Wednesday, August 27, 2014


The "search engine" you see above you is not available, unless you are a government law enforcement agency; known as ICReach, it accesses a collection of over 850 billion records,  all collected and maintained by the National Security Administration (NSA). The Google-like program allows US law enforcement to reach domestic records without a subpoena or court order, according to a number of sources that report on personal data and privacy.

It has a direct impact upon all of us in compliance, because confidential legal communications with your bank's outside counsel, the identity of a whistle blower who is giving you incriminating information on a client, user names and passwords that you are sending to correspondents, and any number of proprietary, confidential and restricted information, and client details, that you handle each day, in the performance of your job, can be accessed by numerous law enforcement agencies, without any judicial oversight. It makes the use of a trusted courier relevant, for important documents.  

If your reply is that they cannot use that information, because it was illegally obtained, think again. Many law enforcement agencies are adept at what its known as parallel construction, the attribution of intelligence to a known, legitimate source, such as a confidential informant. The illegally-obtained information is then said to have come from the legal source. Some commentators refer to this practice as information laundering, which is an appropriate designation.

Should you alter your present practices ? We cannot say, but we can no longer confidently communicate domestically, without the threat of interception. Though designed for counter-terrorism investigations, such resources are ripe for abuse. Big Brother is indeed watching.

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