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United States Government The Almighty Buck Your Rights Online

NSA Spies On International Payments 314

jones_supa writes "The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL. Information acquired by the former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called Follow the Money (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called Tracfin, which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions."
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NSA Spies On International Payments

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:15AM (#44861995)

    NSA knows what you are up to with your credit card

  • Pay cash !!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chatterton ( 228704 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:17AM (#44862001) Homepage

    And my wife ask me why I don't like to pay with any plastic cards (credit and/or debit)... I always pay cash whenever i can. Even if all my transactions are legal, some could be frowned upon but not illegal (not yet), I don't like my bank or any other private corporation to know what I do and what i like.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      "Follow the money" is exactly what one should do if one wants to know the true motives of those who run the spying business. It's ultimately nothing but a justification for billions in spending -- and billions in profit for the elite few at the top. As usual, power is merely a stepping stone to the real goal: money.

    • Re:Pay cash !!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Charliemopps ( 1157495 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @09:34AM (#44862547)

      The patriot act made buying anything overseas without a credit card that's registered in your name very difficult. Yes, you can mail cash in an envelope but our crooked postal workers often just steal it. The best defense against this sort of thing is: Vote for someone that's not in the D/R parties. Anyone... I don't care if you vote for the fucking Nazis just get the current Reich out of office asap. There are plenty of alternative parties out there... Libertarian, Green, even the communist party. I'd rather not be governed by most of them but if we can get enough disagreement into congress things may change. It's basically our only hope short of an insurrection and I'm personally moving to Canada if that happens.

  • News? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zeronitro ( 937642 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:17AM (#44862003)
    Is it really news that a spy agency is spying? "oh look at them doing their job!"
    • Re:News? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:21AM (#44862035)

      Is it really news that a spy agency is spying? "oh look at them doing their job!"

      "oh look at them shitting on the US Constitution." FTFY

      • Re:News? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @09:12AM (#44862371)

        Please show us where in the constitution it's forbidden to monitor international monetary transactions.

        No seriously, I'll wait.

        • Re:News? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:28AM (#44863053)

          You think they don't monitor US transactions too? What about transactions that have one end in the USA? Or which are executed by banks which are active in the USA but technically headquartered in London? What about the data feeds they get from GCHQ?

          Anyway, the constitution doesn't mention any such thing because it was inconceivable back then. There is plenty of language in the constitution that states the government should get a warrant for things that are like financial transaction data:

          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

          Note "the people". Not "US citizens" or "US persons" or "people who are geographically within the USA at the time a paper is made" but "the people". The constitution uses that language quite carefully because the authors were highly familiar with the ways governments wriggle out of rules using artificial reclassifications or redefinitions of common concepts.

          Anyway, who cares? Everyone outside the USA doesn't want the NSA to watch their financial transactions, or any other foreign intelligence agency. Saying it's allowed by the law just tells everyone else that the law is inadequate. And yes that applies to the UK and other places that have industrial-scale programs that spy on ordinary citizens of other countries.

    • Re:News? (Score:5, Funny)

      by buck-yar ( 164658 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:27AM (#44862061)

      Yeah, look how they caught the boston bomber before he struck, after the KGB told us he was a danger.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No, but it is certainly 'news' to the general public that the scope of spying has increased to include the common man.

    • This isn't them "doing their job". It's an extension of "anything you say can and will be used against you" to include all data. The giant information grab is going to start being used against innocent citizens. Remember, Googling certain items results in a visit from the FBI.
      • Re:News? (Score:5, Informative)

        by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:11AM (#44862893) Homepage Journal

        Googling certain items results in a visit from the FBI.

        The one time I read of that happening it was on a work computer, the IT staff saw it and called the FBI. He googled for a backpack for hiking, his wife googled for a pressure cooker for cooking, and as it was right after the Boston bombing. It wasn't the NSA, it was his employer spying on him.

      • If you're talking about the family that got visited as reported on /. like 2 months ago, they were reported as 'suspicious' by an employer. Weird as it was, this wasn't a case of gub'ment spying, but a valid response to a tip from a citizen.

    • Anybody who's even remotely surprised at this is a gullible fucktard!! Aside from the fact that "Don't use your credit cards the Gubment can trace them" has been the cornerstone cliché of every Hollywood spy thriller for nearly twenty years!
    • by Error27 ( 100234 )

      That same logic could be applied to anything. "You were mugged on the way to work? That's what muggers do. Boring."

      This is interesting because it shows:
      1) How the internet changes spy craft.
      2) How dangerous it is to aggregate data.

