SWIFT Bank Secrecy Breaches Under 9/11 Cover

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31 Aug 07    Will US ‘Secrets’ Privilege Stop Suit on SWIFT Records?, NYT, Eric Lichtblau
23 Nov 06   Press Release on SWIFT case, EU
23 Nov 06   EU agency finds data transfers to U.S. by Swift illegal, IHT, Dan Bilefsky
23 Nov 06   Money firm breached EU data law, BBC NEWS
22 Nov 06   Opinion 10/2006 on the processing of personal data by SWIFT, EU
22.Juli 06   Datenschutz - ein vernachlässigtes Grundrecht, NZZ, Leitartikel
7 July 06   European Parliament Probes US Bank Data Tracking, IHT, K. Bennhold
7 July 06   CIA Monitors SWIFT & Endangers Small Business, Al Martin, comment
7 juil 06   Le mutisme du Conseil fédéral critiqué, AGEFI
7 juil 06   Le secret bancaire n'est pas un mythe, mais une réalité, AGEFI, R. Bleeker, EDITORIAL
7 juil 06   Le mythe du secret bancaire égratigné, AGEFI, Daniela Karst
7 juil 06   La Commission fédérale des banques a tu l'affaire Swift, Le Temps, W. Boder
6 July 06   No cover up on SWIFT bank scandal, Brussels promises, EUobserver.com, Andrew Rettman
6.Juli 06   Fast alle Schweizer Banken waren im Bild, Facts, mst
6.Juli 06   DER CIA IMMER TREU Dem US-Geheimdienst stehen Schweizer Türen schon lange offen, Facts
6.Juli 06   Betretenes Schweigen zur Bankgeheimnis-Verletzung, kleinreport.ch
5.Juli 06   «Wir haben absolut von nichts gewusst», Handels-Zeitung, Martin Spieler
3 July 06   Banks slammed for downplaying CIA probe, nzz.ch, Matthew Allen interviews Prof.Hans Geiger
3 July 06   Privacy in Europe is a casualty of America's terror war, Financial Times, Henry Farrell, comment
2.Juli 06   «Bankgeheimnis büsst Kraft ein», NZZ am Sonntag, D.P. Bernet interviewt Konrad Hummler
1 July 06    Outcry over America's tracking of international money transfers, The Economist
1.Juli 06   Die Schweiz verhält sich gegenüber den USA zu devot, Tages-Anzeiger, A. Bundi, Kommentar
1 July 06   When Do We Publish a Secret?, New York Times, Dean Baquet & Bill Keller
30 June 06   A Secret the Terrorists Already Knew, NYT, R.A.Clarke & R.W.Cressey
30 juin 06   Au courant depuis 2002, Le Monde, Jean-Pierre Stroobants
29.Juni 06   Unerhört, diese Signale, Weltwoche, H. Geiger & O. Wünsch
29.Juni 06   Wir Servilen, Weltwoche, Peter Bodenmann, Kommentar
29 June 06   An Alert Press, Washington Post, Editorial
28 June 06   Patriotism and the Press, NYT, Editorial
28.Juni 06   Brüssel will mehr sensible Daten, Handels-Zeitung,  J.J. Schraner
28.Juni 06   CIA Bank-Schnüffelei: Bundesrat seit 2002 informiert, nzz.ch
27.Juni 06   Saft- und kraftlose Schweizer Finanzwelt, NZZ, Kommentar
27.Juni 06   Keine Gefahr für das Schweizer Bankgeheimnis[?], NZZ, ti
27 juin 06   Une administration hors lois?, AGEFI, Richard Anderegg, commentaire
27 juin 06   La guerre contre le terrorisme suscite une nouvelle polémique, AGEFI, T.Verhoosel
27.Juni 06   Bankdaten: Transparenz gefordert, Tages-Anzeiger Online, Hans Geiger, Kommentar
27.Juni 06   CIA Schnüffelaktion: Politiker intervenieren, Tages-Anzeiger, Annetta Bundi
27 June 06   Belgian leader orders bank inquiry, International Herald Tribune, Dan Bilefsky
27 June 06   Rights unit challenges U.S. over bank data, International Herald Tribune, Dan Bilefsky
27 June 06   Pulling a Swift one? Bank information sent to U.S. authorities, Privacy International
25 June 06   Letter From Bill Keller on The Times's Banking Records Report, NYT
25 June 06   CIA has access to Swiss transactions, nzz.ch
25.Juni 06   Wo die Macht sitzt, Sonntags-Blick, Frank A.Meyer, Kommentar
25.Juni 06   Den Schutz der Privatsphäre verteidigen, Handels-Zeitung, Martin Spieler, Kommentar
25. Juni 06  Auch gegenüber den USA gilt das Bankgeheimnis, NZZ am Sonntag, Kommentar
25. Juni 06  Terrorgelder nicht auf Banken angewiesen, NZZ am Sonntag
25. Juni 06  CIA untergräbt Bankgeheimnis, NZZ am Sonntag
24 juin 06   SWIFT en un clin d'oeil, Secret bancaire menacé?, Le Temps, commentaire, Nicolas Pinguely
24 juin 06   Les Etats-Unis ont accès à une mine de données financières, Le Temps, A.Campiotti
24 June 06   US monitors global financial transfers, Financial Times, Krishna Guha
24 June 06   Bank Data, Terror and The Times, Following the Money, and the Rules, NYT, Editorial
24 June 06   Cheney Assails Press on Report on Bank Data, NYT, Sheryl G. Stolberg et al.
24 June 06   Defending Financial Searches, Washington Post, K. DeYoung, Bank Surveillance, Editorial
24 june 06   Choke on terror cash secret and Swift, AP, New Zealand Herald
24.Juni 06   Bedenkliche Willfährigkeit, Tages-Anzeiger, Stefan Eiselin, Kommentar
24 juin 06   Intolérable espionnage par l'administration américaine, AGEFI, Jan Marejko, commentaire
24 juin 06   Transactions espionnées: la banque nationale des Pays-Bas était au courant, AFP
24 juin 06   Espionnage de transactions financières: enquête ouverte en Belgique, AFX France
24 juin 06   Espionnage: la Banque centrale et des ministres belges savaient, AFX France
24. Juni 06  SWIFT: Finanz-Knoten, Berliner Zeitung, SWIFT AT A GLANCE, Miami Herald
24. Juni 06  Bush ließ Millionen von Konten ausspähen, Stuttgarter Zeitung, Leitartikel
24. Juni 06  Auswüchse des Anti-Terror-Kampfes, Was Bush für nötig hält, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Leitartikel
24. Juni 06  Jagd mit dem Schleppnetz, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nicolas Richter
24 June 06   Bush under fire over secret money transfer monitoring, The Guardian, S. Goldenberg
24 June 06   Belgium's Verhofstadt Orders Investigation into US Money Tracking Program, WNC
24 giu 06   La Cia spia i conti bancari in tutto il mondo, Cos'è la Swift, Corriere della Sera, E.Caretto
24 June 06   Show: THE BIG STORY WITH JOHN GIBSON, Fox News Network
23 June 06   Did New York Times Compromise U.S. Security?, Fox News Network, A.Colmes et al.
23 June 06   Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror, NYT, Eric Lichtblau et al.
23 June 06   Treasury Tracks Financial Data In Secret Program, WSJ, Glenn R. Simpson
8.Juni 06   "Sklavischer Gehorsam", Der Bund

Wall Street Journal    June 23, 2006

Since 9/11, U.S. Has Used Subpoenas to Access Records From Fund-Transfer System
Treasury Tracks Financial Data In Secret Program


    Since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the U.S. Treasury Department has been secretly tracking suspected terrorist financing through a far-reaching program that gives it access to records from the network that handles nearly all international financial transfers.
    The information comes from a Belgian firm known by its acronym, Swift, which manages much of the world's financial-message traffic. Under the program, U.S. counter-terrorism analysts query Swift's vast database of billions of financial transactions for information on activity by suspected terrorists. The program operates under a series of broad U.S. subpoenas.
    U.S. officials say the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program has been highly successful both in leading to the apprehension of terrorism suspects and in thwarting terrorist operations. People familiar with the program said, for example, that it yielded useful information on the bombings last July 7 in London. The program "has helped to disrupt terrorist cells and operations and has helped save lives," Treasury said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal.
    Still, disclosure of its existence may be controversial in Europe and other parts of the world and within the global banking industry, which has long worried about the privacy of transactions. U.S. officials said few American citizens would have financial data that fall under the program, because they are unlikely to engage in international money transfers.
    Stuart Levey, Treasury's top counter-terrorism official, said the program was initiated after department lawyers determined they had the legal authority to subpoena Swift, which keeps its data in the U.S. To his knowledge, Mr. Levey said, such broad subpoenas of Swift data had not been attempted previously.
    He said the subpoenas are based on a longstanding U.S. law dealing with economic sanctions, known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. Passed in 1977, it allows the president to impose economic sanctions when dealing with a national-security threat. The law has been used, among other things, to impose sanctions on rogue states.
    The program is known to officials of the world's leading central banks, as well as key U.S. allies in the war on terror, with which the U.S. has shared data. Its existence also is known to Swift's board, which consists of representatives of the organization's member banks.
    While U.S. officials had never discussed the tracking program publicly until yesterday, they have repeatedly discussed in broad terms their efforts to engage in surveillance of cross-border financial activity around the world and have widely publicized the fruits of such surveillance in efforts to blacklist corrupt financial institutions.
    In a statement, Swift said, "In the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, Swift responded to compulsory subpoenas for limited sets of data. Our fundamental principle has been to preserve the confidentiality of our users' data while complying with the lawful obligations in countries where we operate....Through this process, Swift received significant protections and assurances as to the purpose, confidentiality, oversight and control of the limited sets of data produced under the subpoenas." The government has a similar program through which it accesses data from Western Union, The Wall Street Journal reported last year.
    Formed in 1973 by international banks, Swift is an industry cooperative that acts as an electronic gatekeeper for most of the world's major banks, brokerages, and investment managers to transmit funds across borders. Swift doesn't handle any funds, but processes some 11 million sets of transfer instructions and confirmations daily -- more than 2.5 billion a year.
    Through Swift, banks and brokerages relay information to each other about financial transfers through a series of standardized forms that contain large amounts of information, including the identities of sender and recipients, the amount being transferred, the account numbers used and intermediate banks. These forms are transmitted through a secure computer network. The actual funds or securities are transferred later by banks or clearing and settlement companies.
    Swift's board of directors is chosen by member banks; its legal regulator is the National Bank of Belgium. Since 1998, it also has been supervised by the world's major central banks, including the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan. Formally called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, Swift handles the vast bulk of world-wide cross-border wire traffic.
    Swift's headquarters is a tightly guarded campus with long, well-manicured lawns in La Hulpe, a suburb of Brussels, the Belgian capital and headquarters of the European Union. The company is run by an American, Leonard Schrank, whose office is adorned with photos from a management seminar Swift held at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
    Last night, in a statement, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow called the program an "essential tool" for fighting terror and said it had effective oversight and safeguards. "It is not 'data mining,' or trolling through the private financial records of Americans," he said. "It is not a 'fishing expedition,' but rather a sharp harpoon aimed at the heart of terrorist activity."
    Mr. Levey said safeguards include regular outside audits. Intelligence analysts are allowed to search data only for specific individuals or groups suspected of terrorist involvement, he said, and the data isn't subjected to controversial data-mining techniques such as pattern-seeking algorithms. In addition to the probe of the London bombings, the data helped lead investigators to "a key facilitator of terrorism in Iraq," Mr. Levey said.
    U.S. officials agreed to discuss the program after concluding that knowledge of its existence was emerging and public disclosure was inevitable. Aspects of it have recently been declassified. Mr. Snow called the disclosure "regrettable." Mr. Levey said he fears that "sophisticated terrorists will now stop using the system in ways we have access to, or will take extensive precautions to hide their identities, and that is really a loss."
    For their part, American banks are more accustomed to providing information to government agencies than are some of their foreign counterparts. Under a series of U.S. laws, domestic banks are required to turn over large amounts of data to the government to fight money laundering and terrorism.

Write to Glenn R. Simpson at glenn.simpson@wsj.com

    June 23, 2006

Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror


WASHINGTON, June 22 — Under a secret Bush administration program initiated weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, counterterrorism officials have gained access to financial records from a vast international database and examined banking transactions involving thousands of Americans and others in the United States, according to government and industry officials.

The program is limited, government officials say, to tracing transactions of people suspected of having ties to Al Qaeda by reviewing records from the nerve center of the global banking industry, a Belgian cooperative that routes about $6 trillion daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions. The records mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas and into and out of the United States. Most routine financial transactions confined to this country are not in the database.

Viewed by the Bush administration as a vital tool, the program has played a hidden role in domestic and foreign terrorism investigations since 2001 and helped in the capture of the most wanted Qaeda figure in Southeast Asia, the officials said.

The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, "has provided us with a unique and powerful window into the operations of terrorist networks and is, without doubt, a legal and proper use of our authorities," Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, said in an interview on Thursday.

The program is grounded in part on the president's emergency economic powers, Mr. Levey said, and multiple safeguards have been imposed to protect against any unwarranted searches of Americans' records.

The program, however, is a significant departure from typical practice in how the government acquires Americans' financial records. Treasury officials did not seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specific transactions, instead relying on broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the cooperative, known as Swift.

That access to large amounts of confidential data was highly unusual, several officials said, and stirred concerns inside the administration about legal and privacy issues.

"The capability here is awesome or, depending on where you're sitting, troubling," said one former senior counterterrorism official who considers the program valuable. While tight controls are in place, the official added, "the potential for abuse is enormous."

The program is separate from the National Security Agency's efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and collect domestic phone records, operations that have provoked fierce public debate and spurred lawsuits against the government and telecommunications companies.

But all the programs grew out of the Bush administration's desire to exploit technological tools to prevent another terrorist strike, and all reflect attempts to break down longstanding legal or institutional barriers to the government's access to private information about Americans and others inside the United States.

Officials described the Swift program as the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing. Much more limited agreements with other companies have provided access to A.T.M. transactions, credit card purchases and Western Union wire payments, the officials said.

Nearly 20 current and former government officials and industry executives discussed aspects of the Swift operation with The New York Times on condition of anonymity because the program remains classified. Some of those officials expressed reservations about the program, saying that what they viewed as an urgent, temporary measure had become permanent nearly five years later without specific Congressional approval or formal authorization.

Data from the Brussels-based banking consortium, formally known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has allowed officials from the C.I.A., the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies to examine "tens of thousands" of financial transactions, Mr. Levey said.

While many of those transactions have occurred entirely on foreign soil, officials have also been keenly interested in international transfers of money by individuals, businesses, charities and other groups under suspicion inside the United States, officials said. A small fraction of Swift's records involve transactions entirely within this country, but Treasury officials said they were uncertain whether any had been examined.

Swift executives have been uneasy at times about their secret role, the government and industry officials said. By 2003, the executives told American officials they were considering pulling out of the arrangement, which began as an emergency response to the Sept. 11 attacks, the officials said. Worried about potential legal liability, the Swift executives agreed to continue providing the data only after top officials, including Alan Greenspan, then chairman of the Federal Reserve, intervened. At that time, new controls were introduced.

Among the safeguards, government officials said, is an outside auditing firm that verifies that the data searches are based on intelligence leads about suspected terrorists. "We are not on a fishing expedition," Mr. Levey said. "We're not just turning on a vacuum cleaner and sucking in all the information that we can."

Swift and Treasury officials said they were aware of no abuses. But Mr. Levey, the Treasury official, said one person had been removed from the operation for conducting a search considered inappropriate.

Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from American laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution.

But at the outset of the operation, Treasury and Justice Department lawyers debated whether the program had to comply with such laws before concluding that it did not, people with knowledge of the debate said. Several outside banking experts, however, say that financial privacy laws are murky and sometimes contradictory and that the program raises difficult legal and public policy questions.

The Bush administration has made no secret of its campaign to disrupt terrorist financing, and President Bush, Treasury officials and others have spoken publicly about those efforts. Administration officials, however, asked The New York Times not to publish this article, saying that disclosure of the Swift program could jeopardize its effectiveness. They also enlisted several current and former officials, both Democrat and Republican, to vouch for its value.

Bill Keller, the newspaper's executive editor, said: "We have listened closely to the administration's arguments for withholding this information, and given them the most serious and respectful consideration. We remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Mr. Levey agreed to discuss the classified operation after the Times editors told him of the newspaper's decision.

On Thursday evening, Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said: "Since immediately following 9/11, the American government has taken every legal measure to prevent another attack on our country. One of the most important tools in the fight against terror is our ability to choke off funds for the terrorists."

She added: "We know the terrorists pay attention to our strategy to fight them, and now have another piece of the puzzle of how we are fighting them. We also know they adapt their methods, which increases the challenge to our intelligence and law enforcement officials."

Referring to the disclosure by The New York Times last December of the National Security Agency's eavesdropping program, she said, "The president is concerned that once again The New York Times has chosen to expose a classified program that is working to protect our citizens."

Swift declined to discuss details of the program but defended its role in written responses to questions. "Swift has fully complied with all applicable laws," the consortium said. The organization said it insisted that the data be used only for terrorism investigations and had narrowed the scope of the information provided to American officials over time.

A Crucial Gatekeeper

Swift's database provides a rich hunting ground for government investigators. Swift is a crucial gatekeeper, providing electronic instructions on how to transfer money among 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. The cooperative is owned by more than 2,200 organizations, and virtually every major commercial bank, as well as brokerage houses, fund managers and stock exchanges, uses its services. Swift routes more than 11 million transactions each day, most of them across borders.

The cooperative's message traffic allows investigators, for example, to track money from the Saudi bank account of a suspected terrorist to a mosque in New York. Starting with tips from intelligence reports about specific targets, agents search the database in what one official described as a "24-7" operation. Customers' names, bank account numbers and other identifying information can be retrieved, the officials said.

The data does not allow the government to track routine financial activity, like A.T.M. withdrawals, confined to this country, or to see bank balances, Treasury officials said. And the information is not provided in real time — Swift generally turns it over several weeks later. Because of privacy concerns and the potential for abuse, the government sought the data only for terrorism investigations and prohibited its use for tax fraud, drug trafficking or other inquiries, the officials said.

The Treasury Department was charged by President Bush, in a September 2001 executive order, with taking the lead role in efforts to disrupt terrorist financing. Mr. Bush has been briefed on the program and Vice President Dick Cheney has attended C.I.A. demonstrations, the officials said. The National Security Agency has provided some technical assistance.

While the banking program is a closely held secret, administration officials have held classified briefings for some members of Congress and the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said. More lawmakers were briefed in recent weeks, after the administration learned The Times was making inquiries for this article.

Swift's 25-member board of directors, made up of representatives from financial institutions around the world, was previously told of the program. The Group of 10's central banks, in major industrialized countries, which oversee Swift, were also informed. It is not clear if other network participants know that American intelligence officials can examine their message traffic.

Because Swift is based overseas and has offices in the United States, it is governed by European and American laws. Several international regulations and policies impose privacy restrictions on companies that are generally regarded as more stringent than those in this country. United States law establishes some protections for the privacy of Americans' financial data, but they are not ironclad. A 1978 measure, the Right to Financial Privacy Act, has a limited scope and a number of exceptions, and its role in national security cases remains largely untested.

Several people familiar with the Swift program said they believed that they were exploiting a "gray area" in the law and that a case could be made for restricting the government's access to the records on Fourth Amendment and statutory grounds. They also worried about the impact on Swift if the program were disclosed.

"There was always concern about this program," a former official said.

One person involved in the Swift program estimated that analysts had reviewed international transfers involving "many thousands" of people or groups in the United States. Two other officials placed the figure in the thousands. Mr. Levey said he could not estimate the number.

The Swift data has provided clues to money trails and ties between possible terrorists and groups financing them, the officials said. In some instances, they said, the program has pointed them to new suspects, while in others it has buttressed cases already under investigation.

Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.

In the United States, the program has provided financial data in investigations into possible domestic terrorist cells as well as inquiries of Islamic charities with suspected of having links to extremists, the officials said.

The data also helped identify a Brooklyn man who was convicted on terrorism-related charges last year, the officials said. The man, Uzair Paracha, who worked at a New York import business, aided a Qaeda operative in Pakistan by agreeing to launder $200,000 through a Karachi bank, prosecutors said.

In terrorism prosecutions, intelligence officials have been careful to "sanitize," or hide the origins of evidence collected through the program to keep it secret, officials said.

The Bush administration has pursued steps that may provide some enhanced legal standing for the Swift program. In late 2004, Congress authorized the Treasury Department to develop regulations requiring American banks to turn over records of international wire transfers. Officials say a preliminary version of those rules may be ready soon. One official described the regulations as an attempt to "formalize" access to the kind of information secretly provided by Swift, though other officials said the initiative was unrelated to the program.

The Scramble for New Tools

Like other counterterrorism measures carried out by the Bush administration, the Swift program began in the hectic days after the Sept. 11 attacks, as officials scrambled to identify new tools to head off further strikes.

One priority was to cut off the flow of money to Al Qaeda. The 9/11 hijackers had helped finance their plot by moving money through banks. Nine of the hijackers, for instance, funneled money from Europe and the Middle East to SunTrust bank accounts in Florida. Some of the $130,000 they received was wired by people overseas with known links to Al Qaeda.

Financial company executives, many of whom had lost friends at the World Trade Center, were eager to help federal officials trace terrorist money. "They saw 9/11 not just as an attack on the United States, but on the financial industry as a whole," said one former government official.

Quietly, counterterrorism officials sought to expand the information they were getting from financial institutions. Treasury officials, for instance, spoke with credit card companies about devising an alert if someone tried to buy fertilizer and timing devices that could be used for a bomb, but they were told the idea was not logistically possible, a lawyer in the discussions said.

The F.B.I. began acquiring financial records from Western Union and its parent company, the First Data Corporation. The programs were alluded to in Congressional testimony by the F.B.I. in 2003 and described in more detail in a book released this week, "The One Percent Doctrine," by Ron Suskind. Using what officials described as individual, narrowly framed subpoenas and warrants, the F.B.I. has obtained records from First Data, which processes credit and debit card transactions, to track financial activity and try to locate suspects.

Similar subpoenas for the Western Union data allowed the F.B.I. to trace wire transfers, mainly outside the United States, and to help Israel disrupt about a half-dozen possible terrorist plots there by unraveling the financing, an official said.

The idea for the Swift program, several officials recalled, grew out of a suggestion by a Wall Street executive, who told a senior Bush administration official about Swift's database. Few government officials knew much about the consortium, which is led by a Brooklyn native, Leonard H. Schrank, but they quickly discovered it offered unparalleled access to international transactions. Swift, a former government official said, was "the mother lode, the Rosetta stone" for financial data.

Intelligence officials were so eager to use the Swift data that they discussed having the C.I.A. covertly gain access to the system, several officials involved in the talks said. But Treasury officials resisted, the officials said, and favored going to Swift directly.

At the same time, lawyers in the Treasury Department and the Justice Department were considering possible legal obstacles to the arrangement, the officials said.

In 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that Americans had no constitutional right to privacy for their records held by banks or other financial institutions. In response, Congress passed the Right to Financial Privacy Act two years later, restricting government access to Americans' banking records. In considering the Swift program, some government lawyers were particularly concerned about whether the law prohibited officials from gaining access to records without a warrant or subpoena based on some level of suspicion about each target.

For many years, law enforcement officials have relied on grand-jury subpoenas or court-approved warrants for such financial data. Since 9/11, the F.B.I. has turned more frequently to an administrative subpoena, known as a national security letter, to demand such records.

After an initial debate, Treasury Department lawyers, consulting with the Justice Department, concluded that the privacy laws applied to banks, not to a banking cooperative like Swift. They also said the law protected individual customers and small companies, not the major institutions that route money through Swift on behalf of their customers.

Other state, federal and international regulations place different and sometimes conflicting restrictions on the government's access to financial records. Some put greater burdens on the company disclosing the information than on the government officials demanding it.

Among their considerations, American officials saw Swift as a willing partner in the operation. But Swift said its participation was never voluntary. "Swift has made clear that it could provide data only in response to a valid subpoena," according to its written statement.

Indeed, the cooperative's executives voiced early concerns about legal and corporate liability, officials said, and the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Control began issuing broad subpoenas for the cooperative's records related to terrorism. One official said the subpoenas were intended to give Swift some legal protection.

Underlying the government's legal analysis was the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, which Mr. Bush invoked after the 9/11 attacks. The law gives the president what legal experts say is broad authority to "investigate, regulate or prohibit" foreign transactions in responding to "an unusual and extraordinary threat."

But L. Richard Fischer, a Washington lawyer who wrote a book on banking privacy and is regarded as a leading expert in the field, said he was troubled that the Treasury Department would use broad subpoenas to demand large volumes of financial records for analysis. Such a program, he said, appears to do an end run around bank-privacy laws that generally require the government to show that the records of a particular person or group are relevant to an investigation.

"There has to be some due process," Mr. Fischer said. "At an absolute minimum, it strikes me as inappropriate."

Several former officials said they had lingering concerns about the legal underpinnings of the Swift operation. The program "arguably complies with the letter of the law, if not the spirit," one official said.

Another official said: "This was creative stuff. Nothing was clear cut, because we had never gone after information this way before."

Treasury officials said they considered the government's authority to subpoena the Swift records to be clear. "People do not have a privacy interest in their international wire transactions," Mr. Levey, the Treasury under secretary, said.

Tighter Controls Sought

Within weeks of 9/11, Swift began turning over records that allowed American analysts to look for evidence of terrorist financing. Initially, there appear to have been few formal limits on the searches.

"At first, they got everything — the entire Swift database," one person close to the operation said.

Intelligence officials paid particular attention to transfers to or from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because most of the 9/11 hijackers were from those countries.

The volume of data, particularly at the outset, was often overwhelming, officials said. "We were turning on every spigot we could find and seeing what water would come out," one former administration official said. "Sometimes there were hits, but a lot of times there weren't."

Officials realized the potential for abuse, and narrowed the program's targets and put in more safeguards. Among them were the auditing firm, an electronic record of every search and a requirement that analysts involved in the operation document the intelligence that justified each data search. Mr. Levey said the program was used only to examine records of individuals or entities, not for broader data searches.

Despite the controls, Swift executives became increasingly worried about their secret involvement with the American government, the officials said. By 2003, the cooperative's officials were discussing pulling out because of their concerns about legal and financial risks if the program were revealed, one government official said.

"How long can this go on?" a Swift executive asked, according to the official.

Even some American officials began to question the open-ended arrangement. "I thought there was a limited shelf life and that this was going to go away," the former senior official said.

In 2003, administration officials asked Swift executives and some board members to come to Washington. They met with Mr. Greenspan, Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, and Treasury officials, among others, in what one official described as "a full-court press." Aides to Mr. Greenspan and Mr. Mueller declined to comment on the meetings.

The executives agreed to continue supplying records after the Americans pledged to impose tighter controls. Swift representatives would be stationed alongside intelligence officials and could block any searches considered inappropriate, several officials said.

The procedural change provoked some opposition at the C.I.A. because "the agency was chomping at the bit to have unfettered access to the information," a senior counterterrorism official said. But the Treasury Department saw it as a necessary compromise, the official said, to "save the program."

Barclay Walsh contributed reporting for this article.

    June 24, 2006

Following the Money, and the Rules

After the attacks on 9/11, when the terrorist threat seemed equally dangerous and amorphous, one of the few clear strategies for counterattack was to follow the money. Almost everyone, including this page, urged the Bush administration to be aggressive in shutting down the flow of cash to terrorist organizations, and to root out the people who were supplying it.

The administration went to work, and one very useful source of information turned out to be a banking cooperative known as Swift — Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. It routes about $6 trillion a day among 7,800 financial institutions worldwide. An article by Eric Lichtblau and James Risen in yesterday's Times — and similar stories in The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times — detailed how investigators have made use of Swift data to track potential terrorist financing. Government officials say the information has helped capture one important Al Qaeda operative abroad, and that it has assisted domestic investigations as well.

That sounds like good news. What's worrisome is a familiar refrain. Despite a compliant Congress, which was eager to give the administration all the investigative tools it requested, the White House has chosen to operate outside any real scrutiny, and not to seek explicit authorization for what has clearly become a permanent program.

In the heightened state of emergency after 9/11, the government began examining the Swift records with the help of general administrative subpoenas, which are basically permission from one part of the executive branch to another. Now it is nearly five years later, and nothing has changed. Investigators have examined the international money transfers of thousands of Americans, apparently without ever trying to get a court order or warrant to do the searches. And Congress, as usual, has never exercised any oversight.

A few members were briefed on the program, and a few more told about it once it became clear that newspapers were preparing an article. But the briefings tend to become a trap in which those who are informed about what is going on are required under security rules not to talk about what they know even after it becomes public. Armed with some knowledge, they become more impotent than when they were completely in the dark.

One danger of a never-ending government investigation into people's financial transactions is mission creep. A Treasury Department spokesman told The Times that the information mined from Swift — which includes millions of records — cannot be used for anything except terrorism searches. But there is little to guarantee that will continue to be the case.

Congress, which has given the administration many new powers to conduct terrorism investigations, needs to judge whether this was what it had in mind. The original Patriot Act made major changes in money-laundering laws that provided for the use of administrative subpoenas. But the Judiciary chairman, Arlen Specter, was quoted yesterday as questioning whether their use in the Swift investigation has been too broad. The committee has already scheduled an oversight hearing this month, at which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is slated to appear. The senators should take the opportunity to look deeper.

So far, the only check on the executive branch appears to have come from the Swift executives themselves, who grew increasingly concerned when what they envisioned to be a short-term program seemed on its way to becoming permanent. It was at their insistence that the controls the government now cites were put into place. An outside auditing firm is now used to verify that investigators have real intelligence leads behind their requests for information. That is all to the good; it is clear that when it comes to defending their customers, international banking executives are far more aggressive than, say, American telephone company executives.

When government agencies are involved in continuing investigations that might infringe on Americans' privacy, it is important that some outside entity is keeping track of what is going on. That principle is particularly true now, when the United States is trying to learn how to live in a perpetual war on terror.

Investigators will probably need to monitor the flow of money to and from suspected terrorists and listen in on their phone conversations for decades to come. No one wants that to stop, but if America is going to continue to be America, these efforts need to be done under a clear and coherent set of rules, with the oversight of Congress and the courts.

Cheney Assails Press on Report on Bank Data


WASHINGTON, June 23 — Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday vigorously defended a secret program that examines banking records of Americans and others in a vast international database, and harshly criticized the news media for disclosing an operation he said was legal and "absolutely essential" to fighting terrorism.

"What I find most disturbing about these stories is the fact that some of the news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people," Mr. Cheney said, in impromptu remarks at a fund-raising luncheon for a Republican Congressional candidate in Chicago. "That offends me."

The financial tracking program was disclosed Thursday by The New York Times and other news organizations. American officials had expressed concerns that the Brussels banking consortium that provides access to the database might withdraw from the program if its role were disclosed, particularly in light of anti-American sentiment in some parts of Europe.

But the consortium, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, or Swift, published a statement on its Web site on Friday, saying its executives "have done their utmost to get the right balance in fulfilling their obligations to the authorities in a manner protective of the interests of the company and its members."

A representative for the cooperative, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk about its internal discussions, said that he knew of no discussions about withdrawing, adding that the group was "very resolute" in its commitment to the financial tracking operation.

The program, run out of the Central Intelligence Agency and overseen by the Treasury Department, has allowed counterterrorism authorities to gain access to millions of records of transactions routed through Swift from individual banks and financial institutions around the world. The data is obtained using broad administrative subpoenas, not court warrants.

Investigators have used the data to do "at least tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of searches" of people and institutions suspected of having ties to terrorists, Stuart Levey, an under secretary at the Treasury Department, told reporters at a briefing on Friday. Officials say the program has proven valuable in a number of foreign and domestic terrorism investigations, and led to the 2003 capture of the most wanted Qaeda fugitive in Southeast Asia, known as Hambali.

News accounts of the program appeared just as President Bush returned from a two-day trip to Europe, where he met in Vienna with leaders of the European Union. Neither that organization nor any of its member states commented Friday, but one advocate for civil liberties in London said the program could create new tensions in Europe just as Mr. Bush was trying to smooth trans-Atlantic relations.

