The Washington Post and New York Times are reporting on a Bush administration initiative that has tapped into a vast global database of confidential financial transactions
for nearly five years. Relying on a presidential emergency declaration made under the International Emergency Economic Powers, the administration has been surveilling the data from the SWIFT database, which links about 7,800 banks and brokerages and handles billions of transactions a year. From the article:
Together with a hundredfold expansion of the FBI's use of "national security letters" to obtain communications and banking records, the secret NSA and Treasury programs have built unprecedented government databases of private transactions, most of them involving people who prove irrelevant to terrorism investigators.