Money Laundering, Terrorism and Financial Institutions - USA Patriot Act Monitor

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4/6/2009 GAO Notes Technology Limitations in SAR System

The Government Accountability Office, in a recent report, praised FinCEN for the steadily increasing numbers of suspicious activity reports being filed, and for some of the outreach that is encouraging institutions to file. The GAO noted certain technological problems with downloads of SAR data, however, which law enforcement agencies combine with other data in looking for patterns indicating money laundering and terrorist financing. Problems include the fact that downloads put all information in capital letters, while tables may appear as lines of unformatted information without columns or headings. Large downloads may have to be broken into batches because of size limitations on downloading. FinCEN established a Data Management Council in 2007 to work towards making the system more effective, but further progress will depend in part on budget allocations. The GAO describes the various teams and task forces that use data, including 80 SAR review teams across the country made up of multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies. The report will be analyzed in detail in a forthcoming Monitor.

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