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U.S. Secretly Tapping Bank Databases

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the bank-secrecy-is-a-good-idea-all-year-'round dept.

537

The Washington Post and New York Times are reporting on a Bush administration initiative that has tapped into a vast global database of confidential financial transactions for nearly five years. Relying on a presidential emergency declaration made under the International Emergency Economic Powers, the administration has been surveilling the data from the SWIFT database, which links about 7,800 banks and brokerages and handles billions of transactions a year. From the article:

Together with a hundredfold expansion of the FBI's use of "national security letters" to obtain communications and banking records, the secret NSA and Treasury programs have built unprecedented government databases of private transactions, most of them involving people who prove irrelevant to terrorism investigators.
The NYTimes goes on to say that the joint CIA-Treasury program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia. Still, the access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, and concerns were raised about legal and privacy issues.

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537 comments

Wow (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595699)

Folks -- if they don't have enough intelligence to invade the right country then I doubt they have enough intelligence to monitor bank records. They can't even manage to look after their own federal spending, why do they need to look after mine?

Re: Wow (2, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595953)

> Folks -- if they don't have enough intelligence to invade the right country then I doubt they have enough intelligence to monitor bank records.

One of the sad ironies in all this is that they probably would have seen 911 coming if they didn't have to filter out so many details as the reports of the field officers work their way up the organizational tree.

Corporate advantage? (4, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595703)

Does anyone else worry that the USA might use its intelligent services to give its corporate entities an advantage over foreign ones?

If they use the information purely to look for money laundering or terrorism then that's cool, it would be 99% automated anyway... Looking for patterns and the like... But what if the security services use that information to give helpful hints to US companies over the international counterparts? Is that fair?

We are talking about large amounts of money, and most of us know that money can lead people to act less than morally, so it isn't a far stretch to believe that they might do that... Even be authorised to do that.

Corporate advantage?-Planetary style. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595779)

"Does anyone else worry that the USA might use its intelligent services to give its corporate entities an advantage over foreign ones?"

You mean like other governments do with us? Are you all really that naive about global politics?

Re:Corporate advantage? (5, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595812)

Does anyone else worry that the USA might use its intelligent services to give its corporate entities an advantage over foreign ones?


It already happend. Echelon was used to get Boeing an advatage over Airbus.

http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/sislock.htm [converge.org.nz]
http://www.meta-religion.com/Secret_societies/Cons piracies/Echelon/echelon.htm [meta-religion.com]
http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2000/07/irp-000724-ech elon.htm [fas.org]
http://tinyurl.com/zuxan [tinyurl.com] (google link)

Re:Corporate advantage? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595938)

That's interesting.

So, out of curiosity, is that worse or better than subsidizing the company so it can artificially price itself into the market to try to steal contracts? You know.... like Airbus and the European Union does?

Re:Corporate advantage? (4, Insightful)

Tx (96709) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595988)

Oh, come on. We all know that the US government subsidizes Boeing and the like through military contracts and the like, so get off your frigging high horse. At least in Europe we're up front about subsidies, rather than the hypocritical US position of paying lip service to free market principles, while being protectionist as hell in reality.

Re:Corporate advantage? (2, Interesting)

Puls4r (724907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595955)

OH, you're so right. After a little researh....

""In one," the article stated, "Airbus Industrie, the jet-liner consortium, lost out on a six billion dollar sale to Saudi Arabia after U.S authorities alerted Saudi authorities that Airbus was offering bribes." America's Boeing got the job. "

FOR SHAME. BAD US. BAD BAD BAD....

Errr, or not.

Re:Corporate advantage? (3, Informative)

bwd (936324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595884)

Scared that the US might do it? That is standard practice in countries like France who use their intelligence services to pass information directly to French corporations.

Re:Corporate advantage? (1)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595979)

So what ? EVERY nation spies on every other nation, be it for national security or economic advantage. The French and Chinese govenments make no bones about it, they OPENLY ADMIT IT. . . As a tool for national industrial advantage, no big deal. . .

I don't know what's worse... (4, Interesting)

Lobo (10944) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595704)

The fact that this is happening or the fact that this does not surprise me anymore. Every election year I tell myself I'll vote with my conscious and vote Libertarian. Screw that, I just want these f***ers OUT now.

Re:I don't know what's worse... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595742)

If the election system in the USA was not broken and resulted in a two-party rule, it would be a good idea to vote the party you like. But now one has to choose the least evil of two choices if one does not want the Republican culture of corruption to continue.

Re:I don't know what's worse... (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595780)

Libertarian the word has some nice ideas attached to it. The active political party identified as the Libertarian party is full of crazies, or at least, really extreme viewpoints.

Re:I don't know what's worse... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595797)

"Libertarian the word has some nice ideas attached to it. The active political party identified as the Libertarian party is full of crazies, or at least, really extreme viewpoints."

in total contrast to what exactly? sound like every political party out there.

Re:I don't know what's worse... (1)

frostoftheblack (955294) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595946)

Which is why I consider myself a "conservative libertarian". Wait, does that make sense?

Re:I don't know what's worse... (2, Interesting)

NormalVisual (565491) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595961)

The active political party identified as the Libertarian party is full of crazies, or at least, really extreme viewpoints.

I think I'd still prefer "crazy" to "calculating evil".

