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Obama Administration To Allow All Spy Agencies To Scour Americans' Finances 405

New submitter KrisJon writes "The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document seen by Reuters. Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of 'suspicious customer activity.' A move like the FinCEN proposal 'raises concerns as to whether people could find their information in a file as a potential terrorist suspect without having the appropriate predicate for that and find themselves potentially falsely accused,' said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for the Rule of Law Program at the Constitution Project, a non-profit watchdog group."
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Obama Administration To Allow All Spy Agencies To Scour Americans' Finances

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  • by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:55PM (#43163723)
    He campaigned for "hope" and "change". FP was making a pun. To me, it's ironic that Obama originally campaigned for increased transparency... libs interpreted that as "the government will be transparent to us" but now Obama's like "Sic! Citizens are transparent to the government!"
  • Misleading Headline (Score:5, Informative)

    by Que914 ( 1042204 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @04:58PM (#43163773)
    While I don't really approve of this change it's not nearly as bad as the headline suggests. This doesn't mean that the CIA will have instant access to your bank transactions. Banks are required to file reports for specific suspicious conditions that are associated with money laundering and other financial scams. What they're talking about is giving the other agencies unfettered access to the database (FBI already has unfettered access).

    Not good news, but not nearly as bad as it sounds.
  • Re:Sure why not? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Synerg1y ( 2169962 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:01PM (#43163809)

    From TFA:

    Financial institutions file more than 15 million "suspicious activity reports" every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000, as well as suspected incidents of money laundering, loan fraud, computer hacking or counterfeiting.

    They've been able to get this data through the IRS since before any of us were born. If you've ever made a transaction over 10k, they make you go through a bit of a process sometimes. This is the database of that process. It won't have yesterday's starbucks purchase, but it'll have something like the deposit withdrawal you made to put a down payment on your house. So it's not quite entire lives type stuff, but I could've sworn the IRS already did what these agencies are proposing to do, maybe they just suck at it, but the title of the article is over-dramatized in typical slashdot fashion.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:02PM (#43163833)

    How you can you accuse them of being asleep at thw wheel when both the parties they can choose do the same sort of shenanigans?

    Newsflash: there are more than 2 parties in the US []. Most Americans are too uneducated or too brainwashed by television to realize that though...

    So no, the voting public isn't asleep at the wheel, more like sitting dazed and dribbling in complete stupor in front of it.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:18PM (#43164043)

    What makes you think that Eisenhower was honest and sane?

    The military-industrial complex speech []. That alone tells me the man worked for his country, not for money or power, that he had the insight to pinpoint the danger to the country, and the balls to denounce it publicly.

  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:28PM (#43164147) Journal

    And he's also hesitant to say they'd never use a drone to take a US citizen out on US soil....and....

    You must have missed the follow up.

    Dear Senator Paul:

            It has come to my attention that you have now asked an additional qustion: "Does the President have the authority to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil?" The answer to that question is no.

    Eric Holder

  • by dcollins ( 135727 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:37PM (#43164253) Homepage

    "Well, like the earlier post said, how's the hope and change working out for ya?"

    Terribly. And yet, marginally better than what was promised by his opposition:

    Romney on drone attacks -- "I support that entirely and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology and believe that we should continue to use it to continue to go after the people who represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.” []

    Romney on military cuts -- "This is unacceptable. And the idea of shrinking our active duty personnel by 100,000 or 200,000 — I want to add 100,000 to active duty personnel." []

  • by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:38PM (#43164273) Homepage Journal

    When Obama ran for President the first time around, he promised repeatedly to end warantless wiretapping and protect our privacy. During the same campaign, he actually voted as a senator to extend warantless wiretapping. When called out on this outright lie, he said he no choice, because the bill would pass either way. Frankly, this is a stupid excuse. If it would pass either way, what harm would there be in being honest and voting against it like he said he would?

    Then once in the White House, one of his first Executive Orders was actually to extend the power of the program. We also know have warrantless GPS tracking and spy drones over US soil.

    The argument for voting for Obama was in theory that we couldn't afford a Republican candidate because they would do these things. The reality is that blinding voting either party often turns out bad.

