The Bush administration has been quietly tracking people suspected of bankrolling terrorism through a secret program that gives the government access to a massive data base of international financial transactions.
Treasury Department officials said they used broad subpoenas to collect the financial records from an international system known as Swift. Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the subpoenas "a legal and proper use of our authorities."
Under the program, U.S. counterterrorism analysts could query Swift's financial data base looking for information on activities by suspected terrorists as part of specific terrorism investigations, a Treasury Department official said. They would do so by plugging in a name or names, the official said.
this is unsettling news. my sister says she "could not even finish reading". but i'm a blogger, so let's keep reading. or at least, i'll keep reading so you don't have to.
Swift, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a cooperative based in Belgium that handles financial message traffic from 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries.
The service, which routes more than 11 million messages each day, mostly captures information on wire transfers and other methods of moving money in and out of the United States. It doesn't execute these money transfers. The service generally doesn't detect private, individual transactions in the United States, such as withdrawals from an ATM or bank deposits. It is aimed mostly at international transfers.
as tristero says, "Whew. Well, that's reassuring."
but hold on a minute, back when the NSA phone tapping was first revealed, didn't the administration assure us that they were only monitoring international calls? and didn't we later find out that was bull, and they had been monitoring domestic calls all along? why should we believe them now?
and look at all the qualifiers in that paragraph: the service mostly captures info on moving money in and out of the US. it generally doesn't detect ATM withdrawals or bank deposits. it's aimed mostly at international transfers.
in other words, the bush administration isn't monitoring your bank records... except when it is.¶