Law enforcement officials are given broad access to sensitive mental health, library, business, educational and financial records.
Many Americans are encountering the Patriot Act when opening bank accounts. The law requires financial institutions to run the names of customers through the Office of Foreign Asset Control database, which lists people who are known terrorists or who associate with known terrorists.
New bank customers are asked how many wire transactions they expect to make each month. If the reply is five or more, the customer would be reported to the federal government.
The Patriot Act also gives the Treasury Department authority to order financial institutions to search private accounts and transaction records and report suspicious activity.
This information program administered by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is used by federal law enforcement agencies and in 2003 provided data for 64 terrorism financing cases and 124 money-laundering investigations.
“The program enables federal law enforcement agencies, through FinCEN, to reach out to over 29,000 financial institutions to locate accounts and transactions of persons that may be involved in terrorism or money laundering,” said a statement posted on FinCEN’s Web site.