Read the whole thing.
Financial transfers are the "Achilles' heel" of terrorists, as NSA analysts note in an internal report. Additional fields of activity for their "financial intelligence" include tracking down illegal arms deliveries and keeping tabs on the increasingly lucrative domain of cybercrime. Tracing international flows of money could help reveal political crimes, expose acts of genocide and monitor whether sanctions are being respected.
"Money is the root of all evil," joke the intelligence agents. According to the classified documents, the spies' activities primarily focus on regions like Africa and the Middle East -- and their efforts often focus on targets that fall within their legal intelligence-gathering mandate. However, in the financial sector, just as in other areas, the NSA also relies on maximum data collection -- an approach that apparently leads to conflicts with national laws and international agreements.
Some members of the intelligence community even view spying in the global financial system with a certain amount of concern, as revealed by a document from the NSA's British counterpart -- the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) -- that deals with "financial data" from a legal perspective and examines the organization's own collaboration with the NSA. According to the document, the collection, storage and sharing of "politically sensitive" data is a highly invasive measure since it includes "bulk data -- rich personal information. A lot of it is not about our targets."
Indeed, secret documents reveal that the main NSA financial database Tracfin, which collects the "Follow the Money" surveillance results on bank transfers, credit card transactions and money transfers, already had 180 million datasets by 2011. The corresponding figure in 2008 was merely 20 million. According to these documents, most Tracfin data is stored for five years.
Friday, November 1, 2013
NSA Spying of International Money Transactions
Spiegel Online reports on the NSA's collection of data on international financial transfers: