SWIFT hearing clear on one point: lack of clarity is good for the CIA

4 October 2006

SWIFT hearing clear on one point: lack of clarity is good for the CIA

The hearing organised today by the European Parliament on the international bank transfer system SWIFT and CIA spying on European financial transactions made one thing absolutely clear: that when it comes to the rules governing such transactions, nothing is clear at all. Data transfer to the US authorities by SWIFT appears to evade any real regulation. As SP Euro-MP Kartika Liotard says, “The question remains ‘who will guard the guards?’. You can expect in this manner that the CIA will have no compunction in involving itself in lots of other European affairs.”

“Nobody who can be called a terrorist would be moving money around using a common-or-garden bank account,” Ms Liotard pointed out. “But even so, the rules regarding the exchange of data aren't there for no reason and SWIFT should be abiding by them. Not informing all European partners and the public about this is unacceptable.” Liotard’s fear is that, under the guise of anti-terrorism, anything goes. “What if terrorists should begin using mail services such as DHL to send each other money? Is the CIA going to start opening all our parcels?”

Earlier in the year Liotard put a number of written questions on the issue to the European Commission. “Millions of people use person-to-person services to send money abroad,” she said. “Western Union, one of the biggest money transfer services, is also under surveillance by US intelligence services.”

On the reverse of every Western Union money transfer form it says that since the events of September 11, 2001 all Money Transfers are screened by the American authorities on the basis of international legislation and that as a consequence of this screening payments may be delayed or blocked. “I'd really like to know exactly which piece of ‘international legislation’ provides the basis for this,” said Liotard.

Today’s hearing was important, but, said Liotard, “SWIFT must be seen in the whole context of so-called anti-terrorism measures, CIA snooping and the still controversial transfer of data on air passengers to the US.”

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