Sunday, June 25, 2006

SWIFT: Not News, Either

The Counterterrorism Blog makes the point that monitoring large international transactions for purposes of tracking terrorist financing is not exactly news:

But reports on US monitoring of SWIFT transactions have been out there for some time. The information was fairly well known by terrorism financing experts back in 2002.

The information was incorporated in our report to the UN Security Council in December 2002. That report is still available on the UN Website. Paragraph 31 of the report states:

“The settlement of international transactions is usually handled through correspondent banking relationships or large-value message and payment systems, such as the SWIFT, Fedwire or CHIPS systems in the United States of America. Such international clearance centres are critical to processing international banking transactions and are rich with payment information. The United States has begun to apply new monitoring techniques to spot and verify suspicious transactions. The Group recommends the adoption of similar mechanisms by other countries.”

The fact is that there is really very little privacy today when it comes to the international transfer of funds. That is why criminal networks, money launderers and terrorist groups have increasingly turned to Hawalas and cash couriers for such transactions.

The NY/LASlimes' handling of the material, of course, is a different matter. They were asked NOT to publish the information, but did so anyway. While the information was known beforehand, their defiance of national security interests is telling.

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