According to a report today from the Daily Caller, two former NSA workers at a facility in Fort Gordon, Georgia claim that they were required to listen in on the phone calls made by Americans living and working abroad, including those serving in the military, many of which were very personal in nature. One whistle blower claimed he was told that "your job is not to question" when he expressed concern about listening in on the private phone calls. The NSA told the New York Times in 2008 that some of the allegations of the whistle blowers were unsubstantiated, while others were still under investigation.
One of the most prominent Americans who became a target of a criminal investigation as a result of the Patriot Act was former New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, whose cash transfers to an offshore account drew scrutiny under Suspicious Activity Reports banks are required to file with the Department of Treasury. Officials claimed they began investigating the multi-millionaire Spitzer because of concern he was being bribed. In actuality, he was making payments for prostitution services.
“We had no interest at all in the prostitution ring until the thing with Spitzer led us to learn about it,” a Department of Justice official told ABC News. “[T]he governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else’s name,” Hosenball concluded in Newsweek.” The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the feds curious enough to follow the money.”
SARS reports, as you know, are made to the Treasury Department, not the NSA.
Also, SARS reports ARE specifically geared to detect tax evasion, money laundering, and other domestic crimes--they are not specific to terrorism investigations.
I am not taking a position on the NSA PRISM program, but you are conflating to separate programs, administered by two different departments in your post.
Spitzer was a dummy, and as a former prosecutor, he should have been well-aware of the SARS filings--in fact, he tried to take specific action to avoid a SARS filing (by making a series of small withdrawals, etc.).
The reporting of SARS was greatly expanded by the Patriot Act under the guise of capturing more potential money wire transactions in support of terrorists. I'm not conflating it. I'm relating the DC's report on the wider net being used to target Americans. The Treasury Department receives the reports filed by banks, but you can bet those reports are also stored in the NSA's vast database.
My point is that SARS reports have been used since before 9/11 to detect domestic crimes like money laundering.
And, as mentioned, as a former prosecutor Spitzer was well aware of the SARS filings, and he even had prosecuted individuals for crimes that would have likely come to light through SARS filings.
Spitzer was not caught in an anti-terrorism dragnet, he was caught in his own stupidity--setting up dummy companies and funneling money around all so he could hire a hooker. What got the attention of the feds was the fact that the transactions suggested he might be taking bribes as a public official, not that he was involved in some terrorist plot.
I am sure there might be "ordinary citizens" to hold up as an example of NSA abuses, but Mr. Spitzer is not one of them.
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