Trevor Timm of the Electronic Freedom Frontier dug up a very interesting nugget. It was embedded in the heralded December 2013 White House task force report on spying and snooping.
Under Recommendations, #31, section 2, he found this:
“Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate financial systems.”
Timm quite rightly wondered: why were these warnings in the report?
Were the authors just anticipating a possible crime? Or were they reflecting the fact that the NSA had already been engaging in the crime?
If this was just a bit of anticipation, why leave it naked in the report? Why not say there was no current evidence the NSA had been manipulating financial systems?
Those systems would, of course, include the stock market, and all trading markets around the world.
Well, there is definite evidence of other NSA financial snooping. From Spiegel Online, 9/15/13:
“The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL.”
“The NSA’s Tracfin data bank also contained data from the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a network used by thousands of banks to send transaction information securely…the NSA spied on the organization on several levels, involving, among others, the [NSA] agency’s ‘tailored access operations’ division…”
The NSA’s “tailored access operations” division uses roughly 1000 hackers and analysts in its spying efforts.
Exit From the Matrix
The next step in all this spying would naturally involve penetrating trading markets and, using the deep data obtained, manipulate the markets to the advantage of the NSA and preferred clients.
The amount of money siphoned off in such an ongoing operation would be enormous.
“Looking over the shoulder” of Wall St. insiders would be child’s play for NSA.
Ditto for predicting political events that would temporarily drive markets down and provide golden opportunities for highly profitable short selling.
Like drug traffickers and other mobsters, the NSA could invest their ill-gotten gains in legitimate enterprises and reap additional rewards.
And if the Pentagon, under which the NSA is organized, requires heavy amounts of money for off-the-books black budget ops, what better place to go than their own NSA?
All in all, when you operate the biggest spying and data-gathering operation in the world, the opportunities abound. Yes, knowledge is power, when the distinctions between legal and illegal are brushed off like like a few gnats on a summer day.