The Wall Street Journal reports on a surveillance program by the CIA that is sweeping up the financial and personal data of Americans:
The Central Intelligence Agency is building a vast database of international money transfers that includes millions of Americans’ financial and personal data, officials familiar with the program say.
The program, which collects information from U.S. money-transfer companies including Western Union, is carried out under the same provision of the Patriot Act that enables the National Security Agency to collect nearly all American phone records, the officials said. Like the NSA program, the mass collection of financial transactions is authorized by a secret national-security court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
The CIA, as a foreign-intelligence agency, is barred from targeting Americans in its intelligence collection. But it can conduct domestic operations for foreign intelligence purposes. The CIA program is meant to fill what U.S. officials see as an important gap in their ability to track terrorist financing world-wide, current and former U.S. officials said. […]
In this case, the secret surveillance court has authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to work with the CIA to collect large amounts of data on international transactions, including those of Americans, as part of the agency’s terrorism investigations.
The data collected by the CIA doesn’t include any transactions that are solely domestic, and the majority of records collected are solely foreign, but they include those to and from the U.S., as well. In some cases, it does include data beyond basic financial records, such as U.S. Social Security numbers, which can be used to tie the financial activity to a specific person. That has raised concerns among some lawmakers who learned about the program this summer, according to officials briefed on the matter. […]
Some officials who have overseen surveillance programs, like Timothy Edgar, a former top privacy lawyer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the National Security Council in the Bush and Obama administrations, say it is time for the government to make known what categories of data are being obtained under broad Patriot Act authorities.
“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.”