Your Bank Account, Your Liberties

dmcowen674

No Lifer
Oct 13, 1999
54,894
46
91
www.alienbabeltech.com
[The article is released under the attribution-with-credit,
no-derivative-works Creative Commons license. --Declan]

---

To: Declan McCullagh <declan@well.com>
From: Rob Carlson <rob@vees.net>
Subject: Your Bank Account, Your Liberties
Date: Fri, 2 Jan 2004 23:20:50 -0500

X-UIDL: 195a7361b2aa2580ef4cbfc76c41d325

Your Bank Account, Your Liberties
By George Paine, Warblogging.com
Friday, January 2, 2004

http://www.warblogging.com/archives/000783.php

I went to the bank today. My debit and ATM card had stopped
functioning on New Year's Eve. I was told, in no uncertain terms, that
I must visit the bank to review my account because of "possible
fraud".

I arrived at the bank and went to my banker's office. He saw me coming
in and said "Hello, Mr. Paine, it's been too long." Once pleasantries
were out of the way he asked how he could help me. I explained that my
card had stopped working and that I had been informed over the phone
that I would have to come in and look over my past transactions, that
I would have to look for anything suspicious. That only then could my
ATM card -- my sole link to cold, hard cash -- be reactivated.

So he pulled up my account on his computer and rotated the monitor so
that we could both see the details of my financial life. He rolled the
history back several months and, together, we set to find anything
suspicious. As the pages -- the days -- rolled by on-screen I realized
that these transactions, these little digital notes, brought back
memories. There was that time, at that place, where I was with that
person. It was all there, in green and black.

I mentioned to him that these transactions brought back memories. He
gave me a knowing smile. He began to extrapolate details of my life,
little vignettes, from the transactions on the screen. He said "So,
here, on December 13. You get a cup of coffee with a friend. You head
a few blocks away and get some Sushi. I hear that restaurant's good.
Then you go and take in a show. Oh, here, yes. You have a couple
drinks afterward."

I look at him, thinking. The man's right. That was, in fact, exactly
what I did that day. As we flipped through the days we started
examining Christmas shopping. He asked if the recipient of a
particular gift had liked it. I said that she did.

This man, my banker, knows some very private details of my life. He
knows where I eat dinner on a daily basis. He knows where I get my
coffee. He knows what bars I go to, and when I go to them. He knows
where and when I travel. He knows how long I spend in various places,
he knows where I like to buy books. He knows that I have donated to
political campaigns, he knows which campaigns, and he knows how much I
have donated.

Once we had examined the sum of my daily financial life spanning
several months we determined, together, that no fraud had been
perpetrated. It was at this point that my banker reactivated my ATM
card. I thanked him very much for the service.

As we returned to unrelated conversation I noticed a small sign on his
desk. It was a small advertisement, a note from a banking services
company. It was printed on good stock with a flapping, slightly
stylized American flag serving as a backdrop. It was designed like a
piece of campaign literature, as if it were trying too hard to appear
patriotic. It read "USA PATRIOT Act compliance by..."

I don't remember the name of the company that provided its small sign
to my banker. A quick Google search, however, turns up quite a few
companies who offer such services. One of them is Aquilan. Aquilan
offers a product it calls Aquilan Patriot Manager. They advertise that
APM can help financial institutions "Know Your Customers. 'Red Flag'
Suspicious Activity. Prevent Money Laundering."

My time with my banker today was innocuous. His hopefully brief foray
into the details of my life were largely at my request, largely for my
protection. But the USA PATRIOT Act requires financial institutions to
report "suspicious activity" to federal law enforcement agencies. As
Aquilan's Web site notes, "For most financial institutions, complex
distribution channels, clients with multiple relationships, and
disparate adminstration and transaction systems make compliance with
the USA PATRIOT Act expensive and nearly impossible."

But here Aquilan's software -- and the software of so many other
companies, including the one that provided that patriotic sign to my
banker -- make the "impossible" possible. As Aquilan observes:

Aquilan Patriot Manager offers the quickest path to full compliance
with the USA PATRIOT Act, including Anti-Money Laundering (AML)
screening requirements, Customer Identification Program (CIP)
requirements, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) rules,
and required Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) monitoring. By
extracting essential information from both client and
administration systems, Aquilan helps financial services
institutions assemble the 360º view of customer relationships
required to identify suspicious activity and meet regulatory
requirements.

