CIA sticks its nose into growing number of financial transactions

23 July 2006

CIA sticks its nose into growing number of financial transactions

American intelligence services have been monitoring not only bank accounts but also other forms of financial transaction such as Western Union's 'Money Transfer'. SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard today put a written question to the European Commission:“Now that the business regarding SWIFT has been brought out into the open, I would also like to know where else the CIA is sticking its nose.”

Since last month's revelations in the New York Times and elsewhere concerning the CIA's monitoring of SWIFT's database, attention has been focused on this form of financial transaction. But in addition to payments made via bank accounts millions of people also make use of person-to-person services in order to transfer money to another country. Western Union, one of the largest operators of monetary transfer services, is also under surveillance by the American intelligence services.

The reverse side of every Western Union 'Money Transfer' form informs customers that since the events of 11 September 2001, all 'Money Transfers' are screened by US authorities in keeping with international law and that this might result in delay of blocking of payments. “I really want to know just what 'international law' provides the basis for this,” said Ms Liotard.

Western Union deals annually with $20 billion worth of such transfers, mostly in the form of small sums sent home by migrant workers. The Wall Street Journal reported on the CIA's monitoring of the Western Union database last year, but only with the SWIFT scandal did serious attention begin to be paid to this sort of spying.

Members of the public with 'Islamic' names such as Ali or Mohammed were regularly confronted by delays to or stops on their monetary transactions. In addition, information gathered by the CIA through spying on Western Union's 'Money Transfers' was passed on to other secret services including Israel's Mossad. Liotard is demanding to know from the European Commission how much they know about these violations and what they intend to do to about them. “How far does the CIA want to go in its spying? If a terrorist were to send money using DHL, will they start to open everyone's parcels?”

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