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Spitzer nailed by NSA?

California communications prof says anti-terrorism efforts detected governor's financial transactions:

John Taplin knows a thing or two about Big Brother.

He's a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California who specializes in international communication management. He also sits on the advisory board of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest group working to defend citizens' rights in the emerging digital culture.

'Brilliantly depicted'

In a blog he posted Tuesday on uk.wordpress.com, Taplin noted that in the past, "I've been tough on Spitzer."

Nevertheless, the professor warned, "We can't forget that the reason he got in trouble was because of the new National Security Agency domestic-surveillance apparatus that was so brilliantly depicted in the Wall Street Journal (on March 10, 2008)."

Taplin quoted lead from Monday's story in the Journal:

Five years ago, Congress killed an experimental Pentagon anti-terrorism program meant to vacuum up electronic data about people in the U.S. to search for suspicious patterns. Opponents called it too broad an intrusion on Americans' privacy, even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But the data-sifting effort didn't disappear. The National Security Agency (NSA), once confined to foreign surveillance, has been building essentially the same system.

The communications expert said that banks were likely monitoring Spitzer's financial transactions for the NSA because of his high political profile.

'Politically exposed'

"Spitzer was what the data-mining experts at the NSA call a PEP--a politically exposed person," Taplin wrote. "Banks now monitor PEP's money-wiring activities figuring they are classic targets of blackmail or bribery. Spitzer got caught in the data-mining screen. I know people will probably say that even (U.S. Attorney General Michael) Mukasey had to sign off on an investigation as explosive as this."

Mukasey previously worked for 18 years as a judge in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where the Spitzer prostitution case surfaced.

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