Sachi at Big Lizards has an eye-opening post about the extent to which the government already monitors your bank records, with full and enthusiastic cooperation from the banks:
I used to work at Sanwa bank, and every morning we received a report of “suspicious transactions,” sent us by the central office. In addition, we constantly monitored transactions looking for certain patterns that might indicate check kiting (large deposit quickly followed by a large withdrawl, low average balance, all timed around a check’s “floating” period).
If we decided a crime might be occurring, we reported all this information to the FBI… including records of the account transactions (without any warrant). Besides that, we also reported to the FBI anyone who deposited or withdrew a large amount of cash. Overseas wire transfers with certain characteristics were also reported to the feds.
All to catch drug dealers!
If you think your bank transactions are private, wake up from your dream. Sachi concludes:
It seems these newspapers can tolerate incredible penetration into our personal bank account information just to catch check kiters and drug dealers… but they cannot abide the much smaller intrusions, looking only at the transactions of large businesses, governments, and NGOs, in order to catch terrorists who have killed our fellow citizens and plot to destroy the rest of us!
Not when there are Pulitzers to be had.