Just because you're paranoid it doesn't mean they're not out to get you
The NT Times asks: Was the federal goverment out to get Eliot Spitzer?
No evidence has surfaced to support such an assertion, and the prosecutor in the case has said that politics played no role in the pursuit of Mr. Spitzer, a Democrat. But that has not put to rest suspicions, expressed on left wing blogs, that Mr. Spitzer, a zealous pursuer of Wall Street wrongdoing who some thought could one day be president, had been singled out.
Now, a congressional committee is pursuing what would be the first public examination of the events that prompted the initial inquiry into his bank transactions, which showed he was sending money to a front company for Emperor’s Club V.I.P.
The House Financial Services Committee intends to take up the matter early next year and tentatively plans to hold hearings that could include testimony from the United States Treasury’s law enforcement unit, along with Mr. Spitzer’s bank, North Fork, and HSBC, a bank used by a company connected to the prostitution service.
“The question was: Why were they looking for this? Is this political retribution?” said Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Massachusetts Democrat and a member of the committee who has been critical of the increased scrutiny of banking transactions, which increased greatly under the passage of the Patriot Act.
“It raises questions in my mind that he may have been targeted for political purposes,” he said, adding that he had no evidence that suggested as much.
The article adds that this inquiry was not started by Mr. Spitzer himself. There is some concern about the ways in which the Patriot Act has been used to expand investigation of banking transactions:
The committee also plans to more broadly examine the government’s practice of reviewing hundreds of thousands of suspicious activity reports filed by banks each year and whether such reports are being used appropriately.
Use of such reports was expanded by the Patriot Act and has previously been a subject of inquiry for the House Financial Services Committee, whose chairman is Representative Barney Frank. The committee made its initial inquiries into the Spitzer case over the summer, but its review has been put on hold amid the financial crisis. The committee has played a central role in oversight of the federal bailout of Wall Street.
There is great risk that the expanded powers granted to the Executive under the Patriot Act will prove too much of a temptation and will end up being used for purposes other than fighting terrorism: perhaps it has already happened.
Will these powers be scaled back under the Obama administration? Stay tuned.