Details Emerge on Illegal Financial Spying by 600-Plus Federal, State, and Local Agencies
In March, PPSA reported on the existence of a unit of the Department of Homeland Security that accessed bulk data on Americans’ money wire transfers above $500. This data was collected by a non-profit, private-sector organization, the Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC), that relied on what the ACLU calls “overbroad and illegal subpoenas” issued by the State of Arizona.
At the time, PPSA asked how many federal, state, and local agencies accessed this data from TRAC. Now we know, thanks to an investigation by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and the ACLU, which released startling results today. Surveying more than 200 documents, they report:
Under the law, a bank must receive a subpoena for bank records and notify customers that their records have been examined. No such protections exist for money transfer companies subpoenaed to provide bulk information to the TRAC program.
As we reported last year, domestic wire transfers within the United States between American citizens are also being pulled by TRAC.
Arizona had set up TRAC with settlement money from Western Union. With that money now exhausted, Sen. Wyden believes that TRAC is now federally funded. Sen. Wyden told The Wall Street Journal that TRAC lets the government “serve itself an all-you-can-eat buffet of Americans’ personal financial data while bypassing the normal protections for Americans’ privacy.”
Gene Schaerr, PPSA general counsel, said:
“This purely illegal program treats the Fourth Amendment as a dish rag. We commend Sen. Wyden and ACLU for giving us a better understanding of the scale of this program, as well as the likelihood that taxpayers’ dollars are being used to spy on us. This warrantless intrusion into the financial privacy of millions of Americans suspected of no crime ought to excite the bipartisan interest of the newly elected House majority as well as Sen. Wyden and his colleagues.”