The #FinCENFiles Shine a Spotlight on How Banks Are Ordered to Snoop on You
Did you know that major communications companies monitor all conversations to report suspicious activities to the government? By law, companies that facilitate the transfer of information are required to file what is called a “Suspicious Activity Report” (SAR) anytime a conversation veers in a direction the government doesn’t like. It could be because the conversation includes words that suggest tax evasion or terrorism. The details are laid out in legislation like the PATRIOT Act. The government reviews these SARs to try to catch the bad guys.
But an investigative report into these SARs suggests that this system isn’t even very good at flagging the kinds of communications as it is supposed to. A government whistleblower leaked hard evidence showing that the government rarely follows up on SARs indicating serious crimes, like trafficking, fraud, and terrorism. Meanwhile, the communications of millions of innocent people are subject to this surveillance program that doesn’t even work. The media has thankfully drawn attention to this expansive and ineffective surveillance, demanding accountability and reform.
Sorry, I got all that mixed up. It’s actually banks that need to file SARs, and they monitor all of our transactions for things that the government thinks are suspicious. It is part of the PATRIOT Act, but the roots of this program were laid with the similarly constitutionally questionable Bank Secrecy Act of 1970.
And actually, the media doesn’t see much of a problem with this financial surveillance program at all. The issue for most commentators is that the banks aren’t good enough government collaborators.
It’s a bit strange that while Ed Snowden’s revelations of major communications surveillance programs were met with mass outrage and years of discussion, these “FinCEN files” exposing our inefficient financial surveillance programs barely received mention. And when the media did discuss the FinCEN files, it was mostly to criticize banks for allowing these transactions to go through.
Let’s back up a bit. Few people have heard of FinCEN (the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network of the U.S. Treasury) or the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), but this agency and law have given banks broad mandates t
Article from Latest – Reason.com