    Look at the records of the past three Presidents and you'll see that they don't fall into traditional party stereotypes:

    George W. Bush
    * He spent like mad and created new government bureacracy (Homeland Security). A Republican spent more and supported Bigger Government.
    * Created a tax credit for solar panels and hybrid cars. A Republican was anti-oil and pro-environment.
    * Increased stem cell research. Pro-science (and Republicans are supposed to be anti-stem-cells!)
    * Increased NASA budget. Pro-science!
    * Passed clean air and water acts in his first 100 days (after Clinton promised to for 8 years and didn't)
    * Penalized US automakers who didn't make hybrids
    * Pushed for higher fuel economy standards (Democrats pushed a much weaker version that Bush called for and oddly enough Obama fully supported Bush as a senator on this)
    * Helped prevent a war in Liberia and negotiated for a dictator to step down without bullets being fired
    * Argued immediately after 9/11 that we not blame Iraq and argued that people who were calling for war in Iraq should wait for facts to come out
    * Supported an open/transparent commission to study 9/11 with the full report being released to the public

    Before him, Clinton:

    * Bombed 4 countries without asking Congress for approval
    * Compromised with Newt Gingrinch to cut government spending to balance the budget. Yep, a Democrat worked towards smaller government.
    * Refused to push through clean air/water acts that were written and just waiting for a push despite promising to do so
    * Declared "banks were too big to fail" and pushed for what was then considered an illegal merger with Citbank and Travellers Insurance (by getting rid of the Glass-Steagall law thusly now making it legal). After this, Citigroup hired a bunch of politicians as lobbyists, and Clinton appointed Citigroup employees to government positions. Seriously.
    * Was accused of undisclosed massive donations not only from corporations that he hid, but also from the Chinese government. Hillary Clinton was then later also caught taking donations from the Chinese government. Seriously.


    * Refused to release the White House emails he promised to release when in office (despite all these claims of transparency)
    * Filled his cabinet with lobbyists after promising no Washington old-guard and no lobbyists
    * Screams about paying taxes when half his cabinet has been busted for not paying taxes
    * Supported an additional bail out with no real controls on how the money was handled by big banks, allowing CEOs who created the crisis to steal tax payer dollars
    * Refused to disclose where his big online campaign donations came from and won't support campaign transparency
    * Created warrantless GPS tracking and has spy drones on US soil
    * Promised to close Gitmo
    * His means of ending detainee torture was to order prisoners to be killed rather than kept in war. Real humane there.
    * Sent troops to Libya and Yemen when both Congress and the public opposed it
    * Cut NASA funding and cancelled missions

    If you dig deeper into other politicians, you'll see this all the time. Harry Reid is one

  • Re:$10,000 (Score:5, Informative)

    by hierofalcon ( 1233282 ) on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:39PM (#43164293)
    Like most other government legislated thresholds, it hasn't been adjusted for inflation. It would be around $59,350 if it had been adjusted as computed by an online inflation calculator using 1970 (Bank Secrecy Act passage) as the base year. That's still low, but more reasonable than $10,000.
  • Nice try (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @05:59PM (#43164523)

    Bush was a jerk, BUT a little history is important...

    In 2006 the Democrats took over both the House and the Senate. In Nov 2006, after the election but while Republicans still held the House, Democrats announced that they would not cooperate with Republicans any further (since they were getting total congressional power in only 2 months) and they pronounced the FY2007 budgets (all the congressional financial work of 2006) "dead".... the nation ran those next several months on a "continuing resolution". Pelosi became Speaker of the House and she put Barney Frank in charge of the committee responsible for overseeing the finance industry. Harry Reid became Senate Majority Leader and he put Chris Dodd in charge of the Senate committee responsible for financial oversight. The 2007 and 2008 budgets were the ones the Democrats wrote in Congress. In 2007 The Bush Administration saw problems brewing in the home loan markets and the danger of crazy irresponsible actions over at the Government's home loan entities "Fannie Mae" and "Freddie Mac" but Bush had no legal authority to intervene... so Bush sent hes people to capitol hill to ask for legal authority to intervene. Chris Dodd led the Senate charge to deny Bush any control over Fannie and Freddie. EVERY democrat (including Senator Obama and Senator Biden) voted not to allow Bush any ability to regulate Fannie or Freddie. In The House, Barney Frank berated, belittled and insulted the Bush representatives who were asking for legal authority... Frank insisted nothing was wrong in the home mortgage business and particularly not at Fannie and Freddie. A year later, the mortgage mess exploded and the economy melted down. Barack Obama and Joe Biden had a bigger say in the meltdown (THEY got to vote to avoid it and THEY voted the wrong way) than Bush had (He had no vote and no legal power to intervene before the meltdown).