"Our data has been effectively hijacked by the U.S. under cover of secret agreements and entirely undisclosed terms," said the civil liberties advocate, Simon Davies, the director of Privacy International, a London-based organization focused on the intrusion on privacy by governments and businesses. "There will be a snapping point, and this may be it."

Initial reaction from global banks was muted, with one executive saying that while the privacy of information was a contentious issue within the industry, the Swift operation had so far generated few complaints.

In Washington on Friday, privacy groups and civil liberties advocates were critical of the program, as were some Democrats and one prominent Republican on Capitol Hill.

The executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Anthony D. Romero, condemned the program, calling it "another example of the Bush administration's abuse of power."

Lauren Weinstein, the head of the California-based Privacy Forum, an online discussion group, raised concerns about lack of independent review of the operation. "Oversight is the difference between something being reasonable and something being abuse," he said.

Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he had sent letters on Friday to both Treasury Secretary John W. Snow and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on the issue. While he declined to release the letters, he said he was concerned about the legal authority for the operation.

Mr. Specter has been at odds with the administration over another previously secret counterterrorism operation, the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program. The senator said he was particularly troubled that the administration had expanded its Congressional briefings on the financial tracking program in recent weeks after having learned that The New York Times was making inquiries.

"Why does it take a newspaper investigation to get them to comply with the law?" the senator asked. "That's a big, important point."

In explaining the program, Mr. Levey, the Treasury under secretary who oversees the program, said in an interview earlier in the week that "people do not have a privacy interest in their international wire transactions." But Mr. Specter was skeptical.

"I'm not surprised that a Treasury official would take that position, but I'm not so sure he's right," the senator said. "I don't think it's an open-and-shut question."

Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who has made privacy a signature issue, said, "I am very concerned that the Bush administration may be once again violating the constitutional rights of innocent Americans as part of another secret program created in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks."

But Mr. Cheney was emphatic on Friday in arguing the program is necessary, and predicted that the Bush administration might be criticized over it in much the same way that critics have assailed the National Security Agency eavesdropping, which has been done without warrants.

"The fact of the matter is that these are good, solid, sound programs," the vice president said at the fund-raiser in Chicago for David McSweeney, a Republican who is running against Representative Melissa Bean, a freshman Democrat.

"They are conducted in accordance with the laws of the land," Mr. Cheney continued, adding, "They're carried out in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional authority of the president of the United States. They are absolutely essential in terms of protecting us against attacks."

Mr. Cheney's sentiments were echoed Friday by two other top administration officials, Treasury Secretary Snow and the White House press secretary, Tony Snow.

The two men, who are not related, defended the program in separate news conferences on Friday. The Treasury secretary called the operation "government at its best," and the press secretary derided criticism of it as "entirely abstract in nature."

The Treasury secretary called the program "an effective weapon, an effective weapon in the larger war on terror."

Administration officials spoke to various reporters about the financial tracking program Thursday night after The New York Times published an article about the program on its Web site. Bill Keller, executive editor of The Times, has said the newspaper decided to publish the story because "we remain convinced that the administration's extraordinary access to this vast repository of international financial data, however carefully targeted use of it may be, is a matter of public interest."

Swift has said that its role in the program was never voluntary, but that it was obligated to comply with a valid subpoena, and had worked to narrow the range of data it provided to American officials.

But the Treasury secretary, Mr. Snow, said Friday that after the Sept. 11 attacks, Treasury Department officials initially presented the cooperative with what he described as "really narrowly crafted subpoenas all tied to terrorism." Officials at Swift responded that that they did not have the ability to "extract the particular information from their broad database."

"So they said, 'We'll give you all the data,' " Secretary Snow said.

Craig S. Smith contributed reporting from Paris for this article, Eric Dash from New York and Laurie J. Flynn from San Francisco.

    June 24, 2006

Bank Data, Terror and The Times (6 Letters)

To the Editor:
    Re "Bank Data Sifted in Secret by U.S. to Block Terror" (front page, June 23):
    The question is, What's more important, the Central Intelligence Agency's ability to track terrorist financing, or the "public interest" in these activities?
    Before deciding, one must consider that the C.I.A.'s strategy to "follow the money" has resulted in the exposure of several terrorist activities, and The New York Times's decision to print this article will likely decrease the effectiveness of the program.
    To be fair, any operation delving into private transactions (with or without legal warrants) may violate civil liberties if it isn't managed properly and/or doesn't receive appropriate oversight.
    I'm far more interested in eliminating terrorist threats to our security than learning about the details of C.I.A. operations, and trust the courts and Congress to opine on the legality of such operations.
    Although The Times had the constitutional right to print the article, it also had a responsibility to more carefully assess the effect such disclosures would have on national security, and not base a decision to print solely on the public's interest.

Salvatore J. Bommarito
New York, June 23, 2006

To the Editor:
    Thank you, New York Times. Thank you for publishing the Pentagon Papers, for your Watergate coverage, for your courage in shining a light into dark and secret places and revealing the frequently unpleasant truths.
    A paragraph in your article about the Bush administration's poking about in Americans' bank records says much: the programs "reflect attempts to break down longstanding legal or institutional barriers to the government's access to private information about Americans."
    How much of a stretch is it for the Internal Revenue Service to be enlisted to subject Americans to audits because of contributions to groups it considers hostile to the administration? Amnesty International? MoveOn.org? The American Civil Liberties Union?

Beatrice Williams-Rude
New York, June 23, 2006

To the Editor:
    I am disappointed by your decision to publish the article.
    Newspapers do have a duty to reveal possible abuses of power in the government, but they must weigh that duty with the obligation to avoid jeopardizing national security.
    In this case, the Swift program, which relies on data from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, seems to be legal, and the article itself reveals that there are several checks on the searches. Even so, publishing the article would be excusable if not for the fact that it now makes the program, which has been a success, worthless.
    When the National Security Agency's phone monitoring was revealed, the program could still continue, but in this case, terrorists now know to avoid Swift, and will certainly do so.
    I appreciate the difficulty of deciding whether to publish an article, but in this case, The Times made the wrong choice.

Coleman Glenn
Bryn Athyn, Pa., June 23, 2006

To the Editor:
    I write as a United States citizen who is working abroad.
    Regardless of which side of the political spectrum one is on, there has been an undeniable, fundamental and significant shift in the center of gravity regarding longstanding and long-treasured privacy-versus-security norms.
    The revelation of large-scale secret sifting of bank transactions is the latest example and most likely not the last.
    Right or wrong, the fact that so many of these programs have been carried out in secret, without sufficient Congressional or judicial oversight, means that the slow but steady erosion of constitutional principles of privacy and protection against unlawful search and seizure is taking place without any broad debate.
    If President Bush truly appreciated his sworn duty to uphold the Constitution to the same degree as his obligation to protect American citizens, he would respect the checks and balances in our system of three branches of government, as opposed to trampling on them.

Leonard Novick
Amsterdam, June 23, 2006

To the Editor:
    The Times blows the cover on a classified program used successfully to catch terrorists, and its executive editor justifies this by saying the existence of the program is "a matter of public interest."
    Isn't the point that the public's right to know must be balanced against protecting the public at a time of war?
    I'd rather know that the bad guys were being caught than having my "interest" in this story satisfied over this morning's cup of coffee.
    I think that your decision to publish this information was irresponsible, and puts us all at greater risk.

John A. Maher
Summit, N.J., June 23, 2006

To the Editor:
    Your decision to print this article is disturbing to me. Timing is the issue with me.
    We have troops in the field fighting every day. We have just recently seen the brutality of the enemy.
    The time to consider which programs are successful or not is after the troops come home, which in this case means a free Afghanistan and Iraq.
    Please consider the timing of your articles in matters of national security when troops are still on the ground.

Terri Wagner
Elberta, Ala., June 23, 2006

Washington Post    June 24, 2006

Bank Surveillance
The Treasury Department should be monitoring overseas bank transfers.
Congress should make sure it's done right.

THE TREASURY Department's just-disclosed program of searching records of overseas bank transfers may provoke outraged comparisons to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance and data-mining of telephone call records. At least if news reports and government statements concerning the revelations are correct, however, this program is far less troubling. As with all revelations concerning the secretive Bush administration, you have to worry about what you don't know. So far, however, it seems like exactly the sort of aggressive tactic the government should be taking in the war on terrorism.

For one thing, it appears to be legal. The government is receiving large volumes of data detailing financial transfers from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgium-based consortium that acts as a kind of messenger service for banks around the world, electronically notifying banks of transactions other banks are attempting to complete. The government, if it develops suspicions about a person, can search the system for any transactions that person may have engaged in. While customer banking data are generally private under federal law, the statute does not appear to cover the society, which isn't a bank and doesn't have individual customers. What's more, a different law gives the president broad powers in a national emergency situation to investigate, or even prohibit, certain financial transactions.

It is also the sort of information the government should be examining in any effort to frustrate terrorist financing and develop leads about who is funding whom. While such data can certainly be misused, records of overseas financial transfers are less sensitive from a privacy point of view than, say, the contents of phone calls or e-mails. And some safeguards appear to be in place to make sure the information is not misused. The department receives the material under a subpoena, Treasury officials emphasized yesterday. SWIFT's representatives audit all searches, as does an outside auditing firm. Unlike a data-mining operation, where analysts try to identify high-risk individuals using patterns and trends embedded in huge data sets, analysts here are searching for transactions involving individuals about whom they already have suspicions.

Because the administration is so secretive, it is essential that Congress appropriately inform itself of the details and contours of the program. The administration only briefed the full intelligence committees recently, apparently after the program appeared likely to become public. These committees need to make sure that the legal basis for it is sound, as it appears; that the program is appropriately designed and tailored; that the internal controls are rigorous and the uses of the data are properly constrained. So far, however, there is little reason to think it poses a great civil liberties problem.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Critics Assert Secret Program Invades Privacy
Officials Defend Financial Searches

By Karen DeYoung

A secret program that allowed U.S. officials to examine hundreds of thousands of private banking records from around the world in search of terrorist ties has been "absolutely essential" to protecting the country from further attacks, Vice President Cheney said yesterday.

Outgoing Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said that the program, in effect since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is the thing "I'm proudest of" in his tenure and insisted that strong safeguards protect the privacy of individual Americans. "It's really government at its best," Snow said at a news conference. "It's responsible government. It's effective government."

The comments by Cheney, Snow and other senior Bush administration officials were made the day after news organizations exposed the surveillance effort, in which the Treasury Department has subpoenaed data from an international banking cooperative that serves as a messaging service for overseas monetary transfers.

The revelations -- which Cheney and other officials said undermined an important counterterrorism tool -- prompted renewed criticism from Democrats and civil liberties groups that the administration is operating outside legal and congressional controls.

"It would be very disturbing to me to find out that this program represents yet another unilateral action and further abuse of executive authority without proper safeguards and oversight," said Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.), the senior Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. Others described the program as an invasion of privacy and called for hearings on possible violations of domestic and international law.

But far from giving ground, the administration mounted a muscular defense of the program, dispatching its principal Treasury Department supervisor to explain how it works. The tactic was in sharp contrast to the administration's refusal to provide details about other secret programs that had been revealed earlier by news organizations, including the National Security Agency's warrantless wiretaps of overseas calls made by U.S. citizens and residents.

At the White House, press secretary Tony Snow acknowledged that the program relies on an expansive interpretation of Treasury's powers that is unusual. "Well, so was September 11," he said.

The program falls well within the president's executive authority, Tony Snow asserted, and President Bush did not need to seek congressional authorization, although Snow said legislative oversight committees "know all about it."

There was some disagreement yesterday, however, over who had been briefed on the program and when. The White House referred reporters to Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.), who said he had been informed about the secret effort four years ago, when he was named chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee overseeing the Treasury Department. "I think it is a tremendous tool," Bond said.

Although the chairmen and senior Democrats on the two intelligence committees apparently were also briefed when the program began, there have been changes in the intelligence panels' leadership since 2001. The full committees -- and the current chairmen and senior Democrats in some cases -- learned of the program in May, when CIA and Treasury Department officials offered new briefings after learning that the New York Times was preparing an article on it, a Treasury official said.

Some lawmakers on the several committees that oversee the Treasury Department appeared to have been left in the dark. "No one ever called us, no one ever asked us. Nothing," said a spokesman for Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (N.Y.), the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services subcommittee in charge of international monetary policy and technology.

U.S. counterterrorism officials obtained the financial records from an international banking cooperative called the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications. SWIFT, as it is known, is owned and controlled by nearly 8,000 commercial banks in more than 20 countries that use its services.

SWIFT is headquartered in Brussels, but much of its operations are based in the United States, where knowledge of the government's secret access to its data was not widespread. Of officials at three large U.S. banks who agreed to speak about the program, only one said his institution had knowledge of it before yesterday.

"People around here are fine with this," said the official at a major New York bank, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "It was done right." Treasury Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey said yesterday that the central bank governors of major industrialized nations had also been briefed, although he did not say when that occurred.

In a lengthy news conference and in several television appearances, Levey described exposure of the program as "a great disappointment to me," saying the disclosures "fundamentally undermine and degrade an important source of information."

"The only beneficiaries of that are the terrorists," he said. "If people are sending money to help al-Qaeda, we want to know about it. The American people expect us to know about it."

SWIFT data "enabled us . . . to identify terror suspects that we didn't know, as well as to find addresses and other identifiers for those terrorists that we did know about. It provided key links in our investigations of al-Qaeda and other deadly terrorist groups," he said.

Levey declined to identify any terrorist apprehended as a result of the SWIFT data, but Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said the information had helped capture Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, known as Hambali, an Indonesian described by Bush as "one of the world's most lethal terrorists" after his 2004 arrest in connection with the Bali bombing that killed 202 people the previous year.

"It's provided information on domestic terror cells," Snow said. "It helped identify a Brooklyn man convicted on terrorism-related charges last year."

SWIFT's extensive U.S. operations enabled Treasury to issue what the organization called "compulsory" subpoenas in this country, officials said yesterday. But Levey insisted that stringent safeguards were put in place to protect banking privacy and to ensure that U.S. intelligence had access only to the records of persons whose possible terrorist connections it could prove.

"We started with really narrowly crafted subpoenas all tied to terrorism," Treasury Secretary Snow said. But because SWIFT "didn't have the ability to extract the particular information from their broad database . . . they said, 'We'll give you all the data.' " Once a suspect was identified, U.S. officials had to present SWIFT with evidence of terrorist connections -- in the form of a name on a watch list, or a classified cable -- and were allowed to access information tied only to that name.

SWIFT auditors and Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., an independent firm contracted by the U.S. government, supervised all the searches, Levey said. "The audit reports have been issued periodically since the beginning of the program, and they have found consistently that the government is not abusing this data, that we are using it for counterterrorism purposes.

"There was one instance noted at one point in an audit that there had been one search that was done that was, in our view, inappropriate. . . . The person who conducted that search is no longer allowed to work on this program. And no information from any search that's even been questioned has ever been disseminated," Levey said. When information appeared that indicated a non-terrorist crime, such as money laundering or drug trafficking, he said the source of the information was "sanitized" before it was passed to other law enforcement agencies.

SWIFT manages data from millions of wire transfers and other monetary transactions each day. "We've done a large number of searches" since the program began, Levey said. "I don't know the exact number but it's . . . at least tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of searches."

Because SWIFT largely deals with financial data transfers across international borders, Levey said that U.S. transactions would be subject to surveillance only if they were to or from other countries.

A lawsuit filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago accused SWIFT of violating the privacy rights of Americans by disclosing private financial information to the government, Bloomberg News reported. The plaintiff named in the suit, Ian Walker, was described as a D.C. resident, although no further information was made available. The suit seeks statutory, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of every American who made a domestic or international financial transaction after Sept. 11, 2001.

The program was criticized yesterday by privacy advocates and civil liberties groups. Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, called it "contrary to the fundamental American value of privacy. . . . How many other secret spying programs has the Bush administration enacted without Congress, the courts or the public knowing?"

Bond dismissed any suggestion that many Americans are concerned that the administration is compromising their privacy. "They are not Big Brother techniques. They are permitted by law. And the people I serve are glad we are doing everything we can to make another 9/11 less likely," he said.

Staff writers Paul Blustein, Michael A. Fletcher, Dafna Linzer, Terence O'Hara and Jonathan Weisman contributed to this report.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Miami Herald    June 24, 2006


 WHAT IT IS: Shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Treasury Department obtained access to conduct searches in the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication database, also known as SWIFT.

WHAT IT DOES: SWIFT captures information on money moved in more than 200 countries.

WHAT IT DOESN'T DO: SWIFT generally doesn't detect private, individual transactions in the United States, such as withdrawals or deposits.

Financial Times    June 24, 2006

US monitors global financial transfers


Tens of thousands of electronic searches have been conducted under a secret US programme to monitor global financial transfers for signs of terrorist activity, the official in charge of the programme has told the Financial Times.

Stuart Levey, the under-secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the US Treasury, said a "very small number" of these searches related to companies suspected of being fronts for terrorist organisations, but the vast majority related to individual terrorist suspects. He said it had been a "very, very powerful" tool in the struggle against terrorism.

The government yesterday confirmed the existence of the programme after it was disclosed by US newspapers. It said that since September 11 2001, the Treasury has probed suspect financial flows using the database maintained by Swift, a Belgium-based co-operative used by the world's big banks to route about Dollars 6,000bn a day in international financial transactions.

In an interview with the FT, Mr Levey said the US notified the central banks of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan about the programme. But he said the Treasury contacted only some of those countries' governments directly.

A spokesman for the European Commission said last night: "Officials are looking into this matter, but cannot make any comment at present."

The US Treasury also briefed "dozens" of members of Congress, but not all of them, Mr Levey added. He stressed that there were "very, very strong controls on this programme". He said: "We get a data set from Swift but our analysts cannot just look through that data - they have to type into a computer the targeted search they want to do."

This search request must include the name of the targeted person or entity and the reason for believing that person could be associated with terrorism. "There is a record kept of every single search," he said. "Swift itself has people inside our facility who can monitor these searches in real time, and if they have any questions they can stop a search instantly and ask these questions."

As a further safeguard, he said, the Treasury had appointed an independent auditor to examine the log of search requests. Mr Levey said the Treasury could not see the data unless it came up in response to a specific search. "Our most recent number is 0.13 per cent of the information that we have we can access."

According to the New York Times, some of these safeguards were introduced in 2003 after Swift threatened to pull out of the programme. Swift said it had "responded to compulsory subpoenas for limited sets of data". It added that it had "negotiated with the US Treasury over the scope and oversight of the subpoenas" and had received "significant protections and assurances".

In London, the Home Office said: "The UK is aware of arrangements between the US government and Swift and the UK strongly supports the US efforts to target, disrupt and cut off sources of funding for terrorism."

World News Connection     24 June 2006

Belgium's Verhofstadt Orders Investigation
into US Money Tracking Program

 Shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks, the US Treasury Department and the CIA have been granted access to specific data on international financial transactions on the basis of broad confidential administrative subpoenas and without any legal controls.  More particularly, they have gained access to data on international transactions of the globally operating SWIFT [Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication] organization, the headquarters of which are based in Brussels.  Every day, SWIFT transmits some 11 million records of international payments among banks, stock exchanges, and other financial institutes. [passage omitted on disclosure in US media]

The disclosures on the data tracking program in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal raise many questions, especially in view of the lack of legal controls, which means that banking secrecy and citizens' privacy may be at stake.  According to sources of this newspaper, the experts of three European commissioners have met in an emergency meeting to prepare a comprehensive status report on the affair that will be submitted to the Commission by Monday [ 26 June].

Shortly after the 11 September 2001 attacks, the US Treasury Department and the CIA have been granted access to specific data on international financial transactions on the basis of broad confidential administrative subpoenas and without any legal control.

Although SWIFT's headquarters are based in Brussels, there were only unofficial rumors yesterday about possible persons who may have been aware of the data access granted to the Americans. Several sources confirmed that the National Bank of Belgium (NBB) and its Governor Guy Quaden have been aware of the program "for at least several months" -- the data tracking program has been in effect for almost five years.

SWIFT is said to have recently informed the NBB.  In late April, the NBB reportedly passed on the information to Finance Minister Reynders (MR [French-speaking Reform Movement]) via an informal and indirect channel.  The Finance Ministry said: "Formally speaking, we have not been informed." In addition, Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx (PS [French-speaking Socialist Party]) is said to have been aware of these US practices.

In addition, some time ago, SWIFT also informed the largest banks.  The story has also been circulating within the Belgian financial community.  As a matter of fact, SWIFT's board of directors includes a few Belgians.

It is strange that Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt (VLD [Flemish Liberal Democrats]) "formally" stated that he had not heard of the issue until yesterday's reports in US media.  "Our country is cooperative in the fight against terrorism and will lend its full support at the multilateral and bilateral levels," Verhofstadt said.  Yet he added: "I assume that this is happening with due respect for fundamental freedoms and within the boundaries of legally existing restrictions.  However, it would be unacceptable if this were happening without any respect for fundamental freedoms and for the guarantees offered by the rule-of-law state.  I have ordered our services to investigate this issue."

Many Questions About Granting United States Access to Database

Is it necessary to grant the US authorities confidential access to the SWIFT database so as to track down murderous terrorists?  Or has Big Brother been brought into being? [passage omitted on US media reports]

The reports also stirred many questions in Belgium, where SWIFT's headquarters are based. SWIFT has a huge computer center in the United States, but would it be possible to gain access to all international transactions via this center alone?

The NBB is coordinating the supervision of the international SWIFT organization and sends reports to this effect to the other central banks.  Strictly speaking, it is not up to the NBB to act on the information it is receiving.  For instance, the NBB had no obligation whatsoever to make this information public.  It is up to SWIFT to decide this.

However, according to reliable sources, Finance Minister Reynders was informed via an informal channel "about one and a half month ago."

And will this affair not seriously taint the reputation of SWIFT, the backbone of which consists of maintaining all its activities strictly confidential?  "Time will tell," said SWIFT board member Pascal Deman.  "We have done what we deemed to be right, but I must admit that it was a very difficult balancing exercise between the fight against terrorism and data confidentiality."

The Guardian     June 24, 2006

Bush under fire over secret money transfer monitoring
By Suzanne Goldenberg, Washington

 The Bush administration was forced yesterday for the second time in months to account for a controversial spying programme, defending its tracking of millions of financial transactions as an important tool in the war on terror.

The revelation that CIA agents and treasury officials had been secretly monitoring financial transactions routed through Swift, the Brussels-based banking cooperative, caused uproar. It followed intense controversy - and a number of law suits from civil liberty organisations - provoked by the disclosure in the New York Times last December that George Bush had instructed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and emails of Americans without court oversight.

Under the banking surveillance programme, disclosed on Thursday night on the websites of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, agents from the US treasury department and CIA gained access to a trove of international financial transactions.

Although the White House has often spoken of the importance of disrupting terrorist financial networks, it had not previously revealed its methods. But John Snow, the treasury secretary, said yesterday the administration had not intruded unduly on Americans' privacy. "It's entirely consistent with democratic values, with our best legal traditions," he told a press conference.

But such arguments carried little weight with Democrats and civil libertarians, who said the latest disclosure was further evidence of Mr Bush's abuse of executive powers as president. "Like the domestic surveillance program exposed last December, the Bush administration's efforts to tap into the financial records of thousands of Americans appear to rely on justifications concocted without regard to current law," said Ed Markey, a Massachusetts congressman, in a statement.

Swift, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, provides electronic instructions for money transfers among some 7,800 financial institutions - virtually every bank, brokerage house, and stock exchange. It routes more than 11m transactions each day. The New York Times and LA Times said they had been pressed by administration officials not to report on the existence of the programme.

Stuttgarter Zeitung    24.Juni 2006

Bush ließ Millionen von Konten ausspähen

 FRANKFURT (kdo). Der amerikanische Präsident George W. Bush ist wegen des Zugriffs auf Millionen von Bankkonten im Zusammenhang mit der Fahndung nach Terroristen in die Kritik geraten. Wie mehrere Medien in den USA gestern berichteten, hat sich die US-Regierung nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September 2001 Zugang zu der internationalen Datenbank Swift im belgischen La Hulpe verschafft. Swift soll den USA vertrauliche Daten von Bankkunden übermittelt haben. Über den Finanzknoten Swift laufen täglich mehr als elf Millionen Transaktionen im Wert von rund 4,9 Billionen Euro, die von rund 7800 Banken, Brokerhäusern, Aktienhändlern und anderen Finanzinstitutionen in 200 Ländern aufgegeben werden.

Nach Ansicht von Kritikern hat die US-Regierung die Privatsphäre von Unschuldigen missachtet. Schon im September 2005 war Bushs Regierung kritisiert worden, weil sie US-Geheimdiensten erlaubt hatte, ohne richterlichen Beschluss Telefongespräche ins Ausland abzuhören. Später wurde bekannt, dass die USA in einer geheimen Datenbank Angaben von Millionen von Telefonkunden speichern. Ob deutsche Banken von der Swift-Affäre betroffen sind, war nicht zu erfahren.

Hintergrund: Kontenüberwachung Seite 4

Süddeutsche Zeitung    24.Juni 2006

Auswüchse des Anti-Terror-Kampfes

Auf der Suche nach den Geldquellen von Terroristen haben amerikanische Ermittler seit 2001 systematisch den internationalen Überweisungsverkehr kontrolliert. Dieser wird durch die „Swift“, eine Datenbank in Brüssel, abgewickelt, die täglich Informationen über etwa 12 Millionen Finanztransfers weiterleitet. Die US-Regierung verteidigt die Geheimaktion, bei der sie Swift zur Herausgabe der Daten gezwungen hat.
Was Bush für nötig hält

 Was gibt es sonst für Neuigkeiten? So oder ähnlich ist die Reaktion vieler, wenn sie hören, dass Amerikas Geheimdienste auf Weisung der Regierung Bush wieder einmal gegen geltendes Recht, internationale Gepflogenheiten und moralische Maßstäbe verstoßen haben. Diesmal geht es um das Abfischen von Daten zu internationalen Geldüberweisungen. Die New York Times berichtet, dass die CIA seit Jahren die Computer von Swift, eines in Belgien ansässigen Dienstleisters für die weltweite Finanzbranche, angezapft hat. Dies wurde nicht von US-Gerichten – ganz zu schweigen von solchen in Europa – genehmigt. Das Weiße Haus wollte es, weil es die CIA für nötig hielt.

Im „Kampf gegen den Terror“ hat sich die Regierung Bush längst von jenen Standards verabschiedet, die sie im Irak einzuführen vorgibt. Die Freiheitsrechte des Bürgers sind ihr keinen Pfifferling mehr wert. Wenn es der geheimdienstlich-politische Komplex für angebracht hält, werden Verdächtige verschleppt, gefoltert, und hin und wieder verschwinden sie einfach. Die Zahl jener Fälle, in denen US-Soldaten im Irak morden und nicht nur im Kampf töten, ist so groß geworden, dass man nicht mehr von bedauerlichen Einzelfällen sprechen kann.

Gewiss, die Welt steht einem Monster gegenüber: dem vorgeblich islamisch motivierten Terrorismus. Wer das Monster aber mit Mitteln jenseits der rechtsstaatlichen Ordnung bekämpft, nährt es weiter. Washington tut dies, ganz besonders im Irak. Seit Jahrzehnten heißt es, Grundlage des deutsch-amerikanischen Verhältnisses sei die gemeinsame Werteordnung. Manchmal scheint es so, als werde diese Gemeinsamkeit von der Regierung Bush „im Kampf gegen den Terror“ immer wieder mal aufgekündigt.

Süddeutsche Zeitung    24. Juni 2006

Jagd mit dem Schleppnetz

Von Nicolas Richter

 Bis zum 11. September 2001 jagte Amerika Terroristen präzise und gezielt, wie mit der Harpune. Kommandos der CIA streiften durch Afghanistan auf der Suche nach Osama bin Laden, die Hintermänner der Anschläge auf US-Botschaften wurden aufgespürt und vor ein US-Gericht gestellt. Nach dem Terror vom 11.9. aber befand die amerikanische Regierung, sie stehe einer solch riesigen Bedrohung gegenüber, dass die Harpune als Jadgwerkzeug nicht mehr ausreiche.

Seitdem wird mit dem Schleppnetz nach Terrorverdächtigen gefischt, möglichst viele sollen in den Maschen hängen bleiben. Die Regierung kann gar nicht mehr genug Informationen bekommen – sei es über Telefongespräche, Banküberweisungen oder Flugpassagierlisten.

So ist es wenig erstaunlich, dass die Terrorjäger auch eine der ergiebigsten Datenbanken der Welt abfischten: Die des Bankdienstleisters Swift mit Sitz in Belgien, wo Nachrichten über Geldströme aus aller Welt zusammenlaufen. Die Rolle der Swift ist es nicht, Geld zu verwalten, sondern die Kommunikation zwischen Banken zu gewährleisten. Wie Swift am Freitag bestätigte, habe es nur auf gezielte Anfragen des US-Finanzministeriums geantwortet und sich seinen gesetzlichen Pflichten zur Kooperation unterworfen. US-Finanzminister John Snow erklärte, die Regierung habe mit der Harpune gearbeitet und nur auf „das Herz terroristischer Aktivitäten gezielt“.

US-Medienberichte vom Freitag, die die Operation enthüllten, wecken allerdings Zweifel an dieser Darstellung. Der New York Times zufolge setzte sich die US-Regierung bewusst über das gesetzliche amerikanische Bankgeheimnis hinweg – mit dem Argument, Swift sei gar keine Bank. Dass der Sitz des Unternehmens in Belgien liegt, schützt ebenfalls nicht vor dem Zugriff durch die US-Regierung, weil Swift auch Büros in Amerika hat. Die gesamte Operation ähnelt eher einem Schleppnetz denn einem gezielten Harpunenschuss: Die Justiz blieb in dem gesamten Verfahren außen vor, Swift stellte die Anfragen der US-Regierung als Zwangsmaßnahme dar, die sich nicht auf Gerichtsbeschlüsse stützten, sondern auf breite Handlungsspielräume des US-Präsidenten im Kampf gegen den internationalen Terror.

Der Zugriff auf die Swift-Datenbank folgte demselben Muster wie eine – erst im Dezember 2005 enthüllte – Lauschaktion des US-Geheimdienstes NSA. Wie im Fall Swift war die Operation zu keinem Zeitpunkt von den Gerichten gebilligt worden. Die NSA sammelte auf Anweisung des Weißen Hauses Informationen über Tausende Telefonanschlüsse amerikanischer Bürger und berief sich auf die Erfordernisse der Terrorabwehr. In beiden Fällen sammelte der Staat die Daten, ohne dass gegen die Betroffenen auch nur der geringste Verdacht vorliegen musste. Erst nachdem der Lauschangriff der NSA bekannt wurde, verklagten zahlreiche Amerikaner Regierung und Telefongesellschaften.

Eine andere illegale Datensammelaktion der US-Regierung war den Betroffenen zumindest bekannt: die Weitergabe von Flugpassagierdaten aus Europa an die Amerikaner. Die USA und die EU hatten sich 2004 auf Drängen der US-Regierung darauf geeinigt, dass Informationen über alle Fluggäste, die in Amerika landen oder das Land überfliegen, den amerikanischen Behörden pauschal bekannt gegeben werden. Das umfasste nicht nur Namen und Adressen der Besucher, sondern zum Beispiel auch deren Kreditkartennummer oder E-Mail-Adresse. Der Europäische Gerichtshof erklärte dies im
Mai für rechtswidrig.

Trotzdem ist vielen Terrorabwehrmaßnahmen gemeinsam, dass die Exekutive äußerst breite Befugnisse in Anspruch nimmt, um in Datenbanken zu wildern oder gar Sanktionen gegen Personen zu verhängen, ohne dass die Justiz dies überprüfen oder gar verwerfen könnte. So verhängten die Vereinten Nationen nach dem 11. September Finanz-Sanktionen gegen eine Reihe von – im weitesten Sinne – terrorverdächtigen Personen oder Organisationen. Die Europäischen Union setzte dies um, woraufhin die Konten von Betroffenen auch in Europa eingefroren wurden, ohne dass die Terrorvorwürfe näher begründet wurden. Als schwedische Bürger und Organisationen dagegen klagten, erklärte ein EU-Gerichtin erster Instanz, der Beschluss der UN sei nicht anfechtbar.