Re:I don't know what's worse... (2, Insightful)

Salgak1 (20136) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595992)

I'm not sure about "calculating" evil. Greed and stupidity are sufficient to explain the situation: I've seen exactly ZERO bald men in grey Nehru jackets controlling things behind the scenes. . . .

Re:I don't know what's worse... (1)

wonkobeeblebrox (983151) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595875)

So now we know exactly how much it takes for Libertarian-thinking-Republicans to toss in the towel....
Careful though, if those Democrats get in power they're only going to want to do evil things like make sure kids have healthcare... ;-)

Re:I don't know what's worse... (4, Insightful)

I am Jack's username (528712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595943)

The fact that this is happening or the fact that this does not surprise me anymore. Every election year I tell myself I'll vote with my conscious and vote Libertarian. Screw that, I just want these f***ers OUT now.
- Lobo (10944)

I can understand how people who agree with the Democratic/Republican platforms can vote for them - I fundamentally disagree with their platforms, but I know lots of folk think it's a-okay.

I can understand people who who've never even compared the platforms of the other parties voting Democrat/Republican:

"On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."

"Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."

"I did," said ford. "It is."

"So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"

"It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."

"You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"

"Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."

"But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"

"Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in."
- So long, and thanks for all the fish - Douglas Adams

What I don't understand is how people can choose the lesser evil to try to just slow the downward spiral. It's still a downward spiral even if it's a bit slower - the result is the same. Sure, if you're old you might not have to deal with the end result, but even then, do you really not care about the people coming after you?

Don't you want to do the right thing? Even if the party you vote for looses, doing the right thing is surely better than actually voting for the Democrats/Republicans?:

It's better to vote for what you want and not get it than to vote for what you don't want and get it.
- Eugene Victor Debs

Secretly? (5, Interesting)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595710)

It's not so secret any more!

Anyway...

Why don't companies announce immediately when they have been forced to do something by the government against their will (like Google)? As far as I was aware America is still a country where you can speak freely against the government without fear of punishment. Why not just admit it in public that you are being forced to hand over confidential information? If the banks are hiding it too, then they are as much to blame and should not be trusted.

Or is the government using threats to keep the banks quiet? If so, what threats do they use? And can anything be done about it to make sure it doesn't happen again?

Re:Secretly? (4, Insightful)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595758)

Why don't companies announce immediately when they have been forced to do something by the government against their will (like Google)? As far as I was aware America is still a country where you can speak freely against the government without fear of punishment. Why not just admit it in public that you are being forced to hand over confidential information? If the banks are hiding it too, then they are as much to blame and should not be trusted.

Or is the government using threats to keep the banks quiet? If so, what threats do they use? And can anything be done about it to make sure it doesn't happen again?


In the case of the NSA tapping the phone switches, the threat was that of "future government contracts and renegotiations" which was/is CONSIDERABLE $$$. Since Google doesn't have the same business model (lots of $$ from lots of sources instead of lots of $$ from few sources), they had the flexibility (and dare I say it...freedom) to speak out loud.

Re:Secretly? (1)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595999)

Since Google doesn't have the same business model (lots of $$ from lots of sources instead of lots of $$ from few sources), they had the flexibility (and dare I say it...freedom) to speak out loud.

Except in China.

Yeah, y'all are real brave scoring own-goals in the war with Islamic fascism, braving scary consequences like fawning writeups in the NYT. Maybe they'll give one of you the Walter Duranty [wikipedia.org] award for journalistic excellence.

Re:Secretly? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595760)

Why don't companies announce immediately when they have been forced to do something by the government against their will

Uhm, because they are often specifically forbidden to. That's the real prize of 9/11 for law enforcement - they HATE transparency and accountability, all this "national security" stuff pretty much means that they don't have to be bothered with all that hippie liberal nonsense.

Re:Secretly? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595768)

As far as I was aware America is still a country where you can speak freely against the government without fear of punishment.
True in principle, but not in practice. Sure, your company can go public with such info, and there won't be any official punishment... but you'll get to watch any govt. contracts slowly dry up, and business get a bit more difficult to do, maybe get smeared by talking heads on TV (who also have the right to free speech, remember) about how you're "helping the terrorists", maybe the IRS takes a closer look at your filings the next year, etc....

Re:Secretly? (3, Insightful)

Broken Bottle (84695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595815)

[blockquote] Why don't companies announce immediately when they have been forced to do something by the government against their will (like Google)?[/blockquote]

Given the Bush administration's behavior regarding these sorts of activities, likely the companies are threatened with federal prosecution if they reveal the attempt because it would the "terrorists" hints about how we're trying to track them down. It's more than convenient that these hints to the "terrorists" are also hints to the public that the White House is trampling our civil rights and evading oversight YET AGAIN.

Re:Secretly? (1, Insightful)

LindseyJ (983603) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595956)

Do your reasearch and don't believe everything you read in the papers. This program DID have congretional oversight and is perfectly leagal as a practical extention of the Patriot Act. Whether you believe the in the Patriot Act or that this program is doing any good is a different story entirely. Also, who the fuck cares if the government is looking at Joe Sixpack's bank info? Oh no, he bought that Big Mac the other day, SEND IN THE AUTHORITIES. And don't start with bullshit slippery slope arguments, either. The fact is, that just like the alleged 'wiretapping' (which was nothing of the sort, and was an automated system designed to track international calls), this is not some insidious plot by the government to erode our civil liberties.

