On Friday, the Department of the Treasury confirmed they had used financial transactions to assist law enforcement in investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol with its Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
A letter to Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) said the department provided participating banks with keywords such as “Antifa,” “MAGA,” to look for in-payment messages for the financial transaction to locate individuals.
They suggest, however, “No one specific word or transaction code included in these typologies was designed to be used in isolation to “flag” or “target” any individuals. Rather, to the extent keywords or phrases were suggested, it was expected they would be used alongside other factors and data that banks regularly analyze as part of their AML programs to detect and report suspicious activity.”
“A document distributed on January 15, 2021 suggested that banks could review payment messages for indications that an individual participated in the assault on the Capitol and included terms such as ‘antifa,' ‘MAGA,' ‘Trump,' ‘Biden,' ‘Kamala,' ‘Schumer,' and ‘Pelosi,' along with terms indicating an intent to do violence, such as “shoot,” “kill,” “murder” and “storm the Capitol.”
The letter notes that the FinCEN under the prior administration continued this process until mid-Feb 2021 while law enforcement was concerned about threats on the upcoming presidential inauguration.
The letter was in response to Rep. Scott sending a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen and Director of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Andrea Gacki, demanding to know if the departments had “urged private financial institutions to surveil customers’ transaction-level data using politically charged search terms, in order to flag certain customer profiles on behalf of Federal law enforcement.”
He noted that the allegations, “If true, represent a flagrant violation of Americans’ privacy and the improper targeting of U.S. citizens for exercising their constitutional rights without due process.”
Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), also noted in a post on X in January that if you purchased a “religious text, like a BIBLE, or shopped at Bass Pro Shop” your transaction was flagged.
This report comes after FBI whistleblowers alleged in November that the Bureau targeted agents who had expressed holding conservative or Christian beliefs.