Feds asked financial institutions to flag Bible purchases, terms like ‘MAGA,’ ‘TRUMP’ to identify ‘Extremists’
By Cortney Weil – January 17, 2024
A shocking report from Rep. Jim Jordan, chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, indicates that federal law enforcement agencies wanted financial institutions to identify potential extremists by flagging otherwise benign purchases and search terms affiliated with former President Donald Trump in the wake of the incident at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
On Wednesday, Jordan sent an alarming letter to Noah Bishoff, the former director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations Division of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, better known as FinCEN. According to the letter, Jordan’s committee and select subcommittee have collected documents which suggest that FinCEN was targeting law-abiding Americans “on the basis of protected political and religious expression.”
One FinCEN document referenced in the letter allegedly urged financial institutions to query “Zelle payment messages” for terms such as “TRUMP” and “MAGA.” Another FinCEN analysis mentioned in the letter apparently suggested that these same institutions could identify possible “Lone Actor/Homegrown Violent” extremists by examining customers’ transactions, looking for the purchase of “religious texts” — including the Bible, Jordan said — or “bus tickets, rental cars, or plane tickets, for travel areas with no apparent purpose.”
The letter also alleges that Key Bank created presentation slides about merchant category codes and keywords that financial institutions could use that might identify “potential active shooters” or other “dangerous International Terrorists / Domestic Terrorists / Homegrown Violent Extremists (‘Lone Wolves.’)” The MCCs Key Bank suggested supposedly included “3484: Small Arms” and “5091: Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies,” and the keywords supposedly included the names of notable national gun stores, such as “Cabela’s” and “Bass Pro Shops.”
FinCEN then shared these Key Bank slides with other financial institutions, the letter claims.
Jordan’s letter makes clear that, if the documents are real, then FinCEN and coordinating federal law enforcement officials likely characterized “Americans as potential threat actors” simply for “exercising their Second Amendment” and other rights. “This kind of pervasive financial surveillance … into Americans’ private transactions is alarming and raises serious doubts about FinCEN’s respect for fundamental civil liberties,” Jordan wrote.
While the letter states that FinCEN’s alleged intrusion on Americans’ private purchases began as a result of January 6, an exclusive report on the letter from Fox News Digital suggests that January 6 was a mere pretense to justify a much broader investigation into Trump supporters and other conservatives. According to a source “familiar” with the investigation who spoke with the outlet, none of the documents compiled by the committee or select subcommittee contained “specific time frames or limitations for banks searching customer transactions with the terms,” and federal agents almost certainly expanded their investigation to collect information “beyond” that supposedly related to Jan. 6.
The letter asks former FinCEN Director Bishoff to contact Judiciary Committee staff members sometime before 5 p.m. on January 31, 2024, to schedule a “transcribed interview.” According to the letter, Bishoff’s testimony will shed light on:
- “federal law enforcement’s mass accumulation and use of Americans’ private information without legal process;
- “FinCEN’s protocols, if any, to safeguard Americans’ privacy and constitutional rights in the receipt and use of such information; and
- “FinCEN’s general engagement with the private sector on law-enforcement matters.”
Both the Treasury Department and Key Bank declined Fox News Digital’s request for comment, and Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops did not respond to its request for comment.