ACLU Says Government Spying on Bank Records is Further Abuse of Power

June 23, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The ACLU today condemned the U.S. government for gaining access to vast troves of international financial data with no judicial or Congressional oversight nor definition of how the information is being used.

The program, revealed this morning the New York Times, outlines how the government received the cooperation of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, more commonly referred to as Swift, to monitor financial transactions. Swift is a Brussels-based consortium that serves as a clearinghouse for transactions worldwide. It was reported this morning that tens of thousands of records gathered by Swift have been turned over to the CIA, the FBI and the Treasury Department at the request of the U.S. government.

The following statement can be attributed to Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU:

“The revelation of the CIA’s financial spying program is another example of the Bush administration’s abuse of power. The invasion of our personal financial information, without notification or judicial review, is contrary to the fundamental American value of privacy and must be stopped now. It seems the administration feels entitled to flip through all of our checkbooks. How many other secret spying programs has the Bush administration enacted without Congress, the courts or the public knowing? We need a full accounting of what information has been demanded by the U.S. government, how they have used it, with whom it was shared, and how they intend to repair this grave breach of trust. This program is a glaring example of how this government thinks nothing of widespread abuse of power.

“The government contends that the program is legal since Swift is ultimately a messaging service and not a bank, exempting it from U.S. banking laws. However, Swift is established and owned by banks to assist directly in banking activities. Swift is subject to both U.S. and European law, and it is wrong for the U.S. to demand information without following the established channels.

“Once again, this administration has performed an end-run around the legislature, allowing for no Congressional approval or oversight, and violating the freedoms Americans falsely believed they could take for granted. Congress should call them to account.”

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