The US Treasury tasked America’s banks with finding and turning over private transactions that might indicate extremism after the January 6, 2021, incident at the Capitol, according to new documents discovered by the House Judiciary Committee. What are the signs the federal government warned about? Supporting Trump, enjoying the outdoors, exercising the right to keep and bear arms, and believing in God, it would seem.
Weaponizing Banks – How’s That for Extreme?
The House Judiciary Committee revealed Wednesday, January 17, that it had obtained documents indicating officials with the Treasury Department’s Office of Stakeholder Integration and Engagement in the Strategic Operations of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network – also known as FinCEN – provided banks with materials that outlined “typologies” of “various persons of interest” and suggested some search terms and Merchant Category Codes (MCC) that could help financial institutions identify these potential domestic terrorists.
Transactions found using search terms like “MAGA” and “Trump” could be considered “Lone Actor/Homegrown Violent Extremism Indicators.” FinCEN also warned that buying certain books – including religious texts, like the Bible – might be a sign of dangerous extremism.
MCC codes to be watched included “3484: Small Arms” and “5091: Sporting and Recreational Goods and Supplies.” Federal investigators also warned of any transactions at all from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, or other sporting goods/outdoors stores.
A History of Abuse
So supporting Donald Trump for president, being a fan of the outdoors, and reading the Bible are warning signs of radicalization toward domestic terrorism? That the Treasury – a part of Joe Biden’s executive branch – believes so should come as no surprise. It’s hardly the first time one of this president’s executive agencies pushed banks to roll over on conservative customers. Bank of America earned America’s ire back in May of 2023 when it was revealed to have handed over such private data without any legal process.
According to an FBI whistleblower, shortly after the January 6 debacle, BoA provided the FBI with a list of customers who used their debit cards in the DC area between January 5 and January 7, 2021. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-OH) launched an investigation into the bank’s voluntary sharing, and by the end of the year, he had subpoenaed both Bank of America and Citibank to “determine the extent to which financial institutions … have worked with the FBI to collect Americans’ financial data.”
Jordan has launched another probe now, in response to this most recent revelation, and demanded that Noah Bishoff, former director of the Treasury’s Strategic Operations Division, answer for FinCEN’s actions. And he isn’t alone. Senate Committee on Banking, housing, and Urban Affairs Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-SC) sent a letter Friday to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and FinCEN Director Andrea Gacki in search of answers to “a number of questions.”
Welcome to the Watch List?
As disturbing as it is that executive branch agencies would ask for this information, it’s downright scary that the banks so willingly complied. One might think that a bank would at least try to protect its customers’ privacy.
But even worse is the idea that anyone who doesn’t support the current administration should be considered an extremist – and that behaviors like hunting, fishing, exercising the right to keep and bear arms, and showing signs of religious belief do as well. It likely comes as no surprise to most conservatives that being a Trump supporter results in certain labels from the left. But what about all the rural Democrats who hunt and fish? And then there’s exercising religion. Forget for a moment that single Bible purchase the Treasury seems to think indicates radicalism – what about anyone who writes a tithe check to the church after each payday? If there’s some sort of extremism watch list based on flagged bank transactions, it must be full of the faithful on both sides of the political spectrum.
One wonders when such targeting will end. Will Congress – and America – get an answer?