13. FinCEN: A POTENTIAL THREAT TO PRIVACY AND PROPERTY
A new Treasury Department agency has been set up by the
Bush Administration to strengthen law enforcement through cross-referencing and
analysis of financial, commercial, law enforcement and intelligence databases.
The new agency is named Financial Crime Enforcement Network or FinCEN . FinCEN
did its part for the recent Persian Gulf war effort, according to Money Laundering
Alert (MLA), a financial law enforcement newsletter published out of Miami, Florida.
did this by assisting another Treasury agency, the Office of Foreign Asset Control,
in their White House-assigned task of "beginning the process of identifying
Iraqi assets in the U.S." FinCEN provided information that "led OFAC
to freeze 11 bank accounts and assets in California, Georgia, and New York, as
well as corporate assets and a $3.5 million real estate parcel."
continued, "The properties belonged to people suspected (emphasis added)
of being fronts for Saddam Hussein...". Some critics consider such seizure
of property to be a denial of due process, a Sixth Amendment right.
obtained the information through what MLA refers to as FinCEN's "three major
databases." The first is of "financial information and intelligence
such as that contained in the federal cash reporting Forms 4789 and 8300."
The second contains "commercial data, such as corporate and property ownership
records from state sources." The third holds "law enforcement case files
and intelligence from the various federal agencies." The political newsletter
Washington Report, contends that FinCEN can "invade over 100 U.S. and private
financial databases, IRS and DEA records, Customs Reports, land and real estate
data, (and) census records."
FinCEN was established in 1990 with $13.4
million in funding. The agency has apparently blossomed since the naming of Brian
M. Bruh, a former Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Criminal Investigation at the
IRS and chief investigator for the Tower Commission, as director in March 1990.
At that time, MLA reported that FinCEN employed 65 people, half "detailed"
by the IRS and the Customs Service. It was anticipated that "a total staff
complement of 200" would include "representatives" from the Bureau
of Alcohol, Tobacco, an Firearms, the Secret Service, the Postal Inspectors, the
DEA, unspecified "help" from the Defense Intelligence Agency and a "liaison"
with the CIA.
The potential impact on the Fourth Amendment rights of law-abiding
citizens by a new federal agency created specifically to compile comprehensive
asset holdings data on anyone suspected of wrongdoing should be explored by the
SSU CENSORED RESEARCHER: SCOTT SOMOHANO
SOURCE: MONEY LAUNDERING ALERT, P.O. Box 011390, Miami, FL 33101-1390,
DATE: April 1991
TITLE: "FinCEN's Financial Missiles Strike Iraq, Saddam"
AUTHOR: Charles A. Intriago, Esq.
SOURCE: WASHINGTON REPORT, PO Box 10309, St. Petersburg, FL 33733,
DATE: September 1991
AUTHOR: William A. Leavell
SOURCE: U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE Washington, DC 20548,
TITLE: GAO/GGD-91-53 FinCEN
COMMENTS: Project Censored first read about the obscure Financial
Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) in an editorial in a small publication
titled Washington Report. Washington Report is a four-page monthly newsletter
published by Editors Release Service in St. Petersburg, Florida. The
editor, William A. Leavell, warned his readers "Have you ever heard
of 'FinCEN?' No? You are not supposed to know about 'FinCEN.' Why? Because
what it does is reported to violate the U.S. Constitution's 4th Amendment
guarantee of your right to privacy." Leavell told Project Censored
that he was tipped to FinCEN by a good source in the intelligence community
he has known for many years.
Project Censored researchers discovered that FinCEN, a Treasury Department
agency, was established, with little fanfare or media interest, in 1990 and already
had played a role in the Gulf War effort. The problem is that FinCEN potentially
threatens the Fourth Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens since it is authorized
to compile extensive financial data on anyone who is suspected of wrongdoing.
a staunch supporter of the Bill of Rights and a virulent opponent of censorship,
believes "the FinCEN" operation is a violation of existing law and the
Constitution "and a serious invasion of privacy. He added that information
about FinCEN was made available to the major electronic and print media but that
they "elected to ignore it." Leavell warned that "Censorship serves
those in power and those who benefit from the existing political and financial