By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org
HARRISBURG – The Obama Administration is preparing new policies that would give the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency broad new powers to access Americans’ financial records, according to Reuters.
The FBI already has access to a national database where banks list “suspicious financial transactions” that could include money laundering and counterfeiting, but the so-called “intelligence agencies” like the CIA and NSA have to make case-by-case requests for data from banks and other financial institutions.
That could soon change, according to the U.K.-based news agency, which reviewed a draft of new rules from the Treasury Department:
The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. The plan, which legal experts say is permissible under U.S. law, is nonetheless likely to trigger intense criticism from privacy advocates….
…The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before, helping them look for patterns that could reveal attack plots or criminal schemes…
…A Treasury spokesperson said U.S. law permits FinCEN to share information with intelligence agencies to help detect and thwart threats to national security, provided they adhere to safeguards outlined in the Bank Secrecy Act. “Law enforcement and intelligence community members with access to this information are bound by these safeguards,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Remember, the CIA and NSA – in theory at least – are supposed to operate outside the United States and not turn their prying, spying eyes on U.S. citizens. Since law enforcement, which is supposed to operate in the country, already has access to this data, why do these agencies have to have it too?
The answer, of course, is national security – the catch-all excuse for nearly every expansion of governmental powers in the last decade.
Boehm is a civil liberties reporter for Watchdog.org and bureau chief for PA Independent. He can be reached at [email protected]