Monday, December 13, 2004
The NY Times reports that the U.S. government has begun experimenting with a new computer system that "allows investigators to match financial transactions against a list of some 250,000 people and firms with suspected ties to terrorist financing, drug trafficking, money laundering and other financial crimes." The program gives investigators what amounts to an enormous "global watch list" to track possible financial crimes at American border crossings, banks and other financial institutions.
The program provides yet another indication of the wide-ranging efforts by American officials to look for new technological tools in fighting terrorism and other international crime. But it also raises privacy and civil liberties questions because domestic security officials are relying on a private overseas firm to provide a voluminous list of people and companies that it considers to represent a "high risk" of committing financial crimes, based on an assortment of public records and data. "There's a real risk in a situation like this because there's really no accountability," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, an advocacy group based in Washington devoted to privacy issues. "People can find themselves on a watch list incorrectly, and the consequences can be very serious." More. . . [Mark Godsey]