According to a report last week by The Wall Street Journal, the Central Intelligence Agency or CIA has been routinely collecting financial and personal information pertaining to international money transfers by American citizens.
Per RT.com, this program is “authorized under the 2001 Patriot Act and overseen by the same Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court [or FISA court] that has sanctioned the collection of millions of Americans’ phone records and digital data” by the National Security Agency or NSA. While most of the transactions monitored occur totally outside of the United States, some transactions are grabbed along with personal data—like Social Security numbers—in order to tie them to individuals under investigation by the agency for ties to foreign terrorism.
In an article appearing in The New York Times, a government official “suggested that the surveillance court had imposed rules withholding the identities of any Americans from the data the C.I.A. sees, requiring a tie to a terrorist organization before a search may be run, and mandating that the data be discarded after a certain number of years.” Still similar rules imposed on the NSA did little to quell the concern of citizens of America and the World about their questionable data collection practices.
Since much of this remains classified—neither The Journal nor The Times could name their sources on-record—there is little government agencies are willing to openly discuss. Also, the legal opinions of the FISA court come heavily redacted and thus, in order to protect their operations’ effectiveness—supporters of the bulk information practice cannot adequately defend it.
While some see these programs as yet another step towards a totally Orwellian future in America, others don’t necessarily mind these practices as long as the focus remains wholly on terrorism.