Think your international money transfer is free from prying eyes? Not so, according to the New York Times, which reports the CIA is secretly collecting info from companies like Western Union under the Patriot Act—the same law the NSA cites when nabbing phone records. It's possible the names of Americans transferring money aren't known to the CIA, which may need to show a link to terrorism to do a search; data on domestic or bank-to-bank transfers isn't collected, sources say. The Times notes that officials had refused to say phone logs were all that was collected under the Patriot Act's Section 215; sources say at least one other method of "bulk collection" is likely still unknown.
The Wall Street Journal reports social security numbers are also collected as part of the financial data. While a CIA official wouldn't confirm the report, he noted intelligence operations aimed at foreign activities are subject to rife oversight, while a former White House official says there's generally less sensitivity surrounding financial data collection, since there's a "longstanding legal baseline" for the government to nab info on large transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act. A rep for Western Union would say only this: "We collect consumer information to comply with the Bank Secrecy Act and other laws. In doing so, we also protect our consumers' privacy." (Read more Patriot Act stories.)