I’ve been surprised at the lack of uproar over the discovery that the CIA has been data mining SWIFT transfer archives. I suppose it’s because this is far from the first troubling secret breech of the right to privacy by the Bush administration, and most people – the ones that don’t have large sums of money – generally don’t have any banking privacy anyway. But this new secret program touches a core Bush constituency: white-collar criminals. If Bush is able to secretly monitor transactions in the name of anti-terrorism, a future Democratic government might be able to use it against money laundering and accounting fraud. That’s surely something the Republican Party could never stand for.
SWIFT is headquartered in Belgium, but operates computer centres both in the US and the EU, so the company probably was not in a position to refuse the government’s request. According to page 4 of the original NY Times article: “Intelligence officials were so eager to use the Swift data that they discussed having the C.I.A. covertly gain access to the system, several officials involved in the talks said.” If they were prepared to break in to get the data, there was little to be gained by the firm taking a stand.
There is some friction between Belgium and Turkey.
First there was the case of Fehriye Erdal, a far-left militant that was convicted last Thursday in Belgium for being a member of a criminal organisation (Turkish group DHKP-C or Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front). Trouble is, when Belgian authorities proceeded to arrest her she had disappeared. A big fuss ensued with Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah GÃ¼l demanding an investigation and the extradition of Erdal to Turkey.
Today another story has emerged in the Belgian press. The unlinkable VRT Teletekst reports on pages 157 and 158 that Flemish Minister of Foreign Policy Geert Bourgeois has written the Turkish ambassador to Belgium a letter asking an explanation for the murder of the parents of Derwich M. Ferho, the president of the Kurdish Institute in Brussels. Ferhoâ€™s parents were kidnapped last Thursday in Turkey and killed in what some people, notably the Kurdish Institute, suspect to be an assault by Turkish death squads and local security services. It seems that Ferhoâ€™s parents had previously been threatened by Turkish authorities because their two sons, both political refugees living in Belgium, had engaged in, and I quote from the unlinkable news item on VRT Teletekst, â€œanti-Turkish activities abroadâ€.
Geert Bourgeois has asked for an explanation and warned that there could be a problem if Derwichâ€™s parents were indeed murdered by Turkish authorities, especially in view of Turkish negotiations to enter the EU. When Bourgeois himself was asked if there could be a link with the missing Erdal, he responded: â€œIt would be too early to say, but I would not rule out that possibilityâ€.
Since nothing seems to be confirmed yet… to be continued
Meanwhile on the borderlands, SueAndNotU sends a reminder that Azerbaijan will be holding parliamentary elections on November 6. The country’s current president, Ilham Aliyev, essentially inherited the job from his father, who had also been Azerbaijan’s communist boss before the collapse of the Soviet Union. Add oil, ubiquitous corruption, the loss of nearly a fifth of the country’s land in a dispute over an Armenian-settled area called Nagorno-Karabakh and something like half a million internally displaced persons resulting from this conflict, and you have a situation ripe for popular discontent. Which is indeed what we find. Continue reading →
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has addressed the Ukrainian situation in a statement. He said the US does not accept the results of the election. Reuters has a summary (check the State Department website later for a full transcript):
Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Wednesday the United States did not accept the results of the disputed election in Ukraine as legitimate and called for immediate action.
Powell urged Ukraine’s leaders to “respond immediately” or there would be consequences in the relationship between the two countries.
His comments echo – even down to the strong warning of unspecified ‘consequences’ those made by Barroso and Solana for the EU earlier today and I think indicates that there is a lot of work going on behind the scenes so that the EU and US show a united front on this issue. As I’ve noted in the ‘Uh-oh’ post below, the signs are that there will be negotiations between the two sides (interestingly, the Kyiv Post reports that Lech Walesa is on his way to aid negotiations) and the prospect of violence is thankfully shrinking.