A White House review panel report into the activities of the NSA suggested that the government was using the spy agency to launch cyber attacks against financial institutions and change the amounts held in bank accounts.
The 300 page report prepared for President Barack Obama by the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology called for the NSA to be stripped of its power to obtain bulk collections of telephone records.
Page 221 of the panel’s report states;
(1) Governments should not use surveillance to steal industry secrets to advantage their domestic industry;
(2) Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems.
Trevor Timm from the Electronic Frontier Foundation responded to the report by suggesting that the NSA was targeting major financial institutions.
In the aftermath of the Edward Snowden revelations it was confirmed that, “The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions,” under the auspices of an international branch called Follow the Money (FTM), and that the spy agency has full access to the VISA and SWIFT payment systems.
“Top financial experts say that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are using information gained from spying to profit from this inside information. And the NSA wants to ramp up its spying on Wall Street … to “protect” it. “Whose money, exactly, is the NSA “protecting” … and how are they protecting it?” asks Washington’s Blog, “What about the money of people that the U.S. government considers undesirables?”
The government’s ability to use the NSA to directly amend bank accounts increases the risk of Americans being subjected to a Cyprus-style “bail-in” where a tax on savings deposits is directly levied in the name of austerity.
Earlier this year, Chase Bank customers attempted to withdraw their cash from ATMs only to be shocked at seeing their balance reduced to zero by a mystery system “glitch”. Was this in any way connected to the NSA’s activities?
With banks increasingly moving towards capital controls in a bid to stave off the risk of a sudden flight from the US dollar, the prospect of the US government relying on cyber attacks launched by the NSA to manipulate financial markets and bank accounts remains a genuine possibility.