Democrat President Joe Biden’s administration has been caught asking banks to search customer transactions for terms such as “Trump” and “MAGA.”
Federal investigators asked financial institutions to flag any customers with bank transactions that referred to the terms that suggest support for President Donald Trump.
The search of customer data was conducted in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 Capitol protests, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) revealed.
According to documents obtained by the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, the request came from the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
The panel, headed by Jordan, demanded testimony from the agency’s former Strategic Operations Division director Noah Bishoff as part of a probe into what the Ohio Republican called an “alarming” case of “pervasive financial surveillance” seemingly conducted “on the basis of protected political” speech.
“The Committee and Select Subcommittee have obtained documents indicating that following January 6, 2021, FinCEN distributed materials to financial institutions that, among other things, outline the ‘typologies’ of various persons of interest and provide financial institutions with suggested search terms and Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) for identifying transactions on behalf of federal law enforcement,” Jordan wrote in a letter to Bishoff.
“These materials included a document recommending the use of generic terms like ‘TRUMP’ and ‘MAGA’ to ‘search Zelle payment messages,’” he noted.
FinCen also passed along its analysis of “Lone Actor/Homegrown Violent Extremism Indicators” to financial institutions helping the government look for suspects involved in the Capitol riot, according to Jordan, which warned that “extremism” indicators include purchases such as “bus tickets, rental cars, or plane tickets, for travel to areas with no apparent purpose” or “the purchase of books (including religious texts) and subscriptions to other media containing extremist views.”
“In other words, FinCEN urged large financial institutions to comb through the private transactions of their customers for suspicious charges on the basis of protected political and religious expression,” Jordan argues in the missive.
The lawmaker also charged that FinCEN distributed slides explaining how financial institutions can flag customers who fit the profile of a “potential active shooter” or terrorists based on their transactions.
The slides instruct financial institutions to search for terms such as “Small Arms,” “Cabela’s,” and “Dick’s Sporting Goods,” among numerous others.
“Despite these transactions having no apparent criminal nexus — and, in fact, relate to Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights — FinCEN seems to have adopted a characterization of these Americans as potential threat actors,” Jordan wrote.
In a separate letter sent Wednesday, the panel chairman also asked FBI Director Christopher Wray to make a senior official in the bureau’s Strategic Partner Engagement Section available for a transcribed interview related to Bank of America’s cooperation with the FBI after Jan. 6.
Jordan is seeking to question the FBI official, Peter Sullivan, about the bureau’s “mass accumulation and use of Americans’ private information without legal process; the FBI’s protocols, if any, to safeguard Americans’ privacy and constitutional rights in the receipt and use of such information; and the FBI’s general engagement with the private sector on law-enforcement matters.”
At the request of the FBI, the country’s second-largest bank “voluntarily and without any legal process” snooped through the information of anyone making certain purchases in and around Washington before and after the protests, Jordan charged.
Sullivan, he said, provided Bank of America with specific search terms to look for as it looked over customer data, indicating firearm, hotel, Airbnb, or airline ticket purchases leading up to and after Jan. 6, 2021.
Bank of America reportedly handed over the information of 211 people to the FBI, Fox News reported in February 2021.
Only one of the 211 was brought in for questioning.
None were arrested, according to the outlet’s report.