PPSA recently reported on an unorthodox surveillance scheme in which the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) collected bulk data on Americans’ money wire transfers above $500. This data was shared with a non-profit, private-sector organization, which in turn shared it with hundreds of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.
In the last week, disturbing facts have emerged about this program, as well as the need for answers to basic questions.
This program arose out of a surveillance effort by the Arizona attorney general’s office with the cooperation of two companies, Western Union and Maxitransfers, going back at least to 2010. Money-laundering settlements in 2014 by these two companies with the Arizona AG’s office somehow led to the creation of a non-profit entity, the Transaction Record Analysis Center (TRAC). Since then, the companies have sent their data from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico to TRAC, which has shared it with agencies from coast to coast.
Sen. Ron Wyden, who revealed this program fresh on the heels of a somewhat similar collection of Americans’ bulk data by the CIA, is asking DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari to investigate how this program originated and how it operated.
PPSA suggests the Inspector General’s investigation should also answer the following questions:
As Sen. Wyden presses for answers in Washington, perhaps a state leader, say California Attorney General Rob Bonta, might want to launch an investigation of his own.