The Irish Times reports that the US government is engaged in illegal monitoring of money transfers by Irish citizens:
The personal data of thousands of Irish citizens that have sent or received money transfers to and from the US has been covertly logged by US anti-terrorist agencies.
The Government did not know about the monitoring scheme, but several EU central banks were informed about the programme, which was introduced after the terrorist attacks on September 11th 2001. Under the scheme the CIA can sift through millions of international banking transactions to try to identify potential terrorist financing. [...]
It has emerged that several central banks across Europe knew that the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (Swift) has been providing infomation to the US Authorities. Some did not inform their own governments. [...]
As 77 financial institutions in the Republic use the Swift system, transactions made by thousands of Irish citizens are likely to have been screened by the US authorities. AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS Building Society, National Irish Bank all use Swift, as well as a host of financial institutions based in the Irish Financial Services Centre. [...]
A spokesman for the Irish Central Bank yesterday refused to confirm or deny that it knew of the covert monitoring by the US authorities. A spokesman for the Department of Finance said the Government had not been informed of the monitoring.
There is no legal basis for this information to be given to the US, no judicial authorisation, and no control over what use is made of the information. The scale of the transfers – involving millions of bank records – makes it clear that this is a fishing expedition rather than a specific investigation. And this is ongoing – the US government has made it clear that it intends to continue with this operation.
What can we do about it? Privacy International has already launched a campaign against this scheme. They’ve made complaints to all the data protection / privacy commissioners of the countries affected, including Ireland. But this complaint would carry more weight if it was supported by individuals who were affected. If you’ve transferred money via your bank to the US since 2002 then we’d suggest you contact the Data Protection Commissioner. Click here to send a prepared email – you need only fill in your name and [optional] address. A copy of the email will be bcc’d to us so we can see how many complaints are made – if you don’t want to notify us, please delete the bcc field before sending.
We also need to ensure that our political representatives take this seriously. Click here to send a prepared email to the Minister for Finance – again you need only fill in your name and [optional] address. A copy of the email will be bcc’d to us so we can see how many complaints are made – as before, if you don’t want to notify us, please delete the bcc field.
5 comments June 29th, 2006