WASHINGTON, D.C. – The CIA is secretly amassing records of international money transfers into and out of the United States, including operations handled by firms like Western Union, the New York Times reported Friday.
The Central Intelligence Agency is acting under the same law that the NSA uses to assemble a data base of U.S. citizens’ phone records, the paper said, quoting current and former U.S. officials.
This financial transactions program is covered under the post 9/11 Patriot Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Times said.
It existence suggests that U.S. citizens still do not know everything about the extent of government data collection programs.
The data does not include purely domestic transfers or bank-to-bank transactions, several officials said.
But the Times quoted another official, while not acknowledging the program, as suggesting the court imposed rules that protected the identities of any U.S. citizens from the data the CIA sees.
Rather, a tie to a terrorist organization is required before a search can be conducted, it said. And the search has to be erased after a certain number of years.
Similar rules imposed by the court apply to the NSA telephone records program.
The government already collects data on large transactions under a law called the Bank Secrecy Act.
The Times said several officials say other mass collection programs have yet to come to light.
“The intelligence community collects bulk data in a number of different ways under multiple authorities,” one intelligence official said, according to the Times.
A spokeswoman for Western Union did not directly address a question about whether it had been ordered to surrender records in bulk. But she said the company obeys legal requirements to provide information.
“We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws,” said the spokeswoman, Luella Chavez D’Angelo. “In doing so, we also protect our consumers’ privacy,” the Times quoted her as saying.