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Intervention by Denise Caruso Read Intervention by Denise Caruso, Executive Director of the Hybrid Vigor Silver Award Winner, 2007 Independent Publisher Book Awards; Best Business Books 2007, Strategy+Business Magazine


by Mike Neuenschwander ~ March 12, 2008.
Permalink | Filed under: Hybrid Vigor, Social Trust Online.

This post isn’t about Eliot Spitzer. Yes, of course I’m as outraged as anyone over how this scandal takes the wind out of Cathouse: the Musical. But something else about the Spitzer incident really hit home: The confirmation that my financial institution is a federal agent.

According to this USA Today article, financial institutions reported 17.6 million transactions to the Federal Crimes Enforcement Network in 2006. Does this fact imply that 17.6 million transactions in 2006 were criminal in nature? No, they were simply “transactions of interest” (my term). In addition, financial institutions filed about 1 million “suspicious activity” reports in 2006 (up from 413,000 in 2003) to government agencies. Allegedly, it was the suspicious activity reports that linked Spitzer to the prostitution ring.

But most of the people behind the other 17.59 million financial transactions aren’t accused of any crime. Still, their spending habits are monitored, and if anything sketchy turns up they’ll then be accused of a crime. This seems afoul of the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I’m sure that money laundering laws make a lot of sense for the narrow purpose of tracking criminals and terrorists. But reporting millions of transactions a month feels like an exponential change of scope. What are all these people doing that is so suspicious? What exactly are the rules of this game?


  1. Nicholas Givotovsky

    “What are the rules of this game” indeed. I’d like very much to know the answer to that question, given our seeming pawn-like status in it.

    There’s another item this kind of activity would seem to run afoul of:

    Article 12.

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

    Universal Declaration of Human Rights http://www.un.org/Overview/rights.html



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