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Gov't To Allow Intelligence Agencies More Access To Financial Data

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NEW YORK and WASHINGTON (3/25/13)--A U.S. Treasury document proposes a plan that would give all federal intelligence agencies increased access to a massive database that contains Americans' financial data.

The plan would aid agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) by providing full access to the financial data so they could track down terrorist networks and crime syndicates, according to Reuters (March 13). Reuters said it had a copy of a March 4 document outlining the plan, which is in the early stages of development.

Although the FBI already has full access to the database, the CIA and NSA must make requests case-by-case to obtain information, Reuters said. The agencies would use the data  by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence.

U.S. credit unions and other financial institutions already are required by the Bank Secrecy Act and the USA PATRIOT Act to file suspicious activity reports (SAR) for large money transfers or unusual accounts to the Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). They file more than 15 million SARs every year.

The Treasury document proposes linking the FinCEN database with the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, a computer network used by U.S. defense and law enforcement agencies to share classified information.

Privacy groups reacted to the news by expressing concerns citizens could end up falsely accused if their information was misfiled as a potential terrorist suspect, said Reuters.