Personally, I'm more worried about where this security leak came from. Nobody seems worried about that, but this is a top-secret program. The NYT didn't just walk into the NSA or the DHS and say "So boys, slow news day; you got any secret programs we can bust the lid off of?" Someone here is involved in a huge breach of security, and this should constitute a much bigger flag going up than some imagined privacy rights being eroded.

And before you start with the Bush-bashing, I am a registered Libertarian and have voted 3rd party in every election in which I have voted.

Re:Secretly? (1)

Bheckleman (723558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595958)

Or is the government using threats to keep the banks quiet? If so, what threats do they use?

Just speculation, one would think the banks do not want to find themselves looking at conditions as they were in the 'full' regulation days.

A message from the right (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595717)

Continue the feigned outrage, leftists. You are only helping us to win elections.

Re:A message from the right (5, Insightful)

EGSonikku (519478) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595739)

Uh oh you caught me!

You are right though, in reality I do not mind secret courts, phone tapping, bank tapping, warrantless searches, americans being held indefinatly without access to a lawyer or charges being filed, torture, secret prisons, war, CIA leaks, and our spending more money on defense than all other countries on the planet combined and doubled while our education and healthcare go down the toilet and we run up a defecit that cannot reasonably be paid in the next 5 generations.

Yup, red handed. Was just trying to annoy you, my bad. :-(

Can we go back to blaming communism?

Re:A message from the right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595795)

Would a tax break change your outlook? That's the "solution" to just about every other domestic problem this administration acknowledges.

Re:A message from the right (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595887)

Yes- run with that agenda, please. Announce all of those concerns to your fellow voters, everywhere you can and as loudly as possible.

See you in November!

quick success (4, Insightful)

swissfondue (819240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595719)

So the US found a quick way to access international payment flows. I wonder about their "successes", which sound a lot like the "take our word for it, we know Saddam has chemical weapons". Also SWIFT, a seemingly international organization, has in fact confirmed it is controlled by the US by agreeing to pass all its data to the US. I wonder what its Arab clients are thinking. SWIFT can probably now close shop.

Re:quick success (3, Informative)

Haljo Gemel (934976) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595806)

SWIFT can probably now close shop.

I can assure you that that will not happen. I work for an Aussie bank and SWIFT is very tightly integrated into all our systems and the systems of our clients. Even if we wanted to leave we couldn't. I'm not even sure if there is a decent, viable alternative.

quick success-Underdog. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595915)

" I'm not even sure if there is a decent, viable alternative."

Don't worry. Open Source will save us. Just look at how it's saved us from Microsoft.

Re:quick success (2, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595840)

take our word for it, we know Saddam has chemical weapons

Why take the US's word for it? Take the gassed villages' word for it. Or take the UN inspectors' word for it, since they saw, and in some cases partly demolished enormous stockpiles. Or, you could consider the 500 sarin and mustard gas shells recently disclosed. Whether or not Saddam had (and used) such weapons was never in any doubt, by the US, the UN, or anyone else. It's what he did with them that remains hard to hammer out, and that's what he was spending so much time and energy trying to hide from everyone, despite signing an agreement allowing full inspection. So, we found some, continue to find more, and know that truckloads of that stuff went off to Syria when he knew his days in charge were numbered. You know all of this, though, but you're still reciting the mantra because you think it helps you, rhetorically. It doesn't.

How do you suppose we track and clamp down on the international flow of cash between and for people like A-Q? By... tracking it. How do you think that bombers from Indonesia to Madrid to the US get their operating funds from the deeper pockets that provide it? Carrier pigeon?

Re:quick success (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595892)

The sad thing is, you actually believe all of that. Please try to watch something else besides Fox News.

The US is in Iraq for one thing, and one thing only. Oil.

Re: quick success (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595935)

> The US is in Iraq for one thing, and one thing only. Oil.

Nah, they also want to make the world safe for Israel.

Re:quick success (3, Interesting)

CaptainZapp (182233) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595903)

I wonder what its Arab clients are thinking. SWIFT can probably now close shop.

I'm more wondering what the honchos of UBS and Credit Suisse (who have representatives in the board of SWIFT) where thinking while this little scheme was going along.

You see, breeching customer confidentiality [wikipedia.org] is protected by federal law in Switzerland and violating this penal code may draw jail time.

That doesn't mean that Swiss banks never provide foreign authorities with customer data, but such authorities must show that there's an ongoing investigation about a crime, or a felony. That's what actually pisses off a lot of foreign governments with stringent fiscal policies, since tax evasion is not a felony in Switzerland and is thus protected under the bank secrecy act.

If wholesale supplying of customer data to the US authorities is not a breech of this code, I don't know what is.

Mind you, that has nothing to do with the infamous Swiss number accounts so much beloved by bad authors. There are no anonymous bank accounts anymore in Switzerland and a numbered account only guarantees that your true identity is coded within the bank and only a few very high honchos know the true identity of the account owner.

Of course Credit Suisse (CSFB) as well as UBS are major players in the US' financial markets and they wouldn't want to piss the US authorities off; now would they?

seriously (3, Insightful)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595722)

You americans can do whatever the fuck you want to your own citizens.

