US spies in bank monitoring scandal

LOSSES & LAWSUITS

The New York Times has revealed that under subpoena powers granted post-9/11, the US government has coerced the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) to open its records in a bid to track terrorist financing.

The program, initiated and administered by the Central Intelligence Agency, tracked the banking transactions of thousands of Americans and controversially, did not seek court-approved warrants to examine individual transactions but relied on broad administrative subpoenas to justify the trawl.

Belgium has moved quickly to distance itself from the spat, which has seen numerous senior political figures from the Republican Party condemn The New York Times, by insisting all the transactions were monitored from Swift's US subsidiary and that no tracking took place in Belgium. The Belgian government has asked its intelligence services to investigate the affair.

Meanwhile, civil liberties watchdog Privacy International has urged 32 governments to refrain from releasing confidential banking information to US investigators, claiming this to be "completely unacceptable".

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