Nicht alle Richter aber lassen das systematische Fischen nach Terrorverdächtigen mit dem Schleppnetz zu: Ende Mai setzte das Bundesverfassungsgericht in Karlsruhe der breit angelegten Rasterfahdung Grenzen und forderte dafür konkrete Verdachtsmomente gegen bestimmte Personengruppen. Mit anderen Worten: die Rückkehr zur Harpune.

Berliner Zeitung    24.Juni 2006

SWIFT: Finanz-Knoten

Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) ist ein Knotenpunkt für internationale Geldtransaktionen. Die von der internationalen Finanzindustrie vor gut 30 Jahren eingerichtete Drehscheibe wickelt nach eigenen Angaben täglich zwölf Millionen Einzeltransaktionen im Wert von rund fünf Billionen Euro ab.

Teilnehmer: Angeschlossen an das System sind 7 800 Teilnehmer der Finanzbranche in über 200 Ländern der Welt. Dies sind beispielsweise Banken, Börsenhändler und Investmentmanager.

Agence France-Presse    24 juin 2006

Transactions espionnées:
la banque nationale des Pays-Bas était au courant

 LA HAYE, 24 juin 2006 (AFP) - La banque nationale des Pays-Bas (DNB) savait que le gouvernement américain espionne depuis près de cinq ans des transactions financières internationales passant par l'intermédiaire Swift, a indiqué la radio publique néerlandaise NOS samedi. Contactée par l'AFP, la DNB n'était pas joignable pour commenter cette information.

La DNB fait partie du conseil de surveillance de Swift, et l'essentiel de son rôle est de contrôler le suivi des normes de sécurité financières, indique l'ANP.

L'espionnage des transactions financières par Washington s'inscrit dans le cadre de sa lutte contre le terrorisme, à l'instar du programme d'écoutes controversé des citoyens américains. L'affaire a été révélée vendredi par la presse américaine qui s'inquiète de possibles atteintes à la vie privée.

Swift est une entreprise installée en Belgique qui joue un rôle d'intermédiaire pour la plupart des transactions financières mondiales. Swift (Society for Worlwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) ne gère pas les transferts, mais les informations sur ces transferts, pour le compte de 7.800 organismes financiers.


Corriere della Sera    06-24-2006

La Cia spia i conti bancari in tutto il mondo
Le rivelazioni della stampa Usa mettono in difficoltà il presidente.
Nel 2003 le banche centrali di alcuni Paesi furono già messe al corrente.

By Ennio Caretto

DAL NOSTRO CORRISPONDENTE WASHINGTON - Dalle intercettazioni delle telecomunicazioni per mano della Nsa, il più segreto dei servizi di spionaggio Usa, alle intercettazioni delle transazioni finanziarie per mano della Cia, dell'Fbi, la polizia federale, e del ministero del Tesoro. Assieme, i tre più grandi giornali americani, il New York Times, il Wall Street Journal e il Los Angeles Times hanno ieri svelato che dal settembre 2001, ossia dalle stragi delle Torri gemelle a Manhattan, l'Amministrazione Bush non spia soltanto ciò che si dicono decine di migliaia di persone al telefono o su Internet in tutto il mondo.

Spia anche le loro operazioni finanziarie, monitorando la società di intermediazione bancaria Swift (Society for worldwide interbank financial telecommunications), con sede in Belgio. La Swift è il centro di smistamento di 7.800 istituti bancari di 200 Paesi, che da lì fanno passare oltre 6.000 miliardi di dollari al giorno. La ragione per cui il governo la controlla: scoprire chi aiuta Al Qaeda.

È un nuovo scandalo che conferisce un connotato da Grande Fratello al governo americano. Uno scandalo che, secondo il New York Times, il più documentato in merito, investe anche la Federal Reserve e le banche centrali degli altri Paesi del Club dei dieci, tra cui quella italiana. Riferisce il giornale che nel 2003, dopo avere collaborato con l'Amministrazione, la Swift manifestò il timore che lo spionaggio finanziario non fosse legale e che continuò a collaborare solo dopo precise rassicurazioni dell'allora governatore della Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan e dopo che le altre banche centrali furono messe al corrente di quanto  accadeva. Ieri la Swift ha reagito alle rivelazioni dei tre quotidiani, che potrebbero portare a imbarazzanti inchieste in America e in  Europa, dicendo di avere fornito i dati al governo «in seguito a valide ingiunzioni» e la Federal Reserve ha asserito che una ditta di consulenza verifica che vengano monitorate solo le transazioni su cui l'intelligence nutre sospetti fondati. Ma il New York Times sostiene che la Cia e l'Fbi non hanno mai chiesto mandati alla magistratura e cita un anonimo funzionario del Tesoro: «Il monitoraggio si presta a gravi abusi».

Il New York Times e il Los Angeles Times, ma non il Wall Street Journal, hanno aggiunto che l'Amministrazione tentò d'impedire loro di pubblicare la notizia, come aveva già fatto invano nello scandalo della Nsa (National security agency). Bill Keller, il direttore del foglio newyorchese, ha spiegato di avere esaminato «con serietà e con rispetto» la richiesta, ma di avere concluso che «lo straordinario accesso a un deposito tanto vasto di dati finanziari, per quanto sia attentamente mirato, è materia di pubblico interesse». La Casa Bianca lo ha accusato di semi-tradimento tramite il portavoce Dana Perino: «È essenziale bloccare i finanziamenti al terrorismo e questo è il metodo migliore. Rendendolo pubblico, abbiamo segnalato ai terroristi come li combattiamo. Il presidente è preoccupato perché il New York Times ha di nuovo deciso di denunciare un programma segreto destinato a proteggere i cittadini».

E ha sottolineato che grazie a esso furono arrestati alcuni leader di Al Qaeda, incluso Ridman Isamuddin Hambali, il mandante delle stragi di Bali del 2000.

Per limitare i danni dello scandalo, che ha suscitato le furenti denunce dei democratici, l'Amministrazione ha fatto scendere in campo il ministro della Giustizia, Albert Gonzales e quello del Tesoro John Snow. A riprova della gravità del pericolo terrorista, il primo ha annunciato l'arresto a Miami di sette giovani che volevano formare una Jihad Usa in appoggio ad Al Qaeda e far saltare la Sears Tower a Chicago. Il secondo ha ribadito che lo spionaggio finanziario è legale «in quanto il Congresso ha conferito poteri economici eccezionali al presidente Bush» ed è «interamente compatibile con la democrazia e con i nostri valori». La violazione del diritto alla riservatezza è però così eclatante e la Casa Bianca vi è così invischiata - il vicepresidente Cheney seguì di persona un test del programma - che questa linea di difesa potrebbe non reggere, come non sta reggendo quella sul campo d'internamento di Guantanamo.

Cos'è la Swift

    LA SOCIETÀ Swift è una società di intermediazione bancaria nata agli inizi degli Anni '70 con sede in Belgio.
    GLI UTENTI Sono 7.800 gli istituti di 200 Paesi che usano la società, tra cui banche, broker e gestori di investimenti. Ogni giorno nel consorzio passano 6 mila miliardi di dollari LA TECNICA La Swift offre ai suoi utenti una rete interbancaria e messaggi standardizzati, quindi elaborabili automaticamente, riguardanti le operazioni con l'estero.

Fox News Network    June 23, 2006, 21.30

Did New York Times Compromise U.S. Security?

By Alan Colmes & Rich Lowry
Guests: Wayne Simmons, James Bovard

    LOWRY: Welcome back to Hannity Colmes. I'm Rich Lowry in tonight for Sean. Today's New York Times front page story reported on a secret Bush administration program started after September 11 that allowed intelligence officials to gain access to thousands of financial records. The New York Times implied in the story that this is just another example of the administration being caught secretly spying on Americans, but now everyone is looking at the story that way.
    Joining us now is former CIA operative Wayne Simmons. Wayne, given that there's nothing the least bit illegal about this program, not even really arguably illegal, who benefits from its publication besides the terrorists?
    WAYNE SIMMONS, FORMER CIA OPERATIVE: Yes, Rich. Imagine that, something that is not illegal that is -- that is gleaning vast amounts of intel for the United States to protect the United States. And the only ones that benefit from -- from publishing this type of top secret, top secret intel is the enemy, is the enemy al Qaeda. They monitor everything. So now again, once again we have a top secret program, a legal top secret program being compromised by those inside of our intelligence agency somewhere committing treasonous crimes that are benefiting the agency. If the administration now does not finally take a very, very hard line and find out who's leaking this intel and either stand them in front of a firing squad or put them in prison for the rest of their lives, then you know what? Shame on them.
    LOWRY: OK, you don't have me on the firing squad, but I agree with you. This is a very serious matter. And let's address one of the arguments that people on the other side will say. They'll say, Oh, terrorists of course they know they're being tracked. And their financial tractions -- transactions are being sought after by a government. But I guarantee you that there are very few of any terrorists who were aware of the SWIFT program, that were aware that a financial transaction from Saudi Arabia to Sudan, say, could actually be tracked by the United States government, and now they know.
    SIMMONS: Rich, listen, I was involved in a SWIFT -- in SWIFT programs in tracking these 16 years ago in the beginning. And I can tell you unequivocally, every movement of virtually every bit of money that moves around the world every day, thousands and thousands and thousands of times, is -- has been tracked and is tracked. This is nothing that we haven't done before, and it benefits all of us. These guys are not as sophisticated as we might think about the financial institutions. This hurt us.
    COLMES: Wayne, let me get back to this firing squad? You what a line -- what do you want a lineup? The editor and publisher of the New York Times and shoot them to death?
    SIMMONS: Actually, I don't, but I think he needs to go to prison.
    COLMES: Wait. Wait a second. Don't we have, like, a due process in this country? Don't we have court systems? You've decided you want to send to prison a journalist who breaks a story about a question about whether it's legal?
    SIMMONS: Oh, Alan, excuse me. All of a sudden, here we go again. You give these people this -- this wonderful, magical title of being a journalist, so it gives this journalist somehow the authority to -- to divulge and...
    COLMES: Let me -- Wayne, let me get the other guest in here, Wayne. And unfortunately, because we were late getting on. James Bovard, the author of Attention Deficit Democracy. James, thank you for being with us.
    COLMES: Is this treasonous? Do we know if laws were broken? Wasn't there the 1978 right to privacy, financial privacy act that restricted government access to Americans' financial records? Please respond to what Wayne said.
    BOVARD: Yes, it's news to me that the role of the media and in a free society is to supposed to be to cover up government crimes. You know, we still have no idea what the government has done here. The government's stories after every major surveillance expose, the government is change the story day after day, week after week. The -- this story is probably going to look a lot worse three or four days from now than it does now. And we have no idea what the government's doing. And this whole idea that the government's not breaking the law, I mean, from what the news accounts today, it sounds as if there were simply secret subpoenas of the caliber of sending a notice to Brussels and saying, Send us all the information on financial transactions by anybody named Ahmed. I mean, these are very broad. These are vacuum cleaners. And these are vacuum cleaners that have failed in the past because the government's swept up way too much information.
    COLMES: And last I checked, Wayne Simmons, we used warrants. We were told we were going to use warrants the last time, but turns out that they didn't. They weren't direct with us out in the NSA and what that was doing. Why should we believe them now that this is narrow and targeted? We've been down that road before and they weren't telling us the truth.
    SIMMONS: Alan, great question. Why should we believe the government? Because exactly what you and James and those like you claimed about the NSA terrorist eavesdropping before proved to be false. And that's what's going to happen.
    LOWRY: All right, guys. We've got to leave it right there. By the way, the Supreme Court has clearly held that these sort of records that are in the hands of a third party, there's no privacy right there.

Fox News Network    June 24, 2006, 17.12


Kimberly Guilfoyle, Andrew Napolitano, Ellis Henican, John Gibson

    GIBSON: Resetting one of our big stories. Another classified national security program has been revealed yet again by The New York Times. The paper and several others published the workings of a secret program the Bush administration has been using since 2001 to monitor terrorist banking transactions. The White House asked the papers not to print the story but they did it anyway. Times reporter James Risen, who exposed the NSA program, has his name on the byline of this one too.
    Should reporters like him be able to get away with jeopardizing our national security? Let's ask Newsday columnist and FOX News contributor Ellis Henican. So Ellis, I know you will join with me and say enough is enough, time for some reporters to march off to the slam.
    ELLIS HENICAN, FOX NEWS ANALYST: I'm not so sure about that, John. Listen, government in an open society doesn't get to cover itself. Journalists are not in the business of just printing government press releases.
    GIBSON: Oh, stop. This is not what we're talking about.
    HENICAN: It's very simple, John.
    GIBSON: This is a secret program, legal, not illegal, anything the government was doing, it was just fine and legal.
    GIBSON: It was secret because if we know it, the terrorists know it, then they'll stop using it, then we won't be able to catch it. Under what rationale would The New York Times possibly feel they were compelled to reveal this program?
    HENICAN: First of all, it's not just The New York Times. It's The L.A. Times and that great bastion of liberal journalism known as The Wall Street Journal. All of those papers...
    GIBSON: Well, The New York Times and The L.A. Times were asked specifically not to.
    HENICAN: All of those papers understand the role of the journalist.
    GIBSON: Wait a minute, Ellis. The New York Times has a special role in this. Risen and Lichtblau did this before in the NSA thing.
    HENICAN: They're good reporters. Terrific investigative reporters. The job of government officials is to keep secrets. The job of journalists is to responsibly, to tell the public...
    GIBSON: They're not supposed to (inaudible), and I'll know you'll go along with it...
    HENICAN: .. what it needs to know.
    GIBSON: If the job of government is to keep secrets and it's illegal for government officials to reveal those secrets, let us call Risen and Lichtblau in, demand they tell us who told them, and if they don't, they can go sit in the jail for a while.
    HENICAN: And you know what? Let us hope, and I suspect it's true with those two fine journalists, they will go to the jail for the rest of their lives, if that's what it takes, to protect an anonymous source on an important story like this.
    GIBSON: Well, mission accomplished. They won't get any sources in there, will they?
    HENICAN: John, if the cops came and tried to drag you away, I hope you would maintain the same purity of standard as well.
    GIBSON: I can make you a promise. I'm not going to reveal...
    HENICAN: You'd fold in a second.
    GIBSON: ... a secret that protects us from terrorists. Not going to happen.
    HENICAN: John, you have spent enough time in this business to understand that oftentimes, you write things that the government officials (inaudible) don't want you to know.
    GIBSON: That's not what this is about!
    HENICAN: Oh, it's always about that.
    GIBSON: This isn't a cranky reporter offending some government official someplace.
    HENICAN: Some of the same principles at play in that.
    GIBSON: And it may be the same principle...
    HENICAN: Some principles at play.
    GIBSON: ... but in fact, it's not the same thing. There is a world of difference.
    HENICAN: So who do you think -- John, who do you think should decide? Government should decide what reporters write?
    GIBSON: I don't think The New York Times editor...
    HENICAN: I don't think so.
    GIBSON: ... should decide not to reveal something like that. It was their readers killed on 9/11.
    HENICAN: First of all, there is no evidence that this thing is killing anybody. It's a government program designed to track financial information. The terrorists are already smart enough not to be sending their financial information that way.
    GIBSON: Caught the 2002 bomber -- Bali bomber using this program.
    HENICAN: Listen, the truth of the matter is that government officials never, ever want reporters to write any kind of thing that reveals what a government is doing.
    GIBSON: You are making this a government official story. This is not. This is a New York Times story.
    HENICAN: No, it is in part. It's our money, it's our government.
    GIBSON: They're revealing secrets.
    HENICAN: Listen, you need to stop hyperventilating about this, John. The reality is...
    GIBSON: You need to get your feet on the ground, Ellis!
    HENICAN: The reality is, my friend, that journalists make independent, responsible judgments. The part that you're right about, incidentally, is that some government officials may well be at legal peril here, and they ought to leak very carefully in the future.
    GIBSON: Good.
    HENICAN: Very, very carefully.
    GIBSON: I hope they do. Ellis Henican, thanks. Have a good weekend, Ellis. Thanks a lot.
    HENICAN: Keep it going, buddy.
    GIBSON: So, are these media outlets undermining our national security, and if they are, what can we do about it legally? Joining me to help answer that question, FOX News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano.
    NAPOLITANO: You don't want to hear this.
    GIBSON: The author of the best-selling book The Constitution in Exile, a great read for Independence Day or any other day.
    NAPOLITANO: Ellis is right.
    GIBSON: No, he's not.
    NAPOLITANO: He is right on the law. Morally, perhaps The New York Times has an obligation to restrain itself. But under the law, only the leaker, the person who is subject to...
    GIBSON: I understand that.
    NAPOLITANO: ... the president's order.
    GIBSON: I understand that. But one of the ways the government can act to one, stop the leaker, and two, let the news organization know they're serious is call them into a grand jury and say, tell us who leaked.
    NAPOLITANO: Oh, but the government has done that. And the government may very well do that here.
    GIBSON: They didn't do it with Risen and Lichtblau in the NSA. Why not?
    NAPOLITANO: They haven't done it yet. In the Lewis Libby investigation, Judith Miller spent a long time in jail until her source decided that she didn't have to maintain the confidence. Putting reporters in jail for failing to reveal their sources may not be a wise thing to do politically, but it is lawful, after all other means of looking for the sources have been exhausted and been fruitless.
    GIBSON: Haven't caught the NSA leaker yet, and I suspect that this is the same leaker. This is somebody who -- the Treasury -- you know, Dick Cheney, September 17th, 2001, said we're going to do this. He said we're going to use the Treasury Department.
    NAPOLITANO: I read The New York Times article a couple of times. According to that article, they talked over 20 people in the government. So it is a number of leakers, either people who don't like George W. Bush or feel that this program was wrong. Now, you are right in this respect: The program is not illegal. The program is not even arguably illegal. There are questions about its constitutionality, but the government followed a statute.
    GIBSON: So why (inaudible) -- so what -- under what rationale does The New York Times have for revealing a secret program that is not illegal?
    NAPOLITANO: The Supreme Court has said many times that the media can report on anything that the media believes materially affects the public interest. That is almost anything. Anything that the media could argue the public would want to know about this, the media can print.
    GIBSON: But The New York Times didn't even argue that the public has a right to know this. Didn't even use that famous phrase.
    NAPOLITANO: Yeah. You know what? I think the best way to get The New York Times to publish something is to call them and ask them not to. That's what happened here, again.
    GIBSON: All right. Judge Andrew Napolitano. Judge, thank you very much.

My Word.
    Senator John Kerry's proposal for a troop withdrawal fell flat in the U.S. Senate, as you have no doubt heard. The senator proposed a deadline for withdrawing from Iraq July 1st, 2007. A year from now, essentially. The senator said that Bush's plan for Iraq was, quote, lie and die. He said his plan was tell the Iraqis they had to get it together in a year because we're going home. He said, we have accomplished what we needed to do in Iraq and that it's time to come home.
    He probably knew his fellow senators were not going to vote for his deadline, and he certainly knew President Bush wasn't going to pay any attention to it. You think maybe the senator is running for president again and he would like to enter 2008 saying quote, I had a plan; the president didn't listen to me? Well, he says a lot of things, doesn't he?
    Remember this one from the last election campaign? It was December 3rd, 2003, candidate Kerry speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations. He said the following. I fear that in the runup to the 2004 election, the administration -- that's George Bush -- is considering what is tantamount to a -- get this -- cut and run strategy.
    Could that be our Senator Kerry accusing Bush of cut and run? Yes. He continued.
    Their sudden embrace of accelerated Iraqification and American troop withdrawal dates without adequate stability is an invitation to failure. The hard work of rebuilding Iraq must not be dictated by the schedule of the next American election.
    Now, I don't want to start with that flip-flop stuff again, but this one takes your breath away, doesn't it? First, Bush is cutting and running. Then when Kerry himself likes cutting and running, Bush is all of a sudden lying and dying.
    This may be one of the reasons that 31 fellow Democrats didn't vote for John Kerry's deadline. They probably knew this quote was lurking out there, and they didn't want to get married to a Kerry back flip if they didn't have to. How to explain how Bush is a cutter and runner two years ago and now he is standing stupidly firm, the lie and die line. This is also why Senator Kerry should settle in at the Senate and enjoy himself. He may think he would have done a much better job in the Oval Office, and dreams do die hard, but it's really, really over.
    That's My Word. Feel like arguing? Call my radio show half an hour from now, local radio, XM 168, Sirius 145. Click on Foxnews.com and listen online, or write to me at myword®foxnews.com.

New Zealand Herald     June 24, 2006

Choke on terror cash secret and Swift

 THE United States Government gained sweeping access to international banking records as part of a secret programme to choke financial support for terrorism.

Treasury Department officials said they used subpoenas to collect the financial records from an international system known as Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication). Stuart Levey, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, called the subpoenas "a legal and proper use of our authorities'' after the September 11 attacks.

Dana Perino, deputy White House press secretary, said, "One of the most important tools in the fight against terror is our ability to choke off funds for the terrorists.''

The White House and Treasury Department issued statements after the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal posted stories about the programme on their websites.

Swift is a co-operative based in Belgium that handles financial message traffic from 7800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries. While confirming the newspaper reports, Levey and Perino expressed concern that disclosure could undermine efforts to track terrorism-related activities. Swift acknowledged that it complied with the Government's subpoenas but pointed out that the requests were for limited slices of data.

The group said it negotiated with Treasury over the scope and oversight of the subpoenas. "Through this process, Swift received significant protections and assurances as to the purpose, confidentiality, oversight and control of the limited sets of data produced under the subpoenas.''

Treasury Secretary John Snow suggested the programme was limited in scope and wasn't an effort to snoop on law-abiding Americans. "It is not a fishing expedition but rather a sharp harpoon aimed at the heart of terrorist activity.''

The disclosure follows President George W. Bush's directive ordering the National Security Agency to monitor, without court approval, calls and emails of Americans when one party is overseas and terrorism is suspected. That programme was disclosed by the New York Times. AP

AFX France    24 juin 2006

Espionnage de transactions financières:
ouverture d'une enquête en Belgique

 BRUXELLES (AFX) - La ministre belge de la Justice, Laurette Onkelinx, a ouvert une double enquête sur l'espionnage par le gouvernement américain des transactions financières internationales passant par l'intermédiaire Swift, basé en Belgique, a indiqué samedi sa porte-parole.

Laurette Onkelinx 'dément avoir été au courant de l'affaire' avant qu'elle ne soit révélée vendredi par la presse américaine, a déclaré à l' la porte-parole, Anaïk De Voghel.

Une fois informée, la ministre de la Justice a 'directement demandé un rapport à la Sûreté de l'Etat (le service de renseignement belge) sur ces informations', a ajouté Mme De Voghel. La ministre a aussi chargé la Cellule de Traitement des Informations Financières (CTIF), de 'faire une analyse juridique pour voir si tout ce qui a été fait l'a été en respect des règles du droit belge', a précisé la porte-parole.

La CTIF est une autorité administrative indépendante créée par le gouvernement belge en 1993 dans le cadre de la lutte contre le blanchiment d'argent d'origine criminelle.

Des journaux journaux belges ont affirmé samedi que Laurette Onkelinx, le ministre des Finances Didier Reynders et le gouverneur de la Banque nationale de Belgique (BNB), Guy Quaden, savaient depuis plusieurs semaines que Washington espionnait depuis des années des transactions financières internationales passant par Swift. Les porte-parole de la BNB et de M. Reynders n'étaient pas joignables samedi pour commenter l'information.

Le Premier ministre, Guy Verhofstadt, avait indiqué vendredi qu'il avait entendu parler pour la première fois de cette affaire lors de la publication d'articles dans la presse américaine vendredi.

L'espionnage des transactions financières par Washington s'inscrit dans le cadre de sa lutte contre le terrorisme, à l'instar du programme d'écoutes controversé des citoyens américains.

Swift est une entreprise installée en Belgique qui joue un rôle d'intermédiaire pour la plupart des transactions financières mondiales.


AFX France    24 juin 2006

Espionnage: la Banque centrale et des ministres belges savaient

 BRUXELLES (AFX) - Plusieurs ministres et la Banque nationale de Belgique (BNB) savaient que le gouvernement américain espionnait depuis des années des transactions financières internationales passant par l'intermédiaire Swift, basé en Belgique, ont affirmé samedi plusieurs journaux belges.

Selon le journal néerlandophone De Standaard, la Banque centrale belge et son gouverneur, Guy Quaden, étaient 'au courant depuis au moins quelques mois' de cette surveillance, révélée vendredi par la presse américaine, qui s'inquiète de possibles atteintes à la vie privée.

Selon le Standaard et deux autres journaux flamands, Het Volk et Het Nieuwsblad, la BNB aurait elle-même mis au courant 'fin avril' et de manière informelle, le ministre des Finances, Didier Reynders.

La ministre de la Justice, Laurette Onkelinx, aurait aussi été informée des pratiques des Américains, ajoute De Standaard, qui indique que l'information a également circulé dans le 'petit monde financier belge'.

En revanche, le Premier ministre, Guy Verhofstadt, a indiqué qu'il avait entendu parler pour la première fois de cette affaire lors de la publication vendredi matin d'articles dans la presse américaine.

Les porte-parole de la Banque nationale belge et des ministres cités dans la presse flamande n'étaient pas joignables samedi pour commenter l'information.

L'espionnage des transactions financières par Washington s'inscrit dans le cadre de sa lutte contre le terrorisme, à l'instar du programme d'écoutes controversé des citoyens américains.

Swift est une entreprise installée en Belgique qui joue un rôle d'intermédiaire pour la plupart des transactions financières mondiales.

Swift (Society for Worlwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) ne gère pas les transferts, mais les informations sur ces transferts, pour le compte de 7.800 organismes financiers.


Tages-Anzeiger    24.Juni 2006

Bedenkliche Willfährigkeit

Von Stefan Eiselin

    Der amerikanische Geheimdienst beschafft sich seit Jahren Bankkundendaten bei der internationalen Zahlungsvermittlungsorganisation Swift in Brüssel. Er setzt dazu nicht auf raffinierte Hacker, die in Computer eindringen. Die CIA setzt auf Überzeugungsarbeit. Mit Erfolg. Swift hat Daten von Tausenden von Finanztransaktionen herausgegeben.
    Die Kooperation von Swift ist bedenklich. Denn für den Eingriff der Amerikaner gibt es keine hinreichende rechtliche Grundlage. Er basiert auf einer unbeschränkten Sondervollmacht des Präsidenten zur globalen Terrorbekämpfung. Die Aktion in Brüssel ist daher weder zeit-lich limitiert noch richterlich oder parlamentarisch abgesegnet.
    Darum ist es unverständlich, dass auch Schweizer Grossbanken den CIA-Einsatz indirekt gebilligt haben. Sowohl UBS als auch CS sitzen mit einem Vertreter im Verwaltungsrat von Swift. Und dieses Gremium war informiert. Wie können aber die Abgesandten eines Landes, das für sein Bankgeheimnis kämpfen rnuss, bloss einer solchen Aktion zustimmen? Einer Aktion, die zwar auf Terroristen zielt, aber wegen der wackeligen Rechtsgrundlage nur schwach legitimiert ist und wegen des unspezi-fischen Auftrags auch immer wieder Unschuldige trifft - und so eben dieses Bankgeheimnis ritzt.
    Entweder war es Gedankenlosigkeit. Oder geschäftliches Kalkül, weil die Banken im wichtigen Markt USA stark engagiert sind. Beides wäre Besorgnis erregend.

AGEFI    24 juin 2006

L'espionnage par l'administration américaine des transactions bancaires
par le biais de la société SWIFT est tout simplement intolérable.
Presque tout faire pour être détesté

Jan Marejko

    Dans le monde de la finance, à vouloir être premier de classe comme les Suisses, on ouvre la porte aux pires excès. Quand entendrons-nous un CEO ou un politicien suisses déclarer que si notre respect de la sphère privée ne plaît pas aux Américains, c'est leur problème, pas le nôtre. Le moins qu'on puisse dire, après la révélationde l'espionnage, par l'administration américaine, des transactions bancaires internationales effectuées par la société SWIFT, est que nous sommes encore très loin d'entendre de telles déclarations. Les esprits libres, prêts à prendre des risques pour défendre leur liberté ou celles de leurs compatriotes, se font rares.
    Sans aucun mandat de perquisition, des dizaines de milliers de recherche sur des transactions internationales ont été effectuées dans une gigantesque base de données située en Belgique. Au sein du conseil d'administration de SWIFT, on trouve des représentants d'UBS et de Crédit Suisse. Comment se fait-il que ces représentants n'aient pas élevé la moindre protestation? Est-ce parce qu'ils touchaient des salaires pharamineux? Ce n'est pas impossible: rien de tel que l'argent pour dissoudre la fierté, le respect de soi et l'amour de la liberté dans un brouet de déclarations insignifiantes au terme de quelque coaching par des agences de communication. C'est d'ailleurs ce brouet qui a été servi par la société SWIFT lorsqu'elle a déclaré «avoir dû se plier aux mandats américains et s'être acquittée de ses obligations légales tout en préservant la confidentialité de ses utilisateurs». Si la confidentialité a effectivement été préservée, on se demande bien à quoi la surveillance de SWIFT a bien pu servir dans le cadre de la lutte antiterroriste. Même la logique la plus élémentaire est maintenant bafouée. Autrefois, c'était l'intérêt supérieur de la nation qui autorisait toutes les attaques contre la liberté individuelle et le respect de la vie privée. Aujourd'hui, c'est la même chose avec la lutte contre le terrorisme.
    Que l'attitude américaine, ici, soit intolérable, cela va desoi. Mais rappelons-nous aussi ce que disait Aristote: la nature a horreur du vide. Autrement dit, lorsque les représentants d'un pays courbent d'avance la tête sous les diktats d'une puissance étrangère, ils encouragent toutes les convoitises et laissent finalement les loups prendre leur place. Dès lors, si blâmer l'Amérique, dans cette affaire, va de soi, n'oublions pas non plus de blâmer tous ceux qui se sont couchés devant elle. Comme le relevait dans ce journal Erich Baier, CEO de Bilanz-Data à Vienne, le plus grave est que les gens s'habituent à ce qu'on fouine dans leurs affaires.
    Il n'y a rien de plus antilibéral qu'un Etat fouineur. Les Etats-Unis, bastion du libéralisme, sont en train de devenir un tel Etat. C'est affligeant, car la culture américaine n'a jamais considéré qu'assurer la sécurité absolue des citoyens était une priorité. Au contraire, elle a toujours fait l'éloge de l'individu qui s'occupe de sa propre sécurité sans compter sur l'Etat. Une telle attitude ne suffit pas dans la lutte contre le terrorisme! Certes, mais d'ici à l'oublier, il y a un pas que les Etats-Unis feraient bien de ne pas franchir. A nous, Européens, de les en avertir. Mais en avons-nous encore les moyens? (Lire la revue de presse en page 9.)

Le Temps    24/25 juin 2006

Terrorisme     La place financière suisse partagée par l'intrusion américaine
Swift: secret bancaire menacé?
Nicolas Pinguely

    «Je suis un peu surpris. Mais on sait que le secret bancaire est déjà fragilisé depuis juillet 2004.» Le gestionnaire dune importante banque étrangère de la place genevoise ne voit pas d'un bon œil le «piratage» du système de transferts internationaux Swift par les autorités américaines. Il le perçoit comme une entorse supplémentaire au secret bancaire.
A partir de l'été 2004, les normes anti-blanchiment ont obligé les banques à communiquer le nom des clients qui virent des fonds à l'étranger. «La clientèle n'a guère apprécié», ajoute le gérant.
    En réalité, au nom de la lutte con-tre le terrorisme, la barre avait déjà été placée plus haut. Dès 2001, les Etats-Unis ont obtenu l'accès aux transactions financières codées par Swift, soit à peu près à tout ce que la planète finance compte comme acteurs. «Dans le cadre d'une assignation judiciaire, nous avons remis un nombre limité de données au Trésor américain tout en recevant des garanties de confidentialité», précise un communiqué de Swift.
    UBS calme le jeu. «Il ne s'agit pas selon nous d'une violation du secret bancaire», estime le porte-parole de l'établissement. Le son de cloche est analogue à l'Association suisse des banquiers (ASB): «Les intermédiaires financiers sont tenus, en vertu d'une recommandation du Groupe d'action financière sur le blanchiment de capitaux (GAFI), de donner des indications spécifiques pour tous les ordres de virements internationaux.»
    N'empêche, les clients étrangers des banques suisses ne doivent pas apprécier de voir leur nom potentiellement circuler dans l'administration américaine. «Ce n'est pas une bonne nouvelle pour la place financière suisse», confie un avocat du bout du lac.
Inefficacité de ces mesures antiterroristes est également sujette à cau-tion: «Lorsqu'il y a tant de données, des centaines de millions de paiements, le nombre d'infos tue l'info, affirme Carlo Lombardini, avocat à Genève. Pendant ce temps, la sphère privée se réduit comme peau de chagrin.»