Aquilan's software works, I am sure, much the same way as the software
that identified possible banking fraud. It works quite the same way as
the software that prevented me from removing cash from my own bank
account, the software that forced me into my bank branch for a
half-hour long meeting with my banker. The software that was wrong,
that "red-flagged" my account as showing fraudulent activity when, in
fact, it did not.

Aquilan's software, and, I'm sure, all other PATRIOT Act verification
software, is deeply flawed. This software is prone to false positives,
just like the fraud detection software that brought me into the bank
on my day off. The PATRIOT Act verification software is as likely to
bring the Federal Bureau of Investigation to my door as the fraud
detection software was to bring me to my bank branch. It is likely to
necessitate a full government examination of my finances, of my
habits, of my life.

It is likely to cause the FBI to pour over my financial records just
as my banker and I did today. And those little innocent vignettes,
those little guesses at my life that my banker engaged in... it is
likely to cause the FBI to construct similar vignettes, to "watch" as
I have coffee with a friend and later take in a show.

On December 13^th of this year President Bush signed H.R. 2417, the
"Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004". After signing
the bill Bush gave a statement in which he noted that "The executive
branch shall construe these provisions in a manner consistent with the
Constitution's commitment..."

What I wouldn't give to hear President Bush pronounce some of the
tongue-twisters and verbally dense sentences contained in his
statement. Bush says much in the statement, but he does not mention a
key provision of H.R. 2417.

That provision of H.R. 2417 expands the FBI's powers to access your
and my bank records. On December 17^th I wrote about Bush's signing of
the bill, saying that "the legislation allows John Ashcroft to issue
himself a 'National Security Letter' in order to conduct many
searches."

Specifically, Ashcroft and his FBI no longer need to visit with a
judge and explain themselves when they want to see your or my bank
records. They no longer even have to get a notice from the bank that
our banking habits are "suspicious". No longer can a federal judge say
"No, I think you're on a fishing expedition. You can't see George
Paine's banking information."

Now John Ashcroft -- or one of his underlings -- simply have to write
down on a piece of paper that your or my bank records are somehow
related to national security. They must sign this letter and keep it
on file. As soon as they do so they may access my bank records and,
like my banker, construct little vignettes for themselves about my
day-to-day life.

If this doesn't concern you it should. Think back to the skeleton or
two that may be in your closet. That purchase at that shady store,
your visit to that questionable bar, your meeting with that
questionable person. All this information and more can be found -- or,
more dangerously, inferred -- within your bank records.

Does this still not concern you? Well, I won't mention the fact that
this new power given to Ashcroft by Bush's signature is a clear
violation of the Fourth Amendment, which states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses,
papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,
shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon
probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly
describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to
be seized.

I understand that for most people the Fourth Amendment, like the
entire Constitution, is little more than a theoretical document. But
what you must understand is that it is written like it is for a
reason. It is written as it is to prevent the abuse of power. It is
written as it is because the Founding Fathers understood that "power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

For an example of this corruption one must look no further than the
Federal Bureau of Investigation itself. Take, for example, the program
known as COINTELPRO, a program conceived "to neutralize political
dissidents". I write more about COINTELPRO in my post on the signing
of H.R. 2417. Suffice it to say that a great many people who had
broken no law, who had done nothing wrong, were not only investigated
by the FBI but were the targets of campaigns to "discredit and
publicly destroy" them.

One must look no further than the Drug Enforcement Administration and
Kevin Tamez.

Tamez is fifty years old and lives in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, a
pleasant suburb of Philadelphia. Until December Tamez served as the
Associate Special Agent in Charge of the DEA's New York office. But on
Monday, December 15^th, a 214-count indictment was issued against
Tamez, as Reuters reported at the time. Tamez was accused of
"embezzling DEA funds and using federal resources to conduct work for
a private investigations firm."

What federal resources did Tamez misappropriate? Tamez was charged,
specifically, with "illegally obtaining information from law
enforcement computer systems and databases and using DEA personnel and
resources for work he did for a private investigations firm."

