The Reason Treasury Has Never Complied with Reagan’s EO: Rampant Privacy Violations

For years, I’ve been noting that the Treasury Department, virtually alone among intelligence agencies, does not have procedures to comply with EO 12333’s restrictions on spying on American citizens. Today, BuzzFeed explains why: Treasury’s foreign intelligence wing, OIA, has been engaging in domestic spying. Effectively, they’ve been piggy-backing on FinCen’s access through the Bank Secrecy Act to get information on Americans.

The story describes two big violations. First, when OIA gets masked reports, they call banks to learn the identities of the Americans masked in the reports.

Some sources have also charged that OIA analysts have, in a further legal breach, been calling up financial institutions to make inquiries about individual bank accounts and transactions involving US citizens. Sources said the banks have complied with the requests because they are under the impression they are giving the information to FinCEN, which they are required to do.

One source recalled an instance from 2016 in which OIA personnel, inserting themselves into a domestic money-laundering case, sought information from a Delaware financial institution. In other cases, according to a second source, FinCEN gave OIA reports with the names of US citizens and companies blacked out. OIA obtained those names by calling the banks, then used those names to search the banking database for more information on those American citizens and firms

OIA has also been permitting other agencies — it names CIA and DIA — to put temporary duty officers to access classified banking networks.

Sources also claimed that OIA has opened a back door to officers from other intelligence agencies throughout the government, including the the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Officials from those agencies have been coming to work at OIA for short periods of time, sometimes for as little as a week, and thereby getting unrestricted access to information on US citizens that they otherwise could not collect without strict oversight.

Dean Boyd has a pretty funny non-denial denial of this charge in the article.

The Defense Intelligence Agency did not respond to a request for comment. CIA spokesman Dean Boyd said, “Suggestions that the Agency may be improperly collecting and retaining US persons data through the mechanisms you described are completely inaccurate.”

I suspect the source of this problem is that Treasury is split into two, with one group doing foreign intelligence and another doing domestic intelligence.

Under a seminal Reagan-era executive order, a line runs through the Treasury Department and all other federal agencies separating law enforcement, which targets domestic crimes, from intelligence agencies, which focus on foreign threats and can surveil US citizens only in limited ways and by following stringent guidelines.

Compare that with FBI, which hasn’t been split in two since the PATRIOT Act, and so can access vast swaths of intelligence on Americans by pretending to be looking at foreigners.  I also suspect the reason this hasn’t been changed at Treasury is because it would piss off the banks, making it clear that the mandated spying assistance under the Bank Secrecy Act implicates their customers too.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

11 replies
  1. Rapier says:

    The worlds banking giants and the Treasury are partners. They have to be. The banks are operating the mechanisms of the system which lent the Treasury $559bn last fiscal year. That was $1.42TN in 09. It isn’t necessarily easy borrowing a trillion dollars give or take. The banks have the dirt on everybody and everybody has the dirt on the banks. It’s one big happy family.

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      ISIANMTU

      Over two decades ago, both of the Federal Reserve *AND* Treasury Department under different domain names resolved to the exact same ip address and web server.

      They were one and the same.

      That is all you need to remenber to understand the machinations in society these days.

      • Rapier says:

        The Fed completes the triumvirate:  Fed/Banks/Treasury.  When I say banks I mean the Feds Primary Dealers. 8 or 9 of the 20 or so are even American banks.

        https://www.newyorkfed.org/markets/primarydealers#additions-and-removals

        The removed list is a who’s who of rogue and failed institutions.  The addition of Wells Fargo last year is like a cartoon. Of course nothing will ever top the inclusion of Countrywide back in 04.  A company that was obviously a racket becoming a made man of sorts.
        This is a partnership because half or more of Americas power is the power to manage the dollar centric financial system. The thing is Asia is getting off that train.

        Well I am way off in the weeds.

         

         

         

  2. SpaceLifeForm says:

    “Suggestions that the Agency may be improperly collecting and retaining US persons data through the mechanisms you described are completely inaccurate.”

    [Yep. The mechansims are different]

    “Over the past year, at least a dozen employees in another branch of the Treasury Department, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, have warned officials and Congress that US citizens’ and residents’ banking and financial data has been illegally searched and stored. And the breach, some sources said, extended to other intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency, whose officers used the Treasury’s intelligence division as an illegal back door to gain access to American citizens’ financial records. The NSA did not respond to requests for comment.”

    [So Congress is aware. Why was the word ‘breach’ used? A tell]

    • bmaz says:

      Since you have just blithely ignored my question of you on the last thread, let me raise it again:

      That is a sweet comment. Would you be willing to put that in actual words the common reader can understand?…

      Are you a member of this community, or do you consider this just a convenient outlet for your personal screed? I have watched you since March of 2016, and, frankly, I think the answer is the latter.

    • bmaz says:

      That is a fine post by Tim. But what exactly does that have to do with the post here?

      Your “OT” or “Out There” is, apparently, by your understanding, just an open invitation for your random crap.  That is not how this works.

Comments are closed.