But please keep us europeans out of it.

Re:seriously (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595738)

You americans can do whatever the fuck you want to your own citizens.

But please keep us europeans out of it.

We'll keep that in mind the next time you ignore a threat for so long that you have invading armies marching through your capital cities.

Re:seriously (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595791)

Kind of like what how the US ignored the German occupation of everywhere else ? I don't get how the US seems to be the great liberator of WW2. How is it that a country that only shows up in the last year get to take all the credit?? Seems incredible that the us will look so far away when looking at how someone else lives, and not whats being done to them. Most people here said that if these measures were temporary, and that they only used them when they needed to, that is fine. Very few said that its too much of a slippery slope, and we should even bother.

Re:seriously (2, Insightful)

fimbulvetr (598306) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595902)

The war started in September of 1939. We joined in on December 7, 1941. That is 27 months of no fighting. The war ended in September, 1945. So 45 months of fighting. That's hardly "The last year of the war". We played a non-trivial role in the war and we suffered many losses. We don't claim all of the credit, I don't know of any book that says that.

The point is, we did help and we did join in. We could only hope you would do the same when it's time for us [CONNECTION TERMINATED]

Re:seriously (1)

MrShaggy (683273) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595964)

The only reason that the US joined was because of Perl Harbor. There was NO intention before that. Churchill apparently knew that the Japanese were about to invade the US, and did nothing about it. So that the US would be dragged into it. Why did French-fries turn into freedom-fries ? Why was there a big push by the Americans to belittle France and their decision not to get involved with Iraq? If you were to get rid of all things that were French, you'd have to give them that statue that floats in NY Harbor.

I'm from Canada, and all I can say is thank-god we hung up on you when you called for Iraq. We'd be up to our knees in it. The problem is that our current government is going to hand us over to you people. They seem to think that the sun shines outta bush's ass. That for some reason that no matter what the US does, we shouldn't do anything to go against them.

>>The point is, we did help and we did join in. We could only hope you would do the same when it's time for us

Re:seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595838)

Interesting point of view of yours. There is little incentive for Europeans to clash with one another because the borders are wide open for trade and people already. It will be important to keep World Cowboys Americanos from influencing liberal European way of life, though.

Re:seriously (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595749)

Why do you write "please"? Shouldn't that be "European accounts are none of your business, asshats"? The USA are the only country who sent their team to the Worldcup and doesn't name the country on the team bus. They know why. I'm glad they're out. Go home and take your snoops with you, fuckers.

Re:seriously (3, Insightful)

Oswald (235719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595799)

I sympathize completely with your view on this, but I can't help pointing out the irony in your post. Invading the privacy of non-U.S. citizens isn't even an issue here. So what you say, from a (U.S.) legal standpoint (and, sorry to confirm your suspicions, the point of view of much of the citizenry), is exactly backwards. We're NOT supposed to do this to ourselves, but are quite free to do it to anybody else.

On the other hand, I hardly think this makes us unique. Stop for a second to ask yourself if the British or the French intelligence services would have any qualms about examining the financial records of American citizens (or each others' citizens). Laughable. Not even an issue. It's only makes news here because we have an article in our Constitution that theoretically protects us from our unjustified snooping, and Americans keep getting caught in the dragnet. Do Europeans have similar articles? I'm sorry to say I don't know, but I've been told they do not.

Re:seriously (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595828)

European privacy laws are alot stricter than american ones.

Re:seriously (1)

Oswald (235719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595919)

I'm in a hurry here, so I haven't been able to do more than scan a few articles on the subject, but in general it appears that European privacy laws are more explicit than American, but carry less weight (ie. standard laws, changeable by parliament, as opposed to Constitutional articles). (Wikipedia claims the French have privacy enshrined in a Constitutional-type document, but I didn't see in in a quick text search.) I would be most comfortable in a country that combined the two approaches, with a statement of basic rights in the Constitution and laws stating how the articles will be enforced on the books as well.

Re:seriously (3, Informative)

EasyTarget (43516) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595924)

Privacy is controlled on a national level here in yrp, with the EU 'human Rights' legislation as a sort of umbrella over that. Levels of legal protection vary and so do levels of compliance/enforcement. But in Theory every countries Spook squad looks harder at foreign threats than at domestic ones. In Practice the politicians and the spooks are totally paranoid about domestic threats to their power and spend huge resources spying on their own citizens (and I think the US is going the same way, the Homeland Security BrownHats are now the third largest US gvt. department.)

The advantage the US has is it's constitution, which is something I admire a lot. I think it is interesting that your administration is trying to change it (gay marriage). Is this because they want to get people into the 'habit' of changing it in response to perceived 'threats to the American Way(tm)'; so that it can then be changed for 'the war on terror' (think more spooks with more powers, and probably stuff to buy off corporations).

The beauty of your constitution (apart from being drafted on hemp paper :-) is that it is short and to-the-point. They tried to get a 'constitution' passed here, hungreds of pages of waffle designed to promote the intrests of beaurocrats. It was so bad that even the French voters rejected it. Personally I will never vote in favour of any constitution longer than 2 A4 pages of 12pt type. And even then only if it takes power -from- the state, as much as giving power -to- it.