Le Temps    24/25 juin 2006

Les Etats-Unis ont accès à une mine de données financières
Antiterrorisme Après le 11 septembre, la société Swift créée par les banques centrales
pour gérer les ordres financiers, a dû ouvrir ses ordinateurs à la CIA et au Trésor américain

Alain Campiotti

    La curiosité de l'administration américaine, depuis le 11 septembre, est sans limite. Le Trésor a confirmé dans la nuit de jeudi à vendredi une information qui allait sortir le ma-tin dans plusieurs journaux, malgré les pressions de Washington. Depuis plus de quatre ans, la CIA et d'autres services antiterroristes ont eu accès, sous la menace de consé quences légales, à la quasi-totalité des informations sur les transferts financiers dans le monde. Cette formidable moisson (11 millions de messages par jour, entre 7800 établissements dans 200 pays) a été obtenue par les Américains auprès de la Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Télécommunication (Swift), dont le siège central est à La Hulpe, près de Bruxelles.
    Swift, qui a aussi une représentation aux Etats-Unis, a été créée par les principales banques centrales pour gérer de manière centralisée, non pas les transferts de fonds eux-mêmes, mais les ordres (montants, noms et adresses des deux parties). Elle est régie par le droit américain et européen, sous la direction d'un Américain, Léonard Schrank, et la supervision d'un conseil représen-tant les banques centrales.
    Après le 11 septembre, la traque financière des réseaux terroristes a été une priorité américaine. Une entité spéciale a été créée, le Terror Finance Tracking Program, des coopérations ont été recherchées, en particulier avec la Suisse. L'administration agissait en vertu des pouvoirs spéciaux accordés au président. Selon le New York Times, c'est un cadre de Wall Street qui a mis le Trésor sur la trace de Swift, comme incomparable mine d'informations.
    Les Américains, pour justifier leur citation (subpoena), ont estimé que la société de La Hulpe n'était pas une institution financière, mais un service de messagerie. Ils se sont surtout appuyés sur une loi de 1977, l'International Emergency Economie Powers Act, qui règle les sanctions que les Etats-Unis se donnent le droit d'appliquer en cas de menace sur la sécurité nationale. Les partenaires de Swift étaient donc avertis de «conséquences» en cas de refus. En 2001, il faut le dire, les ban-ques étaient prêtes à collaborer à la traque de l'argent du terrorisme.
    Mais ce qui était provisoire a duré. En 2003, Swift a commencé à regimber.
    Les Américains ont dû promettre de renforcer les garde-fous pour éviter les abus dont le potentiel, dit un ancien officier du contre-terrorisme, est énorme. Le Trésor affirme que la CIA n'a jamais utilisé la banque de données pour y faire des re-cherches de grande ampleur (data mining). Un ou des noms qu'obtenait la CIA ou le FBI dans leurs enquêtes étaient introduits dans la base de Swift, pour voir s'ils révé-laient des transactions.
    Avec quels résultats? Les Américains disent que cette méthode a conduit à l'arrestation de Riduan Isamuddin («Hambali»), le cerveau de l'attentat de Bali, en 2002. Ils auraient aussi obtenu ainsi des renseignements après les attaques de Londres l'an passé, et sur des tran-sactions liées à l'Irak.

La société SWIFT en un clin d'oeil

• La firme sécurise les transferts électroniques de fonds et les messages interbancaires au travers d'un système de codification. Elle est détenue par un consortium d'établissements financiers.
• Acronyme de Society for World-wide Interbank Télécommunication.
• Plus de 7800 institutions financières utilisent ce service de transactions bancaires dans 205 pays, principalement des banques et des courtiers. Deux tiers du trafic provient de l'Europe.
• Quartier général: Bruxelles.
• 2,5 milliards de messages Swift envoyés en 2005.
• Plus de 11 millions de messages transmis quotidiennement. LT

NZZ am Sonntag     25. Juni 2006

Auch gegenüber den USA gilt das Bankgeheimnis

Unmittelbar nach 9/11 galt in den USA die Kontrolle der internationalen Finanzströme als ein Königsweg im Kampf gegen den Terror. Auf Ersuchen der Regierung Bush zeigte sich die Schweiz sehr kooperativ. So konnten unter anderem Beamte des FBI in Bern stationiert werden, um die Zusammenarbeit in diesem Bereich zu verbessern. Seit Freitag weiss die Welt allerdings dank der «New York Times», dass sich auch die Banken (mit Wissen der Schweizerischen Nationalbank) dem amerikanischen Informationsbedürfnis nicht verschlossen und eingewilligt haben, der CIA die Einsicht in fast alle Daten über internationale Bankzahlungen zu erlauben. Mochte man anfänglich diese - vielleicht nicht juristische, sicher aber faktische - Verletzung des Bankgeheimnisses zur Not im Interesse der Terrorbekämpfung rechtfertigen, so stand spätestens nach zwei, drei Jahren fest, dass auf diesem Weg kaum Erkenntnisse über den internationalen Terrorismus zu gewinnen waren - ganz einfach, weil die Terroristen das internationale Bankwesen zur Vorbereitung ihrer sinistren Taten kaum nutzen. Dessen ungeachtet läuft das Programm weiter, zeitlich offenbar unbegrenzt. Die USA gelangen auf diese Weise zu einem grossen Wissen über das Finanzgebaren auch vieler Schweizer Bürger, und niemand vermag zu garantieren, dass daraus dem einen oder andern nicht einmal Nachteile erwachsen könnten. Genau dies ist aber der Sinn des Bankgeheimnisses: dem Einzelnen eine finanzielle Privatsphäre gegenüber der fiskalistischen Neugierde des Staates zu sichern. Wenn die Banken gegenüber den USA auf diesen Standortvorteil des hiesigen Finanzplatzes verzichten, sägen sie selbst am Ast, auf dem sie sitzen. (fem.)

Terrorgelder nicht auf Banken angewiesen

Internationale Geldflüsse werden nicht ausschliesslich von Banken und Behörden kontrolliert: Dank Hawala, dem «Bankensystem der Armen», wird weltweit informell, schnell und billig Geld überwiesen.

Hawala basiert hauptsächlich auf Vertrauen. Eine Person A, die Geld an eine Person B in einem andern Land transferieren will, muss dem Hawaladar (Händler), dem sie das Geld übergibt, vertrauen. Person B muss andererseits seinem Hawaladar vertrauen. Zudem dient ein zwischen A und B vereinbarter Code zur Authentifizierung. Bei diesem Code kann es sich um ein Wort, um Zahlen oder einen Koran-Vers handeln. Die beiden Hawaladars verrechnen die entstandene Differenz mit weiteren Geschäften. Es fliesst kein Geld zwischen den Hawaladars. Wegen der nicht einsichtigen Strukturen ist Hawala in allen Ländern, auch den arabischen, verboten. Die Geldströme entziehen sich der Volkswirtschaft völlig. Die Überweisungen sind meist innerhalb eines Tages abgewickelt. Danach existieren keinerlei Unterlagen mehr.

«Ein Bankensystem für den Terrorismus», nannte es das US-Magazin «Time». Doch laut Interpol benutzen kriminelle Organisationen bevorzugt legale Bankwege. Hawaladars stammen aus Familien, die seit Generationen im Überweisungsgeschäft tätig sind, und operieren nicht im Untergrund. Missbrauch, Korruption und Veruntreuung sind sehr selten.

Hawala wird vor allem von Gastarbeitern verwendet, um Geld in ihre Heimatländer zu schicken. Praktisch steht dieses Geldsystem jedermann offen, also auch Nicht-Muslimen. (dpb.)

NZZ am Sonntag     25. Juni 2006

 Zugang zu Daten aus dem internationalen Zahlungsverkehr - Banken informiert
CIA untergräbt Bankgeheimnis

Die CIA spioniert den internationalen Zahlungsverkehr aus. Die Schweizer Banken und die Regierung scheint dies wenig zu kümmern. Datenschützer und Juristen sind indes entsetzt.
  Katharina Fehr, Daniel Puntas Bernet

Die amerikanischen Behörden haben im Namen der Terrorismusbekämpfung seit fünf Jahren Zugang zu allen Daten des internationalen Finanzverkehrs - also auch Schweizer Transaktionen. Die Tageszeitung «New York Times» enthüllte am Freitag, dass dem amerikanischen Geheimdienst CIA durch die Banken-Kooperation Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) in Brüssel Einblick in internationalen Zahlungen gewährt wurde.

Die Swift, die 1973 von Banken in Belgien gegründet wurde, wickelt täglich 11 Millionen Zahlungsanweisungen für internationale Geldtransfers im Volumen von 6000 Milliarden Dollar ab. 7800 Finanzinstitutionen in mehr als 200 Ländern sind der Swift angeschlossen. Auch für die Schweizer Banken hat die Swift grosse Bedeutung. Nur gerade reine Franken-Transaktionen und ein Teil der Franken/Euro-Transaktionen (zusammen etwa 200 Milliarden Franken pro Tag) können über das Swiss Interbank Clearing der Telekurs abgewickelt werden. Für alle anderen Zahlungsanweisungen sind die hiesigen Banken auf die Swift angewiesen. 99 Schweizer Banken sind Mitglied, und 254 hiesige Finanzinstitute sind ans Netzwerk der Swift angeschlossen. Die Bedeutung der Schweiz wird durch die Tatsache unterstrichen, dass im 25-köpfigen Verwaltungsrat der Swift gleich zwei Schweizer Vertreter sitzen: Yves Maas von der Credit Suisse und Stephan Zimmermann von der UBS. Zimmermann ist seit wenigen Wochen sogar stellvertretender VR-Präsident.

Kein Problem für Banken
Die Swift hat nach einer richterlichen Verfügung aus den USA zugestimmt, dass den amerikanischen Behörden Zugang zu den Daten gewährt wird. Auch die Nationalbanken-Gruppe G-10, welche eine Aufsicht über die Swift ausübt, war informiert. Die Schweizerische Nationalbank (SNB) gehört seit den achtziger Jahren als elfte Nationalbank zu dieser Gruppe.

Laut «New York Times» hat die Swift nach 9/11 dem US-Geheimdienst alle Daten überlassen. Erst später hat die Swift offenbar gewisse Leitplanken ausgehandelt und darauf bestanden, dass diese durch einen externen Auditor überprüft werden.

Für viele Beobachter ist es unerhört, dass die Amerikaner so umfangreiche Einsicht in den internationalen Zahlungsverkehr erhalten haben. Die Banken selbst sehen das erstaunlich gelassen. «Das Bankkundengeheimnis ist dadurch nicht verletzt», erklärt ein Pressesprecher der Grossbank UBS. Ähnliches ist von der Bankiervereinigung zu vernehmen. Stellt sich nur die Frage, was durch das Bankkundengeheimnis überhaupt geschützt wird.

Nach Ansicht der Banken schützt das Bankkundengeheimnis Informationen wie die Art der Beziehung zwischen Bank und Kunden, die Höhe seines Vermögens oder Kreditvolumens. Bei allen Überweisungen würden die Kunden hingegen auf den Schutz durch das Bankkundengeheimnis verzichten. Denn für eine Zahlungsanweisung müssen der Name des Senders, des Empfängers sowie die Bankverbindungen beider Beteiligten bekannt geben werden, sonst käme die Zahlung nicht zustande. Die Anonymisierung sei zudem durch die Geldwäschereibestimmungen der Financial Action Task Force verboten.

Aufklärung gefordert
Datenschützer Hanspeter Thür sieht dies anders. Zum einen betont er: «Selbst wenn das Bankkundengeheimnis die Daten, welche die Amerikaner eingesehen haben, nicht schützt, tun dies die Datenschutzbestimmungen.» Ohne Rechtfertigungsgrund erfordert die Weitergabe solcher Daten die Zustimmung der Kunden. Zum andern fehlt ihm diese Rechtfertigungsgrundlage für die Einsicht der CIA in die Daten der Swift. «Für mich ist es fraglich, ob eine gesetzliche Erlaubnis beziehungsweise ein internationales Abkommen eine solche Einsichtnahme rechtfertigt», sagt er.

Hanspeter Thür wird die Sache nicht auf sich beruhen lassen. «Wir nehmen Kontakt mit anderen europäischen Datenschutzbehörden auf, um ein koordiniertes Vorgehen zu besprechen», erklärt er.

Auch Mark Pieth, Strafrechtsprofessor der Universität Basel, wundert sich über die Argumentation der Banken. «Ein Kunde darf davon ausgehen, dass auch eine Institution wie die Swift als Erfüllungsgehilfe der Bank sich an das Bankkundengeheimnis hält. Etwas anderes gilt, wenn der Kunde die Finanzinstitution explizit davon entbindet.» Pieth vermisst die rechtliche Grundlage des Vorgehens der Amerikaner: «Für eine staatliche Anordnung zur Einsicht in Finanztransfers müsste eine konkrete Bedrohung von einer klar definierten Personengruppe ausgehen. Eine pauschale Beschlagnahmung von sämtlichen Daten über einen so langen Zeitraum ist klar rechtswidrig.»

Stellt sich die Frage, wieso die Swift dem amerikanischen Finanzministerium gefügig Folge leistete. «Die Swift ist leicht erpressbar», mutmasst Mark Pieth, der bereits die Untersuchungskommission der Uno im «Oil for Food»-Skandal leitete, «denn wenn die US-Behörden der Swift die Lizenz für ihre amerikanische Niederlassung entziehen, ist sie nicht mehr funktionsfähig.» Pieth wäre auch nicht erstaunt, wenn der amerikanische Geheimdienst sich im selben Atemzug Einblick in andere Finanztransaktions-Plattformen beschafft hätte. Laut dem Bericht der «New York Times» bestätigten Offizielle der US-Behörden zudem, limitierte Abkommen mit Kreditkarten- oder Transaktionsunternehmen wie Western Union eingegangen zu sein. Die Angelegenheit stellt für Pieth jedenfalls einen eindeutigen Eingriff in die Freiheitsrechte der Bürger dar, und er ist gespannt, wie sich die Schweizer Behörden rechtfertigen werden.

Diese hüllen sich in Schweigen und berufen sich darauf, erst Ende Woche von der Angelegenheit erfahren zu haben. Am Freitagmorgen, unmittelbar vor dem Erscheinen des Artikels in der «New York Times», hat die US-Botschaft in Bern den Bundesrat kontaktiert. Dennoch sehen sich weder das Justiz- noch das Aussendepartement für den Fall zuständig. Elisabeth Meyerhans, Sprecherin des Vorstehers des Finanzdepartements, Bundesrat Hans- Rudolf Merz, erklärte auf Anfrage: «Nach Einschätzung der Bundesverwaltung ergibt sich aus der Angelegenheit kein direkter Bezug zur schweizerischen Rechtsprechung.» Zudem sei dies Sache der Nationalbank. Sie sei in ihrem Handlungsspielraum unabhängig - und für eine Stellungnahme sei der Moment ohnehin noch zu früh. Die SNB betont allerdings, dass «sie in Belgien keine rechtliche Aufsichtsfunktion hat», wie Pressesprecher Werner Abegg erklärt.

Für die Konsumentenschützerin Jacqueline Bachmann ist dies alles zu wenig. Sie fordert von der Schweizerischen Nationalbank Aufklärung und Transparenz. Bachmann ist empört über die Vorgänge in Belgien. Sie findet es widersprüchlich, dass einerseits von Behörden und Banken auf das Bankkundengeheimnis gepocht, es andererseits aber durch das Zurverfügungstellen der Daten ausgehöhlt wird.

Handels-Zeitung    25.Juni 2006

Den Schutz der Privatsphäre verteidigen


Was den Steuerfahndern der europäischen Hochsteuerländer nicht gelungen ist, erreichen nun zunehmend die Justizbehörden der EU und der USA: Die Schwächung des  Schweizer Bankgeheimnisses. Seit fünf Jahren überwachen die USA heimlich internationale Banktransaktionen und greifen auch auf Daten von Schweizer Finanzinstituten zu. In die gleiche Richtung zielt die Reförm des Schengenrechts, die einen grenzüberschreitenden Informationsaustausch sensibler Daten beinhaltet.
    Unter dem Deckmantel der Terrorbekämpfung bauen die EU und die USA Druck auf den Finanzplatz Schweiz auf.
    Selbstverständlich darf das Bankgeheimnis keinen Schutz bei Betrug, Terrorismus und Geidwäscherei bieten. Gerade weil die Schweiz vorbildliche Standards gegen kriminelle Gelder anwendet, sind das Vorgehen der USA und die Absichten im EU-Schengenrecht inakzeptabel. Unter keinen Umständen darf die Schweiz Hand für einen automatischen Austausch von Finanztransaktionen bieten. Die Daten von Kunden der Schweizer Banken sind nicht nur für Steuerfahnder aus der EU, die ihr Steuerkartell zementiert, interessant. Unter dem Vorwand der Terrorismusbekämpfung lässt sich auch Finanzspionage betreiben.
Am Bundesrat und dem Parlament ist es, sich gegen die Auflösung des Bankgeheimnisses vehement zu wehren. Die Privatsphäre, welche das Bankgeheimnis bietet, gilt es ebenso zu verteidigen wie die Interessen des Finanzplatzes, welcher mit 12% der Steuereinnahmen, 15% des Bruttoinlandprodukts und 6% der Beschäftigten einen bedeutenden Teil des Wohlstands der Schweiz erarbeitet.

Sonntags-Blick    25.Juni 2006

Wo die Macht sitzt

Frank A.Meyer

    SEIT JAHREN, so wird eben bekannt, überwachen die USA weltweit Auslandsüberweisungen der Banken, um den Geldbewegungen des internationalen Terrorismus auf die Spur zu kommen. Dazu liefert die Organisation Swift in Brüssel die Daten ihrer globalen Zahlungsvermittlungen.
    DIE UBS und die CS sind im Verwaltungsrat der Swift vertreten. Haben sie zu verhindern versucht, das Bankgeheimnis der Swift-Kunden aufgrund einer «verbindlichen Anordnung» der USA ausser Kraft zu setzen?
    DIE BANKEN verstehen sich auf Macht. Die Macht sitzt in Washington.
    DIE USA kennen kein Bankgeheimnis, für sich nicht, für die Welt nicht und auch nicht für die Schweiz. Das Bankgeheimnis, das Kaspar Villiger einst mit Zähnen und Klauen gegen die EU verteidigte: Im Geldverkehr mit den USA ist es längst abgeschafft.
    DIE USA nämlich betrachten die Steuerhinterziehung als Steuerbetrug. Damit verweigern sie sich der schweizerischen Schlaumeierei, wonach das bewusste Verschweigen von Einkommen etwas anderes sei als der Betrug mittels Täuschung.
    DIESE EBENSO simple wie schlüssige amerikanische Sichtweise haben die Schweizer Banken für das Geschäft mit den USA akzeptiert.
    DIE MACHT sitzt in Washington. Nicht an der Zürcher Bahnhofstrasse.
    IST DAS alles schlimm? Die Finanzströme sind die wichtigsten Informationsträger der globalen Kriminalität: Terroristen horten Geld, Drogenbarone waschen Gewinne, Waffen- und Mädchenhändler finanzieren Netzwerke, Steuerbetrüger verschieben Fluchtgelder.
    ES GIBT also gute Gründe, die Finanzadern der bösen Mächte offen zu legen.
    WAS SOLL da noch das Bankgeheimnis in der Schweiz? Und was soll das Schweizer Bankgeheimnis in Europa?
    DIE GROSSBANKEN sind nicht mehr darauf angewiesen. Sie überzeugen ihre internationale Kundschaft durch Kompetenz, Effizienz und Seriosität. Sie erarbeiten ihre exorbitanten Gewinne mit sauberem Geld, nicht zuletzt mit institutioneilen Anlegern wie Fonds und Pensionskassen. Das Geschäft unter dem Ladentisch ist nicht mehr ihr Geschäft.
    DAS BANKGEHEIMNIS dient vor allem noch als Leimrute für Privatbanken, die im europäischen Ausland Jagd auf Steuerfluchtgelder machen.
    WAS MAN nicht einmal mehr den existenzgeplagten Bauern zugestehen will, das garantiert man den Finanzinstituten: eine gesetzlich geschützte Werkstätte. Warum ist das so?
    WEIL DIE Macht über die Finanzwelt zwar in Washington sitzt, die Macht über den Finanzplatz Schweiz aber an der Zürcher Bahnhofstrasse.

nzz.ch    25 June 2006, Swissinfo with agencies

 CIA has access to Swiss transactions

The United States has confirmed it has been monitoring international financial transactions, including those in and out of Switzerland, for almost five years.

The Swiss government has remained quiet on the issue, but data protection experts and lawyers are concerned by Friday's revelations in the New York Times.

US Treasury Secretary John Snow defended the secret programme, carried out by the CIA and the Treasury, calling it "government at its best" and a valuable aid for fighting terrorism. Snow confirmed that since just after the attacks on September 11 2001, the Treasury had been tapping into records of the Belgium:based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) for evidence of potential activity by terror groups. "The legal basis for this subpoena is routine and absolutely clear," Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey told a hastily called news conference, adding that it was "a grave loss" that the surveillance programme had been revealed but indicated that it would continue.

Swift is a cooperative owned by the 7,800 financial institutions in more than 200 countries that use it. Its headquarters are in Brussels. Levey said tens of thousands of transactions that had passed through Swift had been examined.

Swiss concerns
In addition to Democrats on Capitol Hill who blasted the programme as a threat to Americans' privacy and an example of the Bush administration's efforts to expand the power of the executive branch, Swiss commentators hardly welcomed the news.

Mark Pieth, a Swiss lawyer and a member of the three:man inquiry team into the UN oil:for:food scandal, wrote in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that a US legal order must have forced Swift to open its records ? warning Swift that if it didn't comply, it would risk losing its licence for dealing with US transactions and banks.

In Switzerland 99 banks and 254 institutions are connected to Swift, with a daily transaction value of some SFr200 billion ($160 billion). Although the Swiss Bankers Association agreed with a UBS spokesman that Swiss banking secrecy had not been endangered or violated, Hanspeter Thür, the Federal Data Protection Commissioner, said he was alarmed. He said the data protection regulations covered not only banking secrecy but also whether such information should be able to be passed on.

US Treasury officials said Swift was exempt from US laws restricting government access to private financial records because the cooperative was considered a messaging service, not a bank or financial institution. For its part, the Swiss National Bank said it had "no legal jurisdiction in Belgium".

Swift said in a statement on its website that "Swift has to comply with valid subpoenas". It described the requests it received from the US Treasury as "compulsory subpoenas for limited sets of data" and said it "negotiated with the US Treasury over the scope and oversight of the subpoenas".

The statement noted that "Swift is overseen by a senior committee drawn from the G:10 central banks and has informed them of this matter". The G:10, or Group of 10, is made up of the world's major industrialised countries. The Swiss National Bank is also on the board of control. Swift's board of directors is made up of 25 representatives from financial institutions, including two Swiss.

The deputy chairman, Stephan Zimmermann, is from the global wealth management and business banking division of UBS AG in Zurich, and Yves Maas is from the Credit Suisse Group. UBS declined to comment, but James Nason from the Swiss Bankers Association said his group was "surprised to discover that this activity was going on". He noted that Swiss banks adhere to agreed international standards to counter money laundering.

    June 25, 2006

Letter From Bill Keller
on The Times's Banking Records Report

The following is a letter Bill Keller, the executive editor of The Times, has sent to readers who have written to him about The Times's publication of information about the government's examination of international banking records:
Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror (June 23, 2006) I don't always have time to answer my mail as fully as etiquette demands, but our story about the government's surveillance of international banking records has generated some questions and concerns that I take very seriously. As the editor responsible for the difficult decision to publish that story, I'd like to offer a personal response.

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.) Some comes from readers who have considered the story in question and wonder whether publishing such material is wise. And some comes from readers who are grateful for the information and think it is valuable to have a public debate about the lengths to which our government has gone in combatting the threat of terror.

It's an unusual and powerful thing, this freedom that our founders gave to the press. Who are the editors of The New York Times (or the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and other publications that also ran the banking story) to disregard the wishes of the President and his appointees? And yet the people who invented this country saw an aggressive, independent press as a protective measure against the abuse of power in a democracy, and an essential ingredient for self-government. They rejected the idea that it is wise, or patriotic, to always take the President at his word, or to surrender to the government important decisions about what to publish.

The power that has been given us is not something to be taken lightly. The responsibility of it weighs most heavily on us when an issue involves national security, and especially national security in times of war. I've only participated in a few such cases, but they are among the most agonizing decisions I've faced as an editor.

The press and the government generally start out from opposite corners in such cases. The government would like us to publish only the official line, and some of our elected leaders tend to view anything else as harmful to the national interest. For example, some members of the Administration have argued over the past three years that when our reporters describe sectarian violence and insurgency in Iraq, we risk demoralizing the nation and giving comfort to the enemy. Editors start from the premise that citizens can be entrusted with unpleasant and complicated news, and that the more they know the better they will be able to make their views known to their elected officials.

Our default position — our job — is to publish information if we are convinced it is fair and accurate, and our biggest failures have generally been when we failed to dig deep enough or to report fully enough. After The Times played down its advance knowledge of the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy reportedly said he wished we had published what we knew and perhaps prevented a fiasco.

Some of the reporting in The Times and elsewhere prior to the war in Iraq was criticized for not being skeptical enough of the Administration's claims about the Iraqi threat. The question we start with as journalists is not "why publish?" but "why would we withhold information of significance?" We have sometimes done so, holding stories or editing out details that could serve those hostile to the U.S. But we need a compelling reason to do so.

Forgive me, I know this is pretty elementary stuff — but it's the kind of elementary context that sometimes gets lost in the heat of strong disagreements.

Since September 11, 2001, our government has launched broad and secret anti-terror monitoring programs without seeking authorizing legislation and without fully briefing the Congress. Most Americans seem to support extraordinary measures in defense against this extraordinary threat, but some officials who have been involved in these programs have spoken to the Times about their discomfort over the legality of the government's actions and over the adequacy of oversight. We believe The Times and others in the press have served the public interest by accurately reporting on these programs so that the
public can have an informed view of them.

Our decision to publish the story of the Administration's penetration of the international banking system followed weeks of discussion between Administration officials and The Times, not only the reporters who wrote the story but senior editors, including me. We listened patiently and attentively. We discussed the matter extensively within the paper. We spoke to others — national security experts not serving in the Administration — for their counsel. It's worth mentioning that the reporters and editors responsible for this story live in two places — New York and the Washington area — that are tragically established targets for terrorist violence. The question of preventing terror is not abstract to us.

The Administration case for holding the story had two parts, roughly speaking: first that the program is good — that it is legal, that there are safeguards against abuse of privacy, and that it has been valuable in deterring and prosecuting terrorists. And, second, that exposing this program would put its usefulness at risk.

It's not our job to pass judgment on whether this program is legal or effective, but the story cites strong arguments from proponents that this is the case. While some experts familiar with the program have doubts about its legality, which has never been tested in the courts, and while some bank officials worry that a temporary program has taken on an air of permanence, we cited considerable evidence that the program helps catch and prosecute financers of terror, and we have not identified any serious abuses of privacy so far. A reasonable person, informed about this program, might well decide to applaud it. That said, we hesitate to preempt the role of legislators and courts, and ultimately the electorate, which cannot consider a program if they don't know about it.

We weighed most heavily the Administration's concern that describing this program would endanger it. The central argument we heard from officials at senior levels was that international bankers would stop cooperating, would resist, if this program saw the light of day. We don't know what the banking consortium will do, but we found this argument puzzling. First, the bankers provide this information under the authority of a subpoena, which imposes a legal obligation. Second, if, as the Administration says, the program is legal, highly effective, and well protected against invasion of privacy, the bankers should have little trouble defending it. The Bush Administration and America itself may be unpopular in Europe these days, but policing the byways of international terror seems to have pretty strong support everywhere. And while it is too early to tell, the initial signs are that our article is not generating a banker backlash against the program.

By the way, we heard similar arguments against publishing last year's reporting on the NSA eavesdropping program. We were told then that our article would mean the death of that program. We were told that telecommunications companies would — if the public knew what they were doing — withdraw their cooperation. To the best of my knowledge, that has not happened. While our coverage has led to much public debate and new congressional oversight, to the best of our knowledge the eavesdropping program continues to operate much as it did before. Members of Congress have proposed to amend the law to put the eavesdropping program on a firm legal footing. And the man who presided over it and defended it was handily confirmed for promotion as the head of the CIA.

A secondary argument against publishing the banking story was that publication would lead terrorists to change tactics. But that argument was made in a half-hearted way. It has been widely reported — indeed, trumpeted by the Treasury Department — that the U.S. makes every effort to track international financing of terror. Terror financiers know this, which is why they have already moved as much as they can to cruder methods. But they also continue to use the international banking system, because it is immeasurably more efficient than toting suitcases of cash.

I can appreciate that other conscientious people could have gone through the process I've outlined above and come to a different conclusion. But nobody should think that we made this decision casually, with any animus toward the current Administration, or without fully weighing the issues.

Thanks for writing. Regards, Bill Keller

    27 June 2006

Swift, the financial cooperative, allowed the CIA, FBI and other agencies
to examine confidential financial records.
"We need to ask what are the legal frontiers in this case"
Belgian leader orders bank inquiry
Ministry to investigate release of details on money transfers

By Dan Bilefsky

    BRUSSELS: Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium bas asked the Justice Ministry to investigate whether a banking consortium here broke the law when it aided the U.S. government's anti-terrorism activities by providing it with confidential information about international money transfers.
    The group, known as the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift, has corne under scrutiny following a report last week by The New York Times and other American newspapers that it allowed officiais from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies to examine tens of thousands of confidential financial transactions.
    A spokesman for Verhofstadt, Didier Seus, said the prime minister had asked the Justice Ministry to examine whether Swift had done anything illegal by providing access to information from ils database to the U.S. authorities without the approval of a Belgian judge.
    "We need to ask what are the legal frontiers in this case and whether it is right that a U.S. civil servant could look at a private transaction without the approval of a Belgian judge," he said.
    He said that because Swift was based in Belgium and had offices in the United States, it was governed by both European and U.S. laws. He noted that the cooperative had received broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the U.S. Treasury Department, which gave its actions a legal basis, at least outside of Belgium.
    But he said that the government wanted to determine whether obeying these administrative subpoenas was compatible with Belgian law, since in Belgium officiais must seek individual court-approved warrants or subpoenas to examine specifie transactions.
    Seus said the case was particularly sensitive since it came at a time when the European Union and the United States have been increasingly at odds over the extent to which civil liberties can be sacrificed in the fight against terrorism. In May, the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, over-turned an agreement that provides Washington with personal data on airline passengers flying to the United States from Europe.
    Meanwhile, the European Union has criticized the CIA for allegedly abducting suspected terrorists on EU soil and interrogating them in countries that conduct torture.
    Swift has dismissed criticism that it did anything unlawful or violated the privacy of its customers. On Friday, it said that in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, it had responded to compulsory subpoenas from the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury and had received "significant protections and assurances as to the purpose, confidentiality, oversight and control of the limited sets of data produced under the subpoenas."
    Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday defended the secret program, telling The New York Times that the information exchange, run in conjunction with the CIA, was an "absolutely essential" and legal weapon in the war on terror.
    On Monday, President George W. Bush condemned the disclosure of the program by The Times and other U.S. newspapers, saying, "The disclosure of this program is disgraceful."
    "For people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America," he said.
    The European Commission on Monday said it had no powers to investigatt the decision by Swift to supply the U.S government with information about bank transfers. Friso Abbing, EU spokesman on justice and home affairs nevertheless cautioned that the European Union remained concerned that civil liberties were being overlooked il the name of combating terrorism.
    "Everyone agrees that in the fight against terrorism we do need to have measures against the funding of terrorism," he said. "But the emphasis is that this must be done with full respect in the respect of data privacy."
    The Belgian Central Bank, which oversees Swift, on Monday rejected criticism that it had not done enough to protect the privacy of European citizens, reiterating that Swift's decision to supply information to the U.S. government was beyond its control.
    Swift acts as the nerve center of the global banking industry, operating a secure electronic messaging service that 7,800 financial institutions use to communicate with their counterparts in more than 200 countries. The network routes nearly €4.8 trillion, or $6 trillion, daily between banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions.

