They’re Watching!

Yikes!  (I am saying that far too often these days!)

US News is reporting some pretty scary stuff about IRS High Tech Tools To Track Your Digital Footprints

The Internal Revenue Service is collecting a lot more than taxes this year–it’s also acquiring a Spyhuge volume of personal information on taxpayers’ digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it’s never gone before.

IRS is no longer content to just have income, financial and banking information:

The IRS has brought in private industry experts to employ similar digital tracking–but with the added advantage of access to Social Security numbers, health records, credit card transactions and many other privileged forms of information that marketers don’t see.

Of course, they’re not shy to talk about it. In fact, they are bragging:

“Private industry would be envious if they knew what our models are,” boasted Dean Silverman, the agency’s high-tech top gun who heads a group recruited from the private sector to update the IRS.

The article does not say if their spy mission is restricted to US. Based on what we know, we have every reason to believe it is spreading around the world.

What the heck are they going to do with FATCA information?!?  Canada and other governments, Don’t Let US FATCA You!









29 thoughts on “They’re Watching!

  1. Blaze Post author

    Well, this isn’t exactly reassuring. Verizon turning over phone records to NSA is “nothing new…It’s been going on for seven years.”

    A couple of others have written reports on the implications of this. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, issued a statement, “While I cannot corroborate the details of this particular report, this sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I’ve said Americans would find shocking.”

    Does anyone know what Senator Udall thinks of FATCA? I think most Americans would find it “shocking” if they knew about it and understood it.

    In fact, Senator Udall and Senator Ron Wyden wrote in a report: “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when the public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.” Sounds like FATCA!

    Yet, both Democrats and Republicans support it. “Terrorists will come after us if they can and the only thing that we have to deter this is good intelligence to understand that a plot has been hatched and to get there before they get to us,” (Diane Feinstein, Democrat)

    This reporting “has proved meritorious because we have gathered significant information on bad guys and only on bad guys over the years.” (Saxby Chambliss, Republican)

    There is at least one voice of sanity remaining in US. “Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” (Al Gore)

    i wish we could get someone like Al Gore on our side to see how “obscenely outrageous” FATCA is for people living honest, productive lives outside of US.

    I just tweeted Al.

  2. Blaze Post author

    Not only are they watching, but they’re also listening. Or, at least they are watching talking and listening via phone records.

    I don’t know if anyone is reassured by the fact that the purported order “does not allow the government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls” but relates only to “metadata, such as a telephone number or the length of a call.” The official said such information “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States.”

    I fail to understand how monitoring how long teens talk to each other or how long a daughter talks on the phone to her mother in a nursing home helps prevent terrorist attacks. What I do know is that crack in the Liberty Bell gets bigger every day. In fact, I’m surprised the Liberty Bell is still intact.

    Civil liberties groups are not happy. “This is a truly stunning revelation,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “This suggests that the government has been compiling a comprehensive record of Americans’ associations and possibly even their whereabouts.”

    Why is anyone surprised? When they think they have the right to monitor all financial activity of anyone who chooses to live outside US, why does anyone think they wouldn’t want to keep close tabs on the phone records of all those good folks who do what they’re told and stay in US?

  3. Chris

    Blaze, yes, that’s what I was referring to. Jack Townsend has a couple posts on it on his website, and it was mentioned at IBS as well.
    Looks like they’ll be going through these QDs and GF. It’s so depressing to see that the IRS commissioner responds right away to that report, agreeing to it, and ignores Nina Olson.
    Jack says that doesn’t change his point of view on the subject. From what I got from one of his latest comments, he even thinks that Go Forward might be the best choice for the right people (instead of QDs).
    I did not seek legal advice with him, as his entry price was pretty expensive, and I did not think I needed the full 2 hours of his time to explain my simple situation. I got advice from another experienced lawyer in the field who advised the GF. But the frustrating part was the range of answers I got which got me all confused and decided to do the minimal response. 2 advised OVDI (one of which told me I was a criminal and I did not have any other choice), 2 advised QDs, and one GF. And I stopped the legal fees there, choosing what I thought was the least risky for me. Time will tell if I was right.

  4. Blaze

    @Chris: I assume this is the GAO issue you were referring to.

    Instead of asking why so many new FBARs were filed from 2007-2010, GAO seems to be in sync with IRS that this can only mean they are all tax cheats. Could another answer be that IRS did not educate anyone about their obligations?

    Is anyone listening to honest Americans living outside US or new immigrants to US? Silly question. We know the answer to that.

    I can understand why you now have new anxiety Chris, but I hope you can somehow keep it in perspective and don’t let it control your life.

  5. WhiteKat

    I didn’t realize until your last post that you live in the US. I have a relative who recently moved to US and was unaware of FBARS; I made sure he knows now.

    This whole mess sure does test your patience. Having to wait years before things get sorted out, is trying to say the least.

  6. Chris

    I won’t apply for US citizenship for another 5 years. I don’t want to do it until the SOL on the FBAR expires. In the meantime, I just hope that they won’t scrutinize my tax reports next year when I’ll renew my green card. I will be compliant for 3 years. I cross my fingers that it will be fine. But I might have to change immigration lawyer who told me to “fix the issue” before renewing the green card or applying for citizenship.


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