Imagine Special Agent Tamez as an FBI agent. Imagine him issuing
himself a National Security Letter and proceeding to pass the
information gathered with that Letter on to his client, perhaps your
spouse, perhaps a business competitor. Your bank records aren't all
that Tamez can access. He can access your interactions with virtually
every business that deals in your money -- that is, nearly all. As I
noted earlier, H.R. 2417 allows Tamez to access records "from your
auctions on eBay to your credit card receipts to your insurance
records".

It isn't only Agent Tamez with access to this information. Do you
remember Filegate? That was the scandal in which the White House
requested the FBI files of a number of prominent Republicans -- and
got them. The Clinton Administration requested the files of such
Republicans as James Baker, a former Secretary of State, Secretary of
the Treasury and Chief of Staff to a president.

In fact more than 1,000 FBI files were requested and obtained by the
White House. At the time Judicial Watch (a group which was a
significant thorn in the side of the Clinton Administration and now of
the Bush Administration) accused the White House of using the "Ellen
Rometsch strategy", explaining that "By historical definition, the
Ellen Rometsch strategy is the use of FBI files by J. Edgar Hoover".

Larry Klayman, chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch, said
that "Judicial Watch and others believe that this is the Clinton
Administration's last line of defense to its scandals, to smear
people, to scare people, to make sure than they can hold on to power."

This sounds uncomfortably familiar. The Bush Administration, after
all, engaged in similar but even more egregious behavior recently.
After former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Joseph Wilson wrote an op/ed
piece in the New York Times accusing Bush of lying about Iraqi uranium
procurement efforts the White House leaked information that Wilson's
wife, Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative. The leak appeared
to be, as Warblogging wrote shortly after, calculated by Karl Rove "to
send a very, very specific message. He wanted everyone to see what
happens when someone speaks out against Bush. He wanted everyone to
see the consequences of contradicting George Bush's lies. Careers end,
lives are destroyed. Those are the consequences, that was the
message."

And so we return to your bank records, to your purchases from
Amazon.com, to your visits to that sketchy bar or the presents
purchased for that man or woman who isn't your spouse. Not only your
bank records, but the bank records of influential politicians opposed
to whatever party may currently be in power. The detailed records and
vignettes of lives opposed to whoever may be currently in the seat of
power. And to Valerie Plame, to Filegate, to Special Agent Tamez, to
COINTELPRO.

We realize that the Fourth Amendment -- and the rest of the Bill of
Rights -- exist for a reason, and that absolute power corrupts
absolutely. With H.R. 2417, with the USA PATRIOT Act, with its ability
to detain American citizens indefinitely without charge or access to
attorneys or judges the Bush Administration now has absolute power.
And with the Valerie Plame affair and so many others the Bush
Administration has proved that absolute power does indeed corrupt
absolutely.

The only hope we have now is for the entire electorate to appeal en
masse for the restoration of restraint and accountability to the White
House. You and your friends, you and your coworkers, you and your
family must appeal to the press and to your elected officials for the
return of the rule of the Constitution and reason. You must reassert
your civil liberties and insist that White House aides, overzealous
FBI agents and corrupt DEA agents not have access to your banking
records without probable cause. You must insist that your private
details remain private without probable cause. You must insist that
you and your neighbors not be jailed without charge, not be
disappeared without lawyers, not be held without judicial review.

You must insist that the Founding Fathers knew what they were doing
when they wrote the Fourth Amendment -- and the rest of the
Constitution -- and that their wisdom is no less relevant today than
it was in 1776.

Do not think for a moment that your status as a relatively law abiding
and loyal citizen will save you from the long arm of the government.
George Soros recounts just how little being a law abiding and loyal
citizen can do for you when it's too late. He explains in his latest
book how, when he was thirteen, he was tasked with delivering notices
to the Jewish community of Budapest, Hungary ordering them to appear
at the Rabbinical Seminary with food and clothing the following day.
On the advice of his father he informed those he delivered the notice
to that they would be deported when they showed up. One man told him
"They can't do that to me. I've always been a law-abiding citizen."
The following day he was sent to a concentration camp.

I am not saying that George Bush is going to send you or anyone else
to a concentration camp tomorrow. I am saying, however, that civil
liberties are everyone's responsibility -- and that when the rubber
hits the road it matters not whether you are a law-abiding citizen or
not. It matters only whether someone in power wants you or not.


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CADsortaGUY

Lifer
Oct 19, 2001
25,162
1
76
www.ShawCAD.com
The constant clatter of the sky hitting the ground has a nice rhythm to it.

