Ever since the American Civil War created a counterfeiting epidemic, which led Abraham Lincoln to “police the money supply” through the creation of the Secret Service, those managing the U.S empire have developed a more-than-eager taste for monopolizing money and finance.
From the first World War ushering in the League of Nations, the former “international financial regulator” that imposed economic sanctions on America’s prime adversaries, to the Clinton administration using the Treasury’s OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) tools to repress Colombian cartel’s finances, over time the American ruling class’s lust for financial control has not just continued but accelerated.
9/11, however, was the tipping point that pushed financial democracy over the edge and down toward disguised financial totalitarianism, which granted the U.S Treasury the quasi-autocratic power to pursue financial and monetary warfare almost anywhere it desired.
“We will direct every resource at our command to win the war against terrorists: every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence.” Bush proclaimed. “We will starve the terrorists of funding, turn them against each other, rout them out of their safe hiding places, and bring them to justice.”
Using the Two Towers attack as a ploy, it was time for the U.S Treasury to boost its global influence through a new assortment of systems, offices, and agencies. “We viewed the global battlefield through the lens of dollars, euros, and rials, seeing money as our greatest asset and our enemies’ greatest vulnerability,” wrote then-deputy national security advisor, Juan Zarate, in his memoirs: Treasury’s War. “A small group of us within the U.S Treasury Department and other areas of the U.S government recognized this strategic vulnerability of America’s enemies after 9/11.”
Together with the Treasury’s then-General Counsel David Aufhauser, Zarate produced a three-pronged plan to transform the Treasury into an intelligence behemoth, eclipsing any global rival not only in size but in influence.
The first prong combined the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes (TFFC), the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to better protect U.S. financial interests and allow the Treasury to launch “financial warfare campaigns”.
The second conceived a new “financial crimes enforcement office”, formed specifically to combat monetary shenanigans. It enabled “Treasury agents with Treasury badges” to investigate “money laundering, counterfeiting, sanctions evasion, and various other financial crimes,” complementing various other tools to curb “illicit financial activity”, like asset freezing, regulatory action, and financial intelligence.
The final prong completed the Treasury’s new structure by incorporating the U.S. government’s latest intelligence feed via SWIFT, the world’s most extensive financial information system. Using 9/11 as an incentive, Aufhauser seduced its CEO, Lenny Schrank, into providing the U.S government with access to data that might have helped it expose, disrupt, even destroy entire enemy networks and systems. By the end of October 2001, SWIFT and the U.S elite had established a solid relay of intel, which became part of a Treasury program known as the Terrorist Financing Tracking Program (TFTP).
Putting all three components of Aufhauser and Zarate’s plan together took a while, but finally, on December 8th, 2004, Congress created the Treasury’s new Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA), assigning it to the larger TFI (Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence).
From then on, using this newfound, monetary “Eye of Sauron”, the U.S Treasury embarked on a crusade to attack its most desired targets. One after another, like dominos of the non-pizza variety, America’s enemies saw their financial networks fragment, or worse, collapse.
The TFI’s first line of business was to shut off bad banks in Macau, funding Kim Jong Il’s “Office 39”, a North Korean military and intelligence unit that sold counterfeit products abroad, then laundered the proceeds back home using illicit financial channels. By the time Treasury officials had frozen the assets of every entity involved, in Zarate’s words, this ended in “North Korea’s virtual isolation from the global financial system.”
With every future offensive, from cutting off Hezbollah’s funding by exiling Iranian banks from international commerce to imposing sanctions on Venezuela, Turkey, Myanmar, plus other individuals and organizations, the Treasury’s power and authority increased, as it successfully thwarted almost every “bad” — or in Bush’s reign “evil” — agent it pursued.
From 9/11 up until now, Aufhauser and Zarate’s intel giant has stemmed the flow of many Dr. Evil-esquè character’s “funny money” traveling throughout the global financial system — quashing various “national security” concerns, including terrorist financing, rogue states, drug trafficking, organized crime, kleptocracy, and the creation of weapons of mass destruction. But this new powerhouse of tools has enabled the U.S empire to banish anyone it deems a foe, foreign and domestic, from engaging in legitimate commerce.
Whether that’s a homegrown white nationalist or a Middle Eastern terrorist cell, all government officials need to do to destroy a target financially is to convince everyone else in power that an entity is worth neutralizing. If they succeed, that target is not only exiled from New York’s overarching banking system but isolated from all straight-and-narrow financial channels forever.
The U.S Treasury now has all the power in the world to quash individual targets via financial cord-cutting, but it may go further than leveling obvious marks such as terrorists and dictators. As privacy bandits within the department have yet to accomplish their ultimate surveillance-state dream of collecting financial data on every Tom, Dick, and Harry, when it comes true, those citizens who don’t play ball — even for licit reasons — may become the next victim. It’s an atmosphere that will make the last twenty years look like the opening chapter in an ongoing, if not perpetual, “War On Privacy”, one that we’re moving towards already, slowly but surely.
Only recently, the latest U.S administration has considered passing draconian financial monitoring via its latest budget proposal, where everyone with a bank account totaling $600 or more in ingoings and outgoings must report all transactions to the IRS (Inland Revenue Service). Of course, the majority of citizens hate the thought of Big Brother spying on their every financial move, nonetheless, this legislation will likely find its way through Congress, unabated. And while the everyday, law-abiding citizen pays their taxes, this time without negligence or dissent possible, somehow the super-rich will find a way to circumvent this new-and-upcoming Orwellian system, one that will wield the very technology that set out to bypass the security state’s all-seeing eye.
Long retired from his post as deputy national security advisor, Juan Zarate wrote in the concluding pages of his memoirs that cryptocurrencies — Bitcoin in particular — posed a serious threat to the U.S empire. But in reality, crypto is about to have the polar opposite impact, strengthening the ruling class’s power over “ordinary” civilians. As Big Tech and Big Finance join forces, with Wall Street and Silicon Valley combining to produce decentralized finance (DeFi) technologies, the elites in Washington and the Federal Reserve are watching like hawks. They’re waiting to “borrow” new blockchain technologies, which create a permanent record of our every move and transaction, and incorporate this new-age surveillance technique into their centralized, CBDC (central bank digital currency) standard.
It’s a cruel twist of fate that new-age monetary technology, which generations of passionate Cypherpunks and tech-utopians helped conceive, is about to provide an ever-more technocratic western power structure with the ultimate panopticon of control. As a key component, this anti-elitist tech will, ironically, form part of the state’s latest surveillance weaponry, a new standard of “digital surveillance currency,” that will not only transform how we exchange and value money, but may destroy the now-fragile concepts of financial freedom, privacy, and liberty.