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Spitzer Was Not Done In By The Patriot Act
This is the latest canard making the rounds — I heard a radio talk-show guy say it this morning, and one of the endless stream of former federal prosecutors suggested it on MSNBC last night (I had switched channels following Jeffrey Toobin's botched explanation of the money-laundering offense known as "structuring" — the cash transaction amount that triggers the reporting requirement is $10K, not, as Toobin stated, $5K.)
Currency transaction reporting requirements were enacted in the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, and money laundering was made a crime in overhaul of the federal narcotics laws that took place in 1986. Believe it or not, Karl Rove did not diabolically dream these provisions up to trap unwary Democrats, nor are they part of George W. Bush's post-9/11 Politics of Fear.
Long before we had an international terrorism problem, these laws were developed to target domestic criminal enterprises (especially organized crime and drug trafficking). The biggest problem many of these syndicates have is hiding the mountains of cash they generate — unexplained wealth being among the best indicators of criminal activity, especially when it comes to the highest-ranking, most insulated crooks. To the extent these laws (and the Treasury Department's implementing regulations) have been beefed up significantly, a lot of that happened during the Clinton administration. (This Treasury Department publication lays out much of the history.)