Pull a SWIFT One

Marla Singer's picture

Normally, discussion of the "Surveillance State" touches on Zero Hedge's core focus (finance) only tangentially.  But every once in a while something significant bounces us radar returns in this sector.  This definitely qualifies:

SWIFT is now moving all its data centers outside the EU and the US, to Switzerland. In order to continue allowing the US authorities accessing all banking data a high level agreement between the EU and the USA is currently being negotiated. It is likely to be agreed on in the EU council of minister meeting next Monday, 30 November 2009.

For the uninitiated, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication ("SWIFT") is...

...a member-owned cooperative through which the financial world conducts its business operations with speed, certainty and confidence. Over 8,300 banking organisations, securities institutions and corporate customers in more than 208 countries trust us every day to exchange millions of standardised financial messages.1

Given the backbone nature of the SWIFT network, it was the natural home for the (eventually scandalous) Terrorist Finance Tracking Program, in no small part part of the large rift that grew between the most recent Bush administration and Europe.  Brusselsblogger explains:

The move of SWIFT the data server to Switzerland would be an excellent opportunity to stop the nearly unlimited access of US authorities on EU bank transactions. But EU justice and interior minister are apparently keen agree a deal as soon as possible, on 30 November. Why 30 November? Because one day later, on 1 December 2009, the EU’s Lisbon Treaty will be in force and would allow the European Parliament to play a major role in the negotiations of the deal with the USA. A deal one day before will be a slap in the face of democracy in the EU.


SWIFT handles 15 mio bank transactions daily for more than 9000 banks worldwide. Nearly every transnational bank transaction within the EU is recorded in the SWIFT data centers, including amount, sender, recipient, and transaction comments. The agreement will even allow to transmit “other personal data”.


This will allow US authorities to establish a huge data mining database, allowing to query [sic] every substantial business link within the EU. No question that the United States will never admit that openly.

Interestingly, the agreement is not bilateral.  The EU enjoys no reciprocity in data sharing.  For the United States here it is all take and no give.  In its role as the latest American lapdog, Switzerland is unlikely to hinder the New Moon-like U.S. thirst for the financial lives of others (like tax evadersterrorists, for instance).  Nice work if you can get it.

Read the whole Dysonesque suction improvement agreement (no clogged filters!) here.

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phaesed's picture

I gotta admit, I didn't know about this.... just goes to show why ZH rocks.. ty Marla, I got a new homework topic.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

"Interestingly, the agreement is not bilateral. The EU enjoys no reciprocity in data sharing. For the United States here it is all take and no give."

Don't you get it? From the prospective of "We The People" and "All the world's our oyster" there are the probe-ers and the probe-ees.

Obviously we are the probe-ers, not the other way around. Now shut up and get the K-Y.

Cursive's picture

If they want you, they'll find you.  We must stand up, defiantly, in the face of tyranny; not cower in the shadows.  My comment is not directed at ZH's policy on anonymity, but trying to make others understand that proverbial eggs will have to be broken before things improve here in the States.

Cognitive Dissonance's picture

Agreed and far more than omelets need to be made before Humpty Dumpty can be put back together again.

MsCreant's picture

We don't want Humpty back CD. He was always too fragile and a crackpot to boot.

Anonymous's picture

New channels for the movement of funds will develop -- outside the reach of the US.

And then the exodus away from a US centric system will progress at a pace the US cannot control.

This is all just part of the process. The US can tighten their grip, but they're clenching water.

heatbarrier's picture

Hmmm...maybe Echelon has a Swiss footprint, at the heart of the EU.


BTW, ZH speed has been sluggish lately, hopefully due to the annoying banners.

Comrade de Chaos's picture

Marla, do you have the track: "Tell us what democracy is like?" - from 1991? Would love to hear it on radiozh.

In the modern society, the most valuable asset is information (& knowledge) unless such information is material none public information that is.

carbonmutant's picture

As I explained to the Europol officer "I had my wallet when I walked into the bank..."

Anonymous's picture

ATTENTION! The Feds are going to move Martin Armstrong to BROOKLYN MDC in retribution because of the article he did for The New Yorker and the fact that other Journalists have been trying to get in to see him. He has an "Open Habeus" and under Rule 36 of the Supreme Court, they cannot move him again with only a year left on his sentence. They are trying to break their own law. PLEASE get this out!


Anonymous's picture

Although I may of criticized your move to Sweden in light of this and other chatter it looks justified.

Racer's picture

It really is a them and us society now isn't it.

Politicians are allowed to get extra perks and if they are found out they are taking more than they are entitled all they get is just hand them back and no more will be done about it.

Banksters gamble and take the world to ransom and all they have to pay is more income tax when they get bigger bonuses.

Us mere underlings have to have all our insides poked and prodded with a red hot poker, get all our hard earned taken from us and have thank them at the end of it.

CharlesBronson's picture

Would you please speak a little closer to your screen?

RagnarDanneskjold's picture

...a slap in the face of democracy in the EU....

