The Biggest Risk to Our Financial System is…..


Every day it seems that I open my newspaper to reveal another top secret surveillance program by our government that we weren’t aware of.  Either we find out that the NSA is snooping on our mail or our email or our Facebook posts.  It seems that most people are now accepting that in a time of increased terrorism, the government needs to have the upper hand in the intelligence game.  So many people just shrug off these revelations and we move on to more mundane things like bombing Syria, which probably has less support from the American people than a resolution for John McCain to create a high stakes online poker tournament to pay off our debt.

After 9/11 the government of George W. passed the Patriot Act as a proactive weapon against terrorism to protect the American people.  We were told that yes, the items that are in it are drastic and the loss of privacy was necessary.  We were also told that it would be temporary and that of course, America, being who we are and the values that we hold dear, would never take advantage of these laws to infringe on the rights and privacies of regular Americans.

You can judge for yourself whether our government has lived up to that promise, but when I read more and more about secret programs that conduct regular and almost unhindered surveillance on any American, I must admit that it seems that our intelligence community has gone a bit beyond what they promised.  Oh, and let’s not forget that the only reason that we know these things is because someone leaked documents that the government wanted to keep secret.  Those people that leaked these documents are called criminals and the people who run these surveillance programs are called Patriots.  We do live in a post 9/11 world, remember.

However, I must admit that a big part of me feels that these programs can help us fight terrorism and have probably foiled some potential terrorist attacks.  Who wouldn’t be in favor of that?

I also feel that if you’re someone who’s not doing, or saying anything wrong, what do you have to worry about?

And then I think a bit more about the fact that it’s now been revealed that whatever we say is available for our government to hear or read.  We also have learned that any encryption securities are worthless as our intelligence community can break any code.  (In all fairness, I’m very surprised and somewhat impressed that a public government agency is actually capable of that.  Who knew?  Maybe the private sector is not where all of the smart people in this country work after all.)

If you take this realization out a bit further, you don’t have to be a conspiracy nut to think that perhaps this would allow those with access to these surveillance tools to snoop on American businesses.  What this now means for every company is that there’s a chance that every email, every conversation and every powerpoint presentation between employees can be seen by an agent with access to these snooping tools.

The possibility exists for any rogue agent or even the entire intelligence community to be aware of information about a company’s finances, problems, personnel moves, etc. well before the average investor.  The possibilities for this baffle the mind.  They run the gamut from allowing the government to end our deficits by doing some stealth insider trading to a rogue agent who decides to manipulate Facebook stock.

The bottom line is that what this could do is challenge the integrity of the system that supports us all – our financial system.  Can we actually be sure that nothing will be done with this capability, or even worse, that something has already happened along these lines?

Of course, nothing like that would ever happen in America……


  1. Good article Jack, and nice points. There’s another dimension to this too. Depending on how your retirement portfolio is allocated, you need to be careful about the impact this will have on US tech companies’ earnings. Many believe the future of computing lies in the cloud, but justifiably, many people, American and foreign, are shying away from trusting their data to US based companies. This means any nimble European company based out of say Norway or Iceland can take on the tech titans like Amazon and Microsoft here simply because they can promise better data protection and security. These revelations have real consequences even if we all trust that the data they already have will not be misused.

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