House Judiciary Panel Report Exposes Massive Government Surveillance Of Americans’ Financial Data

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by Tyler Durden
Friday, Mar 08, 2024 - 04:00 AM

Authored by Stephen Katte via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

The Biden administration has been accused by the House Judiciary Committee and its Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government of conducting unlawful “broad” surveillance of citizens’ private financial data without a warrant and with no evidence of any crimes being committed by the individuals.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan in Washington on Nov. 7, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

In a new interim report released on March 6, and an accompanying press release, the committee claims to have uncovered “startling evidence,” proving the federal government pried into the private transactions of American consumers without specific evidence of any criminal conduct.

According to the report, federal law enforcement, including the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the FBI, colluded with large financial institutions in the United States, such as Barclays, U.S. Bank, Charles Schwab, HSBC, Bank of America, PayPal, and many others in what boiled down to a “fishing expedition for Americans’ financial data.”

“Tactics included keyword filtering of transactions, targeting terms like MAGA and TRUMP, as well as purchases of books, religious texts, firearms-related items, and recreational stores, like Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop, and Dick’s Sporting Goods,” the report said.

“This surveillance extended beyond criminal suspicion, likely encompassing millions of Americans with conservative viewpoints or Second Amendment interests.”

Led by Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the committee said FinCEN characterized these Americans as potential threats and subject to surveillance despite these transactions having no criminal nexus.

Surveillance Targets Identified Using General Terms

The interim report also detailed the existence of a web portal run by the Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC), a public-private partnership led by the FBI’s Office of Private Sector and the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis.

“This portal appears to have shared intelligence products with financial institutions that were used to identify individuals who fit the profile of criminal and domestic violent extremists, often because of their conservative political views or other constitutionally protected activity,” the committee said.

Federal law enforcement used these reports and other materials they shared with financial institutions to commandeer their databases and conduct sweeping searches of individuals not suspected of committing any crimes, without a warrant, in order to identify individuals making certain suspicious transactions.”

Other surveillance targets were identified using other terms and specific transactions that concerned core political and religious expression.

According to the report, law enforcement “derisively viewed American citizens,” who expressed opposition to firearm regulations, open borders, COVID-19 lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and the “deep state” as potential domestic terrorists.

“In other words, according to the FBI, an American citizen’s opposition to firearm regulations, open borders, or COVID-19 lockdowns and vaccine mandates, all of which are viewpoints protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, feed into an existing narrative many Domestic Violent Extremism (DVE) actors subscribe to regarding the U.S. government’s exercise of power,” the report said.

Put another way, expressing a belief in the existence of the deep state, support for typical conservative policies with respect to firearms or immigration, or doubt about the conventional narrative may result in an individual being labeled by the FBI as a DVE Actor and Likely to Pose an Increasing Threat.”

The committee labeled it “disturbing” that the country’s most powerful law enforcement agency would consider views widely held by millions of Americans to be signs of DVE.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) headquarters in Washington on Feb. 15, 2024. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Helping Law Enforcement Find Jan 6 Protestors

Earlier this year, the Treasury Department admitted to helping law enforcement identify and arrest people involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. It urged banks to comb through customers’ private transactions using terms like “MAGA” and “Trump.”

In January, allegations were also leveled at FinCEN, claiming the agency engaged in “pervasive financial surveillance” by circulating materials to banks that listed keywords that could be used to flag private financial transactions of potential Jan. 6 suspects. The materials also allegedly included instructions for banks to use indicators, including “the purchase of books” and subscriptions to media containing “extremist views.”

Federal law enforcement agencies, including FinCEN and the FBI, treated lawful transactions as suspicious and shared information with financial institutions through backdoor channels, often circulating materials exhibiting a clear animus towards conservative viewpoints,” the committee report said.

“In addition, FinCEN and the FBI relied on Zoom discussions, private and online government-run portals, as well as sweeping searches of financial institutions’ records to conduct its investigation. Given the important civil liberties at stake, federal law enforcement’s overreach and political bias is alarming.”

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump are seen from behind scaffolding as they gather outside the U.S. Capitol's Rotunda in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images)

Further revelations from the report reveal that FinCEN relied heavily on the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for guidance on what “relevant terms” and symbols could relate to racially and ethnically motivated violent extremism (REMVE), which they say may “have application to the capitol riots and related activity.”

The report calls the ADL a “notorious anti-conservative activist group” and says hate symbols” that ADL recommended monitoring included the “Celtic Cross,” the “Okay Hand Gesture,” “Pepe the Frog,” and “White Lives Matter.”

The committee said it “should alarm Americans that FinCEN approved of and distributed a link to a database that considers symbols of faith such as the Christian Celtic Cross and other images opposing Antifa, a violent left-wing anarchist group, as hate symbols.”

“This practice is reminiscent of the FBI’s disdain for ‘Radical Traditionalist Catholics,’ and the FBI’s reliance on the Southern Poverty Law Center another far-left activist group as an authoritative source on the Catholic Church,” the report said.

The Epoch Times has contacted the FBI, Treasury Department, and the White House for comment.