Obama plan would give spymasters access to Americans’ bank accounts

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, March 14, 2013 15:32 EDT
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The Obama administration is planning a proposal to open up the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Center (FinCEN) to spies at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, Reuters reported Wednesday.

The move would ensure that counter-terrorism and anti-money laundering efforts conducted by the nation’s spy agencies have access to the Treasury’s database, which is designed to identify unusual financial transactions and strange account structures that could be indicative of criminal activity.

Reuters noted that financial institutions file more than 15 million reports of unusual transactions every year to keep from being accused of under-reporting, under rules set forward in the Patriot Act. The vast majority of these reports are triggered by innocent activity like large cash deposits or money transfers.

Because the proposal is not yet complete, it’s not clear how the spy agencies would deal with the volumes of financial data that would come pouring in from the accounts of innocent Americans, whose Fourth Amendment right supposedly protects them from unreasonable searches.

That detail is sure to alarm civil liberties advocates, who’ve been warning for years that the Obama administration has an unusual penchant for secrecy, especially when it comes to national security matters.

The administration’s movements to facilitate cyber security information sharing have similarly spooked civil rights groups, who worry the president’s recent policy directives will see the military working with companies like Facebook and Google to monitor for potential cyber threats.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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