Tages-Anzeiger    27.Juni 2006

Politiker intervenieren
Schnüffelaktion der CIA stösst auf harsche Kritik
Der US-Geheimdienst erfasst mit Billigung der Behörden seit Jahren den Zahlungsverkehr.
Das bringt die Politiker in Rage: Die Schweiz müsse aufhören, eilfertig solche Daten zu liefern.

Von Annetta Bundi, Bern

Bern. - Der Bundesrat muss sich im Zusammenhang mit der letzte Woche publik gewordenen Schnüffelattacke der CIA unangenehme Fragen gefallen lassen. Die Geschäftsprüfimgskommission des Nationalrates will von ihm wissen, seit wann er über die Datenerfassung des amerikanischen Geheimdienstes Bescheid wusste - und ob damit das Bankgeheimnis unterlaufen wurde. Gemäss Recherchen des TA wurden das Finanzdepartement und die Bankenkommission im zweiten Halbjahr 2003 von der Nationalbank orientiert. Die CIA konnte also mit Billigung der Schweizer Behörden Bankdaten sammeln. Diese eilfertige Haltung passt zu den im Januar getroffenen Entscheiden der UBS und der CS, nach dem Vorbild der US-Banken aus dem Iran-Geschäft auszusteigen. (abi)
    Dass die USA im Kampf gegen den Terror alles andere als zimperlich vorgehen, hat die Schweizer Politik längst bemerkt: Gestützt auf das 2002 vereinbarte Operative Working Agreement haben FBI-Agenten in Bern unzählige Akten gesichtet und nach Hause geschickt. Wie die «New York Times» letzte Woche rapportierte, waren die Geheimdienstkollegen der CIA ebenso fleissig: Seit 2001 haben sie mit Billigung der Behörden systematisch den Zahlungsverkehr erfasst (TA vom Samstag).
    Dieser vorauseilende Gehorsam stösst hier zu Lande auf harsche Kritik. «Es ist unverständlich, wie willfährig die Schweiz den USA zu Hilfe eilt», moniert Hansruedi Stadler, der Präsident der ständerätlichen Geschäftsprüfungskommission. Häufig sei nicht einmal ganz klar, ob für die Handlangerdienste eine ausreichende gesetzliche Grundlage bestehe. «Es ist sehr heikel, Bankdaten systematisch weiterzugeben», sagt er mit Rekurs auf die letzte Woche bekannt gewordenen Aktivitäten der CIA. Er werde die Datenerfassung an der Sitzung vom nächsten Freitag thematisieren.

Behörden sind seit 2003 im Bild
    Konsterniert hat auch die nationalrätliche Geschäftsprüfungskommission von der jüngsten Enthüllung Kenntnis genommen. An ihrer gestrigen Sitzung hat sie deshalb entschieden, dem Bundesrat einen Fragenkatalog zuzustellen. «Er muss uns sagen, wann er über die systematische Datenerfassung informiert worden ist», sagt Kommissionspräsident Kurt Wasserfallen. Zudem habe er darzulegen, ob damit das Bankgeheimnis unterlaufen werde und wie sich der Datenaustausch auf den Finanzplatz Schweiz auswirke. Es sei wichtig, rasch die Verantwortlichkeiten zu klären.
    Recherchen des TA zeigen, dass die Schweizer Behörden seit 2003 über die CIA-Aktivitäten Bescheid wussten - auch wenn sie von den USA offiziell erst letzten Freitag ins Bild gesetzt worden sind. Die Daten aus den Auslandüberweisungen wurden über die Transaktionsgesellschaft Swift erfasst, die in Brüssel domiziliert ist. In deren Verwaltungsrat sitzen je ein Vertreter der CS und der UBS. Die Schweizer Behörden erfuhren allerdings nicht von diesen beiden über die CIA-Machenschaften, sondern von der Nationalbank. Diese gehört der so genannten Oversight Group der G-10 an, welche die Swift beaufsichtigen muss. Aïs die Nationalbank in der zweiten Jahreshälfte 2003 von der heiklen Datenweitergabe Kenntnis erhielt, informierte das Direktorium umgehend «die Spitzen der Bankenkommission und des Finanzdepartements», wie Pressesprecher Werner Abegg gestern erklärte.
    Damit ist klar: Die Schweizer Behörden haben den amerikanischen Geheimdienst gewähren lassen und so zumindest in den letzten zweieinhalb Jahren in Kauf genommen, dass Tausende von Auslandüberweisungen registriert wurden. Im Finanzdepartement vertritt man die Meinung, dass dies juristisch kein Problem ist, da es keinen direkten Bezug zur Schweizer Rechtsprechung gibt. Die von der CIA erfassten Transaktionen seien nicht in der Schweiz, sondern in Brüssel respektive in den USA abgewickelt worden, wo sich das Rechenzentrum der Swift befinde.

Angst vor Pressionen aus der EU
    Dass man Bankdaten weitergebe, sei im Übrigen nicht a priori verboten, sondern bei grenzuberschreitenden Transaktionen sogar angezeigt, stellt das Finanzdepartement klar. Gemäss Artikel 15 der von der Bankenkommission erlassenen Geldwäschereiverordnung muss ein Finanzinstitut in der Tat bei allen Zahlungsaufträgen ins Ausland den Namen, die Kontonummer und das Domizil der auftraggebenden Vertragspartei oder den Namen und eine Identifïzierungsnummer angeben.
    Die Kritik der Politiker richtet sich aber gar nicht gegen die Weitergabe der Daten an die Swift. Sie stôren sich vielmehr daran, dass diese ohne konkreten Verdacht und ohne Strafverfahren dem amerikanischen Geheimdienst zugänglich gemacht werden. «Eine jahrelange, pauschale Erfassung erscheint mir höchst fragwürdig», doppelt der Eidgenössische Datenschutzbeauftragte Hanspeter Thür nach.
    Die systematische Datenweitergabe ist nicht nur juristisch, sondern auch politisch problematisch: Die bürgerlichen Politiker befürchten, dass die EU suffisant auf die Zusammenarbeit mit den USA verweisen wird, um den Druck aufs Bankgeheimnis zu erhöhen. Derweil fordern die Vertreter der Linken, die Schweiz müsse sich von der amerikanischen Aussenpolitik emanzipieren. «Es ist völlig falsch, in die Rolle des willigen Helfers zu schlüpfen», ärgert sich der grüine Nationalrat Geri Müller.

Tages-Anzeiger Online    27.Juni 2006, 17.28

Bankdaten: Transparenz gefordert
Die Überprüfung der internationalen Banken-Datenbank SWIFT durch die US-Geheimdienste
sorgt in der Schweiz nicht nur bei Politikern für Stirnrunzeln. Der Bankenexperte Hans Geiger
kritisiert die Banken für ihr jahrelanges Schweigen.

    Für den Professor am Institut für schweizerisches Bankenwesen der Uni Zürich hinterlässt die Angelegenheit «einen schalen Geschmack». Die Grossbanken hätten seit Jahren von der Datensuche der CIA gewusst, ihre Kunden aber nicht darüber informiert, sagte Geiger am Dienstag der Nachrichtenagentur SDA.
    «Dass die Kunden aus den Medien erfahren müssen, dass ihre Daten weitergegeben wurden, ist - gelinde gesagt - unprofessionell.» Die Banken könnten zwar wohl nicht verhindern, dass die SWIFT Daten preisgebe, räumte Geiger ein. Doch müssten sie «im Minimum» für Transparenz ihren Kunden gegenüber sorgen.
    In der Perspektive der Kunden sei das Bankgeheimnis verletzt worden, auch wenn dies formal juristisch nicht so sei. «Die Banken können nicht auf der einen Seite das Bankgeheimnis zelebrieren und auf der anderen Seite bedenkenlos hinnehmen, dass die US-Behörden ihre Kundendaten erhalten», sagte der Ökonomieprofessor.

Banken bedeckt
    An der SWIFT-Datenbank sind rund 8000 Geschäftsbanken aus 20 Ländern beteiligt, darunter auch alle grösseren Schweizer Banken. Die beiden Grossbanken verwahrten sich indes gegen die Vorwürfe an ihre Adresse.
«Die Credit Suisse hat keine Daten weitergegeben und mit der Sache nichts zu tun», sagte CS-Sprecher Georg Söntgerath auf Anfrage. Die SWIFT sei eine eigenständige Institution. Überdies wisse jeder, der im internationalen Zahlungsverkehr tätig sei, dass seine Daten der SWIFT bekannt gegeben würden.
    Die UBS liess über ihren Sprecher lediglich verlauten, dass das Bankgeheimnis nicht verletzt worden sei. Darauf habe die Grossbank bereits Ende letzter Woche hingewiesen.

SNB sieht Politik am Ball
    Die Schweizerische Nationalbank (SNB) ihrerseits sieht ihre Pflicht erfüllt. Die SNB habe 2003 von dem Datentransfer an die USA Kenntnis genommen und die Eidgenössische Bankenkommission (EBK) und das Finanzdepartement informiert, sagte SNB-Sprecher Werner Abegg.
    «Alles andere ist eine politische Frage, damit hat sich die SNB nicht zu befassen», fügte er hinzu. Die SNB kontrolliere zusammen mit den anderen in dem Kontrollgremium der SWIFT vertretenen Zentralbanken einzig die Finanzstabilität der Transaktionen.

Durch Zeitung aufgedeckt
    Die «New York Times» («NYT») hatte Ende vergangener Woche publik gemacht, dass die US-Regierung sich in ihrem Kampf gegen den Terrorismus Zugang zu der SWIFT-Datenbank in Belgien verschaffte, die Milliarden finanzieller Transaktionen technisch abwickelt und deren Daten speichert.
    Das belgische Justizministerium und das Parlament kündigten nach den Enthüllungen der «NYT» eine Untersuchung an. Dagegen kritisierte US-Präsident George W. Bush den Artikel der US-Tageszeitung scharf. (cpm/sda)

AGEFI    27 juin 2006


L'état de guerre permet d'ignorer les lois:
il n'y a pas de censure officielle,
mais de la pression du gouvernement sur les médias


    «S'il était à moi de décider d'avoir un gouvernement sans journaux, ou des journaux sans gouvernement, je n'hésiterais pas à préférer le dernier.» Voilà ce que disait, il y a trois cents ans, un des pères spirituels des Etats-Unis, Thomas Jefferson. Aussi était-il cité plusieurs fois lors des «talk shows» du dimanche au su-jet de la découverte la plus récente d'actes d'autorité sans égard pour la constitution du gouvernement Bush: l'accès du gouvernement aux transferts d'argent internationaux de l'agence SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) pour découvrir le financement de terroristes. Le New York Times et le Los Angeles Times l'avaient révélé. Le président de la Commission de la Sûreté nationale de la Chambre, la Homeland Security Commission, le républicain de New York Peter King, voulait mettre en accusation le New York Times, qui avait rejeté les demandes du gouvernement de ne pas publier, en disant que les terroristes savaient qu'on les contrôlait et n'apprenaient rien de nouveau, mais que les citoyens avaient le droit de savoir que le gouvernement, fisc compris, prenait connaissance de leurs transferts privés.

L'état de guerre permet une dictature douce
    Le New-Yorkais King accusait en particulier son journal local: «Personne n'a chargé le New York Times d'agir. Il a fait passer son programme arrogant et élitiste gauchisant avant l'intérêt du peuple américain.» Il cernait bien l'attitude du gouvernement Bush qui représente l'essai le plus prononcé dans l'histoire américaine de diriger l'information selon les vues du gouvernement. La guerre de libération à la fin duXVÏÏP siècle, la guerre civile (1861-65) et les deux guerres mondiales avaient vu des lois de censure, mais la situation ac-tuelle est différente. Maintenant, il n'y a pas de lois. Ce n'est pas une guerre déclarée par le Congrès, mais un état de guerre revendiqué par le président pour se coiffer du chapeau de commandant en chef selon la Constitution, fonction qui n'est nulle part définie en détail.
     Selon Bush et son équipe, l'état de guerre permet d'ignorer les lois qui garantissent les libertés civiques. Il n'y a pas de censure officielle, mais de la pression de la part du gouvernement sur les médias. Il n'y a aucun texte de loi, mais des opinions administratives de cas en cas. Ainsi, l'ordre aux bureaux américains de SWIFT de passer leurs données à la NASA adoptait la forme d'assignation administrative sous peine de saisie, utilisée lors de délits financiers, auquel l'agence ne pouvait pas se soustraire sans risquer une perturbation de ses transmissions. Les tribunaux, orientés par le Ministère de la justice, rejettent pour raison de sécurité nationale les recours contre des mesures arbitraires. L'état de guerre met hors jeu les dispositions légales et constitutionnelles.
    Un tribunal qui doit surveiller la pratique des écoutes, la Foreign Intelligence Supervision (FISA), a été court-circuité, le secret bancaire ignoré, les dispositions légales réglant la durée de service de la garde nationale ignorées, des commissions du Congrès non informées. La majorité au Sénat, qui veut tenir jusqu'à la «victoire», commence à s'effriter. A la Chambre, elle tient encore. «La question, disait le sénateur Biden, est maintenant: tout cela va-t-il enfin réveiller l'esprit de Jefferson, qui dort quelque part au fond des consciences, ou que faudra-t-il encore?»

AGEFI    27 juin 2006


La guerre contre le terrorisme suscite une nouvelle polémique
La société Swift reconnaît avoir transmis des données
sur des transactions bancaires internationales au Trésor américain.


    La guerre que livrent les Etats-Unis contre le terrorisme - et les libertés qu'ils prendraient dans ce contexte avec certains droits humains - n'en finit plus de défrayer la chronique, en Europe. Après l'affaire des vols secrets de la CIA, un autre scandale vient d'éclater; il implique la société de messagerie financière Swift, qui a livré au Trésor américain des données sur des transactions bancaires internationales.
    Suite à des révélations de la presse américaine, la société coopérative Swift, basée à La Hulpe, à quelque 20 km au sud de Bruxelles, a reconnu vendredi avoir communiqué au Département du Trésor américain un «nombre limité» de données relatives à certaines transactions financières internationales. Swift fournit des services de messagerie financière sécurisés à quelque 7800 banques et gestionnaires de portefeuilles dans plus de 200 pays. Elle ne gère pas directement les transferts de fonds, mais bien les informations qui leur sont liées.

Recherche ciblée
    Après les attentats terroristes du 11 septembre 2001, Swift «a répondu à des demandes exécutoires émanant des autorités américaines (...), exigeant la production de certaines informations spécifiques», note la société, dans un communiqué. Selon le secrétaire américain au Trésor, John Snow, elles concernent uniquement certaines personnes soupçonnées d'entretenir des liens avec le réseau Al-Qaïda.
    Chargée par les banques centrales du G10 (dont la Suisse fait par-tie) de diriger la supervision des activités de Swift, la Banque na-tionale de Belgique (BNB) a re-connu samedi «avoir été mise au courant de façon informelle» de ces transferts d'informations, qui violeraient selon d'aucuns les droits des citoyens à la protection des données à caractère personnel. Hier, le sous-secrétaire américain chargé de la lutte contre le terrorisme, Stuart Levey, a affirmé que les autres banques centrales du G10 avaient elles aussi été «prévenues» du «programme» d'espionnage de Washington.

La Commission européenne tojujours impuissante
    Les politiques, quant à eux, semblent tomber des nues - et ce n'est pas seule similitude entre l'affaire Swift et celle, qui l'a précédée, des agissements de la CIA sur le Vieux continent. Le ministre belge des Finances, Didier Reynders, a sommé la BNB, qui indique que «le suivi des activités de Swift qui n'ont pas d'incidence sur la stabilité financière n'est pas du ressort du groupe de surveillance» de la société, de lui fournir aujourd'hui un rapport. La ministre de la Justice, Laurette Onkelinx, en a commandé deux autres, à la Sûreté de l'Etat et à la Cellule belge de traitement des informations financières (Cetif), «afin d'examiner si tout ce qui a été fait l'a été en respect des règles du droit belge». Cette levée de boucliers laissait le quotidien Le Soir dubitatif, hier. Pour lui, il est «difficilement imaginable» que la BNB n'ait pas partagé ses informations sur Swift avec les autorités. «On a le sentiment croissant que nos autorités ne disposent pas des capacités ou de la volonté suffisantes pour contenir les Américains dans les limites de notre Etat de droit», ajoute-t-il. Ce n'est pas la Commission européenne, dont le scandale de la CIA avait déjà révélé l'impuissance, qui pourra combler cette lacune. «A première vue, il n'y a pas de législation européenne» protégeant les citoyens contre le transfert de données individuelles à des pays tiers, a commenté hier un de ses porte-parole, Friso Roscam Abbing. «C'est une compétence nationale.»
    Une nouvelle réglementation communautaire est bien en cours d'élaboration, mais elle ne s'appliquera pas aux entreprises privées...

Neue Zürcher Zeitung    27.Juni 2006

Saft- und kraftlose Schweizer Finanzwelt in der Swift-Affäre

ti. Grösser könnte der Unterschied kaum sein: Die abwartende Haltung der Schweizer Finanzwelt gegenüber der Datenbeschaffungsaktion der amerikanischen Behörden kontrastiert mit der Geschlossenheit, mit der dieselben Akteure sich hinter das im letzten Jahr in Kraft getretene Zinsbesteuerungsabkommen mit der EU gestellt hatten - vom festen Willen, die Privatsphäre der Bankkunden vor immer aufdringlicheren staatlichen Eingriffen zu schützen, ist nur mehr wenig zu spüren. Vielmehr herrscht eine Atmosphäre der Ratlosigkeit vor; die Schweizerische Nationalbank, die Aufsichtsbehörden, die Schweizerische Bankiervereinigung und die Banken selbst rechtfertigen ihre Passivität in der Swift-Affäre mit der Begründung, das Mögliche getan zu haben. Und zudem: Das Bankgeheimnis sei nie in Gefahr gewesen. Warum, so fragt man sich, hat man dann drei Jahre lang den Mantel des Schweigens über eine extraterritoriale Datenbeschaffungsinitiative amerikanischer Behörden ausgebreitet, wenn doch alles mit rechten Dingen zuging und keine Gefahr für die Privatsphäre von Bankenkunden bestand? Um potenzielle Terroristen, die ohnehin selten elektronische Spuren im internationalen Zahlungsverkehr hinterlassen, nicht vorzuwarnen? Mag es noch so viele Argumente fur die saft- und kraftlose Politik der Schweizer Akteure geben: Zurück bleibt ein Gefühl des Unbehagens und der Machtlosigkeit. Wer seine Geschäfte in den USA nicht gefährden will, kommt offenbar nicht darum herum, sich der Macht des Stärkeren zu beugen.

Neue Zürcher Zeitung    27.Juni 2006

Beschwichtigende Voten zur Datenbeschaffung der US-Behörden
Keine Gefahr für das Bankgeheimnis[?]

Der Zugriff amerikanischer Behörden auf Datenbanken der Abwicklungsorganisation Swift
hat laut Stimmen der Schweizer Finanzwelt das Bankkundengeheimnis nicht verletzt.

    ti. Kein Grund zur Aufregung - das Bankkundengeheimnis ist nicht verletzt worden. So oder ähnlich könnte man die Reaktionen hiesiger Aufsichtsbehörden und Banken auf die bekannt gewordene Durchleuchtung des internationalen Zahlungsverkehrs durch das amerikanische Finanzministerium und den Geheimdienst CIA zusammenfassen. Am letzten Freitag hatte die «New York Times» berichtet, dass sich die amerikanische Regierung im Rahmen der Terrorismusbekämpfung Zugang zu Datenbanken der Abwicklungsgesellschaft Swift (Society for World-wide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) verschafft hatte (vgl. NZZ vom 24./25. 6. 06). Damit gelangten amerikanische Ermittler in den Besitz von Informationen über Bankkunden, deren Aufträge im grenzüberschreitenden Zahlungsverkehr über Swift verarbeitet wurden.

Seit drei Jahren im Bild
    Was in der breiten Öffentlichkeit erst vor wenigen Tagen bekannt wurde, wusste das Überwachungsgremium (Joint Oversight Group) der Swift, dem die Notenbanken der zehn führenden Industrieländer angehören, schon seit rund drei Jahren. Die Schweizerische Nationalbank (SNB), die im erwähnten Aufsichtsorgan vertreten ist, hat laut eigenen Angaben die Regulatoren der Schweizer Banken, die Eidgenössische Bankenkommission (EBK) und das Eidgenössische Finanzdepartement (EFD), über die Aktivitäten der amerikanischen Ermittler informiert. Mehr konnte sie aus ihrer Sicht nicht tun, weil ihre Befugnisse begrenzt sind. Das Aufsichtsgremium könnte nur dann aktiv eingreifen, wenn die Unternehmenspolitik von Swift die Stabilität des internationalen Finanzsystems gefährden wurde. Alle anderen unternehmerischen Belange, etwa die Compliance, seien Sache des Verwaltungsrats und des Managements von Swift.
    Die von der SNB ins Bild gesetzten EBK und EFD haben offenbar keinen Anlass und keine Möglichkeit gesehen, aktiv für den Schutz der Privatsphäre von Bankkunden einzutreten. Denn aus ihrer Sicht ist das Bankkundengeheimnis nie in Gefahr gewesen. Angesichts des Territorialitätsprinzips könne aber kein Kunde einer Schweizer Bank erwarten, dass der in der Schweiz garantierte Schutz der Privatsphäre auch ausserhalb der Landesgrenzen (in diesem Fall in Belgien) durchgesetzt werden könne. Hinzu komme, dass Swift mit den amerikanischen Behörden strenge Bedingungen ausgehandelt habe. Jede Offenlegung von Transaktionsdaten sei unter klar definierten Bedingungen erfolgt, deren Einhaltung von einer unabhängigen Behörde und von Swift selbst kontrolliert worden sei.
    Zudem sei stets das sogenannte Spezialitätenprinzip in Kraft geblieben. Demnach dürfen weitergegebene Informationen (in der Regel der Name des Kontoinhabers, die Kontonummer und das Domizil bzw. der Name und eine Identifikationsnummer bei Nummernkonti) nur für die Terrorismusbekämpfung und für keine anderen Zwecke verwendet werden. Kunden, die keine Risiken eingehen wollen, können ihrer Bank die Weitergabe von Daten verbieten, was allerdings zur Folge hat, dass sie auf grenzüberschreitende Transaktionen verzichten müssen. Im Übrigen sind Schweizer Finanzintermediäre bereits durch eine Empfehlung der FATF (Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering) - die Schweiz ist FATF-Mitglied - dazu verpflichtet, Zahlungsaufträge ins Ausland mit spezifischen Kundendaten zu versehen. Eine grenzüberschreitende Transaktion ist ohnehin nur möglich, so geben EBK und EFD zu bedenken, wenn ein Minimum an Angaben zur Verfügung steht. Die US-Behörden haben, so wird insinuiert, nicht mehr als dieses unabdingbare Minimum erhalten. Schliesslich hätten die Amerikaner, die auf der Basis einer sogenannten Subpoena, eines nach amerikanischem Recht zulässigen, unter Strafandrohung eingesetzten Zwangsmittels, vorgingen, nur historische Daten erhalten; ein Online-Zugriff auf Swift-Datenbanken habe nie stattgefunden.

Keine profîlierten Voten
Der Dachverband der Banken, die Schweizerische Bankiervereinigung (SBVg), hält sich, soweit dies ersichtlich ist, an die Argumentationslinie der EBK und des EFD. Anders als diese hat die Standesorganisation erst aus der Presse von der Datenbeschaffungsinitiative der amerikanischen Behörden erfahren. Der Umstand, dass Vertreter der beiden Grossbanken im Verwaltungsrat der Swift sitzen, hat den Informationsfluss offensichtlich nicht beschleunigt. Die Haltung der Banken deckt sich, soweit diese sich überhaupt schon eine Meinung gebildet haben, mit jener ihres Dachverbandes. Wenn der Eindruck nicht täuscht, ist die Meinungsbildung in der Schweizer Finanzwelt noch im Gange; klare Stellungnahmen über die Vorgänge bei Swift waren kaum zu vernehmen.

Ermittlungen in Belgien
win. Brussel, 26. Juni. Die belgische Regierung hat Ermittlungen zur Frage angeordnet, ob die Zusammenarbeit der Banken-Clearingstelle Swift mit den amerikanischen Behörden gegen nationales Recht verstosse. Die belgische Justizministerin, Laurette Onkelinx, unterstrich, sie sei über die Zusammenarbeit nicht unterrichtet gewesen, sondern habe von der Affäre aus der Presse erfahren. Sie beauftragte umgehend Geheimdienst und Ermittlungsbehörden mit einer Untersuchung. Die Kommission der Europäischen Union erklärte über ihren Sprecher in Brüssel, die Überwachung des Zahlungsverkehrs durch die USA berühre augenscheinlich kein EU-Recht; der Vorfall sei allenfalls ein Thema fiir nationale Behörden. Der Sprecher erinnerte daran, dass es auch zur Bekämpfung des Terrorismus gehöre, die Finanzierung von Terroristen zu unterbinden. Dabei müssten jedoch fundamentale Rechte des Datenschutzes respektiert werden.

    June 27, 2006

Rights unit challenges U.S. over bank data

By Dan Bilefsky

BRUSSELS A human rights group in London said Tuesday that it had lodged complaints in 32 countries against a banking consortium in Brussels, contending that it violated European and Asian data protection rules by providing the United States with confidential information about international money transfers.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said the organization filed the complaints with the data protection authorities with the aim of halting what it called "illegal transfers" of private information to the United States by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

The complaints were filed in the 25 EU countries, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Lichtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

"Swift appears to have violated data protection rules in Europe," Davies said, "by making these transfers without the consent of the individuals involved and without the approval of European judicial or administrative authorities. The scale of the operation, involving millions of records, places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than a legally authorized investigation."

The Bush administration has defended the program as a crucial element in its campaign against terrorism, but Europe and the United States are increasingly at odds over how to protect civil liberties at the same time.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament's center-right European People's Party, its largest and most influential grouping, called for the EU to open an inquiry into the legality of Swift's actions. Thomas Bickl, a spokesman for the party, said it was concerned that the transfers had been made as part of a covert and untransparent operation.

Separately, the Council of Europe, the human rights watchdog in Strasbourg, renewed its criticism Tuesday of the United States' alleged abductions of terrorism suspects in Europe and demanded that Washington apologize and compensate the victims.

Davies said Swift had received broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the Treasury Department, which gave its actions a legal basis in the United States. But he said the subpoenas took the form of letters that were issued without judicial consent or due process in the European Union, where only the data protection authorities or the courts have the power to consent to such transfers.

"These transfers could be made on the grounds of national security, but Swift did not seek approval from European authorities to do this," he said. "It was willing to overlook European civil liberties rules in order to satisfy U.S. objectives, and this is the most recent in a long list of attempts by the U.S. to invade the privacy of Europeans."

Legal experts who specialize in European data protection law said Swift may have breached European rules, which forbid companies to transfer confidential personal data to another country unless that country offers adequate protection.

Kristof Van Quathem, a data protection advisor at Covington & Burling in Brussels, said the EU did not consider that the United States offered sufficiently robust protection of individual data because it does not have comprehensive laws on its books.

"The key question is where the data originated," Van Quathem said. "If it was transferred from the EU to the U.S., then that could breach European rules. A court in Iran can't just ask for a European company to reveal the sexual preference of a private individual, nor can a U.S. court ask for private financial information about a citizen on the grounds of national security."

He said Swift could face fines or an order to halt the transfers if it was found guilty of breaching laws in countries where the complaints have been filed.

Kara Condon, a spokeswoman for Swift, declined to comment on the complaints, saying that Swift had not yet had the opportunity to review them in detail. But she defended Swift's actions, arguing that the cooperative had offices in the United States and had upheld U.S. laws.

"We fully abided by U.S. laws," she said, emphasizing that the information relayed to the authorities there was "a limited set of data which was used solely for terrorism investigations."

European leaders and civil liberties groups across Europe are concerned that Washington has ignored human rights in the fight against terrorism.

Last week the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said on the eve of a European visit by President George W. Bush that "we risk losing our souls" if the privacy rights of individuals were ignored in the pursuit of terrorists.

His comments followed a decision in May by the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, to overturn an agreement that provided Washington with personal data on airline passengers flying from Europe to the United States.

The United States has robustly defended its action. On Monday, Bush said it was "disgraceful" that American news organizations had disclosed the secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. The White House accused The New York Times of breaking a long tradition of keeping wartime secrets. The Times defended its report, saying the article was in the nation's interest.

The Times and other U.S. newspapers revealed that Swift allowed officials from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies to examine tens of thousands of confidential financial transactions as part of a program that began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Swift is the nerve center of the global banking industry. It operates a secure electronic messaging service that 7,800 financial institutions use to communicate with their counterparts in more than 200 countries. Each day, the network routes nearly €4.8 trillion, or $6 trillion, among banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions.

Privacy International, which works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, launched a similar action in 2004 in 17 European countries to force Google to change its technology to protect privacy. The group objected to Google's plans to send users' links to advertisers based on a computer scan of their correspondence and presumed interests.

 BRUSSELS A human rights group in London said Tuesday that it had lodged complaints in 32 countries against a banking consortium in Brussels, contending that it violated European and Asian data protection rules by providing the United States with confidential information about international money transfers.

Simon Davies, director of Privacy International, said the organization filed the complaints with the data protection authorities with the aim of halting what it called "illegal transfers" of private information to the United States by the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or Swift.

The complaints were filed in the 25 EU countries, Australia, Canada, Iceland, Lichtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland and the Chinese territory of Hong Kong.

"Swift appears to have violated data protection rules in Europe," Davies said, "by making these transfers without the consent of the individuals involved and without the approval of European judicial or administrative authorities. The scale of the operation, involving millions of records, places this disclosure in the realm of a fishing exercise rather than a legally authorized investigation."

The Bush administration has defended the program as a crucial element in its campaign against terrorism, but Europe and the United States are increasingly at odds over how to protect civil liberties at the same time.

On Tuesday, the European Parliament's center-right European People's Party, its largest and most influential grouping, called for the EU to open an inquiry into the legality of Swift's actions. Thomas Bickl, a spokesman for the party, said it was concerned that the transfers had been made as part of a covert and untransparent operation.

Separately, the Council of Europe, the human rights watchdog in Strasbourg, renewed its criticism Tuesday of the United States' alleged abductions of terrorism suspects in Europe and demanded that Washington apologize and compensate the victims.

Davies said Swift had received broad administrative subpoenas for millions of records from the Treasury Department, which gave its actions a legal basis in the United States. But he said the subpoenas took the form of letters that were issued without judicial consent or due process in the European Union, where only the data protection authorities or the courts have the power to consent to such transfers.

"These transfers could be made on the grounds of national security, but Swift did not seek approval from European authorities to do this," he said. "It was willing to overlook European civil liberties rules in order to satisfy U.S. objectives, and this is the most recent in a long list of attempts by the U.S. to invade the privacy of Europeans."

Legal experts who specialize in European data protection law said Swift may have breached European rules, which forbid companies to transfer confidential personal data to another country unless that country offers adequate protection.

Kristof Van Quathem, a data protection advisor at Covington & Burling in Brussels, said the EU did not consider that the United States offered sufficiently robust protection of individual data because it does not have comprehensive laws on its books.

"The key question is where the data originated," Van Quathem said. "If it was transferred from the EU to the U.S., then that could breach European rules. A court in Iran can't just ask for a European company to reveal the sexual preference of a private individual, nor can a U.S. court ask for private financial information about a citizen on the grounds of national security."

He said Swift could face fines or an order to halt the transfers if it was found guilty of breaching laws in countries where the complaints have been filed.

Kara Condon, a spokeswoman for Swift, declined to comment on the complaints, saying that Swift had not yet had the opportunity to review them in detail. But she defended Swift's actions, arguing that the cooperative had offices in the United States and had upheld U.S. laws.

"We fully abided by U.S. laws," she said, emphasizing that the information relayed to the authorities there was "a limited set of data which was used solely for terrorism investigations."

European leaders and civil liberties groups across Europe are concerned that Washington has ignored human rights in the fight against terrorism.

