The Central Intelligence Agency has been busy aggregating a huge database of international money transfers, according to the Wall Street Journal — and it includes financial and personal data of millions of Americans.
The initiative apparently collects data from US money-transfer companies like Western Union, and is able to run because of the Patriot Act — the same act that allows the NSA to snoop on the nation. While the CIA is strictly barred from targeting Americans — its remit is to focus on foreign intelligence — it can still snoop on domestic goings on if it can justify it for foreign intelligence purposes.
The CIA was able to collect the data by working with the FBI, explains the Journal. While the database doesn't include any purely domestic transactions, it does include plenty of records of payments going out of and coming into the US. In some instances, it also includes data like US Social Security numbers, which can link financial activity to a specific person. The article goes on to explain that money-transfer companies are "highly, highly aware of their obligations under the Patriot Act" — though they helpfully didn't pass on that memo.
All told, it's a reminder of just how blurred the policies are between domestic and international intelligence, and that officials care about collecting as much data as they can. There's been wide criticism of the Patriot Act and just what it allows — but right now it only looks like we'll learn of more — and worse — examples of lives being invaded. [WSJ]