Re:seriously (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595940)

You are correct, many countries in Europe are likely just as bad if not worse.

For example:
  • Britons do not actually have the right to free speech, and speech has been publicly censored - Northern Ireland being one case in point.
  • France will do what is required to protect her interests regardless. Ask Greenpeace.
  • Germans are generally microcontrolled and over-regulated by their government. In addition, anything related to the Nazi's is censored (albeit that's understandable and sadly still necessary admittedly). Germany also has their "Minority Report" law which they are using freely and gleefully right now during the World Cup. With this law they can detain anyone who they think MIGHT be about to cause trouble.
And so we could go on. The good thing about the US is that these things are coming out into the open. However, it's unfortunate that everyone seems to be powerless to prevent such things happening, or to bring their Government back into line.

In theory in most EU countries it is possible for popular opinion to bring down a Government before the end of its term is up - even though that public power is seldom used. Is that even possible in the US where no actual "crime" has been committed?

Re:seriously (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595825)

And you honestly dont believe your governments have been doing the same thing for years? Its just that now the governments have the 'excuse' of terrorism to justify it when they get caught. "its for the children' only goes so far..

Re:seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595837)

Why do you write "please"? Shouldn't that be "European accounts are none of your business, asshats"? The USA are the only country who sent their team to the Worldcup and doesn't name the country on the team bus. They know why. I'm glad they're out. Go home and take your snoops with you, fuckers.

Re:seriously (2, Insightful)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595883)

You americans can do whatever the fuck you want to your own citizens.

But please keep us europeans out of it.


Well then, how about we make a deal? You keep your universities and other institutions from being petri dishes full of festering militant Islamo-fascism that occasionally ships people like Mohammad Atta (who spent his time in Europe organizing, recruiting, meeting, and arranging finances in advance of killing several thousand US citizens and no small number or Europeans) right through your own financial and legal system and straight over here, or back into the frey of proto-democracies in the middle east. You obviously don't care if operators like that kill hundreds of Spaniards, so perhaps they're not European enough for you.

Anyway, you stop that (from impacting US citizens), and stop being a haven for the very financial transactions that power that sort of thing, and then there's nothing to watch for. Out of curiosity, and do you really think the international banking operations in the EU don't monitor and report to your own law enforcement, intel, and counter-terrorism agencies on international money transfers, especially to and from known terrorist supporters? Are you that naive? No, I didn't think so. You're just grinding the usual blunt, directionless, anti-American axe. How about we transfer $10k back and forth between us, and you can speculate on whether or not your own government will know it happened, and attempt to correlate that transaction against all of your credit card purchases and travel?

Re:seriously (1)

nursegirl (914509) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595952)

I was thinking something similar. I'm a Canadian, and my back was merged with another, and sent all of their Mastercard clients to Citibank. I really have to cancel my account because I don't want to have any of my financial information in the U.S. at this point in time.

Re:seriously (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595970)

It is the Arabs who really have something to complain about. You Europeans haven't been invaded by the US Army.

Yet.

(please type the word in this image: newscast)

More Butter ! (1)

Chopo (978903) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595980)

Everyone knows, Let's through a blame-game and them add it to the archives (use-mode)

Not used to track individuals (2, Informative)

glennrrr (592457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595724)

Just passing along this comment I saw on Instapundit: [instapundit.com]
What has not been stressed is that SWIFT is not used for individuals. It is used for processing money transfers, stock transfers and bond transfers from companies, governments, banks, insurance companies and NGO's. What we essentially had on file was the holdings for almost all our clients and the clearance data for these transactions dating back for years. We had to keep all this on file to satisfy all the governmental regulations on taxations, etc.

Re:Not used to track individuals (3, Informative)

swissfondue (819240) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595756)

No it works this way: An individual tells his bank to send data to another account cross-border. The bank uses Swift messages to transmit the payment order to the other bank. The data includes account details, name etc. So why it is not used by individuals, it often concerns transactions (payments, securities) by individuals.

Re:Not used to track individuals (4, Informative)

Oswald (235719) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595759)

Well, from TFA:

After identifying a suspect, Levey said, "you can do a search, and you can determine whom he sent money to, and who sent money to him."

"The way the SWIFT data works, you would have all kinds of concrete information -- addresses, phone numbers, real names, account numbers, a lot of stuff we can really work with, the kind of actionable information that government officials can really follow up on," Levey said.

Doesn't sound like purely institution-related data. And this from the "undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence," whatever the hell that is.

Re:Not used to track individuals (5, Informative)

glennrrr (592457) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595781)

If you follow the links in the Instapundit posting you get to this description [scsuscholars.com] of the SWIFT system.
A SWIFT consists of a one-page document containing the name and code of the originating bank, the date and time, the address and code of the receiving bank, the name and internal code of the officer initiating the transmission, the names and numbers of the accounts involved in the transfer, a description of the asset being transferred, the MT category of the transmission, and acceptable, standardized phrases as described above.

and what of these "NGO's".. (1)

plasmacutter (901737) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595824)

are they spying on the EFF?
how about the political parties.. granted they are government related but they are still "NGO's"
how many other "Left leaning" organizations is president clark.. i mean bush.. monitoring? (will he send the agrippa and roanoke against air america headquarters?)