      It raises interesting questions:
      1) Have other countries infiltrated VISA as well?
      2) Has VISA been infiltrated by organized crime as well? Would that be profitable?
      3) What personal information is there?
      4) Has the private data been used for black mail people in interesting ways?

  • by oztiks ( 921504 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:17AM (#44862007)

    Does this mean that the NSA is PCI Compliant?

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      Does this mean that the NSA is PCI Compliant?

      Of course. Admittedly it is by definition, and the part where it says they are is secret so you're not allowed to know about what it exactly involves...

    • Re:PCI Compliance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by EmperorArthur ( 1113223 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:42AM (#44862153)

      Does this mean that the NSA is PCI Compliant?

      No, they haven't had the required audit.
      Which, given the revelations about how bad their data security is, they would have failed anyways.

      They still don't know what Snowden took. Forget secrets or blackmailing politicians, if he wanted to Snowden could just use the data to steal a ridiculous amount of money. Thank goodness he seems to be a good person. The scary thing is somebody else might have done just that, and no one knows about it.

    • I dunno, but it would be nice if they were 404 Compliant.

    • by xelah ( 176252 )
      PCI DSS is a contractual requirement and not a regulatory requirement or a law. Card data thieves of all kinds aren't under any legal obligation to follow it because they haven't signed any contracts requiring it. Unless, of course, you think the NSA has a merchant account.
      • by oztiks ( 921504 )

        I know what PCI is you daffy duck! I was trying to make a nerd joke and i didn't even get 1 mod point for it *frown*

  • Since, to my knowledge, the financial networks use multiple levels of encryption, I wonder if the VPN boxes used have NSA-prescribed backdoors in them. Is it in fact possible to buy a VPN box without backdoor?
    • by drakaan ( 688386 )
      Probably not, but you could build one [sourceforge.net] pretty easily...
    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      Since, to my knowledge, the financial networks use multiple levels of encryption, I wonder if the VPN boxes used have NSA-prescribed backdoors in them. Is it in fact possible to buy a VPN box without backdoor?

      they get them directly from banks. for the american banks they can just tell them to give them and they had contracts made up to get the data from EU post 9/11. that is one of the major points of discussion post snowden.. since we can't exactly trust USA to not use the data for economical gain over EU since the fuckers obviously can't be trust to just use it for tracking terrorists.

  • Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:21AM (#44862033)

    Please tell us instead what websites/activities are NOT monitored by NSA, thank you!

  • by IWantMoreSpamPlease ( 571972 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:32AM (#44862087) Homepage Journal

    "The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can fail to see even the most glaring injustice."

    This is a quote, not mine, but a quote nonetheless that holds relevance. When do we tear down the walls and regain our country?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:32AM (#44862091)

    If a nation were like a computer programming project, we would write tests to continually ensure its correct operation. One test would be to ensure that voters, not the government, are in control of their own nation.

    What kind of test would make sure it is so? Maybe successfully voting a new party in power, one that has never before been on top?

    • by rvw ( 755107 )

      If a nation were like a computer programming project, we would write tests to continually ensure its correct operation. One test would be to ensure that voters, not the government, are in control of their own nation.

      What kind of test would make sure it is so? Maybe successfully voting a new party in power, one that has never before been on top?

      Maybe this is the test. It has just started to run. Wait and see what comes out.

  • I may for things as much as I can in CASH. Cash is anonymous and won't snitch on you.

  • Many companies with which I do business (insurance, bank, utilities, medical, credit card, etc.) asked me to switch to paperless billing and notifications. In the spirit of progress I did so.

    But now, with all the government snooping, I am changing back, forcing all these companies to snail mail all their paperwork. And I mail them paper checks. It my small protest against their collusion with the NSA.

    If they can assure me that they are not willing to share my data with the government, and that my https i

    • by Aryden ( 1872756 )
      Changes nothing. The bank and the company you sent the check to still tracks the transaction. The company deposits the check, the bank scans it in and processes. It all goes into their records which they can and do turn over to the government(s) as required by law.
    • Those checks are equally traceable. They are nothing more than an instruction to initiate a bank transfer. The only way to pay anonymously is via hard cash. But this presents logistical and security problems - the same problems that make companies use electronic billing in the first place. Most utilities now won't even accept cash.

      • by Tokolosh ( 1256448 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:11AM (#44862895)

        I am well aware that paper checks are easily traceable. In fact, all transactions are, even cash when it hits the system. I am also aware that my obtuseness is but a pinprick in the hide of mega-corporations.