Last week the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said on the eve of a European visit by President George W. Bush that "we risk losing our souls" if the privacy rights of individuals were ignored in the pursuit of terrorists.

His comments followed a decision in May by the European Court of Justice, the EU's highest court, to overturn an agreement that provided Washington with personal data on airline passengers flying from Europe to the United States.

The United States has robustly defended its action. On Monday, Bush said it was "disgraceful" that American news organizations had disclosed the secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. The White House accused The New York Times of breaking a long tradition of keeping wartime secrets. The Times defended its report, saying the article was in the nation's interest.

The Times and other U.S. newspapers revealed that Swift allowed officials from the CIA, the FBI and other agencies to examine tens of thousands of confidential financial transactions as part of a program that began shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Swift is the nerve center of the global banking industry. It operates a secure electronic messaging service that 7,800 financial institutions use to communicate with their counterparts in more than 200 countries. Each day, the network routes nearly €4.8 trillion, or $6 trillion, among banks, brokerages, stock exchanges and other institutions.

Privacy International, which works closely with the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, launched a similar action in 2004 in 17 European countries to force Google to change its technology to protect privacy. The group objected to Google's plans to send users' links to advertisers based on a computer scan of their correspondence and presumed interests.

    June 28, 2006

Patriotism and the Press

Over the last year, The New York Times has twice published reports about secret antiterrorism programs being run by the Bush administration. Both times, critics have claimed that the paper was being unpatriotic or even aiding the terrorists. Some have even suggested that it should be indicted under the Espionage Act. There have been a handful of times in American history when the government has indeed tried to prosecute journalists for publishing things it preferred to keep quiet. None of them turned out well — from the Sedition Act of 1798 to the time when the government tried to enjoin The Times and The Washington Post from publishing the Pentagon Papers.

As most of our readers know, there is a large wall between the news and opinion operations of this paper, and we were not part of the news side's debates about whether to publish the latest story under contention — a report about how the government tracks international financial transfers through a banking consortium known as Swift in an effort to pinpoint terrorists. Bill Keller, the executive editor, spoke for the newsroom very clearly. Our own judgments about the uproar that has ensued would be no different if the other papers that published the story, including The Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street
Journal, had acted alone.

The Swift story bears no resemblance to security breaches, like disclosure of troop locations, that would clearly compromise the immediate safety of specific individuals.

Terrorist groups would have had to be fairly credulous not to suspect that they would be subject to scrutiny if they moved money around through international wire transfers.

In fact, a United Nations group set up to monitor Al Qaeda and the Taliban after Sept. 11 recommended in 2002 that other countries should follow the United States' lead in monitoring suspicious transactions handled by Swift. The report is public and available on the United Nations Web site.

But any argument by the government that a story is too dangerous to publish has to be taken seriously. There have been times in this paper's history when editors have decided not to print something they knew. In some cases, like the Kennedy administration's plans for the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, it seems in hindsight that the editors were over-cautious. (Certainly President Kennedy thought so.) Most recently, The Times held its reporting about the government's secret antiterror wiretapping program for more than a year while it weighed administration objections.

Our news colleagues work under the assumption that they should let the people know anything important that the reporters learn, unless there is some grave and overriding reason for withholding the information. They try hard not to base those decisions on political calculations, like whether a story would help or hurt the administration. It is certainly unlikely that anyone who wanted to hurt the Bush administration politically would try to do so by writing about the government's extensive efforts to make it difficult for terrorists to wire large sums of money.

From our side of the news-opinion wall, the Swift story looks like part of an alarming pattern. Ever since Sept. 11, the Bush administration has taken the necessity of heightened vigilance against terrorism and turned it into a rationale for an extraordinarily powerful executive branch, exempt from the normal checks and balances of our system of government. It has created powerful new tools of surveillance and refused, almost as a matter of principle, to use normal procedures that would acknowledge that either Congress or the courts have an oversight role.

The Swift program, like the wiretapping program, has been under way for years with no restrictions except those that the executive branch chooses to impose on itself — or, in the case of Swift, that the banks themselves are able to demand. This seems to us very much the sort of thing the other branches of government, and the public, should be nervously aware of. We would have been very happy if Congressman Peter King, the Long Island Republican who has been so vocal in citing the Espionage Act, had been as aggressive in encouraging his colleagues to do the oversight job they were elected to do.

The United States will soon be marking the fifth anniversary of the war on terror. The country is in this for the long haul, and the fight has to be coupled with a commitment to individual liberties that define America's side in the battle. A half-century ago, the country endured a long period of amorphous, global vigilance against an enemy who was suspected of boring from within, and history suggests that under those conditions, it is easy to err on the side of security and secrecy. The free press has a central place in the Constitution because it can provide information the public needs to make things right again. Even if it runs the risk of being labeled unpatriotic in the process.

NZZ Online    28. Juni 2006, 16:26,

   Merz bestätigt Berichte
CIA Bank-Schnüffelei: Bundesrat seit 2002 informiert

Die Affäre um die Weitergabe von Daten von Banken an den amerikanischen Geheimdienst CIA hat am Mittwoch auch die Schweizer Regierung beschäftigt. Der Bundesrat sieht aber nach Angaben einer EFD-Sprecherin keinen Handlungsbedarf.
    (sda) Der Chef des Finanzdepartements (EFD), Hans-Rudolf Merz, habe seine Kollegen im Bundesrat orientiert, sagte seine Sprecherin Elisabeth Meyerhans am Mittwoch. Beider Affäre geht es um Daten der Banken-Schaltstelle Swift, der weltweit grössten Datenbank für Finanztransaktionen. Nach den Anschlägen in den USA am 11. September 2001 verschafften sich CIA-Ermittler Zugang zur Swift, wie das amerikanische Finanzministerium vergangene Woche bestätigt hatte. Die CIA überprüfte Überweisungen von Verdächtigen mit mutmasslichen Verbindungen zum Terrornetz Kaida.

Schon Villiger wusste es
    Die Schweizer Behörden – genauer Merz' Vorgänger Bundesrat Kaspar Villiger –- wussten bereits seit Sommer 2002 vom CIA-Zugriff auf die Swift, wie Meyerhans einen Zeitungsbericht bestätigte. Bisher hatte es geheissen, die Schweizerische Nationalbank (SND), die im Aufsichtsgremium der Swift sitzt, habe das EFD und die Eidgenössische Bankenkommission erst 2003 informiert.
     Im Swift-Aufsichtsgremium sitzen weitere Zentralbanken, die offenbar ebenfalls seit vier Jahren im Bilde waren. Neben der SNB seien dies die Belgische Nationalbank (BNB), die Bank von England, die amerikanische Notenbank und die Europäische Zentralbank. Sie alle hätten bereits seit Anfang 2002 von den Daten in den Händen der CIA gewusst. Unternommen hätten die Zentralbanken aber nichts, schreibt die deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) am Mittwoch unter Berufung auf die belgische Zeitung «Le Soir».

    Bankenexperten und die «Aktion Finanzplatz Schweiz» (AFP) sehen in der Weitergaben der Daten einen Verstoss gegen das Bankgeheimnis. Die Schweizer Behörden und die Grossbanken Credit Suisse und UBS stellen sich dagegen auf den Standpunkt, das Bankgeheimnis sei nicht verletzt worden. Dieses gelte nur in der Schweiz.

Handels-Zeitung    28.Juni 2006

Brüssel will mehr sensible Daten

Im Zuge der Terrorbekämpfung baut die EU das Schengen-Recht aus. Damit erhöht sich der Druck auf den Finanzpiatz Schweiz. Dieser bezieht erst Position, wenn die Pläne konkretisiert werden.

    Das Klima in den Beziehungen mit der Europäischen Union habe sich seit der Unterzeichnung der Bilateralen II merklich entspannt, stellte Pierre Darier, der Präsident der Vereinigung Schweizer Privatbanken, an der GV des Branchenverbandes kürzlich fest. Was das Bankkundengeheimnis betrifft, könnte sich seine Entwarnung jedoch bald als ziemliche Fehleinschätzung entpuppen. Diese Woche nämlich wird EU-Justizkommissar Franco Frattini eine erste Zwischenbilanz des so genannten Haager Programms vornehmen (siehe Box).
    Dieses Programm tangiert den Kern des EU-Schengen-Vertrages, dem die Schweiz ebenfalls beigetreten ist. «Seit Inkrafttreten von Schengen ist es das erste Mal, dass wir mit dem Haager Programm die allgemeinen rechtlichen und praktischen Rahmenbedingungen für den Austausch von strafverfolgungsrelevanten Daten gründlich reformieren wollen», erläuterte der italienische EU-Kommissar in Brüssel. Kernelement der von den EU-Mitgliedstaaten bisher politisch wenig bestrittenen Reform: Informationen sollen ausgetauscht werden, sobald sie verfügbar sind.

Automatischer Austausch
    Im Klartext bedeutet das die Einführung des grenzüberschreitenden automatischen Informationsaustausches sensibler Daten. Dazu zählen bisher DNS-Profile, Fingerabdrücke, Telefonnummern, Daten aus den Personenstandsregistern sowie Profile von Fahrzeughaltern. Bisher bleibe das Mass des Informationsaustausches immer noch hinter dem zurück, was für eine «angemessene Zusammenarbeit» im Bereich der Strafverfolgung erforderlich wäre, kritisierte Frattini weiter.
    Weil die Schweiz und mit ihr der Finanzpiatz Schengen-Mitglied ohne Mitspracherecht ist, stellt das Haager Programm eine potenzielle Bedrohung des Schweizer  Bankkundengeheimnisses dar. Das bestätigt der Luxemburger Bankenspezialist Luden Thiel auf Anfrage: «Wir bewegen uns tatsächlich auf dünnem Eis.» Über die steuerliche Schiene, sprich über die Zinsbesteuerung, sei der EU die Schwächung des Schweizer Bankgeheimnisses bisher misslungen. Auf justizieller Ebene aber baue sich neuer Druck auf. Thiel war Geschäftsführer und ist heute Berater der Luxemburger Bankenvereinigung ABBL und sitzt als Abgeordneter im Luxemburger Parlament.
    «Das Gefährliche am Haager Programm ist der Umstand, dass die Mechanismen zur möglichen Aushebelung des Bankgeheimnisses formell harmlos daherkommen», heisst es auch aus Kreisen des Liechtensteinischen Bankenverbandes. Die Entwicklung des Schengen-Acquis, dem Vaduz vergangene Woche auf Grundlage des Schweizer Vertragsmodells ebenfalls beigetreten ist, werde genau beobachtet. Neben der Schweiz und Liechtenstein kennen in Europa lediglich Österreich und Belgien ein Bankgeheimnis, das seinen Namen noch verdient.
    Zwar ist in Artikel 51 des Schweizer Schengen-Vertrages der Schutz des Bankgeheimnisses indirekt verankert. Dort wird die gegenseitige Rechtshilfe in Steuerfragen geregelt.
    Bestandteil des Vertrages ist zudem eine Schutzklausel. Sie erlaubt der Schweiz., 30 Tage nach Inkrafttreten von entscheidenden Änderungen in Artikel 51 Schengen unilateral ausser Kraft zu setzen. Die rechtlich «rote Linie» im Abwehrdispositiv des Schweizer Abkommens ist die strafrechtliche Unterscheidung zwischen Steuerbetrug und -hinterziehung, «Wie lange diese Unterscheidung zu halten sein wird, wissen wir nicht», sagen Luxemburger Bankenkreise.

Widersprüchliche Situation
    Aus Sicht der Schweiz ergibt sich damit eine leicht widersprüchliche Situation. Einerseits schützt Schengen das Bankgeheimnis. Andererseits verändert das Haager Reformprogramm den massgeblichen EU-Acquis im gegenteiligen Sinn. «Wir verfolgen diese Entwicklungen und sind am Ball», erklärt Thomas Sutter von der Schweizerischen Bankiervereinigung (SBVg). Die SBVg könne und werde aber erst dann Position beziehen, wenn sich die Absichtserklärungen zum Haager Programm konkretisierten.

Im EU-Schengen-Raum sind die Binnengrenzen abgeschafft wor-den, im Gegenzug werden die Aussengrenzen verstärkt überwacht. Ausgebaut wird auch die polizeiliche Zusammenarbeit Innerhalb von Bilateral II ist die Schweiz dem Schengen-Raum beigetreten (Ja-Mehrheit von 56,4% in der Volksabstimmung vom 5. Juni 2005). Der Vertrag ist von der EU bisher noch nicht ratifiziert worden. Gemäss Zeitplan soll er 2008 in Kraft treten. Er sieht unter anderem den gegenseitigen Zugang zum laufend ausgebauten Schengen-Informationssystem (SIS) vor. Ausdrückliches Nichtmitglied des EU-Schengen-Raumes ist unter anderem der Finanzplatz Grossbritannien.

Haager Programm
Im Zuge der Terrorbekämpfung haben die Staats- und Regierungschefs der Europäischen Union im November 2004 das so genannte Haager Programm zur Stärkung des «Raumes der Freiheit, der Sicherheit und des Rechtes» beschlossen. Ziel ist unter anderem die Verbesserung des Austausches strafverfolgungsrelevanter Informationen.

Als Bankgeheimnis bezeichnet die Schweizer Rechtssprechung die Geheimhaltungspflicht der Banken über die vermögensrechtlichen und privaten Verhältnisse ihrer Kunden, in welche die Banken durch die Kundenbeziehung Einblick erhalten. Das Bankgeheimnis ist eigentlich kein Geheimnis der Bank, sondern des Kunden der Bank. Der Schutz der Privatsphäre spielt in der Schweiz eine im Vergleich mit dem Ausland wichtige Rolle. Die vermögensrechtliche Geheimsphäre ist seit langem zivilrechtlich durch Artikel 28 des Zivilgesetzbuches (ZGB) garantiert.

    June 29, 2006

An Alert Press
Oversight of the government's national security policies is needed now more than ever.

THE DECISION on whether to publish information that government officials assert would damage national security is one of the gravest choices a newspaper can face. There may be times when editors get it wrong, either printing material that proves harmful or withholding information that should have come to light. But these are risks that the Constitution contemplated and that the Framers were persuaded were worth tolerating to ensure a free and vigorous press.

Justice Potter Stewart stated this trade-off well in a concurring opinion in the Pentagon Papers case 35 years ago. "In the absence of the governmental checks and balances present in other areas of our national life, the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in the areas of national defense and international affairs may lie in an enlightened citizenry -- in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government," he wrote. "For this reason, it is perhaps here that a press that is alert, aware, and free most vitally serves the basic purpose of the First Amendment. For, without an informed and free press, there cannot be an enlightened people."

The wisdom and perspective of Justice Stewart have been conspicuously lacking in the recent uproar over reports about secret government programs. The latest and most vituperative yet involves the decision by the New York Times and other newspapers to publish stories detailing the administration's examination of private banking records. We recognize that this was a controversial choice. But that does not excuse the politicians who have responded with press-bashing that scores political points at the expense of constitutional values.

Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) offered a prime example of this on Fox News on Sunday when he called for criminal prosecution of reporters, editors and the publisher at the New York Times. "The time has come for the American people to realize and the New York Times to realize we're at war and they can't be just on their own deciding what to declassify, what to release," he said.

Mr. King isn't alone in misunderstanding the critical role of an independent and aggressive press in a free society. Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) said the paper not only should have withheld the information but should have "worked in cooperation with those authorities in our government to make sure that those who leaked were prosecuted." Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), whose chamber is to take up a resolution condemning the story, said, "This is not news; this is something that has been classified, something that is top secret."

The reactions of President Bush and, even more, Vice President Cheney have been only slightly less chilling. Mr. Cheney assailed news organizations who "take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people."

All administrations jealously guard secrets, often for important reasons. But this administration, more than any since the one that prosecuted the Pentagon Papers case, has resisted disclosure and effective oversight, whether by Congress or the press. This across-the-board aversion to scrutiny makes it all the more difficult for responsible media organizations to separate the legitimate claims of national security from the overblown.

Those who complain about disclosures assert that the war on terrorism has changed the calculus of risk. They would prefer a media meekly obeying official demands for secrecy. But in the end, as Justice Stewart understood, the nation stands to benefit far more than it could lose from a press that is "alert, aware and free."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Weltwoche    29.Juni 2006

Wir Servilen
Von Peter Bodenmann

    Der Europarat hat an Wichtigkeit verloren; die politisch zentralen Entscheide fallen meist in Brüssel und nicht in Strassburg. Der Ständerat Dick Marty ist Präsident der Menschenrechtskommission des Europarates. Diese hatte zu prüfen, ob die USA heimlich Gefangene verschleppt und in Geheimgefängnissen gefoltert haben.
    Wenn ein Parlamentarier in Europa einen wichtigen Auftrag bekommt, wird er von seinem Heimatland mit Personal und anderen Ressourcen unterstützt. Der Bundesrat liess Marty allein seine Arbeit machen. In solchen Fällen gibt es immer zwei Versionen: Das EDA wollte ihm nicht helfen - Marty wollte sich nicht helfen lassen. Sicher sind im Nachhinein nur zwei Dinge: Man hat ihm nicht geholfen. Und als sein Bericht vorlag, führte das EDA die unterwürfige Politik gegenüber den USA fort, obwohl die von Marty gesammelten Indizien in jedem Strafprozess für zwei Verurteilungen ausreichen würden.
    Marty kritisierte dann die Aussenpolitik von Micheline Calmy-Rey als servil. Die Sozialdemokratin reagierte betupft. Alle Parteien liessen Marty im Regen stehen. Die Sozialdemokraten haben die notwendige Distanz zu ihren eigenen Bundesräten verloren. Der Freisinn schämt sich für einen der letzten Liberalen in seinen Reihen. Und die Grünen freuen sich an ihren absehbar zehn Prozent Wählerstimmen.
    Blick zurück: Im Dezember 2003 stimmte das Parlament einer SVP-Initiative, die das Bankgeheimnis in der Verfassung verankern wollte, mit 113 zu 69 Stimmen zu. Der Unternehmensberater Bruno Zuppiger: «Immer wieder werden neue Wege gesucht, wie der Schutz der Bankkunden ausgehebelt werden kann. Eine grosse Mehrheit der WAK [Kommission für Wirtschaft und Abgaben] erachtet das Bankkundengeheimnis für den Finanzplatz Schweiz ebenfalls als zentrales Anliegen.»
    Parlamentarier sind Ignoranten, denn zu diesem Zeitpunkt hatten UBS und Credit Suisse zusammen mit der Schweizerischen Nationalbank der faktischen Aufhebung des Bankgeheimnisses längst zugestimmt. Die USA dürfen seit 2001 internationale Kontobewegungen mit Billigung der internationalen Grossbanken und der elf wichtigsten Nationalbanken überwachen. Und da die Schweizerische Nationalbank den Bundesrat über wichtige Fragen informieren muss, werden auch die Bundesräte dies unschwer mitbekommen haben.
    Alle beteiligten Schweizer hielten brav dicht. Weil die Angst vor den USA grösser ist als die Liebe zum Bankgeheimnis. Die New York Times liess die Blase platzen. Als erste hat die belgische Regierung die systematische Überprüfung aller internationalen Finanztransaktionen durch das Imperium bestätigt. Und durch das Justizdepartement eine Untersuchung gegen sich selber eingeleitet. In der Schweiz mochte keine Partei piepsen. Der Bundesrat ging in Deckung. Für den Datenschutzbeauftragten des Bundes - war wenigstens er eingeweiht? - ist das Ganze immerhin «ausserordentlich heikel». Mehr auch nicht. Betrüblich die Tatsache, dass sich fast niemand mehr konkret für die Menschenrechte einsetzt. Tröstlich immerhin, dass ein Bankgeheimnis, das die Banker gegenüber den Amerikanern aufgegeben haben, gegen die Europäer auf Dauer nicht zu verteidigen ist.

Der Autor ist Hotelier in Brig und ehemaliger Präsident der SP Schweiz.

Weltwoche    29.Juni 2006

Wird man andernorts nicht müde, das Bankgeheimnis zu preisen,
sieht man jetzt keinen Anlass zur Sorge.
Politik und Wirtschaft setzen fundamentale Rechte der Kunden
aus kurzfristigen Interessen aufs Spiel.
Unerhört, diese Signale

Von Hans Geiger und Oliver Wünsch

    Der Zahlungsverkehr der Welt wurde heimlich überwacht, doch Regierungen und Banken kuschen willfährig. Gegen das Wohl ihrer Bürger und Kunden.
   Nicht nur die Architektur ist transparent: Swift-Hauptquartier in Brüssel.
    Terroristen sind schwer zu finden und noch schwerer zu fassen. Im Kampf gegen das Böse setzen die Ermittlungsbehörden auf die Rasterfahndung. Unmengen an Daten aus Telefonie, Internet und E-Mail durchkämmen sie nach möglichen Hinweisen. Es war lediglich eine Frage der Zeit, bis auch die Knotenpunkte der Finanzinfrastruktur in ihr Visier geraten.
    Letzte Woche nun ist bekannt geworden, dass sich die US-amerikanische Regierung und ihr Geheimdienst CIA Zugang zur zentralen Datenbank von Swift verschafft haben, dem technischen Herzstück des internationalen Bankensystems. Als Gemeinschaftsunternehmen der Banken der Welt stellt Swift die Infrastruktur bereit, mit der weltweit Zahlungsinstruktionen, Wertschriften- und andere Aufträge ausgetauscht werden - täglich sind dies über elf Millionen Nachrichten im Wert von sechs Billionen Dollar.
    Die USA haben seit Ende 2001 Zugriff auf Informationen über faktisch den gesamten internationalen Zahlungsverkehr. Sie kennen die Namen, Konto-, und Transaktionsinformationen aller Bankkunden, die grenzüberschreitende Zahlungen getätigt oder erhalten haben, unabhängig von Nationalität, Herkunft und Ziel. Die Schweizer Banken gehören zu den wichtigsten Benutzern von Swift.
    Pikant daran: Swift ist keine amerikanische Unternehmung, sondern ein Gemeinschaftswerk von fast 8000 Banken aus über 200 Ländern mit Hauptsitz in Belgien und einem grossen Stützpunkt in den USA. Trotzdem waren die USA in der Lage, Zugriff auf die Swift-Daten zu erlangen. Darüber wurden die G-10-Zentralbanken und auch die Schweizerische Nationalbank von Swift offiziell ins Bild gesetzt. Im Board von Swift, das über den Kooperationsentscheid unter höchster Geheimhaltung informiert wurde, sitzen auch zwei Vertreter des hiesigen Finanzplatzes. Zumindest einige Schweizer Banken waren so also seit langem informiert.
    Das Engagement der Schweizer Banken bei Geldwäscheprävention und Bekämpfung von Terrorismusfinanzierung ist wohlbekannt. Die Banken weisen ihre Kunden ausdrücklich auf ihre Bemühungen hin. Sie schaffen dadurch Verständnis für die den Kunden tangierenden Massnahmen, und sie tragen damit Sorge zur eigenen Reputation. Die Banken durchleuchten jeden Kunden und jeden Auftrag. Das geschieht aber intern und unter Wahrung des Bankgeheimnisses. Erst bei begründetem Verdacht werden die Behörden informiert.
    Ganz anders im Fall Swift: Die Kooperation zwischen Swift und den USA erfolgte im Geheimen. Die Rechtsgrundlage für den Datenzugriff ist schwach und auch in den USA umstritten. Auf den meisten bedeutenden Finanzplätzen dürfte ein solcher geheimer Zugriff in diesem Umfang illegal sein, weil elementare Grundrechte der ahnungslosen Kunden missachtet werden. Der Nutzen der Aktion steht in keinem Verhältnis zum verursachten Kollateralschaden: Swift gewährte grundsätzlich Zugriff auf die gesamte Datenbank, auch wenn ziemlich bald Einschränkungen in der Datenbreite vorgenommen wurden.
    Bei den Akteuren des schweizerischen Finanzplatzes regte sich kaum Widerstand. Die Schweizerische Nationalbank und das Finanzdepartement erklären sich für nicht zuständig, eine Schweizer Grossbank sieht das Bankgeheimnis nicht verletzt. Wird man andernorts nicht müde, das Bankgeheimnis als Schutz für den Kunden zu preisen, sieht man jetzt keinen Anlass zur Sorge. Und das, obwohl persönliche Daten der Kunden von Schweizer Banken von einem fremden Staat abgefragt werden - ohne Einzelfallprüfung, ohne konkreten Verdacht und ohne rechtliches Verfahren. Die sonst so sorgfältig gepflegten Regeln der Rechts- und Amtshilfe sind ausgehebelt. Der Kunde weiss von all dem nichts, vor allem nicht von seiner Bank.
    Die Swift-Affäre ist kein Einzelfall. In den letzten Jahren beschlossen internationale Gremien, motiviert von einigen wenigen Staaten, immer weiter reichende Massnahmen, um vor allem die Finanzbranche im Kampf gegen das Böse einzuspannen. Die Einflussmöglichkeiten eines einzelnen Staates sind gering. Dies erklärt wohl auch das Desinteresse der Nationalbanken und Regierungen an der Swift-Affäre: Sie sehen für sich keine Möglichkeit, gegen die Wünsche der USA anzugehen. Dabei stellt sich aber die Frage, ob, wenn die CIA nach Terroristen suchen darf, nicht auch Frankreich oder Deutschland das gleiche Recht haben, nach Drogenhändlern oder Steuersündern Ausschau zu halten. Versprochene Zweckbindungen werden nicht eingehalten, wie sich beispielsweise in Deutschland zeigte: Zur «Terrorismusbekämpfung» wurden dort sämtliche Banken verpflichtet, Informationen über 500 Millionen Konten und Depots in eine riesige Datenbank einzuspeisen. Als diese erst mal eingerichtet war, kam der Staat auf neue Ideen: Heute haben dank dem «Gesetz zur Förderung der Steuerehrlichkeit» auch Steuerämter und Sozialbehörden Zugriff auf die Datenbank.
    Den Banken scheint dies alles nicht sehr bedeutungsvoll zu sein, wie man aus ihren Reaktionen auf die Swift-Affäre schliessen muss. Für sie stellen die staatlichen Begehrlichkeiten Rahmenbedingungen dar, die sie nicht beeinflussen können. Es sind Nebenbedingungen der Geschäftstätigkeit, ähnlich wie die Grundregeln der Buchhaltung oder der Zinsberechnung. Banken sehen sich vor der Wahl, die Anforderungen umzusetzen oder ihre Lizenzen oder mindestens das gute Einvernehmen mit den Behörden zu gefährden. In dieses Bild passt, dass man bei Swift hauptsächlich um Haftungsfragen besorgt war. Dass man zum heimlichen Gehilfen von Nachrichtendiensten geworden ist und dabei opportunistisch die Rechte der Kunden verraten hat, ist kurzfristig von geringem Belang. Langfristig leidet aber das Vertrauen der Kunden und damit das Wohlergehen der Banken.
    Schliesslich sind es persönliche Daten ihrer Kunden, die diese bei den Banken in Sicherheit wähnen. Und: Im Fall Swift hatten die Kunden nicht einmal die Möglichkeit, zu wissen, dass die Vertraulichkeit nicht gewährleistet ist. Das verstösst gegen das Recht auf Privatsphäre, welches nicht nur in der schweizerischen Bundesverfassung verankert ist, sondern in fast allen europäischen Staaten Verfassungsrang geniesst. Das US-Finanzministerium stellt dazu lapidar fest, dass der Kunde kein Interesse an der Vertraulichkeit habe.
    Das Bankgeheimnis aber muss den Kunden schützen und nicht die Banken. Die Kunden werden den Schutz ihrer Privatsphäre auch dann noch benötigen, wenn die Banken das Bankgeheimnis nicht mehr brauchen sollten. Doch der Bürger und Bankkunde konnte bei der Verteidigung seiner Rechte im Swift-Fall weder auf die Unterstützung der Banken noch der Schweizer Regierung zählen. Schlimmer noch, er konnte sich auch selbst nicht schützen, da er von der Beeinträchtigung seiner Privatsphäre gar nichts wusste. Es ist für den Kunden absolut irrelevant, dass das schweizerische Bankgeheimnis formell nicht verletzt wurde. Der Finanzplatz hat das Bankgeheimnis während Jahren zelebriert und dem Kunden das Gefühl gegeben, dass es sich dabei um eine Grundsatzfrage und nicht um eine juristische Spitzfindigkeit handelt.
    Der Swift-Fall zeigt das gegenteilige Bild. Aus fundamentalen Rechten wie Bankgeheimnis, Datenschutz, Treue- und Sorgfaltspflicht sowie Transparenz sind Verhandlungsmassen geworden, die Politik und Wirtschaft aus kurzfristigen Interessen aufs Spiel setzen. Verlierer ist der Kunde. Seine Interessen werden dem Machtanspruch der USA untergeordnet - und er wird von seiner Bank nicht mal darüber informiert.

Hans Geiger ist Professor, Oliver Wünsch Assistent am Swiss Banking Institute der Universität Zürich.

    June 30, 2006

A Secret the Terrorists Already Knew

COUNTERTERRORISM has become a source of continuing domestic and international political controversy. Much of it, like the role of the Iraq war in inspiring new terrorists, deserves analysis and debate. Increasingly, however, many of the political issues surrounding counterterrorism are formulaic, knee-jerk, disingenuous and purely partisan. The current debate about United States monitoring of transfers over the Swift international financial system strikes us as a case of over-reaction by both the Bush administration and its critics.

Going after terrorists' money is a necessary element of any counterterrorism program, as President Bill Clinton pointed out in presidential directives in 1995 and 1998. Individual terrorist attacks do not typically cost very much, but running terrorist cells, networks and organizations can be extremely expensive.

Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist groups have had significant fund-raising operations involving solicitation of wealthy Muslims, distribution of narcotics and even sales of black market cigarettes in New York. As part of a "follow the money" strategy, monitoring international bank transfers is worthwhile (even if, given the immense number of transactions and the relatively few made by terrorists, it is not highly productive) because it makes operations more difficult for our enemies. It forces them to use more cumbersome means of moving money.

Privacy rights advocates, with whom we generally agree, have lumped this bank-monitoring program with the alleged National Security Agency wiretapping of calls in which at least one party is within the United States as examples of our government violating civil liberties in the name of counterterrorism. The two programs are actually very different.

Any domestic electronic surveillance without a court order, no matter how useful, is clearly illegal. Monitoring international bank transfers, especially with the knowledge of the bank consortium that owns the network, is legal and unobjectionable.

The International Economic Emergency Powers Act, passed in 1977, provides the president with enormous authority over financial transactions by America's enemies. International initiatives against money laundering have been under way for a decade, and have been aimed not only at terrorists but also at drug cartels, corrupt foreign officials and a host of criminal organizations.

These initiatives, combined with treaties and international agreements, should leave no one with any presumption of privacy when moving money electronically between countries. Indeed, since 2001, banks have been obliged to report even transactions entirely within the United States if there is reason to believe illegal activity is involved. Thus we find the privacy and illegality arguments wildly overblown.

So, too, however, are the Bush administration's protests that the press revelations about the financial monitoring program may tip off the terrorists. Administration officials made the same kinds of complaints about news media accounts of electronic surveillance. They want the public to believe that it had not already occurred to every terrorist on the planet that his telephone was probably monitored and his international bank transfers subject to scrutiny. How gullible does the administration take the American citizenry to be?

Terrorists have for many years employed nontraditional communications and money transfers — including the ancient Middle Eastern hawala system, involving couriers and a loosely linked network of money brokers — precisely because they assume that international calls, e-mail and banking are monitored not only by the United States but by Britain, France, Israel, Russia and even many third-world countries.

While this was not news to terrorists, it may, it appears, have been news to some Americans, including some in Congress. But should the press really be called unpatriotic by the administration, and even threatened with prosecution by politicians, for disclosing things the terrorists already assumed?

In the end, all the administration denunciations do is give the press accounts an even higher profile. If administration officials were truly concerned that terrorists might learn something from these reports, they would be wise not to give them further attention by repeatedly fulminating about them.

There is, of course, another possible explanation for all the outraged bloviating. It is an election year. Karl Rove has already said that if it were up to the Democrats, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would still be alive. The attacks on the press are part of a political effort by administration officials to use terrorism to divide America, and to scare their supporters to the polls again this year.

The administration and its Congressional backers want to give the impression that they are fighting a courageous battle against those who would wittingly or unknowingly help the terrorists. And with four months left before Election Day, we can expect to hear many more outrageous claims about terrorism — from partisans on both sides. By now, sadly, Americans have come to expect it.

