WikiLeaks Will Be Nothing Compared to FinCENLeaks

According to Reuters, the Treasury Department is planning on expanding access to FinCEN reports — which include Suspicious Activity Reports from over 25,000 financial institutions — to the intelligence community, including CIA.

The Treasury document outlines a proposal to link the FinCEN database with a computer network used by U.S. defense and law enforcement agencies to share classified information called the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System.


More than 25,000 financial firms – including banks, securities dealers, casinos, and money and wire transfer agencies – routinely file “suspicious activity reports” to FinCEN. The requirements for filing are so strict that banks often over-report, so they cannot be accused of failing to disclose activity that later proves questionable. This over-reporting raises the possibility that the financial details of ordinary citizens could wind up in the hands of spy agencies.

There’s so much to say about this batshit crazy plan…

First, when I made fun of John Brennan’s confirmation vow, people assured me CIA doesn’t operate in the US. Maybe not. But now they have free access to all this data on Americans.

And remember that DOJ, as far back as 2002, argued it was legitimate to use FISA to collect information on crimes the government could use to coerce people into becoming informants. Imagine how much easier that will be with access to people’s bank irregularities.

Finally, think of the security nightmare here. While I doubt anyone is going to leak a whole database of FinCEN data to WikiLeaks (though how much fun would that be?!?!), I can imagine a lot of people might avail themselves of this access to profit off the financial information. Maybe that’s how CIA will fund their ops, instead of (or inaddition to?) drug running: profiting off sensitive financial information.

There’s a whole slew of reasons why this is a bad idea. Which is precisely why it is bound to be pushed through regardless.

13 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Crazy, indeed. This is like hoovering up the ocean for a pound of fish. But that’s an intentional, over-priced, privacy-invading model. The likelihood of finding criminal activity is small, the likelihood of further normalizing routine, material invasions of privacy is immense.

    SARs, Suspicious Activity Reports, are just that, suspicions. They are reports based on government requirements. These days, that could be any transaction over a small dollar amount or, a much rarer event and one that even more rarely leads to prosecution, the first step in discovering that an investment bank is laundering a bad guy’s money.

  2. TarheelDem says:

    What a boondoggle for the government IT contractors who will have to write the interface programs!

  3. jo6pac says:

    This must be so they can try to bring the bankster to trial, right? I’m sure it won’t be used agaist us Main Street. I’m sure glad I’m poor and have almost no money at all bank or pocket.

  4. Arbusto says:

    The evil doers of the world must be cowering in a corner after this announcement and the civil penalty HSBC got in a “Deferred Prosecution Agreement” for money laundering. One more tool for use against the Citizenry, one more petty cash disbursement for corporations.

  5. P J Evans says:

    Because the banking industry has such wonderful data security?

    What’s the average life of a credit card these days before the number gets out to the criminals?

  6. Wapiti says:

    @ P J Evans – Just think how much the criminals would like knowing just who has recently withdrawn $5000 in cash, which I believe generates a SAR.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @Arbusto: Well, I’m firmly of the belief that HSBC’s terror support didn’t get mentioned at all because they turned snitch for the govt. Expect to see more of that.

  8. LakeEffectSnow says:

    Over an 11-year period, federal prosecutors charge, Swiss financial adviser Beda Singenberger helped 60 people in the USA hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts.

    Then, according to a prosecutor, Singenberger inadvertently mailed a list of his USA clients, including their names and incriminating details, which somehow wound up in the hands of federal authorities.

    Now, USA authorities appear to be picking off the clients on that list one by one. Singenberger’s goof has already ensnared Jacques Wajsfelner, an 83-year-old exile from Nazi Germany, and Michael Canale, a retired US Army surgeon, court records show. Another customer, cancer researcher Michael Reiss, pleaded guilty, though his court records don’t mention the list.

    “He was sending mail to someone in the United States, and apparently in error he included a list of USA taxpayers,” Assistant US Attorney Dan Levy said on March 5 at the sentencing in New York of Wajsfelner. “The government has mined that list to great effect and prosecuted a number of people who were on that list.”

    Wajsfelner, who pleaded guilty to hiding $5.7 million from the Internal Revenue Service, was sentenced to three months of house arrest.

    “People who hide money in Switzerland are extraordinarily difficult for law enforcement to identify,” Levy told the judge. Singenberger’s mailing error was “the only reason” the USA was able to identify and prosecute his clients, Levy said.

    as one reads through the article, note how often an outpost of the former British Empire is cited as an offshore tax haven.

  9. marc says:

    I work for a retail outlet that does money transfers as a tiny aspect of our main business. Everyone who does them is scared to death of making a mistake and losing their job or even doing jail time. That big banksters are in bed with terrorists and drug lords with no consequences at all is a pretty sick joke.

  10. Greg Bean (@GregLBean) says:

    As usual I take a different perspective on this. First WikiLeaks is not the problem, secrecy and the corruption it engenders is the problem.

    The Stasi’s collection of information was not the problem. It was that the collection was secret and could be used to manipulate and coerse. If each individual had known everything the Stasi knew about them it could well have been a force to deter corruption.

    If the activities described in the information WikiLeaks exposed had been visible on a daily basis would it not have detered corruption? The Arab Spring shows how populations react when information is known. In fact, if it had been known all along there would never have been an Arab Spring, dictators could not have taken control, abuses could not have been hidden and people would have evolved to expect open and transparent government.

    Financial secrecy is the major factor supporting corruption. Drug dealers cannot deal in cash, terrorists cannot fund activities if they have to move bags of money, oligarchs and dictators have little incentive to brutalise others if they cannot hide their ill-gotten gains. Even corporate barons would alter behaviour if they knew they were being watched.

    Without financial secrecy corruption of any kind would be almost impossible.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying your financial details should be public. I’m saying your financial dealing should be audited and explained, and if everyone had to do this it would be a good thing.

    And that is what I see a plan like outlined in the Reuters article might achieve.

    Can the agencies with access to this information be trusted? If they are required to divulge that information at the earliest possible instance to those they are monitoring, there would be no need for trust. And that could be enforced by a simple law saying that any information not divulged cannot be used for a prosecution.

    So, the instance you show up on a watch list you are notified and asked to explain, subsequent appearance would then lead to prosecution, with full disclosure known throughout the activity.

    Sounds like a bloody good deterent to me. And it is all based on transparency that does not breach valid privacy, and provides equal justice for all, not simply justice targeted at us poor working louts and impunity for the rich.

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