        My aim is just to demonstrate that lack of trust is bad for the system. Maybe if everyone else did the same thing, business would stand up for their paying customers, instead of rolling over for faceless spies.

        Terrorist culture-jamming has exceeded all expectations, now it is my turn.

  • NSA was set up from the start to spy on foreign transactions. Its purpose was to provide inside information to Wall Street from its beginning. Spying on people is just a sideline.
  • by TWiTfan ( 2887093 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @08:43AM (#44862169)

    Why not just get it over with and use that headline instead? Let's face it, they're either Big Brother at this point, or they're trying VERY HARD to be.

    • by Anonymous Coward


      Belgium's federal public prosecutors have said that the bugging of the Belgian telecom giant was probably the work of 'international state-sponsored cyber espionage'. Earlier it emerged that Belgacom's internal systems had been hacked for a period of two years.

      The former state telecom monopoly and Belgium's largest telecommunications operator has confirmed the news of the hacking. The daily De Standaard believes that the US intelligence servi

  • This all came about because their head guy is an internet addict and couldn't get enough cat videos on youtube.

    I'm sure they'll bring this post up when they have me in a dark room with jumper cables hooked up to my testicles."Not so funny now, is it, bitch?"

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The Muslims have been right all this time, America IS the prime evil on the planet today.

  • Well if they're monitoring all that shit, maybe you should just complain to THEM when Paypal freezes your account! "Hey guys, you have my entire payment history! Tell those guys to cough up my cash!"

    Yup, pretty sure I'm going to end up in a dark room somewhere with *cough* Freedom cables hooked up to my testicles.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      Freedom cable connect to your nipples, Patriot cables are the ones that go to your testicles.

  • Many more three-letter agencies are known to monitor international payments. I would have been surprised if the NSA wasn't monitoring them.

    The company my dad works at has a very generic, uninspired name and it happens to be the same as one of the front companies used by the Iranian nuclear programme. Equipment purchases are often blocked and won't be allowed through until someone has a chat with US authorities to remind them that they're still not smuggling parts for Iran's reactors.

  • 65033 54423 98954 12195 66564 14332 76775 48442

    If you can crack that, I'll give you a cookie. (60 year old encryption that the NSA's best can never crack.)

  • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:21AM (#44862989)

    They spy on national money transfers as well.
    Or do you think they draw the line just when things don't end up in the same country?

    SWIFT [wikipedia.org] does a LOT of transactions between banks.

    When you do a payment in Belgium to a company, it takes 2 to three days (even at the same bank) because they need that much time to prevent terrorism [wikipedia.org].

    It would be great if the people reading those messages would work on the weekend as well, because it takes 2 to 3 WORKING days. No transactions on the weekend.

    And in Europe when they say 'because of terrorism' they mean 'We hand it over to the USofA.' (Insert joke about the USA being the real terrorists.)

    Interesting part at the end [wikipedia.org]

  • by quietwalker ( 969769 ) <pdughi@gmail.com> on Monday September 16, 2013 @10:31AM (#44863091)

    I used to write finance software for a living, so I've actually been responsible for putting the hooks into systems that alert and in some cases silently block these transactions. There are actual federal regulations stating we need to do this, and this isn't a new thing - this predates modern banking. The difference is that more and more international names are landing on the list.

    The funny thing is that most of this tracking is astoundingly, mind numbingly bad.

    I have the most experience with banking (as opposed to credit card transactions), so here's a quick explanation that works:
    1) The feds provide us a list, occasionally updated. Format is a plain text file with names of suspects, 1 per line, all caps.
    2) We have to do an exact match - if the name of the sender or recipient exactly equals one of the lines, then we tag it, and it's up to the bank manager to deal with it from there. They authorize or not the transaction during the end of day clearing house, or alert the feds or whomever.

    That's it. It's sort of like setting up a spam blocker for an explicit email address. It's hilariously trivial.

    Now, once transactions go over a certain size, those are independently reported right to the federal reserve, so those may be subject to much more analysis, but evasion is as simple as keeping transfer size low and adding an extra letter to the recipient's name.

    There are some caveats; transaction often have to bounce through many entities, but tracking this way is often very difficult since there's no guarantee which ACH a given transaction is bouncing through - each bank uses it's own set based on contracts and legal agreements between countries. Reconciling source and target becomes painful, to say the least.

    To recap: 1) they've always done this, 2) they don't seem to be very good at real time tracking

We don't know who it was that discovered water, but we're pretty sure that it wasn't a fish. -- Marshall McLuhan