Richard A. Clarke and Roger W. Cressey, counterterrorism officials on the National Security Council under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, are security consultants.

Le Monde    30 juin 2006

Espionnage bancaire par la CIA:
la Banque de Belgique était au courant depuis 2002

 Jean-Pierre Stroobants

La Banque nationale de Belgique (BNB) savait, depuis février 2002, que l'Agence centrale de renseignements (CIA) américaine avait accès aux données de Swift, une société basée dans la banlieue de Bruxelles qui gère les échanges d'informations entre des banques du monde entier pour exécuter des transactions financières. La société a été soumise à des injonctions du ministère du Trésor américain, qui exigeait qu'elle livre ses bases de données, a révélé la presse américaine il y a quelques jours. Washington entendait ainsi améliorer la lutte contre le financement du terrorisme.

La BNB aurait été informée par Swift en même temps que la Banque centrale européenne (BCE) et quatre mois avant le G10, qui regroupe les grandes banques centrales européennes et celles du Japon, du Canada, etc. Estimant qu'elle devait respecter le secret professionnel auquel elle est soumise, la BNB n'a apparemment pas prévenu les autorités belges.

Comme ses homologues, la Banque centrale belge a averti Swift qu'elle était incompétente pour donner à la compagnie l'aval qu'elle réclamait, d'autant que c'est la filiale américaine de l'entreprise, établie en Virginie, qui était visée par une obligation temporaire devenue, par la suite, récurrente.

Les autorités financières belges n'ont dès lors, selon les explications qu'elles avancent, pas jugé utile de vérifier si la démarche de l'administration américaine était légale. Swift affirme, quant à elle, qu'elle était tenue d'accomplir ce qui était exigé par le Trésor américain.

La démarche paraissait, en revanche, contrevenir aux règles européennes, qui interdisent la transmission de données de ce type. Mardi 27 mai, un porte-parole de la Commission européenne a cependant affirmé : "La question ne tombe pas dans le champ de notre compétence." Selon la Commission, la loi européenne de protection des données ne couvre pas les informations individuelles transmises à des pays tiers à des fins de sécurité.

Mercredi, le gouvernement belge a demandé une enquête au Comité pour le renseignement et la sécurité. Le gouvernement affirme vouloir vérifier si la législation belge n'a pas été contournée.

The Economist    1 July 2006

Data security: Wired
Outcry over America's tracking of international money transfers

    THE sheer volume offdata passing through the SWIFT network daily is mind-boggling: up to 12.7m messages about money transfers, bouncing between more than 7,800 banks and financial firms in over 200 countries. It is thé broadest system of its kind for sending financial messages around the world quickly and securely. As one might expect, the data include the names and account numbers of those sending and receiving funds.
    Hence this week's outcry at the revelation that American government agencies have been tracking messages sent via SWIFT for several years in the hope of hunting down terrorists. SWIFT says it was complying with subpoenas from the American government, had limited the data handed over and had told its senior committee (made up of central-bank officiais) what was going on. Still, questions remain about who knew what when, as well as the legality of it ail.
    In private, bankers have expressed consternation at the snooping. The government of Belgium, where the SWIFT consortium is based, says it is investigating. The European People's Party, the centre-right group in the European Parliament, bas called for a broader inquiry. The American Civil Liberties Union detects "abuse of power" by the Bush administration. Privacy International, a human-rights group in London, has lodged complaints in more than 30 countries in a bid to "paralyse" the Americans' effort. Simon Davies, its director, says it plans to file more.
    George Bush and his senior advisers have already hit back. The president blasted the media for publishing details of the surveillance programme: a "disgraceful" move, he said, that did "great harm" to America. Therein lies the rub. Since the terror attacks of September 2001, the Bush administration has tried hard to cut off funding for terrorists. Through bodies like the Financial Action Task Force, America has pressed foreign governments to monitor financial transactions more closely. International banks are already required to file reports on suspicious activity, and are loth to criticise anti-terrorism efforts publicly, no matter how onerous.
    Watching SWIFT means tracking a huge amount of data. Michael Turner of the Political and Economie Research Council, an American think-tank, says the closest parallels are thé FBI'S collection of data on suspected Communists during the 1950s and registration of Japanese-Americans during the second world war. But those cases "pale in comparison from a pure quantitative perspective," he adds.
An industry representative suggests thé Americans may have been forced to go to SWIFT after banks turned down their requests for information. "This is a delicate issue," he says. "There's a degree of cloak and dagger and hush-hush involved." So much for the hush. •

    July 1, 2006

When Do We Publish a Secret?
By DEAN BAQUET, editor, The Los Angeles Times,
and BILL KELLER, executive editor, The New York Times

SINCE Sept. 11, 2001, newspaper editors have faced excruciating choices in covering the government's efforts to protect the country from terrorist agents. Each of us has, on a number of occasions, withheld information because we were convinced that publishing it could put lives at risk. On other occasions, each of us has decided to publish classified information over strong objections from our government.

Last week our newspapers disclosed a secret Bush administration program to monitor international banking transactions. We did so after appeals from senior administration officials to hold the story. Our reports — like earlier press disclosures of secret measures to combat terrorism — revived an emotional national debate, featuring angry calls of "treason" and proposals that journalists be jailed along with much genuine concern and confusion about the role of the press in times like these.

We are rivals. Our newspapers compete on a hundred fronts every day. We apply the principles of journalism individually as editors of independent newspapers. We agree, however, on some basics about the immense responsibility the press has been given by the inventors of the country.

Make no mistake, journalists have a large and personal stake in the country's security. We live and work in cities that have been tragically marked as terrorist targets. Reporters and photographers from both our papers braved the collapsing towers to convey the horror to the world.

We have correspondents today alongside troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others risk their lives in a quest to understand the terrorist threat; Daniel Pearl of The Wall Street Journal was murdered on such a mission. We, and the people who work for us, are not neutral in the struggle against terrorism.

But the virulent hatred espoused by terrorists, judging by their literature, is directed not just against our people and our buildings. It is also aimed at our values, at our freedoms and at our faith in the self-government of an informed electorate. If the freedom of the press makes some Americans uneasy, it is anathema to the ideologists of terror.

Thirty-five years ago yesterday, in the Supreme Court ruling that stopped the government from suppressing the secret Vietnam War history called the Pentagon Papers, Justice Hugo Black wrote: "The government's power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the government. The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people."

As that sliver of judicial history reminds us, the conflict between the government's passion for secrecy and the press's drive to reveal is not of recent origin. This did not begin with the Bush administration, although the polarization of the electorate and the daunting challenge of terrorism have made the tension between press and government as clamorous as at any time since Justice Black wrote.

Our job, especially in times like these, is to bring our readers information that will enable them to judge how well their elected leaders are fighting on their behalf, and at what price.

In recent years our papers have brought you a great deal of information the White House never intended for you to know — classified secrets about the questionable intelligence that led the country to war in Iraq, about the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, about the transfer of suspects to countries that are not squeamish about using torture, about eavesdropping without warrants.

As Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Washington Post, asked recently in the pages of that newspaper: "You may have been shocked by these revelations, or not at all disturbed by them, but would you have preferred not to know them at all? If a war is being waged in America's name, shouldn't Americans understand how it is being waged?"

Government officials, understandably, want it both ways. They want us to protect their secrets, and they want us to trumpet their successes. A few days ago, Treasury Secretary John Snow said he was scandalized by our decision to report on the bank-monitoring program. But in September 2003 the same Secretary Snow invited a group of reporters from our papers, The Wall Street Journal and others to travel with him and his aides on a military aircraft for a six-day tour to show off the department's efforts to track terrorist financing. The secretary's team discussed many sensitive details of their monitoring efforts, hoping they would appear in print and demonstrate the administration's relentlessness against the terrorist threat.

How do we, as editors, reconcile the obligation to inform with the instinct to protect?

Sometimes the judgments are easy. Our reporters in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, take great care not to divulge operational intelligence in their news reports, knowing that in this wired age it could be seen and used by insurgents.

Often the judgments are painfully hard. In those cases, we cool our competitive jets and begin an intensive deliberative process.

The process begins with reporting. Sensitive stories do not fall into our hands. They may begin with a tip from a source who has a grievance or a guilty conscience, but those tips are just the beginning of long, painstaking work. Reporters operate without security clearances, without subpoena powers, without spy technology. They work, rather, with sources who may be scared, who may know only part of the story, who may have their own agendas that need to be discovered and taken into account. We double-check and triple-check. We seek out sources with different points of view. We challenge our sources when contradictory information emerges.

Then we listen. No article on a classified program gets published until the responsible officials have been given a fair opportunity to comment. And if they want to argue that publication represents a danger to national security, we put things on hold and give them a respectful hearing. Often, we agree to participate in off-the-record conversations with officials, so they can make their case without fear of spilling more secrets onto our front pages.

Finally, we weigh the merits of publishing against the risks of publishing. There is no magic formula, no neat metric for either the public's interest or the dangers of publishing sensitive information. We make our best judgment.

When we come down in favor of publishing, of course, everyone hears about it. Few people are aware when we decide to hold an article. But each of us, in the past few years, has had the experience of withholding or delaying articles when the administration convinced us that the risk of publication outweighed the benefits. Probably the most discussed instance was The New York Times's decision to hold its article on telephone eavesdropping for more than a year, until editors felt that further reporting had whittled away the administration's case for secrecy.

But there are other examples. The New York Times has held articles that, if published, might have jeopardized efforts to protect vulnerable stockpiles of nuclear material, and articles about highly sensitive counterterrorism initiatives that are still in operation. In April, The Los Angeles Times withheld information about American espionage and surveillance activities in Afghanistan discovered on computer drives purchased by reporters in an Afghan bazaar.

It is not always a matter of publishing an article or killing it. Sometimes we deal with the security concerns by editing out gratuitous detail that lends little to public understanding but might be useful to the targets of surveillance. The Washington Post, at the administration's request, agreed not to name the specific countries that had secret Central Intelligence Agency prisons, deeming that information not essential for American readers. The New York Times, in its article on National Security Agency eavesdropping, left out some technical details.

Even the banking articles, which the president and vice president have condemned, did not dwell on the operational or technical aspects of the program, but on its sweep, the questions about its legal basis and the issues of oversight.

We understand that honorable people may disagree with any of these choices — to publish or not to publish. But making those decisions is the responsibility that falls to editors, a corollary to the great gift of our independence. It is not a responsibility we take lightly. And it is not one we can surrender to the government.

DEAN BAQUET, editor, The Los Angeles Times, and BILL KELLER, executive editor, The New York Times

Tages-Anzeiger    1. Juli 2006

Die Schweiz verhält sich gegenüber den USA zu devot
Die Banken haben sich mit der Weitertgabe geheimer Daten zum Gehilfen der CIA gemacht.
Das ist schon schlimm genug. Verheerend ist, dass sich auch die Politik immer willfähriger gibt.

Von Annetta Bundi, Bern

    Gern boten sie dazu sicher nicht Hand. Um in den USA aber weiter geschäften zu können, unterzeichneten die Schweizer
Finanzinstitute 2001 einen Vertrag der das Bankgeheimnis ritzt. Seither müssen sie den Behörden die Identität all jener US-Bürger und Ausländer mit amerikanischer Steuerpflicht offenlegen, die auf Schweizer Banken Wertpapiere halten. Ähnlich geschmeidig passten sich UBS und CS der amerikanischen Boykottpolitik an: Im Herbst letzten Jahres zogen sie sich aus den Geschäften mit dem Iran und anderen von den USA als «Schurkenstaaten» gebrandmarkten Ländem zurück.
    Dies zeigt: Die Schweizer Grossbanken orientieren sich immer stärker an der US-Politik. Was in Washington beschlossen wird, hat auf ihre strategischen Entscheide grösseren Einfluss als die in Bern traktandierten Geschäfte. Es erstaunt daher nicht, dass sie auch den amerikanischen Geheimdienst gewähren liessen, als sich dieser 2001 anschickte, über die in Brüssel beheimatete Transaktionsgesellschaft Swift systematisch Daten zum internationalen Zahlungsverkehr zu samme!n. Obschon UBS und CS im Verwaltungsrat der Swift vertreten sind, hielten sie es nicht für nötig, der Samrnelwut der CIA entschieden entgegenzutreten.
    Selbst wenn das Bankgeheimnis dadurch formell nicht missachtet wurde, ist diese Haltung unverständlich. Es geht nicht an, ohne konkreten Hinweis auf eine kriminelle Handlung hinter dem Rücken der Kunden Tausende von Daten weiterzugeben. Doch als ob dies nicht schon schlimm genug wäre: Indem die hiesigen Grossbanken ihre Entscheide immer häufiger den amerikanischen Interessen unterordnen, bringen sie auch die Schweizer Politik in Zugzwang. Denn entweder distanziert sich diese vom opportunistischen Gebaren der Banken - oder sie hält schützend ihre Hand davor.
    Die Reaktionen der letzten Tage zeigen, dass der Bundesrat keine Lust hat, sich mit den Amerikanern anzulegen. Sein Sicherheitsausschuss sah sich am Dienstag zwar bemüssigt, sich mit der leidigen Affäre zu befassen. Der Bundesrat hat aber keinen Handlungsbedarf ausgemacht, wie sollte er auch? Seit 2002 war das Finanzdepartement über den gigantischen Fischzug der CIA informiert - und liess den Geheimdienst wie die Banken gewähren.
    Kein Wunder, kommen vorab linke Parlamentarier zum Schluss, die Regierung kusche vor den USA. Das wird im Bundeshaus in Abrede gestellt. Der Kampf gegen den Terror hat die Haltung zu den Amerikanern aber zweifellos verändert: 2002 unterzeichnete die Schweiz mit den USA ein geheimes Abkommen, das es FBI-Agenten erlaubt, in Bern Akten zu kopieren und Interviews mit Verdächtigen mitzuschneiden. Entsprechende Gegenleistungen wurden der Schweiz zwar versprochen, aber nie geliefert.
    In dieses Bild passt, dass die US-Regierung den Bundesrat bei den mutmasslichen Gefangenentransporten der CIA mit
belanglosen Infonnationen abgespiesen hat. Doch das tut offenbar nichts zur Sache: Im Februar hat er entschieden, den
USA die Überflugbewilligung zu verlängern. Inzwischen ist klar, dass nicht nur vier, sondern über achtzig CIA-Flieger in der Schweiz gelandet sind.
    Dass der Bundesrat vor diesem Hintergrund versucht, die Schnüffelattacke auf den Zahlungsverkehr herunterzuspielen, kann man ihm nicht verargen. Er lässt sich damit aber auf eingefährliches Spiel ein. Wer gegenüber den USA nicht dezidiert dafür einsteht, vertrauliche Daten nur auf konkreten Verdacht hin und im Rahmen rechtstaatlicher Verfahren weiterzuleiten, nimmt in Kauf, dass bald auch andere Länder mit ähnlichen Ansprüchen an die Schweiz herantreten werden. Im Kampf gegen die Steuerhinterziehung versucht die EU ja schon seit langem, die Schweiz in ihren Informationsaustausch einzubinden - bisher ohne Erfolg. Die Zugeständnisse an die USA werden Brüssel jedoch darin bestärken, auf eine Lockerung des Bankgeheimnisses zu bestehen.

NZZ am Sonntag    2. Juli 2006

«Bankgeheimnis büsst Kraft ein»
Der Privatbankier Konrad Hummler über die Bankkonten-Schnüffeleien der CIA
und die Bedeutung des Bankgeheimnisses für den Finanzplatz Schweiz

Daniel Puntas Bernet

NZZ am Sonntag: Wie haben Sie auf die Enthüllung der Swift-Affäre am Freitag vor einer Woche reagiert?
Konrad Hummler: Es hat mich nicht überrascht. Es ist doch nichts als logisch, dass die Swift für den amerikanischen Geheimdienst nach dem 11. September 2001 ein Anknüpfungspunkt im Kampf gegen den Terror sein würde.

Also ist die ganze Empörung eine Aufregung von gestern?
Ja, nur nahm man die Art und Weise, wie die Untersuchungen durchgeführt wurden, noch nicht wahr. Unmittelbar nach den Anschlägen wurde alles, was im Namen der Terrorbekämpfung geschah, von einer breiten Öffentlichkeit gutgeheissen.

Wie haben Kunden Ihrer Bank darauf reagiert, dass die CIA internationale Finanzflüsse durchforscht?
Überhaupt nicht. Wir haben unseren Kunden bereits im Oktober 2001 reinen Wein eingeschenkt und ihnen mitgeteilt, dass die Geheimhaltung von internationalem Zahlungsverkehr künftig eine Illusion sein dürfte. Und nach der Einführung des Geldwäschereigesetzes warnten wir unsere Kunden ausdrücklich: Alles, was ins System eingegeben wird, findet irgendwann auch wieder hinaus. Wer damit ein Problem hat, muss auf internationale Transaktionen verzichten.

Haben denn die Grossbanken zu wenig informiert?
Ich kann nur für mich als Privatbankier sprechen. Doch juristisch betrachtet ist es offensichtlich, dass in Kenntnis der CIA-Untersuchungen die Banken hätten deklarieren müssen, dass diese Fishing-Expeditionen das Diskretionsabkommen zwischen der Swift und den Banken verletzt.

Hätte das Finanzdepartement 2002 die Öffentlichkeit von den Swift-Überwachungen in Kenntnis setzen müssen?
Die Entschuldigung, dass man unter dem Eindruck der Anschläge stand, gilt auch für die Behörden. Doch es herrscht im Bundeshaus die Ansicht, dass man möglichst wenig über solche Angelegenheiten reden sollte, um so den Schein des Bankgeheimnisses zu wahren und die Attraktivität des Finanzplatzes Schweiz übermässig in den Vordergrund zu stellen.

Wovon ja auch die Banken profitieren.
Sicher. Aber man muss die Kunden offen informieren und klar definieren, was das Bankgeheimnis kann und was es nicht kann.

Das Bankgeheimnis wurde rein formal ja gar nicht verletzt. Was enthält es denn eigentlich noch?
Es gibt eine juristische und eine praktische Komponente: Als Tatbestand im Bankengesetz mit strafrechtlichen Konsequenzen nimmt es die Banken in die Pflicht, unrechtmässige Geschäfte den Behörden zu melden. Praktisch geht es darum, den Personenkreis innerhalb einer Bank, der Kenntnis über Vermögen eines Kunden besitzt, möglichst klein zu halten. Und da gibt es zwischen den einzelnen Banken erhebliche Unterschiede.

Das Bankgeheimnis ist nicht überall das gleiche Bankgeheimnis?
Genau. Ob Sie es mit einer Bank zu tun haben, die internationale Datenmengen bewirtschaftet und eine multinationale Plattform unterhält oder mit einem kleinen Gebilde, das sich selber organisieren kann und territorial eingeschränkt ist, macht einen Unterschied.

Verwenden Grossbanken das Bankgeheimnis demnach bloss noch als Marketing-Label?
Das würde ich ihnen nicht unterstellen, dazu fehlen mir die nötigen Kenntnisse. Doch es liegt für mich auf der Hand, dass eine multinationale Organisation, die verschiedenen Rechtskreisen unterliegt, diesbezüglich ein viel grösseres Problem hat als jemand, der sich eine Beschränkung auferlegt.

Befürchten Sie eine sukzessive Aushöhlung des Bankgeheimnisses?
Es sind zwei Dinge, die das Bankgeheimnis gefährden. Zuerst einmal ist es fragwürdig, mit welcher Willfährigkeit und Blauäugigkeit unsere Behörden irgendwelchen ausländischen Aufsichtsbehörden begegnen. Solange Amts- und Rechtshilfeverfahren in der Schweiz dem jeweiligen tagespolitischen oder aussenpolitischen Pragmatismus untergeordnet werden, haben wir ein Problem. Und zum Zweiten ist es eine Tatsache, dass durch die heutige Technologie die Zugriffsmöglichkeiten von irgendeiner interessierten Partei auf Bankdaten gestiegen sind.

Was kann eine Bank dagegen tun?
Sie muss sich organisieren. Beispielsweise indem sie die physischen Datenströme zu Lasten der Praktikabilität immer wieder unterbricht.

Wird das Bankgeheimnis im Wettbewerb mit aufstrebenden Finanzplätzen wie Dubai oder Singapur künftig noch eine entscheidende Rolle spielen?
Zurzeit spielt es diese Rolle auf jeden Fall. Doch das Bankgeheimnis büsst durch die Swift- und andere Affären an Kraft ein. Das Bedürfnis nach Privatsphäre ist weltweit steigend. Auch wenn das Bankgeheimnis in letzter Zeit relativiert oder verändert wurde: Unser Vorteil ist nach wie vor, dass sich der Finanzplatz Schweiz mit seiner langjährigen Tradition bewährt hat. Und das kann man weder von Singapur noch von Dubai sagen.

Wie muss sich der Finanzplatz Schweiz künftig positionieren?
Man müsste in einer Welt, in der die technischen Möglichkeiten und die politischen Bestrebungen die Privatsphäre laufend untergraben, ein strategisches Gegengewicht schaffen und sich konsequent auf den Schutz der Privatsphäre konzentrieren.

Grossbanken verdienen ihr Geld doch längst anderweitig und sind nicht mehr auf das Bankgeheimnis angewiesen.
Nein. Die Grossbanken profitieren hiezulande von einem konstanten Cash-flow. Nur deshalb konnten sie überhaupt ihre aggressiven internationalen Strategien realisieren. Schliesslich verdanken auch sie ihre erfolgreichen Akquisitionen auf dem Weltmarkt dem Bankgeheimnis, der Verlässlichkeit und dem Matterhorn - also der Marke Schweiz.

Eigenwilliger Bankier
Dr. iur. Konrad Hummler, 53, ist seit 1991 geschäftsführender Teilhaber der Privatbank Wegelin in St. Gallen. Zuvor war er für die UBS tätig. Der St. Galler mit Wohnsitz in Appenzell Ausserrhoden sitzt auch im Verwaltungsrat der NZZ. FDP-Mitglied Hummler schwimmt bei Bedarf in seiner Partei auch einmal gegen den Strom, wie im Abstimmungskampf gegen den Beitritt der Schweiz zum Schengen-Abkommen. 2004 ist er aus dem Verwaltungsrat der Schweizerischen Bankiervereinigung ausgetreten, weil dieser die Schengen-Frage gar nicht erst diskutieren wollte. (dpb.)

nzz.ch    3. July 2006,

Banks slammed for downplaying CIA probe
Swiss banks should have warned customers that secrecy laws did not protect details of their international transactions, financial expert Hans Geiger has told swissinfo.
swissinfo:interview: Matthew Allen in Zurich

    Last weekend it emerged that US intelligence agencies had been monitoring records at the Belgium:based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) for the past five years.
    Switzerland's biggest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, played down the news by saying the CIA probe only related to limited data. UBS and the Swiss Bankers Association both told swissinfo that the surveillance did not compromise Swiss banking secrecy.
    But financial watchdog Action Finance Place Switzerland labelled this as a double standard, while Geiger, a professor at Zurich University's Swiss Banking Institute also disagreed with the banks' assessment.
swissinfo: What is the significance to bank customers of this CIA monitoring?
Hans Geiger: The fact that the CIA has got into Swift's central database and gained access to this type of information is shocking.
    Swift is the technological heartbeat of international banking. It is not just payments, but also transfers of securities, foreign exchanges : everything. When you make an international payment order you have to mention the amount, the recipient's and payer's names as well as their bank account numbers in order for it to be processed.
    But what really shocked me is that customers have to read this in the media and did not get this information from their banks.

swissinfo: What should the banks have done?
H.G.: I don't know how many banks knew about this, but the ones that did could have told customers, without mentioning the CIA operation, that if they conducted transfers outside of Switzerland then the Swiss have no legal powers to enforce privacy.
    If they can't influence what foreign agencies are doing, as in this case, then they should at least tell customer that things are not the way they think they are. That would at least have given the indication that Swiss banking secrecy is a bit relative.
    Telling the truth is always better than telling someone what they want to hear and giving them a feeling about something that later turns out to be wrong.

swissinfo: Surely people already knew that surveillance takes place?
H.G.: The banks could reasonably expect that customers would know that their data leaves the country when they make a transaction abroad. But the customer could not be expected to know that the CIA screens this data even if you are not a suspect.
    Under anti-money laundering laws banks have to pass on details of any suspicious transactions to an outside body. The banks have been very careful to tell customers about this, but they have not told customers at all about this [CIA] type of monitoring.

swissinfo: But the banks have been playing down the significance of the CIA operation...
H.G.: Legally speaking, the monitoring does not appear to compromise Swiss banking secrecy. But if you are a customer of a Swiss bank then you will feel that this has a lot to do with secrecy even if the lawyers say differently.
    The way that Switzerland presents itself as a centre for banking secrecy creates the impression that the high priority is to protect the customer's privacy.

swissinfo: Will this affect the integrity of Swiss banks?
H.G.: It may not be that severe because it affects all the banks all over the world. There are 8,000 banks that are members of Swift so the Swiss are no more affected than the others.
    Of course the feeling is that Swiss banks are more protected, but I think the Swiss banks will see this out until it goes away.

swissinfo: How does this leave the future of banking secrecy?
H.G.: People have been forecasting for some time that the erosion of banking secrecy is inevitable, not because of secret services but for technological reasons.
    With the internet and the wired, integrated world society, protection of privacy suffers. This latest twist is just another piece of the mosaic.

Financial Times    3 July 2006

As long as th US reserves th right not to be bound by its own domestic laws,
many Europeans are likely to be suspicious of its promises
Privacy in Europe is a casualty of America's terror war


    In the increasingly bitter dispute over press freedom in America, some Republicans are pressing for The New York Times to be charged with espionage. The editor of The New York Times has claimed for his part that the US government is out of control over the newspaper's disclosures that the government was monitoring international financial transactions. American commentators seem to be forgetting that the story does not end at the US border. The US was able to gain access to the relevant data by subpoenaing Swift, an international intermediary body for financial transactions. Last Tuesday, Swift was accused by Privacy International, an independent watchdog body, of breaking European law by providing information on European Union citizens' financial transactions to US authorities without those citizens' consent.
    Swift is based in Belgium which, like other EU member states, has strong laws protecting individual privacy. Privacy International has filed complaints with the data protection commissioners of 33 countries.
    But this is not just an issue for Swift, or even for financial businesses. It reflects a more general problem: how to balance security and privacy in the transatlantic relationship. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001, there have been EU-US controversies over airline passenger information, passport biometrics and communicaetions traffic data. US and European laws governing the relationship between security and privacy sometimes clash directly with each other, putting businesses and other private actors in an impossible position. When US and European laws are in fundamental conflict, which laws should businesses with a presence in both jurisdictions obey?
    Up until now, the EU and the US have sought to solve these conflicts through a series of ad-hoc arrangements. This no longer works. An EU-US deal on airline passenger information was successrully challenged by the European Parliament in the European Court of Justice last month. While the European Commission and member states will almost certainly corne up with an alternative arrangement that will satisfy the Court, the decision created big ambiguities about the relationship between privacy and national security as they relate to commercial data.
    New revelations that Swift has passed massive amounts of data on EU citizens' flnancial transactions to US authorities are certain to generale more unrest among European citizens, and public pressure to make sure that this does not happen again in future.
    Without rapid action by both the EU and the US, this is likely to deepen hostility toward the US among the European public. Europe and the US face real threats from terrorists, and have good reason to exchange information in order to combat these threats. If they wish to continue these exchanges without arousing vigorous, perhaps overwhelming, opposition, they need to reassure the public by subjecting transatlantic data exchanges to clear and transparent legal standards.
    First, thé US needs to make it explicit that European citizens' data is only going to be used for the narrow purpose of fighting terrorism and that there will be clear political safeguards against abuse. While existing ad-hoc arrangements have promised partial safeguards, public accountability and oversight are necessary to ensure that raies are adhered to in practice as well as in principle.
    Second, the EU needs to put its own house in order. At the moment, key décisions that affect privacy are taken in meetings of justice and home affairs ministers, with little accountability or public oversight. These decisions should be subjected to a comprehensive legal framework covering thé relationship between privacy and national security. Both the European parliament and the national data protection authorities need to play an oversight role in this framework as guarantors of the public interest.
    These measures will not fully resolve transatlantic problems over the balance between privacy and security. As long as the US administration reserves the right not to be bound by its own domestic laws, many Europeans are likely to remain suspicious of its promises. However, such measures can go some way to ensuring that these suspicions are not translated into vehement public opposition that could tightly constrain transatlantic information sharing and joint efforts to combat terrorism.

The writer is assistant professer of political science and international affairs at George Washington University, and a blogger at http://vww.crookedtimber.org

Handels-Zeitung    5.-11.Juli 2006

«Wir haben absolut von nichts gewusst»

Schweizer Bankenchefs sind verärgert über die Datenbeschaffung der CIA
im internationalen Zahlungsverkehr.
Sie fordern von der Swift endlich eine Stellungnahme.

    Aus Sicht der Schweizerischen Bankiervereinigung (SBVg) verletzt die geheime Datenbeschaffung durch den US-Geheimdienst CIA keine Gesetze in der Schweiz: «Unser Bankgeheimnis wird nicht tangiert», sagt SBVg-CEO Urs Roth. «Wir haben nur Informationen geliefert, die entweder gesetzlich vorgeschrieben sind oder aber vom Kunden willentlich gegeben werden.» Gleichzeitig räumt Roth ein, dass weder er noch die meisten Schweizer Bankiers von der Datenbeschaffung der CIA Kenntnis hatten: «Wir haben absolut von nichts gewusst.»
«Die Vorgänge um die Swift-Daten geben der Schweiz das Recht, die finanzielle Privatsphäre zu verteidigen.»
Raymond Bär VR-Präsident Julius Bär Holding

«In der Schweiz muss man sich fragen, wie ist das möglich gewesen, warum wussten die Banken das nicht?»
Peter Braunwalder, CEO HSBC Private Bank
    Die Tatsache, dass seit mehreren Jahren der Zugriff auf Datenbanken der Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) ohne Wissen fast aller Schweizer Bankiers erfolgt, stösst bei Exponenten des Schweizer Bankensektors auf Unverständnis. «Ich finde das Vorgehen der Amerikaner inakzeptabel», sagt Jacques Rossier, Partner bei Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch. «Ich hatte keine Ahnung und von den Vorgängen aus den Medien erfahren.» Während in der Schweiz das Bankgeheimnis weiterhin gewährleistet sei, berge jede internationale Finanztransaktion Risiken. «Ich rate unseren Kunden, die an einem vollständigen Bankgeheimnis hängen, daher, möglichst keine internationalen Transaktionen zu vollziehen.»
    Besonders stossend ist für Rossier, dass Vertreter der Grossbanken UBS und CS zwar im Swift-Verwaltungsrat Einsitz haben, aber nicht einmal die Bankiervereinigung über die Datenbeschaffung informiert wurde. «Bereits bei den nachrichtenlosen Vermögen war ein Interessenkonflikt der Grossbanken und der übrigen Schweizer Banken zu Tage getreten, sichtbar ist dieser auch bei den Iran-Geschäften und jetzt neuerdings auch bei der Swift.» Weil für UBS und CS das Amerikageschäft sehr wichtig sei, würden sie sich von den USA unter Druck setzen lassen. «Ich hoffe nicht, dass sich dieser Interessenkonflikt weiter verschärft und wir irgendwann eine Situation haben wie bei der Economiesuisse und Swissmem.»
Für Peter Braunwalder, CEO der HSBC Private Bank, ist klar, dass die Diskussion um die CIA-Datenbeschaffung auch politisch noch hohe Wellen schlagen wird. «In der Schweiz muss man sich fragen, wie ist das möglich gewesen, warum wussten die Banken das nicht? Daraus wird sicher eine politische Debatte entstehen.» Die Geschäftsprüfungskommission des Nationalrats verlangt bereits vom Bundesrat Auskunft über die CIA-Datensuche.

