FinCEN plans to modernize Bank Secrecy Act database

The Treasury Department's Financial Crimes and Enforcement Network plans to update its computer database next year with a new data retrieval system, along with applications that will perform deeper analysis and improve data-mining capabilities.

Banks report suspicious activity and other data through FinCEN's Patriot Act Communications System, named for the bill that also authorized increased financial reporting in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Banks must report when customers make unusually large deposits or withdrawals.

Law enforcement agencies can access and download the confidential information in FinCEN's database to help uncover and track terrorist financing. BSA Direct, which is basically a data warehouse, will make the information more easily accessible and understandable to law enforcement while securing the information from unauthorized users, according to FinCEN director William Fox. BSA Direct will also alert FinCEN to irregularities in Bank Secrecy Act reports submitted by financial institutions.

'BSA Direct will free up analysts and give customers the capabilities to search or mine the BSA data so we don't have to do it for them,' Fox told lawmakers on the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee today. FinCEN analysts will then be able to focus more on analyzing data tracking terrorist financing instead of on data retrieval, he said.

FinCEN expects to have BSA Direct online in the fall next year, Fox said. The agency is evaluating proposals submitted as a result of its RFP and plans to award a contract in the summer. Later this year, FinCEN officials plan to start a detailed user requirement study to ensure the system's success. The fiscal 2005 budget earmarks $2 million for BSA Direct's initial implementation.

BSA Direct will also audit use of the accessed data to ensure that it is not misused, Fox said. A networking function will link different law enforcement entities that are accessing the same data to avoid overlap or conflict in investigations.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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