Re:Not used to track individuals (3, Informative)

Alsee (515537) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595852)

What has not been stressed is that SWIFT is not used for individuals. It is used for processing money transfers, stock transfers and bond transfers from companies, governments, banks, insurance companies and NGO's.

WAAAAAHAHAHAHA! That's hysterical. Absolutely hysterical It's amazing just how far some people can warp their perception of reality when they so desperately need to perceive reality as supporting some political position.

In related news, the also recently exposed federal phone wiretapping program is never used for individuals. Those wiretaps are used for the recording of audio communications between phone companies, and logging the associated source and destination phone numbers records on each voice communication.

If someone argues that the current federal program is legal and that it is a a good and acceptable activitity in trying to persue terrorists... well that is a perfectly rational arguement with which one can argue the factual truth or falsity of the claim that it is a legal, and with which one can reasonably agree or dissagree with the oppinion of it being good and acceptable.

However when someone tries to argue that this new program is only about companies and banks, and tries to suggest that it has no impact or relevance on individuals... well that is just plain DELUSIONAL reasoning.

-

When will Pandora's Box Open (1, Insightful)

Analogy Man (601298) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595729)

Setting aside all of the civil liberties / constitutinal powers arguements, when will access to all of this information become too tempting for the likes of Karl Rove et al keep their hands off?

Ooops too late...actually they crossed the line in a petty way once (w/ Plame) which was just plain stupid. Being ones to learn from their mistakes (unlike the sheep on the other side of the aisle), further use dubiosly collected information for political gain will be much more subtle.

Re:When will Pandora's Box Open (1)

jabster (198058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595951)

Plame working for the CIA wasn't a secret, you fool!!

sheesh.

even the times admits this is a legal program. And SCOTUS has upheld this type of program numerous times.

get over yourself.

better yet....go educate yourself.

-john

Don't kid yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595730)

This is industrial espionage, not terrorism prevention.

NIMB (no Y). (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595753)

"Together with a hundredfold expansion of the FBI's use of "national security letters" to obtain communications and banking records, the secret NSA and Treasury programs have built unprecedented government databases of private transactions, most of them involving people who prove irrelevant to terrorism investigators."

So what would you suggest that wouldn't get "irrelevent" citizens involved? What "utopia" do you all live in were the "bad guys" only use their own financial institutions, and are nice enough to leave us out of their plans (let's ignore the fact that they would like nothing better than to kill all of us "irrelevent" citizens, let alone rob us blind).*

*That goes for brits too, in case the bus bombings slipped your mind.

Two things (1, Informative)

TheConfusedOne (442158) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595761)

First off, bank transactions are not 4th ammendment protected. Just like phone number pen registers. The information has to travel through third parties so it has been ruled that there is no "reasonable expectation of privacy" for said data.

More importantly, the SWIFT system is used to support massive international wire transfers, usually from one bank to another. We're not talking about Western Union transfers and we're not talking about your ATM records.

The really amazing thing is that if you read the entire article you'll see that the Administration has been going to great lengths to protect privacy with additional audits and the requirement of preparing internal subpoenas (yes, they're not vetted by a court) before making any request for data. To date the program has already been responsible for some major terrorist captures and was apparently quite successful.

Re:Two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595835)

USPS is a "third party"

If the third party rule were true, warrants would not be required to open mail in transit. The fact of the matter is that a warrant is required.

Let us be thankful that the third party rule is a myth.

Re:Two things (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595918)

More importantly, the SWIFT system is used to support massive international wire transfers, usually from one bank to another.

Yes, and it's also used for personal transfers between banks in different countries. I've used it myself (or, more accurately, I've asked my bank to use it on my behalf). The claim that this monitoring doesn't cover individuals is nonsense.

And the worst is... (1, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595763)

Cheney doesnt even have the grace to be emberassed about it.
Rather, he blames the media for hating freedom and supporting the terrorist by showing that banks are monitored.

You know, if we dont keep secrets, oceania could win, right?

Re: And the worst is... (4, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595945)

> Cheney doesnt even have the grace to be emberassed about it.

If he's not embarassed to argue in favor of torture, why should a little thing like this faze him?

Very facist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595777)

Why don't americans do something about the lack of democracy in their own country, and stop their leaders installing puppet regimes, and nasty dictators in other parts of the world.
America is one seriously fucked up country, with an unbelievably cynical, fascistic, and brutal foreign policy. All empires eventually fall, and the US one is in decline as a result of their own fiscal ineptitude, and free-market ideological insanity. The just shouldn't come crying to the rest of the world when lenders finally stop propping up the mountain of debt with more debt. Would I buy a US treasury bond with more than a duration of a few months? I think not.

Re:Very facist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595899)

I'm sure a lot of people think that way, I often wondered why the USA needs to be the ones going around toppling dictatorships, why don't the people in that country do something if they have it so bad?

And now I see the USA headed in that direction, and I wonder - what the hell can be done to stop this before it gets too bad? Who's going to come and save us when all our rights have been stripped away, and we have a dictatorship gov't?

What can one person do? Where can you meet up with others and organize something w/o being portrayed and investigated as a terrorist now? Hell, I'm afraid that showing any interest in a new USA gov't will pop up flags all over the place and get me monitored and investigated already. Who knows what else they are monitoring, they already have my internet connection, phone, and bank account.

