from the of-course-they-do dept
You didn’t think that the bulk collection of phone record information was the only set of records that the intelligence community collected in bulk under the PATRIOT Act, did you? Of course not. That provision says it can be used for “any tangible thing,” and since that seems to include bulk data collection, money transfer info sure would be handy for the feds. Both the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal are running fairly detailed stories about this bulk collection of money transfer data, which is managed by the FBI, but where the data is quickly shipped on to the CIA. They claim that they’re focused on foreign-foreign transactions, but sometimes they’ll collect Foreign-Domestic transfers as well.
The NY Times piece has a fun section describing all the little ways NSA and other intelligence officials have more or less let it slip that a program like this was going on — but also quotes someone saying that there’s at least one more type of bulk collection that hasn’t been revealed yet (and it may be more than one). The WSJ article reveals that Congress only just found out about this program over the summer, even though it’s been approved by the FISA Court for a while — so the usual defenses from the NSA’s best friends is inevitable: “it’s all legal,” they’ll say. That said, the report also notes that some in Congress were quite worried.
Of course, some others, even those who worked in the government, find this whole thing problematic. The WSJ piece has a great quote from Timothy Edgar, who worked as a private lawyer for the NSA and the Director of National Intelligence, where he basically tells them that this information should be public:
“The public has a right to know about the broad outlines of how the government is collecting information on them,” he said, noting that the FISA Court has noted the existence of other collection programs. “As a matter of basic good governance, the government should be more transparent about these kinds of collection programs.”
Yeah, but the US isn’t really big on “good governance,” is it? In the end, this might not be surprising (and should have you wondering about what other data troves the US collects via Section 215), but it’s still quite revealing. It also reminds us that the government is likely collecting a lot more that hasn’t been revealed yet.