So under Bush II, known to some as W, we lost the right to a trial by jury (Poof). Then Habeas Corpus bit the dust. Knowing your accuser, the crime or misdemeanor you were charged with, and the right to call your attorney for your legal right to counsel and representation all vanished. Like a thief in the night. The government back under Bush II and Cheney (nee the Shadow) was burning the midnight oil on destroying basic liberties that we free Americans had had for over a century. You know, the right of free people not to have to endure unlawful search, the right to privacy in your phone calls, bank accounts free from government searching and etcetera. What a mess! They sidestepped the law to first get permission from FISA Court to wiretap, investigate, and peruse private bank accounts. They had no fear. Apparently they knew that we the people were so dumbfounded that no one would object to the loss of many of our basic rights, liberties, and freedoms. In short, we were collectively scared shitless of terrorists who would blow us up! Just give up a few freedoms, our government won’t hurt us. I, as someone who was mostly nonplused about fearing what “might” happen, well I marveled at the human willingness to give up basic freedoms like cutting out small pieces of ourselves with a sharp scalpel and throwing them to the pond turtles in the city park.
What did the loss of the rights to privacy do to us? What was the harm in it? If our government used it to protect us from harm and unseen terrorists what’s the beef? When our Constitution began to shred and fall like snowflakes upon the land did we not notice? Did we not get some uneasy feelings in our bowels when terms like “enemy combatants” hit the pages of free presses all over the land? So why the need to define enemy combatants? Is it to explain or justify the holding of suspects and prisoners in Guantanamo after stripping and scourging them of all rights our Constitution once gave to anybody on American soil? To hold them, like, indefinitely? So that they cannot be tried in American courts of law with the rights to habeas corpus, to know what crime they have been charged with? Oh, I want these dregs of humanity tried, and if found guilty, punished, all right. But I have a problem with American justice altering itself to justify trying them vigilante style. Why? Because once that genie gets out of the bottle where will it stop? Will all of us honest citizens who haven’t done one damned wrong be affected by such legal precedents set in our own courts who would hear our own cases at a later time maybe? If you think not, I have invented a black box device that will take you faster than light speed to any point of the Milky Way Galaxy in less than 10 minutes time.
Obama has seen to it that the Patriot Act will continue to be a draconian vacuum cleaner. Yes, yes, it appeared under the Bush II regime, but with add-ons and enhancements it still sucks up our human rights one by one, with twice the suction.. So we have been trending toward becoming a police state, you could say. So what? If it keeps us safe, so what? Hear the dialogue of Billy Bob from deep in the East Texas woods: “Shoot, I ain’t got nothing to hide, so leave the gummint alone to do their job. Let them chase the terrorists all the way back to Pakistan or wherever.”
Now just hold that thought while I tell a little story about something that happened to me over the Christmas holidays.
As has been the custom for several years in the past, I have sent Christmas checks to some nieces, nephews, and cousins. There has never been a hitch until now. You see, one of the checks was tagged and held for further review by the bank. Why? Well, I still am a bit fuzzy on that question, but it seems as though now, all is well. Well all those who I sent checks have since sent me thank you cards, so it is a good sign that they got their checks. There was one nephew in the bunch who has yet to respond with a thank you card, and I have to believe it is just a matter of time before he confirms that he got the check.
I got the message from my bank’s online banking secure message center to explain a little bit about what had happened to one of those checks I had sent to my nephew. It was held up under OFAC and other litmus test considerations, the letter explained. They asked for the full name and the DOB of the addressee, my nephew. In turn, I promptly sent them the information they requested by online secure message. But I wanted to know more about it and why the original message I received mentioned terms like “compliance,” “OFAC” and “sanctions.” The banks’ attorneys, the message said, were checking the matter out to insure “compliance” with the laws of the United States. Sounded pretty ominous. And not germane or applicable to the Christmas gifting tradition of our family. So, first, I called the number associated with the message I received from the bank. The representative did not know much about the message or why it was sent to me. But I was told I needed to respond, and I said that I already had, and that was that. I asked the representative if she had ever heard of any instance like this with the same terminology to describe such an event that would cause a delay in Santa Claus making a timely delivery of a Christmas check, and the representative said, no. That was the first ‘I don’t know.’ I got from the bank.
I was not satisfied. I wanted to know why the money was being held up, when it would be released, etcetera, so I got in my truck and drove down to the bank I had dealt with for over 25 years. I first spoke to an officer and described the occurrence to her. I handed her a copy of the secure message center message I had been sent. She looked it over with a puzzled look on her face. I asked her had she ever seen anything like that. ‘No.’
She dialed a number on the message that had been sent to me. She was talking to them and holding for long periods for a total time of perhaps 25 minutes. I asked her had she ever seen such a letter with those terms, etcetera. ‘No.’ I asked her to please find out for me when the funds would be released. Finally after concluding her phone call, she said that I needed to comply with the request for information and just sit tight and wait. ‘Wait? For what? Was there a real problem or was this just a foul up with a simple tweak to set it all right?” Who knows, she told me. All she knew was that I needed to give the bank lawyers in the compliance department the information and then just sit tight and wait for their answer. Hmmmmmmm. My money, my appeal for reason to my bank, and I was being treated like someone without rights to know. It was their policy, not mine, and damnit, I wanted to know what was going on.
So I asked the bank officer to call the branch president over from his office in the next cubicle. He was a nice man. He had seen this stuff before. You could tell by his expression that this was serious business. These rules of compliance for the banks would cause the banks to have to pay big fines if they did not observe them and report back in a predetermined fashion and timeline to the federal government. He was familiar with the reference to OFAC and said it did not mean that the funds in question were associated with overseas financial blah, blah, blah as quoted by the law governing the bank’s duty to comply with who knows what.
“Is this because of the Patriot Act?” I asked him.
“So what do I need to do?” I asked him.
“You have already sent in the information, so just sit tight and wait for the funds to be released.”
He tried to be reassuring to me that it would all be handled soon, to not worry about it. The lawyers at the compliance department were on it. Seemed like a technicality that the bank had to execute in accordance with Patriot Act requirements. At that point I decided not to make waves and just wait. But when I got back home it still nagged at me. So I called the telephone number on the original secure message center and spoke to a bank representative stationed in San Antonio. This was the first time someone in the bank knew what to do. She asked me for the telephone number to call for assistance that was listed on the original message sent to me by the bank’s online secure message center. Glad to see that someone knew what they were doing, I held for a period of not over 1 minute while she got real answers for me.
It was just a routine random sampling of financial traffic, she said. They just wanted to know, she told me, if the check written was one written by me, and once that was established, all was right with the world once more. Hmmmmmmm. In the past when that happened, I never got a secure message from the bank with abbreviations like OFAC in the text. I accepted the answer. If you dare, put OFAC in Google and read a spell.
It occurred to me that historically, governments have messed with the money and finances of individuals and other countries. Sanctions. Out of the blue taxes like the recent “tax” Cyprus levied on deposits in Cyprus banks. Just like that. Boom. Arbitrary? Of course it was. If another entity has possession of your money, can it take some? Apparently it can. And will. And does. Was the holding up of funds by my bank during Christmas just a routine glitch in bank procedures to comply with government rules? Let us all hope so.
Below is a website with more food for thought on government control of our assets and capital that has always been our private property.