‘Alarming’ surveillance: Feds asked banks to search private transactions for terms like ‘MAGA,’ ‘Trump’

‘Alarming’ surveillance: Feds asked banks to search private transactions for terms like ‘MAGA,’ ‘Trump’
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One bank allegedly handed over information to FBI ‘voluntarily and without any legal process’

EXCLUSIVE: Federal investigators asked banks to search and filter customer transactions by using terms like “MAGA” and “Trump” as part of an investigation into Jan. 6, warning that purchases of “religious texts” could indicate “extremism,” the House Judiciary Committee revealed Wednesday in a letter obtained by Fox News Digital.https://www.foxnews.com/politics/alarming-surveillance-feds-asked-banks-search-private-transactions-terms-maga-trump

Fox News Digital has learned the committee also obtained documents that indicate officials suggested that banks query transactions with keywords like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops and more.

The House Judiciary Committee and its subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government have been conducting oversight of 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, R-Ohio, said the documents obtained by the committee indicate that after Jan. 6, 2021, the Treasury Department’s Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, distributed materials to financial institutions that outlined “typologies” of “various persons of interest” and provided the banks with “suggested search terms and Merchant Category Codes for identifying transactions on behalf of federal law enforcement.” 

The materials included a document recommending the use of generic terms like “Trump” and “MAGA” to “search Zelle payment messages” as well as a “prior FinCEN analysis” of “Lone Actor/Homegrown Violent Extremism Indicators.” 

“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,’” Jordan detailed in a letter to the former director of FinCEN, Noah Bishoff, a career employee. 

“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,” Jordan wrote.

Jordan and the committee are requesting Bishoff appear for a transcribed interview on the matter, saying he may “possess information necessary for our oversight.” 

The Treasury Department declined to comment.

But a source familiar told Fox News Digital that “the effort by FinCEN to work with law enforcement to assist with their post January 6 efforts began under the previous administration.”

Jordan said the committee obtained documents showing that FinCEN distributed slides, prepared by Key Bank, to other banks to explain how they could use merchant category codes (MCC) to detect customers whose transactions may reflect “potential active shooters, and who may include dangerous International Terrorists/ Domestic Terrorists/ Homegrown Violence Extremists (‘Lone Wolves’).”

Jordan said the slide instructs financial institutions to query for transactions using certain MCC codes like “3484: Small Arms,” “5091: Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies,” and the keywords “Cabela’s,” “Dick’s Sporting Goods” and “Bass Pro Shops,” among others.

Key Bank declined to comment.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s did not respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.

A source familiar with the documents told Fox News Digital that while Jan. 6, 2021, was the “impetus” for the queries and searches, none of the documents the committee has obtained reveal any specific time frames or limitations for banks searching customer transactions with the terms. The source said the federal government used the information for investigations beyond Jan. 6.

“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. “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.”

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