Impeaching bush isn't the answer at all, when we have an election we really only have one choice to make - which of 2 people (who have been chosen by groups of rich bastards, or corporations to become the next president) is the lesser asshole?

The differences are so slight because they were nominated by rich people because they will represent the rich who generally care nothing about rights because they are above the common BS we all have to put up with.

Re: Very facist (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595967)

> Impeaching bush isn't the answer at all, when we have an election we really only have one choice to make - which of 2 people (who have been chosen by groups of rich bastards, or corporations to become the next president) is the lesser asshole?

Personally, I think there was as huge difference in the assholiness of the two people we chose between in 2000 and in 2004.

Unfortunately, we've been making the wrong choice.

Re:Very facist (2, Insightful)

fatman22 (574039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595907)

Do something like what? Vote them out? We try that every four years but still end up with Politicians (capitalized because it's a distinct subclass of humanity) in power and after the 24-hour warranty runs out, they all turn into the same evil, self-serving, corrupt muck as the rest of their kind. Overthrow them by force of arms? We did that a couple hundred years ago and it worked well until the very intelligent and respectable gentlemen who created our nation stepped down and the Politicians took over. We seem to be lacking in intelligent and respectable gentlemen, or ladies, these days who would be willing to step in and clean house so a revolution would not produce a change. So we'll muddle along with what we have and try to work around it.

Yessir....balls like BBs (1)

DerProfi (318055) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595920)

I assume that the irony is lost on a obvious scholar such as yourself, but I find it hilarious when you bemoan the fact that Americans won't rise up and revolt, while at the same time being such a blubbering little pussy that you won't even out yourself among friendlies in the predictably left-leaning reactionary US-bashing circle jerk that is the comment section on Slashdot.

Ah, yes... The spirit of Guy Fawkes lives on in you, AC. Keep fighting fascism, brave soldier!

Simple: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595778)

http://www.impeachbush.org/ [impeachbush.org]

Good (-1, Troll)

SQL Error (16383) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595787)

This is exactly the sort of thing they should be doing.

Thanks a bunch for blowing it, NYT.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

MarkByers (770551) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595832)

This is exactly the sort of thing they should be doing.

If they should be checking up on financial transactions, why do they need to try to keep it secret?

Either make it a public policy and get it passed as a law or else don't do it. Same goes for illegal phone-tapping and other forms of spying on your own citizens.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595872)

why do they need to try to keep it secret?



Are you kidding me? Did you really ask that? Hey, let's tell the enemy everything we are doing. Surely that is a good thing!

Re:Good (1)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595969)

Why is parent a troll for stating the obvious? And the child post who asks why it should be kept secret is modded up? I don't get it. (Actually, I do, I'm being facetious) These transactions are monitored for obvious reasons, none of which fall under the 4th Amendment. So if you are trying to track down terrorists, regardless if you believe it to be just or not, this would be a great way to find them. I think it was irresponsible for the press to place this information out there, just as it was as irresponsible for whomever leaked the information from the Govt. If you do your taxes, then the Govt has been given all the information they need. As for individual transactions, those are supposed to be reported anyway if there is a move of funds. So, if you fail to report that movement, you've violated a law. Like it or lump it.

Hasn't this been known for ages? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595796)

Hasn't this information been used for years in the "war" on drugs and organized crime? US customs regulations require a declaration if $10,000 or more is brought in or out of the country. As I understood things, from what I was told and read when I made such transfers in the last six or so years, you don't have to do this for international bank transfers, since the banks automatically pass on the information.

the worst aspect of this? (3, Insightful)

LewsTherinKinslayer (817418) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595803)

i'm a lefty pinko who advocates the protection and expansion of civil rights: wanna know what the worst aspect of this (and the NSA phone call database, etc is?

how much time is being wasted by the FBI when investigative man power could be directed more effectively at more pressing issues.

.....And purcashing habits... (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595811)

Not only do they know how much money you move, but by getting into the retail databases, they also know what ( and when, and where ) you are buying.

Just hope that what you bought today legally doesnt become 'questionable' ( or down right illegal ) tomrrow. You might find a knock on your door.

within the system (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595818)

"You can't type in a random name of someone" and search his data, said one intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "The program only works for names already within the intelligence system that were collected elsewhere and are identified as being part of an open investigation."

And we know from their illegal phone tapping practices, bloated do-not-fly lists etc, etc, that by now they've collected the names of pretty much every other American (not to mention nearly all other humans; remember, this is an international system; very heavily used by European banks, for one), and that with six degrees of separation, they all have enough ties to be part of the open investigations.

What isn't mentioned at all in this Washington Post article, which the New York Times [nytimes.com] does mention, are such snippets as:
Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law

"There was always concern about this program," a former official said.

"At first, they got everything -- the entire Swift database," one person close to the operation said.

Swift executives became increasingly worried about their secret involvement with the American government, the officials said. By 2003, the cooperative's officials were discussing pulling out because of their concerns about legal and financial risks if the program were revealed, one government official said.
"How long can this go on?" a Swift executive asked, according to the official.
Even some American officials began to question the open-ended arrangement. "I thought there was a limited shelf life and that this was going to go away," the former senior official said.

Read the entire New York Times article for more. Chilling.

