WASHINGTON — The migration of banking data to Europe has created significant problems in tracking terrorists' financing data, resulting in a security gap that is inhibiting ongoing investigations, a senior Treasury official said Monday.
The U.S. hopes to negotiate an agreement on international access to that information by July, and in the meantime, the banking consortium that owns and controls that data is extending the storage life of information that could be valuable to existing probes.
As one of the most valuable tools in detecting terrorism-financing the government has, "This is of great concern, not only to us in the Treasury Department, but to the entire Administration and Congress," said Adam Szubin, Director of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Szubin said Treasury is "running searches against known terrorist operatives, including individuals like Anwar al-Awlaki, the inspirational preacher behind the fort Hood attacks, the Christmas Day attacks and, it seems behind the latest Times Square attacks."
"As of January 1st, we don't know what we're not getting, but we're not obtaining relevant data that might point us to current and very useful leads," he said.
All of the data used to be stored in the U.S., and the authorities could subpoena that information for their investigations. But the company, Swift, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, has migrated half of that data to Europe, where U.S. authorities don't have legal access to it.
Szubin said European officials are also scrambling to seal a deal that would allow reciprocal access to Swift while being careful to negotiate the delicate laws of information privacy.