Weeks after the 9/11 attacks, U.S. officials began an effort to search international financial transaction data for clues in hunting terrrorists, without warrants or other judicial approval, the New York Times says
The program has reviewed records on "tens of thousands" of transactions, thanks to a major money-routing operation in Belgium, which handles $6 trillion in global transactions every day.
says the program looks only at financial transactions that occur outside the United States, or with only one party within the United States. (Where have I heard that before?) Most routine domestic transactions are not included, says the Times
, which reports it has spoken with nearly 20 officials and executives with knowledge of the program.
Interestingly, the financial institutions providing data to the U.S. apparently did better in pushing for restrictions than did the phone companies reportedly involved in the NSA's mining efforts. An independent third party reviews all requests for information, and can reject them if they do not see a clear tie to a terrorist suspect.