Given the impact this has on Europeans involved in international transfers as well, if you're European, have you already contacted your bank to urge them to use their influence with SWIFT to make this stop?! There's never much to be done when there's the need to call or write congress critters, but with European privacy laws actually being worth something (in theory), here's a chance to voice very strong displeasure and make this stop!

Sorry to hear (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595831)

Dang it must be hard being an American, knowing that you are being spied on by your government and its agencies from practically every angle possible. It's hard enough being a non-american knowing this, but I imagine it must be worse for you guys. I read posts all the time about how it's time to 'rise up', or 'complain to congress' or insert whatever cry for action you like. So far it seems though, and I say this as a foreign observer, that America is taking it all sitting down. There is very little action 'contra' going on. Sorry to hear it.

Hah! - it's almost ironic that the security word/image that I have to type in to post is 'defraud'...

echo $FREEDOM (5, Interesting)

delire (809063) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595833)


It would be greatly appreciated by the Billions of us that don't live there if you Americans would do something about your current government.

America increasingly represents the antithesis of 'freedom' and personal liberty especially for those in other countries. They are innovators in the strategic reduction of civil rights, at home and elsewhere. Freedom is not a brand, it's a right and you don't have to be American to have it FFS.

Cheney's response (4, Informative)

mrogers (85392) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595842)

Cheney's predictable response: anyone who criticises mass surveillance is helping terrorists [nytimes.com] .

mindphuking nazi hypenosys leads to fatal loop (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595844)

reminds us of yet another failed glowbull warmongering life0cidal dictatorship.

for some of US, the only way out is up.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi life0cidal glowbull warmongering execrable.

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the corepirate nazi life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Re:mindphuking nazi hypenosys leads to fatal loop (0, Troll)

LordKaT (619540) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595885)

What the fuck? Am I drunk again?

IRS? (2, Informative)

kalel666 (587116) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595845)

Uh, hasn't the IRS had access to this information forever? And I also seem to recall GWB announcing they were tracking financial info immediately following 9/11, just not how.

A Good Initiative That Worked Well (0, Flamebait)

chromozone (847904) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595847)

The Washington Times had it right when it said in it's editorial of June 26 that what the New York Times and LA Times did was "an extraordinary commandeering of public policy from elected officials and the government they administer, committed ostensibly in the name of "the public interest" but more likely stemming from hostility to government as administered by George W. Bush. There is no other persuasive explanation...This is another unnecessary leak, six months after the New York Times revealed a secret National Security Agency terrorist surveillance program."

It's clear this program worked and that it was legal. It was a primary source of knowledge about Islamo Fascism and was responsible for the capture of the terrorist known as "Hambali." Hambali, or Riduan Isamuddin, masterminded the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202 innocent men and women.

When I read many of the reactionary complaints (from inferior types addicted to being judgmental as a way of maintaining a false superiority)its easy to detect that many of the criticisms don't stem from any virtuous concerns but are the mutterings of people with a seething nature more sympathetic to criminal elements they share an identity with.

Good editorial from The Washington Times - no conservative bastion:
  ( http://www.washtimes.com/op-ed/20060623-085054-654 2r.htm [washtimes.com] )

Re: A Good Initiative That Worked Well (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595985)

> When I read many of the reactionary complaints (from inferior types addicted to being judgmental as a way of maintaining a false superiority)its easy to detect that many of the criticisms don't stem from any virtuous concerns but are the mutterings of people with a seething nature more sympathetic to criminal elements they share an identity with.

So, are you saying we should eagerly give up our freedom for security?

Sad to say... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595881)

As an American I say this with a deep heart... we may be alive today but the terrorists have won in nearly every aspect of our lives. It didn't take a single bomb or airplane but law enforcement and government officials using the politics of fear to herd a complacent public into the American we live in today. If there really is a higher power, then I can only ask it that Bush, Cheney and all the people in and out of government that made this happen to burn in hell and I be there to see your eternal suffering from a distance.

secret? (1)

not goods (937984) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595898)

"Stuart Levey, undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in an interview last night that the newly disclosed program -- the existence of which the government sought to conceal..."
"The White House complained last night that the disclosure could hurt anti-terrorism activities."
does anyone else wonder about this? so the guy gives an interview in which he talks about this Secret Program (?!) and then his bosses get mad because the NYT prints it? does this seem suspicious to anyone else?

Thank You NY Times for Showing the Terrorists (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15595973)

Thank you once again NY Times, and any other liberal fucktard publications.... all cause they hate Bush.... Terrorism is above Bush or the Republicans, and this is a good thing. They arent looking at joe live at home who spends 50% of his salary on fetish porn.

FFS, thank you asshole NT Times!

Bush Derangement Syndrome strikes again (0, Flamebait)

jabster (198058) | more than 8 years ago | (#15595997)

Let the BDS posts begin:
http://drsanity.blogspot.com/2005/11/lets-discuss- bush-derangement-syndrome.html [blogspot.com]
http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry= 9173 [littlegreenfootballs.com]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bush_Derangement_Synd rome [wikipedia.org]
http://www.townhall.com/opinion/columns/charleskra uthammer/2003/12/05/160406.html [townhall.com]

You guys really need to grow up and start thinking.

waiting for the flamebait mod from a lib...
-john
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