More than a year ago, BuzzFeed News received a remarkable collection of secret government documents. This huge trove had been assembled at the request of law enforcement agencies and congressional committees investigating the 2016 presidential election and other matters. The documents contained private banking information about public figures and senior government officials around the world — along with suspected criminals and organizations tied to terrorism.
Among the documents were more than 2,100 suspicious activity reports, or SARs, which banks and other financial institutions submit to the US Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, when they observe transactions that suggest money laundering or other illegal activity. Such reports can support investigations and intelligence gathering — but by themselves they are not evidence of a crime.