The CIA and the American military have been accessing the banking and credit records of hundreds of American citizens suspected of ties to terror groups, the New York Times reported Sunday. Since 9/11, the two US government arms have been using little-known provisions of the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the National Security Act to issue a version of a "national security letter" to domestic banks, credit companies, and other financial corporations. The letters request certain financial information but are generally "noncompulsory" as the CIA and the military have no domestic enforcement authority. The FBI has also issued thousands of similar letters since Sept. 11. All three groups claim increased powers to probe the banking records of American citizens under the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11.
Democrats and civil liberties groups like the ACLU have expressed serious concern over these and other domestic spying techniques, especially as exercised by government agencies focused abroad. The military and the CIA contend that such intelligence is invaluable in finding leads and strengthening other operations. The ACLU has won two suits against the FBI related to national security letters.