Chance für die Schweiz
    Überrascht über den Zugriff der Amerikaner auf die Swift-Daten ist auch Raymond Bär, VR-Präsident der Julius Bär Holding. «Ich bin enttäuscht, dass ich über die Vorgänge nicht informiert wurde.» Allerdings stehe hinter den Vorgängen bei der Swift nicht ein Schweizer Problem. «Vielmehr geht es um ein globales Thema: Es geht letztlich um die Erkenntnis, dass die Amerikaner - auch wenn es sich um die in der Sache sinnvolle Terrorismusbekämpfung handelt - nicht der ganzen Welt ihre Ansichten und Methoden diktieren dürfen.» Umso wichtiger sei es, dass Europa den Dialog pflege und die eigenen Standpunkte mehr in die internationale Meinungsbildung einbringe. Wegen des Schweizer Bankgeheimnisses macht er sich keine Sorgen. Im Gegenteil: «Dass die ganze Welt nichts über die Verwendung der Swift-Daten wusste, ist auch eine Chance: Die Vorgänge um die Swift-Daten geben der Schweiz das Recht, die finanzielle Privat-sphäre zu verteidigen.»

Nur begrenzter Schutz
    Urs Roth, CEO der Bankiervereinigung, macht klar, dass angesichts des Territorialitätsprinzips kein Kunde einer Schweizer Bank erwarten darf, dass der in der Schweiz garantierte Schutz der Privatsphäre auch ausserhalb der Landesgrenzen durchgesetzt werden könne. Negative Auswirkungen auf Schweizer Banken erwartet er nicht. «Wir müssen aber aufmerksam zuhören, ob Unsicherheiten bei Kunden aufbrechen.»
    Die Swift selbst trägt wenig zur Klärung der zahlreichen Fragen rund um den CIA-Datenzugriff bei. Urs Roth: «Es wäre aus meiner Sicht wünschbar, dass Swift sich in Brüssel äussern würde, was effektiv genau der Sachverhalt war, da-mit auch hier wieder Vertrauen hergestellt werden kann.»

Zugriff der USA auf Finanztransaktionen
Die Swift ist die weltweit grösste Datenbank für Finanztransaktionen. Rund 8000 Banken aus 200 Ländern sind an der Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift) beteiligt, darunter alle grösseren Schweizer Banken. Das Unter-nehmen mit Hauptsitz bei Brüssel wickelt internationale Überweisungen ab.
Der Geheimndienst CIA verschaffte sich nach den An-schlägen vom ll. September 2001 in den USA Zugang zur Swift und überprüfte Transak-tionen von Verdächtigen mit mutmasslichen Verbindungen zum Terrornetz AI Kaida.

FACTS    6. Juli 2006

Die Swift-Zentrale übermittelte schon kurz nach dem 11. September 2001
einen umfassenden Datensatz in die USA.
Fast alle Schweizer Banken waren im Bild
An der Generalversammlung 2002 orientierte der Vorstand von Swift Switzerland
seine Mitglieder über die CIA-Operation.

    La Hulpe, Herbst 2001: In einem Konferenzraum der Swift-Zentrale bei Brüssel hat der Kanadier Martin Read eine wichtige Mitteilung zu machen. Bevor der Vorsitzende des Auditkomitees von Swift aber die aus der ganzen Welt angereisten 25 Vorstandsmitglieder der Bankenkooperative orientiert, verlangt er - präventiv von jedem Einzelnen - absolute Verschwiegenheit. Dann lässt Read die Katze aus dem Sack: Die CIA habe nach den Anschlägen vom 11. September Einblick in die Swift-Datenbank verlangt. Ein erster umfassender Datenbestand sei bereits in die USA übermittelt worden.
    Im Raum sitzen auch zwei Schweizer: der UBS-Mann Stephan Zimmermann und Fritz Klein vom Oltener Effektenverwaltungshaus SIS SegaInterSettle. Die beiden vertreten die an Swift angeschlossenen Schweizer Finanzinstitute in der Organisation, die täglich weltweit elf Millionen Zahlungsanweisungen verarbeitet.
    Dass sich die USA unter massiver Druckausübung Zugang zum Nervenzentrum des internationalen Zahlungsverkehrs verschafft haben, ist zu diesem Zeitpunkt der Schweizerischen Nationalbank bereits bekannt. In den folgenden Tagen erfahren auch Credit Suisse, die Bankenaufsichtsbehörde EBK und Bundesrat Kaspar Villiger davon.

Sie mimen die Unwissenden
Heute ist den Schweizer Banken die Swift-Affäre höchst unangenehm. Sie schweigen oder geben sich unwissend. Privatbankiers und mittelgrosse Banken beteuern, nichts gewusst zu haben. Selbst die Bankiervereinigung will vom Vorfall «erst vergangene Woche und aus der Zeitung» erfahren haben. Daniel Wettstein, Nationalbank-Direktor und Präsident von Swift Switzerland, sagte dem «Tages-Anzeiger»: Der CIA-Zugriff sei im Schweizer Swift-Ableger kein Thema gewesen.
    Doch Nachfragen von FACTS ergeben ein völlig anderes Bild: Selbst zahlreiche mittlere und kleine Banken, die Bankiervereinigung und PostFinance waren seit Jahren über die Kooperation zwischen Swift und US-Terrorermittlern im Bild.
Informiert wurden die Bankenvertreter laut Aussagen von Beteiligten im Frühling 2002 an der Generalversammlung von Swift Switzerland. Mitglied im Verein sind 104 Schweizer Banken. Gegen dreissig Vereinsmitglieder besuchten 2002 die GV, darunter ein Vertreter der Bankiervereinigung und von PostFinance. Mit höchster Wahrscheinlichkeit nahmen auch die Kantonalbanken von Zürich, Bern und Waadt und die Privatbanken Julius Bär und Bank Leu teil. Sie sind im lokalen Swift-Ausschuss vertreten und an der GV normalerweise anwesend. Unter dem Traktandum «Bericht aus dem Verwaltungsrat» wurde mündlich und ausserhalb des Protokolls über die US-Fahndungsoperation berichtet. «Wer zugehört hat, war im Bild», sagt ein Anwesender. Swift Switzerland will sich zum Vorgang nicht äussern. Die Nationalbank hat dem Präsidenten Wettstein den Medienkontakt verboten. Auch die anderen Betroffenen schweigen. mst

kleinreport.ch 6. Juli 2006

Betretenes Schweigen zur Bankgeheimnis-Verletzung

Ein allgemeines «Sich-Winden» von Bankensprecher zum Thema Bankgeheimnis-Verletzung findet zurzeit in der Schweiz wegen des Zugriffs des amerikanischen Geheimdienstes CIA auf Bankdaten statt. So legt Alain Bichsel, Sprecher der Bankiervereinigung, laut einem Hintergrundbericht der Nachrichtenagentur SDA grossen Wert auf die Feststellung, dass der CIA seine Informationen von der Bankenschaltstelle SWIFT in Belgien bezogen habe. Betroffen seien nur Daten des internationalen Zahlungsverkehrs und dies, nachdem diese die Schweiz verlassen hätten. Das Schweizer Bankgeheimnis sei somit nicht verletzt worden.

Auch Hans Geiger, Bankenexperte der Universität Zürich, nimmt die Schweizer Banken ein Stück weit in Schutz. Sie hätten sich im Falle des CIA gar nicht wehren können. Er meint aber, sie hätten ihre Kunden warnen sollen: «Eine Bank hat die Pflicht, die Interessen ihrer Kunden zu schützen. Kann sie dies nicht, dann muss sie den Kunden informieren, damit dieser sich selbst schützen kann», zitiert ihn die SDA. «Wenn sich nun herausstellt, dass das Bankgeheimnis eine rein formaljuristische Sache ist, die den Banken, aber nicht unbedingt den Kunden dient, dann ist allein schon dies eine Schwächung des Bankgeheimnisses», sagt Geiger. Immerhin hätten die Banken das Bankkundengeheimnis jahrzehntelang zelebriert. Namentlich kritisert er die Grossbanken UBS und Credit Suisse, die Vertreter im SWIFT-Verwaltungsrat haben. Er verweist auf die Privatbank Wegelin. Deren  geschäftsführender Teilhaber Konrad Hummler sagte der «NZZ am Sonntag», Wegelin habe die Kunden 2001 informiert, dass «die Geheimhaltung im internationalen Zahlungsverkehr künftig eine Illusion sein

Auftritt der Sprecher von UBS und CS, die umgehend betonen, dass die SWIFT-Verwaltungsräte nicht als Vertreter ihrer Institute dort seien, sondern als Schweizer Ländervertreter. Die beiden hätten keine SWIFT-Internas weitergeben dürfen. Zur Frage, wann die Banken vom CIA-Zugriff wussten, schweigen die Sprecher. Gefragt, ob die Kunden nun informiert würden, hiess es von der CS, dass man nach der Berichterstattung in den Medien dazu keine Veranlassung sehe. Von der UBS hiess es, die Kundeninformation werde regelmässig überprüft.

André Rothenbühler von der Aktion Finanzplatz Schweiz (AFP) kommt deshalb zum Eindruck, «im Falle der USA existiere das Bankgeheimnis kaum mehr.» Er verweist auf einen Vertrag von 2001 zwischen den USA und den Schweizer Finanzinstituten. Seitdem müssen die Banken den US-Behörden Schweizer Wertpapiere von US-Steuerzahlern melden. Vor allem die Grossbanken kuschten vor den USA; sie verdienten dort viel Geld, sagt der AFP-Geschäftsführer. Für die Banken sei das Bankgeheimnis vor allem eines: ein Wettbewerbsvorteil gegenüber der internationalen Konkurrenz.

Schon Bescheid wissen das Finanzdepartement und die Bankenkommission. Sie waren im Sommer 2002 von der Schweizerischen Nationalbank informiert worden, die zusammen mit anderen Zentralbanken die SWIFT beaufsichtigen. Fazit der SDA: Offenbar wussten fast alle Akteure Bescheid, ausser die Kunden.

Geldwäscher im Internet gesucht
Dass sich im Internet ein getreues Abbild der Menschheit mit allen denkbaren dubiosen und kriminellen Figuren tummelt, ist nicht neu. Neu ist hingegen, dass jetzt auch Online-Jobbörsen für krumme Touren missbraucht werden, wie die Zürcher Kantonspolizei am Mittwoch bekannt machte. Seit einigen Monaten seien auf Online-Jobbörsen und per E-Mail Jobs als «Finanzmanager» im Angebot. Diese sollen für die Firmen Geldtransfers machen und pro Überweisung eine Provision erhalten. Wer sich ködern lasse, helfe den Tätern, ertrogene Gelder in Sicherheit zu bringen, schreibt die Polizei. Sie riskierten ein Strafverfahren.

Die Polizei empfiehlt, eigene Bankkonten niemals Drittpersonen zur Verfügung zu stellen. Bisher seien dubiose Firmen unter den Namen «Alleria AG» und «Swiss Invest Ltd.» aufgetreten. Weitere Fantasienamen folgten mit Sicherheit, heisst es im Polizeicommuniqué. Die Betrüger suchen «Finanzmanager», die den Firmen ihr Bank- oder Post-Konto zur Verfügung stellen. Auf dieses überweist die Firma Beträge in der Höhe von mehreren Tausend Franken. Diese muss der Kontoinhaber dann in bar abheben und via Geldtransfer-Institut an eine Person im Ausland überweisen, die ihm zuvor genannt wurde.

International Herald Tribune    July 7, 2006

Parliament Tells Europeans to Explain
What They Knew About U.S. Tracking of Bank Data


BRUSSELS, July 6 — The European Parliament demanded Thursday that European institutions in Brussels and European governments disclose how much they knew about a secret American program to tap into international banking data.

In a resolution that reflected rising concern among Europeans about their countries' cooperation in the United States' effort to curb terrorism, the Parliament voted 302 to 219, with 22 abstentions, to demand that the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the European Union's 25 member states "explain fully the extent to which they were aware of the secret agreement" between Swift, an international banking consortium, and the United States government.

The Parliament, meeting in Strasbourg, France, also adopted a resolution stating that it was "implausible" that "certain European governments were not aware of the activities linked to extraordinary rendition taking place on their territory," referring to a process of seizing terrorism suspects and transferring them to a third country. It voted to extend its investigation by six months into whether C.I.A. detention centers operated in Europe.

On Wednesday, two Italian intelligence agents accused of helping with what is alleged to have been the seizing of a terrorism suspect by the C.I.A. were arrested in Italy. While the European resolutions are not legally binding, they have "political teeth," said Friso Roscam Abbing, spokesman for the European Union's justice and security commissioner, Franco Frattini.

The resolutions, by the European Union's only directly elected organization, illustrated the broad differences that have opened up between Europeans and the Bush administration, as well as between Europeans and their own governments, over how best to confront terrorism.

Europeans are concerned that their governments may have been complicit in secret prisoner transports by the C.I.A. and in the seizing of terrorism suspects by the Americans for interrogation in third countries, some of which condone torture. A report leaked to the French press this week raised temperatures by disclosing that French intelligence officers secretly interviewed six French terrorism suspects held by the United States at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.

The debate preceding Thursday's vote was heated. "Now we discover that our powerful friend and ally is rifling through our private bank accounts," said Jean-Marie Cavada, a lawmaker from France, speaking for the Liberals. Freedom, he said, "is not the enemy of our citizens, and it is high time the United States decided which camp they belong to."

An Italian lawmaker, Giusto Catania, said the Swift case was the other side of the coin from the suspected C.I.A. kidnappings, The Associated Press reported. "This is perhaps less violent but with the same objective: that is to extort information," he said.

The revelations about the Swift data transfers have brought accusations that Swift, which is based in Brussels, violated European data protection laws.

Privacy International, a human rights group in London, has filed complaints in at least 32 countries, including all 25 European Union nations. Belgium is also investigating what information was handed over and with what justification.

Swift says it complied with subpoenas from the American government and kept Belgium's central bank, its main supervisor, and the European Central Bank informed of its actions.

AGEFI     7 juillet 2006



    S'il est une particularité du système bancaire suisse, c'est bien celle du secret bancaire. Le secret bancaire sert fondamentalement à protéger le client, et pas la banque. Il n'est pas inutile de rappeler que la notion de secret bancaire est née de la jurisprudence concernant la vie privée du droit suisse. C'est une expression de la liberté individuelle qui repose sur une longue tradition. Elle s'étend au secret professionnel des professions libérales, comme les avocats et les médecins. C'est cette culture de la confidentialité qui s'applique au secret bancaire suisse pour les clients, qu'ils soient nationaux et étrangers.
    La dernière révélation sur l'espionnage commis par la CIA sur des transactions financières internationales transitant par la société SWIFT laisse entendre que ce secret bancaire, même s'il n'a pas été formellement violé, a du moins été malmené. En l'état, il y a de quoi s'inquiéter. Cette affaire démontre à quel point la sauvegarde de la place financière suisse est une question qui doit impliquer à la fois les hommes politiques mais l'ensemble de l'industrie ainsi que l'ensemble de la population. Celle-ci en est d'ailleurs tout à fait consciente si l'on se réfère au sondage d'opinion effectué en 2005 qui soulignait que 78% des Suissesses et des Suisses s'était exprimé en faveur du maintien du secret professionnel du banquier contre 76% en 2004.
    Il faut dire que les attaques contre ce qui fait la particularité du système bancaire suisse sont récurrentes. Quelles soient ouvertes ou cachées d'ailleurs. L'accord conclu le 6 mars 2004 sur la fiscalité de l'épargne entre l'Union européenne et la Suisse a préservé le secret bancaire. Par contre, le piratage du système SWIFT est indéniablement une entorse supplémentaire à cette spécificité. C'est un accroc de plus. D'autant qu'avec les normes anti-blanchiment en vigueur depuis l'été 2004 les banques sont déjà obligées de communiquer le nom des clients qui virent des fonds à l'étranger. Il faut donc faire doublement attention et ne pas laisser le loup entrer dans la bergerie. Il en va de la sauvegarde d'une industrie qui représente tout de même 14% du PIB et emploie environ 6% de la population active du pays. Le moindre accroc n'est jamais bon, en termes de publicité, pour la place financière suisse et, à fortiori, pour l'économie suisse.
    Il n'est jamais inutile de le répéter: le secret professionnel du banquier suisse est ancré dans la législation et dans la pratique quotidienne. Il n'est pas négociable. Il bénéficie d'un soutien massif de la population. Tant mieux, car il en va aussi de la sauvegarde de la sphère privée. Le moment où l'on commencera à dis-cuter du secret bancaire sera le début des atteintes à une sphère que la population suisse a toujours défendue avec conscience et âpreté.

AGEFI     7 juillet 2006

Le mythe du secret bancaire égratigné
Pour Alain Bichsel, le porte-parole de l'Association suisse des banquiers,
l'affaire ne concerne que des données relatives au trafic international des paiemt


    Le mythe du secret bancaire helvétique semble s'effriter après les révélations sur l'espionnage par la CIA des transactions financières internationales transitant par la société SWIFT. Et cela même s'il n'a formellement pas été violé. «Le secret bancaire n'est pas un mythe, mais une réalité», martèle Alain Bichsel, le porte-parole de l'Association suisse des banquiers (ASB), interrogé par l'ATS. Selon lui, cette institution n'a pas été violée: l'affaire ne concerne que des données relatives au trafic international des paiements et cela après qu'elles ont été volontairement transmises à SWIFT, société basée à Bruxelles.
    Dans le cadre de la «guerre contre le terrorisme», la CIA a exigé de pouvoir surveiller les transactions effectuées par SWIFT. Celle-ci ne gère pas les transferts de fonds, mais les informations sur ces transferts, pour le compte de quelque 8000 organismes financiers, dont les principaux établissements suisses.
    «Le secret bancaire ne protège ni les criminels ni les terroristes», précise le porte-parole de l'UBS Serge Steiner. En outre, ce ne sont pas les banques qui ont livré les données à la CIA, mais SWIFT, «une société distincte», relève-t-il. Selon lui, SWIFT n'a transmis à Washington que des données ayant un lien présumé avec le terrorisme et après avoir reçu les «citations» («subpoenas») nécessaires des Etats-Unis. Soit des millions de données, selon le gouvernement belge.

"Ramper" devant les USA
    Selon M. Bichsel, «le client doit se douter que, lors d'un paiement vers un pays où le secret bancaire n'existe pas, les autorités puissent en prendre connaissance». «Mais il ne doit pas s'attendre à ce qu'un service secret ne parte à la pêche aux données sans réelle base légale ou sans soupçon concret», nuance André Rothenbûhler, de «l'Action Place Financière Suisse». Selon lui, «le secret bancaire n'existe pratiquement plus» face aux Etats-Unis. fl en veut pour preuve l'accord conclu en 2001 entre Washington et les banques suisses, qui oblige de nombreux établissements helvétiques à ouvrir une partie de leurs comptes à des réviseurs, pour le compte du fisc américain. Ce sont avant tout les grandes banques qui «rampent» devant les Etats-Unis, elles y gagnent beaucoup d'argent, accuse André Rothenbûhler. A leurs yeux, le secret bancaire n'est rien d'autre qu'un avantage concurrentiel par rapport aux rivaux étrangers.

Devoir d'informer
    L'expert zurichois Hans Geiger reconnaît pour sa part que les banques suisses ne pouvaient pas se défendre face à la CIA. Mais il critique leur silence vis-à-vis de leurs clients. «Une banque a le de voir de défendre les intérêts de ses clients. Si elle ne le peut pas, elle doit en informer ses clients, afin que ceux-ci puissent se défendre eux-mêmes», affirme-t-il. A ses yeux, le secret bancaire est «déjà affaibli», s'il s'avère qu'il est devenu «un conceptpurement formel qui sert les banques mais pas obligatoirement les clients». Et cela alors même que les banques célèbrent depuis des décennies le secret bancaire. M. Geiger critique avant tout l'UBS et le Crédit Suisse (CS), qui ont des représentants au conseil d'administration de SWIFT, et salue l'attitude de la banque privée Wegelin. Celle-ci a informé ses clients dès 2001 que «le maintien du secret dans le trafic international des paiements pourrait n'être qu'une illusion à l'avenir», comme l'a indiqué l'un de ses responsables, Konrad Hummler, à la NZZ am Sonntag. (Lire également l'éditorial en page l6.) (ats)

Le mutisme du Conseil fédéral critiqué

    Plusieurs voix s'élèvent pour dénoncer le mutisme du Conseil fédéral dans l'affaire de l'espionnage par la CIA des transactions financières internationales. Le gouvernement avait jugé la semaine passé qu'il n'est pas nécessaire de prendre des mesures. Elisabeth Meyerhans, porte-parole du Département fédéral des finances (DFF), avait justifié cette décision par le fait que le secret bancaire n'avait pas été violé, puisqu'il ne s'applique qu'en Suisse. Or les agents américains ont eu accès aux données bancaires via la société SWIFT, basée en Belgique, et à sa filiale américaine.
    Le Conseil fédéral agit «comme s'il était résigné», a déclaré à l'ATS Hans Geiger, professeur à l'institut d'économie bancaire de l'université de Zurich. Et de rappeler l'étonnement qu'il avait éprouvé en février en lisant une interview de Hans-Rudolf Merz dans le journal alémanique Finanz und Wirtschaft. Le conseiller fédéral y affirmait que «tant que les banques auront besoin du secret bancaire, je le défendrai». Or, souligne M. Geiger, «le ministre des Finances n'a pas compris que le secret bancaire doit protéger les clients, et non les banques».
    Le préposé fédéral à la protection des données Hanspeter Thür critique lui aussi l'attitude du DFF et des banques. Selon lui, il est faux de prétendre que la Suisse n'a pas à se préoccuper puisque la CIA espionne les données bancaires à l'étranger. - (ats)

Le Temps    7 juillet 2006

La Commission fédérale des banques a tu l'affaire Swift
Les autorités américaines ont pu mettre la main sur des milliers d'opérations
bancaires internationales au vu et au su de plusieurs organes officiels helvétiques.

Willy Boder

 La Banque nationale suisse (BNS) fut la première instance helvétique informée, dès l'été 2002, des autorisations d'accès aux données financières internationales octroyées par Swift aux autorités américaines.

Quinze jours après les révélations de l'affaire Swift par le New York Times, les langues commencent à se délier. Sur la forme de la surveillance ciblée des opérations de la seule plate-forme informatique multinationale réglant la sécurité des virements internationaux, mais pas sur le fond de cette surveillance (ampleur de l'affaire).

Swift, basée à 20 km de Bruxelles, gère, via ses plus importantes filiales à New York, Londres, Tokyo et Hongkong, 11 millions de messages par jour relatifs au transfert de 6000 milliards de dollars. Les banques suisses sont le septième plus gros client de Swift.

Autant au siège de Credit Suisse (CSGN.VX) qu'à celui de UBS (UBSN.VX), dont les représentants siègent, au nom des banques suisses, au conseil d'administration de Swift, les porte-parole disent ignorer combien de transactions effectuées par leurs clients ont été transmises aux autorités américaines au nom de la lutte contre le terrorisme.

Swift, dirigée par un citoyen américain, ne donne aucune indication à ce sujet mais précise que les procédures de renseignement se sont déroulées légalement et sous la surveillance d'une fiduciaire.

La manière dont l'information générale sur ces pratiques a circulé, puis a été gelée, au sein des rares organes financiers et étatiques suisses «au parfum» est aujourd'hui mieux connue.

La BNS, chargée de la haute surveillance de Swift, avec d'autres banques centrales, a appris la nouvelle en été 2002, alors que des données avaient déjà été transmises. Considérant que l'affaire n'était pas de son ressort, elle a transmis l'information «confidentiellement» à la Commission fédérale des banques (CFB) et au Département fédéral des finances. Ces deux instances ne l'ont pas relayée, respectivement, à l'Association suisse des banquiers (ASB) et au préposé à la protection des données.

Pourquoi? «Le secret bancaire suisse n'a pas été violé, et nous n'avons pas de raison de mettre en doute la parole des autorités américaines, qui disent utiliser ces données uniquement pour lutter contre le terrorisme», indique Tanja Kocher, porte-parole de la CFB. L'ASB admet l'argument selon lequel le secret bancaire s'applique uniquement sur le territoire suisse et n'est pas lié à l'origine suisse de la banque.

Pourtant, selon la loi, il s'agit d'un secret professionnel rattaché à la personne du banquier. 80% de la population suisse demande son maintien, selon le dernier sondage de l'ASB.

BBC NEWS    November 23, 2006    17:33:06 GMT

Money firm breached EU data law
"Swift is expected to take the necessary steps immediately
to remedy the present illegal infringement." EU spokesman

A Belgian money transfer firm breached EU privacy laws by secretly giving personal financial data to the US authorities, an inquiry has concluded. An independent panel found Swift, which handles 11 million transactions a day, had not told Belgian authorities it was providing the data to the US Treasury.

Swift denies breaking the law, saying it was subpoenaed to give limited data for use in the fight against terrorism. It is claimed US agencies have been monitoring data transfers since 2001.

Transfer details
Media reports have alleged that law enforcement and counter-terrorism agencies, such as the FBI and CIA, have been screening data for up to five years in an effort to disrupt terrorist financing networks. EU law makes it illegal for companies to transfer confidential personal data to other countries unless they offer sufficient protection.  In data transfers conducted by Swift, the names of the organisations transferring and receiving money, the value of transfers and details of account numbers and bank addresses are typically provided. Set up in 1973, Swift has more than 7,500 clients, most of them global financial institutions.

The EU data protection panel said its actions broke EU and Belgian privacy laws and called on it to stop subpoenaed US data transfers. "Swift is expected, as well as financial institutions, to take the necessary steps immediately to remedy the present illegal infringement," said a European Commission spokesman. Belgium's own Privacy Commission had earlier criticised Swift's actions, accusing it of a "serious error of judgement".

'Strong protections'
Swift has yet to comment on the adjudication, but it has argued repeatedly that it had no choice but to comply with the US government's demand for information.

It said that since the data it provided was limited in scope and for exclusive use in terrorism investigations, it had not broken the law. "Swift obtained from the US Treasury extraordinary protections and controls that met both its requirement to follow the law and its obligations to protect the confidentiality of its mmbers' data," it stressed earlier this month.

The EU cannot punish Swift, although it can take legal action against Belgium for failing to uphold data protection laws. Brussels said it would study the panel's full report before deciding whether to take any action. Mark Gregory, the BBC World Service's international business reporter, said the row would exacerbate tensions between the EU and the US over the use of personal data in the fight against terrorism. The EU and US recently resolved a long-running dispute over access to information about passengers flying from Europe to the US.

International Herald Tribune    November 23, 2006

EU agency finds data transfers to U.S. by Swift illegal
By Dan Bilefsky

    A European Union monitoring agency concluded Wednesday that a banking consortium breached EU data protection rules when it gave the Bush administration access to millions of records of private financial transactions.
    The consortium, known as Swift, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, has come under scrutiny for participating in a program that allows analysts from the Central Intelligence Agency and officials from other U.S. agencies to search for possible terrorist financing activity among the millions of confidential financial transactions it oversees.
    In a draft statement, which will be completed and issued on Thursday, the EU monitoring agency said financial institutions across the bloc shared responsibility with Swift for the breach of European civil liberties.
    Washington has defended the secret information transfer program, which began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. But critics in Europe argue that it placed U.S. security interests ahead of European norms of human rights.
    A separate investigation by a Belgian privacy commission concluded in September that Swift had flouted European privacy rules, calling the secret financial transfers "a gross miscalculation."
    In response to the draft finding of the EU monitoring agency, made up of data protection supervisors from across the 25-member bloc, EU officials said the European Commission would decide whether to take Belgium to court for failing to force Swift, based in Belgium, to uphold EU data protection rules.
    Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium has argued that Belgium is not to blame. He has appealed to the European Union and the United States to pass a trans-Atlantic agreement governing information sharing in the fight against terrorism.
    EU officials said data protection authorities were considering whether to appoint an independent auditor to prevent privacy abuses in the future. They could also recommend that European banks sign contracts promising that customers' information will be processed in the future in line with European data protection rules.
    Under European law, companies are forbidden from transferring confidential personal data to another country unless that country offers sufficient protections. The European Union does not consider the United States to be a country that offers adequate legal protection of individual data.
    In a recent hearing at the European Parliament, EU lawmakers lashed out at Swift and the bodies that oversee it, saying they had ignored EU privacy rules by failing to inform EU institutions or European citizens about the information transfers.
Several called on Swift to move its U.S. operations to Canada to prevent the United States from breaching European civil liberties.
    Others demanded to know why they had learned of the transfers from newspaper reports rather than from the European Central Bank, which knew of the transfers as early as June 2002.

August 31, 2007

U.S. Cites ‘Secrets’ Privilege
as It Tries to Stop Suit on Banking Records

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30 — The Bush administration is signaling that it plans to turn again to a legal tool, the “state secrets” privilege, to try to stop a suit against a Belgian banking cooperative that secretly supplied millions of private financial records to the United States government, court documents show.

The suit against the consortium, known as Swift, threatens to disrupt the operations of a vital national security program and to disclose “highly classified information” if it continues, the Justice Department has said in court filings.

A hearing on the suit is scheduled for Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va.

The “state secrets” privilege, allowing the government to shut down litigation on national security grounds, was once rarely used. The Bush administration has turned to it more than 30 times in terrorism-related cases, seeking to end public discussion of cases like the claims of an F.B.I. whistle-blower and the abduction of a German terrorism suspect.

Most notably, the administration has sought to use the privilege to kill numerous suits against telecommunications carriers over the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program.

But a judge in California rejected the argument because the program had been discussed so widely. The government challenge is pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where judges at a hearing two weeks ago expressed skepticism on the secrecy argument.

Asserting the privilege requires the director of national intelligence and the attorney general to certify legally the potential harm to national security.

If the administration makes good on its intention to invoke the privilege in the Swift suit, it would be one of the most significant tests of the privilege.

Swift is considered the nerve center of the global banking industry, routing trillions of dollars each day among banks, brokerage houses and other financial institutions. Its partnership with Washington, reported in The New York Times in June 2006, gave Central Intelligence Agency and Treasury Department officials access to millions of records on international banking transactions.

The access was part of an effort to trace money that investigators believed might be linked to financing of terrorism.

Months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Swift began turning over large chunks of its database in response to a series of unusually broad subpoenas from the Treasury Department.

Administration officials have defended the program as an important tool in the war on terror. European banking regulators and privacy advocates were quick to denounce the program as improper and possibly illegal.

The pressure resulted in an agreement this year by Swift and United States officials to tighten restrictions for using the data.

Two American banking customers also sued Swift on invasion-of-privacy grounds. Legal and financial analysts had expected that the suit would have been thrown out because American banking privacy laws are considered much laxer than those in much of Europe.

But the chief judge in Federal District Court in Chicago, James F. Holderman, ruled in June that he would allow the suit to proceed, partly on grounds of claims of a Fourth Amendment violation and his finding that Swift’s arguments on that point were “unpersuasive.”

“The decision in Chicago was a pretty big win for our side,” Steven E. Schwarz, a lawyer in Chicago who represents the plaintiffs, said in an interview.

The Swift program, Mr. Schwarz said, “is an Orwellian example of government overreaching and unfettered access to private financial information that is not consistent with the values upon which our country was founded.”

Judge Holderman did agree to move the suit to the federal court in Alexandria at the request of Swift lawyers. Its main American arm operates from Manassas, Va.

The hearing on Friday is on a motion by Swift for Judge T. S. Ellis to reconsider Judge Holderman’s ruling.

In a motion filed on July 25, the Justice Department urged the court to throw out the suit to “preserve” the program against financing terrorism, “protect Swift from the burden of further litigation here and minimize the likelihood that highly classified information will be threatened.”

The department said this week that it would send a lawyer to the hearing, but it was unclear whether the “state secrets” privilege would be raised.

Lawyers for the Justice Department and Swift would not discuss the case in substance beyond the court filings.

The administration has turned to the privilege much more frequently than past administrations. According to a report due out this weekend by an advocacy group, OpenTheGovernment.org, the administration has used it 39 times in the last six years, compared with 59 times in the 24 years before that.

Historically, courts have been reluctant to challenge the secrecy privilege. But the administration has suffered setbacks in seeking to use the secrecy claim in the eavesdropping case and several other recent cases.

“We’ve seen a real erosion of the ‘state secrets’ privilege in the last year,” said Mr. Schwarz, the lawyer suing Swift. “I think it is from overuse. We’ve seen it used in record numbers, in situations where it was inappropriate, and the courts are starting to recognize that.”

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said: “What seems clear is that until a year or two ago, the judges rarely even questioned it when the government raised the ‘state secrets’ claim. It was a neutron bomb — no plaintiffs left standing.

“But we’re now seeing that judges are starting to actually look behind the government’s secrecy claims and see what’s really there.”