Pull a SWIFT One

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.[fn]http://www.swift.com/about_swift/company_information/index.page?lang=en[/fn]

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.