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Feds collecting personal, confidential data on consumer's credit cards, bank transactions

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Judicial Watch,Finance and Banking,NSA,CFPB,Credit Cards,Privacy

The Obama administration, already under fire for the IRS scandal and National Security Agency snooping of the computers and cellphones of Americans, is also spending millions to have private contractors conduct a dragnet for confidential and personal credit and bank transactions without a warrant.

Newly obtained documents from the Obama-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reveal that the administration has OK'd a project to accumulate the personal financial data of some 5 million and share it with other agencies to build a "nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects."

The documents obtained by public watchdog group Judicial Watch and provided to Secrets also indicate that those picked in the dragnet will be chosen randomly, meaning every American is subject to the raid on their information.

"The Obama administration's warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing. Is there anything that this administration thinks it can't do?" said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "These documents show that the Consumer Financial Protection Board is an out-of-control government agency that threatens the fundamental privacy and financial security of Americans. This is every bit as serious as the controversy over the NSA's activities."

Judicial Watch has been doggedly charting the administration's spending, most notably the millions spent on first family vacations.

Their report about the information they obtained is pasted below, but some of the highlights include:

 The objective, according to one document: "The CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects... The panel shall be a random sample of consumer credit files obtains from a national database of credit files."

 Millions have been spent to have the nation's top credit watchers, Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC, Deloitte Consulting, and Experian cough up information.

 The samples include five million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis. The initial sample shall be drawn from current records and historical data appended for that sample as well as additional samples during the intervening years.

The CFPB has broadly defended its data mining in the past. But groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have slammed the mining, calling the the data collection illegal.

From Judicial Watch:

Judicial Watch Obtains Records Detailing Obama Administration's Warrantless Collection of Citizens' Personal Financial Data

(Washington, DC) - Judicial Watch announced today that it has obtained records from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) revealing that the agency has spent millions of dollars for the warrantless collection and analysis of Americans' financial transactions. The documents also reveal that CFPB contractors may be required to share the information with "additional government entities."

The records were obtained pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed on April 24, 2013, following the April 23 Senate Banking Committee testimony of CFPB Director Richard Cordray. The documents uncovered by Judicial Watch include:

Overlapping contracts with multiple credit reporting agencies and accounting firms to gather, store, and share credit card data as shown in the task list of a contract with Argus Information & Advisory Services LLC worth $2.9 million

Deloitte Consulting: solicitation issue date 11/30/2011, award effective date 05/29/2012;

Argus: solicitation issue date 02/14/2012, award effective date 03/15/2012;

Experian: solicitation issue date 07/03/2012, award effective date 09/24/2012

An "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity" contract with Experian worth up to $8,426,650 to track daily consumer habits of select individuals without their awareness or consent

$4,951,333 for software and instruction paid to Deloitte Consulting LLP

A provision stipulating that "The contractor recognizes that, in performing this requirement, the Contractor may obtain access to non-public, confidential information, Personally Identifiable Information (PII), or proprietary information."

A stipulation that "The Contractor may be required to share credit card data collected from the Banks with additional government entities as directed by the Contracting Officer's Representative (COR)."

The full extent of the CFPB personal financial data collection program is revealed in a document obtained by Judicial Watch entitled "INDEFINITE-DELIVERY INDEFINITY-QUANTITY (IDIQ) STATEMENT OF WORK." According to the IDIQ document's stated Objective: "The CFPB seeks to acquire and maintain a nationally representative panel of credit information on consumers for use in a wide range of policy research projects... The panel shall be a random sample of consumer credit files obtains from a national database of credit files."

To accomplish this objective, the CFPB describes the scope of the program accordingly:

The panel shall include 5 million consumers, and joint borrowers, co-signers, and authorized users [emphasis added]. The initial panel shall contain 10 years of historical data on a quarterly basis [emphasis added]. The initial sample shall be drawn from current records and historical data appended for that sample as well as additional samples during the intervening years [emphasis added] to make the combines sample representative at each point in time.

The CFPB data collection program has been highly controversial since the April 2013 hearing, when Cordray disclosed elements of the venture at a Senate Banking Committee hearing. At the time, the US Chamber of Commerce accused the CFPB of breaking the law by demanding the account-level data without a warrant or National Security Letter.

"The Obama administration's warrantless collection of the private financial information of millions of Americans is mind-blowing. Is there anything that this administration thinks it can't do?" said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. "These documents show that the Consumer Financial Protection Board is an out-of-control government agency that threatens the fundamental privacy and financial security of Americans. This is every bit as serious as the controversy over the NSA's activities."

Paul Bedard, The Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.