    Romney is a tool; he would have only been marginally better than Obama, at best

    Obama, however, is a nasty piece of work. His policies lead to the need for ever increasing government power, control, and money.... so he cannot avoid the continual drive to spy on the people, pry into their finances, examine their health, dig into their businesses, etc

  • Re:Nice try (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @06:35PM (#43164875)

    And while everyone twiddles their dicks, S&P, Moodys and the people that rated the CDOs "AAAAAAAAA+++ not a bobcat in a box" just slink off into the distance.

    Here's a tip for you: none of Bush's plans would have saved Fannie and Freddie. They didn't insure/underwrite any subprime mortgages (that's what subprime and alt-a means: "Not insured by the government"), so telling them to increase their guidelines wouldn't have changed a damn thing except for making more mortgages into subprime mortgages. Well, I guess it would have made the banks richer, since they get to charge more money on a subprime loan than a prime loan.

    Fannie and Freddie died because they were suckered into buying AAA investment instruments to back their insurance business with. They believed S&P and the others when they were told that these CDOs were top grade investments, and when it turned out they weren't, they didn't have the money to cover the prime mortgages that started failing after the credit market locked up and companies started dumping employees they couldn't borrow money to pay anymore.

    But hey, at least you didn't parrot the ancient bullshit line about how the CRA did it, given that non-regulated non-banks were responsible for more than half the subprime mortgages by the time the market imploded. I guess that means that maybe in another decade or so the Republicans will finally get it through their thick skulls that there are exactly two parties at fault here: the people that lied about the CDO ratings, and the suckers who believed the lies.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @07:01PM (#43165133)

    And let me tell you, it isn't what you think it is. This is not access to your financial records.
    This is a completely separate system that already exists under existing laws, and it's got some weird ass stuff in it.
    If you're in that system, likely you are trying to finance a car with a briefcase of 20s; you don't get it even by accident. You have to do something quite bizarre involving a bank and a lot of cash. You really don't want to be in that system to begin with.

    I didn't realize CIA had to ask to get access. They really _should_ have access, it's a per-incident reporting framework as it is by banks, and it's all wasted data entry unless someone looks at it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 13, 2013 @07:16PM (#43165315)

    Obama Treasury dude Jack Lew [] knows where to hide his cash

    DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz [] knows where to hide hers

    Obama's pal and advisor Valerie Jarrett [] seems to like Bermuda for her cash

    Nancy Pelosi [] Seems to like hiding her money in asia (see: Matthews International Capital Management LLC)

    And then Obama himself [] seems to like parking cash in the Cayman Islands

    The truth is that the political class lives by a very different set of rules than the rest of us and if you think Democrats are any more "for the people" than Republicans then you're just another "useful idiot". Many of the richest politicians in the US who hide cash offshore to avoid taxes are Democrats.... and it's worse when they do it because they are being hypocrites; Republicans at least call for everybody to have lower, flatter taxes...... but Democrats are always trying to fool the public into liking them by yelling "Tax the Rich!" while quietly hiding their personal fortunes from those very taxes they endorsed.

  • by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Thursday March 14, 2013 @01:44AM (#43168021) Journal
    Here's how it works. Banks are required by law to report transactions designated as "suspicious" (for example, cash transactions over $10,000). These reports are collected into a database called FinCEN. This database is run by the Treasury Department and certain agencies, like the FBI, have full access to it. Others, such as the CIA and the NSA have to make case by case requests for data. The new plan would give the CIA, NSA, and their ilk full access as well.

    This is one government agency being given access to a government database collected by another government agency. Your own "persons, houses, papers, and effects" are not involved.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"