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Feds’ alarming bank surveillance exposed in new records

via VICE News

Federal investigators requested banks to search customer transactions using terms like “MAGA” and “Trump” as part of an investigation into Jan. 6, with warnings that purchases of “religious texts” could indicate “extremism.”

The House Judiciary Committee obtained documents suggesting that banks were advised to query transactions with keywords like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, and Bass Pro Shops.

The committee is concerned about federal law enforcement’s access to private sector information and has requested interviews with relevant individuals.

The House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government gave updates on the federal law enforcement’s “receipt of information about American citizens without legal process and its engagement with the private sector.”

House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, wrote, the Treasury Department’s Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, gave banks “suggested search terms and Merchant Category Codes for identifying transactions on behalf of federal law enforcement.”

“According to this analysis, FinCEN warned financial institutions of ‘extremism’ indicators that include ‘transportation charges, such as bus tickets, rental cars, or plane tickets, for travel areas with no apparent purpose,’ or ‘the purchase of books (including religious texts) and subscriptions to other media containing extremist views,’” wrote Rep. Jordan in a letter to FinCEN’s former director, Noah Bishoff.

“In other words, FinCEN used large financial institutions to comb through the private transactions of their customers for suspicious charges on the basis of protected political and religious expression,” Rep. Jordan explained.

Rep. Jordan wrote, “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.”

“This kind of pervasive financial surveillance, carried out in coordination with and at the request of federal law enforcement, into Americans’ private transactions is alarming and raises serious doubts about FinCEN’s respect for fundamental liberties,” continued the Ohio Republican.

The FBI’s handling of Bank of America’s customer information and its use of search query terms have raised privacy and constitutional rights concerns, prompting further requests for interviews.

Bank of America wrote, “We have cooperated with the committee as they evaluate whether the laws we complied with should be changed.”

Rep. Jordan alleges the FBI “made contact with and provided Bank of America with specific search query terms, indicating that it was ‘interested in all financial relationships’ of BoA customers transacting in Washington, D.C., and customers who had made ‘ANY historical purchase’ of a firearm, or who had purchased a hotel, Airbnb, or airline travel within a given date range.”

He also accused the FBI’s Office of Private Sector of preparing “an official report that broadly characterized certain political beliefs as indicative of domestic violent extremism.”

Rep. Jordan wrote that testimony from the FBI’s senior private sector partner for outreach in the Strategic Partner Engagement Section, will “help to inform the Committee and Select Subcommittee about the FBI’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.”

The FBI and Treasury Department declined to comment on the matter.

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