DHS Collected Americans’ Financial Records in Bulk: Sen. Wyden By
GNN Note – Surprise, surprise!! / END
Wyden revealed the existence of a DHS financial surveillance program in a March 8 letter to the department’s inspector general, calling for an investigation into the previously unknown activities.
Wyden said he has recently learned that Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)—a law enforcement component of DHS—was operating an “indiscriminate and bulk surveillance program that swept up millions of financial records about Americans.”
“After my staff contacted HSI about the program in January 2022, HSI immediately terminated the program,” Wyden wrote to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari.
The senator said his office was briefed by HSI on Feb. 18—the first time Congress had been told about the program.
“HSI told my staff that it used custom summonses to obtain approximately six million records about money transfers above $500, to or from Arizona, California, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico,” Wyden wrote. “HSI obtained these records using a total of eight customs summonses, which it sent to Western Union and Maxitransfers Corporation (Maxi), demanding records for a six-month period following the order.”
Wyden said the HSI financial surveillance activities are highly problematic for numerous reasons, including the fact that only eight summonses were used to obtain more than 6 million records.
“The customs summonses authority only permits the government to seek records that are ‘relevant’ to an investigation,” he said.
“HSI should have known that this authority could not be used to conduct bulk surveillance, particularly after the Department of Justice inspector general harshly criticized the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2019 for using subpoenas to conduct a bulk surveillance program involving records of international phone calls.”