I guess we all need to use CASH. No Checks, CCs, Debit cards - just cold hard CASH. That'll teach em.


CkG
 

dmcowen674

No Lifer
Oct 13, 1999
54,894
46
91
www.alienbabeltech.com
Originally posted by: CADkindaGUY
The constant clatter of the sky hitting the ground has a nice rhythm to it.

I guess we all need to use CASH. No Checks, CCs, Debit cards - just cold hard CASH. That'll teach em.


CkG
Really, how dare he have a cup of coffee with a Terrorist at the local Coffe shop and put it on his debit card.

 

Moonbeam

Elite Member
Nov 24, 1999
70,124
5,292
126
By the time we are chip implanted at birth some of the kinks, I'm sure, will have beeb worked out. And you won't have to waste time comming to the bank. They will simply try your records. If found guilty of anything major your heart will simply stop beating, of if jail in in your cards you will be given some time to report.
 

EagleKeeper

Discussion Club Moderator<br>Elite Member
Staff member
Oct 30, 2000
42,591
5
0
Originally posted by: CADkindaGUY
The constant clatter of the sky hitting the ground has a nice rhythm to it.

I guess we all need to use CASH. No Checks, CCs, Debit cards - just cold hard CASH. That'll teach em.


CkG
Make sure that the purchase is less than 10K :D
 

mindmaniac

Senior member
Dec 30, 2003
915
1
81
I keep a Swiss bank account, so no one pokes around at how I'm spending. But not everyone can get the 100K needed to even be considered for opening an account.:D
 

glenn1

Lifer
Sep 6, 2000
25,383
1,013
126
Trust me, those who work in the financial services industry don't like the Patriot Act and related stuff any more than you do. Do you think we enjoy being forced to tell clients things like, "yes, we ARE required to ask for a employer address for your infant child's college savings account?" Or "yes, we ARE required to ask if your deceased spouse was born in an OFAC-list country before we can update your joint account?"
 

tk149

Diamond Member
Apr 3, 2002
7,256
1
0
Originally posted by: glenn1
Trust me, those who work in the financial services industry don't like the Patriot Act and related stuff any more than you do. Do you think we enjoy being forced to tell clients things like, "yes, we ARE required to ask for a employer address for your infant child's college savings account?" Or "yes, we ARE required to ask if your deceased spouse was born in an OFAC-list country before we can update your joint account?"
No kidding. I'm really sick of CTR's right now.
 

glugglug

Diamond Member
Jun 9, 2002
5,340
1
0
Originally posted by: EagleKeeper
Originally posted by: CADkindaGUY
The constant clatter of the sky hitting the ground has a nice rhythm to it.

I guess we all need to use CASH. No Checks, CCs, Debit cards - just cold hard CASH. That'll teach em.


CkG
Make sure that the purchase is less than 10K :D

Actually my bank sends me a notice saying how they had to report it to comply with Federal regulations for any transaction over $5K.

Oh, and using a debit card at a coffee shop is stupid for reasons other than big brother.
 

tk149

Diamond Member
Apr 3, 2002
7,256
1
0
Originally posted by: glugglug

Actually my bank sends me a notice saying how they had to report it to comply with Federal regulations for any transaction over $5K.

Oh, and using a debit card at a coffee shop is stupid for reasons other than big brother.
The federal reporting requirement only covers amounts over $10,000.00. Complying with this requirement is my job. The bank is probably just covering itself in case you perform multiple transactions that aggregate to over $10,000 on any single day.
 

dirtboy

Diamond Member
Oct 9, 1999
6,745
1
81
The letter looks, smells, feels and tastes like a spammed chain letter, so I'm going to ignore 134% of its worth.
 
Feb 3, 2001
5,156
0
0
Well I think there IS something to this, and something you should be vigilant about. Today it's probably not of serious concern, but the problem is that this bill has opened doors that we have no idea who will walk through in a year or 5 years or 9 years or 13.

The purpose Bush and company had in mind is clearly national security; but a tradeoff of Liberty for Security is no bargain at all. When it all comes down to it, this "security" people are seeking is nothing but an illusion. LIFE is unsecure, uncertain, and the very best thing you can do is get used to it and accept that every minute of every day is uncertain. That's just life.

Jason
 

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