Here's how it works in the EU: if you say no, they keep asking until you say yes one time. U.S. policy here seems consistent with "democracy in the EU."

Mr Shush's picture

I was going to say, the phrases "Lisbon Treaty" and "democracy in the EU" go together like, oh, I don't know, "Gordon Brown" and "prudent fiscal and monetary policy".

Anonymous's picture

The bastions of "modern power" need to be destroyed before we can make any meaningful change. Why don't we try dismantling Goldman first before we start with world governments.... Oh, I forgot, they are one and the same!

sgt_doom's picture

A zillion thanks for this, Marla my love, I hadn't tracked this.  (A trillion thanks would have been sooooo pre-Obama....)

Reminds me that after 9/11/01 (I'd bet it actually took place prior), Carla what's-her-face, the CEO of First Data (which handles/tracks online credit card and checking transactions in North America, now LBO'ed by KKR) and a member of the inner circle at Council on Foreign Relations, voluntarily gave complete access of their records to the Bush Administration.

Somehow, I suspect it was all about financial intelligence and had little to do with real intel.

But...are you sure it's not just a coincidence?  It could be for the superior restaurants in Switzerland and the nightlife in Gstaad?

(Just kidding......)

Miles Kendig's picture

It is no longer amazing how, when and where these items mastesize.  No wonder the US and the EU do not want reciprocation.  Ignorance is bliss when so much liquidity is involved.  Just as long as Brussels gets its slice then the EU will agree to almost anything.

Anonymous's picture

Since when Switzerland is a part of EU ? LOL

heatbarrier's picture

Exactly. Hard to imagine a better place for listening station on the EU for Echelon.

sgt_doom's picture

Say, Marla my love, given your esteemed brilliance, I was wondering if you could sometime in your busy sched look over a possible connection between ELX Futures and the Regulatory Data Corp? (Besides the obvious ownership stake.)

There appears to be some subtle connection or interplay going on there, but I've yet to figure it out.


Anonymous's picture

"Terrorist Finance Tracking Program"? I thought the Audit the Fed bill got killed.

MsCreant's picture

With stuff like this going on, audit the fed now looks pretty lame to me. This really is the evil empire.

Cistercian's picture

 Yes it is.And just when you thought you might be paranoid.Mind you, the Fed is still evil.But this level of control and manipulation is just breathtaking.

Hephasteus's picture

Right up till they take the wrong breath and then comes the death rattle.

Hephasteus's picture

Variations on a theme.

The dog ate my homework.

The terrorists stole your retirement.

Anonymous's picture

Cd, CD Cd,.... ooh man you are so totally off base here it pains, well the terrorists. We are the United States of America! We do not coddle terrorists! No K-Y for you!

sorry, I couldn't resist...

Anonymous's picture

Or is this something that will ultmately prevent audit the fed?

DaveyJones's picture

a SWIFT kick in the lederhosen

Anonymous's picture

Newbie here. I don't mind admitting my ignorance regarding this recent development; it's all I can do to keep up with some/most of you folks! :-)
Can anyone give me the cocktail party version of why this portends badly for us? Thx.

Boop's picture
Parliament pushes to delay SWIFT bank records agreement EuroPolitics, By Brian Beary in Washington | Friday 27 November 2009


The future of an EU-US agreement that would allow the US Department of Treasury (DOT) continued access to European data on banking transactions is looking decidedly shaky. The European Parliament has made a last-minute appeal to the Swedish EU Presidency not to approve such an agreement at the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, on 30 November. As Europoliticswas going to press, the Swedish EU Presidency had still not decided whether to pull the controversial item from the agenda.

Parliament is furious at the Council for trying to sign the accord without seeking the MEPs’ approval. The Council can legally do this if the 27 EU ministers give their political blessing, on 30 November, but not if they wait until 1 December. That is because the Lisbon Treaty enters into force on 1 December and the treaty gives MEPs the right to approve such an agreement. The Parliament’s President, Jerzy Buzek (EPP, Poland), wrote to Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, on 26 November, saying “the European Parliament feels strongly that this kind of agreement concerning personal bank details of EU citizens should be adopted with the full involvement of the European Parliament under the Lisbon Treaty”.

The other Parliament leaders are supporting Buzek. From the Socialists and Democrats, Martin Schulz (Germany) said “we need an open and democratic debate on what is at stake. That debate will require only a day’s delay”. From the Greens, Daniel Cohn-Bendit (France) and Rebecca Harms (Germany) said “it would be a scandal if Council was to rush through a decision on this deeply-flawed agreement”. Ever since The New York Timesfirst revealed, in 2006, that the DOT was secretly monitoring banking transactions, the Parliament has raised objections.

Anonymous's picture

I guess the general public will know there is eminent collapse when they see weigh scales for gold and silver show up at the grocery check out lane. It really has to hit people in the face sometimes for them to wake up from drinking the cool aid. This move by SWIFT is another plan to cloud transparency and secure advantage as financial terrorism continues.