Swift kick in the pants

July 7th, 2006

CIA has access to your bank records By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor (Filed: 28/06/2006)

The bank transaction records of millions of people in Britain and around the world may have been disclosed illegally to US intelligence agencies as part of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism programme, privacy campaigners said yesterday.

CIA agents and US treasury officials have been secretly monitoring financial transactions routed through Swift, the Brussels-based, industry-owned co-operative that links 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries.

Swift, an acronym for the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, provides electronic instructions for transfers between virtually every bank, brokerage house, and stock exchange and routes 11 million transactions each day.

The Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was disclosed by the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, which said they had been pressed by the administration not to divulge its existence […]


The great thing about this is that it will catch absolutely no one. These people (millions of them) use informal banking systems that are untracable.

How it works is…and I’m sure that I have written about this before, is:

  1. You go to a man ‘Jim’ who makes money out of transferring money.
  2. He has a trusted colleague in every city. You want to send 1000 Euros to your buddy in Paris.
  3. You tell your friend “Billy’ in Paris to meet this man’s Paris colleague, ‘Jack’, to pick up the money.
  4. You take your 1000 Euros to Jim, and he gets on the phone to Jack and tells him to hand over 950 Euros to ‘Billy’.
  5. You just paid 1000 to Jim. Jim takes 25 Euros for his troubles.
  6. Jack payed out 980. He just took 25 Euros for his troubles.

Jack and Jim reconcile their accounts regularly.

With this informal banking, no one can see the transfers. Perfectly ordinary people do this every day. CIA snooping into the SWIFT stream is corporate espionage pure and simple, as the comment on this post rightly asserts.

And while we are making up poor titles for post, this triplet came (back) to me:

Lil Kim Jong Il

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