That is how the US treasury secretary is describing a secret programme tracking international financial transactions. John Snow spoke out after press reports revealed the existence of the scheme. “These flows, that we get access to, they don’t lie, they tell a story. And by following those flows skillfully as Stuart and the people in his organisation do, they lead to the terrorists themselves.”
Stuart is Treasury under secretary Stuart Levey, who has also confirmed the money-tracking programme. US government officials say it has been limited to tracing transactions of people suspected of ties to al Qaeda, by reviewing records from a Belgian co-operative known as SWIFT. It is described by the New York Times in its report as “the nerve centre of the global banking industry.”
SWIFT says that after the September 11 attacks it responded to compulsory subpoenas for “limited sets of data” from the US Treasury. The New York Times reports that most routine financial transactions confined to the US are not on the database in question.