AS REPORTED on the front page of the Irish Times and spotlighted by Digital Rights Ireland, "the personal data of thousands of Irish citizens that have sent or received money transfers to and from the US has been covertly logged by US anti-terrorist agencies." In my personal case, this means money I sent via AIB SWIFT transfer to my mother to offset the cost of medical treatment for cancer has been tracked by the CIA. It turns out that the Irish government did not know about the monitoring scheme, but several EU central banks were informed about the programme, which was introduced after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "Under the scheme the CIA can sift through millions of international banking transactions to try to identify potential terrorist financing," the Irish Times reports.
At least 77 financial institutions in the Republic of Ireland use the Swift system. Transactions made by thousands of Irish citizens are likely to have been screened by the US authorities. AIB, Bank of Ireland, EBS Building Society, National Irish Bank all use Swift, as well as a host of financial institutions based in the Irish Financial Services Centre.
There is no legal basis for this information to be given to American authorities. If you are an account holder, part of your banking fees help pay for this system. Because the data go to an American authority, there is no control over what use is made of the information.
Wholesale hand-over of banking records is no more than a fishing expedition. It is an ongoing part of a misguided attempt by the American authorities to find the fingers of terrorists inside the Irish banking system.
Privacy International has already launched a campaign against this scheme. They’ve made complaints to the Irish Data Protection Commission. If you think the American government is out of line and if you object to your Irish bank subordinating the privacy of your banking details to an American spy agency, you should e-mail email@example.com and tell Mr Hawkes, the Irish Data Privacy Commissioner, that you object to the disclosure of your worldwide interbank financial transactions to the Americans.
Jamie Smyth -- "CIA monitors personal bank details of Irish citizens", June 28, 2006.
Digital Rights Ireland -- "CIA is monitoring personal bank data of Irish citizens"
Privacy Insternational -- "PI Launches Campaign to Suspend Unlawful Activities of Finance Giant"