head of the party and was part of the inner circle of party leadership."
Eventually, ambassador Murphy's call to,
"intensify our engagement with
German government interlocutors, Bundestag and European parliamentarians,
and opinion makers" over the Swift program paid off.
"after mobilizing top administration officials, including Secretary
of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner and
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.," the Obama administration was able to
reverse the vote in the European Parliament, "after the United States made
modest concessions that promised greater European oversight," The New York
"Concessions" that will accelerate the erosion of privacy rights while
enhancing U.S. efforts to steal economic secrets from their capitalist
Tuesday's arrest of Julian Assange in Britain on a dubious Swedish warrant,
and the court's refusal to grant the activist/journalist bail, will not stop
the leaks. Despite intense pressure from the Pentagon, the State Department
and lickspittle American politicians, more than 500 web sites currently
The steady drip, drip, drip of dark secrets will continue, as will further
revelations of U.S. crimes.