The old adage "Give 'em an inch and they'll take a mile" now holds special meaning when it comes to privacy in the United States. Big Brother has escalated its effort to take an even larger chunk of our rights and freedoms by charging the U.S. banking system with the task of policing our monetary deposits and withdrawals--reporting sudden changes in routine to federal agencies.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), Washington, D.C., recently announced a formal program they call "Know Your Customer" where banks will closely monitor their customers' financial dealings. This plan is to be executed by all U.S. banks.
"This massive new program...would convert our nation's banks into wholly-owned subsidiaries of the government-wide movement to invade every aspect of Americans' privacy," said Congressional Representative, Ron Paul. "The end-effect of the new regulations will be that law-abiding American citizens have to spend more of their time trying to prove themselves innocent of unnamed crimes before federal agents."
The way "Know Your Customer" works is simple. Your local bank, the one you have your checking and savings account with, will verify where your money comes from. Then they will closely monitor all of your banking transactions using a massive computer that uses artificial intelligence. This computer will search for deviations in how you deposit and withdraw your money. Any deviation from the "norm" will result in a report, forwarded to one or more federal agencies.
What will those federal agencies do with that report? I'm glad you asked that question.
"[Let us say that] an individual decides to sell his car through a classified ad in the newspaper, and quickly finds a buyer, who hands over the cash. Now, our happy car-seller is still shopping around for the vehicle he wants, so he wisely deposits the large [amount of] cash into his account. Unfortunately, that simple act could trigger an alarm within the bank's computers, alerting to the fact that this customer never makes such large deposits," says Rep. Paul.
He adds, "The bank will be required to notify a host of federal agencies, which will likely dispatch agents to question the man, assuming he must be a drug dealer, arms smuggler or terrorist. Sound loony? It is. But that is precisely what will be imposed on banks if these new regulations take effect."
The fact is, the Know Your Customer program is not new. Some banks have been closely and routinely watching our account deposits and withdrawals for some time. But, until now, it was entirely voluntary on the part of the bank. FDIC wants to make this practice official and mandatory for all banks.
Why I Happen
I am bothered by all of this for one simple reason. The burden of proof has always, and rightly so, rested with authorities, which is fully in agreement with our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If this piece of work is allowed to become law, it will place the burden of proof on the common, everyday, law-abiding "citizen," who will then have to explain to federal authorities every time they deposit or withdraw a sizable amount of their own money.
Oh, but we have to get those drug dealers, and this is the easiest way for law enforcement to do it--but what about the fact that this all-encompassing net will likely snag far more law-abiding citizens than it will drug dealers? Placing an all-encompassing net over the entire U.S. Banking Industry and every working man and woman somehow seems like too high a price to pay for so little gain.
For my taste, the FDIC is far too willing to implement a policy that holds promise of future abuse. For more information, contact the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), 550 Seventeenth Street N.W., Washington, D.C. 20429, Phone 202-389-4221. Regional Offices: Midwest call 800-944-5343, Northeast call 800-873-7785, Southeast call 800-765-3342, and Western call 800-756-3558.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is soliciting public comments on an FBI proposal to re-design the nation's tele- communications infrastructure to facilitate electronic surveillance. In the pending proceeding under the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act (CALEA), the FBI is seeking new surveillance powers, including the use of cellular phones as tracking devices and the monitoring of "packet mode communications" like the protocol used on the Internet.
When it enacted CALEA in 1994, Congress explicitly stated that the law was intended to give law enforcement "no more and no less access to information than it had in the past." Nonetheless, the FBI has consistently interpreted the law as authority for increased wiretapping and surveillance powers. The FCC is now seeking comments on whether federal law enforcement agencies should be able to use cell phones as tracking devices and have easier access to the content of Internet communications. The deadline for the submission of comments is December 14.
Information on filing comments with the FCC is available at the Privacy Page: http://www.privacy.org
Source: Operations Security Professionals Society, Gaithersburg, Md. at http://www.opsec.org
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By Alicia Colombo